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Permalink Studies to Help Bring Poultry Production Model to Scale

The University of Minnesota Southeast Regional Sustainable Development Partnership (RSDP) will support a series of studies on Main Street Project’s poultry production model. The studies will identify the best course of action to bring Main Street Project’s ecologically restorative and sustainable model to scale. Main Street Project has developed this model to create an avenue into agricultural entrepreneurship for low-income immigrants via high-quality, sustainable agricultural production for local food markets and values-based consumers. The production method is designed to produce a natural poultry product using the Label Rouge bird made popular by pastured poultry enthusiasts in France; incorporates an alternative feeding system of forages and sprouted grain on small plots; aims to improve soil health for crops by incorporating poultry and perennials in the same system; utilizes polycultures to naturally control pests and reduce the need for chemical pesticides and fertilizers; and increases long-term overall production potential by stacking agricultural enterprises on the same land including perennial fruit and nut crops. Research examining worker health and safety, labor requirements, profitability, and production efficiency will build upon earlier studies evaluating food safety, health impacts, and cost scenarios. If called for, the production system will be modified according to the recommendations of these final studies and RSDP will coordinate Extension training to promote the system.

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Permalink Demand for Organic Dairy Products a Challenge for Suppliers

Organic dairy products are making their way into major food retail outlets, where demand has been so strong that suppliers cannot always keep up with it, reports the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Although demand for organic milk has been on the rise, supplies have been stable for several years. Conventional milk prices have been strong while organic feed costs have been high, so farmers have not been interested in transitioning to organic production. Also, high land costs have hampered organic producers.
Meanwhile, Dairy Herd Management reports that tight supplies of organic dairy products in the United States have led manufacturers to look abroad for supplies of organic cheese and dairy powders.

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Permalink USDA Invites Comment on Need for Statistics on Women and Beginner Farmers

USDA logoUSDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) will convene a panel of subject matter experts to discuss needs for federal statistics about women and beginning farmers and ranchers. The panel will meet April 2-3 in Washington, DC. The meeting on April 2 is open to the public and the panel will hear public comment in the morning, as well as in writing before and up to two weeks following the meeting. These comments will be included in the public record. Send written comment of up to 500 words to nass@nass.usda.gov; FAX 202-690-2090; or USDA/NASS, 1400 Independence Avenue SW, Room 6035, South Building, Washington, DC 20250.

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Permalink New Bean Varieties Withstand Extreme Heat

As a result of a major breakthrough, beans – once feared to be a casualty of climate change – are now set to withstand extreme temperatures, protecting a staple food of the poor in developing countries. CGIAR bean breeders have announced the discovery of 30 new types of "heat-beater" beans. Many of the new heat-tolerant beans developed by the CGIAR scientists are crosses between the "common bean"—which includes pinto, white, black, and kidney beans—and the tepary bean. The new beans are a landmark result of urgent efforts by CGIAR to develop new crop varieties that can thrive in drastic weather extremes. "This discovery could be a big boon for bean production because we are facing a dire situation where, by 2050, global warming could reduce areas suitable for growing beans by 50 percent," said Steve Beebe, a senior CGIAR bean researcher.

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Permalink Mechanical Pollination Shows Promise for Fruit Orchards

Researchers at Washington State University have been experimenting with using an orchard sprayer to mechanically pollinate tree fruit, reports Good Fruit Grower. With pollinator populations threatened, the researchers have been exploring alternative pollination methods. This study showed that pollen can be suspended in solution and applied to cherries and apples through a commercial electrostatic sprayer. The pollen maintained viability for at least an hour. Researchers found that in some trials, fruit set was increased as much as 75% over natural pollination. The team will continue to work on the project at a larger scale and develop viable technology for pome and stone fruit.

