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Breaking News

Permalink New Resource Helps Farmers Look at Coordinating Labor across Farms

Farm Commons has released Coordinating Farm Labor Across Farms: A Toolbox for Diversified Farmers and Farmworkers. This online toolbox helps farmers explore coordinated farm labor as an option for meeting their diverse and fluctuating farm labor needs. The new resource was created in partnership with the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives. The toolbox divides the process of assessing feasibility into four steps, addressing operations, ownership, structure, and financial viability. Reflective questions or exercises are included at the end of each section to provoke discussion and help farmers and farmworkers determine what overall approach, if any, might be best for them.

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Permalink Special Report on CSP Enrollment Issued by National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has issued a Special Report on the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) that examines enrollment trends, including top practices and geographic variations. CSP is USDA's largest working-lands conservation program. The 10-page report also examines CSP's critical role in supporting conservation efforts across diverse farmer groups and outlines opportunities for Congress to support CSP in the 2018 Farm Bill. The full report is available online.

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Permalink European Commission Report Calls for Harvesting Ocean Food at Lower Trophic Levels

A European Commission High Level Group (HLG) has issued a report titled Food from the Oceans that advises on how more food and biomass can be obtained from the oceans in a way that does not deprive future generations of their benefits. The report provides a number of evidence-based policy recommendations on increasing the amount of food harvested from the ocean while maintaining healthy marine and coastal ecosystems. The HLG stresses the need to increase harvest at lower trophic levels and picks out mariculture as the area with most potential for growth as well as being in need of higher priority and more strategic consideration in the European Union. The 80-page publication is available online in PDF.

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Permalink Wisconsin Enacts Farmer Veteran Legislation

Wisconsin's governor has signed the "Wisconsin Veterans Farm Bill of 2017" into law. According to Wisconsin Ag Connection, the bipartisan legislation creates a program to recruit military veterans into farming and authorizes the creation of a logotype for veteran farmer products.

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Permalink Georgia Pasture Rental Rate Calculator Available Online

The University of Georgia Beef Team has adapted a decision tool developed by Kansas State University Extension to help determine a fair pasture rental rate and made it available as an online Excel file. Landowners and tenants can use the tool to assist in the process of negotiating a fair rent. First, the tool determines the stocking rate of the pasture, based on actual figures entered or using pre-populated values. Then, the tool allows producers to calculate the amount a producer can pay and the landowner's cost of the pasture for stockers and for cow-calf operations. Fair market value falls along a range between those numbers.

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Permalink Food Sustainability Index Assesses 34 Countries on Sustainable Agriculture

The Food Sustainability Index (FSI), developed by The Economist Intelligence Unit with the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition, is a model designed to assess the sustainability of national food systems in a qualitative and quantitative manner. The second annual assessment, released in December 2017, ranks 34 countries using 35 different indicators based on sustainable agriculture, nutritional challenges, and food loss and waste. The global top performer for food sustainability is France, while Italy was the top performer in sustainable agriculture alone. An Executive Summary of the index reports that Italy scored well on indicators involving water management and fisheries, as well as implementation of agricultural techniques for climate change mitigation and adaptation. The United States ranked 24th globally.

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Permalink Guide for Growing Malting Barley Published by Ohio State University

Grain experts from the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University have published a guide on growing barley for malting. Because barley for beer needs to be low in protein and high in carbohydrates, its planting and harvest dates are different from those for barley grown for feed. In addition, growers should manage the crop to keep it free from disease, uncontaminated by other varieties, and not have it receive too much nitrogen. Malting barley is a niche crop that offers a price premium.

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Permalink Fifth Edition of Annotated Bibliography on Structural Racism in the U.S. Food System Released

The Center for Regional Food Systems at Michigan State University has released An Annotated Bibliography on Structural Racism Present in the U.S. Food System: Fifth Edition. This publication provides current research and outreach on structural racism in the U.S. food system for the food system practitioner, researcher, and educator. This resources identifies literature that links the social construction of whiteness and its intentional or consequential impact on structural racism within the United States' local food movement. The fifth edition contains nine videos and 47 new citations.

