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Permalink Forum on Future of Farming Invites Applications to Participate

Organic 2051, a forum on the future of farming that is being held in conjunction with the MOSES Organic Farming Conference on February 21, 2019, is inviting applications to participate. MOSES is bringing farmers and leaders in the organic research, education, policy, and consumer communities together to project needs and plans to create a pathway for further adoption of organic farming practices in the United States and globally. Apply now to be one of the 100 change-makers drafting the blueprint for a future shaped by regenerative organic practices and infrastructure that sustains the world's population far beyond 2050. Applications will be accepted through November 30, 2018.

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Permalink Farmers.gov Introduces Five Social Media Platforms

Farmers.gov announced in a blog post that it has introduced five new ways to access farmers' stories. The @FarmersGov Twitter offers daily news, while FarmersGov YouTube offers videos on producers and their experiences. Meanwhile, @FarmersGov Instagram offers photos, videos, and live stories on American agriculture. FarmersGov Facebook shares science and technology, while FarmersGov Flickr shares American agriculture's faces and places.

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Permalink Manure Fertilizer Improves Soil Quality More than Inorganic Fertilizer

Long-term annual application of manure improved most soil-quality properties more than application of inorganic fertilizer, reports the American Society of Agronomy. A research team led by Ekrem Ozlu of the University of Wisconsin-Madison applied low, medium, or high levels of either manure or inorganic fertilizer to corn and soybean fields over the course of 12 years. At the end of the study, soil samples showed that manure helped keep soil pH in a healthy range for crops, increased soil carbon, and increased total nitrogen and increased water-stable aggregates. Increased electrical conductivity was noted as one of the few negative impacts of manure fertilization. The research was published in Soil Science Society of America Journal.

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Permalink Land O’Lakes Expands Farmer Group Health Plan to Nebraska

Land O'Lakes, Inc. has become the first organization to sponsor a self-insured multi-state group health plan under new Association Health Plan Regulations. This self-insured arrangement now offers coverage to farmers of participating co-ops and individual dairy farmers within the Land O’Lakes network in Minnesota and now, Nebraska. In 2018, through a partnership with Gravie, a Minneapolis-based benefits marketplace, a pilot group health plan was offered to 12 Minnesota-based Land O’Lakes co-ops and to its dairy farmers. In 2019, this plan is expanding to nearly 15,000 additional eligible farmers in Minnesota and 28,000 farmers in Nebraska who are members of cooperatives that opt-in to participating and offering coverage. Farmers participating in the Land O’Lakes Cooperative Farmer Member Health Plan can choose from several ACA compliant plans that are more affordable than plans offered in the current individual market.

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Permalink Resource Stewardship Evaluation Tool Helps Producers with Conservation Planning

The Resource Stewardship Evaluation Tool (RSET) developed by USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service compares your operation's attributes and activities to NRCS' stewardship thresholds for five natural resource concerns: soil management, water quality, water quantity, air quality, and wildlife habitat. Then, RSET provides the results of the evaluation in an easy-to-read, color-coded bar graph that shows how a producer's management decisions affect the natural resources under his or her care. RSET is a free service offered to producers on crop and grazing land across the country. The National Association of Conservation Districts and NRCS are working together to expand the use of RSET among agricultural producers nationwide. NACD has established the RSET Trailblazer Recognition Program to honor those who have met their stewardship objectives through RSET. Resources are available online to explain how RSET works and how it benefits landowners.

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Permalink White Paper Identifies Policy and Market Opportunities to Boost Agricultural Resilience

This past summer, Environmental Defense Fund, National Corn Growers Association and Farm Journal Foundation convened a stakeholder dialogue about the challenges facing agriculture and recommended paths forward, reports AgWeb. Now the collaborators have released a new white paper that summarizes key findings from the discussion. The nine-page PDF Four Market and Policy Opportunities to Increase Agricultural Resilience recommends the following strategies: streamline state and federal policies, link crop insurance to resilience, harness data to improve ecosystem markets, and invest in public agricultural research.

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Permalink Penniman Book Highlights People of Color in Sustainable Agriculture

Leah Penniman's new book Farming While Black begins with her reflections on how she became a farmer and her discovery that people of color were the foundation of the sustainable agriculture movement. Bon Appétit published an excerpt from the introduction to the book in which Penniman relates how she became involved in farming and what gave her the impetus to start Soul Fire Farm, "a project committed to ending racism and injustice in the food system, providing life-giving food to people living in food deserts, and transferring skills and knowledge to the next generation of farmer-activists."

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Permalink Community-Held Farm Case Study Offers Instructive Example

Agrarian Trust has posted a case study on Temple-Wilton Community Farm, home to the oldest continuously operating community-supported agriculture farm, or CSA, in the United States. Over the farm's 30-year history, a complex set of collaborative relationships has evolved that sustains the land, the farm, and the community. Agrarian Trust says this example of a 'farm commons' shows how a working farm in can be protected in perpetuity while upholding the values of access, affordability, and land security.

