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Breaking News

Permalink Agrophotovoltaics Pilot Project Demonstrates Compatible Uses

An agrophotovoltaics (APV) pilot project in Germany has shown that photovoltaics and photosynthesis can be compatible land uses, reports the University of Hohenheim. The largest APV system in Germany, one-third hectare, is being tested on the Demeter farm cooperative Heggelbach. Solar modules for electricity production are installed directly above crops of winter wheat, potatoes, celeriac, and clover. A southwest orientation and extra distance between the five-meter-high rows of bifacial PV modules ensured that the crops were exposed to uniform solar radiation. Yield losses for the varying crops ranged from 5% to 19%. The researchers say that agrophotovoltaics has the potential to open more space for PV expansion and to mitigate land-use conflicts between agriculture and energy production.

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Permalink Toolkit for Responding to Pesticide Drift Issued

Pesticide Action Network North America has published In Case of Drift: A Toolkit for Responding to Pesticide Drift. If you've been exposed to pesticide drift, or have lost crops due to drift damage, download this free, 27-page toolkit for details on how to protect your health, how and where to report drift incidents, and how to seek compensation for crop loss if you're a farmer. The toolkit also includes tools for telling your story to legislators and other policymakers.

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Permalink New Oilseed Processing Plant in North Dakota Makes Cold-Press Oils from Local Safflower

A story in Farm & Ranch Guide describes a new oilseed processing plant in Bowman, North Dakota. The plant's first product is 17 Thistles safflower oil, a cold-pressed oil sourced from local producers. The protein meal left after oil extraction is sold as a livestock feed, on which cattle have been shown to do well. The oil is sold to restaurants and companies, or gift-bottled for local sale. Processing-plant owners say that in the future they may consider adding other locally grown and healthy products, such as grapeseed or sunflower oil.

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Permalink Reminder: Comments on NIFA Priorities Due December 1

USDA logoUSDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture is inviting stakeholders from any group, or individuals, interested in agricultural research, extension, and education to provide input to help ensure the strategic positioning and relevancy of NIFA's investments in advancing agriculture. NIFA asks stakeholders to answer the following questions: What is your top priority in food and agricultural research, extension, or education that NIFA should address, and what are the most promising science opportunities for advancement of food and agricultural sciences? Submissions of written comments will be accepted through Friday, December 1, 2017.

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Permalink Report Helps Food Hubs Learn from Failures

USDA logoUSDA Rural Development has released the fourth volume of their Food Hub Technical Report Series. Running a Food Hub: Learning from food hub closures is a 70-page report that draws on national data and case studies to understand why some food hubs have failed in an effort to learn from their mistakes and identify general lessons so new and existing food hubs can overcome barriers to success. According to the report, data and the case studies suggest that "the most significant factors to food hub success or failure include internal management issues (such as the quality of the staff and business decisions made by food hub managers) and board governance."

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Permalink Video Discusses Organic Management of Downy Mildew in Cucurbits

A new video, Managing Cucurbit Downy Mildew on Organic Farms, has been posted on the eXtension website. The 11-minute video discusses strategies that organic growers can use if they face downy mildew problems, such as selecting resistant cultivars, using OMRI-listed pesticides, choosing specific high tunnel designs (such as movable tunnels), and rotating crops.

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Permalink Northeast Food Systems Project Issues Research Briefs

The Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development's research project, Enhancing Food Security in the Northeast through Regional Food Systems (EFSNE), has issued several research briefs on food-system topics. The research briefs distill peer-reviewed journal articles into short publications designed for a general audience. Topics of the six briefs are as follows:
*How self-reliant is the Northeast food system?
*Localizing the Northeast dairy supply chain may not offer many benefits
*Potential production capacity in the Eastern Seaboard Region: Findings from a study of potatoes
*Using the "Community Readiness Model" to understand food access
*Feeding food-producing animals: How self-reliant is the Northeast? (coming soon)
*Optimizing the locations of food-distribution businesses

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Permalink Special Journal Issue Addresses Local Food Systems Development

A special issue of the Journal of the Community Development Society features a series of articles focused on a range of issues associated with local food system development. The Southern Rural Development Center sponsored this resource to aid in work with communities seeking to advance themselves through local food systems development initiatives.

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Permalink State Farm to School Legislation Resource Updated

The National Farm to School Network updated one its signature resources, the State Farm to School Legislative Survey: 2002-2017, that tracks legislation supportive of farm to school. The online resource offers a state-by-state review of every proposed farm to school policy since 2002, analysis of legislative trends, case studies of successful advocacy efforts and other resources for those working to advance farm to school in their communities.