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Permalink Fertilizer Application Practices Reduce Ammonia Emissions, Study Shows

Researchers at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid have released a study showing that ammonia emissions associated with crop fertilization could be reduced by as much as 82% by modifying fertilizer application strategies. The researchers tested 11 different application scenarios and found that they reduced ammonia emissions. Four of the scenarios also increased crop yield. The most promising results were achieved by combining the addition of manure and reductions in the amount of urea fertilizers. Manure was incorporated into the soil to depths of 10 cm.

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Permalink Vermont Farm Initiative Helps Returning Veterans Transition

Disabled Vermont veteran Bruce Fowler has started a new initiative on his farm to help returning veterans transition to civilian life by building technical skills, reports the Barre Montpelier Times Argus. The nonprofit Fowler's R&R Ranch Corp. is offering veterans a low-stress work environment and the opportunity to develop skills in farming, cooking, carpentry and woodworking, animal husbandry, equipment maintenance, and repair. Fowler is already raising pigs and chickens, with plans for a working farm raising both vegetables and livestock, an institutional kitchen producing value-added products, and farm machinery and woodworking shops.

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Permalink World Health Organization Releases Assessment of Carcinogenicity of Organophosphate Pesticides

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the specialized cancer agency of the World Health Organization, has assessed the carcinogenicity of five organophosphate pesticides. In the IARC evaluations, the herbicide glyphosate and the insecticides malathion and diazinon were classified as probably carcinogenic to humans. The insecticides tetrachlorvinphos and parathion were classified as possibly carcinogenic to humans. The IARC evaluation notes that glyphosate currently has the highest global production volume of all herbicides, with the largest use worldwide in agriculture. Furthermore, the agricultural use of glyphosate has increased sharply since the development of crops that have been genetically modified to make them resistant to glyphosate.

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Permalink NOP Issues Memorandum on Nanotechnology

USDA logoUSDA National Organic Program (NOP) has issued a memorandum to clarify the status of nanotechnology in organic production and handling. The memo draws a distinction between "engineered nanomaterials" that are specifically designed and manufactured to have unique properties or behavior attributable to particle size and "incidental nanomaterials" that are incidental byproducts of other manufacturing (e.g., homogenization, milling) or that occur naturally. However, NOP is not establishing a separate definition for engineered nanomaterials, such as the definition recommended by the NOSB. The memo states that the statutory framework for the review of substances intended for use in organic production and handling would also apply to engineered nanomaterials. NOP indicates that engineered nanomaterials will follow the same process as other substances being considered for inclusion on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances. Any substance under consideration must first be petitioned for use, then reviewed and recommended by the NOSB, and finally added to the National List through notice and comment rulemaking.

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Permalink Western SARE Introduces Western Sustainability Pioneer Award

To bring increased awareness to sustainable agriculture leaders and their work, Western SARE has announced that it is accepting nominations for its first Western Sustainability Pioneer Award. Nominations for this award may be made by anyone and are due May 15, 2015. The selection criteria that should be addressed in the nominating letter include leadership and contributions toward agricultural sustainability, locally and regionally, which could include service to local or regional sustainable agriculture organizations, teaching principles of sustainable agriculture to producers and ag professionals, using innovative farming/ranching practices leading to increased sustainability. Additional criteria include service to Western SARE, and/or National SARE, which could include serving as a grant reviewer, representing SARE in public forums, and/or leading an outstanding funded project.

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Permalink Increases Predicted in Global Antibiotic Use in Livestock

A team of researchers from Princeton University, the International Livestock Research Institute, the Université Libre de Bruxelles and the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy has conducted a broad assessment of antibiotic consumption in livestock around the world and predicts a startling increase in use in the next 15 years. The study, "Global trends in antimicrobial use in food animals," published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that worldwide antimicrobial consumption is expected to rise by a staggering 67% percent between 2010 and 2030. The study predicts that five countries—Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—will experience a growth of 99% in antibiotic consumption.