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Permalink New Rural Resource Guide Helps Build Community Resiliency

USDA logoUSDA and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy have released a listing of Federal programs that can be used to build resilient communities and address opioid misuse in rural communities. The Rural Resource Guide to Help Communities Address Substance Use Disorder and Opioid Misuse is a first-of-its-kind, one-stop-shop for rural leaders looking for Federal funding and partnership opportunities. The PDF publication, developed by the Rural Opioid Federal Interagency Working Group, is available online.

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Permalink Farm to School Achievements Highlighted in Report

USDA logoUSDA's Office of Community Food Systems has released Cultivating Opportunity: An Overview of USDA's Fiscal Year 2015 and 2016 Farm to School Grantees' Growing Achievements. The 64-page PDF report highlights trends and best practices of grantees, and begins to assess the impact of Farm to School Grants. OCFS identifies three key strategies as being integral to farm to school success: 1) educational and experiential learning; 2) sourcing local foods; and 3) local policy and systems change. The report spotlights how grantees implemented best practices for each strategy and identifies key partner roles in implementing each strategy. In addition, the report reveals many reported benefits to farm to school participation, such as increased school meal participation, increased support from producers, and educational concepts that align with standards.

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Permalink USDA Announces Update to National Road Map for Integrated Pest Management

USDA logoUSDA has announced release of a 2018 update of the National Road Map for Integrated Pest Management. The National Road Map for Integrated Pest Management (IPM), first introduced in 2004, is periodically updated to reflect the evolving science, practice, and nature of IPM. The Road Map provides guidance to the IPM community on the adoption of effective, economical, and safe IPM practices, and on the development of new practices where needed. The guidance defines, prioritizes, and articulates pest management challenges across many landscapes. The Road Map also helps to identify priorities for IPM research, technology, education, and implementation through information exchange and coordination among federal and non-federal researchers, educators, technology innovators, and IPM practitioners.

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Permalink Not Enough Fruits and Vegetables Grown for Healthy Diet for Everyone, Study Finds

A new University of Guelph study found that there are not enough fruits and vegetables grown in the world for everyone to adopt nutritionists' consumption recommendations. The researchers found that we now produce 12 servings of grains per person instead of the recommended eight; five servings of fruits and vegetables instead of 15; three servings of oil and fat instead of one; three servings of protein instead of five; and four servings of sugar instead of none. The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE, and the study calculated the number of servings per person on the planet for each food group based on Harvard University's "Healthy Eating Plate" guide. "What we are producing at a global level is not what we should be producing according to nutritionists," said study co-author Professor Evan Fraser. The researchers also found that shifting production to match nutritional dietary guidelines would require 50 million fewer hectares of arable land, because fruits and vegetables take less land to grow than grain, sugar, and fat.

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Permalink Researcher Considers How Animal Agriculture Affects Air Quality and Climate

Writing in The Conversation, University of California, Davis, Professor Frank M. Mitloehner discusses his research on ways in which animal agriculture affects air quality and climate change. He cites estimates that say livestock produces 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions from human activities, as well as a study showing that even if Americans eliminated all animal protein from their diets, they would reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by only 2.6%. Mitloehner also notes the value of animal agriculture in producing food high in macro- and micro-nutrients from cellulosic vegetation, explaining that according to the FAO, as much as 70% of all agricultural land globally is range land that can only be utilized as grazing land for ruminant livestock.

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Permalink Vegetable Yield Data Available to Farmers Online

Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) has developed a new Farmer-to-Farmer Vegetable Yield and Production Data webpage. The page lets users anonymously (or openly) share yield and production data, view the entire data set or search for and filter by specific crops, varieties, harvest dates, production zones, states and infrastructure used, and download data. It also offers an easier way for PFI to share its collection of vegetable yield data, gathered through the organization's Cooperators' Program, with the public.

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Permalink Agriculture Disaster Assistance Webinar Available

The University of Georgia Tifton Campus hosted an information session for agricultural (crop and forest) producers in response to Hurricane Michael. The roughly two-hour long program focused on disaster assistance information from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) agencies including the Farm Service Agency (FSA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Rural Development (RD), Risk Management Agency (RMA), and National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). Additional information was presented by the Georgia Forestry Commission, Southwest Georgia Farm Credit, and Georgia Department of Behavioral Health. The complete Agriculture Disaster Assistance webinar is available online.

