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Breaking News



Permalink Survey Explores New England Consumer Preferences for Local and Organic Produce

The University of New Hampshire has released a 17-minute video of a presentation describing the results of a survey of 5,000 households in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine about consumer preferences for locally and organically grown produce. The survey explored how many consumers purchased organic and local produce, and what their motivations were for those purchases, as well as their willingness to pay a premium for either type of produce.

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Permalink Pollinator Loss Changes Ecosystem Patterns

Research at Emory University, published in Biology Letters, showed that when a single pollinator species is removed from a system, the foraging patterns of remaining pollinators change, which can have implications for both rare plant species and food crops. This research removed a dominant species of bumblebee from an ecosystem. The pattern change caused other pollinators to shift their foraging to plants with abundant nectar resources, leading to fewer plant species being visited by pollinators. The findings are especially significant because many pollinator species are in decline.

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Permalink Assessment Shows Economic Benefit of Corn Used as Food Rather than Biofuel

Researchers at the University of Illinois have quantified and compared the use of corn as food with corn as a biofuel. The researchers used a comprehensive view of the agricultural system, called critical zone services, to analyze crops' impacts on the environment in monetary terms. Their results showed that the net social and economic worth of food corn production in the United States is $1,492 per hectare, versus a $10 per hectare loss for biofuel corn production. "We found that most of the environmental impacts came from soil nutrient fluxes. Soil's role is often overlooked in this type of assessment, and viewing the landscape as a critical zone forces us to include that," noted graduate student Meredith Richardson, study co-author.

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Permalink NRCS Releases Longleaf Pine Strategy

USDA logoUSDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has released a two-year implementation strategy to help private landowners restore and protect 400,000 acres of southeastern longleaf pine forest. NRCS will use existing Farm Bill programs and other resources to increase the abundance and improve the health of longleaf pine forests across the Southeast. The strategy includes NRCS's Longleaf Pine Initiative (LLPI), Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW), and Regional Conservation Partnership Program, among other efforts. NRCS offers technical and financial assistance to landowners to help plan and implement voluntary forestry practices that support forests and productive forestry operations.

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Permalink Details Published on Seed Mix Developed for Monarchs and Bees

Researchers with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach have developed a seed mix of perennials to use as habitat for monarch butterflies and bees. Information on the constituents of the mix is available in a free, online publication titled Monarch Seed Mix High Diversity. The seed mix includes a diversity of flowers which bloom through all months of the growing season to provide nectar and pollen sources from early spring to late fall. The publication includes a chart showing the months when specific grasses and forbs from the mix will bloom, as well as forb flower color.

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Permalink Michigan EnviroImpact Tool Maps Nutrient Runoff Risk

MSU EnviroImpact Tool is a new agricultural nutrient-management tool developed through a partnership between the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration National Weather Service, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program, the Michigan State University Institute of Water Research, Michigan Sea Grant, and MSU Extension. The online tool provides maps showing short-term runoff risks for daily manure application planning purposes—taking into account factors such as precipitation, temperature, soil moisture, and landscape characteristics. Farmers handling and applying livestock manure in Michigan can use this tool during any time of year to determine how risky it will be to spread manure on their fields. The MSU EnviroImpact Tool is part of a multi-state regional effort to improve "Runoff Risk Decision Support" tools.

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Permalink American Farmland Trust Kicks Off Farmers Market Celebration

American Farmland Trust's annual summer Farmers Market Celebration raises national awareness about the loss of America's farmland and the impact of that loss on local, healthy food, drinking water, and critical wildlife habitat. The seventh year of the Farmers Market Celebration begins June 21, 2017 and extends through September 22, 2017. The celebration allows farmers market supporters to vote for their favorite farmers market in the categories of people's choice, focus on farmers, healthy food for all, pillar of the community, and champion for the environment. Also, American Farmland Trust invites farmers market shoppers to join the conversation about why they love farmers markets via Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, using #OnMyFork.

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Permalink Armed to Farm Training Helps Veterans Launch Sustainable Agriculture Careers

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) held one of its week-long Armed to Farm sustainable agriculture training sessions in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and KUAF radio reported on the course's visit to Across the Creek Farm. Armed to Farm is a free program for veterans and active-duty service members. It offers a mix of classroom instruction on establishing and expanding a farm business and visits to a variety of sustainable agriculture operations. This course drew applicants from 17 states. Armed to Farm has trained hundreds of veterans over the past several years, and most of them now operate their own farms. The Armed to Farm program is expanding to more areas of the country with support from local partner organizations. NCAT is currently accepting applications for programs this summer in New York and Maine, and another training will take place this fall in Montana.

