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Permalink Warming Temperatures Linked to Increased Corn Yields

Researchers at Harvard University have found that a prolonged growing season due to increased temperatures, combined with the natural cooling effects of large fields of plants, contributed greatly to improved corn yields from 1981 to 2017 in the U.S. Corn Belt. The researchers question whether technology credited with improving yields actually played as large a role as climate change. During the study period, planting dates got earlier by three days per decade, so that corn had more time to mature. At the same time, the hottest days during the Midwestern growing season have actually cooled, due to increased evaporation from large, densely planted crops. Professor Peter Huybers oberved, "In this case, changing temperatures have had a beneficial impact on agricultural production, but there is no guarantee that benefit will last as the climate continues to change. Understanding the detailed relationships between climate and crop yield is important as we move towards feeding a growing population on a changing planet."

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Permalink Farmer Veterans Receive Tractors Through 'Geared to Give'

Kubota Tractor Corporation has announced five new farmer veteran tractor recipients as part of its 2018 “Geared to Give” program in partnership with the Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC). The 2018 program received hundreds of applications from worthy veterans; in the end, one recipient was selected by and for each of Kubota's five operating divisions. In total, the program has provided equipment and grants to 26 farmer veterans through FVC's Fellowship Fund, which matches veterans' needs with donated resources to help them further their agriculture careers. Each year, farmer veterans can apply to the FVC Fellowship Fund in order to be considered for donated Kubota equipment through the "Geared to Give" program.

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Permalink Illinois Reminds Veterans of 'Homegrown by Heroes' Label

Illinois Department of Agriculture invites veterans and current active duty service members to take part in the Homegrown By Heroes program. This program allows Illinois farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and producers who have served or are still serving in any branch of the U.S. military to use a special logo on the agricultural products they sell to the public. The Homegrown by Heroes program is a free program for our veterans, with an annual renewal. To be eligible for the program, the veteran must provide proof of service, a letter of support from their commanding officer or a designated representative, and must maintain 50% or greater ownership in the business/operation. For those who qualify, the Homegrown by Heroes Illinois Product logo can be used to identify and market their Illinois-grown and Illinois-made products on packaging, signage, websites, and social media or wherever their items are being sold.

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Permalink California Legislation Offers Incentive for Winter Rice Field Flooding

California legislation passed this fall established an incentive program that authorizes the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to contract with private landowners or lessees to flood rice ground for at least 70 days during the winter. RiceFarming reports that the 2018-19 state budget contains $5 million for the initial development and program start-up. Qualifying land must have been in rice two out of the past three years, and priority would be given to parcels that are home to endangered or threatened species. Initially, the contracts would be for three years. The article says the California Rice Commission plans to work with the Department to develop rules of the new program and establish provisions for receiving and evaluating grower applications.

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Permalink Latino Farmer Conference Helps Spanish-Speakers Connect with Resources

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) hosted their fourth annual Latino Farmer Conference on November 8, 2018, in Santa Maria, California. The event, conducted in Spanish, helps make members of the agricultural community aware of opportunities and resources available to them. Coverage of the event on AgNet West and in the Lompoc Record noted the conference's producer and buyer panels and production-oriented breakout sessions, as well as an opening address by Congressman Salud Carbajal.

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Permalink Practical Farmers of Iowa Announces Fall Webinar Series

Practical Farmers of Iowa has scheduled its fall 2018 series of farmer-led webinars--"farminars." The weekly evening webinars each focus on a unique production or business management topic. All presentations are led by an experienced farmer or subject-matter expert, and attendees are able to ask questions in real time using a chatbox while they listen and watch a slideshow. The presentations are free for anyone with an internet connection. Presentations planned for the series vary from advanced topics geared toward experienced growers--such as the November 13 presentation "Understanding and Managing Impacts of Farmed Prairie Potholes" – to introductory topics such as "Where to Begin With Winter Wheat Production." The seasonal series runs from November 13, 2018, through December 18, 2018.

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Permalink Study Tracks Bumblebees to Document Neonicotinoid Impact

A study led by Harvard University's James Crall tagged bumblebees with uniquely patterned designs that could be tracked by high-resolution cameras to monitor neonicotinoid impacts. The study showed that nine colonies of bees that were given sugar syrup laced with imidacloprid had a lower activity level and spent less time caring for the brood than control colonies. They also had more difficulty regulating colony temperature. The research was reported in the journal Science, and it establishes a new precedent for tracking the effect of pesticides on insects.

