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Permalink North Central Region SARE Announces Grant Recipients

The North Central Region of Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (NCR-SARE) has announced the 2017 recipients of its Youth Educator Grants, Partnership Grants, and Farmer Rancher Grants. For the 2017 Youth Educator Grant Program, NCR-SARE awarded almost $21,000 to 11 projects. Recipients and their project titles are listed online. For the 2017 Partnership Grant Program, NCR-SARE awarded almost $412,000 to 14 projects. NCR-SARE's Partnership Grant Program is intended to foster cooperation between agriculture professionals and small groups of farmers and ranchers to catalyze on-farm research, demonstration, and education activities related to sustainable agriculture. Recipients and project titles are listed online. In the Farmer Rancher Grant Program, more than 40 grant projects were selected to receive a total of more than $463,000. These projects are also listed online, with links to full project descriptions available.

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Permalink Midwest Cover Crops Council Meeting Proceedings Online

The Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC) has posted the proceedings of its 2017 meeting, held in March. State reports from the MCCC business meeting are available, as well as the keynote speech on cover crop termination by Dale Shaner. Numerous presentations from the concurrent sessions on field crops, vegetable crops, and forage and grazing are also available online.

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Permalink Camelina Oil Approved in Canada as Feed for Farmed Fish

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has approved mechanically extracted camelina oil as a feed ingredient for farmed salmon and trout. A recently completed large-scale study of camelina oil managed by Genome Atlantic found camelina to be an excellent match to the fatty acid composition required in the diets of farmed fish. Camelina sativa is a hardy oilseed plant that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and antioxidants, and could be a less expensive and more sustainable substitute for the wild-sourced fish oils and some of the fish meals currently used in fish feeds. Researchers suggest that camelina could be a good rotation crop for potatoes, making it a potentially viable option for farmers in Maritime Canada.

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Permalink Our Farms, Our Future Conference Set for April 2018

SARE and NCAT/ATTRA will host the Our Farms, Our Future conference April 3-5, 2018, in St. Louis, Missouri. This national event will bring together our diverse agricultural community: farmers and ranchers, agricultural professionals, agribusiness, students, researchers, scientists, agency representatives, and nonprofit leaders. Every decade, SARE hosts a conference to look at the progress of sustainability in agriculture, and to understand our trajectory for the future. The event will include dynamic keynote speakers, engaging panel sessions featuring new and established farmers and ranchers, farm tours, project posters by SARE grant recipients, breakout sessions, and a pre-conference session led by NCAT/ATTRA for military veterans featuring previous Armed to Farm program participants.

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Permalink Cornell Research Finds Pesticides in Honeybees' Stored Food

A new Cornell University study examined beebread, food stored by 120 honeybee hives placed near apple orchards in New York State, and found 17% of colonies showed acutely high levels of pesticide exposure, while 73% were found to have chronic exposure. More than 60% of the found pesticides were attributed to orchards and surrounding farmland that were not sprayed during the apple bloom season, according to the study. Researchers suggested that persistent insecticides targeted at other crops and pre-bloom sprays in orchards that accumulate in weeds may be the source of the pesticides.

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Permalink USGS Interactive Map Shows Changes in Water Quality

U.S. Geological Survey has developed an interactive map that provides a comprehensive, long-term look at changes in the quality of our nation's rivers and streams between 1972 and 2012. The interactive map can be used to see whether 51 water-quality constituents, like nutrients and pesticides, and 38 aquatic-life metrics, like the types and numbers of fish, macroinvertebrates, and algae, have increased, decreased, or remained the same at nearly 1,400 sites monitoring sites across the country. This map was developed by the USGS National Water-Quality Assessment Project, which conducts regional and national assessments of the nation's water quality to provide an understanding of current water-quality conditions, whether conditions are getting better or worse over time, and how natural processes and human activities affect those conditions.

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Permalink Annual Cover Crop Survey Invites Farmer Participation

Farmers across the country are asked to share their cover crop information in the annual survey conducted by the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC), USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program (SARE), and the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA). The online survey will take most farmers five to 10 minutes to complete, or slightly longer for somebody who is growing a wide variety of crops and using cover crops in various ways. Organizers are interested in responses from farmers who use cover crops, used to plant them, or have never tried them. The survey is open until May 15, 2017. This survey will help guide policy, research, and education on cover crops nationwide.

