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Home  > Breaking News

Breaking News

Permalink Farm Credit East Grants Support Farmers Markets

Farm Credit East recently provided $500 grants to 20 Northeast farmers markets in six states, totaling $10,000, for promotion and development of the markets. Markets were selected by each of Farm Credit East’s branch offices. In addition, the Association donated 250 reusable bags, with messaging to support Northeast farmers, and signage to promote the market.

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Permalink Survey Finds Student Loan Debt Preventing New Farmers

The National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC) has released results from a new survey showing that student loan debt is one of the key barriers preventing more would-be farmers and ranchers from entering agriculture. The report, Farming Is Public Service: A Case for Adding Farmers to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, finds that 30% of survey respondents delayed or declined to enter agriculture because of their student loans, while an additional 48% said student loans prevented them from growing their business or obtaining credit to invest in their farm. More than 700 young farmers, (a traditionally under-reported group), were surveyed for NYFC’s Farming Is Public Service survey.

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Permalink Scientists Call for Prioritizing Agroecology Research Funding

More than 300 leading scientists have issued a statement calling on Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to prioritize agroecology—the science of managing agricultural lands and minimizing their impact on the environment—when funding agricultural research. The Food & Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) initiated the statement. "Farmers and ranchers deserve to hear more about profitable and sustainable farming practices that increase yields and resilience while protecting their communities and future generations," said UCS agroecologist Marcia DeLonge. "The best way to bolster America’s farmers and farmlands is to invest in agroecology research."

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Permalink Leopold Center Releases Research Results for 11 Projects

The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University has released summaries of 11 recently completed research projects funded by the center's long-running Competitive Grants Program. The projects dealt with small grains, crop rotation, farrowing alternatives, farm business, and local food. A summary for each project's results is available online.

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Permalink Wholesale Market Watch Listserve Introduced in Northeast

Wholesale Market Watch is a new listserve that provides information and resources to facilitate connecting small and mid-sized farmers to larger markets such as food hubs, grocery stores, restaurants, online marketplaces, and cooperatives. Farmers, agricultural educators, or regional food-buyers in the Northeast can sign up to receive email alerts from Wholesale Market Watch. This listserve is part of a larger project called "Sparking a Wholesale Revolution: Preparing Small and Mid-sized Farmers to Enter Larger Markets."

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Permalink Public Input Invited on Biomass Crop Assistance Program Program Changes

USDA logoUSDA Farm Service Agency is preparing an environmental review of the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) and has proposed improvements to Project Area requirements, including crop eligibility, contract duration, and processes to offset the lack of biomass insurance. FSA will conduct scoping meetings to provide information on the proposed changes to BCAP and to solicit input from program participants, the public, and other stakeholders on the environmental impacts of these changes and alternatives to these changes. Each evening meeting will begin with an Open House followed by a presentation. At the conclusion of the presentation, FSA will accept verbal comments and answer questions. Meetings are set for Sacramento, California, on July 14; Honolulu, Hawaii, on July 15; Raleigh, North Carolina, on August 3; Orlando, Florida, on August 5; and Sioux City, Iowa, on August 6.

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Permalink Southern SARE Administrative Council Seeks Nominations for Producer Seat

The Administrative Council of the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SSARE) program is seeking nominations of a producer experienced with sustainable agriculture and its impact on the environment and rural communities. The nominee will replace an outgoing Administrative Council member and serve a three-year term. Producer nominations from all 13 states in the Southern region, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands will be considered. Nominations must be made online and are due by July 15, 2015.

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Permalink Taste the Local Difference Offers Guide to Northwest Michigan Local Food

The 12th annual Taste the Local Difference guide to Northwest Michigan food has been released. The 50-page publication connects readers to Northern Michigan's vibrant food community with easy-to-use regional maps, beautiful photography, farmers market listings, and compelling stories featuring local farmers and retailers. Editorial features highlight community supported agriculture, full-transparency farming, organic farming, local wine, craft beer, availability of local foods in stores, and more. The guide covers 10 counties in northwest Michigan.

