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Breaking News

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

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

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Permalink Toolkit Aids in Establishing Farm to School Networks in States

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

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Permalink Organic Trade Association Farmers Advisory Council Members Sought

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

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Permalink Biocontrol Nematodes Combat Corn Rootworm

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

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

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

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Permalink Policy Recommendations Offered for Agroforestry in England

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

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

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

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Permalink Organic-Management Fact Sheets Released by MOSES

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

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Permalink Blue Apron Recognized for Animal-Welfare Commitment

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

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Permalink Purdue Study Says Labeling Decreases Opposition to GE Food

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

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

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

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Permalink Survey Finds GMO Disclosure Labels Lower Consumer Acceptance

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

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Permalink MOSES Accepting Nominations for Organic Farmer of the Year

Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Services (MOSES) is accepting nominations for the 2019 MOSES Organic Farmer of the Year. The award recognizes a Midwest certified organic farmer or farm family for practicing outstanding land stewardship, innovation, and outreach. Nominees must be certified organic and farming in a Midwest state: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, or Wisconsin. The award will be presented at the next MOSES Organic Farming Conference, to be held Februrary 21-23, 2019, in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Nominations can be submitted online. The deadline for nominations is September 15, 2018.

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Permalink Come to the Table Conference Requests Workshop Proposals

Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI-USA) is inviting workshop proposals for the 2019 Come to the Table Conference. RAFI cultivates markets, policies, and communities that support thriving, socially just, and environmentally sound family farms. The mission of the Come to the Table program is to relieve hunger and strengthen just and sustainable agriculture in rural North Carolina. The 2019 Conference will be held March 12-13, 2019, in Charlotte, North Carolina. The theme of the Conference is "Called to Action: Uprooting Hunger and Cultivating Justice." Each workshop session will be 75 minutes long. The deadline to submit proposals is August 1, 2018.

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Permalink Soil Health Training Program Offered in New York

American Farmland Trust (AFT) is accepting applications from agricultural service professionals for the Practical Soil Health Specialists program. Up to 20 participants will be accepted for training beginning in September 2018, to equip them to provide technical assistance to farmers on soil improvement practices. Training will be provided through five, two-day workshops combined with related field days. The program will include lectures, demonstrations, hands-on activities, panel discussions, practice observation, and review of case studies. The deadline to apply is July 20, 2018, and the program cost is $100 for selected participants. Some competitive scholarships are available.

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Permalink Group Connects Purple Sprouting Broccoli Growers

Organic Seed Alliance has created a Facebook group called the Purple Sprouting Broccoli Bunch Up, to connect growers who are interested in growing, or are growing, purple sprouting broccoli. The broccoli is being grown at trial sites around Puget Sound to identify the best varieties for various regions and the best transplanting times. The purple sprouting broccoli overwinters in regions with mild winters, like the Pacific Northwest, and produces a fresh crop in late winter or early spring. According to Organic Seed Alliance, there are three maturity categories: the earliest maturing varieties generally have harvestable sprouts in late February or early March, the mid-maturity varieties come on two to three weeks later, and the latest maturing varieties follow after another two to three weeks. The group gives growers a place to connect, share experiences, and ask questions.

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Permalink NCAT Accepting Applications for Armed to Farm in Arkansas

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) is accepting applications for its week-long Armed to Farm (ATF) training in Fayetteville, Arkansas, to be held October 1-5, 2018. ATF allows military 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. Participants learn about business planning, budgeting, recordkeeping, marketing, livestock production, fruit and vegetable production, and more. In addition, attendees gain a network of supportive farmer-veterans and agricultural advisors. The event is free for those chosen to attend; lodging at the retreat center, transportation to local farms, and most meals will be provided. Participants must pay their own travel costs to and from the event. Applications are due by August 10, 2018.

