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Breaking News

Permalink University of Vermont Project Focuses on Agriculture and Climate Change

University of Vermont (UVM) Extension's Center for Sustainable Agriculture has been awarded a $248,900 AFRI grant for its programs focused on farming and climate change. The money will be used to develop a climate-adaptation fellowship curriculum to help educate and prepare farmers and foresters in the Northeast for the challenges that climate change will pose for their businesses. "This program, once delivered, ultimately will help build more resilient farm and forest businesses through reduced pest damage, improved yields, effective water management, and improved risk management," says Joshua Faulkner, the center's Farming and Climate Change Program coordinator. "It will help conserve soil and water resources and help land managers of agricultural and forest land plan for and adapt to climate change."

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Permalink Pennsylvania Food Shed Initiative Obtains Funding

The Appalachian Regional Commission's POWER initiative has awarded a $1.75 million grant to Fayette County Community Action Agency, Inc. and the Republic Food Enterprise Center to develop the Southwestern Pennsylvania Local Food Shed. The project will include the development of a robust local food shed to provide new and diverse economic opportunities through food production and exportation. The initiative will bridge the gap between farm and table, creating sustainable agriculture products and jobs for communities impacted by the decline of the coal industry. The investment will support expanded development of four existing agriculture industry clusters in the region: sheep, lamb, and goats; poultry; specialty crops; and value-added processing. The project is anticipated to serve 50 existing businesses, create 10 new businesses and 100 jobs, and leverage $3.5 million in private investment.

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Permalink USDA Offers Apiculture Insurance in 48 States

USDA logoUSDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) has announced changes to the Apiculture Pilot Insurance (API) plan, ensuring greater protection for producers' honey, pollen collection, wax, and breeding stock, and extending coverage to include 19 additional states. Coverage is now available throughout the 48 contiguous states.

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Permalink Dairy Farmer Develops Electric Truck Powered by Cow Manure

Feedstuffs reports that California organic dairy farmer Albert Straus has developed a full-scale electric truck powered by cow manure. The 33,000-pound GVW feed truck's motor is charged from electrical power generated from methane gas produced by a digester that utilizes cow manure. The on-farm methane digester has been powering smaller electric vehicles on the farm for more than 10 years. The truck is part of Straus' effort to make his dairy farm carbon positive, and he plans to follow it with an all-electric farmers market truck to carry his products to local markets.

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Permalink North Carolina Natural Hog Growers Cooperative Certified Non-GMO

The North Carolina Natural Hog Growers Association (NCNHGA) is the first farming cooperative in the United States to be Certified Non-GMO by A Greener World (AGW). Certified Non-GMO by AGW is an optional, additional accreditation for farmers meeting Animal Welfare Approved standards. The NCNHGA was established in 2007, when a group of North Carolina hog farmers banded together to pool their resources and build markets for their high-quality, high-welfare pork products. The NCNHGA decided to make Animal Welfare Approved certification a centerpiece of their operation in 2009. The rigorous certification process will involve every farm in the cooperative undergoing annual audits and input testing to ensure the integrity of the non-GMO claim. All members are expected to be certified by the end of 2017.

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Permalink Cover Crops Featured in Soil Health Series Live Stream

Jim Hoorman, Regional soil health specialist with the Northeast Region NRCS-Soil Health Division, was the featured guest in an episode of Soil Health Series Live Stream that is now available online. The interview featured most common questions farmers may have about cover crops, such as: What are the most popular species of cover crops in our region? When can cover crops be planted? What species do best at what time of year planting? What are ways to terminate cover crops? and What are sources of cover crop seeds?

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Permalink Wildflowers Draw Pollinators to Increase Apple Orchard Yields

A Southern SARE report on the 2016 grant-funded project "Measuring the Benefits of Wildflower Plots to Boost Fruit Yield and Pollinator Abundance in Georgia Apple Orchards" says that bees attracted by the wildflowers increased apple yields by 30%. Georgia orchardist Joe Dickey found that the wildflower plantings kept wild pollinators in his orchard year-round. Researchers from Georgia Gwinnett College found more than 100 native bee species at the orchard during the study. Research will continue at the site under a new grant project that will compare the ability of annual to perennial flowers in attracting native bees.

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Permalink Biochar Could Help Reduce Nitric Oxide in Air

A Rice University study showed that using biochar in agriculture can not only increase crop yields, but also cut emissions of nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide by storing nitrogen in the soil. This could lower ozone and particulate matter levels in urban areas near farmland, according to the study published in Environmental Science and Technology. "Our model projections show health care cost savings could be on the order of millions of dollars per year for some urban counties next to farmland," said study leader Ghasideh Pourhashem.

