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Breaking News

Permalink Hawai'i Explores Expanding Local Food Program for Schools

Hawai'i Lt. Governor Doug Chin, the Hawai'i State Department of Education (HIDOE) and the Hawai'i Department of Agriculture are working together to expand the state's 'Aina Pono Hawai'i State Farm to School Program. The program currently serves six schools in the state, but a recent project that focused on a strategic plan for expansion has been collecting statewide market research on the agriculture industry. The research showed that ag producers are willing to increase production if they have access to long-term contracts. HIDOE plans to have all public schools implement market-driven menus featuring seasonal local products.

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Permalink University of Vermont Extension Offering Farmland Assessment Services

The University of Vermont Extension's Center for Sustainable Agriculture is offering Farmland Assessments to help farmers understand the capacity of land under consideration. Aspiring, relocating, and experienced farmers can all utilize the service to identify productivity issues and access various assessment methods. The service includes assistance with mapping and testing protocols, and referrals to other agricultural service providers. Land Access and New Farmer Coordinator Ben Waterman comments, "I think farmers get a lot out of walking the land with another set of eyes and mind towards interpreting the natural resource base. They find if they take just a couple of hours to do an assessment, they can potentially save countless hours down the road by avoiding common pitfalls and making the most of what's available from a soils, water, and infrastructure perspective."

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Permalink Moringa Offers Potential Market for Farmers

University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) is conducting a project to help farmers growing moringa market the product to new buyers. Moringa is a tree with edible leaves and pods, as well as roots and bark with medicinal potential. It is marketed as an Asian specialty vegetable to immigrant communities, but UCCE is working to raise awareness about moringa by providing information about the vegetable's health benefits, nutritional profile, culinary versatility, and its ability supplement the incomes of small-scale farmers. Students have been developing recipes incorporating moringa in support of the effort.

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Permalink Report Documents Economic Impact of Indiana Wine Industry

A report commissioned by the Indiana Wine Grape Council, Purdue University Wine Grape Team, and the Indiana Winery and Vineyard Association to assess the economic impact of Indiana's wine industry estimated its total economic impact in 2016 at $604 million. The number of bonded wineries in the state grew from 73 in 2011 to 116 in 2016, producing almost 2.4 million gallons of wine. The report also emphasizes the link between tourism and the wine industry, revealing that in 2016 Indiana had more than 630,000 wine-related tourists, and tourism expenditures related to wine were $94 million. The retail value of wine produced in the state was $95 million, and vineyard revenue was $590,000, with 600 acres devoted to grape production.

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Permalink 'Good Faith Grown' Label Launched

South Carolina tea growers Jennifer and Steve Lorch have launched a new product label, Good Faith Grown, to indicate transparency in production practices. The program is self-regulating and involves producers filing a statement that shows the practices and inputs that they used in their product. Because the label is product-specific, its creators believe it allows producers more flexibility to grow some crops with chemical inputs not allowed in organic production and others according to organic standards. They envision the label as complementary with other certification programs and say it could provide an option for small farmers not ready for organic certification to still have a label that consumers can recognize.

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Permalink Indiana Ag Department Seeks Support for Proposed Soil Health Postage Stamp

The Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) is leading a nationwide effort asking the U.S. Postal Service to issue a soil health forever stamp and is looking for public support. People can participate by signing on to a Soil Health Forever letter, available online, or sending a personal letter of support to ISDA at One North Capitol, Suite 600, Indianapolis, IN 46204, or e-mail it to The letter must be addressed to the "Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee." To be included in the proposal, all signatures and/or letters of support must be received by July 23, 2018.

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Permalink CFRA Report Examines Efficacy of Conservation Stewardship Program

The Center for Rural Affairs (CFRA) has released a report titled A Farmer's View: A look at the Conservation Stewardship Program. CFRA surveyed Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) participants in Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota, states with high rates of participation and significant acreage in CSP. The survey found that CSP participants valued the program because it enhanced their own conservation efforts, and that they saw improvements in their land as a result of the program. The majority of participants were satisfied with the program and felt it should be prioritized in the 2018 Farm Bill.

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Permalink Family Dairy Farm Puts Rotational Grazing to Work

A feature in Agri-View highlights the Peters family's dairy operation in Greenwood, Wisconsin, where they rotationally graze and milk 66 cows. The Peters cross Holstein, Jersey, and Ayrshire cattle, and add beef genetics for cows calving in winter, to add sale value to the calves. They strip-graze large fields with their cow, heifer, and calf herds, using Tumblewheels rather than step-in posts for their temporary electric fence. Their rotational grazing system allows them to keep cows in the herd longer, so they need fewer replacements, and they say the dairy grazing lifestyle allows them more family time.