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Permalink North Carolina Extension Offering Industrial Hemp Information

North Carolina Extension educators are supporting producers of industrial hemp by sharing information from the second year of a pilot research program in the state. Because hemp hasn't been grown in the state for decades, producers are struggling to find how best to grow the crop. Extension specialists and agents are conducting their own experiments at agricultural experiment stations, and participants in the state's pilot program must conduct research on their crops and report the results. NC State Extension provides an online industrial hemp portal with news, events, and more about growing hemp.

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Permalink New Program to Help New York Farmers Find Farmland

American Farmland Trust, the State of New York, agricultural organizations, land trusts, and others have launched Farmland for a New Generation New York, a program to help existing farmers, new farmers, and younger generations of farm families access farmland while supporting retiring farmers and landowners. Farmland for a New Generation New York offers a Resource Center coordinated by American Farmland Trust with expert advisors, as well as a website (nyfarmlandfinder.org) featuring training materials and a listing of farmers in search of land and land available for farming throughout the state. The program will also support a network of Regional Navigators, or partner organizations with dedicated staff that will provide trainings and on-the-ground customized support for farmers and landowners in regions across New York.

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Permalink Soil and Water Conservation Society Invites Submissions for Conference Presentations

The Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS) is seeking oral presentations, posters, symposia, and workshops for the 74th SWCS International Annual Conference, taking place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, July 28-31, 2019. Oral presentations are 15-20 minutes, a symposium is 90 minutes, and workshops can be two to four hours. Submissions are being accepted for three special and eight general topic areas. Abstracts submitted within the general conference track should cater towards the conference theme, "Bridging the Divide: Uniting Rural and Urban Landscapes for Conservation." Submissions are due by January 9, 2019, except for poster submissions, which are due March 6, 2019.

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Permalink Planting Marginal Farmland to Bioenergy Crops Offers Multiple Benefits

Researchers from Argonne National Laboratory reported at the annual meeting of The Geological Society of America that planting perennial bioenergy crops such as shrub willow and switchgrass could make marginal farmland useful and potentially profitable. The research focused initially on how the bioenergy crops on marginal land could prevent erosion and collect excess nutrients to protect water quality. However, researchers found that the shrub willow and switchgrass plantings had other benefits, as well: they can provide biomass for biofuel, offer a resource for pollinators and other wildlife, and provide other ecosystem services.

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Permalink Guide Helps Farmers Navigate Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program

Farmers Legal Action Group (FLAG) has released a free, online publication titled Farmers' Guide to the 2017 Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program (WHIP). Farmers with losses from the 2017 hurricanes and wildfires may be eligible for cash payments for crop losses through this program. FLAG's 69-page PDF publication helps farmers navigate the ins and outs of this program. Sign-up for WHIP will end on November 16, 2018.

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Permalink Montana Harvest of the Month Best Practices Guide Available

The Montana Harvest of the Month program has the goal of increasing the sale of specialty crops to Montana institutions. It began by assisting schools in showcasing a food produced in the state each month. The program expanded to include community pilots for Harvest of the Month in Early Childhood Education (ECE) and healthcare facilities. Now the program has produced Montana Harvest of the Month Best Practices Guide to share project results. This guide includes Harvest of the Month project outcomes, lessons learned from the pilots in healthcare and ECE settings, and more details on Growing for Success Part 2, which will extend the Harvest of the Month into grocery store and community business pilot sites. The 16-page publication is available online in PDF.

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Permalink Updates Made to Disaster-Assistance Resource for Farmers

Farmers Legal Action Group (FLAG) announced that its guide Navigating Disaster Assistance for Farmers has been updated in response to Hurricane Florence. FLAG, Farm Aid, and the Rural Advancement Foundation-International updated the three-page publication, which summarizes disaster-assistance programs available to farmers at the federal, state, and individual level. There are several programs to help farmers and rural victims of hurricanes. The publication is available online.

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Permalink Montana Seeks Stakeholder Input on Specialty Crop Grant Priorities

Montana Department of Agriculture (MDA) is seeking stakeholder input on priorities for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. These priorities will be used to inform the grant-making process and funding decisions for the State of Montana’s Specialty Crop Block Grant. Stakeholders are invited to submit comments on the challenges and opportunities of the specialty-crop industry and indicate where funds are most needed to make the greatest impact. Feedback must be received by November 19, 2018.

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Permalink Demand for Organic Pork Focuses on Cured Meats

Demand for pasture-raised pork is strong, according to an Ag Update article that cites a number of producers around the country who say their customers are more interested in pasture-raised pork than certified organic pork. These producers see little reason to purchase expensive organic feed for their animals when customers don't demand it, and it doesn't produce a superior-tasting product. However, sales of organic bacon and ham are growing to the extent that processors are importing organic pork to meet the demand. Observers say this could be an opportunity for U.S. producers, but they caution that the challenge of selling the rest of the carcass as organic pork is significant.