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Permalink Research Explores How Barn Owls Fit in IPM Plan

Western IPM Center reports on research by the University of California, Davis and Sacramento State on how barn owls are affected by rodenticide. Barn owls are significant predators of gophers that many vineyards are eager to attract, but researchers are concerned that the birds' health may be impacted by rodenticides that the vineyards also use as part of an IPM program. The researchers are also tracking the owls' foraging habits to learn how much area they cover and how improving nest-box distribution might increase the effectiveness of their gopher control.

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Permalink Petition Seeks to End Labeling of Foreign Meat as 'Product of U.S.A.'

The American Grassfed Association (AGA) and the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) have filed a petition with the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS) demanding FSIS policy be changed to ensure only U.S. domestic meat products can be labeled "Product of U.S.A." According to the petition, the current policy allows foreign meat to be imported into the United States and bear the label "Product of U.S.A." if it simply passes through a USDA-inspected plant. Comments on the petition may be submitted via before August 17, 2018.

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Permalink Carbon Farming Takes Root in California

A feature in Civil Eats describes how Lani and John Estill at Bare Ranch in California have embarked on carbon farming with their sheep operation. A grant enabled them to develop and begin enacting a carbon plan that involves adding compost to their land and practicing silvopasture. In turn, they're able to sell wool from their operation as "Climate Beneficial," which has allowed them to command premium prices that help finance more carbon-sequestration efforts. Several initiatives are underway to explore how rangeland can best be used to sequester carbon, both in California and in a handful of other states.

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Permalink Duke Study Finds Agrochemical Nanoparticles Could Contribute to Algae Outbreaks

A study led by Duke University researchers and published in Ecological Applications found that nanomaterials in agrochemicals can combine with nutrient runoff to create more toxic algae outbreaks in local surface water. Nanomaterials are commonly used in slow- or controlled-release plant fertilizers and pesticides. The nano-scale of the particles gives them more surface area for reactions and interactions than larger particles. Over a nine-month experiment, simulated wetlands that received nanoparticle and nutrient runoff experienced big algal blooms that were more than three times more frequent and more persistent, and that reduced dissolved oxygen in the water. Nanoparticles and other "metal-based synthetic chemicals may be playing an under-appreciated role in the global trends of increasing eutrophication," the researchers said.

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Permalink Farm Aid Announces Connecticut as Site of 2018 Music and Food Festival

Farm Aid's annual music and food festival featuring family farmers, homegrown food, inspiring music, and agrarian experiences will come to Hartford, Connecticut, on September 22, 2018. Farm Aid 2018 will feature performances by Farm Aid board members Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Neil Young, and Dave Matthews with Tim Reynolds, as well as Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson, Kacey Musgraves, Margo Price, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, and Particle Kid. Farm Aid 2018 festivalgoers will experience family farm agriculture firsthand via Farm Aid’s HOMEGROWN Concessions®, which showcases family farm-sourced ingredients at all food stands, and the HOMEGROWN Village, which features hands-on activities about soil, water, energy, food, and farming.

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Permalink Southern SARE Program Involves Students in Sustainable Agriculture Research

Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SSARE) is helping high school and college undergraduate students participate in sustainable agriculture research through the James Harrison Hill, Sr. Young Scholar Enhancement Grants Program. SSARE Research and Education Grant research recipients can apply to the program to hire high school or college students to participate in their research programs. The goal of the program is to engage youth in the collegiate process and encourage pursuit of college degrees emphasizing sustainable agriculture. In 2018, program grants will involve young students in research on cover crops, silvopasture, high tunnel grape production, and agroecosystems research.

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Permalink New Atlas of Desertification Provides Assessment of Global Land Degradation

The European Commission's Joint Research Center has published a new edition of the World Atlas of Desertification, providing the first comprehensive, evidence-based assessment of land degradation at a global level and highlighting the urgency to adopt corrective measures. The main findings show that population growth and changes in human consumption patterns put unprecedented pressure on the planet's natural resources. A key finding is that more than 75% of the Earth's land area is already degraded, and more than 90% could become degraded by 2050. Land degradation and climate change are estimated to lead to a reduction of global crop yields by about 10% by 2050. Additionally, as a consequence of accelerated deforestation, it will become more difficult to mitigate the effects of climate change. Authors conclude that greater commitment and more effective cooperation at the local level are necessary to stop land degradation and loss of biodiversity. They also say that further agricultural expansion, one of the main causes of land degradation, could be limited by increasing yields on existing farmland, shifting to plant-based diets, consuming animal proteins from sustainable sources, and reducing food loss and waste.

