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The Center for Agricultural Development & Entrepreneurship and project partners are surveying New York farmers about what they want to see for the future of New York State's food system by 2050. Participating farmers will be asked to prioritize investments for the NYS food and farming system. Results from this survey will contribute to the VISION 2050 project. The survey represents the second phase of the stakeholder engagement process, built on the results of 17 focus groups which brought together a total of 90 stakeholders from all sectors of the NYS food system in a series of roundtable discussions. This survey will take 15 minutes to complete and will close on December 31, 2021.




The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets announced that more than $1.2 million in Specialty Crop Block Grant Awards will support seven advanced research, education, and marketing projects to help specialty crop farms across New York State grow and remain competitive. The funding will support five grower research and education projects led by Cornell University. Cornell University was also awarded $460,000 for research on identifying alternatives to neonicotinoids and chlorpyrifos for controlling insect pests in New York's specialty crops. In addition, $190,000 from the Specialty Crop Block Grant program will support the marketing and promotion of New York's specialty crops at tradeshows.




On December 7, 2021, NCAT's four-part webinar series focusing on hemp production and cultivation on the West Coast will air as part of the online World Ag Expo's hemp track. This series features the nation's leading hemp experts and includes a wide range of considerations for a sustainable hemp operation. Topics include marketing, production, harvesting, processing, regulation, and insurance.




USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) announced that it is strengthening the hemp crop insurance policy by adding flexibilities around how producers work with processors, as well as improving consistency with the most recent USDA hemp regulation. Producers are no longer required to deliver hemp without economic value for insurability. Additionally, RMA clarified how the amount of insurable acreage is determined if the processor contract specifies both an acreage and a production amount. This change was made in the policy to ensure producers know how their insurable acreage is determined for those contracts. Additionally, RMA added a new requirement for producers who grow direct-seeded hemp, or hemp grown from seeds planted in the ground. Before insurance attaches, producers must have acreage inspected and must have a minimum of 1,200 live plants per acre. The hemp crop insurance policy is available in certain counties within 25 states.




The University of Minnesota is leading a multi-year, multi-state, organic benchmarking effort in partnership with Minnesota State Farm Business Management program to collect and analyze organic financial data. Through this multi-state effort, organic farmers in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota can receive a 25% to 50% cost-share for farm business management participation. Organic producers are eligible if they are an organic dairy farm, raise organic livestock, or produce organic alfalfa, corn, hay, soybeans, wheat, or specialty crops. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Organic data submitted to the FINBIN database will be used in an aggregate form to provide regional benchmark reports and build Extension programming and curriculum regarding the financial stability of organic production.




The University of Minnesota's Forever Green initiative is working to develop and improve crops that provide continuous living cover for farmers. Successful Farming reports that crops that can be used as continuous living cover offer an additional revenue stream to farmers, as well as promoting healthy soil and water. Forever Green has identified a list of productive and profitable crops that includes perennials, winter annuals, and native woody crops.




The Ohio State University published results of a study that examined consumer willingness to purchase cosmetically imperfect produce. The study showed that consumers in a farmers market setting would purchase carrot bundles that contained up to 40% misshapen carrots, if they were accompanied by explanations of both their health equivalence and that using them prevents food waste. This research focused on winning consumer acceptance of imperfect produce without discounting it, a strategy that undermines the food value chain. Although consumer willingness to pay was lower when any imperfect carrots were included in a bunch, consumer acceptance increased with education. This study helped analyze the price point that would make harvesting "ugly" produce profitable for farmers.




The Virginia Farmers Market Association (VAFMA) announced that it received $652,940 of local food system grant funding from USDA, with an additional $163,235 of matching funds committed, to establish the Virginia Certified Farmers Market System. VAFMA says the voluntary branding and support program will help farmers markets emerge from the pandemic with more resilience, capacity, and profitability. The Virginia Certified Farmers Market program will offer markets incentives and support for adopting best practices and adhering to state guidelines. At the core of the program will be VAFMA's extensive online training platform. It will include a range of webinars, mini‐workshops, and full multi‐session courses that will help market managers, farmers, and vendors achieve greater success. VAFMA anticipates launching the program in early spring.




The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a proposed agricultural water rule as part of the agency's implementation of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). It proposes to replace some of the existing requirements for agricultural water in the Produce Safety Rule (PSR). For example, it would require farms to conduct comprehensive assessments that would help them identify and mitigate hazards in water used to grow produce. Key provisions in the proposed rule include a requirement for farms to manage their agricultural water quality based on the results of a comprehensive systems assessment, an annual assessment by farms of their pre-harvest agricultural water, a requirement that farms implement expedited mitigation measures for hazards related to certain activities on adjacent and nearby lands, and removal of certain testing requirements for pre-harvest agricultural water (to be replaced with assessments).




USDA's Risk Management Agency (RMA) announced updates to crop insurance to respond to the needs of agricultural producers, including organic producers, as well as to support conservation of natural resources on agricultural land. RMA is making permanent a provision that allows producers to hay, graze, or chop cover crops and still receive a full prevented planting payment. To accommodate the different farming practices across the country, RMA is also increasing flexibility related to the prevented planting "1 in 4" requirement, as well as aligning crop insurance definitions with USDA's National Organic Program. RMA Administrator Marcia Bunger explained, "We want to provide producers tools to help mitigate and adapt to climate change as well as ensure crop insurance works well for a wide variety of producers, including organic producers."




Producer’s Voice is a new online publication that uses modern-day storytelling to highlight those who are living in the agriculture industry every day. Born out of the desire to provide a place for producers to connect with each other’s stories, Producer’s Voice hopes to facilitate producer-to-producer networking in conjunction with educating subscribers seeking a connection to the industry. The production team will be sharing news, producer features, technical assistance, and more.
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North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (NCR-SARE) is seeking applicants with sustainable agriculture expertise for three vacancies on its Administrative Council: 1994 Land Grant University Representative, 1862 Land Grant University At-Large representative. and State Department of Agriculture Representative. Council members must live and work in one of the 12 states that comprise the North Central SARE region. The term for each of these SARE Administrative Council slots is three years. Applications are due by December 17, 2021.




Dairy specialists with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach have recently published a series of nearly a dozen publications related to farm stress. Seven Farm and Family Stress Resources publications are available for free download, in addition to four Managing Farm Stress and Distress publications. The publications cover the varying levels of stress, how to prevent and cope with stress, and how to respond after stressful things happen. The publications strive to cover all facets of life, including family, financial, and relational stress, and there are publications that are unique to men, women, and children.




The Farmer Equity National Assessment Project is seeking to better understand the needs and challenges of Farmers of Color and to highlight farmers' barriers, constraints, and innovations through storytelling. The project team consists of a very diverse team of Ag specialists from the National Center for Appropriate Technology, partners from the Intertribal Ag Council and Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, and Ag professionals who serve as the project's Advisory Council. Information gathered gives us the opportunity to learn how we can better assist Farmers of Color through the services of each organization, as well as informing philanthropy on farmers' needs. We need your help! If you are willing, please complete a survey to be entered on a list of farmers to potentially serve as case studies. We will hand-select 50 farmers for the case studies. If selected, you will be notified and receive a $500 stipend. If you would like to participate, please complete the survey by December 15, 2021.