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Permalink Canadian Research to Focus on Mitigating Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Agriculture

University of Alberta scientists have received funding from Canada's federal government for three projects that will create technologies, practices and processes that can be adopted by farmers to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. One project is a 10-year study on how alternative grazing methods affect soil carbon, biodiversity, and greenhouse gas emissions. Another project will focus on the greenhouse-gas intensity footprint of perennial versus annual cropping systems. The third project will develop and verify best management practices in agroforestry systems to increase the soil's ability to store carbon and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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Permalink Soil Health Efforts Gain Backing of Major Food Manufacturer

Leaders from General Mills, The Nature Conservancy, the Soil Health Institute, and the Soil Health Partnership have announced a collaborative effort to advance soil health on America's farms and ranches, paving the way for measurable economic and environmental gains for farmers, businesses, and communities for generations to come. General Mills has made a three-year, $2 million commitment to support the development of tools and resources for farmers, landowners, and supply chain leaders to achieve widespread adoption of soil health practices. Specifically, these organizations will partner to improve soil health measurements and standards; increase support for soil health practice adoption by absentee landowners; target, plan, and expand the field network of on-farm demonstration sites; coordinate soil health activities and communications for maximum impact; and mobilize and support diverse constituents in advancing public policy solutions.

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Permalink Cornell Small Farms Program Offers Farmer Funding Information

Cornell Small Farms Program has updated its Funding Portal, which provides information on grants, loans/finances, and more for farmers and agricultural educators. The portal features four Farm Finance webinar recordings, including Free Money? Finding the Right Grants, Cost-Share Programs, and Low-Interest Loans for Your Farm Business.

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Permalink Insectary Plant Information Online from UC IPM

The University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) has published information on insectary plants online. Insectary plants are those grown to attract, feed, and shelter insect parasites (parasitoids) and predators to enhance biological pest control. The online resource offers information on species selection and explains how plants grown for other purposes can also serve as natural enemy insectaries or otherwise enhance biological pest control.

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Permalink Economic Impact of Agritourism in Virginia Calculated in New Report

A new economic impact study, conducted by the Virginia Tech Pamplin College of Business, shows that Virginia's agritourism industry accounts for $2.2 billion in economic activity. The report also shows that the economic activity attributed to the Commonwealth’s 1,400 agritourism businesses supports 22,000 jobs, contributes $840 million in income, and injects $135 million in state and local taxes. The study is the first statewide benchmark report to measure the economic and fiscal impacts of Virginia’s agritourism sector. The full Economic Impact Study Report is available online in PDF.

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Permalink USDA Count of Certified Organic Operations Shows Continued Growth

USDA logoUSDA has announced new data indicating the organic industry continues to grow domestically and globally, with 24,650 certified organic operations in the United States, and 37,032 around the world. The 2016 count of U.S. certified organic farms and businesses reflects a 13% increase between the end of 2015 and 2016, continuing the trend of double-digit growth in the organic sector. The complete list of certified organic farms and business is available through the Organic Integrity Database of certified operations maintained by USDA-accredited certifying agents.

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Permalink Study Ranks Production Attributes Most Important to Consumers for Livestock Products

A recent University of Illinois study ranked seven livestock production attributes on which were most important to buyers of beef, chicken, milk, and eggs. The top three attributes consumers desired were "no growth hormones," "non-GMO," and "humanely raised," though there were differences in importance based on product type. Researchers found the "organic" attribute was ranked lowest of the seven in importance for consumers. Researchers pointed out that the results reveal potential confusion on the part of consumers about what particular labeling claims mean, because organic products would necessarily be raised without hormones and be non-GMO. The study, "Which livestock production claims matter most to consumers?" appears in Agriculture and Human Values.

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Permalink Cover Crops May Help Agriculture Mitigate Climate Change

A Penn State University researcher says cover crops can play an important role in climate-change mitigation and adaptation. Cover-cropping initiatives in Pennsylvania and central Spain showed that cover-crop effects on greenhouse-gas fluxes typically mitigate warming by 100 to 150 grams of carbon per square meter per year. Surface albedo change -- the proportion of energy from sunlight reflecting off of farm fields due to cover cropping -- may mitigate 12 to 46 grams of carbon per square meter per year over a 100-year time horizon. Cover crops can provide these ecosystem services simultaneously with the soil-health benefits they are already known to provide. The research was published in Agronomy for Sustainable Development.

