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Breaking News

Permalink NIFA Announces Competitive Opportunity to Host SARE Program

USDA logoUSDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has announced a new competitive opportunity to serve as the National Reporting, Coordination and Communications Office or as one of the four regional Host Institutions for the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program (SARE). NIFA is requesting two different types of applications. One type will serve as one of four regional SARE host institutions for five years from Fiscal Year 2018 through 2022. Each regional host institution collaborates with NIFA to implement regional competitive grant and outreach programs as directed by the Regional Administrative Council. The other type is to serve as the National Reporting, Coordinating, and Communications Office for the SARE program for five years beginning in FY 2018 through FY 2022. The NRCCO works with NIFA and the national SARE Operations Committee to administer national reporting, coordination, and communications. Eligible applicants include land-grant colleges or universities, other universities, state agricultural experiment stations, the state cooperative extension services, nonprofit organizations with demonstrable expertise, or federal or state governmental entities. Applications are due by September 28, 2017.

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Permalink Deep Winter Greenhouse Construction Documents Available Online

On its Deep Winter Greenhouse (DWG) resource page, University of Minnesota is offering access to construction documents for its 2.2 prototype DWG. A DWG is a passive solar greenhouse designed to dramatically limit the amount of fossil fuel required to grow crops in northern latitudes. Without additional lighting, DWGs in Minnesota can be used to grow cold-hardy crops that thrive with minimal light, providing year-round production capacity for small scale farmers and gardeners. As part of a statewide initiative to advance DWG research and outreach, the University of Minnesota Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships are supporting the construction of five DWGs using an updated design from the College of Design's Center for Sustainable Building Research. Users are asked to register for download of the construction documents.

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Permalink MOSES Organic Farming Conference Program Cover Photo Contest

Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) is holding a photo contest for the program cover for the 2018 MOSES Organic Farming Conference. The farm pictured must be certified organic or transitioning to organic. The contest winner receives free admission to the 2018 MOSES Conference. Up to three entries may be submitted online by September 15, 2017.

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Permalink Farmer Case Studies Share Resilience Strategies

A Northwest project by Regional Approaches to Climate Change (REACCH) is sharing case studies of innovative ways that regional farmers manage climate-change risk, in the hope of inspiring other farmers to improve resiliency and sustainability. A series of case studies featuring dryland, irrigated, and rangeland and dairy farmers has been compiled and is featured online in text, PDF, and video. By adopting farming practices such as tillage, residue management, crop rotations, soil organic amendments and resource-use efficiency, these farmers have been able to overcome barriers, often in unexpected ways. According to one of the authors at Washington State University, "the written profile includes details from growers explaining their successful adoption of innovative practices, their perspectives on benefits and challenges, and their thoughts on risk and climate change." There are 13 case studies in the series.

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Permalink Toolbox Helps Early Childhood Programs with Local Food Purchasing

Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems is making available Local Food for Little Eaters: A Purchasing Toolbox for the Child and Adult Care Food Program. The tools included in this resource provide step-by-step instructions for purchasing from a variety of local food sources and feature highlights from successful early-childhood local-purchasing initiatives throughout the country. These tools can be used together as a set or individually. Overviews of purchasing local food for early childhood programs and how federal Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) funding can support these efforts are also included. This resource is available online in PDF.

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Permalink Webinar Series Helps Farmers with Business Decision-Making

The Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG) has developed a series of webinars to help farmers track financial data, analyze data, and make sound business decisions for increased farm profitability, as an extension of its "Growing Farm Profits" program, funded by a Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Professional Development Program Grant. The webinars include the following five titles: Record Keeping for Profit Management for Vegetable Growers, Cost-Benefit Analysis for Vegetable Equipment Purchasing Decisions, Schedule F vs. Profitability Accounting for Vegetable Farming, Depreciation and Profitability Management, and Preparing Farmers to Meet with Lenders. The tools were specifically developed for ag professionals, to help them conduct trainings and outreach for producers.