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Permalink Cornell Study Looks at Potential for Pollinator Habitat on Solar Sites

Cornell University reports that it is partnering with Cypress Creek Renewables, a leading national solar developer, on a groundbreaking study to determine the local benefits of wildflower plantings on solar sites in central New York and the Hudson Valley. The three-year research project will determine whether wildflower plantings on solar sites help to boost pollinator populations, and it will assess whether wildflower plantings on solar farms result in better pollination for nearby crops, producing economic benefits to growers. Cypress Creek believes that creating pollinator habitat on solar sites could have a rapid and measurable impact on the conservation and restoration of pollinator populations.

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Permalink Long-Term Pesticide Use Detrimental to Dung Beetles

Researchers at the University of Bristol found that farms across southwest England that used certain pesticides for parasite control in cattle had fewer species of dung beetle. Although scientists have known for decades that pesticide residue in manure could kill dung beetles, this is the first study to show that long-term use of the pesticides has negative impacts on dung beetle populations at the landscape scale. The study found that synthetic pyrethroids were less damaging to dung beetles than macrocyclic lactone pesticides, but farms that used them still had smaller populations of certain types of dung beetle. This biodiversity loss could have serious economic implications for farmers in terms of loss of services including dung decomposition, nutrient cycling, soil fertility, and preventing disease transmission.

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Permalink Natural and Working Lands Initiative Offers Learning Lab for States

The new Natural and Working Lands Initiative of the United States Climate Alliance will identify best practices for land conservation, management, and restoration to develop a carbon storage policy framework for implementation. Through the support of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, states in the Alliance will work with leading non-governmental organization partners American Forests, The Nature Conservancy, World Resources Institute, American Farmland Trust, the Coalition on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases, and Trust for Public Land to pursue shared goals. One of the Initiative's first actions is hosting a Learning Lab in Washington, DC, July 9-11, 2018, where member states will work with more than 50 leading experts in the field of land-based carbon mitigation from government, academia, nonprofits, landowners and industry. Workshops are designed to help states better grasp natural and working lands carbon sequestration and emission reduction opportunities and learn how to capture them through policy and financial measures.

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Permalink French Study Considers Landscape Effects of Organic Farming in Vineyards

A study by researchers at the University of Bordeaux, published in Journal of Applied Ecology, concluded that organic farming at a landscape scale maintains low pest infestation and high crop productivity levels in vineyards. The study investigated whether increasing the area under organic farming at the landscape scale could increase pest infestations and reduce crop productivity. In a study of 42 vineyards, they found that increasing the area under organic farming did not increase pest infestation levels, but that organic vineyards had much lower treatment intensities. Meanwhile, the organic vineyards had very similar levels of pest control and equal crop productivity levels. Study authors conclude, "Our results clearly indicate that policies promoting the development of organic farming in conventional vineyard landscapes will not lead to greater pest and disease infestations but will reduce the pesticide treatment intensity and maintain crop productivity."

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Permalink Resource Pool of Experienced Farm Labor Available in Western Montana

The Community Food and Agriculture Coalition is introducing Freelance Farmhands, a listing of experienced farm workers who have been recommended by a previous employer in the region. These workers can be contacted about short-term work opportunities on farms and ranches in Western Montana. This shared pool of workers provide farmers and ranchers easy access to experienced workers who can assist regular staff for short-term projects. To be included in the list, workers must be recommended by a farmer who employed them previously. Farmers and ranchers are expected to utilize the list as a shared, supplemental labor resource. The Community Food and Agriculture Coalition hopes to build a management guide for this tool to share with other farm regions after the 2018 season.

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Permalink Livestock Production on Farms without Cropland Poses Manure Disposal Challenge

USDA figures show that livestock production is increasingly carried out on farms without cropland, reports Wisconsin Ag Connection. On these farms, manure must be disposed of off-farm, rather than being utilized as a fertilizer for growing livestock feed on-site. The percentage of all livestock produced on farms without cropland rose from 22% in 1996 to 37% in 2015. During that same period, the amount of poultry produced on farms without cropland rose from 44% to 53%, while hogs rose from 14% to 31%.

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Permalink Rhode Island Program Helps New Farmers Access Farmland

Rhode Island has the most expensive farmland in the country, reports National Public Radio's The Salt. This makes it difficult for farmers to obtain land to start farming, and it means more farmland is being developed for other uses. State officials interested in seeing the state produce more than the current 1% of its own food have come up with a program to help new farmers access land. The state buys land for its appraised value, then sells the land at a lower agricultural rate, retaining development rights. This keeps farmland in production and gives farmers an opportunity to find land that they can improve and use over the long term. The state hopes to produce half of its own food by 2060, an aim that will require more farmers.