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Permalink Northeast SARE Seeks Individuals to Serve on Leadership Committees

The Northeast region of the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program is currently seeking individuals to serve on its Administrative Council and Technical Committee. Candidates for the 20-member Administrative Council should have some experience with grants and must understand sustainable agriculture as well as appreciate the need for a range of approaches to research and education to serve different types of farmers and agricultural educators. Applications are due by January 15, 2018. Northeast SARE is also seeking members for its Technical Committee, which reviews proposals for the Northeast SARE's six grants programs. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis throughout the year; candidates should submit a description of their agriculturally relevant experience and specific subject matter expertise.

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Permalink With Farm to School Programs, Kids Eat More Produce

University of Florida research published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior found that students at schools with a Farm to School program ate an average of 37% more vegetables and 11% more fruit after their school adopted the program. "These results indicate that sourcing produce locally has a positive impact on the consumption of vegetables and fruits," lead author of the study Jaclyn Kropp said. "Further research is needed to determine if it is the quality of the products, product freshness, or simply promotion of these products in the school cafeterias that is driving the behavior changes."

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Permalink Global Map of Carbon Stocks in Soil Released on World Soil Day

On World Soil Day the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) released the Global Soil Organic Carbon Map, the most comprehensive global map to date showing the amount of carbon stocks in the soil. The map illustrates the amount of soil organic carbon stock in the first 30 cm of soil, revealing areas with high carbon storage that require its conservation, as well as regions where there is the possibility for further sequestration. According to FAO, this information can prove a powerful tool to guide decision-making on practices that aim to preserve and increase the current soil carbon stocks.

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Permalink Organic Mushroom Pest-Control Project Receives Funding

Penn State University has received a $950,000 grant from USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture to develop and conduct outreach on organic controls for disease and insect pests of mushrooms. The project will test the effectiveness of organic controls for Lecanicillium and Trichoderma fungal diseases, phorid and sciarid flies, and bacterial blotch disease. Compost management, beneficial bacteria, and essential oils are some of the strategies that will be tested in the three-year project. Researchers will also test whether herbicides or fungicides used on materials used in mushroom compost persist and are taken up by the mushrooms.

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Permalink Penn State's Online Cheese Tracking System Aids Small Cheesemakers

Funded by a grant from the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Penn State has developed an online tool to aid small-scale cheesemakers in achieving product consistency. The Penn State Cheese Tracking System consists of customizable documents and spreadsheets to record, track, and evaluate data for milk composition and quality, the cheese-making process, processing after the initial cheese-making day, cheese chemical composition, and cheese sensory characteristics. Birchrun Hills Farm, Caputo Brothers Creamery, and Hidden Hills Dairy helped to develop the system, which is available online. The system was created using Microsoft Word and Excel to provide templates that can be customized by each cheesemaker based on his or her needs.

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Permalink Major Grant to Support Soil Health Effort

The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research has announced a $9.4 million grant to the Soil Health Institute, the Soil Health Partnership, and The Nature Conservancy to improve soil health and, ultimately, support positive economic and environmental outcomes for American farmers. The grant is being matched for a total investment of nearly $20 million. The goal of this project is to support collaborative research and education that accelerates adoption and benefits of soil health management systems nationally. This project will help the industry adopt standardized measurements to evaluate and improve soil health while expanding education and tools for local farmers, agronomists, and landowners. Collaborators will take an integrated, three-pronged approach. The Soil Health Institute will develop and test soil health measurements; the Soil Health Partnership will implement and evaluate soil health-promoting practices on working farms; and The Nature Conservancy will work with non-operator landowners to encourage use of science-based soil health practices.

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Permalink California Healthy Soils Program Awards More than $5 Million in Grants

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has awarded $5.23 million in grant funding to 86 projects as part of its Healthy Soils Program. The program encourages farmers and ranchers to implement practices that reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases and improve soil health. The funding is split between 64 incentive programs and 22 demonstration projects, both of which promote widespread adoption of conservation management practices statewide. The Healthy Soils Program stems from the California Healthy Soils Initiative, a collaboration between state agencies to support the development of healthy soils in California.

