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Breaking News

Permalink Cornell Small Farms Program Posts Farmer Veteran Video Tours

Farm OPS, part of the Cornell Small Farms Program that offers support for veterans in agriculture, has posted several short video tours of farmer veteran agricultural operations. These include a five-minute video on John Lemondes at Elly's Acres Farm, a four-minute video introducing entrepreneur and budding farmer veteran Cindy Seymour at Serenity for Women, and a five-minute video on farmer veterans Jeff and Nina Saeli of Centurion Farm, a small fruit and vegetable farm.

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Permalink Tennessee Hops Project Launches

A team of University of Tennessee Extension specialists has been awarded a grant for a project aimed at enhancing the competitiveness of specialty hops in the state. Four specialists from three departments have teamed up to implement the project. They will study hops production in other states, develop educational materials to aid in the evaluation of hops production in Tennessee, and analyze the demand for hops and other specialty crops by craft brewers. Rob Holland, director of the UT Center for Profitable Agriculture, says that the project is in response to the increased interest from local brewers wanting to obtain locally grown crops. "Tennessee farmers are excellent producers and the new market opportunity that local brewers and distillers provide for specialty crops such as hops is worth pursuing. New markets create new production opportunities for local farmers," he said.

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Permalink ASA and CSSA Introduce 'Sustainable, Secure Food' Blog

The American Society of Agronomy (ASA) and Crop Science Society of America (CSSA) have created a bi-monthly informational blog about sustainability and food security for the general public. This blog is sponsored and written by members of the two societies. The first blog, now published, is titled "What are food security and sustainable food production, and how are they linked?" It was written by Gary Pierzynski, Kansas State University, and John Shanahan, Fortigen.

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Permalink Southern SARE Releases Index of Projects for 2017

Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) has published Index 2017, an annual report of grant projects final reports and grant-funded research that was continuing in 2017. The 18-page index is sorted by type of grant and by state. Brief summaries are provided for projects that have submitted final reports, and continuing projects are listed by state and number. More information about all the projects listed in the Index is available through SARE's online national project database, which is searchable by number.

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Permalink Video Aids in Calculating Cover Crop Seeding Rates

Penn State Extension has posted a new, eight-minute video that provides step-by-step instructions for calculating seeding rates when including multiple species in a cover crop mixture. Individual crop species often have different functions and growth periods, making it necessary to balance the seeding rates and optimize individual attributes each species provides in a mixture.

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Permalink Scientists Call for National Living Soil Repository

A group of USDA Agricultural Research Service scientists has published a call for a National Living Soil Repository. "A National Living Soil Repository would store agricultural cryogenic and air-dried soil samples, analyze samples for microbial community composition, assess samples for microbial viability, and serve as a potential source of living organisms for various agricultural ecosystem services," notes an opinion article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. These scientists say soil's key role and threatened status merit a repository or archive designed to preserve native biological diversity. They argue that such a repository would enhance the scientific community's ability to advance soil health research and agricultural sustainability.

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Permalink NCAT Accepting Applications for Armed to Farm in California

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) is bringing the week-long Armed to Farm (ATF) training to California for the first time, April 16- April 20, 2018, at Glide Ranch in Davis, California. ATF gives veterans an opportunity to see sustainable, profitable small-scale farming enterprises and examine farming as a viable career. ATF combines engaging classroom sessions with farm tours and hands-on activities. Participants learn about business planning, budgeting, recordkeeping, marketing, livestock production, fruit and vegetable production, and more. The event is free for those chosen to attend; lodging, transportation to local farms, and most meals will be provided. The program is available to military veterans in California, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, and Washington who are interested in starting a farm or who have recently begun farming (less than 10 years). Spouses and farming partners are also invited to apply. Applications are due by March 2, 2018.

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Permalink National Water Quality Initiative Adding 30 New Watersheds

USDA logoUSDA has announced that it will add 30 new watersheds in 2018 to the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI), which helps landowners improve water quality while strengthening agricultural operations. USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will invest more than $30 million this year in 201 high-priority watersheds across the country. The NWQI, now in its seventh year, focuses resources in watersheds most in need and where farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners can use conservation practices to make a difference. Through NWQI, farmers, ranchers and forest landowners receive one-on-one personalized advice and financial assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to address a broad range of natural resource concerns, including water quality. This year, NRCS added 30 new watersheds to NWQI and selected 25 watersheds for new assessment projects spanning 13 states.