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Permalink Texas Stewardship Week Highlights Importance of Voluntary Stewardship in Protecting Water

The Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board, Association of Texas Soil & Water Conservation Districts, Texas Agricultural Land Trust, Texas Wildlife Association and Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association are joining a wide range of other state agencies and organizations in a campaign to highlight the importance of voluntary land stewardship in Texas. Soil and Water Stewardship Week is April 30 through May 7, 2017, and the focus this year is "No Land No Water ™." Organizers point out that voluntary stewardship and innovative agricultural practices increase the quantity and improve the quality of water, and that rural working lands are crucial to protecting and preserving the water resources of Texas. The campaign has its own website.

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Permalink Organic Check-Off Comment Period Ends April 19

CCOF has issued a reminder that the last day for the public to submit comments to the National Organic Program on the Organic Research, Promotion, and Information Order is April 19. The Organic Check-Off would create a 17-member governance board of stakeholders who would decide on allocating research, promotion, and technical assistance funds raised through a payment of one-tenth of 1% of an operation's net organic sales each year. Any certified operation with a gross organic revenue of less than $250,000 annually would be able to opt out of the program. Comments can be submitted online.

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Permalink Local Food Guide Provides Directory for Southern Appalachian Mountains

Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP) has released its 2017 Local Food Guide, a free directory of local food and family farms in the Southern Appalachian mountains. ASAP notes that this year's guide has new sections including a regional chart of farms to visit and popular U-pick items. The guide also features stories behind some of the farms in the region and relationships within the local food system. Printed copies of the guide are available at local businesses, and an online version allows users to search for local food by geographic location, product, farm, market, method of payment, and many other criteria.

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Permalink High Tunnels Tested for Berry Production in University of Arkansas Study

A Southern-SARE funded study by the University of Arkansas found that high tunnels can increase berry yields, extend the season, and improve fruit quality, but that pest management can be a challenge. Extending the Market Season with High Tunnel Technology for Organic Fruit Production explored using high tunnel technology for earlier spring harvest of blueberries and blackberries, and to allow for an extended autumn production of primocane blackberries and raspberries. Southern SARE also reports that the researchers developed economic tools to help new and existing berry producers evaluate total production costs and production and marketing risks, determine potential returns, perform economic analyses, and prepare budgets. In addition, growers have access to a Sustainable Blackberry and Raspberry Self-Assessment Workbook to help guide their decision-making to improve overall farm sustainability.

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Permalink New York Farms Awarded Climate Resilient Farming Grants

The second round of New York's Climate Resilient Farming Grant Program has awarded more than $1.5 million in grants on behalf of farmers to County Soil and Water Conservation Districts in six regions across the state. Launched by the Governor in 2015, the program help farms reduce their operational impact on the environment and better prepare for and recover after extreme weather events. Project categories include agricultural waste storage cover and flare, on-farm water management, and soil health systems. Awarded projects focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting energy savings and soil health. One project awarded also focuses on water management to mitigate the effects of periods of drought on crops and livestock following last summer's severe dry conditions.

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Permalink Report Details Neonicotinoid Impact on Aquatic Ecosystems and Biodiversity

A new report from Beyond Pesticides details neonicotinoids' impacts on aquatic ecosystems and biodiversity, noting that insecticides including imidacloprid, clothianidin, and thiamethoxam are regularly detected in waterbodies in the U.S at levels that harm sensitive aquatic organisms. Poisoned Waterways documents the persistence of neonicotinoids in U.S. waterbodies and the danger they cause to aquatic organisms, resulting in complex cascading impacts on the aquatic food web. The report supports previous calls for the restriction of neonicotinoid pesticides, given their high toxicity to bees and aquatic life.

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Permalink Grazing-Contract Fact Sheet Available Online

Pasture and Grazing Arrangements for Beef Cattle is a new fact sheet from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. This free, two-page fact sheet outlines considerations for both landowners and renters when negotiating yearly or long-term grazing-land leases. It provides an overview of four common types of arrangements along with suggestions on how to structure agreements for the benefit of both parties.

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Permalink Cooperative Investment Model Funding Australian Organic Farming

A new cooperative investment model is funding organic farming in Australia, reports The Australian. Investors purchase shares in an organic farm that is run by a farm manager, as part of a larger organic-farming cooperative. Investors receive a guaranteed 5% land rental return. Organizers say the model will help generate new funding for organic farming, support food security, and help with farm succession plans. In addition, the markets for both organic produce and organic feeds are strong, so potential returns are good, though investors are also looking at social and environmental outcomes. "Our intention is for organic farms to be preserved and held in perpetuity (by the co-operative); investors can come and go as they please, but the entity is secured for longevity and Australian ownership and benefit," says organic beef producer Carolyn Suggate, who is the driving force behind the cooperative.