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Permalink Study Shows Cover Crops Reduce Nitrates in Subsurface Water Without Impacting Yield

A five-year study conducted by the Iowa Learning Farms, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, and Practical Farmers of Iowa showed that cover crops had no negative effect on cash-crop yields but did reduce concentrations of nitrate in subsurface water significantly. The study tested both single-species cover crops and mixed cover crops prior to soybeans and corn. Before corn, the single species was oats and the mixture contained oats, hairy vetch, and radish. Before soybean, the single species was rye and the mixture contained rye, rapeseed, and radish. The largest reduction in nitrate concentration was delivered by the single-species treatments, which also had the lowest cost of establishment. The researchers noted that proper management and correct planter settings were keys to success in maintaining yields.

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Permalink Wisconsin Farm Family Establishes Organic Potato Brand

Brothers Brian and Brad Igl and their father, Tom, began transitioning their third-generation farm to organic production in 1997, says a feature on Agri-View. Today they raise alfalfa and grass hay, grow and market grass-fed beef, raise organic oats, and have developed their own potato brand, Organic Spuddies. Some potatoes are sold through the Wisconsin Food Hub Cooperative. The family has worked to improve soil biology and develop growing methods that help them control weeds and disease. They've also worked with UW-Madison on potato trials in mixed crop-livestock systems. This research shows a reduced need for pesticides.

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Permalink Farmers Market Vendors Need Food-Safety Training, Penn State Study Shows

Penn State researchers who have completed a five-year study on food safety at farmers markets say that many vendors take inadequate precautions to reduce food-safety risks and should receive training in food safety. The research assessed food safety-behaviors at Pennsylvania farmers markets using direct concealed observations, state sanitarian observations, and self-reported vendor surveys. Researchers found a vast difference between what vendors reported they were doing and what observers saw them doing. Hand washing, personal hygiene, and cross-contamination were specific problem areas, with vendors failing to use disposable gloves and handling money or unpackaged foods without changing gloves. Researchers checked samples of leafy green produce and meat obtained from Pennsylvania farmers markets for coliforms, fecal coliforms, Listeria, and E. coli. They found E. coli in 40% of beef samples and 18% of pork samples, and in 28% of kale samples, 29% of lettuce samples, and 17% of spinach samples. They found Listeria in 8% of beef samples, 2% of kale samples, 4% of lettuce samples, and 7% of spinach samples. An earlier phase of this same project developed developed a curriculum for training farmers market vendors in food safety that is available online through the Penn State Extension website.

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Permalink California Partnership to Advance Climate-Smart Agriculture

The California Department of Food and Agriculture and University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources have signed a memorandum of understanding to initiate a new partnership to advance climate-smart agriculture in California. This partnership will provide $1.1 million to hire 10 UC Cooperative Extension community education specialists who will be deployed to 10 counties statewide to assist and encourage farmers to participate in CDFA programs aimed at increasing adoption of smart farming and ranching practices. The CDFA programs involved are the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program, the Healthy Soils Program, and the Alternative Manure Management Program. The partnership is focused on implementing on-farm solutions to improve soil health, nutrient management, irrigation management, on-farm composting, and manure management.

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Permalink Forum on Future of Farming Invites Applications to Participate

Organic 2051, a forum on the future of farming that is being held in conjunction with the MOSES Organic Farming Conference on February 21, 2019, is inviting applications to participate. MOSES is bringing farmers and leaders in the organic research, education, policy, and consumer communities together to project needs and plans to create a pathway for further adoption of organic farming practices in the United States and globally. Apply now to be one of the 100 change-makers drafting the blueprint for a future shaped by regenerative organic practices and infrastructure that sustains the world's population far beyond 2050. Applications will be accepted through November 30, 2018.

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Permalink Farmers.gov Introduces Five Social Media Platforms

Farmers.gov announced in a blog post that it has introduced five new ways to access farmers' stories. The @FarmersGov Twitter offers daily news, while FarmersGov YouTube offers videos on producers and their experiences. Meanwhile, @FarmersGov Instagram offers photos, videos, and live stories on American agriculture. FarmersGov Facebook shares science and technology, while FarmersGov Flickr shares American agriculture's faces and places.

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Permalink Manure Fertilizer Improves Soil Quality More than Inorganic Fertilizer

Long-term annual application of manure improved most soil-quality properties more than application of inorganic fertilizer, reports the American Society of Agronomy. A research team led by Ekrem Ozlu of the University of Wisconsin-Madison applied low, medium, or high levels of either manure or inorganic fertilizer to corn and soybean fields over the course of 12 years. At the end of the study, soil samples showed that manure helped keep soil pH in a healthy range for crops, increased soil carbon, and increased total nitrogen and increased water-stable aggregates. Increased electrical conductivity was noted as one of the few negative impacts of manure fertilization. The research was published in Soil Science Society of America Journal.