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Permalink Feast! Local Foods Marketplace Accepting Applications from Food and Beverage Businesses

The 4th annual Feast! Local Foods Marketplace is accepting applications for food and beverage businesses from Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota to attend the event December 1-2, 2017, in Rochester, Minnesota. The event hosts more than 100 exhibitors who show, sample, and sell their artisan food products to wholesale buyers during the Friday tradeshow and to consumers during the Saturday festival. The jury-selected exhibitors also have a half-day of networking and sessions to help them grow. Businesses selected to attend are utilizing locally grown ingredients when possible and operating at or near a distributor-ready scale. The early-bird application window ends August 15, 2017.

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Permalink Penn State Research Evaluates Malting Barley Varieties for Craft Brewers

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University have been conducting research into the best-performing malting barley varieties for the region over the past several years. The researchers tested about 30 varieties, and found that most European varieties outperformed those from the United States in Pennsylvania, demonstrating good disease resistance, high yields, and good quality. Eventually, researchers identified five varieties as standouts. To share this information with growers, they created a factsheet with comprehensive study information — including varieties, seeding, crop rotations, weed and insect control, and disease management — which can be viewed by visiting Penn State Extension's website.

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Permalink Organic Trade Association Leadership Award Recipients Announced

The Organic Trade Association has announced the three recipients of its 2017 Leadership Awards. Robert (Bob) Anderson of Sustainable Strategies LLC—Advisors in Food and Agriculture, who serves as Senior Trade Advisor for the Organic Trade Association, was selected for the Growing the Organic Industry Leadership Award. The 2017 Organic Farmer of the Year Leadership Award will be presented to Phil LaRocca of LaRocca Vineyards in California, an organic farming advocate and farmer for more than 40 years. Peggy Sutton of To Your Health Sprouted Flour will receive the Rising Star Organic Leadership Award. The Organic Trade Association's 2017 Leadership Awards Celebration will take place September 13, 2017, in Baltimore, Maryland.

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Permalink Maine Enacts Food Sovereignty Law

Maine Governor Paul LePage has signed LD 725, An Act to Recognize Local Control Regarding Food Systems, reports Bangor Daily News. The legislation legitimizes the authority of towns and communities to enact ordinances regulating local food distribution free from state regulatory control. Supporters say the legislation opens new opportunities for small producers. It is designed to apply to food produced and sold within a community, and does not apply to products grown or processed for retail or wholesale outside the community where they are produced. Twenty Maine municipalities have already passed food sovereignty ordinances, and this legislation could open the way for more.

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Permalink Arkansas Proposes Emergency In-Crop Dicamba Ban after 242 Cases of Alleged Misuse

The Arkansas State Plant Board passed a proposed emergency rule to ban the use of in-crop dicamba on June 23, 2017, following 242 cases of alleged dicamba misuse in Arkansas, reported the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Although many hoped that crop damage from dicamba misuse last year stemmed from farmers using illegal, more-volatile dicamba formulations in their crops, crop damage reports are rising this year despite the use of newly approved, less-volatile alternatives from Monsanto and BASF. Tom Burnham, an Arkansas grower whose 7,500 acres of soybeans have symptoms of dicamba damage, conveyed to the Arkansas Plant Board that he feels rampant drift unfairly influences the choices of non-GMO farmers.

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Permalink Study Considers Relationship Between Land Use and Pollinator Health

USDA logoUSDA Economic Research Service (ERS) has published a 47-page report titled Land Use, Land Cover, and Pollinator Health: A Review and Trend Analysis. This study reviews the literature on the effects of land use on pollinator health and examines trends in pollinator forage quality as land uses and land covers have changed in the United States over the last 30 years. The study found a trend toward increased honey bee mortality, as well as population declines for some native pollinators. Meanwhile, the study showed evidence that land uses and land covers that contain vegetation beneficial to pollinators improve both pollinator abundance and health and can lead to better agricultural outcomes. ERS developed a forage suitability index (FSI) that links pollinator forage quality to land uses and land covers. From 2002 to 2012, this index declined on more acres than it improved, with particular declines in key summer foraging grounds for honey bees in North and South Dakota.

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Permalink Produce Growers, Farmers, and Food Hubs Invited to Give Food Safety Input

The Local Food Safety Collaborative (LFSC) is conducting a nationwide survey to find out how it can help produce growers, farmers, and food hubs with food safety. Responses to this survey will help LFSC enhance fundamental food safety knowledge and support local farmers and processors in complying with applicable Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) regulations. Survey participation is voluntary and anonymous. The survey will take approximately 20 minutes to complete online. After completing the survey, participants may elect to enter personal information to be entered in a raffle for one of twenty $100 gift cards.