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Permalink Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Partners in Three Multi-State Specialty Crop Grants

Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture announced that it will partner on three grants funded through the United States Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Multi-State Program. Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture will partner in the following projects: 1) A pest and plant-health project with The Pennsylvania State University; collaborating with universities in Georgia, Maryland, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, Ohio, North Carolina, Kentucky, West Virginia, Louisiana, and Florida, that seeks to develop a regional approach to prevention monitoring and management of downy mildew on plants in the melon, squash, and cucumber family. 2) A project to develop a reliable, customized bio-control for fusarium wilt of the tomato, working with The Pennsylvania State University, University of Maryland and the University of Florida. 3) A project in conjunction with the U.S. Sweet Potato Council, to increase the market for sweet potatoes.

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Permalink USDA Announces Farm to School Grant Awards

USDA logoUSDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has announced the award of $5.2 million in grants through the USDA Farm to School Program. FNS is awarding grants to 73 projects across 43 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam. The Farm to School Grants are competitively available to eligible schools, state and local agencies, Indian tribal organizations, agricultural producers, and non-profit entities. Funds may be used for training, supporting operations, planning, purchasing equipment, developing school gardens, cultivating partnerships, and implementing farm to school programs.

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Permalink Animal Welfare Approved Certification Celebrates a Decade

A Greener World (AGW) has announced that the Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW label is celebrating its 10th year of recognizing high-welfare, sustainable farming. AGW is saluting ten farmers and ranchers who are now embarking on their 10th year of certification. An AGW press release notes, "These pioneers of sustainable agriculture have demonstrated enduring commitment and dedication to high-welfare, sustainable management, and have played a vital role in communicating its benefits to consumers and farmers alike. Their continued success demonstrates the growing maturity of the market for sustainable food animal products--and the opportunities for the future."

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Permalink Jennifer Tucker Named by USDA as National Organic Program Deputy Administrator

USDA logoUSDA has announced the appointment of Dr. Jennifer Tucker as Deputy Administrator of the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service National Organic Program (NOP). Dr. Tucker has served as Associate Deputy Administrator of the National Organic Program since 2011. She holds a a Ph.D. in Science and Technology Studies from Virginia Tech and previously worked as a group facilitator and organization development consultant.

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Permalink Life Cycle Analysis Shows Mustard Cover Crops Climate Friendly

Washington farmer Dale Gies uses a mustard and arugula "biofumigant" cover crop to help manage soilborne pests and improve soil quality. A life cycle analysis on the practice by researchers from Washington State University accounted for emissions associated with irrigation (for pumping), diesel use, as well as fertilizer and chemical production and use in both this system and a conventional production system. They found that the mustard-cover-crop approach generated 625 pounds of CO2e per acre less than the conventional approach. Over 13 years, the biofumigant cover crop not only saved on emissions, but also increased soil organic matter content. The Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources has posted a five-minute video in which Gies describes his cover crop system.

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Permalink Year-Long Direct Farm Marketer Webinar Series Launches

The University of Tennessee Center for Profitable Agriculture is offering a year-long series of monthly one-hour webinars for direct farm marketers, beginning June 26, 2018. Free webinars will be held the fourth Tuesday of each month and will help direct farm marketers learn about online marketing tools and strategies to improve the effectiveness of their marketing efforts. The series will cover a variety of topics related to marketing through websites, social media, and email. Producers may join the series anytime between now and June 2019 and may attend any session of interest. The first session will cover trends in digital marketing.

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