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Permalink European TRUE Project to Promote Legumes

A new, European-wide research project will explore and develop sustainable legume-based farming systems and agri-feed and food chains in the European Union. Project TRUE (TRansition paths to sUstainable legume-based systems in Europe) involves 24 project partners from 10 European countries and has received a €5 million grant from the EC's Horizon 2020 program. According to participants, TRUE innovates across the supply chain--from the development of novel farming practices such as the use of pulses as "vegetable fertilisers" or "living manures," to the testing of new food technologies for improved feed and food formulation. Feed innovations include use of lupins and faba beans for novel aquaculture feeds. Additionally, there will be sustainability assessments of various legume-based systems.

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Permalink Organic Seed Growers Conference Calls for Proposals

Organic Seed Alliance invites you to help shape the 9th Organic Seed Growers Conference by providing proposals for presentations, workshops, posters, panels, and roundtables. The conference is set for February 14-17, 2018, in Corvallis, Oregon, with the theme "Synergy that Sustains." Topics that reflect conference priorities are listed online. Proposals must be submitted by July 24, 2017.

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Permalink Canadian Research Shows Probiotics May Help Protect Bees from Pesticide Effects

In a new study from Lawson Health Research Institute and Western University, researchers have shown that probiotics can potentially protect honey bees from the toxic effects of pesticides. Researchers utilized fruit flies as a model for studying pesticide toxicity in honey bees. Fruit flies exposed to field-standard amounts of imidacloprid experienced changes to their microbiota and were more susceptible to infections. However, when probiotic lactobacilli was administered, survival among fruit flies exposed to the pesticide improved significantly. The study was published in Nature's Scientific Reports.

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Permalink FDA Announces Intent to Extend Compliance Dates for Agricultural Water Standards

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has announced its intention to extend the compliance dates for agricultural water requirements in the Produce Safety Rule. FDA announced that it will "extend the compliance dates using appropriate procedures at a later time and the length of the extension is under consideration." According to the notice, FDA intends to use the extended time period to work with stakeholders as it considers the best approach to address their concerns while still protecting public health. FDA notes that the extended compliance dates will also give farms an opportunity to continue to review their practices, processes, and procedures related to agricultural water and how it is used.

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Permalink New Program Certifies Bee-Friendly Farms

USDA logoThe Bee Better Certified program is a new certification program that enables agricultural producers to let consumers know they are farming in ways that benefit bees. The program was developed by the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation in partnership with Oregon Tilth, with Conservation Innovation Grant funding from USDA. The program was piloted with 13 farmers and is now being opened to farmers nationwide. The program focuses on integrating flower-rich habitat on farms in order to provide food and nesting sites for native bees, honey bees, and other pollinators. It also helps farmers reduce or eliminate use of pesticides known to cause harm to bees. USDA reports that Bee Better is open to farms of all types and sizes. Those interested submit an application to Oregon Tilth, which inspects the farm and certifies if it meets standards. Certified farmers are able to use the Bee Better seal on their farmstands. Manufacturers can also use the seal on products that contain Bee Better CertifiedTM ingredients.

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Permalink Montana Research Evaluates Pea Yield and Performance

Research by Chengci Chen of Montana State University, reported in Agronomy Journal, explored how nine different varieties of pea performed when grown in five locations across Montana. As more farmers shift to a cereal-dry pea cropping system, understanding peas' performance is critical. Including peas in rotation not only fixes nitrogen but also delivers higher net returns than cereal monocropping. This research revealed that pea yield and protein content are largely affected by environment, while resistant starch content is controlled by genetics. The results of this research will help growers choose pea varieties with a specific trait and grow them for different end-users.

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Permalink Weed Scientists Caution about Auxin Herbicide Drift

Scientists with the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA) say special precautions are necessary to prevent off-target plant damage from dicamba and 2,4-D drift. A survey of more than 2,300 commercial and noncommercial applicators showed that less than half were familiar with volatility and temperature inversions that can influence off-target movement of the auxin herbicides. The Take Action on Weeds program has produced a new fact sheet with best management practices for auxin herbicides, which warns that many ornamental, vegetable, and tree species are sensitive to auxins at 1/30,000 of the labeled rate. It also cautions that vapor drift of auxin herbicides can occur up to three days after application. University of Missouri Associate Professor Kevin Bradley notes, "The approved product labels have considerable detail on management of drift and other risks and must be carefully followed to reduce off-site movement. Unless growers show they can use these herbicides as labeled, the registrations could easily be revoked."