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Permalink Minnesota Awards Sustainable Agriculture Demonstration Grants

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture announced that it has awarded Fiscal Year 2018 Agricultural Growth, Research, and Innovation (AGRI) Sustainable Agriculture Demonstration Grants (SADG) to eleven farmers and researchers across Minnesota. Projects will explore sustainable agriculture practices and systems that could make farming more profitable, resource efficient, and personally satisfying. Projects, which last two to three years, are located in all regions of the state and involve a number of innovative topics that include cover cropping, irrigation, grazing, fertigation techniques, and poultry production techniques. All projects take place on Minnesota farms and their findings are summarized in an annual Greenbook publication available online.

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Permalink EPA Awards Environmental Education Grant to NCAT's Arkansas Training Farm

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) selected the National Center for Appropriate Technology's “incubator” farm training facility in Fayetteville, Arkansas, for funding under the 2018 Environmental Education (EE) Grants Program. A grant of $100,000 will go toward the Woolsey Incubator Farm to train beginning farmers on sustainable agriculture production and farm management. The facility also provides innovative workshops and hands-on training for the community on environmental stewardship and sustainable agriculture. The funded project plans to reach diverse audiences, including current and prospective farmers, students, and other interested community members.

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Permalink Sign-up for Pasture, Rangeland, and Forage Insurance Open until November 15

Pasture, Rangeland and Forage insurance for 2019 is offered by the USDA Risk Management Agency through crop insurance agents until November 15, 2018. The program can help landowners protect perennial forage for livestock and manage weather risks. Producers can insure the acres and months most important to their grazing and/or haying operations at coverage levels from 70% to 90%. Payments are determined by area losses based on a grid system.

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Permalink Texas Project Aims to Boost Strawberry Production

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service collaborators have received a Specialty Crop Block Grant to help increase the number of Texas-grown strawberries available to consumers by improving grower productivity, profitability, and resiliency. Although there is high demand for locally grown strawberries, the number of producers and acreage devoted to strawberries in Texas is low, and growers face high costs of production that make the crop not profitable enough. This project will look at five ways to improve profitability: using bio-based products to improve root-zone health, incorporating low-tunnel technology, improving fertilizer management, providing growers with production training, and improving weed-management strategies. Project participants plan workshops, field days, websites, and news releases to share the results.

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Permalink USDA Awards Risk Management Education Funding

USDA logoUSDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) has announced the award of $8.89 million in risk management education and training funding for partner organizations. Recipients will be educating farmers, ranchers, and producers with real-time crop insurance information and risk management tools. Funded projects will assist producers, including limited resource, socially disadvantaged, and other traditionally underserved farmers and ranchers, in managing risks and challenges in their agricultural operations. The funding also targets training for new producers and military veterans returning to farms and ranches. A complete list of funded projects is available from the RMA Education and Training webpage.

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Permalink High-Biomass Sorghum Performs in Water-Stressed Conditions

A Texas A&M AgriLife Research study found that bioenergy or high-biomass sorghum can be grown in water-stressed situations and still produce good yields. The first year of the study involved trials conducted in Texas and Kansas on six sorghum genotypes grown at three different water levels. Although plants under dryland conditions were very short, they still produced two to three tons of biomass per acre. Some of the plants grown under water-stressed conditions with 50% ET irrigation grew 10 feet tall and produced 10 tons of biomass per acre. In addition to being used for energy, the bioenergy sorghum can be used as a forage crop for cattle and dairy feeding.

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Permalink Cornell University Receives Funding for Organic Agriculture Projects

Cornell University announced that it has been granted nearly $1.4 million from USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture for three research projects that will support organic agriculture. The first will examine how soil fertility, plant genotype, and root-colonizing nitrogen-fixing bacteria all influence nitrogen fixation by hairy vetch in organic systems. Findings will be communicated in curricula for growers and educators describing legume biology and management. The next project will research the impacts of a no-till cover crop rotation system on disease and weed management in soybeans and dry beans, and convey its results through on-farm demonstrations and farmer-to-farmer learning. The third project focuses on dynamic controlled atmosphere, a new apple-storage technology to replace synthetic ripening inhibitors.

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Permalink Study Helps Northeast Understand Regional Food System Potential

The seven-year Enhancing Food Security in the Northeast study has helped organizations and universities across the region gain understanding about regional food production potential. More than 40 individuals and 45 students worked on the long-term project, studying the region's agricultural production capacity, supply chains and distribution systems, and the experiences, preferences, and shopping patterns of consumers. Team members have presented their findings at more than 100 venues and in 22 peer-reviewed publications, with several additional manuscripts planned for release later this year. Among the key findings are the following: from 2001 to 2010, roughly 35% of the region's farmland was devoted to non-food crops or was fallow. Just 10% was devoted to crops eaten by people. In addition, the Northeast produces a more animal-derived foods than plant-derived foods. The study also found that the concept of regional compared to local food systems is ambiguous and amorphous to most consumers but ,even so, there are opportunities to grow support for regional food system expansion.