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Permalink National Young Farmer Survey Results Available

The National Young Farmers Coalition has released the results of its 2017 national survey of young farmers in a report titled Building a Future with Farmers II. The survey of more than 3,500 young farmers in all 50 states showed that young farmers in America's new generation expect to overcome major barriers to their success in agriculture, including access to land, labor, affordable health care, and mounting student-loan repayments. The top challenge cited by young farmers is land access, particularly finding and affording land on a farm income. NYFC reports that young farmers surveyed are capitalizing on the demand for local food by selling directly to consumers and growing a diversity of crops and livestock. The survey also indicates a generation of producers strongly committed to environmental stewardship, with 75% of current young farmers describing their practices as "sustainable," and 63% describing their farming as "organic," though many of them have not sought certification. Considering these findings, NYFC calls on lawmakers to enact its "Young Farmer Agenda," a slate of policy reforms based on survey findings. The full survey, including the executive summary, charts, policy recommendations, and stakeholder action steps, is available online.

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Permalink Montana Agritourism Resource Manual Released by AERO

AERO has released Developing Montana's Agritourism: A Resource Manual. The manual is designed to help farmers and ranchers decide whether or not they want to pursue agritourism as an additional product offering within their current operations. It offers basic information on how to start an agritourism business with advice on the process of building a business plan, lists of important contacts and resources, and agritourism success stories from around the state. This manual is a resource for farmers, ranchers, and producers specific to the state of Montana, geared towards helping readers gain a deeper understanding of agritourism and how it can impact the connections between their communities and farms. The complete manual is available online.

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Permalink Sustainable Farming Association Launches 'The Garlic Project'

Minnesota's Sustainable Farming Association has launched "The Garlic Project" with a Specialty Crops Block Grant through the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. The multi-year project will enhance existing and new farmers' profitability by increasing premium garlic production in Minnesota, teaching best production and marketing practices, expanding markets and supply chains, and conducting research on improved cultivation methods. The project is looking for four collaborating farms to conduct the research components of this project, as well as 30 partner farms to participate in tracking statistics on planting, harvesting, and sales. The project also has a free "Growing Great Garlic in Minnesota" workshop available that you can bring to your group or community.

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Permalink Farmers Market Coalition Seeks Nominations for Board of Directors

The Board of Directors of the Farmers Market Coalition (FMC) is soliciting qualified nominations for upcoming positions on the Board of Directors. Directors are FMC member volunteers with demonstrated leadership experience in the field of farmers markets, who support the FMC mission of strengthening farmers markets for the benefit of farmers, consumers, and communities. This year, the Board is seeking leaders with demonstrated skills and interest in state and federal policy work, fundraising, and farmers markets in corporate or hospital environments. FMC invites both self-nominations and nominations of other individuals you feel would be an excellent leader on the FMC Board of Directors. The recommendation period will close on December 8, 2017.

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Permalink Texas Organic-Production Study Explores Cover Crop Options

A three-year study at Texas A&M is focused on identifying best practices for organic grain and soybean cropping in Texas. The first year of the study involved testing on cover crops and production systems. Researchers found that cover crops not well suited to the region didn't produce enough biomass and, in fact, became a management problem by delaying planting dates or competing with the crop. They also found weed management to be a production challenge. Subsequent years of the project will test alternative cover crops and conduct demonstrations with producers across Texas.

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Permalink Stanford Study Reveals How Anaerobic Microsites Affect Soil's Carbon Dioxide Production

Soil research at Stanford University has shown that anaerobic microsites are more common and widely distributed in upland soils than previously thought. When soil microbes at these sites are exposed to oxygen, they produce significantly more carbon dioxide and break down soil carbon. Researchers say their findings highlight an emissions-reduction benefit of low-till practices and other land-use practices that limit increased soil aeration. In addition, warming soil and drying soil--two conditions that are expected from climate change--also both release more soil carbon and produce more carbon dioxide.

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Permalink Bay Area Food and Farm Resilience Strategies Outlined in Report

A new report from American Farmland Trust and Sustainable Agriculture Education outlines strategies for strengthening the Bay Area's agriculture and food cluster as a critical pillar of the region's economic prosperity, environmental sustainability, and vibrant cultural life. The Association of Bay Area Governments commissioned the report, The Bay Area Food Economy: Existing Conditions and Strategies for Resilience. The report outlines five recommendations for increasing investments in the food and agriculture sector, including establishing a regional agricultural and food economic-development program and supporting value-chain climate and natural-disaster resilience, as well as upskilling the workforce and developing food-processing and distribution infrastructure.

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Permalink New Englanders Want Local Produce to Maintain Local Farmland

Research from the University of New Hampshire shows that northern New Englanders purchase fresh produce with an eye toward maintaining local farmland, supporting the local economy, and buying produce without pesticides. UNH researchers' regional survey about consumer values and perspectives pertaining to local foods and agriculture found 54% said it was "very important" that locally grown produce maintain local farmland. Other factors considered "very important" to consumers include supporting the local economy (46%) and buying produce that is grown without pesticides (45%). The survey also revealed that consumers are most likely to try a new type of produce if it is offered in a taste-test. Additionally, consumers prefer different methods of communication depending on their age--older consumers are more interested in newspaper ads, while younger consumers prefer social media. Additionally, both age groups find word-of-mouth and road signs to be preferable methods of receiving information about their local vendors.

