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Home » From the Commissioner

A Century of Innovation and Evolution

New Hampshire Department of Agriculture, Markets & Food (April 21, 2016)

A century ago New Hampshire experienced an especially fertile period in the development of agriculture and the institutions that continue to support it today. We can trace the rapid growth of the government, education and farm organizations that support our industry through the series of centennials celebrated over the last few years. The state Department of Agriculture was founded in 1913, followed closely by the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension in 1914. This year it’s the NH Farm Bureau Federation’s turn to celebrate 100 years.

NHFB credits the small group of farmers who met in Newport in 1913 to organize the Sullivan County Farmers’ Association with planting the seed. This effort led to the passage of an act in the state legislature in 1913 authorizing the appropriation of $1,200 a year by county delegations for the purpose of hiring a county agent. The Sullivan County Farmers’ Association hired the first county agent in the state, and by 1916 all 10 counties had established county farm organizations. In December of 1916 a group of farmers met at the Eagle Hotel in Concord to form the Federated County Farmers’ Association of New Hampshire. The New Hampshire Federation’s second president, George Putnam, was instrumental in founding the American Farm Bureau Federation in 1919.

Denis Ward of Monroe, the new president of New Hampshire Farm Bureau, believes the strength of the organization “starts with the individuals in every county, and grows as the counties come together as one unit to build the policies that guide us.” He says for 100 years New Hampshire farmers have counted on Farm Bureau to be their eyes, ears and voice. “The importance of having that voice will intensify as the general public and our government representatives become less connected to agriculture and rural America.” Looking to the future, Ward says Farm Bureau will “continue to be out front informing the public about agriculture and advocating for farmers, loggers and land owners.”

Steve Taylor was asked to be a guest speaker for Grafton County Farm Bureau’s 100th anniversary celebration of the state Farm Bureau. When a date change precluded his driving to Monroe, Taylor arranged to have his talk videotaped from the sugarhouse at Taylor Bros. Farm in Meriden. The serendipitous result is that Taylor’s talk on the history of the founding and early years of Farm Bureau in New Hampshire can now be viewed by anyone with internet access. We recommend it highly. Find the YouTube link on the department’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/NHDeptAgriculture

The Farm Credit System is also celebrating 100 years of providing credit and financial services to agriculture and related industries. The latest issue of Farm Credit East’s Knowledge Exchange Partner contains several articles of interest. Trends in the region’s horticultural specialties sector from 1998 to 2014 are graphed by crop type and by state. Growth areas include annual bedding plants and food crops grown under protection—primarily greenhouse vegetables. Still small compared to bedding plants or field-grown vegetables, this category grewby nearly five-fold.
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An article analyzing US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows that over the past 17 years, the number of foodborne outbreaks has fallen from an average of 1,200 per year to about 800 per year for the last six years. In 2013, 818 reported outbreaks average out to 3.3 per one million people. The wider geographic distribution of outbreaks, and the 24/7 media, give the public a different impression. Fish and shellfish account for 36%, meat 30% and plant products 23% of outbreaks. Dairy accounted for 10%, but 17 out of 23 reported outbreaks were attributed to unpasteurized products. Find the full reports at www.farmcrediteast.com.

Lorraine Merrill, Commissioner lorrainemerrill
Department of Agriculture, Markets, & Food

(This column is excerpted from the Weekly Market Bulletin, 4/20/2016)
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