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Permalink Texas Project Testing Feasibility of Growing Asian Vegetables

Texas A&M AgriLife Research and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service have teamed up for a year-long trial to test the feasibility and profitability of growing Asian vegetables in Texas. Trials will be held at AgriLife facilities in El Paso, Overton, Uvalde, and Weslaco. Scientists will assess the vegetables in unimproved soil, in high tunnels, and in greenhouses during the trials, which will include both fall and spring plantings to test cool-season varieties such as bok choi, tatsoi and Chinese celery, as well as test with warm-season varieties including Asian eggplant, yardlong beans, and smooth luffa. "We're doing the research because demand for Asian vegetables is increasing due to changing demographics and consumer awareness," project participant Dr. Genhua Niu said. "Asian vegetables are proven to be profitable crops in other states, but farmers in Texas aren’t familiar with how to grow them and whether they can be profitable. So, we want to look at market demand around the state and field test a range of Asian vegetables in four locations to see if they are a fit for Texas producers."

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Permalink Co-op Expanding Farmer Health Insurance Program in 2019

Farmer-owned co-op Land O'Lakes, Inc. and Gravie have announced plans to expand their Farmer Health Insurance Plan in Minnesota. A law was passed in Minnesota last year allowing agricultural co-op members to band together to purchase group health benefits, and Land O'Lakes partnered with Gravie, a Minneapolis-based benefits marketplace, to design a health plan exclusively for co-op members. Last year, a select group of Minnesota co-ops piloted the program, which resulted in hundreds of farmers and their families enrolling in coverage and saving 10 to 20% on average. In 2019, the number of participating co-ops in Minnesota is growing by more than 60%, and the partners are actively working to expand the program to other states.

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Permalink Georgia Celebrates Farm to School Month with Kale Theme

Georgia Organics is leading the state celebration of October Farm to School Month with the "Kickin' it with Kale" theme. Each year, Georgia Organics coordinates a statewide campaign to get kids across Georgia eating, growing, and learning about a new fruit or vegetable during October Farm to School Month. Georgia Organics offers free resources for each year's theme, such as fruit- or vegetable-themed lesson plans, activities, how-to guides on planting/harvesting, videos, kid friendly recipes, and more to help you plan and implement your October Farm to School Month activities.

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Permalink Conservation Easement Helps California Ranchers Practice Stewardship

California Rangeland Trust has posted a feature on El Chorro Ranch as part of its 20 Years/20 Stories Series. Third-generation rancher Katie Isaacson Hames discusses how the conservation easement that her father put in place on the ranch helps with stewardship and helped the bottom line, allowing the family to keep operating the ranch. Hames operates a diverse cow-calf operation, participates in the Conservation Stewardship Program, operates a pumpkin patch with neighbors, and has partnered with local families to teach classes and host events on nearby ranches. She notes that a rising tide of interest in where food comes from has spurred interest in supporting ranchers who practice good environmental stewardship, and in purchasing local food.

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Permalink Minnesota Farm & Rural Helpline Open for Calls

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is reminding farmers and their families that the Minnesota Farm & Rural Helpline is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The service is free and confidential. The toll free number is 833-600-2670. Farmers and rural communities face unique stresses and emotional situations, including financial challenges, unpredictable weather, and physically demanding work. The Minnesota Farm & Rural Helpline connects callers to financial help, mental health counselors, legal assistance, and more. The Helpline is also available to people who are worried about family or friends and aren't sure how to help.

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Permalink New Hampshire Aquaponics Research Offers Model for Sustainable Production

A new aquaponic greenhouse at the University of New Hampshire’s Kingman Research Farm is home to research that's providing a model for integrating land-based aquaculture systems with hydroponic plant production for sustainable food production. The researchers are working to develop an economically sustainable aquaponic production system design that can be used in local and regional production. Specifically, they're investigating nutrient balancing, food safety, pest management, and system economics. They plan to share the results of their work with producers through hands-on workshops. The facility has already produced fish and lettuce for use in local restaurants.

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Permalink Wildflower Strips Aid Pollination in Goldilocks Zone

A Cornell study of strawberry crops on New York farms found that wildflower strips on farms added pollinators when the farm lay within a "Goldilocks zone," where 25 to 55% of the surrounding area contained natural lands. In areas surrounded by more natural land, the wildflower strip doesn't pose enough of an attraction to increase pollinator counts. In areas with less natural habitat, the flower strip alone doesn't provide enough habitat to draw and sustain pollinators. Furthermore, wildflower plantings outside the Goldilocks zone tended to attract more pest insects without attracting more beneficial insects. The results of the study have implications for programs attempting to establish pollinator habitat on farms.

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