Researchers with Washington State University have confirmed discovery in the United States of a parasitoid wasp that is the natural enemy of the fruit-damaging spotted-wing drosophila (SWD) fly. The wasp, Ganaspis brasiliensis, is native to South Korea and is a host-specific parasite of spotted-wing drosophila larvae. The Ganaspis parasitoids were recently approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to be reared and distributed around the United States as a biocontrol, but before that could happen, the species apparently made its way into Washington on its own. This means that distribution of the species around the state will not be regulated or limited by USDA.




A team of biochar producers, practitioners, scientists, and engineers have published a roadmap for future development of the biochar industry in the Pacific Northwest and beyond, reports Washington State University. The 184-page report, Biomass to Biochar: Maximizing the Carbon Value, assesses the current state of the biochar industry, identifies the barriers to its development as a key carbon-drawdown strategy, and recommends the research and development needed to overcome these barriers. The roadmap proposes strategic investments, including additional research and development, business support infrastructure, and collaborative policy development. The report also outlines a proposed long-term integrated research program to resolve the most important technical issues associated with the large-scale development of biochar technology needed to draw down large quantities of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in the coming century.




Researchers at Penn State University who have been studying horn fly resistance in dairy cattle report that Holsteins with predominately white coats had lower fly loads than those that were predominately black. The researchers were looking for heritable resistance to provide organic producers with more options for horn fly control. Horn flies not only cause painful bites, but can lead to decreased milk production and poor animal health. Researchers aren't yet suggesting breeding for whiter cattle, however: they can be prone to sunburn and eye cancers. Also, the cattle with the least horn fly resistance were the ones that produced the most milk.




University of Tennessee Knoxville campus is producing its own 'UT Beef' to prepare and serve on campus. Cattle are produced at UT's Northeast Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center in Greeneville, and brought to the table through an agreement with UT Dining Services managed by Aramark. The beef cattle are raised primarily on a pasture-based system, using intensive grazing. "This model should serve producers and consumers across Appalachia as well as those in other regions with the same ability to grow their own forages capable of supporting a complete livestock enterprise," says Justin McKinney, director of the UT Northeast Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center. In addition to providing beef, the program fosters university research in plant and animal science and veterinary medicine.




USDA announced that it will provide approximately $75 million in American Rescue Plan funding to 20 organizations to provide technical assistance to connect underserved producers with USDA programs and services. Organizations were selected for their proven track records working with underserved producer communities, such as veterans, beginning farmers, limited resource producers, and producers living in high-poverty areas. The recipients are as follows: Federation of Southern Cooperatives, Intertribal Agriculture Council, National Black Farmers Association, The Socially Disadvantaged Farmer and Rancher Policy Center at Alcorn State University, Indian Land Tenure Foundation, Land Loss Prevention Project, Rural Coalition, Center for Farm Financial Management, Hmong American Farmers Association, Farmer Veteran Coalition, The Kohala Center, Inc., Alaska Village Initiatives, Farmers Legal Action Group, National Young Farmers Coalition, National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association, The Center for Heirs Property Preservation, National Immigrant Farmer Initiative, Inc, National Cooperative Business Association, National Black Growers Council, and World Farmers, Inc.




The call for presentations for the 2022 International Workshop on Agritourism is open until November 30, 2021. Potential presenters can submit proposals for 20-minute oral presentations, 60-minute workshops, or poster presentations. A list of potential topics is available online. Organizers are also seeking peer reviewers for presentations proposals. The event will take place in Burlington, Vermont, and online from August 30 - September 1, 2022.




Retired Army Reserve Major Amy Hess is ramping up her farming career, reports Farm Week. Hess is raising livestock, poultry, and vegetables. She recently purchased an incubator and invested in a new tractor that will allow her to mow her own hay. She has plans to build a farm stand next year for on-farm sales of meat, eggs, and produce. Hess explains why veterans are well equipped for farming, and credits the Farmer Veteran Coalition with helping bring her plans to fruition.




Agriculture reporter and journalism professor Beth Hoffman moved from California to Iowa and began farming with her husband on family land. She discusses her insights on farming ideals, implementing unconventional farming practices, the importance of making a farming operation pay, and systemic challenges in the industry in an article in The Counter.




Writing on The Fish Site, Isle of Skye mussel farmer Jude Brown explains how she chose her current enterprise and discusses the biodiversity at her farm site. Brown had a background in fisheries, and when she evaluated alternatives, she decided on mussel farming as a sustainability winner. It provides a low-input source of animal protein, helps improve water quality, and offers habitat for a wide range of species.




USDA announced a $90.2 million investment in 203 projects to strengthen and explore new market opportunities for local and regional food businesses through the Local Agriculture Marketing Program. Through the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Programs, this funding will help support direct producer-to-consumer marketing projects such as farmers markets, community-supported agriculture programs, roadside stands, and agritourism, as well as regional food business intermediary supply chain activities including processing, distribution, aggregation, and storage of locally or regionally produced food products. Meanwhile, the Regional Food System Partnerships program will support partnerships that connect public and private resources to plan and develop local or regional food systems. A full list of grant recipients is available online.




Delaware Governor John Carney, the Delaware Department of Agriculture, and the Delaware Council on Farm and Food Policy announced that the state will use $2 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding to establish the First State Integrated Food System Program. The program is designed to help stabilize and strengthen Delaware's small and mid-sized farmers and local food supply chain operations. According to the governor, "the Council on Farm and Food Policy will work with partners to develop and administer a diverse portfolio of grants and loans to improve the availability and accessibility of local produce, animal protein, value-added products, and other foods, promoting overall economic growth here in Delaware."




As some California farmers struggle with drought conditions, many Central Coast farmers can provide models of successful water conservation, reports the Monterey Herald. Farms that were threatened by saltwater intrusion decades ago have developed strategies for farming successfully with less water, such as recycling wastewater, using drip irrigation, and choosing crops that require less water. Some farmers use dryland techniques to produce crops that don't need to be watered for months at a time. Improving soil organic matter can also help the soil hold water longer.




First Nations Development Institute is accepting applications for its Native Farmer and Rancher Apprenticeship Network until December 22, 2021. The Network will provide training and technical assistance, as well as networking opportunities, to a cohort of 30 select Native American Beginning Farmer and Ranchers to expand their business capacity and strengthen land management strategies. Eligible applicants should be located in one of the following six states: Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Arizona, or New Mexico. Applicants should be willing to commit to a 30-month apprenticeship, from February 1, 2022, to July 31, 2024, which will involve traveling to regional in-person trainings, participating in virtual webinars and fieldwork, and networking with other producers.




A large-scale survey carried out by the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, partners, and more than 1,000 landowners across the country highlighted the importance of pollinator habitat. It found that woodland and hedgerow creation, along with other actions such as restoring wildflower meadows and organic farming with mass-flowering crops, can play a crucial role in action to reverse declines in insects that are essential for crop yield and other wildlife. Researchers found up to twice as many insects in broadleaved woodland areas as in intensively farmed grassland. They also estimated that without hedgerows, pollinator abundance on farmland could fall by as much as 21%. The findings underscore the importance of incentive programs for creating and protecting pollinator habitat.