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Permalink 'Juliet' Apple Gains Popularity for Organic Production

The Juliet apple, product of a cooperative breeding program involving Purdue University, Rutgers University, and the University of Illinois, is becoming increasingly popular with organic growers. Now the French company Benoit Escande Editions SARL has obtained worldwide exclusive rights to the variety. "The Juliet apple is popular among organic growers because of its many good qualities, such as disease-resistance, lack of premature fruit drop, long storage life and smooth, shiny skin with crisp texture," said Purdue professor Jules Janick. Purdue reports that in addition to having a high resistance to scab, Juliet also shows resistance to powdery mildew and fire blight.

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Permalink Nematodes Could Offer Biocontrol for Cranberries, Says ARS

USDA logoUSDA Agricultural Research Service scientists have found several native species of nematodes in Wisconsin that control pests in wild cranberries. Two of the species were 90% effective in controlling flea beetle, cranberry fruitworm ,and sparganothis fruitworm in testing on cranberry crops. Researchers are working to mass-produce the nematodes for use as a bio-insecticide that growers could spray on their crops in lieu of the insecticides currently used.

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Permalink USDA Grant Will Help Penn State Develop Best Practices for Organic Beekeeping

Penn State researchers have received an Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative grant from the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture to determine best management practices for organic beekeeping. Researchers will compare honey bee health under organic and chemical-free management practices to conventional management systems. The project seeks to identify best management practices that will improve colony health in a sustainable, organic beekeeping system, and to increase economic returns of beekeepers. The project also has an extension component that will communicate research results by offering an annual field day, annual workshops, and online presentations.

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Permalink Iowa Offers Crop-Insurance Incentive for Use of Cover Crops

Iowa farmers who plant cover crops this fall (2017) may be eligible for a $5 per acre premium reduction on their crop insurance in 2018. The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) worked with the USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) to establish a three-year demonstration project aimed at expanding the usage of cover crops in Iowa. Applications will be taken until January 15, 2018. Cover crop acres currently enrolled in state and/or federal programs are not eligible for this program. The new premium reduction will be available for fall-planted cover crops with a spring-planted cash crop. Some policies may be excluded, such as Whole-Farm Revenue Protection or those covered through written agreements. Participating farmers must follow all existing good farming practices required by their policy and work with their insurance agent to maintain eligibility.

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Permalink International Study Reveals Significant Potential of Carbon Sequestration by Agriculture

A study published in Scientific Reports and conducted by an international group of scientists from the Chinese Academy of Science, The Nature Conservancy, and International Center for Tropical Agriculture has revealed how crop farming can make a significant contribution to tackling the threat of climate change. The scientists found that improved soil management in crop farming could contribute to annual carbon emissions reductions of between 0.9 and 1.85 billion tonnes per year. Although the capacity to increase soil carbon depends to a large degree on the types of soils and the environment, all of the major agricultural countries in the world were shown to have significant carbon sequestration potential. The scientists also noted in the paper that there are other important benefits of soil management, including increased yields from improved soil fertility and better water holding capacity, which also support farmers with adapting to climate change.

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Permalink Reclaim Appalachia Demonstrating Growing Niche Crops on Reclaimed Mine Sites

The Bluefield Daily Telegraph featured news of Reclaim and Refresh Appalachia's project in Holden, West Virginia that is developing an active commercial agroforestry site on 50 acres of reclaimed mine land. The project is producing stacked-enterprise crops including blackberries, hazelnuts, lavender, and pawpaws, as well as rotationally grazed chickens, hogs, goats, and honeybees. Of the six employees at the operation, four are former coal miners. The organization intends to replicate the model on more mined properties and on a larger scale. Reclaim's president stresses that the model is long-term and may not deliver profits for several years as herds and flocks develop and perennial plants mature, but he sees strong potential for West Virginia becoming a primary producer of niche produce.

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Permalink Iowa Oat Variety Trial Results Reported

Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) has been working for the past three years with Iowa State University to evaluate oat varieties as part of an effort to help farmers improve the profitability of small grains production in the state. In 2017, PFI and Iowa State tested 15 oat varieties at three locations: the ISU Northern Research and Demonstration Farm, the ISU Northeast Research and Demonstration Farm, and Wendy Johnson's commercial farm. Oat Variety and Fungicide Trials 2017, a new research report available online, reports the results. "The oat variety trials coordinated by PFI have been invaluable to us," says Jessie VanderPoel, a grain trader with Grain Millers. "We want to buy more oats in Iowa, and we also want farmers to be successful in adding this crop to their rotation. Having solid oat variety information from the area allows us to better guide oat growers to help them be more successful."