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Permalink Texas Research Shows Winter Wheat a Feasible Cover Crop for Rolling Plains Cotton

A Texas A&M AgriLife Research-led team is releasing the results of a study that showed winter wheat is a feasible cover crop for Rolling Plains cotton production. Under the simulated conditions of the study, the winter wheat cover crop did not substantially affect soil moisture or cotton yield in the subsequent cotton crop. The team compared simulated water-balance components, including transpiration, runoff, soil evaporation, mulch evaporation, drainage and change in soil water, under dryland and irrigated cotton systems with and without cover crops, over a 15-year period. The researchers say their future efforts will focus on better quantifying the soil and water conservation effects of cover crops for the region by identifying ideal cover crop termination dates and assessing the effects of cover crops on carbon and nitrogen balances in cotton production systems.

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Permalink Efforts Underway to Develop Organic Wine Grape for Northeast

USDA, Penn State University, and Mountain View Vineyards are collaborating in an effort to develop a more profitable, organic wine grape for the Northeast, reports Lehigh Valley Business. Verona is a hybrid grape bred for insect- and disease-resistance that could make it possible to grow high-quality grapes organically and profitably in the challenging climate of the Northeast. So far, the Verona grape is growing well in tests, even with fewer sprays of organic treatment. Testing the grape in wine is still a few years away, but the participants in this project have hopes that Verona will help support a high-quality wine industry in the Poconos.

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Permalink Solar Pumps Power Low-Pressure Drip Irrigation Systems

A University of Kentucky horticulture extension professor has been working with low-pressure irrigation systems powered by solar pumps in Asia. The gravity-fed drip irrigation system that can operate under extremely low pressure. Brent Rowell says the system will also have practical applications for small farms in the United States, at sites without electricity or with high energy costs. At the university's Horticulture Research Farm, testing is underway on a system that combines tiny solar-powered bilge pumps with low-pressure drip irrigation in a rainwater catchment system for a high tunnel. Though it's low-pressure, the farm manager says the setup improves watering efficiency at the site. Such systems are becoming more affordable as the cost of solar pumping comes down.

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Permalink Conservation Effects Assessment Project Documents Fuel Savings from No-Till

USDA logoThe Conservation Effects Assessment Project of USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service conducted an annual fuel savings study comparing gallons of fuel used in conventional tillage practices to gallons used in conservation tillage practices like seasonal and continuous no-till. The study found the fuel savings associated with no-till to be significant: four gallons of diesel fuel per acre per year, a total of nearly 282 million gallons nationally. NRCS points out that these fuel savings are just one of the benefits that farmers can gain by reducing or eliminating tillage.

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Permalink USDA Announces Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program Funding Awards

USDA logoUSDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture has announced awards made to support the next generation of farmers and ranchers through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP). BFRDP supports projects that deliver education, mentoring, and technical assistance programs to help beginning farmers and ranchers in the U.S. and its territories with entering, establishing, building, and managing successful farm and ranch enterprises. There are 36 grants totaling $17.7 million funded through fiscal year 2017's BFRDP. A list of recipients is available online.

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Permalink USDA Report Shows Larger Farms Receiving More Farm Payments

USDA logoA report from USDA Economic Research Service reveals that from 1991 to 2015, commodity program payments, some conservation program payments, and Federal crop insurance indemnities have shifted to larger farms operated by higher income households. This reflects consolidation in agricultural production. The study also noted that the composition of direct financial support has shifted, with commodity program payments' share of the total falling from 89% to 43% over the period, as the shares of spending from conservation and crop insurance support increased.

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Permalink California Healthy Soils Week to Take Place December 4-7

California Department of Food & Agriculture, along with state, federal, and private sector partners, will be hosting the inaugural California Healthy Soils Week December 4-7, 2017. This week-long celebration—which will include panels, webinars, and tours—will highlight all the remarkable gifts healthy soils have to offer. The schedule includes a Climate Smart Agriculture webinar, a day focusing on food waste and compost, and a day showcasing urban farms and community gardens.