The Kentucky Department of Agriculture announced that USDA's Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials program awarded two grants in the state. In the first project, Handsome Brook Farms will support five beginning farmers in adopting climate-smart regenerative egg practices. In the second project, as part of a multi-state effort, the University of Kentucky Research Foundation will increase adoption of bale grazing to improve winter feed management for beef cattle farmers by demonstrating the practical, economic and ecological benefits of this strategy.




The Yale Center for Business and the Environment's Regenerative Agriculture Initiative released a new publication, Soil Health Policy: Developing Community-Driven State Soil Health Policy and Programs. Two Yale Master of Environmental Management students worked with dozens of practitioners and other experts in farming, climate adaptation, policymaking, sustainable investment, coalition-building, and related fields to provide practical advice for people interested in developing community-driven, state-level soil health policy and programs. Readers will find counsel on outreach, drafting, writing, implementation, and monitoring for soil-relevant outcomes.




Washington State University reports that scientists testing sweetpotato as a potential crop for Washington have achieved better yields than in southern states. Researchers say the sweetpotatoes grow bigger and faster with longer daylight in the Pacific Northwest. They used biodegradable plastic mulch to warm the soil to encourage production. The crop could provide producers with another crop to add in rotation—one that also produces a nutritious and high-value product. In addition, the edible sweetpotato vines could be used as a dairy feed. One potential threat to the crop is wireworm, and researchers are testing varieties for resistance.




The Kansas Rural Center (KRC) received a Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) grant from USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture to develop a beginning farmer and rancher training program. Over the next year, KRC will form the curriculum for the training with feedback from new and prospective farmers, as well as partners from around Kansas and the Farm Beginnings Collaborative. The beginning farmer training program will feature instruction on business formation and management, recordkeeping, access to land and capital, state and federal farm assistance programs, and many more topics. Farmers and other agriculture professionals will provide the primary instruction for each farmer cohort, with classroom instruction in the winter months and farm tours and workshops during the growing season.




With funding from a USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) grant, University of Florida/IFAS Extension agents, the University of the Virgin Islands, and central Florida farmers are exploring sorrel's potential as a commercial crop in Florida. The hardy plant is native to Africa, but is commonly grown in the Caribbean islands and is a common ingredient in Caribbean foods and beverages. The plant is being grown in research plots in Florida, and the SARE-funded project will be documenting and doing outreach on the production methods, cost of production, yields, and income projections for the crop.




The Sand County Foundation has announced the Leopold Conservation Award recipients for 2021 in North Dakota, Wisconsin, New England, Missouri, and Utah. This award, named after renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, recognizes farmers, ranchers, and foresters who inspire others with their dedication to land, water, and wildlife-habitat management on private land. The awards, which include $10,000 and a crystal award, are presented annually in numerous states by the Sand County Foundation, national sponsor American Farmland Trust, and many state and local sponsors.




The Heinz Family Foundation in Pittsburgh has announced the winners of the twenty-sixth annual Heinz Awards. Established in 1993 to honor the memory of Sen. John Heinz, the awards recognize extraordinary individuals for their achievement in finding solutions to critical issues in areas that were important to Heinz: the arts and humanities; the environment; the human condition; public policy; and technology, the economy, and employment. The award includes an unrestricted cash prize of $250,000. One of the 2021 Environment Award recipients is Gabe Brown, from Bismarck, North Dakota, a pioneer in regenerative agriculture and soil health who is catalyzing the movement to change land use practices.




Thanks to funding from Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE), NCAT is offering a six-month course for beginning livestock farmers who are women. This course will be offered in convenient virtual classes where students will interact with each other and with women mentors, including NCAT specialists. It will be capped with a two-day in-person training offered in two locations: Cookeville, Tennessee, June 20-21, 2022, and Fayetteville, Arkansas, June 27-28, 2022. We are excited to gather a group of 30 women to participate in each location. The application is available online.




A report released by the Iowa Food Hub Managers Working Group and ISU Extension and Outreach showed that school purchases of local food from food hubs dropped from 2020 to 2021, when financial incentives were no longer available. In 2020, schools received Local Produce and Protein Program grants, but when those funds were no longer available in 2021, many fewer schools purchased local food. Schools that already had established relationships with local food providers were likely to continue to purchase local foods, however. Over time, schools with established relationships tend to make larger and more frequent purchases of local food. The study also made several recommendations on how food hubs could help schools increase local food purchasing.




A methodology developed by the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, the Varietal Threat Index, proposes a systematic way to monitor changes in varietal diversity on farm, between areas, and over time. The approach uses a rapid assessment technique to gather farmer knowledge about local agrobiodiversity, combined with a four-cell assessment method to identify and calculate the level of threat for each crop and variety reported, including both farmer and improved varieties. A study in India that involved 600 farmers identified significant diversity among landrace crops, but it also revealed that 76% or more of landraces were reported as vulnerable, near-threatened, threatened, or lost.




The Cornell Small Farms Program is offering a block of online agriculture courses with live instruction beginning in January 2022. Topics include access to capital, farm business courses, and production courses covering beekeeping, mushrooms, sheep, pastured pigs, high tunnels, and vegetables. These courses have tiered pricing based on household size and income to make access to the courses more affordable and equitable for everyone. Registrants receive permanent online access to their course content.




Quivira Coalition is accepting applications until December 15, 2021, for its New Agrarian Program's 2022 season. This program partners with skilled ranchers and farmers to offer eight-month apprenticeships in regenerative agriculture, usually from March or April until November. Participants are involved in four types of education: experiential learning with a mentor, supplemental monthly online sessions that are topic-based, visits to other operations, and the annual Quivira Conference. Mentoring locations are in Montana, Colorado, New Mexico, and California and offer housing and stipends.




Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops announced a partnership with CropTrak, a cloud technology company, to accelerate adoption of the Stewardship Calculator 2.0 across the specialty food supply chain. The partnership leverages CropTrak's technology and on-the-ground expertise with growers to deepen the level of insight and improve user experience of the tool. The Stewardship Calculator 2.0 can be used to track on-farm water, energy/GHG, fertilizer use efficiency, and soil organic matter, as well as biodiversity, food waste, and irrigation efficiency. This empowers participants across the supply chain to baseline the environmental impacts of fruit, nut and vegetable production and identify opportunities for continuous improvement.




USDA announced formation of the USDA Indigenous Food Sovereignty Initiative to promote traditional food ways, Indian Country food and agriculture markets, and Indigenous health through foods tailored to American Indian/Alaska Native dietary needs. To kick off the Initiative, the Office of Tribal Relations (OTR) is partnering with several tribal-serving organizations to develop seven projects that raise awareness of Indigenous perspectives about food and agriculture and inform future USDA programs and policies. Projects will explore issues such as marketing Indigenous-produced foods, supporting seed saving centers, and transitioning to bison production.