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Permalink Magnesium Chloride-Based Fertilizer Approved for Organic Farming

Innovative Surface Solutions has announced that its product AgMag™ is the first magnesium chloride-based fertilizer approved for organic farming in North America. The product is a high performance magnesium chloride liquid that is approved for organic production as a crop fertilizer and soil amendment to help increase quality and yield in row crops. It has just been listed by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) in both Canada and the United States for use in certified organic production, food processing, and handling.

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Permalink Project to Identify Urban Agriculture Soil Risks

A team of researchers led by Wayne State University has recently launched an initiative to determine the prevalence of contaminants in urban agriculture soil in Detroit, establish linkages among the contaminants, and identify the agricultural risk factors for the contamination. The team was recently awarded more than $293,000 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture for the project. Their goal is to provide urgently needed information on physical, chemical, and biological contamination in urban agricultural environments. The project aims to have a significant impact on research, education, and outreach in food and agricultural sciences. Data on physical, chemical, and biological contamination in soil and vegetables in urban agriculture; new curricula in food and agricultural sciences addressing urban agriculture and environmental impact on food safety and sustainability; and outreach materials for urban gardeners will be major focus areas of the project.

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Permalink DOE Funding Supports Research on Sorghum for Biofuel

The U.S. Department of Energy has announced the award of $30 million in funding for six projects under the Transportation Energy Resources from Renewable Agriculture program. DOE says the projects uniquely integrate agriculture, information technology, and engineering communities to design and apply new tools for the development of improved varieties of energy sorghum, a crop used to produce biofuel. The projects will be led by Clemson University, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Purdue University, Texas A&M AgriLife Research, and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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Permalink Crop Rotation Found to Benefit Soil Microbial Community

Research led by Michigan State University Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences found that crop rotations, in isolation from other management factors, can increase the functions performed by soil microbial communities that benefit plant growth. Research for the project took place at the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station, and the results were published in Ecology Letters. Scientists concluded that a diverse set of crops can sustain soil biological communities, with positive effects on soil organic matter and soil fertility.

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Permalink Healthy Soil Is a Weather Risk Management Tool, According to Report

Healthy soil can protect us from drought and flood impacts, saving farms, rural communities and even the American agriculture industry, according to a new report from the National Wildlife Federation. Can Soil Save Us? Making the Case for Cover Crops as Extreme Weather Risk Management details the many benefits of investing in healthy soil as protection from natural disasters. "We can never prevent drought or floods, but we can get smarter about them," said Patricia White, Senior Policy Specialist at the National Wildlife Federation and report author. "In addition to predicting extreme events before and responding after, we can build soil quality to support farms when disaster hits. That healthy soil will act as a reservoir to hold moisture during a drought and a sponge to hold water during floods."

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Permalink Organic Cover Crop Seed Offers Profit Potential

Researchers at University of Georgia Extension combined field trials and economic analysis of organic seed production for cover crops suitable for Georgia farms in a study funded by the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF). The researchers found that profits from production of organic cereal rye and crimson clover seed ranged from $338 to $356 per acre in the second year of the study. First year profits were lower, due to problems with harvesting equipment and production conditions. OFRF notes that while this study focuses on Georgia, it also provides a roadmap for growers in other regions interested in learning about the challenges, opportunities, and economics of organic seed production. The 12-page report, Organic Cover Crop Seed Production in Georgia, is available online in PDF.

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Permalink California Small Farm Conference Seeking Workshop Proposals

The California Small Farm Conference Workshop Committee is seeking proposals for interesting and timely presentations for the 29th annual conference. The mission of the California Small Farm Conference is to conduct an educational conference on topics relevant to family farming, direct marketing, and issues related to agricultural sustainability. The next conference will be held in Sacramento, California, March 5–8, 2016. If your workshop is selected, one-day registration and one meal will be provided the day of the speaking engagement to each speaker on the panel and to the workshop coordinator. Workshop proposals can be submitted online until August 14, 2015.

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Permalink SNAP Participants Redeeming Benefits at Farmers Markets

USDA logoUSDA reports that Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants are spending more of their benefits to make purchases at roadside farm stands, farmers markets, and directly from local farmers than ever before. SNAP redemptions at those outlets in FY14 totaled $18.8 million, a nearly six-fold increase since 2008. The number of SNAP-authorized farmers, roadside farm stands, and farmers markets has grown dramatically, from 753 in 2008 to in excess of 6,400 today.