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Permalink Minnesota Department of Agriculture Offers Farmer-Support Trainings

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture will offer "Down on the Farm: Supporting Farmers in Stressful Times," free three-hour trainings in six locations across the state during January, February, and March. The professional development workshop is designed to help people who work with farmers on a regular basis recognize and respond when they see farmers experiencing stress, anxiety, depression, and other challenges. MDA invites agency staff, bankers, veterinarians, crop consultants, clergy, social service and health care professionals, agriculture educators, and others who work with farmers to attend. Participants will learn to recognize signs of mental and emotional distress and crisis, use active listening skills, and find local and regional resources available to farmers, and will improve their confidence in delivering difficult information to farmers in stressful situations. Continuing education credits are available.

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Permalink Southwest Wisconsin Pastured Poultry Processing Working Group Explores Plant Options

A Southwest Wisconsin Pastured Poultry Processing Working Group has formed to explore the possibility of launching a regional USDA-inspected poultry-processing plant, reports Agri-View. Producers in the group are interested in finding affordable, nearby processing options for poultry, as well as waterfowl and rabbits. A USDA-inspected facility makes interstate and retail sales possible. Producers are also interested in value-added products. The group plans to apply for a USDA Value-Added Grant to aid in an assessment of regional processing demand, availability and costs.

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Permalink Organic Farming Program Awarded Beginning Farmer Grant

Rodale Institute and Delaware Valley University have been awarded a $498,706, three-year Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program grant in support of their joint Organic Farming Program. The 36-credit, one-year Organic Farming Program was established in 2012 and includes two semesters at the University and one semester at Rodale Institute. Students graduate with the knowledge and experience necessary to start a small-scale organic farm or work for an organic operation. The program offers assistance with job placement and developing business plans for farms so that graduates can easily move into organic agriculture careers. The Organic Farming Program is open to all students, but has been particularly popular with military veterans looking to transition into civilian careers.

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Permalink Indiana Agriculture Nutrient Alliance Formed

Indiana agricultural, commodity, and conservation organizations, academia, and local, state, and federal agencies have teamed up to form the Indiana Agriculture Nutrient Alliance (IANA). The goal of the alliance is to improve soil health and nutrient management efforts. The IANA was created through an agreement between the United States Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service in Indiana and Indiana Farm Bureau with financial contributions coming from partner organizations. The IANA was created to identify ways the partners can jointly enhance their programs to further the shared goal of improving nutrient use efficiency to reduce nutrient loss from agricultural production areas. The IANA will operate as a standalone nonprofit group led by a board of directors elected from representatives in the partnership.

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Permalink Book Chronicles European Township's Movement to Ban Pesticides

Author and professor Philip Ackerman-Leist has a new book titled A Precautionary Tale, reports the Rutland Herald. The book tells the story of how a township at the convergence of Austria, Switzerland, and Italy rallied to protect itself from the chemicals used in conventional agriculture. When the tree-fruit industry began to encroach on a region known for its diversified, organic agriculture, citizens of the 11 villages organized and used a ballot referendum and local elections to institute a ban on two classes of toxic pesticides. The action also included market support in the form of local school purchasing of organic products, as well as support for farmers transitioning to organic. Ackerman-Leist sees the story as precedent-setting for other communities: "I hope its a beacon for individual activists to stand up for what you believe in," he said. "Know that you have the power to write your own future, instead of assuming you’re subject to the whims and fanaticism of those in power."

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Permalink Beginning Farmer Webinar Series Offered by Michigan Extension

Michigan State University Extension is presenting a series of fifteen online programs addressing crop and livestock production and marketing on Wednesday evenings January 17 through April 25, 2018. Participants will get an overview of a variety of farming enterprises and topics, and have an opportunity through live, online chat to ask questions of MSU and other agriculture experts. A $5 fee is charged for each webinar in the series, or $37.50 for the full series. You may register for all or some of the courses at any time, even if the session has already taken place. In that case, you will get a link to the recorded program. Topics include getting started with farm business, food safety, and livestock, vegetable, and orchard production.

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Permalink Seaweed Farming Grows in Maine

Seaweed farming is on the rise in Maine, according to a feature in Civil Eats. With 3,000 miles of coastline, much of it protected, the state offers a good location, and the kelp-growing season dovetails with the lobstering season to provide opportunity for year-round employment and income. Organizations and institutions in the region are investing in research and training for seaweed production. Also, consumer demand for the product is growing as people realize how healthy and versatile seaweed is as a food. Different types of seaweed are grown using different farming methods, but most common in Maine is production of sugar kelp using wild spores to grow seedlings on strings. The strings are attached to ropes below the ocean's surface, and the leaf-like blades grow downward until harvest. Several companies have already entered the seaweed-production market in Maine, with more expected in the near future.