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Permalink Study Says Increases in Extreme Precipitation Can Lead to More Waterway Eutrophication

A new study from Carnegie Institution for Science and Princeton University, published in Science, says that excess nutrient pollution increases the likelihood of events that severely impair water quality. When precipitation washes excess nutrients into waterways, a phenomenon called "eutrophication" can occur. This study found that climate change could cause more, and more extreme, precipitation events, particularly in the Corn Belt and in the Northeast, where more excess nutrients could contribute to pollution. The study predicted an increase in nutrient pollution by one-fifth by the end of the century, and concluded that offsetting the increased amount of nitrogen being washed into the waterways would be an enormous task, requiring a whopping one-third reduction in overall nitrogen input such as fertilizer use.

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Permalink NCAT Accepting Applications for Armed to Farm Training in October in Montana

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) is accepting applications for its week-long sustainable agriculture training program for military veterans, Armed to Farm (ATF). This ATF training will take place October 9-13, 2017, in Charlo, Montana. ATF allows veterans and their spouses to experience sustainable, profitable small-scale farming enterprises and explore agriculture as a viable career through farm tours, hands-on experience, and interactive classroom instruction. The event is free for those chosen to attend; lodging, transportation to local farms, and most meals will be provided. The number of participants will be limited, and applications are due by August 18, 2017.

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Permalink Project to Identify More Places to Grow Produce

A $3 million grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture will fund a study led by the University of Florida and the International Life Sciences Institute to find more places to grow produce. The researchers cite changes in our climate, loss of fresh water, and competition for resources as major threats in farmers' ability to increase production of fruits and vegetables. The four-year project will use crop, environmental, economic, and climate modeling to predict current and future impacts on yield. It will also study the quality of selected fruit and vegetable crops in states where they are currently grown and identify future locations that will allow for continued or potentially increased production.

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Permalink Reminder to Complete Food Safety Survey

The Local Food Safety Collaborative, a collaboration between National Farmers Union Foundation and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is conducting a nationwide food safety survey. This is a national survey addressing food safety and FSMA, and it is one component of an assessment that the Collaborative is conducting to ensure a comprehensive understanding of the specific needs of small local producers and processors, food hubs, food aggregators or packers, organic farmers, and sustainable producers. The online survey is open through the beginning of August, and participants can elect to be entered in a raffle to win one of twenty $100 gift cards.

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Permalink Up-to-Date Information on Organic Fire Blight Management Posted

eOrganic has posted an article from the research project "Implementation of Non-Antibiotic Programs for Fire Blight Control in Organic Apple and Pear in the Western United States." The article contains up-to-date information on managing fire blight organically, including how to identify the disease, how it spreads on fruit trees, which cultivars of apple and pear are more or less susceptible, and how to manage the disease with an integrated program.

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Permalink Plant Breeding Summit Proceedings Available

Proceedings of the Intellectual Property Rights for Public Plant Breeding Summit have been released by the University of Wisconsin-Madison's College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. The more than 50 professionals representing 36 institutions and 25 states who participated agreed that our nation's capacity for public cultivar development is on the decline and in need of serious attention. In addition to showcasing working models and recommended best practices, participants developed specific recommendations for addressing germplasm exchange and funding constraints in public sector breeding programs. Full proceedings are available online.

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Permalink Market Farmers Discuss Weed Control Methods

MOSES Organic Broadcaster featured case studies on several different techniques that small- and medium-size farmers in the Upper Midwest use to control weeds in their vegetable crops. The farmers profiled, including Tipi Produce, PrairiErth Farm, Foxtail Farm, and FairShare CSA Coalition, discuss their equipment and weed-management strategies.

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Permalink Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership Projects Announced

USDA logoUSDA Natural Resources Conservation Service today announced that the agency will award $13 million to projects in seven states to protect, restore and enhance wetlands on private and tribal agricultural lands through the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership (WREP). Wetland reserve easements enable landowners to successfully reduce impacts from flooding, recharge groundwater, enhance and protect wildlife habitat and provide outdoor recreational and educational opportunities. The projects selected for funding will involve high-priority watersheds in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee.