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Permalink Minnesota Offers Farmers Replicated Field Trials for Nitrogen Management

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is inviting Minnesota farmers and crop advisers to participate in the Nutrient Management Initiative (NMI). Participants can evaluate the efficiency of different nitrogen management practices on their own farms through the use of replicated field trials. The results of these trials can help farmers fine-tune their nutrient management practices. Participating farmers work with a crop adviser to set up trials on their own fields. At the end of the growing season, participants will receive a simple economic analysis based on actual nutrient input costs and yield results from their field trial using a yearly average corn price. As compensation for their time, participating farmers receive a total of $1,000, while crop advisers receive $500 per site enrolled. Participants are also eligible for free in-season aerial imagery.

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Permalink Report on Bio-Extensive Market Farming Published

The Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture has released Market Farming with Rotations and Cover Crops: An Organic Bio-Extensive System. The 70-page report, by Horticulture Manager George Kuepper, is available online. It outlines how to control grasses and weeds and build soil life, health, and fertility organically through cover crops and rotations. The bio-extensive system is being used on the Kerr Center's Cannon Horticulture Project.

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Permalink Survey Collecting Input on Food Safety at Farmers Markets

The Farmers Market Food Safety Program is seeking input from market vendors and managers regarding their opinions and experiences with food safety at farmers markets. This program seeks to enhance food safety practices at farmers markets by developing educational materials and operational tools. The project is a three-year effort funded by USDA's National Institute for Food and Agriculture and led by Dr. Kristen Gibson at the University of Arkansas. The program is conducting surveys and focus groups with farmers market vendors and managers to determine current implementation of food safety training materials and to identify best management practices. To give your valuable input on food safety at farmers markets, you can take an online survey.

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Permalink ARS Develops New Poultry Vaccine

USDA logoResearchers at USDA Agricultural Research Service's (ARS) Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory have created a vaccine that is effective against infectious laryngotracheitis (ILT) and Newcastle disease (ND). ILT and ND are two of the most economically important infectious diseases of poultry. According to microbiologist Qingzhong Yu, the new vaccines are safer than the current live-attenuated ILT vaccines. They can be safely and effectively given by aerosol or drinking water to large chicken populations at a low cost.

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Permalink Terminating Cover Crops with Sheep Benefits Organic Farmers

Preliminary results of a study released by Montana State University show the benefits of using sheep, rather than tillage, to manage and terminate cover crops. The study found that farmers who grow organic crops may save money, reduce tillage, manage weeds and pests, and reduce the risk of soil erosion by using domestic sheep to graze farmland for cover crop termination and weed control. “We are approaching this perspective not from a sole discipline; we are looking at a system-level approach,” said Fabian Menalled, MSU Extension weed ecologist. “Cropping systems can get complex in terms of interactions of plants with soil organisms, crops, and crop pests, and farmers need to find a balance between economic return, productivity, and sustainability. This study speaks to every one of those factors.” The preliminary results are from the first two years in a long-term United States Department of Agriculture research, education, and extension project, which is showing several environmental and economic benefits for an integrated cropping and livestock system.

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Permalink NRCS Spreadsheet Tool Helps Farmers Determine Economics of Cover Crops

USDA logoUSDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has developed The Cover Crop Economic Decision Support Tool, a spreadsheet that helps farmers, landowners, and others make informed decisions when considering whether to add cover crops to their systems. The tool offers a partial budget analysis, derived from data that farmers enter. Farmers can run "what if" scenarios if they want to evaluate a range of values. The tool offers results in both dollars and graphs, showing short-term and long-term benefits. For most scenarios, the tool shows a clear financial benefit for those who learn to manage cover crops and stick with them. There is a significant jump in benefits over time, primarily because of increased organic matter in the soil. The tool also indicates that short-term costs can be offset by farmers who incorporate grazing of cover crops. Farmers can download the spreadsheet under the soil health section of the Missouri NRCS website.

