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Virginia Cooperative Extension -
 Knowledge for the CommonWealth

Three New Publications from the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics

By Gordon Groover (, Extension Economist, Farm Management, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Virginia Tech

The Virginia Cooperative Extension Publication 448-076, Investing in GPS Guidance Systems? by Gordon Groover and Robert Grisso is now available at and the PDF version can be printed from The web site provides a link to an online decision aid and an Excel spreadsheet for farmers to estimating their own breakeven acreages for a GPS guidance system.

Abstract: The price of GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) guidance system technology continues to decline as its capabilities increase. Many farmers question if or when they should invest in this technology. The major advantage of using GPS is input savings from more precise field application of seed, fertilizers, chemicals, fuel, and labor, as well as increased benefits to the farm production process (extended working time, reduced fatigue, etc.). GPS guidance systems vary in their capability, precision, and costs and, therefore, provide varying levels of input savings. The process of evaluating an investment in any new technology is straightforward and centers on comparing annual costs to annual benefits. If the benefits are greater than the costs, then itís time to invest in the new technology. Some benefits and costs are easily measured, while others must be evaluated by the business mangers based on their own experiences. The purpose of this publication is to provide an example of the procedures a farmer could use to determine if GPS guidance system technology is a wise investment. It is structured around understanding: 1) how to determine costs; 2) how to measure savings and benefits; 3) how to annualize costs and savings; 4) what the results mean to a farm business; and 5) sensitivity analysis.

Virginia Cooperative Extension Publication 448-195, An Inventory of Beef Slaughter & Processing Facilities for Virginia Direct Marketers of Beef, by Denise Mainville and Ashleigh Waddle, is available on the VCE website at: A hard copy of the publication (it is formatted to open out into a booklet that is well suited for posting on your bulletin board and also has a map showing locations of the facilities) please request one at: (you may need to copy and paste this link into your internet browser).

Abstract: Opportunities to direct-market locally grown beef are growing in Virginia, and an increasing number of producers are seeking facilities where they can have their beef slaughtered and processed. This inventory provides information about the availability of beef slaughter and processing facilities to help meet this need. The inventory includes facilities that have USDA, Talmedge-Aiken, and Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) certification that are in or within approximately 100 miles of Virginia (only USDA and Talmedge-Aiken certified facilities outside of Virginia are included). The inventory includes information on the species slaughtered, kill and processing fees, services included and available at extra cost, recommended lead times on making appointments, contact information, and any additional information that the facility representative chose to provide. The inventory is intended as a resource to help facilitate producersí search for appropriate slaughter and processing facilities. Anyone who owns a beef slaughter or processing facility that is USDA, Talmedge-Aiken, or VDACS certified that is not included in this inventory should contact the authors for inclusion in future listings.

Virginia Cooperative Extension Publication 448-507, Describing Commercial Berry Crop Production and Marketing in Virginia: Results of a 2006 Survey, by Joseph Monson and Denise Mainville has been published to the VCE website at:

Abstract: Traditional agricultural production in Virginia has focused on land-intensive commodities such as beef cattle and tobacco. In recent years, however, land prices have risen due to urban expansion and many commodity production costs have increased more than the commodity prices farmers receive. As a result, there is a general need for alternative high-value agricultural production among Virginia farmers. One possible alternative to commodity production is berry crop (small-fruit) production. While relatively few producers in Virginia currently grow berry crops, they offer a potentially high-value market and can be produced on smaller-scale farms, making them attractive to producers who are seeking alternatives to commodity production. This publication presents a detailed overview of the current supply of berry crops in Virginia. Specifically, it provides insight into the location of berry producers, their demographic makeup, the methods they use in production, the mix of products they produce, the marketing strategies they employ, the constraints they face in production, and their needs for further education. The results show that berry crop producers in Virginia are diverse and differ along many dimensions from the average Virginia farmer. Berry crop growers in the state produce an average of two acres of berries, are more involved in organic production, and depend heavily on sales made directly to consumers for the majority of their farming income. Producers have a need for education in areas such as market diversification, marketing strategies, consumer education, and legal issues in production and marketing.

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