USDA is accepting applications for approximately $650 million in funding through the Pandemic Response and Safety (PRS) Grant Program until November 22, 2021. Small businesses and nonprofits can apply for a grant to cover COVID-related expenses such as workplace safety measures (e.g., personal protective equipment (PPE), retrofitting facilities for worker and consumer safety, shifting to online sales platforms, transportation, worker housing, and medical costs. Specialty crop producers and processors, aquaculture, apiculture, distributors, and farmers markets are eligible. USDA reminds potential applicants that the first step in applying is getting a DUNS number, which can take up to five days.




In its first major public initiative, the Organic Agriculture Institute—a program of University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources—is conducting a statewide needs assessment for organic agriculture, as well as forming a knowledge-sharing network that connects UC experts with growers, processors, producer organizations, certifiers, crop consultants, community groups, and state agencies. This California Organic Agriculture Knowledge Network, or Cal OAK Network, builds upon the productive partnerships and knowledge systems established by organic growers and other stakeholders over many decades. The Institute recently received a planning grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture to conduct a formal needs assessment through summer 2022. In surveying growers and other stakeholders, the Institute seeks to identify their primary research and extension priorities, as well as gain a better understanding of the key people and organizations they currently rely on for information about organic production.




The Midwest Perennial Forage Working Group was awarded a NCR- SARE Research & Education grant for its proposed project, "Match Made in Heaven: Livestock + Crops." The project will survey producers in six Midwestern states about the opportunities and barriers related to integration or re-integration of livestock and crop production with the goal of identifying strategies to capture the environmental, economic, and social benefits of diverse crop rotations and integrated systems. The three-year project will create opportunities for farmers to speak about their interests, challenges, and needs, and allow the crop and livestock organizations that they engage with to adapt their programming to meet current and future interests and needs. The grant will fund a complementary activity to explore the economics of re-integrating crops and livestock production.




USDA is investing $20.2 million in Dairy Business Innovation Initiatives at University of Tennessee, Vermont Agency for Food and Marketing, University of Wisconsin, and the California State University Fresno. DBI Initiative provides valuable technical assistance and sub-grants to dairy farmers and businesses across their regions, assisting them with business plan development, marketing and branding, as well as increasing access to innovative production and processing techniques to support the development of value-added products. More information on the specific activities of the regional initiatives is available online.




The Oregon Department of Agriculture announced that nearly $2 million in Specialty Crop Block Grants from USDA will be awarded to 15 Oregon projects aimed at helping producers overcome obstacles, making their operations more profitable, and helping them grow, making them more competitive in the marketplace. A list of the funded projects is available online. It includes projects on beekeeping, pest management, Asian herbs, vineyard irrigation, and more.




With support from the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA), the Eat Local First Collaborative has expanded the Washington Food & Farm Finder, an online tool to connect consumers with food that is grown, caught, raised, and made by Washington growers and producers. The expansion added a section for wholesale vendors to the directory in late October, to better assist school districts and other institutions trying to source locally grown produce. Institutional buyers can search listings by city name, Zip code, category, product, distribution method, delivery area, and more. The wholesale tool also includes five diversity and seven sustainability icons to indicate a vendor's identities and their environmental and social practices.




The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) and Ranchin' Vets have teamed up to offer a new level of support for military veterans interested in sustainable agriculture training opportunities. Ranchin' Vets will fund a one-time transportation stipend directly to veterans selected to participate in NCAT's Armed to Farm training program. The one-week sustainable agriculture Armed to Farm training has always been free for veterans and their spouses or farm partners to attend. However, attendees have always been responsible for getting themselves to the training site, which could require long drives across several states or even airfare. "We're very thankful for this opportunity to offer another level of support to the farmer veterans who attend Armed to Farm," said Margo Hale, Armed to Farm Program Director.




The Gilbert family of Iowa Falls, Iowa, operating as Gibralter Farms, has been named by natural meat brand Niman Ranch as its 2021 Sustainable Farm of the Year. The Gilberts raise antibiotic-free, pasture-farrowed pigs, milk Brown Swiss dairy cattle, and grow an array of crops and forage. The Gilbert family uses various sustainable farming practices including crop rotation, no- and ridge-till, riparian buffers, rotational grazing, conservation land, and terracing. A short video about the Gilbert family and their passion for sustainability is posted online.




University of New Hampshire scientists will share in two grants totaling nearly $13 million that will fund investigation into supplementing dairy cow diets with seaweed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve milk quality and animal health. One study, led by the University of Vermont, will focus on using different species of seaweed as an alternative feed in organic dairy management. UNH and UVM researchers will work with the organic dairy and the organic aquaculture industries to further develop their collaboration so that it financially benefits both markets in a sustainable manner. The second project is led by the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences and Colby College and investigates using algae-based feed supplements in conventional dairy industries to balance quality milk production with environmental, economic, and social sustainability.




A professor at Clemson University will lead research funded by USDA NIFA to explore waste carbon sources for use in Anaerobic Soil Disinfestation (ASD). During this study, researchers will explore developing, improving, and evaluating systems-based integrated management programs to address diseases, nematodes, weeds, and insect pest-related problems for organically grown crops. On-farm carbon waste and cover crops will be tested as carbon sources. ASD involves applying organic matter (carbon source) to soil, followed by irrigation, to create an environment toxic to diseases, nematodes, weeds, and insect pests.




A project in New Zealand is releasing a series of 20 reports in November, each providing recommendations for how claims regarding specific possible benefits of regenerative agriculture could be tested in Aotearoa New Zealand. The report releases are accompanied by a webinar series. A group of four reports released last week focused on approaches to test whether regenerative agriculture can offer 'nature-based' solutions for climate change. Three more reports just released focus on regenerative agriculture's impact on animal welfare and biodiversity. The first of these reports says that regenerative farming practices could increase native biodiversity on New Zealand farms. The second report outlines how to assess the impact of regenerative farming on the welfare of animals raised for production, while the third examines how invertebrates like spiders and worms can be counted to evaluate the impact of regenerative farming practices.




Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) announced that 11 members either newly joined or were reappointed to the 19-member Emerging Farmers' Working Group. This advisory group advises the MDA and Minnesota Legislature on ways to advance the success and sustainability of farmers who traditionally face barriers to the resources necessary to build profitable agricultural businesses. Emerging Farmers are defined as women, veterans, persons with disabilities, American Indian/Alaskan Native, communities of color, young, and urban farmers. In 2021, the Legislature appropriated $150,000 to establish an Emerging Farmers Office and hire a full-time coordinator. This new coordinator will help ensure that anyone who wants to farm can access the available resources and build a successful farm business.




North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (NCR-SARE) announced the recipients of its 2021 Research and Education competitive grant program (R&E) and its 2021 Professional Development Program (PDP). The R&E grants awarded more than $3.7 million to 15 projects, and the PDP grants awarded more than $931,000 to 11 projects. Recipients and project titles are listed online, and the results of these projects will be made available on the NCR-SARE website.




USDA is awarding $25 million for 18 new projects under the Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials program. On-Farm Trials projects support widespread adoption and evaluation of innovative conservation approaches in partnership with agricultural producers. This year's awarded projects increase the adoption of new approaches and technologies to help agricultural producers mitigate the effects of climate change, increase the resilience of their operations, and boost soil health. Descriptions of the funded projects are available online. They include topics such as irrigation efficiency, bale grazing, pollinator conservation, and regenerative egg farming.