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Permalink New Census of Agriculture Video and Online Questionnaire Demo Debut

USDA logoUSDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) has unveiled a new video introduction to the Census of Agriculture, available at its website. The three-minute video explains about the new improved electronic form for the survey and how important it is to be counted. In addition, an improved online census questionnaire demo is available at the site. New farmers and ranchers, and those not previously contacted by NASS, have until the end of June to ensure they are represented in this year's Census of Agriculture. To receive a census questionnaire this December, these producers are asked to visit the Census of Agriculture website at and click on the 'Make Sure You Are Counted' button.

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Permalink USDA Authorizes Emergency CRP Grazing in Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota

USDA logoUSDA has authorized emergency grazing on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands in areas of Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota experiencing severe or extreme drought conditions. Emergency grazing is authorized to begin immediately and extends through September 30, 2017, unless conditions improve. Producers must work with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to develop a modified conservation plan that is site specific, including the authorized grazing duration to reflect local wildlife needs. To take advantage of the emergency grazing provisions, producers should contact their local USDA Service Center.

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

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

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Permalink Pollinator Loss Changes Ecosystem Patterns

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

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

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

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Permalink NRCS Releases Longleaf Pine Strategy

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

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Permalink Details Published on Seed Mix Developed for Monarchs and Bees

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

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Permalink Michigan EnviroImpact Tool Maps Nutrient Runoff Risk

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

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Permalink American Farmland Trust Kicks Off Farmers Market Celebration

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

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Permalink Armed to Farm Training Helps Veterans Launch Sustainable Agriculture Careers

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

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Permalink European TRUE Project to Promote Legumes

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

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Permalink Organic Seed Growers Conference Calls for Proposals

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

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

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

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

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

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Permalink New Program Certifies Bee-Friendly Farms

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

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Permalink Montana Research Evaluates Pea Yield and Performance

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

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Permalink Weed Scientists Caution about Auxin Herbicide Drift

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

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

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

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Permalink South Carolina New and Beginning Farmer Program Accepting Applications

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

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

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

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

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

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Permalink Organic Onions Higher in Flavonoids and Antioxidants

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

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Permalink Audubon's Conservation Ranching Program Building Specialty Beef Market

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

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Permalink Free Fecal Egg Counts Offered for Northeast Small Ruminant Producers

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

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Permalink Rice Farmers Sell First Carbon Credits

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

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Permalink Farming for the Future Conference Proposals Invited

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

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Permalink Farm Aid Festival Venue Announced

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

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Permalink White Paper on Increasing Agricultural Sustainability Through Organic Farming Released

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

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Permalink Rodale Institute Announces Organic Pioneer Award Recipients

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

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Permalink Farm to School Grant Awards Announced by USDA

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

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

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

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

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

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Permalink Silvopasture Research Underway in North Carolina

Researchers at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems' Cherry Research Farm in Goldsboro, North Carolina, are exploring the productivity of silvopasture--the intentional mixture of trees and pasture. Black Angus cattle are grazing on native grasses in the shade of native tree species including loblolly pine, longleaf pine, and cherrybark oak trees. According to a blog posting, investigators at the farm are studying soil biogeochemical nutrient cycling; biophysical attributes of temperature, water, and light; dynamics of native warm-season grasses; animal production, behavior, and stress responses; and ecological interactions of timber, forage, and livestock components with soil and climatic factors. This work should document the benefits of silvopasture, demonstrating its economic profitability and potential to stabilize landscapes and offer resiliency to climate change.

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Permalink CoBank Report Shows Organic Produce Supply Gap Widening

Produce processors and retailers are finding it increasingly difficult to secure sufficient supplies of organic produce, as domestic demand continues to rise at a pace that exceeds production, according to a new report from CoBank. "Sales of organic fruit, vegetables and nuts have increased dramatically in recent years and this growth trend will continue," said Christine Lensing, CoBank senior economist, specialty crops. "More than half of U.S. households are now purchasing some organic produce. But for a variety of reasons, production has not been keeping pace with demand and the supply gap is widening.” Lensing concludes that given current consumption trends and the length of the required transition period, organic produce supplies will likely remain under pressure over the next three to five years. This creates an opportunity for growers willing to transition to organic production, although the transition is not without costs and risks.