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Permalink Minnesota Study Assesses Benefits of Bale Grazing

In an article published in MOSES Organic Broadcaster, John Mesko discusses the first-year results of his Minnesota Bale Grazing Study at Lighthouse Farm in central Minnesota. Results of the study so far hold promise for forage-quality improvement through bale grazing that applies hay litter. Mesko shares lessons learned in the first year regarding bale spacing and distribution, offers pointers for preparing for bale grazing, and speculates on how much hay can be fed, or at least placed, at one time. Bale grazing may be a good option for restoring depleted soils more quickly.

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Permalink Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship Pairs Master with Apprentice

The Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship, an accredited national program, has its apprentices complete 3,712 hours of employment and mentorship under a master grazier's direction, as well as 288 hours of related instruction. Ag Update described how the program works in a feature on apprentice Kelsey Vance and master Don Boland. Vance is halfway through her apprenticeship in Wisconsin. A hundred master graziers in nine states participate in the program, working with apprentices to complete an apprenticeship handbook that includes all aspects of dairy grazing and business.

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Permalink Health Insurance Costs Threaten Farm Viability

A study by the University of Vermont and Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis at the University of Chicago revealed that lack of access to affordable health insurance is one of the most significant concerns facing American farmers. "The study found that health-related costs are a cross-sector risk for agriculture, tied to farm risk management, productivity, health, retirement, the need for off-farm income, and land access for young and beginning farmers," said Alana Knudson, co-director of the NORC Walsh Center. The study was based on a 10-state survey and interviews in the study states. The study found that access to insurance was a significant factor in whether farmers worked full time on the farm or sought off-farm employment. In addition, 64% of the farmers and ranchers in the study reported having a pre-existing health condition, while 45% said they're concerned they will have to sell some or all of their farm or ranch assets to address health related costs such as long-term care, nursing home, or in-home health assistance.

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Permalink Proposals Sought for Black Farmers & Urban Gardeners Conference

Black Urban Growers (BUGs) is accepting presentation/workshop proposals for the 2017 Black Farmers & Urban Gardeners Conference to be held in Atlanta, Georgia, November 10-12, 2017. "Rooted and Rising: Black Southern Land Legacies of Resistance & Resilience" is the conference theme, and proposals should consider resiliency, the many strategies we can and have used to persevere, and even thrive in the face of adversity. Discuss/share survival tactics, options, and opportunities for solutions and success. At least one facilitator in your workshop must be a person of African descent. All proposals must be completed online or postmarked by August 1, 2017.

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Permalink Cornell Project Evaluates Organic Grains for the Northeast

Value-Added Grains for Local and Regional Food Systems, a project led by Cornell University, is evaluating which modern, ancient and heritage wheat varieties are most adapted for Northeastern and north-central climates under organic conditions, exploring best practices for processing them, and identifying marketing channels. From 2012 to 2015, researchers at Cornell, Pennsylvania State University, and North Dakota State University evaluated 146 varieties of modern and heritage spring and winter wheat, spring emmer, spring and winter spelt, and spring einkorn for how well they adapted to organic systems. Cornell reports that through outreach efforts such as workshops, field days, and webinars, thousands of farmers have been educated about the best varieties of heritage and ancient grains, where to get seeds, organic management recommendations and techniques, and how to harvest and process the grains. The project also evaluated various varieties for how they perform for various applications in cooking and baking. Results are summarized in the published paper "Evaluation of Wheat and Emmer Varieties for Artisanal Baking, Pasta Making and Sensory Quality."

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Permalink NOSB Schedules Web Conference on Hydroponics in Organics

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) will meet via conference on August 14, 2017, from 1:00pm - 3:00pm Eastern to discuss hydroponics in organic food production. The public is invited to listen to the NOSB discuss the development of a proposal on hydroponics. The NOSB will not be voting on a recommendation during this web conference. This is an online event. Transcripts will be available approximately two weeks after the event.

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Permalink California Cap-and-Trade Legislation Extension Supports Climate Smart Agriculture

California Climate & Agriculture Network (CalCAN) reports that the California state legislature has extended the state's cap-and-trade program to 2030. The legislation allows for the continuation of Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) Investments that fund several Climate Smart Agriculture programs in the state: Healthy Soils, State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP), Dairy Methane, and the Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program. In addition, the legislation allows investment in two new areas: climate change adaptation and climate change research.

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Permalink Colorado Study Shows Investment in Conservation Easements Delivers Taxpayer Benefits

A Colorado State University study found that each dollar invested by the state for conservation easements produced benefits of between $4 and $12 for state residents. Public benefits include clean water and air, scenic views, access to things produced by local farms and ranches products, and wildlife habitat. The study reports that residents of Colorado have received an estimated $5.5-$13.7 billion of economic benefits from land conserved by conservation easements, while the State has invested roughly $1.1 billion since 1995. The researchers conclude that these findings suggest past and current land conservation efforts are sound economic investments benefiting current and future Colorado residents.