Research published by the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies explored how the combined stressors of rising temperatures and residual livestock antibiotics interact to affect soil microbial function. The research team found that heat and antibiotics disrupt soil microbial communities, degrading soil microbe efficiency, resilience to future stress, and ability to trap carbon. This research focused on the common livestock antibiotic Monensin, which is poorly metabolised and still active in the waste of treated livestock. With rising heat and antibiotic additions under laboratory conditions, soil bacteria populations collapsed, allowing fungi to dominate and homogenize, resulting in fewer total microbes and less microbial diversity overall. Senior author Michael Strickland, at the University of Idaho, says, "Forces of environmental change do not play out in isolation. Our results show that heat alone, antibiotics alone, and heat and antibiotics together all have different effects on soil microbial communities. These findings highlight the importance of testing multiple stressors simultaneously to more fully understand how our soils, and the essential functions they perform, are changing."




The research project "Supporting a Vibrant Organic Sector" is hosting virtual focus groups of organic farmers in December for a study on economic sustainability of organic farms. Researchers are currently recruiting organic farmers to participate. The first virtual focus group, on December 7, 2021, will involve certified organic fruit and vegetable farmers. The focus group on December 9, 2021, is for farmers who gave up their organic certification. Participants in either focus group will receive a $75 honorarium and can contact Carolyn Dimitri, carolyn.dimitri@nyu.edu, to register.




Organizers of the 11th Organic Seed Growers Conference are inviting suggestions and proposals for the conference agenda. The virtual event is set for February 4-11, 2022, on a new and emerging platform called Organic Seed Commons. This is an opportunity to share important skills and research and ask timely questions related to organic seed. This year, the conference planning committee has expanded the types of sessions and ways to contribute to the event and is welcoming both proposals for peer-reviewed sessions and open proposals. All submissions are due by December 1, 2021. Organizers are particularly interested in proposals that include growers from Black, Indigenous, People of Color, and LGBTQIA+ seed communities.




USDA is accepting applications for up to $20 million in assistance for producers through the new Organic and Transitional Education and Certification Program. The program is part of USDA's Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative and can help cover eligible expenses incurred during fiscal years 2020, 2021, and/or 2022. The program offers assistance for both certified organic operations and operations that are in transition. The program offers cost share for organic certification expenses, registration for educational events on organic production and handling, and soil testing required under the National Organic Program. Applications for fiscal years 2020 and 2021 expense cost-shares will be accepted through January 7, 2022.




American Farmland Trust (AFT) announced its selection of a new national cohort of 48 leading experts in land transfer as partners in its project "Transitioning Land to a New Generation." AFT says the project will build an adaptable, skills-based curriculum to help a new generation of farmers and ranchers navigate the legal, financial, and interpersonal issues involved in accessing and transferring land. The cohort will be trained to field test the curriculum in their communities and provide feedback from producers. The project will foster a service provider network and provide trainers with necessary skills to support farm and ranch transition, meeting growing demands for succession facilitation resources.




The Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides has released two short videos featuring organic producers in Oregon who raise hemp, talking about their approaches to pest management. The videos feature small-scale producer True Roots Organics in Nyssa, Oregon, and mid-scale producer Rainshadow Organics in Central Oregon, hemp growers taking preventative approaches through holistic farm management.




The Livestock Conservancy has produced a set of Heritage Sheep Breed Fiber profiles that sheep producers can use to provide wool information to customers. The 23 profiles detail each breed's fleece weight, staple length, fiber diameters, lock characteristics, natural colors, and best uses for fiber projects. The profiles are downloadable in PDF by breed or as a set.




The Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC) is releasing a new edition of its Cover Crops Field Guide. The pocket-sized in-field reference helps growers effectively select, grow, and use cover crops. Topics include cover crop selection, cropping system recommendations, and effects of cover crops. Updates to the guide include recommendations for cover crop termination in unfavorably wet springs and planting green into cover crops. The cover crop species section of the guide has also been expanded to incorporate white clover, forage brassicas, balansa clover, and several cover crops commonly used in a mix. The publication will be available for sale in early December.




Heifer USA, the U.S. program of global development organization Heifer International, announced its new status as an accredited Savory Global Network Hub with the Savory Institute. The accreditation qualifies Heifer USA's Heifer Ranch in Perryville, Arkansas, to serve as a training, learning and demonstration site for the Savory Institute's Holistic Management framework. According to a press release, "As one of 33 accredited Savory Hubs across the globe, Heifer USA is establishing itself as a best-in-class agriculture institution that is uniquely positioned to transform rural Arkansas and America's heartland into thriving, self-sustaining communities. Heifer USA will be instrumental in scaling up regenerative agriculture to meet U.S. climate commitments, training farmers across the country in methods that will generate healthy farmland, while creating more economically viable farm businesses that connect farmers with new markets."




University of Wisconsin agronomy professor Randy Jackson has been exploring the potential for cropping systems to accumulate enough carbon in agricultural soils to help stabilize the climate, reports Agri-View. Jackson's 15 years of research have shown that all cropping systems studied, including crop rotations and organic rotations, lose carbon over time. Pasture systems were able to maintain carbon levels, but this reflected a small gain in the top 30 cm offset by losses below that level. "We're losing 25 grams of carbon per meter squared in the annual cropping systems when we need to be gaining between 10 and 70 grams to be in serious contention for discussing climate stabilization," Jackson said.




Voters in Maine approved an amendment to the state's constitution specifying that all people have a "natural, inherent and unalienable right" to grow, raise, produce, and consume food of their own choosing as long as they do so within legal parameters, reports The Washington Post. Maine has paced the nation with food sovereignty legislation, and the current measure is aimed at giving communities more control over local food supplies. Supporters of the amendment say it will reduce hunger and protect the food system from corporate control. Opponents say the vague wording of the amendment could lead to problems with animal welfare and food safety.




A six-part webinar series hosted by University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program is exploring aspects of Racial Equity in Extension. The historically tense relationship between Indigenous peoples and government-affiliated programs is one of the discussion topics. The series also discusses issues such as accessing indigenous agricultural knowledge, land access for people of color, closing communication gaps, and inclusive decision-making processes. Organizers say the series has sparked "introspection and a meaningful reevaluation of institutional processes and assumptions." Information on registering for the remaining episodes in the series is available online.




The Washington State Department of Agriculture received approximately $4.6 million from USDA in Specialty Crop Block Grant funds. Awards ranging from $54,000 to $250,000 will go to non-profits, government organizations, universities and community colleges, and agricultural commissions in support of 20 projects that increase the competitiveness of specialty crops grown in Washington. The projects include efforts to address local and international marketing for Washington specialty crops, studying parasitoids with the ability to infest and kill the apple maggot and snowberry flies, removing trees infected with little cherry disease and X-disease, launching and marketing cherries in India, and refining mechanical-assisted harvest technologies. A complete list of funded projects is available online.