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Permalink New York State Grown & Certified Progrm Expands to Include Dairy

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that the New York State Grown & Certified program is expanding to include the dairy industry. The state is partnering with Stewart's Shops to launch the promotional program that distinguishes agricultural products that are local and made by producers who meet safe food handling best practices and demonstrate environmental stewardship. Beginning in July, consumers will be able to find the NYS Certified label on Stewart's dairy products and on eggs in more than 300 stores. New York State Grown & Certified's marketing campaign includes on-product labels and promotional materials, such as a website, video and sales materials, to encourage program participation among producers and to educate retail, wholesale, and institutional buyers on the value of the program. There are currently 54 fruit and vegetable producers representing 34,204 acres of farmland in the State participating in the New York State Grown & Certified program.

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Permalink University of Bonn Developing Robot Laser Weeders

Researchers at the University of Bonn in Germany are developing a system that mounts cameras on an all-terrain robot vehicle to identify weeds. The weeds are then shot by the robot with short laser pulses that weaken them. Developers say the system could eliminate the use of herbicides. The project has received a grant from the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy that will allow construction of a prototype.

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Permalink Greenhouse Consortium Working to Reduce Energy Use

Researchers at Cornell and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute are leading a public-private consortium that will reduce electricity use for greenhouse lighting by up to 70%. The Greenhouse Lighting and Systems Engineering (GLASE) consortium is a seven-year, $5 million project that demonstrates a holistic greenhouse energy management system that integrates control of LED lighting, carbon dioxide supplementation, ventilation, and humidity. The consortium will work with lighting manufacturers, growers, trade groups, produce buyers, agriculture lighting engineers, researchers, government agencies, Cornell Cooperative Extension specialists, and others.

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Permalink More than $22 Million in Conservation Innovation Grants Awarded

USDA logoUSDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will award more than $22.6 million to 33 projects nationwide through its competitive Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program. The program helps develop the tools, technologies, and strategies to support next-generation conservation efforts on working lands and develop market-based solutions to resource challenges. The projects that will receive funding focus on conservation finance and pay-for-success models to stimulate conservation adoption; data analytics for natural resources; water-management technologies and approaches; and historically underserved farmers, ranchers and private forest landowners. Ten projects totaling more than $5 million were selected in 2017 because they will benefit historically underserved agricultural producers and forest landowners. A complete list of projects selected for funding is available online.

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Permalink Industrial Hemp Guide for New York Available Online

Cornell Cooperative Extension's Harvest New York program has released Industrial Hemp--From Seed to Market, a summary document that highlights primary and secondary sources of information relevant to the industrial hemp market and associated opportunities. The publication provides a brief overview of the hemp plant, harvest considerations, and storage information, along with market analysis and identification of barriers to growth. Cornell University's Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York, was recently awarded $400,000 to continue to explore best practices for growing hemp in different soil types and locations across the state. The 12-page guide is available online in PDF.

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Permalink Michigan Establishes Award for Restaurants Using State Products

The Michigan Restaurant Association (MRA) has partnered with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and Michigan Ag Council to establish the Michigan GROWN, Michigan GREAT Restaurant Award. The goal of this award is to recognize Michigan restaurants who have worked diligently to increase sourcing Michigan food and agriculture products to serve to their customers. Restaurants are eligible to enter in four categories. Applications are due by July 15, 2017.

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Permalink National Organic Standards Board Nominations Sought

USDA logoUSDA is seeking nominations to fill an upcoming vacancy on the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). For this vacancy, USDA seeks applications from individuals with expertise in areas of environmental protection and resource conservation. The appointee will serve a five-year term of office beginning January 24, 2018. In addition, USDA is seeking nominations for a pool of candidates to fill future midterm vacancies in any of the position categories. A person appointed to fill an unexpired term will serve for the remainder of the five-year term of the vacating member. Written nominations, with cover letter, resume, and an advisory committee background information form, are due by August 7, 2017.