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Permalink California Office of Farm to Fork to Lead Farm to School Network

Leadership of the California Farm to School Network (CFSN) is transitioning to the California Department of Food and Agriculture's (CDFA) Office of Farm to Fork. The farm to school program was founded by the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF), the Urban and Environmental Policy Institute (UEPI), and LifeLab, and these organizations will continue partnering in the program. As a communications hub and a convener across many organizations and regions, the CFSN will align farm-to-school efforts; share resources; and bring farmers, schools, distributors, and practitioners together. CDFA will help institutionalize the program to further connect education to food and agriculture and increase access to California-grown food for all Californians.

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Permalink New York Supports Industrial Hemp Industry Development

New York has enacted legislation that solidifies the status of industrial hemp as an agricultural commodity under New York Agriculture and Markets Law and creates an industrial hemp working group to advise the State on research and policies concerning the crop. It also creates a one-stop shop website to help producers and processors better understand state and federal regulations and requirements. In addition, Governor Cuomo announced that up to $10 million in grant funding will be available through two initiatives to advance industrial hemp research and economic development opportunities for industrial hemp businesses. This includes a $5 million Industrial Hemp Processors Grant Fund that will provide funding to eligible businesses for capital costs related to the processing of industrial hemp, including new construction and the purchase of equipment. Industrial hemp will be planted on nearly 2,000 acres across the state in 2017 for research purposes.

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Permalink Texas A&M AgriLife Developing Organic Rice Best Practices

Rice scientists at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center-Beaumont are involved in a three-year, multi-state, $1 million project exploring which rice varieties will yield best in an environment with no chemical treatments against diseases, weeds, or insects. The idea is to be able to give farmers a "recipe" for growing rice organically. Although yields from organic rice are often lower, price premiums are significant, and using best practices can help growers cash in on those premiums. The research team is evaluating different rice varieties, seeding rates, flood timing, and nitrogen-addition options, and sharing their results with growers.

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Permalink New Land Access Training Program to Help Beginning Farmers

American Farmland Trust (AFT) has announced that 24 Land Access Trainers will help beginning farmers and ranchers secure agricultural land as part of a nationwide, four-year-long project. Through a competitive process, AFT selected experienced agricultural educators and service providers from across the country to serve as the inaugural class of Land Access Trainers. They are located in each of the 10 U.S. farm production regions and are familiar with land access issues in their regions. The Land Access Trainers will work with AFT to develop comprehensive land access curriculum. They also will pilot and deliver the curriculum in their regions and help AFT create a national network of service providers to sustain the project and provide ongoing support to beginning farmers and ranchers. The group includes NCAT Agricultural Specialist Felecia Bell.

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Permalink Report on Organic Sector in Washington State Updated

The WSU Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources has released its yearly update of statistical profiles on the Washington State organic sector. The report makes detailed, timely information on the dynamic organic sector readily available to growers, businesses, policymakers, and others interested in organic agriculture. It contains some national and global organic data on organic markets, as well. The 57-page report is available online in PDF.

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Permalink Collaborative Effort Helps Hmong Farmers Learn High Tunnel Growing

University of Missouri Extension, Lincoln University, and the Webb City Farmers Market have collaborated with Fue Yang's family at Rocky Comfort farm to create the Year-Round Growing Education Center. The collaborative effort is part of a grant from the Missouri Department of Agriculture. In workshops at the Center, Fue Yang helps translate the knowledge of MU and LU Extension specialists so that Hmong farmers can learn more about the value of high tunnels in extending the growing season. He also helps small farmers learn how to obtain funds for high tunnels through Natural Resources Conservation Service grants, and how to grow and market produce. Yang calls his education efforts "learning by doing," and notes that as each one teaches another, seeds of knowledge grow.

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Permalink Agroforestry Webinar Library Updated

The National Agroforestry Center has developed a library of recorded agroforestry webinars. Currently, the library includes more than 75 webinars covering all of the major agroforestry practices. The webinar library has now been updated to allow filtering by both practice and year.