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Permalink Registration Opens for Once-in-a-Decade Event, Our Farms, Our Future

Every decade SARE hosts a conference to look at the progress of sustainability in agriculture and to understand our trajectory for the future. The Our Farms, Our Future Conference, hosted by the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program and the National Center for Appropriate Technology's ATTRA program, will be held on April 3-5, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri. This national event will bring together our diverse agricultural community including farmers and ranchers, agribusiness stakeholders, students, researchers, scientists, agency representatives and nonprofit leaders. Online registration is now available for this event featuring speakers, panels, exhibits, a poster session, networking, and farm tours. Early registration ends February 22, 2018.

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Permalink Toolkit Helps Communities Revitalize Using Local Food Systems

On behalf of the Local Foods, Local Places Program, EPA has released Local Foods, Local Places Toolkit: A Guide to Help Communities Revitalize Using Local Food Systems. The toolkit was developed over the course of delivering Local Foods, Local Places technical assistance to 80 communities, and it compiles best practices and lessons learned from the program. It is meant to help communities interested in undertaking a similar process to develop their own plans for setting and achieving local food and revitalization goals. The 78-page PDF toolkit provides step-by-step instruction for planning and hosting a community workshop that produces an action plan laying out next steps for implementation. It also suggests some approaches, useful tips, and lessons in maintaining momentum.

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Permalink Traceable QR Code Connects Farms to Shopping Carts

A Greener World (AGW), sponsor of Animal Welfare Approved and other certification programs, is launching a traceability program for its certified farms and products. The program will allow consumers to scan a QR code on a product package and read the farm's online profile, featuring pictures and farm and product information, as well as details on how to connect with the farm on social media. A Greener World's QR code program will roll out in select markets in Fall of 2017.

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Permalink Project Compares Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Cows Grazing on Different Pastures

A Florida study funded by Southern SARE found that cattle that graze on legume-enriched grass pastures release less greenhouse gases compared with cattle grazing on pastures fertilized with the typical nitrogen fertilization regimes in the Southeast. Although methane emissions from dung of animals grazing legume-rich pastures were 1.75 times greater than those grazing bahiagrass fertilized with nitrogen, when researchers took into account nitrous oxide emissions from nitrogen fertilizer, they found that annual emissions from the bahiagrass pasture were 2.5 times greater than emissions from the legume-grass mixture. Additionally, in this study, researchers found that nitrous oxide emissions from urine and dung of animals grazing either grass-fertilized or legume-grass mixed pastures were lower than numbers used in national greenhouse gas emissions inventories of beef cattle.

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Permalink Organic Farming, with Other Measures, Can Contribute to Sustainable Food Supply

A new international study published in Nature Communications found that organic farming can contribute to a sustainable food system, when combined with a one-third reduction of animal-based products in the human diet, less concentrated feed, and less food waste. One of the study's authors, Karlheinz Erb at the Alpen-Adria Universität in Austria, explains that with these measures combined, "it would be possible to secure the provision of food for the global population even in the event of a population size above nine billion in the year 2050; land use would not increase, and the negative effects of today's intensive nutrition system such as high nitrogen surplus levels or elevated pesticide loads would be reduced considerably." However, scientists point out that changes in consumption patterns are a necessary part of the equation.

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Permalink Healthy Food Policy Project Highlights Innovative Initiatives

Food law and policy experts today launched a national Healthy Food Policy Project (HFPP) that identifies and elevates local laws and policies that promote access to healthy food and contribute to strong local economies, improved environmental quality, and health equity. The Healthy Food Policy Project is funded by the National Agricultural Library, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and represents a four-year collaboration of the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS) at Vermont Law School, the Public Health Law Center at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, and the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at the University of Connecticut. The Healthy Food Policy Project website provides resources for advocates, local policymakers, and local public health agencies in their quest to champion healthy food access in their communities. The site contains a curated, searchable database of local healthy food policies that have been analyzed by HFPP partners, a crosswalk of local laws and policies organized by food system category and type of law, and case studies that showcase healthy food policy initiatives around the country.

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Permalink Management Practices Can Help Soil Minerals Store Carbon

Washington State University researcher Marc Kramer is revealing the extent to which minerals deep in the soil act as a carbon sink. Kramer says more than half of the global soil-carbon pool is more than a foot beneath the surface, and that soil minerals control carbon and nitrogen activity deep in the soil. Kramer and his colleagues noted that almost three-fourths of all carbon sequestered in the top three feet of the soil is affected by agriculture, grazing, or forest management. Farming and other land-management practices can be tailored to keep carbon in the ground, say the scientists. Altering farming practices can have a rapid and dramatic impact on the soil's carbon-storage capacity.

