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Breaking News

Permalink Minnesota Grown Directory Boasts a Thousand Farms and Farmers Markets

Minnesota Department of Agriculture has announced that free copies of the 2018 Minnesota Grown Directory are now available in print or in a mobile online version. The 1,000-member directory boasts Minnesota agricultural products and services available directly from farmers and farmers markets. Listings are searchable by region, farm name, or product, including locally grown fruits and vegetables, meats, dairy items, wineries, nurseries, Christmas trees, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) operations, and more. The directory also features peak season information for a variety of fruits and vegetables, storage tips, and preparation ideas, including recipes from local chefs.

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Permalink Survey on Food Safety Training and Barriers Underway

West Virginia University researchers are conducting a survey in order to better understand the need for future educational workshops on food safety/processing, as well as problems that workshop participants may face applying workshop lessons. The survey is open to any farmer, food processor, home food-preserver, potential entrepreneur, food business owner, or educator. The anonymous survey takes approximately five minutes. There may be funding available to assist survey respondents who indicate that they have experienced a barrier to participating in a training, have applied the skills learned at a previous training workshop, and/or have experienced obstacles in applying the skills learned to a business/farm.

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Permalink Plants Grow Faster with Elevated Carbon Dioxide But Have Fewer Nutrients

Ohio State University professor James Metzger says rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are making plants grow faster, but these plants have, on average, more starch, less protein, and fewer key vitamins. For example, too much carbon dioxide reduces the amounts of iron, zinc, and vitamin C that plants produce, because the plants have less photorespiration and, consequently, less stress. Not only does this make the plants less nutritious for the animals that consume them, but it can make the plants themselves more vulnerable to diseases and insects. Furthermore, the response of plants to increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is also influenced by the temperature. At low temperatures, plants may not grow as well with elevated carbon dioxide levels, and at high temperatures, plants may not cool themselves as well with elevated carbon dioxide. Additionally, increases in plant growth may not occur in the harvestable portion of crop plants.

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Permalink Study Reveals Importance of Vertebrate Pollinators

The March cover study for the Ecological Society of America's journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment highlights the importance of vertebrate pollinators for some plants. Bats, birds, mice, and lizards can serve as pollinators for some plants, and when vertebrate pollinators are blocked from these plants, fruit and seed production drops 63% on average. Researchers noted that bats pollinate about 528 plant species worldwide, including crops like dragon fruit, African locust beans, and durian, and exclusion of bats has a particularly strong effect on these plants. More than 920 bird species pollinate plants, as well, with island plants having a particularly high reliance on bird pollination. Scientists note that as human development contributes to vertebrate species decline worldwide, plants' ability to thrive is also impacted.

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Permalink Empowering Women in Agriculture Project Launches Online Survey

Montana State University and Flathead Valley Community College are partnering in a project to increase the participation and leadership of women in Montana's agriculture through research, education, internship experiences, and outreach. The first component of the Empowering Women in Agriculture project is a survey to identify the needs, aspirations, and achievements of women in agriculture through the input of men and women involved in agriculture. The brief, anonymous, online survey is open to agricultural stakeholders regardless of gender.

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Permalink Upgraded Finding Farmland Calculator Released

The National Young Farmers Coalition has released a newly upgraded version of the Finding Farmland Calculator. The online tool was created in close consultation with young farmers and service providers to meet the functional and educational needs of farmers considering a land purchase. It helps farmers seeking land understand farm financing options, determine what they can afford, and prepare to work with a loan officer.

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Permalink USDA Renews Substances in 2018 Sunset Review

USDA logoUSDA has published a notice in the Federal Register, announcing the renewal until 2023 of 17 substances on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances that were included in the 2018 sunset review process. The National Organic Standards Board recommended that 16 substances be renewed and that carrageenan be removed from the National List. However, USDA also renewed carageenan, based on public comments received during the review process.

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Permalink ARS Study Shows New Trap Captures More Stable Flies

USDA logoA study by USDA Agricultural Research Service showed that a new fly trap now on the market captures more stable flies than the standard Olson Sticky Fly trap. The new Knight Stick trap is a one-time-purchase trap equipped with replaceable sticky wraps and designed to be portable for outdoor use. A 2012 ARS economic impact assessment found that stable flies cost the U.S. cattle industry more than $2.4 billion each year by reducing milk production in dairy cows, decreasing weight gain in beef cattle, and lowering feed efficiency. Traps can replace or augment insecticide treatments to reduce fly populations.