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Permalink Land O’Lakes Expands Farmer Group Health Plan to Nebraska

Land O'Lakes, Inc. has become the first organization to sponsor a self-insured multi-state group health plan under new Association Health Plan Regulations. This self-insured arrangement now offers coverage to farmers of participating co-ops and individual dairy farmers within the Land O’Lakes network in Minnesota and now, Nebraska. In 2018, through a partnership with Gravie, a Minneapolis-based benefits marketplace, a pilot group health plan was offered to 12 Minnesota-based Land O’Lakes co-ops and to its dairy farmers. In 2019, this plan is expanding to nearly 15,000 additional eligible farmers in Minnesota and 28,000 farmers in Nebraska who are members of cooperatives that opt-in to participating and offering coverage. Farmers participating in the Land O’Lakes Cooperative Farmer Member Health Plan can choose from several ACA compliant plans that are more affordable than plans offered in the current individual market.

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Permalink Resource Stewardship Evaluation Tool Helps Producers with Conservation Planning

The Resource Stewardship Evaluation Tool (RSET) developed by USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service compares your operation's attributes and activities to NRCS' stewardship thresholds for five natural resource concerns: soil management, water quality, water quantity, air quality, and wildlife habitat. Then, RSET provides the results of the evaluation in an easy-to-read, color-coded bar graph that shows how a producer's management decisions affect the natural resources under his or her care. RSET is a free service offered to producers on crop and grazing land across the country. The National Association of Conservation Districts and NRCS are working together to expand the use of RSET among agricultural producers nationwide. NACD has established the RSET Trailblazer Recognition Program to honor those who have met their stewardship objectives through RSET. Resources are available online to explain how RSET works and how it benefits landowners.

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Permalink White Paper Identifies Policy and Market Opportunities to Boost Agricultural Resilience

This past summer, Environmental Defense Fund, National Corn Growers Association and Farm Journal Foundation convened a stakeholder dialogue about the challenges facing agriculture and recommended paths forward, reports AgWeb. Now the collaborators have released a new white paper that summarizes key findings from the discussion. The nine-page PDF Four Market and Policy Opportunities to Increase Agricultural Resilience recommends the following strategies: streamline state and federal policies, link crop insurance to resilience, harness data to improve ecosystem markets, and invest in public agricultural research.

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Permalink Penniman Book Highlights People of Color in Sustainable Agriculture

Leah Penniman's new book Farming While Black begins with her reflections on how she became a farmer and her discovery that people of color were the foundation of the sustainable agriculture movement. Bon Appétit published an excerpt from the introduction to the book in which Penniman relates how she became involved in farming and what gave her the impetus to start Soul Fire Farm, "a project committed to ending racism and injustice in the food system, providing life-giving food to people living in food deserts, and transferring skills and knowledge to the next generation of farmer-activists."

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Permalink Community-Held Farm Case Study Offers Instructive Example

Agrarian Trust has posted a case study on Temple-Wilton Community Farm, home to the oldest continuously operating community-supported agriculture farm, or CSA, in the United States. Over the farm's 30-year history, a complex set of collaborative relationships has evolved that sustains the land, the farm, and the community. Agrarian Trust says this example of a 'farm commons' shows how a working farm in can be protected in perpetuity while upholding the values of access, affordability, and land security.

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Permalink New Rural Resource Guide Helps Build Community Resiliency

USDA logoUSDA and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy have released a listing of Federal programs that can be used to build resilient communities and address opioid misuse in rural communities. The Rural Resource Guide to Help Communities Address Substance Use Disorder and Opioid Misuse is a first-of-its-kind, one-stop-shop for rural leaders looking for Federal funding and partnership opportunities. The PDF publication, developed by the Rural Opioid Federal Interagency Working Group, is available online.

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Permalink Farm to School Achievements Highlighted in Report

USDA logoUSDA's Office of Community Food Systems has released Cultivating Opportunity: An Overview of USDA's Fiscal Year 2015 and 2016 Farm to School Grantees' Growing Achievements. The 64-page PDF report highlights trends and best practices of grantees, and begins to assess the impact of Farm to School Grants. OCFS identifies three key strategies as being integral to farm to school success: 1) educational and experiential learning; 2) sourcing local foods; and 3) local policy and systems change. The report spotlights how grantees implemented best practices for each strategy and identifies key partner roles in implementing each strategy. In addition, the report reveals many reported benefits to farm to school participation, such as increased school meal participation, increased support from producers, and educational concepts that align with standards.

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