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Permalink Cornell Study Finds Fungicides a Villain in Bumblebee Decline

A study led by Cornell University examined two dozen environmental factors in a search for causes of bumblebee decline and found that fungicides, particularly chlorothalonil, a general-use fungicide often found in bumblebee and honeybee hives, may be affecting bee health negatively. Scientists discovered what they call "landscape-scale" connections between fungicide usage, pathogen prevalence, and declines of endangered United States bumblebees. Chlorothalonil has been linked to stunted colony growth in bumblebees and an increased vulnerability to Nosema, a fatal gut infection in bumblebees and honeybees. Scientists estimate that half of crop pollination is performed by bumblebees and other wild bees.

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Permalink Study Explores Impact of Removing Animals from U.S. Agriculture

A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences modeled removing farmed animals from U.S. agriculture to determine the effect on food supplyand greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The modeled system without animals increased total food production by 23%, but diets showed a greater number of deficiencies in essential nutrients. In addition to more nutrient deficiencies, a greater excess of energy and a need to consume a greater amount of food solids were encountered in plants-only diets. In the simulated system with no animals, estimated agricultural GHG decreased 28%, but did not fully counterbalance the animal contribution of GHG. According to the abstract, this assessment suggests that removing animals from U.S. agriculture would reduce agricultural GHG emissions, but would also create a food supply incapable of supporting the US population's nutritional requirements.

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Permalink Urban Edge Sustainable Farmers Accepting Applications for First Session

Urban Edge Sustainable Farmers (UESF) is accepting applications for its first session, which runs from February to November 2018. UESF is a full-time residential training program run by First Generation Farmers, a non-profit, women-led farm growing organic vegetables and cut flowers in Brentwood, California. The purpose of UESF is to provide aspiring specialty crop farmers with the foundational production skills, business knowledge, and confidence they need to establish dynamic and resilient farm enterprises on the urban edge--where ever-growing demand for sustainably grown, source-identified produce presents one of the most exciting economic opportunities in the agricultural sector today. With 550 acres of protected farmland available for incubation and long-term leasing, UESF envisions a cooperative future where dozens of small producers benefit from shared access to tools, labor, distribution, collective purchasing, product aggregation, and other cost efficiencies. The deadline to apply is December 1, 2017.

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Permalink New York Announces Specialty Crop Grants

New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets announced that nine projects in the state will receive nearly $1.1 million in Specialty Crop Block Grants. Funding is provided through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. It supports projects designed to increase the competitiveness of New York farms and improve the long-term viability of the State's agri-businesses. Six grants were awarded to support research and grower education based at Cornell University. These projects aim to benefit farms growing vegetables, apples, hops, and wine grapes, as well as tree nurseries across the State. They will help organic and conventional growers utilize new tactics to manage diseases and reduce plant loss, ultimately improving the viability of New York farms. In addition, more than $477,000 is supporting three statewide initiatives to increase the marketing and promotion of New York's specialty crops at a produce trade shows, support greater use of locally-grown specialty crops on school lunch menus through the State's Farm-to-School program, and help farms implement new food safety standards under the Food and Drug Administration's Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

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Permalink CCOF Hosts Organic Farm Tour for California Legislature

CCOF is offering a tour of organic farms on November 14 for California legislative staff. Paul Underhill will host the group at Terra Firma Farm and Thaddeus Barsotti will host the group at Capay Organic Farm. The tour will highlight the challenges and opportunities to growing organic in California. Legislators and staff will have the opportunity to hear about a range of issues impacting these farms, from water regulations to labor shortages and costs. The tour will include an overview of the social, economic, and environmental benefits of organic farming and explain how state policy can help grow organic.

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Permalink Veteran Scholarships Offered for Southern SAWG Conference

The University of Arkansas and the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) are partnering to offer scholarships for military veterans who would like to attend Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group's (SAWG) annual Practical Tools and Solutions for Sustaining Family Farms Conference. Five full scholarships and fifteen partial scholarships are available. The conference will be held January 17-20, 2018, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The deadline to apply for the scholarships is December 8, 2017. Applications are available online.

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Permalink Climate-Smart Agriculture Sourcebook Launched by FAO

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has produced a new sourcebook for how to implement "climate-smart" approaches to agriculture. The online tool was launched at the Agriculture Action Day on the sidelines of the COP23 climate summit in Bonn. Climate-Smart Agriculture Sourcebook - Second Edition 2017 comprises a wide range of knowledge and expertise to help make the agricultural sectors more sustainable and productive while also contributing to food security and lower carbon intensity. This second edition of the sourcebook adds new modules addressing climate change adaptation and mitigation, integrated production systems, knowledge-support systems for rural producers, the role of gender, and how to improve implementation. It focuses on production issues related to crops, livestock, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture, and integrated systems, as well as on the use of resources such as water, soils and land, genetic resources, and energy. Food systems and value chains--bringing in factors ranging from fertilizers to refrigeration--are also incorporated as potential areas for optimization.