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Permalink Penn State Project to Explore How Pest Management Practices Affect Soil Health

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University have received a USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant to study and compare how various pest-management regimes affect the health of soils. During the three-year project, the researchers will assess the influence of perennial hay and cover crops on establishing soil quality. They then will track how soil quality and biological function are altered in a typical field-crop rotation (corn-soybean-corn) under three intensity levels of pest management: no insecticide/fungicide, preventive use of insecticide/fungicide, and Integrated Pest Management. The project also will examine how crop yield and profitability differ under the various experimental treatments. The study will be replicated at research plots in Pennsylvania and New York.

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Permalink South Carolina New and Beginning Farmer Program Accepting Applications

Clemson University's South Carolina New and Beginning Farmer Program is accepting applications for 2017-2018. The program provides new and beginning farmers with the tools, knowledge and skills necessary to be successful entrepreneurs, sound business managers, exemplary stewards of the natural environment and successful marketers. Two levels of instruction are offered: "Level I, Exploring Farming as a Business" is for emerging farmers with less than three years of experience and "Level II, Taking Your Farm Business to the Next Level" is for those who have been farming three to nine years. Core agribusiness workshops will be held in Columbia and are focused on farm business management, while regional workshops are held throughout the state. Guided farm tours, access to on-farm internships, and participation in the S.C. New and Beginning Farmer Program Alumni Association are also featured program elements. Applications are due July 15, 2017, with programming beginning in October.

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Permalink Heritage Breeds and On-Farm Processing Offer Markets for Pennsylvania Producer

Lancaster Farming recently featured Old Time Farm, where Shelly Oswald and her husband, Ray, produce heritage breeds like Partridge Chantecler chickens, Standard Bronze turkeys, and American Milking Devon cattle to keep the breeds' genetics from dying out. Shelly Oswald sells her products at farmers markets and has a mobile certified kitchen to help introduce customers to her products and help in complete utilization of her animals. For example, she is producing broth from bones. The Oswalds became certified to process poultry on their farm, as well, so that they can sell cut-up chicken. Other enterprises such as making small-batch maple syrup and selling turkey eggs to crafters help open new markets and add to farm income.

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Permalink Research Considers Effect of Organic Feeding Systems on Organic Dairy Cattle Greenhouse-Gas Emissions

University of Wisconsin research that appeared in the Journal of Dairy Science calculated partial life-cycle assessments on greenhouse-gas emissions from different organic dairy feeds. Researchers found variations in the emissions rate for the different feed combinations studied. The study showed that shifting livestock to diets with more soybeans and less corn could reduce emissions attributed to adding nitrogen fertilizer, but it increased the amount of nitrogen in livestock manure. Using more pasture and less grain had the result of decreasing milk output, which raised the amount of greenhouse emissions per unit of milk produced. On the whole, rations that increased total milk production tended to reduce the amount of emissions per unit of milk.

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Permalink Organic Onions Higher in Flavonoids and Antioxidants

Research published in American Chemical Society's Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry showed that flavonoid levels and antioxidant activity in organic onions are higher than in conventional onions. The six-year study tested two varieties of onions and showed that antioxidant activity was higher for both varieties in organic onions. Also, flavonols in organic onions were as much as 20% higher.

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Permalink Audubon's Conservation Ranching Program Building Specialty Beef Market

Audubon's Conservation Ranching Program pairs livestock producers with local ecologists who guide them through sustainable grazing practices and other land-management systems that create vital habitats for birds, reports an article in Audubon magazine. Ranchers are required to either mow or graze grasses to certain heights to benefit seasonal birds. The program includes a "Grazed on Bird-Friendly Land" label that participants can use. They can also sell their labeled beef on a premium market through 15 meat retailers for an extra 50 cents to $2 per pound. So far 40 ranchers covering 600,000 acres in seven states are working with the National Audubon Society, Audubon Dakotas, and Audubon Rockies in the program.

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Permalink Free Fecal Egg Counts Offered for Northeast Small Ruminant Producers

Through the SARE project "New Approaches for Improving Integrated Parasite Control Strategies for Small Ruminants in the Northeast," the University of Rhode Island is offering free Fecal Egg Count analysis for Northeastern small ruminant producers and National Sheep Improvement Program (NSIP) members marketing animals to Northeast producers. The counts will assist with selective breeding for resistance to gastrointestinal nematodes. Samples will be accepted for analysis during the summer months of 2017 from FAMACHA-certified producers in New England, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware. The project focuses on testing young replacement animals.