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Permalink International Agroecology Symposium a Call for Healthier, More Sustainable Food Systems

At the 2nd International Agroecology Symposium in Rome, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said that agroecology can contribute to healthier and more sustainable food systems. He noted that high-input and resource-intensive farming systems have a high cost to the environment, but they have not eradicated hunger and have contributed to an epidemic of obesity. "We need to put forward sustainable food systems that offer healthy and nutritious food, and also preserve the environment. Agroecology can offer several contributions to this process," Graziano da Silva said. As defined by FAO, agroecology applies ecological and social approaches to agricultural systems, focusing on the rich interactions between plants, animals, humans, and the environment. Graziano da Silva urged national policy makers to provide greater support for agroecology. The Symposium, April 3-5, 2018, brings together 700 policy-makers, agroecology practitioners, academics, and representatives from government, civil society, the private sector, and UN agencies to discuss key elements and actions to support scaling up agroecology.

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Permalink Worker Protection Standard Compliance Assistance Library Available Online

The Pesticide Educational Resources Collaborative (PERC), in collaboration with the US EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs, has produced a collection of educational resources to help people on farms, orchards, forests, and other agricultural establishments comply with the Worker Protection Standard (WPS). Some delayed-implementation requirements of the WPS went into effect in January 2018. The online resource materials include information on the WPS requirements as they apply to different types of workers, as well as a range of approved training materials and a number of requirement guides.

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Permalink Updated Exemptions for FSMA Published

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) reports that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has published updated information regarding exemptions from the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Several FSMA rules have provisions in which a value is adjusted for inflation and averaged over three years. FDA has announced that it intends to update the values at the end of March each year. NSAC explains that this means that the Produce Rule qualified exemption applies this year to farms with less than $539,982 in three-year-average food sales, with the majority to qualified end users. Meanwhile, the de minimis exemption cutoff this year is a $26,999 three-year average.

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Permalink Researchers Surveying Commercial Vegetable Farmers on Crop Rotations

Researchers in the Departments of Entomology at Penn State and Purdue University are collaborating to explore how crop-species relatedness and adjacent-planting relatedness influence insect pest populations in crop rotations. They are studying the scientific basis for crop rotations and farm layouts to determine if they can be better designed to improve pest control. To establish the justification for current typical rotations and field layouts, the researchers want to collect feedback from as many commercial vegetable farmers as possible. Commercial vegetable growers are encouraged to take a five-minute online survey of 15 questions.

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Permalink Video Series Addresses Integrated Weed Management and Scouting

Penn State Extension has issued a three-video series on monitoring and controlling weeds in fruit and vegetable crops through integrated weed management (IWM). The first video focuses on scouting and identification of weeds as the basis of IWM. It also provides examples of integrated weed control programs for various fruit and vegetable cropping systems. The second and third videos go into detail on how to systematically monitor and identify weeds in vegetable fields and fruit orchards. All three videos are available in both English and Spanish.

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Permalink PASA to Coordinate Insurance for Diversified-Farmer Members

The Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) has announced that it will be partnering with National Farmers Union Insurance to create an insurance product specifically for the organization's sustainable, diversified, direct-market farmer-members. PASA has received feedback from its members that they are looking for a farm-insurance product that covers a diversified farming system, addressing issues such as exposure at farmers markets, loss of stored products, crop or value-added product loss, and life events like transitioning to the next generation or a farm accident.

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Permalink Reintegrating Livestock a Potential Solution for Regenerative Agriculture

Reintegrating livestock can help make regenerative farming more profitable and more attainable, reports the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Livestock can profitably terminate cover crops, and well as building soil health by providing fertilizer, analysis shows. The report Reintegrating Land and Livestock illustrates the economic benefits of diverse farming systems. A UCS blog post highlights practitioners of livestock-integrated farming who are proving its value in the field. The post notes that even small changes in farming practices can add up to significant differences in profitability and soil health, and urges support for farmers beginning to make changes.