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Permalink NCAT Accepting Applications for Armed to Farm Training in New York

The National Center for Appropriate Technology and the Cornell Small Farms Program are bringing the week-long Armed to Farm (ATF) training to Queensbury, New York, from July 31 - August 4, 2017. ATF gives veterans and their spouses or farming partners an opportunity to see sustainable, profitable small-scale farming enterprises and examine farming as a viable career. ATF combines engaging classroom sessions with farm tours and hands-on activities. Participants learn about business planning, budgeting, recordkeeping, marketing, livestock production, vegetable production, and more. The event is free for those chosen to attend; lodging, transportation to local farms, and most meals will be provided. Applications to participate are due by June 23, 2017.

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Permalink Ornamental Horticulture Survey Helps Set Research Priorities

The IR-4 Project's Ornamental Horticulture Program helps provide safe and effective pest management solutions for greenhouse, nursery, landscape, Christmas tree, and forestry producers. This program works with growers, researchers, registrants, and regulatory agencies to facilitate new product registrations, and also to place new diseases, insects, and weeds, as well as new crops, on already-registered ornamental horticulture product labels. Every other year, the program prioritizes the next two-year research plan at its Ornamental Horticulture Workshop. Currently the IR-4 Project is inviting growers to help focus research prioritization by answering a few questions about the diseases, insects, and weeds which impact your business. The brief, online survey is available until September 1, 2017.

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Permalink North Central Region SARE Announces 2017 Heroes

North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NCR-SARE) has announced that Deborah Cavanaugh-Grant of Greenview, Illinois, Ferd Hoefner of Takoma Park, Maryland, and Margaret Krome of Madison, Wisconsin are being honored as 2017 "NCR-SARE Heroes." This recognition honors the leadership, vision, contributions, and impact that these heroes have made in the field of sustainable agriculture in the North Central region. Deborah Cavanaugh-Grant has more than three decades of experience working in sustainable agriculture and local food systems, including service as the University of Illinois Extension Specialist for Small Farm and Sustainable Agriculture and co-founding the Central Illinois Farm Beginnings Program. Ferd Hoefner led the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition's federal policy work from 1988-2016. Margaret Krome oversees the policy program at Michael Fields Agricultural Institute and is on the board of the National Center for Appropriate Technology.

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Permalink Nominations for Organic Farmer of the Year Sought

Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Services (MOSES) has announced that the nomination period is open for the 2018 MOSES Organic Farmer of the Year. The award recognizes a Midwest certified organic farmer or farm family for practicing outstanding land stewardship, innovation, and outreach. Nominees must be certified organic and farming in a Midwest state: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, or Wisconsin. The award will be presented at the MOSES Organic Farming Conference, to be held Februrary 22-24, 2018, in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Nominations can be submitted online. The deadline for nominations is September 15, 2017.

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Permalink Planning for Inaugural Organic Grower Summit Includes Educational Sessions

CCOF reports that the inaugural Organic Grower Summit (OGS) slated for December 13-14, 2017, in Monterey, California, will include a range of topics designed to inform and engage organic growers, farmers, producers, and their service and supply-chain partners. A series of six educational sessions, put together by the OGS partners CCOF and Organic Produce Network (OPN), will provide information vital to organic farmers and ranchers, as well as an overview of the challenges and opportunities in the production of organic fresh food. According to organizers, the OGS is the only event specifically designed to bring organic fresh-food producers and their service and supply-chain partners together for information, education, and networking opportunities.

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Permalink UC Santa Cruz Celebrates 50 Years of Leadership in Sustainable Agriculture

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the UC Santa Cruz organic garden, and a series of events will celebrate the valued and enduring contributions the campus has made to sustainable agriculture education and research. Sustainable agriculture work is now conducted under the auspices of the internationally recognized Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems. The anniversary festivities included the arrival in April of 39 apprentice farmers and gardeners, heirs to the legacy of those who created the first garden in 1967. There will also be a three-day "First Fifty" celebration July 28–30, with an engaging lineup of speakers, workshops, tours, and more, as well as the annual Fall Harvest Festival in October. During 50 years of growing farmers and the food movement, Center students, staff, faculty, and collaborators have pioneered organic farming methods for high-value, chemical-intensive crops like strawberries and created the nation's first university-based program in agroecology, a scientific approach that emphasizes the ecology of farming systems. More than 1,500 apprentice organic farmers and gardeners have received training through the program, which has also broadened agricultural policy to include issues of social justice and worker welfare.