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Permalink Agrophotovoltaics Pilot Project Demonstrates Compatible Uses

An agrophotovoltaics (APV) pilot project in Germany has shown that photovoltaics and photosynthesis can be compatible land uses, reports the University of Hohenheim. The largest APV system in Germany, one-third hectare, is being tested on the Demeter farm cooperative Heggelbach. Solar modules for electricity production are installed directly above crops of winter wheat, potatoes, celeriac, and clover. A southwest orientation and extra distance between the five-meter-high rows of bifacial PV modules ensured that the crops were exposed to uniform solar radiation. Yield losses for the varying crops ranged from 5% to 19%. The researchers say that agrophotovoltaics has the potential to open more space for PV expansion and to mitigate land-use conflicts between agriculture and energy production.

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Permalink Toolkit for Responding to Pesticide Drift Issued

Pesticide Action Network North America has published In Case of Drift: A Toolkit for Responding to Pesticide Drift. If you've been exposed to pesticide drift, or have lost crops due to drift damage, download this free, 27-page toolkit for details on how to protect your health, how and where to report drift incidents, and how to seek compensation for crop loss if you're a farmer. The toolkit also includes tools for telling your story to legislators and other policymakers.

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Permalink New Oilseed Processing Plant in North Dakota Makes Cold-Press Oils from Local Safflower

A story in Farm & Ranch Guide describes a new oilseed processing plant in Bowman, North Dakota. The plant's first product is 17 Thistles safflower oil, a cold-pressed oil sourced from local producers. The protein meal left after oil extraction is sold as a livestock feed, on which cattle have been shown to do well. The oil is sold to restaurants and companies, or gift-bottled for local sale. Processing-plant owners say that in the future they may consider adding other locally grown and healthy products, such as grapeseed or sunflower oil.

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Permalink Reminder: Comments on NIFA Priorities Due December 1

USDA logoUSDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture is inviting stakeholders from any group, or individuals, interested in agricultural research, extension, and education to provide input to help ensure the strategic positioning and relevancy of NIFA's investments in advancing agriculture. NIFA asks stakeholders to answer the following questions: What is your top priority in food and agricultural research, extension, or education that NIFA should address, and what are the most promising science opportunities for advancement of food and agricultural sciences? Submissions of written comments will be accepted through Friday, December 1, 2017.

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Permalink Report Helps Food Hubs Learn from Failures

USDA logoUSDA Rural Development has released the fourth volume of their Food Hub Technical Report Series. Running a Food Hub: Learning from food hub closures is a 70-page report that draws on national data and case studies to understand why some food hubs have failed in an effort to learn from their mistakes and identify general lessons so new and existing food hubs can overcome barriers to success. According to the report, data and the case studies suggest that "the most significant factors to food hub success or failure include internal management issues (such as the quality of the staff and business decisions made by food hub managers) and board governance."

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Permalink Video Discusses Organic Management of Downy Mildew in Cucurbits

A new video, Managing Cucurbit Downy Mildew on Organic Farms, has been posted on the eXtension website. The 11-minute video discusses strategies that organic growers can use if they face downy mildew problems, such as selecting resistant cultivars, using OMRI-listed pesticides, choosing specific high tunnel designs (such as movable tunnels), and rotating crops.

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Permalink Northeast Food Systems Project Issues Research Briefs

The Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development's research project, Enhancing Food Security in the Northeast through Regional Food Systems (EFSNE), has issued several research briefs on food-system topics. The research briefs distill peer-reviewed journal articles into short publications designed for a general audience. Topics of the six briefs are as follows:
*How self-reliant is the Northeast food system?
*Localizing the Northeast dairy supply chain may not offer many benefits
*Potential production capacity in the Eastern Seaboard Region: Findings from a study of potatoes
*Using the "Community Readiness Model" to understand food access
*Feeding food-producing animals: How self-reliant is the Northeast? (coming soon)
*Optimizing the locations of food-distribution businesses

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Permalink Special Journal Issue Addresses Local Food Systems Development

A special issue of the Journal of the Community Development Society features a series of articles focused on a range of issues associated with local food system development. The Southern Rural Development Center sponsored this resource to aid in work with communities seeking to advance themselves through local food systems development initiatives.

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