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Permalink Corn Selected for High Production Has Less Ability to Adapt

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison tested how corn populations selected for high production in different regions of the country responded to different growing conditions. They concluded that artificial selection by crop breeders has produced corn that produces well in a particular location but is less able to adapt to new or stressful environments, which means there is less of a genetic pool to draw from when breeders seek to make corn more adaptable to changing conditions. The field trial looked at more than 850 unique corn varieties in 21 locations across North America. "The data seem to point to the idea that by selecting genotypes that are better suited to be more productive, we are eroding variability that might be important as we move into a world where climate might be more erratic and where we might need to move cultivars into places where they haven't been grown before," said study leader Natalia de Leon.

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Permalink 'No-Till November' Encourages Farmers to Keep the Stubble

USDA logoThe USDA-NRCS and its partners encourage farmers to "keep the stubble" on their harvested cropland fields and improve soil health during a special month-long "No-Till November" campaign. This NRCS campaign modeled on the "No Shave November" campaign encourages farmers to keep the crop stubble on their fields to protect the soil. The NRCS web page for the No-Till November Campaign will be adding videos and success stories each week.

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Permalink Wallace Center Seeking Nominations for Community Food Systems Mentors

The Wallace Center at Winrock International is launching a new Food Systems Leadership Network to support emerging and existing leaders working on food systems change in communities across the country. This national initiative will focus on strengthening leadership skills, sharing and replicating program innovations and adaptations, and building the operational and management capacity of food-focused, non-profit, community-based organizations. The Wallace Center is looking for leaders who are eager and prepared to mentor and coach their peers across the country, many of whom have experienced similar challenges, dynamics, losses, and wins over the years. Mentors will dedicate a total of 30 hours over a four-month period, and will be compensated at a rate of $100 per coaching hour. Applications will be accepted through November 17, 2017.

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Permalink Risk Management Education Grants Awarded

USDA logoUSDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) has announced agreements for 2017 through the Risk Management Education Partnerships Program and the program for Crop Insurance Education in Targeted States. Through these partnerships, producers will receive assistance in understanding and using crop insurance programs and other tools so they can make the best risk management decisions for their agricultural operations. Descriptions of the funded state and national projects are available online.

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Permalink USDA Delays Effective Date of Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Final Rule

USDA logoUSDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has announced that it is delaying the effective date of the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) final rule published in the Federal Register on January 19, 2017. The notice says that "USDA is delaying the rule so that important questions, such as the likely costs and benefits, can be more fully assessed through the notice and comment process prior to making a final decision on the direction of the rule."

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Permalink Pocket Guide Helps Farmers with Soil Health, Water, and Climate Change

The Land Stewardship Project's new publication, Soil Health, Water & Climate Change: A Pocket Guide to What You Need to Know, provides an introduction to the latest innovations in science and farming related to building soil health, and explains how implementing such practices on a wide-scale basis can make agriculture a powerful force for creating a landscape that is good for our water and our climate. The pocket guide includes mini-profiles of farmers in the Upper Midwest who are utilizing cover cropping, managed rotational grazing of livestock, no-till, and other methods to protect the landscape's surface while increasing biological activity below, thus creating a resilient, "soil smart" type of agriculture. Free print copies are available, and the publication can also be downloaded as a PDF or mobile app.

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Permalink USDA Announces Resources for Veterans

USDA logoUSDA has announced the launch of resources to provide support to veterans interested in opportunities in agriculture, agribusiness, and rural America. The resources include a new website that serves as a one-stop navigator for veterans looking to learn more about employment, education, and entrepreneurship on or beyond the farm. In addition, a USDA-wide AgLearn curriculum will allow all employees to understand the programs from the Department's 17 agencies that veterans may use.

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Permalink 'Growing Organic' Video Series Highlights NRCS Role

USDA logoUSDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has introduced Growing Organic videos that highlight NRCS assistance for organic farmers. The series of three-minute videos focuses on different aspects of agricultural production, including irrigation, habitat, weed management, and soil health. The videos describe some of the requirements of organic production and describe how NRCS staff members can help organic farmers meet these requirements.

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Permalink NRCS Introduces Superhero of the Soil

USDA logoUSDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has introduced a new soil health-themed educational effort featuring "Mighty Mini Microbe," a tiny, animated superhero. NRCS believes that this superhero of the soil will encourage the next generation of real-life hero farmers, conservationists, and scientists to further unlock the secrets in the soil. Mighty Mini Microbe stars in a 24-page, learn-as-you-color, science-based adventure tale, as well as a promotional video.