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Permalink Minnesota Passes Beginning-Farmer Tax-Credit Incentive

Minnesota's governor has signed into law a bill that supports the transition of land to young and beginning farmers through a tax credit incentive. Through the bill, landowners receive a state income tax credit when they sell or rent land or agricultural assets to a beginning farmer. The credit equals 5% of the sale price or 10% of the cash rent, or 15% for a cash share agreement. In turn, the beginning farmer must take a farm management course to qualify for the tax incentive and would be eligible for a tax credit covering the full cost of training. The tax credit is effective in the 2018 tax year and is funded at $12 million for the 2020-2021 biennium. The funds are available on a first-come, first-served basis." Central Minnesota Young Farmers Coalition co-founder Matthew Fitzgerald, an organic grain farmer, was involved in an organizing effort to pass the bill. He commented, "This bill offers a win-win solution for the future of farming in Minnesota. This is also the first bill to include an incentive for the sale of farmland--making it a historic win."

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Permalink Maryland Healthy Soils Program Signed into Law

Maryland's new Healthy Soils Act directs the Maryland Department of Agriculture to provide farmers with research, education, technical assistance, and--subject to available funding--financial assistance to improve soil health on Maryland farms. It is one of the first such state-sponsored programs in the United States. One of the program's purposes is to increase biological activity and carbon sequestration by promoting practices based on emerging soil science that include planting mixed cover crops, adopting no-till or low-till farming, and implementing carefully managed rotational grazing. A diverse group of stakeholders worked on legislation, including environmental and climate change advocates, the Maryland Department of Agriculture and the Maryland Farm Bureau. The bill will go into effect on October 1, 2017.

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Permalink Ohio Sustainable Farm Tour and Workshop Series Scheduled

Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association has announced the schedule for the 2017 Ohio Sustainable Farm Tour and Workshop Series. In total, the series features 43 events, offered in partnership with Central State University Cooperative Extension, The Ohio State University Extension Sustainable Agriculture Team, and the Clintonville Farmers' Market. The agenda includes farm tours, open houses, workshops, and special events scheduled from June through November. A 21-page PDF with descriptions of each event is available online.

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Permalink Video Explains Growing and Dehulling Ancient Grains

eOrganic is making available a video created by the Value Added Grains for Local and Regional Food Systems project. The 8-minute video describes the ancient hulled wheats spelt, emmer, and einkorn, and discusses the characteristics that make them highly compatible with sustainable and organic production. It covers the special planting conditions these crops require and goes on to present a variety of dehulling systems that can be used to help ready the grains for market.

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Permalink Carbon Emissions from Soil Microbes Tied to Moisture History

Researchers from The University of Texas at Austin have discovered that soil microbes from historically wetter sites are more sensitive to moisture and emit significantly more carbon than microbes from historically drier regions. The research was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In regions with more rainfall historically, soil microbes were found to respire twice as much carbon to the atmosphere as microbes from drier regions. This could help scientists more accurately estimate how much microbe respiration is expected to increase as the planet warms. Through decomposition and respiration, soil microbes affect the balance between carbon trapped underground and emitted into the atmosphere, and the researchers also learned that this balance is not the same from one regional community to the next. Furthermore, they noted that soil microbes and their functions are highly resistant to change.

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Permalink ARS Research Finds Methyl Benzoate Could Offer Pest Control

USDA logoA USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) chemist has found that methyl benzoate, a compound produced by snapdragons and petunias among other sources, is an effective control for several agricultural pest insects. Researchers found that methyl benzoate could repel and kill all stages of spotted wing drosophila fly, brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB), diamondback moth, and tobacco hornworm, although it worked better on smaller insects than larger ones. This research showed that methyl benzoate is as much as 20 times more toxic to eggs of these insect pests than a conventional pyrethroid insecticide, a sulfur and pyrethrin mixture, and a selection of current organic products. ARS reports that it has applied for a patent on methyl benzoate's pesticide uses.

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