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Permalink New York Appellate Court Rules in Favor of Expanded Operations on Protected Farmland

A New York appellate court has ruled in favor of allowing farmers who have sold development rights on their property to apply for permits to construct greenhouses and other structures, and engage in certain food business activities, reports the Natural Resources Defense Council. A Long Island group and taxpayers had filed suit alleging that allowing farmers to construct new structures and undertake new commercial activities essentially restored purchased development rights to the farmers. Although a lower court found in their favor, the appellate court determined that constructing certain agriculture-related structures (installing alternative energy systems and promoting agritourism) did not violate the public trust doctrine and were consistent with agricultural production. The plaintiffs are likely to appeal to the state's highest court.

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Permalink New York Invests in Finger Lakes-Region Agriculture

New York's Genesee Valley Regional Market Authority is awarding nearly $600,000 for ten research, promotion, and development projects to strengthen New York State's diverse agricultural industry and spur economic growth across the state. According to the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, the funding supports critical research on malting barley and promotion of New York wines to grow the farm-based craft beverage industry, enhances farmers' ability to promote their agritourism locations, and assists with the construction of a high school greenhouse to expand agricultural education, among other initiatives.

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Permalink Guide to Hedgerows and Farmscaping Published for California

Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) has updated its publication on hedgerows for California. The second edition of Hedgerows and Farmscaping for California Agriculture is available free online in PDF. Hedgerows, windbreaks, filter strips, grassed waterways, riparian areas, and beetle banks can serve as habitat for beneficial insects, pollinators and other wildlife; provide erosion protection and weed control; stabilize waterways; serve as windbreaks; reduce non-point source water pollution and groundwater pollution; increase surface water infiltration; buffer pesticide drift, noise, odors, and dust; act as living fences and boundary lines; increase biodiversity; and provide an aesthetic resource.

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Permalink High Tunnel Vegetable Production Best Practices Explained

Iowa State University Extension offers high tunnel tomato growers advice on best practices to help minimize pest outbreaks. High tunnel growers often grow tomatoes year after year because of their value, but this can make them vulnerable to plant disease outbreaks. Extension advises that good sanitation practices in the tunnel can help prevent pest outbreaks. Choosing varieties carefully or using grafted plants can also help prevent problems with disease. Some growers choose to use grow bags or replace the top six inches of soil, though it could be easier to just move the tunnel. Iowa State University Extension has a publication for sale that explains additional best practices for high tunnel growing, the Iowa High Tunnel Fruit and Vegetable Production Manual.

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Permalink 'Fog Harp' Improves Efficiency of Moisture Harvesting

An interdisciplinary research team at Virginia Tech discovered parallel wire arrays they call "fog harps" could increase the water-collection capacity of fog nets by threefold. Virginia Tech reports that fog harvesting has become an important avenue to clean water for many who live in arid and semi-arid climates around the world. The fog harp is a biomimetic design derived from coastal redwoods. Researchers found that stringing small, vertical wires in an array was the most effective means of capturing water.

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Permalink Rye Cover Crop Helps Control Weeds in Edamame

Research at the University of Illinois reports that early-killed cereal rye shows promise for edamame growers as a cover crop that offers weed control. Growers have been looking for alternative weed controls with the increase in herbicide-resistant weeds, and are looking to cover crops as a potential option. Edamame are difficult to establish, however, and may have difficulty sprouting through cover-crop residue, but in testing the early-killed cereal rye offered the right conditions. The crop residue that remained was thin enough to allow the edamame to sprout.

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Permalink Universities in Northwest Team on Project to Help Farmers Find Crop Management Strategies for Climate Change

Researchers from Washington State University, Oregon State University, and University of Idaho will work to help farmers come up with crop management practices to help them in the face of climate change, thanks to a $3 million grant from USDA. The researchers will test strategies such as adding cover crops and cattle grazing to improve crop yields. The researchers plan to gather data on how alternative cropping rotations affect a variety of factors, including profitability, soil health, water use, greenhouse gas emissions, pests, and weeds. Testing will take place in Washington at a transitional area that employs fallow practices, and a location in Idaho where sufficient precipitation in most years supports annual crop plantings. The project will utilize computer models to identify the farming practices that would work the best in a warmer, drier future.