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Permalink Project Calculates Climate Footprint of Industrial Meat and Dairy

The top 20 global meat and dairy companies emitted more greenhouse gases in 2016 than all of Germany, according to calculations by GRAIN, IATP, and the Heinrich Böll Foundation. The project used UNFAO comprehensive methodology to estimate corporate emissions from livestock and compare the totals to regions and other industry sectors. The results revealed that three meat companies--JBS, Cargill, and Tyson--emitted more greenhouse gases last year than all of France. "If we are serious about feeding the planet while fighting climate change," say the project sponsors, "the world needs to urgently invest in a transition to food systems that hinge on small-scale producers, agroecology, and local markets."

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Permalink Commercial Grower Survey Deadline Extended

NCAT is paying growers $20 to express their opinions about crop insurance, in order to gather input and make recommendations to the USDA. To insure that all voices are heard, the survey deadline is being extended to Wednesday, November 22, 2017. Confidential and anonymous, the survey takes only 20 to 30 minutes on any computer, smart phone, or other mobile device. (Commercial growers only, please!) For more information, e-mail

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Permalink Video Highlights Benefits of Pastured Poultry Production

American Pastured Poultry Producers Association (APPPA) has released Pastured Poultry: Better Way Forward, a short film documenting pasture-raised poultry as a better method of production for animal welfare and nutrition, as well as the environment. APPPA says that constant movement under the sun and through the grass creates a dynamic, regenerative system that builds soil and protects the environment while creating uniquely nutritious and great-tasting products. The video is accompanied by a buyers guide to help consumers locate local pastured poultry producers.

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Permalink Good Food EXPO Requests Presenter Proposals

FamilyFarmed has two Requests for Proposals available for the Good Food EXPO 2018, for policy and non-policy presenters. The Good Food Industry EXPO (to be held in Chicago on March 23, 2018) addresses, discusses, and informs about the wide range of issues affecting the fast-growing Good Food movement. Proposals for 75-minute sessions are being accepted until November 17, 2017. Details on areas of interest and the submission requirements are available online.

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Permalink Solar Greenhouses Generate Electricity and Grow Crops

News from the University of California, Santa Cruz, indicates that plants grown in an electricity-generating solar greenhouse perform at least as well or better than plants grown in a conventional greenhouse. Some crops even used less water when grown in the magenta-colored greenhouse, made with Wavelength-Selective Photovoltaic System (WSPV) panels tinted to help them absorb light. The panels transfer the sun's energy to thin photovoltaic strips that turn it to electricity that can be used to power fans and lights in the greenhouse. "If greenhouses generate electricity on site, that reduces the need for an outside source, which helps lower greenhouse gas emissions even more," said environmental studies professor and project leader Michael Loik. "We're moving toward self-sustaining greenhouses."

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Permalink Young Farmers Conference to Livestream Sessions

Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture will livestream selected sessions from the 10th annual Young Farmers Conference, to be held December 6-8, 2017, on its Facebook page. The events that will be livestreamed include a keynote by Ricardo Salvador and Mark Bittman, as well as sessions on agroequity, integrating livestock with cropping systems, pollination ecology, cover cropping, climate change adaptation, and more.

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Permalink Practical Farmers of Iowa Announces 2017 Fall Farminar Series

Practical Farmers of Iowa has announced the schedule for its fall webinar series. Webinars are offered each Tuesday evening, beginning November 14 and continuing through the end of the year. The popular webinar series offers practical knowledge for row crop, livestock, and fruit and vegetable farmers and is free for anyone with an internet connection to participate. Each farminar focuses on a unique production or business management topic. All presentations are led by an experienced farmer or subject-matter expert, and attendees are able to ask questions in real time using a chatbox while they listen and watch a slideshow. Topics this season include farm transition, managing a profitable marketing mix for fruit and vegetable growers, terminating cover crops using a roller-crimper, growing specialty cut flowers, and integrating cattle to make cover crops profitable.

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Permalink Kale Could Help People Overcome Micronutrient Malnutrition

Clemson University researchers have found that kale may help billions of people worldwide overcome micronutrient malnutrition. People could eat kale to help supply their bodies with the micronutrients potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc, as well as prebiotic carbohydrates and dietary fiber. Researchers found that one 100-gram serving of kale provides 10% of the recommended daily allowance for several micronutrients. The kale types used in this study included curly varieties Darkibor, Dwarf Green Curled Afro, Pentlang Brig, Red Russian, Redbor, Reflex, Ripbor, Scarlet, Star and Stripes, Starbor, Vates, Winterbor, Blue Ridge, Blue Knight and Maribor. Portuguese varieties studied were Beira and Dauro. Dinosaur Black Magic varieties in the study were Bonanza, Italian Kale and Lacinato. The ornamental variety studied was Fizz, and Mustard varieties studied were Frizzy Joe and Frizzy Lizzy. The Clemson study was funded by a specialty crop block grant from the S.C. Department of Agriculture.