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Permalink Online Mapping Tool Helps Pennsylvania Farmers Reduce Soil Erosion

PAOneStop is a free, interactive mapping tool created by Penn State Extension with ongoing support from Pennsylvania’s Agriculture and Environmental Protection departments and the State Conservation Commission. More than 3,300 farmers and other agriculture community members have used the online tool to map nearly 10,300 farms and 71,500 fields across Pennsylvania. The interface was created to help Pennsylvania farmers reduce the environmental impact their farms were having on the Chesapeake Bay and other water-based ecosystems. The secure system enables farmers to generate the high-quality farm and field maps they are required to submit to state regulators as components of nutrient balance sheets, nutrient management plans, and soil erosion and sedimentation plans. In addition to creating the maps, farmers can now complete the erosion plans themselves in PAOneStop. Currently, only Pennsylvania farmland can be mapped in PAOneStop, the system could be adapted for use in other states.

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Permalink New Newsletter Features Organic Agricultural Research for the Subtropics

The Subtropical Organic Agriculture Research (SOAR) Partnership has announced the first issue of a new newsletter, SOARING. The newsletter reports on new research on planting cover crops and creating beneficial insect habitat in the Rio Grande Valley. It introduces project cooperators and helps raise awareness of the ecological benefits of organic farming. The newsletter is free and the first issue is available online. The SOAR Partnership is led by UT-Pan American (UTPA) and the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), with funding support from the Organic Transitions Program of USDA's National Institute of Food & Agriculure.

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Permalink Farmer Training Programs Launching New Farmers, Gaining Media Coverage

In California, the Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association is providing 40 farmers with leases on small pieces of farmland where they can start their own organic farm businesses, reports KSBW. ALBA offers farmers production training, business planning assistance, and access to equipment and ground where they can start farming. Across the country, in North Carolina, the Green Fields Initiative offers a farm school that focuses on making small farms profitable through business planning and crop diversification, says The Fayetteville Observer. In Wisconsin, the Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmers and the Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship are helping would-be dairy farmers learn the business, according to WMTV.

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Permalink Pollinating Birds and Mammals Declining Globally

A new international study reports that the conservation status of pollinating bird and mammal species is deteriorating, with more species moving towards extinction than away from it. The study, Global Trends in the Status of Bird and Mammal Pollinators, was produced in collaboration by the United Nations Environment Program World Conservation Monitoring Center, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Sapienza University of Rome, and BirdLife International. On average, 2.4 bird and mammal pollinator species per year have moved one IUCN Red List category towards extinction in recent decades, representing a substantial increase in extinction risk across this set of species. Habitat loss from unsustainable agriculture was found to be the main cause of decline for a considerable proportion of species among both mammals and birds.

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Permalink USDA Report Sheds Light on Family Farms

USDA logoThe U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service has issued a new report based on data from the 2012 Census of Agriculture. The 2012 Census of Agriculture Farm Typology is a special data series that primarily focuses on the "family farm," any farm where the majority of the business is owned by the operator and related individuals. By this definition, 97% of the 2.1 million farms in the United States are family-owned operations and 88% of all farms are small family farms with gross cash farm cash income less than $350,000. The report reveals that 58% of all direct farm sales to consumers come from small family farms. According to the report, 18% of principal operators on family farms in the U.S. started within the last 10 years.

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Permalink CSP Renewals Accepted until March 31

USDA logoUSDA is offering a renewal option through Tuesday, March 31, 2015 for eligible agricultural producers and forest landowners with expiring Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) contracts. These producers must be willing to adopt additional conservation activities aimed at helping them achieve higher levels of conservation on their farms, forests and ranches. About 9,300 contracts covering more than 12.2 million acres are nearing the end of their five- year term and can be renewed for an additional five years. The renewal process is optional but benefits CSP participants with expiring contracts because it is non-competitive. To learn more about CSP contract renewals, visit your local Natural Resources Conservation Service office.

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Permalink Livestock Breed Conservation Priority List Released

The Livestock Conservancy has issued its updated Conservation Priority List for 2015. The Livestock Conservancy gathers census data from breed associations, along with their reports of trends, issues, and triumphs. The Livestock Conservancy then categorizes breeds as Critical, Threatened, Watch, Recovering, or Study. This year two horse breeds moved from the Threatened category to the Critical category, and Lincoln sheep moved from Watch to Threatened. Gloucestershire Old Spots pigs and Large Black hogs, however, made a positive move from Critical to Threatened. Meanwhile, Large Fowl American Game have been added to the list's Study category. The 2015 list, including cattle, sheep, goats, rabbits, horses, swine, various poultry, and more livestock species, is available online.