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Permalink Book on Dryland Farming in the Inland Pacific Northwest Available Online

Washington State University Extension has released Advances in Dryland Farming in the Inland Pacific Northwest, a publication that summarizes the most up-to-date scientific knowledge about the region's dryland systems. The book includes the work of more than 40 co-authors from WSU, University of Idaho, Oregon State University, and USDA Agricultural Research Service. It has chapters on conservation tillage systems, residue management, crop intensification and diversification, soil fertility management, soil amendments, precision agriculture, weeds, diseases, and insects, and policy. The book is available online in its entirety in PDF, or by individual chapter. The production of this book was made possible with the support of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture through the REACCH project to enhance the sustainability of Pacific Northwest cereal systems and contribute to climate change mitigation.

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Permalink Report on Trends in Organic Tree Fruit Released

Washington State University has issued Recent Trends in Certified Organic Tree Fruit in Washington State: 2016. The 83-page online document presents current data on organic tree fruit area and production for Washington State, with some associated global and national data. In addition to sections on demand, global organic tree-fruit area, and state trends, there are sections devoted specifically to apples, pears, cherries, and soft fruit.

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Permalink FoodSearcher Tool Highlights Value-Added Businesses

Agricultural Marketing Resource Center and MarketMaker have introduced the FoodSearcher Tool, an interactive map that highlights MarketMaker registered businesses producing specific agricultural products. The map encompasses the nation and includes producers of livestock, fruit, and vegetables. Viewers can use the map to find producers in their own area. Searching a particular product reveals information on the item, marketing and production information, and notes on financials and prices, as well as the producer map. Clicking on a producer's name leads to that producer's profile on the MarketMaker Website.

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Permalink Food Alliance Marks 20 Years of Sustainable Agriculture Certification

The non-profit Food Alliance is celebrating 20 years as the most comprehensive certification for sustainable agriculture and food handling in North America. Since its launch in 1997, Food Alliance has diversified by product category and geography. Criteria for livestock were introduced in 2000. Certification for food handlers, including packers, processors, and distributors, debuted in 2006. Programs followed for grassfed livestock claims (2009), farmed shellfish (2011), and nursery products (2012). Food Alliance certification has also spread from the Pacific Northwest to 25 U.S. states. An update to Food Alliance standards and criteria implemented in 2015 now allows certification anywhere in North America. In 2016, Food Alliance partnered with the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Rainforest Alliance to develop a Grasslands Alliance standard for regenerative grazing in North America. That draft standard is posted for public review and comment at Starting in 2017, Food Alliance will also be providing audits for the National Audubon Society's Conservation Ranching program for restoration and enhancement of habitat important to grassland birds.

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Permalink Minnesota Food Hub Grants Improve Access to Local Food

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) awarded more than $165,000 in Food Hub Grants to ten food hub projects that will help Minnesotans gain access to locally grown and raised foods. Awardees will use AGRI Food Hub Grant funds to develop their business plans, conduct feasibility studies, or create marketing plans; other projects will use funds to purchase equipment, or make physical improvements to their businesses that will allow them to purchase, process, and distribute more Minnesota agricultural products.

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Permalink Organic Trade Association Adds Members to Farmers Advisory Council

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) announced that Pennsylvania Certified Organic and Georgia Organics have become members of its Farmers Advisory Council. According to OTA, "The new strategic alliances with the Farmers Advisory Council will significantly expand cooperation among organic farmers and stakeholders, and strengthen the engagement and input of organic producers in helping the Organic Trade Association advance its policy priorities to protect and promote the organic sector." Members of Pennsylvania Certified Organic and Georgia Organics are eligible to join OTA in the Farmstead Membership category.

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Permalink MIT Study Predicts Severe Crop-Yield Reductions in Hotspots that Face Irrigation Loss

A study from MIT found that climate change's impact on irrigation will cause some parts of the country to experience severe reductions in crop yield by 2050. In particular, the Southwest is projected to have less precipitation and reduced runoff to use for irrigation. This would cause cotton yield in southern Arizona to drop to less than 10% of yield under optimal conditions, according to the study. Meanwhile, corn in Utah that currently yields 40% as much as optimal yield would also drop to 10% of optimal yield with less irrigation available. The study also predicts impacts on irrigated forage in the Northwest. However, the study predicts that the Southern Plains would have more irrigation water available, offering greater yields of irrigated sorghum and soybeans. This study is one of the first to look at how changes in climate would affect irrigation water availability, rather than solely considering individual plant performance.

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Permalink Is a 'Regenerative Agriculture' Label on the Horizon?