A multidisciplinary research team from Penn State University and the University of Florida received a $3 million grant through USDA's Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative for a four-year project to explore how anaerobic soil disinfestation (ASD) can be used to preserve soil health and make organic farming systems more sustainable. This project focuses on optimizing soil health and effectively managing soilborne pests and pathogens by implementing ASD in organic strawberry and vegetable crops in Florida and Pennsylvania. It involves research, on-farm trials, and outreach.




At the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), the United States and United Arab Emirates officially launched the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM for Climate) alongside 31 countries and more than 48 non-government partners. AIM for Climate is a pioneering initiative uniquely focused on increasing investment and enabling greater public-private and cross-sectoral partnerships, intended to both raise global climate ambition, and underpin transformative climate action in the agriculture sector in all countries. Details on participating countries and partners and the objectives and focus of AIM for Climate are available online.




American Farm Bureau Foundation announced 'American Farm Trail,' a new agritourism app that will showcase agritourism operations and tours. The app and its searchable directory are set to launch next spring. For now, developers are looking for agritourism stops to add to the app. Farms and attractions can create their own free profile showcasing their operation, history, products, and more. Instructions for submitting listings are available online.




A new program seeks to answer the economic questions farmers have about cover crops and provide benchmarking data for farmers using or considering planting cover crops. According to a press release, Environmental Defense Fund and the University of Minnesota's Center for Farm Financial Management have partnered to establish a new financial data gathering process for cover crops within the FINBIN database—the largest publicly available farm financial database and benchmarking service in the country. Enterprise-level farm financial data will be gathered in the FINBIN database and analyzed to compare the relative profitability of farms using cover crops to the farms not using cover crops.




The Organic Center reports that a study published in Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems found that properly managed manure-based soil amendments are safe for use in crops to be eaten fresh. This study examined the potential for bacterial transfer to fresh produce harvested from USDA NOP certified organic farms. It found that pathogens diminished over time but at different rates. Current waiting periods for organic produce of 90 or 120 days, depending on which part of the plant is to be eaten, were validated by this study. The study authors caution that results should not be generalized and that additional research is needed.




USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has announced an investment of nearly $25 million for 50 grants supporting Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN) State Department of Agriculture projects. Projects selected for funding initiate, expand, or sustain programs that provide professional agricultural behavioral health counseling and referral for other forms of assistance through farm telephone helplines and websites; training programs and workshops; support groups; and outreach services and activities. Information on the projects awarded funding is available online.




California FarmLink is accepting applications for its "Resilerator," a comprehensive business curriculum designed for farmers, ranchers and fishers with at least two years of experience as a business owner. The Resilerator is like a business accelerator, but the emphasis is on long-term resilience and sustainable profits and practices. The Resilerator begins with each participant completing a Business Resilience Self-assessment. The next ten weeks cover topics including business structure, labor, land tenure, accounting, taxation, credit, insurance, and regulatory compliance. The course ends with setting realistic goals for improving business practices for the next two to three years. Applications for the 2022 cohort are due by December 1, 2021, and the course runs from January 11 - March 24, 2022.




Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (Northeast SARE) is seeking a farmer to serve on its 20-member Administrative Council, the leadership committee that provides program oversight, grant proposal evaluation and internal policy guidance. The open seat is one of four that represent farmers. Northeast SARE is especially interested in having the perspective of Black, Indigenous and other People of Color (BIPOC) farmers represented on the AC and encourages BIPOC farmers and growers to consider applying. Interested individuals should email a letter describing their interest in serving, a resume, and a profile of their farm by December 3, 2021.




USDA is investing more than $243 million in grants through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and the Specialty Crop Research Initiative grants program. A total of $169.9 million in non-competitive SCBGP funding will go to the departments of agriculture in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the five U.S. territories, to be used for sub-grants for activities and programs to increase demand for agricultural goods and address issues facing the specialty crop industry including food safety, plant pests and disease, research, education, and marketing and promotion. Meanwhile, the 21 grants through the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) program will help address critical challenges facing conventional and organic food and agricultural production systems across the specialty crop industry. Examples from this round of funding include strawberry transplant health, high tunnel growing systems, and food safety for specialty crops.




The Farm Equity National Assessment project is highlighting stories of BIPOC farmers across the nation and is looking for BIPOC farmers who would be interested in sharing their stories as a case study for this project. Farmers interested in participating can fill out an online survey by November 8, 2021. Selected farmers will be asked to participate in case study interviews following this survey. The case study may include a short video or podcast (interview style) that will highlight innovations, barriers, constraints, or best practices. There is a $500 stipend for the 50 farmers who are selected as case studies.




The Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation and the Soil Health Institute announced the launch of Institute's U.S. Regenerative Cotton Fund (USRCF), a unique, farmer-facing, science-based initiative that will support long-term, sustainable cotton production in the United States, with the goal of eliminating one million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent from the atmosphere by 2026. Organizers say the USRCF will empower cotton farmers to adopt regenerative practices, like cover cropping and no till, in a way that benefits their operation. The Soil Health Institute will work closely with cotton farmers to help them measure and monitor the environmental, societal, and economic benefits of soil health management systems on their operations. Through the USRCF, improvements in soil health and carbon sequestration will be measured through an approach developed by the Soil Health Institute called soil health and soil carbon targets. Participating partners of the Fund include Cotton Incorporated, National Cotton Council, and Field to Market. The USRCF will initially operate in Arkansas, Texas, Mississippi, and Georgia and will look to expand into Alabama, North Carolina, Missouri, California, and Oklahoma.




The Center for Rural Affairs has released a new resource guide to inform producers who grow small grains about crop insurance options, From Seed to Secured: Crop Insurance for Small Grains. The guide includes information about the availability of established Multi-Peril policies for small grains, as well as what to do if there is not an available Multi-Peril policy in your county. It also discusses a special option, or "endorsement," available for malting barley; describes Whole Farm Revenue Protection; and gives a brief overview of the landscape of private policies offered by crop insurance agents. The guide is available free online.




USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has announced fiscal year 2022 assistance opportunities for agricultural producers and private landowners for key programs, such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), and Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) program. Although applications are accepted for these programs year-round, applicants must meet state-specific cutoff dates to be considered for this year's funding. Information on individual states' cutoff dates is available online, along with details on special provisions for historically underserved producers.




The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) will lead a regional partnership to help more than 300 beginning farmers and ranchers across the Northern Great Plains explore the value, viability, and resilience of raising organic field crops. The three-year project is funded by a Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program grant through USDA. Project partners include Montana Organic Association, Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society, Center for Rural Affairs, the Intertribal Agriculture Council, Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society, International Organic Inspectors Association, North Dakota State, and University of Wyoming




Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service is accepting applications for Cohort 11 of the BattleGround to Breaking Ground program for active-duty military, veterans, and others. The program includes face-to-face and online educational training in farm management and production, individualized educational planning to support diverse agriculture business interests, and both hands-on and online learning. Phase 1 is an agriculture workshop. Phase 2 involves 16 weeks of online business-planning courses, individual education planning, educational webinars and additional educational modules. It also addresses business planning, agriculture operations and management, and agricultural marketing. Phase 3 is hands-on training involving eight months of online courses specific to the participant's production area; 100 hours of hands-on learning through mentorship and custom-tailored learning opportunities; ongoing transition and disability support services; and monthly coaching and education planning calls. Each cohort has a limit of 45 participants, and 15 of these spaces are offered tuition-free for active duty and retired military whose applications are accepted. Applications are due by December 1, 2021.