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Permalink Real Food Media Contest Announces Short Film Winners

Winners of the second annual Real Food Media Contest, the food movement's first and only competition for short films about sustainable food and farming, have been announced. All under four minutes, the winning films are diverse in style, perspective, and place, but share common themes: renewal of respect for the labor and natural resources at the heart of food production, empowerment of communities through advocacy, and celebration of sustainability along the food chain. Prizes were determined by the Contest’s prominent panel of judges, including journalists Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser, Norman Lear Center’s Johanna Blakley, film critic Thelma Adams, Padma Lakshmi, Alice Waters, and Tom Colicchio. Winning films are free to watch online or at more than 50 Pop-Up Film Festivals being hosted around the country.

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Permalink New Resource to Help Food Hubs Support Farm to School Programs

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM) has announced the publication of a new resource, Using Food Hubs to Create Sustainable Farm to School Programs, which explores the key roles that Food Hubs can play in the development, support, and maintenance of successful Farm to School programs. This new resource highlights four case study examples demonstrating different ways Food Hubs can utilize their existing infrastructure and expertise to support and strengthen Farm to School programs in their communities. The new publication is available online in PDF. According to VAAFM Local Foods Administrator Abbey Willard, "This new resource, Using Food Hubs to Create Sustainable Farm to School Programs, is designed to help Food Hubs in Vermont and throughout the United States utilize their strengths and areas of expertise to meet this growing demand and increase student access to fresh, healthy, local foods. We hope it proves to be a useful tool for local food-focused communities everywhere."

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Permalink New York Farmers May Apply for New Farmer Profit Teams

New York state farmers with at least three years of experience may be eligible to receive support for a New Farmer Profit Team. A collaboration of the Cornell Small Farms Program, NY Farm Viability Institute, and NY FarmNet, made possible with funding from NYFVI and the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, this initiative seeks to improve the long-term success of advanced beginning farmers by providing selected farmers with customized, one-on-one guidance from farm professionals (financial, production, legal, marketing, etc.) over an 18-month to 2-year period. The project has up to $2000 available per farm to pay these advisors and requires a 20% match from the farmer. The application deadline is April 1, and in this first round, only 10 farms will be chosen.

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Permalink Greg and Mary Reynolds Honored as MOSES Organic Farmers of the Year

Long-time organic farmers Greg and Mary Reynolds of Riverbend Farm in Delano, Minnesota, are the 2015 MOSES Organic Farmers of the Year, reports Organic Broadcaster. This prestigious award recognizes organic farmers who practice outstanding land stewardship, innovation, and outreach. The Reynolds grow vegetables and small grains on 30 acres, certified organic since 1994. They carefully manage both their seeds and their land to survive in a changing climate. The Reynolds received their award at the 2015 MOSES Organic Farming Conference.

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Permalink Maine Resolution on Importance of Soil Offers Model

In honor of the International Year of Soils in 2015, a group of Maine soil scientists approached the state legislature about passing a resolution acknowledging the essential role that soils play in a healthy economy and environment. The resolution is now scheduled to be read to the legislature. Supporters of the measure have made its full text available online and are encouraging supporters of soil in other states to introduce similar measures. The periodical On Pasture will help to coordinate efforts by connecting supporters in the same state.

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Permalink Publication Offers Guidance on Starting Indoor Farmers Markets

The Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs at Western Illinois University has released The Indoor Farmer’s Market: Evolution of a
Local Food Sales Model
. This eight-page publication offers numerous examples of indoor farmers markets and the diverse strategies they use to market local foods, including cooperation with local grocery stores. The publication also provides step-by-step guidance on starting a farmers market.

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