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Permalink Project to Investigate Environmental Benefits of Multifunctional Woody Polyculture

University of Illinois scientists have been awarded a USDA NIFA grant for a four-year project to investigate the benefits of multifunctional woody polyculture. The team plans to compare existing two- to three-year-old woody polyculture systems with CRP windbreak plantings of the same age and with corn/soybean production systems. They will investigate insect diversity, pollination, and soil physical health in the different systems, and will also estimate fruit/nut yields and carbon sequestration in woody biomass. The researchers anticipate that the results of their research could convince more farmers to plant fruit and nut trees that could provide them with a profitable harvest during the term of a CRP contract, as well as after the contract ends.

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Permalink Cornell University Invites Farmers to Participate in National Farming Practices Survey

Research underway at Cornell University seeks to understand what the most important factors are for farm owners and managers when deciding whether or not to use certain practices. Farmers are invited to complete the anonymous, national, online survey to help identify the biggest challenges faced by farmers and the best ways to overcome them. The survey will take approximately 30 minutes to complete, and those who complete it are eligible for a chance to win $500.

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Permalink Kansas Farmers Say Diversity Adds Stability

Three Kansas farmers who spoke on a panel at Kansas Rural Center's Farm & Food Conference shared the strategies they use to keep their farming operations diversified, ranging from specialty crops to alternative markets. For example, organic grain farmer Jack Geiger diversified with direct-market beef. Farmer Scott Thellman produces row crops and vegetables, which he markets wholesale and through CSA. He also acts as a broker for other producers. Meanwhile, Paula Sims direct markets chickens, beef, and pork; provides meats and eggs to a CSA; and sells at a Wichita farmers market.

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Permalink First Nations Project to Build Agricultural Business Capacity

First Nations Development Institute has received a grant from USDA-NRCS to help build the capacity of Native American producers relative to business development, food sovereignty and conservation planning. Under the grant, First Nations will undertake various activities with groups of Native farmers, ranchers, tribal departments, nonprofits, food entrepreneurs and local food advocates. The work will include trainings incorporating First Nations The Business of Indian Agriculture curriculum and its Conservation Planning Guide for Native American Ranchers. First Nations will conduct business trainings and provide conservation planning assistance, as well as provide specialized technical assistance to Native producers.

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Permalink SARE Issues 30-Year Anniversary Report Highlighting Investment in Sustainable Agriculture

In celebration of its 30th anniversary, USDA's Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) has issued 30 Years of SARE: Our Farms, Our Future. This 24-page report tells the story of thousands of men and women who have led SARE and received SARE grants. Eight stories illustrate SARE's history of investing in the pioneering farmers, ranchers, researchers, and educators who are making American agriculture better equipped to face the challenges of today and tomorrow. The report highlights SARE investment in projects related to cover crops, grazing, pollinators, marketing, pest management, water resources, and more. The report is available free online and in print.

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Permalink Online Platform Connects Urban Growers with Local Buyers

A new online platform called Seed Voyage is designed to connect backyard and other urban food growers with local buyers. The creator of Seed Voyage says it's designed to help growers make some income off an especially bountiful harvest while helping consumers obtain fresh, good-tasting produce, including uncommon varieties. Growers register online with their location and crop, and the service sends notifications to would-be buyers in the local area. Transactions are electronic.

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Permalink New England Grass-Fed Beef Producers Collaborate to Serve Region

A group of investors and grass-fed beef producers in New England and New York plan to harvest and market up to 5,000 head of top-quality grass-fed cattle annually under the name "Big Picture Beef," reports DTN/Progressive Farmer. Cattle grower Ridge Shinn is spearheading the aggregate marketing effort to help small producers provide a steady and significant supply of grass-fed beef for regional food companies, consumers, and institutions. All participating producers have GAP (Global Animal Partnership), non-GMO, and American Grassfed certification, and animals must be handled according to Animal Welfare Institute standards. Beef quality can be tested using ultrasound, though Shinn has also worked to identify genetic traits that consistently produce high quality meat, and invested in herd genetics.

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Permalink Report Explores State of the States on Climate Adaptation for Agriculture

The Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy (IATP) has issued a report titled From the Ground Up: The State of the States on Climate Adaptation for Agriculture. The 43-page report analyzes how state climate adaptation plans treat agriculture and food systems and identifies challenges, best practices, and innovative approaches for the future. The report finds that only 18 states currently have climate adaptation plans that include agriculture, and some of those plans' recommendations are too general to be useful. However, a few states have truly innovative policies that can serve as models. This report warns that it's important that climate-adaptation recommendations have both funding and concrete policies that agencies can begin to implement, in order to be effective.

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