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Permalink UN Resolutions Create World Bee Day; Decade of Family Farming; Aquaculture Year

The United Nations has designated May 20 as World Bee Day, notes the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The annual observance acknowledges the role of bees not only as pollinators, but as providers of honey. In addition, the UN determined that 2019 will mark the beginning of the UN Decade of Family Farming, drawing more attention to the people who produce more than 80% of the world's food but whose own members are often the most vulnerable to hunger. During this decade, efforts will focus on advancing Sustainable Development Goals such as enhancing productivity and incomes, securing rights over natural resources, enhancing inclusive markets, adapting to climate change, creating decent rural employment, and providing appropriate risk-management tools and social protection programs. The UN also declared 2022 as the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture, which will help focus attention on the small-scale fishermen and women who comprise 90% of the world's fisheries work force.

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Permalink FSMA Rules for Large Produce Growers Take Effect in January

Approximately 6,000 produce growers in the United States will have to comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act's (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule beginning January 26, 2018, says the American Farm Bureau Federation. Produce growers with $500,000 or more in revenue are the first who must comply. Small farms with sales between $250,000 and $500,000 come under compliance in January 2019. Very small farms, with sales greater than $25,000 but less than $250,000 will be regulated beginning in January 2020. The rule addresses worker health and hygiene, biological soil amendments, worker training, animal contamination, and equipment. Implementation of the agricultural water provisions of the rule has been delayed until 2022. In 2018, states and organizations will continue their training and education efforts regarding FSMA. An On-Farm Readiness Review tool has been developed to aid trainers in helping farmers prepare for compliance.

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Permalink Non-Profit Farm School Offers Student Training

Wisconsin farmer Harold Altenburg has started a nonprofit school at his farm to teach high-school-age youth work skills, reports Agri-View. Altenburg, now 84, has hired students to work on his farm since 1964, but noted a decline in the level of youth working skills. With the help of community members and Incourage, a local community development organization, Altenburg put his vision for a youth training program into action on his farm. Six students in school-based apprenticeship programs initiated the program this past growing season, working in a student-operated garden with the oversight of the farm's manager. In 2017, the 40-acre farm raised 6.5 acres of strawberries, about 7.5 acres of pumpkins, one acre of sweet corn, and asparagus and rhubarb. It also offers a range of agritourism activities.

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Permalink Using Unconventional Spaces for Renewable Energy Could Spare Prime Agriculture Lands

A study led by the University of California, Davis says that siting renewable-energy generation on unconventional spaces could spare other lands for agriculture, wildlife habitat, and other high-value uses. Researchers suggest that rooftops, salt-affected land, contaminated land, and water reservoirs could play host to solar arrays and other renewable energy equipment, alleviating land-use conflicts. This study showed that using these land-sparing site types in the Central Valley alone could exceed California's projected 2025 electricity demands up to 13 times for photovoltaics and up to two times for concentrated solar power.

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Permalink Nebraska Seminar Series Focuses on Advances in Irrigation Management

School of Natural Resources and the Nebraska Water Center at the University of Nebraska are offering a free, seven-part series of lectures on various aspects of advances in irrigation management. The lectures, which run every other Wednesday afternoon from January 14 - April 18, 2018, comprise the university's annual spring semester water and natural resources seminar. The public lectures will address advances in irrigation equipment, science, and management practices.

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Permalink Sesame Offers Drought-Crop Option for Oklahoma Farmers

This year, more than 65,000 acres of sesame were harvested in Oklahoma, reports Tulsa World. Last year, 12.7 million pounds of sesame were produced in Oklahoma and Texas, the only two U.S. states to grow the crop. Sesame has a deep root system and does well in hot, dry weather. It can be planted and harvested with the same equipment used for wheat, which can make it a viable alternative for growers. Industry experts say the amount of sesame grown in Oklahoma has been growing significantly over the past five years, with wheat prices low and ongoing drought presenting a challenge.

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Permalink Urban Organics Scales Up Aquaponics Facility

In St. Paul, Minnesota, Urban Organics has increased the scale of its aquaponics operation ten-fold, opening one of the largest aquaponics facilities in the world in the 87,000-square-foot Schmidt Brewery complex, according to The Growler. The company began its operations in 2012 in former brewery and has been so successful with its combination of fish and greens that it is expanding significantly. Urban Options raises Atlantic salmon or Arctic char for local restaurants. They also raise a variety of organic lettuces without soil for restaurants and retail grocers. Their existing facility informed the design for the new operation, which will use LED lights to dramatically cut energy costs, and used two separate loops for water to keep plants from getting over-fertilized by fish waste. Operators of Urban Organics call it the farm of the future, based on its efficient use of water and its proximity to customers.