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Permalink University of Wisconsin-Madison Gains Endowed Chair in Organic Agriculture

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has announced the creation of the Clif Bar and Organic Valley Chair in Plant Breeding for Organic Agriculture at the UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. Clif Bar & Company and Organic Valley both donated $500,000 to establish the endowment. The gift also received a "Morgridge Match," doubling its value to $2 million. Both funders noted the college's leadership in organic agricultural innovation when establishing the fund. The college is home to the nation's largest public plant-breeding program. The named chair will be awarded to a CALS faculty member dedicated to developing new crop varieties for organic farming systems. The recipient will hold the position for a seven-year term, at which point a new chair will be selected. This is the first of five organic research chairs that Clif Bar hopes to create at land-grant universities across the nation.

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Permalink Land Institute Debuting Perennial Grain

Long-term research by the Land Institute has resulted in the introduction of Kernza, a perennial grain, says a feature on Civil Eats. The grain is now being grown in several geographically diverse test plots, and several projects are exploring how the grain can best be utilized by consumers. The grain has unique flavor and properties that make it a challenge for chefs. The plant's exceptionally deep roots may contribute to its terroir by giving it access to subsoil minerals that impart particular flavors. Researchers working with Kernza are still addressing issues with shattering and trying to increase seed size, but the entry of a perennial grain in the market is coming closer.

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Permalink Purple Sprouting Broccoli Trial Results Published

Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) has published results from purple sprouting broccoli variety trials in Oregon and Washington. They report that purple sprouting broccoli is an ideal crop for winter food production in the Pacific Northwest. It's planted in the summer and then overwinters, providing a harvest in the late winter and early spring, typically February or March. OSA in working partnership with Organically Grown Company, Oregon State University, and Washington State University on this first multi-state variety trial to focus on how different varieties perform in organic production systems. The report includes data from nine varieties, two of which are OSA's working (unfinished) varieties. In addition to field evaluations, overall appearance and flavor were evaluated at tasting events. The full report is available online for free download.

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Permalink OEFFA Unveils New Label Highlighting Non-GMO Status of Organic Products

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) has released a new label that OEFFA-certified organic farmers and processors can use on their products, in addition to the standard USDA organic seal. This label, "Organic is non-GMO and more" reminds consumers that choosing organic foods allows them to avoid GMOs and protect public health and the environment. To use the organic label, foods must not only be non-GMO but they must also be grown without synthetic pesticides, growth hormones, antibiotics, and chemical fertilizers. "Regardless of which version of the organic label a farmer or processor chooses, the organic seal guarantees that the product was made without GMOs," notes OEFFA Policy Program Coordinator Amalie Lipstreu.

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Permalink IPM App Available for Strawberry Growers

IPMinfo, a new app from UC Agriculture and Natural Resources that provides integrated pest management (IPM) information to farmers, is now available for free download for iPhones. The current version of the app contains information on invertebrate pests and diseases of strawberries and gives agricultural professionals easy one-touch access to quick summaries of various pests, pictures to help identify symptoms, and links to additional resources. Each pest entry has information on biology, damage symptoms, and management options with associated photos. Links provided in the management section will take the user to the UC IPM website for more detailed information, especially about various control options.

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Permalink Factory Farm Size Trends Documented in Map and Report

Food & Water Watch analyzed USDA data and found that factory farms continued to grow in size and number over the past fifteen years. These trends and more are highlighted in the updated version of the website, and its companion report, Factory Farm Nation: 2015 Edition. The report provides extensive analysis of the states and counties with the largest numbers of beef cattle, dairy cows, hogs, egg-laying hens, and broiler chickens on factory farms as well as the largest-sized factory farms for each type of livestock. The website provides interactive, fifteen-year, county-level geographical and graphical examination of these trends.

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Permalink Producer Survey Explores Building Minnesota Farm to Institution Markets

The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, the Sustainable Farming Association, and Renewing the Countryside conducted an online survey of Minnesota growers interested in farm to institution markets in fall 2014, to determine the resources they need to engage with institutional markets in a consistent and economically viable manner. The survey collected 142 responses, most from producers who were currently selling their products via wholesale or direct-to-consumer market channels. Most respondents were interested in exploring expanded direct-to-consumer, co-op and on-farm retail market channels in the coming five years. Three out of four respondents were interested in selling their product to institutional markets in the future, with universities and hospitals be most appealing markets. Respondents identified information tools and resources that they felt would help them access institutional markets. The full report of survey results is available online.