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Permalink NOSB Approves Hydroponics and Aquaponics for Organic Production

At its fall meeting, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) voted 8-7 against a proposal to prohibit hydroponic and aquaponic production in organic agriculture, reports The Packer. Additionally, NOSB voted 14-1 that aeroponics would not be allowed as an organic production practice. The report says that both hydroponic and aquaponic production systems remain eligible for organic certification while USDA considers the NOSB decision.

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Permalink Climate Trends Highlighted in New Report

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has announced the release of the U.S. Global Change Research Program's (USGCRP) Climate Science Special Report (CSSR), which serves as Volume I of the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4). The report found that global and U.S. temperatures continue to rise and that variability in temperature and precipitation is increasing. An executive summary and the full report are available online at

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Permalink Princeton Research Helps Inform Vertical Farming

Princeton University's Vertical Farming Project is growing food crops indoors on stacked shelves to generate accessible and up-to-date research for the industry. Princeton's model vertical farm is used to identify the optimal conditions for growing food indoors, and that data is then shared with the public. Researchers experiment with various crops, techniques, technologies, and nutrient solutions, with a focus on getting the best harvest with the least amount of resource consumption. They're also testing unusual crops such as edible flowers and wheat. One student researcher is evaluating the environmental impacts of growing kale and lettuce in a vertical farm versus a conventional farm. Another student is examining the costs associated with running a small vertical farm and the feasibility of scaling them up to the community level.

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Permalink North Dakota Farmers Union Opens Sixth Restaurant

North Dakota Farmers Union (NDFU), in partnership with Agraria LLC members and the Farmers Restaurant Group, has opened a sixth restaurant. This one is the first outside the Washington Beltway, and is located in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. NDFU President Mark Watne said the concept of a farmer-owned restaurant started at NDFU with the idea that farmers could secure a greater share of the U.S. food dollar by taking advantage of opportunities at the top of the production food chain rather than the bottom. "The thought was to get closer to the consumer and then own the whole food chain system," he said. "Not only are we putting more money into the hands of family farmers and ranchers, we're strengthening people's understanding of why family farm agriculture is so important to our country." The group plans to open a seventh restaurant early next year in Virginia.

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Permalink Farmer Training Program for Veterans Accepting Applications

The Take Root Program offered by Angelic Organics Learning Center is accepting applications from military veterans through December 1, 2017. Take Root is a program that connects veterans to paid employment and training on established farms in southern Wisconsin, northern Illinois, and the Chicagoland area. Selected trainees will work with Angelic Organics Learning Center staff to create an individualized education plan to better understand training needs and aid in pairing trainees with an appropriate trainer farm. Trainer farms will determine their trainee's hourly rate of pay, a wage which will be similar to that of other farm employees. In addition to being treated as regular employees, trainees will receive additional training or mentoring from trainer farmers throughout the season. Applicants should demonstrate a strong motivation to learn the business of sustainable farming.

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Permalink Case Study Explores Economics of Irrigation for Northeast Field Crops

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, UVM Extension Center for Sustainable Agriculture, and the Intervale Community Farm (ICF) in Burlington, Vermont, joined forces to explore whether field-crop irrigation makes sense as a farm strategy for the Northeast. Although Northeast summers are typically wet with a trend toward more rainfall, this rainfall is increasingly arriving in extreme rainfall events with hot and dry periods between. Analyzing data from 2006 to 2016 showed that in all but one year at ICF, the benefits of avoided crop loss were greater than the costs of irrigation. For other farms within the Northeast, the net benefits of irrigation will depend upon their particular cost inputs and other local conditions. The full case study and a two-page summary are available online.

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Permalink Documentary on NRCS and Soil Conservation Pioneer Hugh Hammond Bennett Released

USDA logoUSDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has released a new documentary on Hugh Hammond Bennett and the history of NRCS. The 21-minute video looks at the origins of soil conservation in the United States, from the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression to the establishment of a permanent agency to help the Nation recover. NRCS calls it "an inspiring reminder of why private lands conservation is so important, now and into the future."

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Permalink Presentation Proposals Requested for 2018 Extension Risk Management Education National Conference

The 2018 ERME National Conference in Milwaukee in April will bring together public and private sector educators, crop insurance agents, lenders, and other agricultural professionals to share ongoing and emerging successful risk management education efforts that target agricultural producers and their families. Conference participants will learn about what is working to help producers effectively manage the financial, production, marketing, legal and human risks associated with their agribusinesses. Concurrent Session and Poster presentation proposals are being solicited which highlight successful risk management education programming and its impacts. Presentations should be geared toward educators (rather than producers) and should demonstrate impacts as a result of the educational efforts. Proposals should be submitted online by January 9, 2018.

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