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Permalink New Publication Outlines How an Aquaponic System Works

The North Central Region Aquaculture Center has released An Overview of Aquaponic Systems: Hydroponic Components, a free, 10-page publication that focuses on how an aquaculture system works. The publication provides information on design of an aquaponics system, using the system developed at Iowa State University as a guide. Each component of the system is shown and explained, providing information on its function and purpose. The publication also covers five major methods of hydroponic production that can be incorporated into aquaponics.

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Permalink ERS Report Identifies Key Drivers for School Districts that Serve Local Food Daily

USDA logoUSDA Economic Research Service has published Daily Access to Local Foods for School Meals: Key Drivers, a bulletin that uses data from the 2013 Farm to School Census to measure the prevalence of school districts that serve local food daily and the characteristics of those districts. The report found that 19% of all school districts served at least one locally sourced food item daily. Locally produced milk—offered daily or more than weekly by 15.4% of school districts—and locally produced fruit, offered by 14.5%, were the local food categories served most frequently. Daily use of local food was least prevalent in the Southwest (8% of districts) and most prevalent in the Northeast (41%). School districts with enrollment above 5,000, urban districts, and those districts in counties with higher density of farmers markets were more likely to serve local foods daily, as were districts with higher per capita income, higher levels of college attendance, and those in States with more legislated policies supporting farm-to-school programs. The full report is available online.

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Permalink CoBank Report Predicts Bright Future for Organic Milk

A new report from CoBank points to a bright future for the U.S. organic milk industry, leading a record number of dairies to transition to organic milk production. The report notes that organic milk prices offer a substantial premium to producers, and year-long contracts common for organic production may temper the monthly price volatility often found in the conventional milk market. The report also notes that consumer demand for organic milk remains strong, although in some cases, processing capacity is not able to keep up with production. CoBank further predicts that private label organic milk, the evolution of other organic dairy products including cheese, butter and yogurt, as well as new industry partnerships will likely add value and additional growth opportunities to the organic dairy industry in the coming years.

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Permalink Minnesota Grown Directory Features Local Agricultural Products and Farmers Markets

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has released the 2017 Minnesota Grown Directory. More than 1,000 Minnesota Grown members have registered this year, making the directory the largest direct-to-consumer agricultural publication in Minnesota. Consumers can search the online and mobile-compatible directory by region, product, or name of a farm or market. Free, printed copies of the Minnesota Grown Directory are also available.

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Permalink Tool Helps Estimate Spread of Genetically Modified Plant Pollen

A recent international study directed by the University of British Columbia evaluated the spread of pollen from genetically modified (GM) organisms to non-modified crops. The simplest way to minimize cross-fertilization between crops is to separate them, but recommendations on what the amount of separation should be have been disparate. In this study, scientists developed a mathematical model of pollen dispersal by bees, based on field experiments. The new model can calculate and suggest separation distances with greater accuracy, with numbers that are specific to particular crops and landscapes. "For example," says study co-author Rebecca Tyson, associate professor of mathematics at UBC Okanagan, "we have estimated that for a 0.9% cross-pollination rate, the ideal distance of separation between two crops is between 51 and 88 meters, depending on crop size and type."

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Permalink Organic Farming Research Foundation Awards Research Grants for 2017

The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) has announced that five innovative projects will receive 2017 research grants. The projects cover a broad range of topics, including using soil protein as an indicator of soil health; developing a cover crop-based, no-till system for small-scale vegetable producers; organic grain productivity in the Upper Peninsula; evaluation of transplants for organic strawberry production; and corn earworm management in organic sweet corn. All research results of OFRF-funded projects are freely available in an online database.

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Permalink North Carolina Study Addresses Refuge-Cropland Shortfall

A study from North Carolina State University found a shortfall in the amount of "refuge" cropland being planted in North Carolina. Genetically engineered-crop farmers are urged, and corn farmers are required, to plant a certain percentage of their fields with non-Bt crops called refuge crops, in order to slow the development of Bt resistance in pests. However, this study found that approximately 40% of corn growers who used Bt corn would not plant refuge crops in the next growing season, while another 25% weren't sure. In general, smaller operations were less likely to plant refuge crops. This study found that financial incentives and the availability of high-yield, non-Bt seed would make farmers more likely to plant refuge crops.

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