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Permalink Analysis Predicts Growth in Global Animal-Feed Phytogenics Market

A global analysis published by Frost & Sullivan, titled Animal Feed Phytogenics Market, Forecast to 2021 predicts that the global animal-feed phytogenics market will reach $776.9 million by 2021, with a CAGR of 17.2% between 2016 and 2021. The analysis notes that traditional knowledge of the efficacy of herbs in animal husbandry, new technologies driving growth in the production of compound feed, bans on antibiotic growth promoters (AGPs) in Europe, and the natural products trend are key factors driving double-digit growth in the animal-feed phytogenics market. The North American market is anticipated to grow at 16.5%, says the report, which also identifies key trends opening market opportunities.

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Permalink CCOF Introducing Pasture Compliance and Feed Audit Inspection Program

Nonprofit organic certifier CCOF has announced the launch of its new Pasture Compliance and Feed Audit inspection program (PCFA) that will help ensure compliance with the National Organic Standards pasture rule for ruminant animals. Through the new program, CCOF will perform between one and three additional annual, scheduled, pasture rule-focused inspections at operations whose complexity, sophistication, and/or climate place them at increased risk to compliance. The inspections can take place during the grazing season to observe pasturing systems or after the season to review records.

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Permalink Sarah Alexander to Lead Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association

The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) has announced that Sarah Alexander will assume the role of its executive director in August, replacing Ted Quaday, who is retiring. Alexander has more than 15 years of experience advocating for sustainable, local, and fair food systems, including nearly 10 years at Food & Water Watch, where she worked to protect organic standards, strengthen consumer labeling, and fight for genetically engineered food labeling.

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Permalink Corn Yields in Southern Reaches of the Northeast Threatened by Mid-Century

Penn State research published in PLOS One shows that rising temperatures in the Northeast will threaten corn production in the southern reaches of the region by 2050, with implications for regional dairy producers who grow their own feed. Climate models predict that the Northeast will be the fastest-warming region of the contiguous United States. Although this can bring the benefits of fewer spring and fall freezes and a faster rate of growing-degree-day accumulation, it can also mean a water deficit during corn's reproductive stages that threatens yield. The northern and central parts of the region could experience enhanced yields, but southern-region yields are threatened by the rising temperatures and potential drought stress, and farmers may have to shift planting dates and implement irrigation to keep water supplies to their crops steady.

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Permalink Toolkit Aids in Establishing Farm to School Networks in States

The National Farm to School Network has released a 47-page PDF toolkit that provides users with key strategies and approaches for developing and sustaining state farm to school networks. The toolkit demonstrates best practices and lessons learned from existing state farm to school networks. It includes a primer on general network models and development, details on state farm to school network best practices, case studies highlighting successful tools and tactics, and an analysis on challenges for and the future of state farm to school networks. The publication is available free online.

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Permalink Organic Trade Association Farmers Advisory Council Members Sought

CCOF is seeking applications from organic farmers to participate in the Farmers Advisory Council (FAC) of the Organic Trade Association (OTA). Under the terms of CCOF and OTA's strategic partnership, the CCOF, Inc. Board of Directors may appoint up to five farmers to FAC. FAC members provide input through quarterly conference calls to the OTA Board of Directors and staff on matters pertinent to the advancement of organic agriculture.

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Permalink Biocontrol Nematodes Combat Corn Rootworm

Research led by Cornell University and funded by Northern New York Agricultural Development Program is evaluating how biocontrol nematodes applied to reduce the impact of alfalfa snout beetle can combat corn rootworm. Across 85 fields on farms in Northern New York where biocontrol nematodes have been applied to reduce snout beetle populations, research has shown that the biocontrol nematodes persist in fields after rotation to corn. In trials since 2014 at the Musgrave Research Farm, biocontrol nematodes have reduced corn rootwom feeding damage as well or better than the best Bt toxin-containing corn variety. The biocontrol nematode is also being tested in field trials in New Mexico, Ohio, and Michigan.

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Permalink American Farmland Trust Launches 10th Annual Summer-Long Farmers Market Celebration

American Farmland Trust (AFT) has launched its tenth annual Farmers Market Celebration, set to run through the summer until September 21, 2018. The Celebration is a national effort to promote the importance of family farmers and farmers markets, while also raising awareness about the loss of America's farmland. AFT encourages market shoppers, family farmers, community activists, and others to endorse their favorite farmers markets in four categories: Focus on Farmers, Healthy Food for All, Pillar of the Community, and Champion for the Environment. At the end of the Celebration, AFT will present awards to the top markets in each of the four categories and will also recognize a "People's Choice" winner and the three most-recommended markets in each state. All summer long, farmers and shoppers are encouraged to use the hashtag #OnMyFork to show off the best of what their market has to offer and to highlight the importance of our food choices in supporting family farmers.