Civil Eats reports that numerous proponents of regenerative agriculture are calling for development of standards and a label that would identify products raised with regenerative practices. Regenerative agriculture is touted as soil care that offers a means of increasing farm resilience to climate change while also sequestering carbon. Supporters view the concept as separate from the provisions of organic certification, but some worry that adding an additional label could lead to consumer confusion. Some say regenerative agriculture already is, or should be, included in the organic standards, while others predict that one or more regenerative labels will be developed in the near future, and that standards are critical to prevent the term overuse that leads to it becoming meaningless.

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Permalink Self-Imposed Fees Help Farmers Cut Groundwater Use

A new University of Colorado Boulder-led study suggests that self-imposed well-pumping fees can play an important role in helping farmers conserve groundwater. In Colorado's San Luis Valley, about 700 farmers voted to self-impose a fee on groundwater. As a result of the fee, farmers slashed use by a third, planted less thirsty crops, and watered more efficiently. As part of a National Science Foundation grant aimed at assessing self-organized water conservation programs, researchers spent years in the San Luis Valley Basin meeting with stakeholders and collecting data. Their study on the effectiveness of the self-imposed fee was published in the Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists.

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Permalink Costs of Unsold Vermont Crops Calculated in New Report

Salvation Farms reports in Morning Ag Clips on research by students at the University of Vermont that found 140 million gallons of water and upwards of $20,500 worth of fuel (8,000 gallons) are used per year to grow crops that never make it to people. The research results appear in a new report, An Analysis of the Environmental Impact of Food Loss on Farms in Vermont. The report's calculations were based on a 2016 study that used farmer surveys to estimate that 14.3 million pounds of edible, Vermont-grown vegetable and berries go unharvested or unsold each year. Salvation Farms notes that the students' findings support the need to create supply chain practices and improvements to manage surplus crops.

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Permalink Urban Shepherds Linking Farms and Cities

The Urban Shepherds project began grazing sheep on a vacant lot in Cleveland in 2011, reports Farm & Dairy. The grazing sheep maintain the site and produce meat and wool. They also help educate city residents about farming. Urban caretakers work with the farmers to look after the sheep and make sure they're healthy. The Urban Shepherds project has expanded to more locations over time and added educational components. Now they are obtaining grant monies to help start pilot projects, with a long-term goal of having a revolving loan fund to start projects on new sites.

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Permalink Missouri and Arkansas Halt On-Farm Applications of Dicamba

On July 7, 2017, Missouri Department of Agriculture issued a Stop Sale, Use or Removal Order on all products labeled for agricultural use that contain Dicamba in Missouri. All on-farm applications of Dicamba products must cease immediately. All agricultural pesticide users, including certified commercial applicators and private applicators, must immediately cease in-crop, post-emergent use of all Dicamba products. The temporary measure is a response to more than 130 pesticide drift complaints this year that are believed to be related to Dicamba. In addition, on July 11, 2017, a rule establishing a ban on the sale and use of dicamba in Arkansas for 120 days was filed with the Arkansas Secretary of State. Meanwhile the Tennessee Department of Agriculture reports that it "is working closely with producers, industry representatives, manufacturers and the University of Tennessee to address complaints of potential off-target movement of dicamba in West Tennessee."

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Permalink NOFA New York Denounces Open-Air Trials of GE Diamondback Moth

The Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY) has denounced the USDA's permit for the world’s first open-air trials of the Genetically Engineered (GE) Diamondback moth. The trials would release male GE Diamondback moths with a female lethality trait in Geneva, New York, in an effort to control populations of this damaging pest of brassicas. NOFA has called for a full Environmental Impact Statement, saying the environmental assessment just released does not adequately consider the potential impacts of the trials themselves on farms and residences nearby. NOFA-NY is also concerned that the owner of this technology never completed a comprehensive, independent health, safety, and environmental review, as required by international protocols prior to bringing this organism to the United States.

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Permalink TunnelBerries Project Extends New Hampshire Strawberry Season to 19 Weeks

New Hampshire researchers are part of a multi-state, multi-year project to optimize protected growing environments for berry crops in the upper Midwest and northeastern United States. The University of New Hampshire’s component focuses on improving berry quality and the role day-neutral varieties may play in extending the length of the strawberry season in the Northeast. The research is testing different different day-neutral berry varieties, different mulches, and different plastics for low tunnels. Last year, researchers harvested strawberries grown in low tunnels for 19 consecutive weeks from mid-July through the week of Thanksgiving. They also found that the low tunnels significantly increased the percentage of marketable fruit, from an average of about 70% to 83%.