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Permalink Directory of State Agricultural Loan Programs Released

The National Council of State Agricultural Finance Programs and the Council of Development Finance Agencies have released the 2017 National Council of State Agricultural Finance Programs Directory. The directory outlines 83 ag loan programs fro 36 states. The directory features individual programs that assist beginning and first-time farmers, existing family farm operations, and agribusiness firms. Seven tax-credit programs and nine bond programs are highlighted along with many other agricultural loan programs. The directory outlines programs that promote and support rural economic development. The 177-page directory is free online in PDF.

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Permalink Guide Helps Schools Conduct Student Food Waste Audits

USDA, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the University of Arkansas have released Guide to Conducting Student Food Waste Audits: A Resource for Schools. This guide is intended to help educate students about the amount of food they waste in their school cafeterias and to encourage them to reduce waste and eat more nutritious foods. After studying the audit data, students and schools can develop and implement food-waste reduction strategies that make the most sense for their particular situations. The guide includes a list of food-waste reduction strategies. The 21-page guide is available online in PDF.

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Permalink New Hampshire Study Finds Bumble Bees in Drastic Decline

Researchers with the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station at the University of New Hampshire have found three of the state's most important bumble bee species have experienced drastic declines and range constriction over the last 150 years, with a fourth bee also in significant decline. The research was published in Biological Conservation. Scientists found drastic decline in Bombus affinis, Bombus fervidus, and Bombus terricola, as well as significant decline in Bombus vagans, with data suggesting it has been ecologically replaced by Bombus impatiens over time. The study adds critical floral associations and demographic data for New England bumble bees and those undergoing national decline, to better inform management decisions and conservation efforts going into the future. The value of pollination to agriculture is estimated at more than $200 billion a year worldwide, with abundance of and diversity of pollinators declining in many agricultural landscapes across the United States.

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Permalink Pest Management Guidelines for Almonds and Walnuts Revised

The University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) has recently published revised Pest Management Guidelines for almonds and walnuts, helping growers prevent and manage pest problems with the most up-to-date information. The almond guide includes a section on bacterial spot, a new disease of almond in California, as well as significant revisions made to the management section of navel orangeworm. The revisions to the walnut guide include new sections for Botryosphaeria and Phomopsis cankers, branch wilt, and paradox canker. Both guides are available online.

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Permalink Study Finds Consumer Acceptance of Ground Lamb Independent of Breed

A Virginia study published in the Journal of Extension found broad consumer acceptance of ground lamb, whether from hair or wool sheep. Whether the lamb was pasture-raised or fed some supplements had little effect on consumer ratings for the meat in a blind test. However, researchers noted that product labeling that identifies attributes related to pasture or grass feeding systems and local origin could promote higher sales potential. This study found that "ground meat from hair sheep lambs could provide an opportunity to enhance profitability for small-scale producers in Virginia."

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Permalink USDA Proposes Withdrawal of Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Final Rule; Public Comments until January 17

USDA has announced its intention to withdraw the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) final rule published in the Federal Register on January 19, 2017. The OLPP final rule amends the organic livestock and poultry production requirements in the USDA organic regulations by adding new provisions for livestock handling and transport for slaughter and avian living conditions; and expands and clarifies existing requirements covering livestock care and production practices and mammalian living conditions. The OLPP final rule was originally set to take effect on March 20, 2017, but that deadline was extended and withdrawal of the Final Rule is now proposed. Interested persons are invited to submit written comments online or by mail on this proposal to withdraw the rule, on or before January 17, 2018.

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Permalink Black Farmers See Farming as Social Justice Tool

A feature from National Public Radio tells the stories of black farmers in Virginia and New York who are helping train more people of color as farmers and finding ways to make healthy food more affordable. Farmer Chris Newman raises ducks, chickens, and pigs in Virginia. He wants to help people of color become involved in farming for the health benefits of producing their own food, and as a revenue-generating business or hobby. Meanwhile Leah Penniman at Soul Fire Farm in New York is not only training black and Latino people in basic farming skills, but helping more people access healthy, local food by accepting food stamps and supporting 15% low-income clients.

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Permalink Wisconsin Entrepreneur Sees Opportunity in Snail Farming

A Wisconsin entrepreneur is working to get her organic snail-farming enterprise underway, reports Wisconsin State Farmer. The United States imports $300 million of escargot each year, and Sandy McDonald sees a market that local growers could enter. Snails are not only a lean protein source that could appeal to health-conscious consumers and restaurant chefs, but they are also used in beauty products. However, producing snails commercially involves some challenges because they are an invasive species subject to special regulations.

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