A research team led by The Nature Conservancy and World Wildlife Fund produced a study detailing 20 indicators to support ranch-level sustainability. Identifying these indicators was part of an effort to help ranchers more consistently measure, manage, and communicate about the sustainability of their operations. The team selected 20 commonly used "core" indicators (12 ecological and 8 socioeconomic), which are designed to detect change over time for management practices, are common among many approaches, and/or are critical for outcomes of common interest to producers, companies, and consumers. According to a press release, more consistently used and agreed upon indicators spanning ecological, social and economic interests will lead to a better understanding of sustainability at the ranch level, which in turn would better equip ranchers with the information necessary to communicate how they are making progress toward sustainability goals in their own operations.




Three research reports from Practical Farmers of Iowa report on the economics of different aspects of cover crop grazing. Ben Albright, who operates a diversified crop and feedlot operation with his family, tested grazing feedlot cattle on adjacent fields with cover crops and found the practice profitable. In another project, four farmers tested the profitability of grazing a cereal rye cover crop in a corn-soybean rotation and found the grazing profitable. Experienced cover-crop user Mark Glawe experimented with four different cover crop mixes and determined the forage value of each. The research reports are all available online.




Winrock International received a $1.25 million grant from USDA for its project "Advancing Organic Agriculture in the Mid-South," reports Talk Business & Politics. The project will focus on Arkansas, Missouri, and Tennessee, where organic production lags behind other states. The project will demonstrate successful organic systems at the farm scale and will offer training and education opportunities for the public and farmers who want to transition to organic production. It will also create a community of practice for new organic farmers.




Researchers at Texas A&M University have released two new hybrid varieties of sorghum developed in part for their popping characteristics, reports the American Society of Agronomy. Though sorghum grain is mostly used as an animal feed in the United States, interest in it as a gluten-free grain product for human consumption has risen recently. Popped sorghum is more digestible than the unpopped grain, and can be used in food applications where popcorn is too large, such as granola bars. The popped grain also has been used as an animal feed. The new Texas varieties were chosen for popping efficiency, expansion ratio, and size.




Researchers reporting in Environmental Science & Technology say that per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have been found in samples of organic waste used as agricultural fertilizers, according to the American Chemical Society. PFAS, used in non-stick coatings, water-repellant fabrics and firefighting foams, have already been detected throughout the environment, raising toxicity concerns. This study characterized multiple classes of PFAS in organic waste products such as livestock manures, urban sewage sludges and composts, and industrial wastes, that were applied to agricultural lands in France. Over 90% of the samples contained at least one PFAS, with up to 113 compounds detected in a single sample. The team detected fewer and lower levels of PFAS in livestock manures than in wastes of urban origin. In the urban wastes, they detected high levels of PFAS compounds that are not commonly monitored, suggesting that previous studies underestimated total PFAS levels.




Washington State's new Farmland Protection and Affordability Investment program (FarmPAI) will help land trusts move quickly to protect critical farmland from development, says American Farmland Trust. The program will utilize $7 million in state funding to help land trusts and individual farmers purchase working farmland while they are arranging financing alternatives. Under one scenario, a land trust would purchase land and hold it while an individual farmer secures financing. The trust would continue to hold a conservation easement on the land. The program has an explicit commitment to equitable access for would-be farmers who are Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC). Carol Smith, Executive Director of the Washington State Conservation Commission, explains, “As a new tool in our toolbox, FarmPAI will allow conservation groups to step in and acquire priority farmland and provide an opportunity for land to be offered back to farmers at its agricultural value...Land affordability is a critical issue for the next generation of Washington farmers."




A network of more than 70 farmers in coastal southern California is growing coffee, reports The Denver Channel. The crop helps farmers diversify their income, and they hope that fine California coffee, like fine California wine, will develop a market niche. Strategies such as intercropping are helping to protect the California crop from weather conditions that are threatening equatorial coffee production. Meanwhile, one producer, Good Land Organics, has developed a vertically integrated operation that produces award-winning coffee.




Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) is accepting applications until November 30, 2021, for its Farmer-to-Farmer Mentorship Program. The year-long mentorship program empowers organic farmers through one-on-one guidance as they grow their business, seek organic certification, add farm enterprises, hone production skills, balance farm and family, and more. Mentorships are available in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Applicants must have been operating their farm business for at least one year prior to application date. Applications for both mentors and mentees are being accepted.




USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has announced funding for a new project led by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment. This $10 million, four-year project will study agrivoltaics in a variety of land types and climate scenarios in Illinois, Colorado, and Arizona. "Agrivoltaics—co-locating energy and food production—has the potential to reduce this competition for land," project leader Madhu Khanna said. "Our proposed project for Sustainably Colocating Agricultural and Photovoltaic Electricity Systems (SCAPES) will provide a comprehensive analysis of the transformative potential of agrivoltaics. Our goal is to maintain or even increase crop yield, increase the combined (food and electricity) productivity of land, and diversify and increase farmers' profits with row crops, forage, and specialty crops across a range of environments."




The Journal of Soil and Water Conservation is inviting submission of research papers for a special issue on climate change impacts on soil and water conservation, to be published in January 2023. This special issue will synthesize knowledge of the state of soil and water conservation and advance understanding of the soil-water-climate system, emerging technologies, and climate change adaptation and mitigation policies and practices to foster resilient agricultural and forest systems that can support the people dependent on them. Papers must be submitted for peer review by April 1, 2022.




Practical Farmers of Iowa published the results of a trial of 18 varieties of oats at four Iowa State University research farms. Streaker, a hulless variety, routinely yielded least but always scored the highest test weight at each location, although it was susceptible to lodging. Several varieties exceeded test weights for food-grade oats. Full results of the research are available online.




Kansas Livestock Association reports that Kansas State University Department of Agricultural Economics is in the process of developing resources and services specifically for transitioning agricultural operations and beginning farmers and ranchers. A new Office of Farm and Ranch Transition will provide several services, including helping to connect exiting farmers/landowners with beginning farmers or ranchers through an application and curated matching process; offering one-on-one technical assistance from a K-State farm analyst to help facilitate transition of an existing operation; and developing an extensive training program for beginning farmers and ranchers to master critical financial and business skills. The office is expected to be functional in 2022, with hiring for a director currently underway.




The Soil Health Academy announced that it has launched a web-based platform to connect its regenerative farming and ranching graduates with a growing base of consumers, food processors, and retailers interested in purchasing regeneratively grown products. The 'Shop Regen Foods' platform allows potential buyers to search by location, products available, and shipping options. Although the Soil Health Academy does not verify practices used by producers listed, it does provide links to producer websites so that consumers can conduct their own further research.