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Permalink Farm Beginnings Programs Accepting Applications

Organic Growers School is accepting applications for its Farm Beginnings® class, a 12-month training session that helps beginning farmers clarify their goals and strengths, establish a strong enterprise plan, and start building their operation. The training is more than 210 hours, including winter courses on business planning from October through March, and mentorship and production training through the summer, as well as conference attendance. Winter sessions will be held in Alexander, North Carolina. Early-bird applications are due by August 1, 2017, and regular applications by September 1, 2017.
Land Stewardship Project will offer a Farm Beginnings course in Pine City, Minnesota. This is a 12-month training session that helps beginning farmers clarify their goals and strengths, establish a strong enterprise plan, and start building their operation. The course uses a mix of farmer-led classroom sessions, on-farm tours, and an extensive farmer network. The application deadline is September 1, 2017.

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Permalink Survey Invites Stakeholders to Share Insights on Future of Midwest Agriculture

The University of Minnesota and Future iQ are collaborating to explore the future of Midwest agriculture. They are conducting an online survey open to all stakeholders and people who have an interest in the future of Midwest Agriculture, which covers the major agricultural areas of the central parts of the United States and Canada. The survey is collecting insights and perspectives about the future of this region, and its communities, landscape, and industries. In particular, the survey aims to create a better understanding of how key macro trends are shaping agriculture and rural communities across the Midwest. It explores how global changes in market conditions, advancements in technology, and new environmental pressures are expected to impact the future of agriculture and rural communities. All responses are appreciated.

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Permalink Allen Williams Workshop Presentations Available Online

Allen Williams, Ph.D., recently shared his experiences as a consultant, rancher, and pioneer in grass-finished beef production during a workshop at Dixon Ranches Leo Unit, co-hosted by the Noble Foundation. Williams offered his perspectives on soil health, adaptive multi-paddock grazing and forage management, high attribute pasture-based meat production, and alternative marketing systems. Presentations from this workshop are now available online.

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Permalink Resource Guide Helps Investors Understand Food Sector Risk

Ceres has released a new peer-reviewed online resource guide to help investors better understand and evaluate the environmental and social impacts that drive financial risk in the food sector. The Engage the Chain guide provides overviews of the environmental and social challenges associated with the production of eight commonly sourced commodities: beef, corn, dairy, fiber-based packaging, palm oil, soybeans, sugarcane, and wheat. These commodities are among the most prominent drivers of deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, and water depletion and pollution. The guide also provides specific examples of reputational, market, operational, litigation and regulatory risks that food companies may face as a result of impacts in their supply chains.

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Permalink Cornell Plant Breeder Working on Resilient Organic Varieties

Cornell graduate student Lauren Brzozowski has received a fellowship from the Seed Matters Initiative of the Clif Bar Family Foundation, which funds graduate students working for organic systems by breeding better varieties of plants. Brzozowski is working to develop new cucumber and squash varieties that can be cultivated without pesticides. The resilient breeding lines cope with both diseases like downy mildew and pests such as the striped cucumber beetle. "Organic growers don’t have a lot of the same tools as conventional growers for addressing many of the problems they face on the farm," Brzozowski said. "We really need resistant varieties to help all farmers succeed."

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Permalink Bison 1 Million Campaign Announced at International Bison Conference

At the International Bison Conference held in Montana in July, the National Bison Association announced its new "Bison 1 Million" campaign, reports the Missoulian. The Canadian Bison Association, Intertribal Buffalo Council, and Wildlife Conservation Society joined in the announcement. The partners want to grow the North American bison herd to 1 million by 2027, a significant increase from the estimated 391,000 bison are in North American private, public, and tribal herds today. Proponents believe that consumer demand for healthy and natural meat products will help drive the market and make bison profitable for producers.

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Permalink California Accepting Comments on Healthy Soils Program Request for Applications

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is accepting public comments on Requests for Grant Applications (RGA) for the $6.75 million Healthy Soils Program. The Healthy Soils Program offers grants to farmers who take action to capture greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide, in the soil to help combat climate change. The Healthy Soils Program will be implemented under two separate components: 1) the $3.75 million Incentives Program and 2) the $3 million Demonstration Projects. Comments regarding the DRAFT RGA can be submitted to no later than 5:00 p.m. PST on Wednesday, July 12, 2017.