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Permalink Revised Manual for Farmers Markets Issued in Minnesota

The Minnesota Farmers Market Association has released a completely rewritten version of its Minnesota Farmers' Market Manual. The manual is available for purchase in either online or print versions. It features chapters on starting a farmers market, governance and management, food safety, food assistance programs, promotion, and risk management and insurance. In addition, the manual includes hundreds of links to resources and information from local markets, state agencies, and national leaders, organizations and markets.

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Permalink American Farmland Trust's Farmers Market Celebration Launches

American Farmland Trust has announced the start of their seventh annual Farmers Market Celebration to raise awareness about the vital link between family farmers and local food. This event invites members of the public to endorse their local farmers markets in four special areas: focus on farmers, healthy food for all, pillar of the community, and champion for the environment. The farmers markets with the most endorsements by September 23 will win awards. In addition, a "People's Choice" award will be presented. American Farmland Trust is also inviting farmers market shoppers to share photographs of the fresh food they are buying from family farmers on Instagram using #OnMyFork.

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Permalink 'Armed to Farm' Now Accepting Applications for New York Training

The Northeast Regional office of the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) is accepting applications for a week-long Armed to Farm workshop in western New York state until June 26. The course will be held August 2-7 at at Houghton College, Allegany County. The program is available at no cost to military veterans in New York state who have recently begun farming (less than 10 years) and who wish to learn more skills, explore sustainable and diverse enterprises, and improve or change their farm business plans. Spouses and farming partners are also invited to apply. NCAT is partnering with the Cornell Small Farms program, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and the Farmer Veteran Coalition to provide a program that includes classroom and on-farm learning through exercises, discussions, presentations, hands-on skill practice, and tours at host farms in the area. Instructors include sustainable agriculture specialists from NCAT, Cornell staff, USDA agency representatives, and host farmers, many of whom are also veterans. Apply here.

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Permalink Cover Crop Monocultures and Mixtures Contrasted

In a blog post from the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University, Andrew McGuire looks at recent research on services provided by monoculture and polyculture cover crops. McGuire concludes that although cover crop "cocktail" mixtures can provide more services, the level of service provided is diluted by competition among the species. Rotating monoculture cover crops through time could result in a greater level of services than using a polyculture cover crop, because of the tradeoffs involved.

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Permalink Montana's Growing Leaders Youth Initiatives Invite Participation in Planning

In 2015, the National Center for Appropriate Technology's Growing Leaders Youth Initiatives,a program that works to support the active involvement of youth in Montana’s Food Systems by strengthening young people’s capacity to educate and organize their peers and communities about healthy eating, healthy living, and vibrant community-based food systems, is planning five regional Growing Leaders Youth Summits across the state of Montana. The summits will be held during October and November. NCAT is looking for partner organizations willing to host the regional gatherings, welcoming regional steering committee members, and inviting input on workshop topics, speakers, and field trips for the 2015 Summits. More information is available online.

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Permalink Michigan Good Food Fund Launches

The newly launched Michigan Good Food Fund is a public-private partnership loan and grant fund created to address lack of healthy food access in rural and urban communities alike by supporting good food entrepreneurs across the state. The Michigan Good Food Fund supports efforts across the value chain including healthy food production, distribution, processing, marketing, and retail projects. It will offer financing through flexible, competitive loans as well as grants investments with a mission‐driven approach targeting those enterprises often overlooked by traditional sources of financing. Core partners include the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, fund manager Capital Impact Partners, and Fair Food Network and Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems who will co‐lead business assistance and pipeline development. The goal is to grow the fund to $30 million.

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Permalink Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program Changes Explained

Farmers' Legal Action Group (FLAG) has published a seven-page overview titled Changes to the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) for the 2015 Crop Year. The document is available online. FLAG notes that significant changes have been made to USDA’s NAP for the 2015 crop year. These include the possibility of using more targeted market prices to establish a farmer's NAP coverage level and the requirement that farmers growing hand-harvested crops must notify FSA within 72 hours of a loss claim or the end of harvest.

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