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Permalink Policy Recommendations Offered for Agroforestry in England

The Soil Association and Woodland Trust have compiled a report with policy recommendations for Agroforestry in England that they presented to Parliament. The eight-page report looks at benefits, barriers, and opportunities for agroforestry. According to the report, agroforestry has the "potential to deliver multiple benefits for productive, resilient, and environmentally integrated farm systems." The report features several case studies, including one from a free-range poultry producer citing better soil water retention, more biodiversity, and a higher quality product from planting trees on the poultry's range.

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Permalink New York Announces Grants to Support New and Military-Veteran Farmers

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that more than $1 million has been awarded to New York State farmers through two grant programs designed to promote growth in the state's agriculture industry. The New Farmers Grant Fund assists new and early-stage farmers, and the Veterans Farmer Grant Fund supports farms owned and operated by military veterans. Since its launch in 2014, the New Farmers Grant Fund has now awarded $3.27 million to nearly 90 farms across the state. This is the first year the Veterans Farmer Grant Fund has been offered. The funds provide grants of up to $50,000 to assist with up to 50% of eligible project costs, with the remaining 50% being matched by the recipient. A complete list of recipients and their projects is available online.

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Permalink Organic-Management Fact Sheets Released by MOSES

Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) has released two new two-page organic fact sheets, Managing Soil Fertility in an Organic System and Organic Pest and Disease Management. The first is an introduction to soil fertility in organic systems, addressing soil organic matter, synthetic fertility, soil testing, fertilizers, compost, cover crops, and more best practices. The second offers an overview of simple and effective practices you can implement on your farm to minimize pest and disease pressure, such as cover crops, crop rotation, trap cropping, and a range of natural and synthetic treatments. Both fact sheets are available free online.

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Permalink Blue Apron Recognized for Animal-Welfare Commitment

The company Blue Apron was recognized at the 2018 Good Farm Animal Welfare Awards hosted by Compassion in World Farming for its commitment to using higher welfare chicken in its supply chain. Blue Apron is already using eggs from pasture-raised hens, pork raised without gestation crates, and 40% grass-fed beef. The company has also adopted policies on the use of antibiotics and growth promoters. Going forward, the company has pledged to use Certified Humane pork, more grass-fed beef, and broiler chickens that meet specified standards for production and processing.

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Permalink Purdue Study Says Labeling Decreases Opposition to GE Food

A study led by Purdue University and University of Vermont researchers found that a labeling requirement for genetically engineered (GE) food in Vermont decreased consumer opposition to GE food. In 2016, a Vermont law requiring labeling for GE food went into effect, but it was superseded by a Federal law just 27 days later. However, this study finds that during this period, opposition to GE foods declined significantly in Vermont, even as it increased in the rest of the country. "Our findings show that simple disclosure labels will not scare consumers away," Jane Kolodinsky, professor and chair in the University of Vermont’s Department of Community Development and Applied Economics, said. "We show that labels, like the ones implemented in Vermont, can actually improve attitudes toward food with genetically engineered ingredients. That these results occurred in a traditional hot bed of GMO opposition is striking."

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Permalink Study Shows Warmer Temperatures Could Drive Warm-Climate Bee Populations to Extinction

A study from Northwestern University and the Chicago Botanic Garden has found that climate change may drive local extinction of mason bees in Arizona and other naturally warm climates. This study focused on the blueberry mason bee, a primary pollinator of manzanita shrubs in the wild. Over the course of the two-year study simulating a warmer climate in the bees' nests, 35% of bees died in the first year and 70% died in the second year. The bees in the warmer nests emerged from diapause over a much longer period of time and with smaller bodies and less body fat. This limited their ability to feed and reproduce successfully. "The projected temperatures appear to be pushing this species up against its physiological limits," said Northwestern’s Paul CaraDonna, who led the research. "This is evidence that we might see local extinction in the warmer parts of this species' range, which is pretty sobering."

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Permalink Survey Finds GMO Disclosure Labels Lower Consumer Acceptance

International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation research found that when a "bioengineered" disclosure label was applied to food products, consumer concerns increased dramatically, particularly those regarding human health. IFIC Foundation tested reactions to the three proposed BE labeling symbols and two variations of text disclosures. In every combination, levels of concern across a variety of factors increased—often substantially—when a disclosure label was applied. The survey also asked consumers how they preferred to receive the legally required GMO disclosure information from food companies on GMOs, ranking their choices among six methods. "Symbol or visual representation" was selected as the top method by 51%, declining through the options to just 3% favoring scanning an electronic or digital link. Additionally, the survey found that the presence of a bioengineered logo reduces what consumers would be willing to pay for a product versus one without a logo.

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