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Permalink Surge Irrigation Fact Sheet Helps Save Water

University of Arkansas and Mississippi State University experts have developed a factsheet about surge irrigation for the South that is available online, reports High Plains Journal. Surge irrigation is an intermittent application technique that works on the principle that dry soil infiltrates water faster than wet soil. It provides more uniform distribution of water and can reduce water use by as much as 27%. Surge valves help control the irrigation, and the fact sheet explains how they work and how to program them, as well as how to adjust them to soil-type conditions.

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Permalink Michigan Fiber Cooperative Introduces Value-Added Yarn Product

Michigan Fiber Cooperative (MFC) has introduced Fresh Water Fiber yarn, a merino-alpaca blend yarn grown and processed in Michigan. A USDA Value Added Grant helped the cooperative develop the product. The project collected 500 pounds of fiber from seven farmers and developed a label and logo for the product, as well as a knitting pattern that comes with each skein of the soft, white yarn. Skeins retail at $35 and all funds stay in Michigan and support the farmers, the mills, and MFC's future project. This fall, MFC will collect fiber from colored alpaca and fine-wool from merino, Ramboullette, California Variegated Mutant, Cormo, and Romaldale sheep.

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Permalink Iowa Small Grains Business Directory Connects Farmers with Buyers

Practical Farmers of Iowa has released its second annual Small Grains Business Directory. This directory of businesses that buy small grains in Iowa and neighboring counties of other states is designed to help Iowa farmers with the challenge of marketing small grains included in their crop rotations. The directory lists location and contact information for seed buyers, grain buyers, and seed cleaners, as well as the small grains species they buy.

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Permalink Rutgers Study Explores Hops for New Jersey

A Rutgers University study concluded that hops farming has potential as a lucrative crop in New Jersey, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer. The two-year study, funded by SARE, explored hops varieties and best methods for harvesting and drying the crop. Finding disease-resistant varieties is important for the Northeast region, where powdery mildew devastated the historic hops industry. Today, virtually no hops are grown in New Jersey, but researchers at Rutgers see an opportunity to develop a viable agricultural crop with a regional flavor.

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Permalink Farm to School Program Planning Guide Available

USDA logoUSDA Office of Community Food Systems has released a four-page Farm to Child Nutrition Programs Planning Guide. This planning guide should be used as a supplemental tool to the Farm to School Planning Toolkit. It directs users through questions to consider when starting or growing a Farm to School, Farm to CACFP, or Farm to Summer program. The document includes guiding questions, a planning template, and a sample of a completed planning guide.

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Permalink Input from Agricultural Technical Assistance Providers Needed for Study

A study led by Syracuse University, The Pennsylvania State University, New York University, and the National Center for Appropriate Technology is looking for input from agricultural technical assistance providers. The study seeks to examine local and regional agricultural production and intermediated markets, and will examine the opportunities and risks of four main marketing opportunities for farmers: direct-to-consumer, direct-to-institution, direct-to-retail, and selling to intermediaries (such as distributors or food hubs), who in turn sell the products as local food. Through a survey, researchers are collecting information on organizations that provide technical assistance available in these areas. The online survey should take approximately 10-15 minutes to complete.

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Permalink Study Finds Adding Milkweed to Agricultural Lands Key to Restoring Monarch Butterflies

A new study by the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Arizona and partners found that converting marginal cropland to monarch-friendly habitat provides the best opportunity for adding milkweed to help restore the eastern migratory monarch population. However, planting milkweeds into other kinds of lands, including protected areas and urban and suburban locations, may be necessary. A recent USGS-led report found that more than 1.6 billion additional milkweed stems may be needed in North America to return eastern migratory monarchs to a sustainable population size. To determine where these additional milkweed plants would be most effective, researchers for the new study evaluated five land-cover sectors for their current and potential future ability to support milkweed: protected lands, Conservation Reserve Program lands, utility and transportation rights-of-way land, agricultural lands, and urban/suburban areas. This research, published in Environmental Research Letters, demonstrated that the non-agricultural sectors combined could provide as much as 800 million stems of milkweed, leaving agricultural lands to provide the other 800 million stems.

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Permalink AFRI Grants to Invest in Projects on Pests and Beneficial Species

USDA logoUSDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has announced the award of $7.6 million in the first round of grants made under the Pests and Beneficial Species in Agricultural Production Systems area of the AFRI Foundational program. Funded projects support research to promote beneficial organisms associated with pests, as well as to better understand the fundamental mechanisms that inform interactions between plants, pests, or beneficial species. The research is expected to lead to innovative, environmentally sound strategies to manage agricultural pests and beneficial species. A list of the 21 recipients is available online.

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