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Permalink Rice Farmers Sell First Carbon Credits

USDA logoSeven rice farmers who implemented conservation measures that reduced methane emissions generated carbon credits that were sold to Microsoft. Their story is featured in an NRCS interactive online story, "Nature's Stewards." The voluntary conservation practices implemented by the California, Arkansas, and Mississippi farmers not only generated carbon credits but also reduced energy consumption and water use. An NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant helped fund the development of the sale process, which was guided by a diverse group of like-minded partners, including Terra Global Capital, American Carbon Registry (ACR), USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), California Rice Commission, White River Irrigation District and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).

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Permalink Farming for the Future Conference Proposals Invited

The Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) invites innovative, instructive, and enthusiastic presenters to share their knowledge of and expertise in the best practices and strategies to promote profitable farms in producing healthy food for all people while respecting the natural environment at the 27th Annual Farming for the Future Conference. The 2018 Conference will be held February 7 to 10, 2018 in State College, Pennsylvania. Proposals are being accepted for full-day tracks, half-day sessions, 80-minute workshops, and discussion groups. Proposals must be submitted by June 30, 2017. Suggestions for topics and presenters are also being accepted.

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Permalink Farm Aid Festival Venue Announced

Farm Aid has announced that its 2017 concert will take place September 16 in Burgettstown, Pennsylvania, (near Pittsburgh). The event will include a full day of incredible music, HOMEGROWN Concessions® featuring family farm food, hands-on activities in Farm Aid's HOMEGROWN Village, and family farmers. The concert lineup will feature performances by Farm Aid board members Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Neil Young, and Dave Matthews with Tim Reynolds, as well as Jack Johnson, The Avett Brothers, Sheryl Crow, Jamey Johnson, Blackberry Smoke, Valerie June, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, and Insects vs Robots. Ticket information and details on the lineup are available online.

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Permalink White Paper on Increasing Agricultural Sustainability Through Organic Farming Released

The Organic Center has released a White Paper entitled Increasing Agricultural Sustainability Through Organic Farming, based on presentations and discussions at the 2016 Organic Confluences summit. The full 32-page report is available online and covers current research on the environmental impacts of agricultural practices commonly used in organic farming in the areas of soil health, water quality, biodiversity, native pollinators, and climate change mitigation. It discusses barriers that constrain adoption of organic practices on farms and provides recommendations to increase the adoption of sustainable farming practices on organic and transitioning farms.

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Permalink Rodale Institute Announces Organic Pioneer Award Recipients

Rodale Institute has announced the recipients to be honored at its 7th Annual Organic Pioneer Awards (OPA) dinner in September. The award recognizes a research scientist, farmer, and business that are leading the way to an organic planet. The 2017 recipients are researcher Dr. Kathleen Delate at Iowa State University, organic farmer Tom Beddard from Lady Moon Farms, and Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard.

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Permalink Farm to School Grant Awards Announced by USDA

USDA logoUSDA has announced that 65 projects nationwide will receive Farm to School grants. The grants award a total of $5 million to schools, state agencies, tribal groups, and nonprofit organizations in 42 states and Puerto Rico for farm to school planning, implementation, or training. The funded projects include creating new menu items, establishing supply chains for local foods, offering taste tests to children, buying equipment, planting school gardens and organizing field trips to agricultural operations. Information on the projects funded is available online.

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Permalink University of Illinois Project Connects Food Production, Processing, and Service

The Illinois Sustainable Food Project is bringing food grown by University of Illinois students to campus dining. A partnership between the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, the Department of Crop Science's Sustainable Student Farm, and University Housing Dining Services is providing pizza sauce, flours, hot sauce, and other products used in student cafeterias. The project utilizes vegetables and grains grown on the student farm, where varieties are tested for local suitability. Recent renovations to the FSHN Pilot Processing Plant allow food-processing students to work with the locally grown ingredients and create real products. The project also benefits the university’s dining services in that it helps them to meet mandates around local food procurement set forth in the Illinois Climate Action Plan. Assuming the tomato harvest is good this year, the project hopes to provide 100% of the pizza sauce on campus. In the future, the project hopes to expand into providing fruit and vegetable juices on campus.

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Permalink California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement Provides Insight on Food Safety Modernization Act Costs

USDA logoUSDA Economic Research Service has released an Economic Information Bulletin titled "Food Safety Practices and Costs Under the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement." In this 64-page publication, ERS interviewed firms participating in the voluntary California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement. Their responses provide information on the relative size of costs that U.S. firms can expect to incur under similar provisions of the Produce Rule under the Food Safety Modernization Act. Only costs for some food safety practices could be measured: those for food safety staff, harvest foremen, third-party audits, product lost due to animal intrusion, and water testing. Of these, the largest cost was for workers implementing the food safety plan.

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