The Graze 300 VA initiative is helping farmers across Virginia to achieve 300 days of livestock grazing per year by facilitating better pasture management and environmental stewardship. The initiative began in 2015 and has grown to include 30 Extension agents and specialists working with farmers throughout the state. Now the project has received a grant from the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Strategic Plan Advancement Integrated Internal Competitive Grants Program and the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station. This grant will help the project build on its successes and expand adoption by researching social factors that influence farmer change, providing in-depth grazing management training, developing better educational resources for Virginia's farmers, and broadening the use of technology, including designing a grazing app.




Wild Hope Farm in Chester, South Carolina, received a Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SSARE) Producer Grant to explore summer cover crop mixes for organic no-till broccoli. In this on-farm research, five summer cover crop treatments were implemented in a no-till broccoli field: tilled bareground after sunn hemp; sunn hemp crimped prior to cash crop planting; sunn hemp and millet crimped prior to cash crop planting; sunn hemp, soybeans and buckwheat crimped prior to cash crop planting; and sunn hemp, millet and buckwheat crimped prior to cash crop planting. Beds with cover crop mixes appeared to perform the best at suppressing weeds. In addition, the farmer found that timing of cover crop termination and weight of the roller crimper is important to prevent the reseeding and regrowth of the cover crops. Details on this project are available online from SSARE.




The North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC) presented its Business for Bees Sustainability Award—an honor reserved for standout organizations that go above and beyond to support pollinators—to the Almond Board of California (ABC) and the state's almond farmers. NAPPC cited ABC's leadership in founding the California Pollinator Coalition, its work promoting on-farm pollinator habitat and its support of years of research and education about the best practices for providing hospitable environments for pollinators in almond orchards and in other habitats. Also, in recent years, California's Central Valley almond farmers have applied to certify more than 110,000 acres of Bee Friendly Farming®, providing pollinator habitat and integrated pest management across the valley to keep that flyway healthy and create badly needed floral resources that complement and expand beyond the annual almond bloom.




Results from 11 agroecology research projects funded by the European Union are available in a CORDIS Results Pack. Summary results are online for projects that focused on the potential of legumes to contribute to sustainable agriculture, on benefits of diversity and variety in agriculture, and on development of the organic sector. The introduction to the collection of research results notes, "Agroecology has the potential to become a fundamental tool for the EU in its effort to promote a sustainable farming sector that respects planetary boundaries and is able to respond to changing needs of society both in terms of sustainable and healthy diets and with regard to the environmental and climate issues related to primary production."




The USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) announced that it will collect additional information on agricultural products marketed as local foods during 2020. In early 2021, NASS collected detailed data on 2020 local food marketing practices from farmers and ranchers who had previously reported local food marketing activity. However in light of the extreme dynamics of the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors, NASS believes it will be necessary to contact more producers to get the complete picture of local food marketing practices. This will delay the report of the results of the survey until early in 2022.




USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) has begun mailing its first Hemp Acreage and Production Survey to 20,500 producers across the nation. The hemp survey will collect information on the total planted and harvested area, yield, production, and value of hemp in the United States. Survey recipients are asked to reply online or by mail by October 25, 2021. NASS will publish the survey results February 17, 2022, on the NASS website and in the NASS Quick Stats searchable database.




The Montana Association of Conservation Districts, Montana Watershed Coordination Council, and partners, including the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), are reaching out across Montana to ask: What more might be done to better support farmers and ranchers in managing soils? Montana land stewards can help us understand ag needs and opportunities by completing a confidential online survey: a five-minute version to capture key thoughts plus a detailed version to provide more context and depth to your responses. Complete one or both surveys before July 2022. Partners will also be reaching out via regional listening sessions, one-on-one contacts, and presentations at various conferences and, in August of 2022, will produce and share a report on what was learned and make recommendations.




A study involving 21 scientists from five continents concluded that 175,000 plant species, or half of all flowering plants, rely mostly or completely on animal pollinators to make seeds. Specifically, a third of flowering plant species globally would produce no seeds without animal pollinators, and half would suffer an 80% or more reduction in fertility. This means that current declines in pollinator populations could cause major disruptions in natural ecosystems, including loss of biodiversity. Professor Mark van Kleunen, a co-author from the University of Konstanz, says it is not a case of all pollinators disappearing: "If there are fewer pollinators to go around, or even just a change in which pollinator species are most numerous, we can expect knock-on effects on plants, with affected plant species potentially declining, further harming animal species and human populations depending on those plants. Pollinators aren't only important for crop production, but also for biodiversity....It also means that plants that do not rely on pollinators, like many problematic weeds, might spread even more when pollinators continue to decline," he adds.




The North Central Region of Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NCR-SARE) is seeking members for review committees for the six different grant programs it offers. Review committee members must live and work in one of the 12 states that comprise the North Central SARE region. Applicants must complete an online form and send a resume or curriculum vitae. Generally, review committee members are required to review proposals, discuss the proposals on a conference call or in-person, and provide recommendations to the Administrative Council.




Researchers from South Dakota State University and Texas A&M University surveyed producers in 2018 in South and North Dakota and in Texas about grazing intensity. The results were just published in Land Use Policy. Of the South Dakota respondents, 39.37% use traditional continuous grazing, 54.92% use rotational grazing, and 5.71% use management-intensive grazing. In North Dakota 29.24% opt for continuous grazing, 60.68% for rotational grazing, and 9.83% for management-intensive grazing. The study found that producers using management-intensive grazing were most likely to expand their grass-based production due to higher profitability, usually achieving expansion of grazing land by converting marginal cropland.




Cornell University and USDA funded a three-year, $500,000 project that will explore forming a business cooperative to provide shepherds grazing under solar arrays with coordination and logistical services. Having sheep graze under solar arrays is becoming more popular as a way to control vegetation and keep the land under solar installations in agricultural production. However, it can be a challenge for large renewable energy companies to manage the grazing services offered primarily by small-scale shepherds. This project will explore the benefits to farmers of business collaboration, not only to offer grazing services, but also to process and market lamb and wool. The project will even examine the possibility of creating a brand for sheep grazed under solar arrays.




A national network led by Cornell University scientists has been awarded a three-and-a-half year, $3 million grant from USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to develop cover crops designed for use by organic growers. Hairy vetch (Vicia villosa), winter pea (Pisum sativum), crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum) and cereal rye (Secale cereale) are the crops the team will focus on developing. The project will work to improve cover-crop qualities such as weed suppression, early vigor, increased biomass, winter hardiness, seed yield, disease and insect resistance, soft and non-shattering seed, and early flowering. The team will be holding field days and compiling crop variety data to inform people about the performance of different cover crop varieties.




The Center for Heirs' Property Preservation and the Mississippi Center for Justice announced the Mobile Basin Heirs' Property Support Initiative, a two-year program designed to help historically underserved families in Mississippi protect and keep their forestland; build generational wealth; and promote productive, sustainably managed forests. With support from World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Kimberly-Clark, the new initiative will provide a combination of legal services, information, and assistance accessing financial resources to help Mississippians resolve land title issues that disproportionately affect Black families and often lead to loss of land, wealth, and forest resources. The initiative will also provide landowners with forestry education and access to additional funding for forest conservation and responsible forest management. In addition to providing direct assistance to Mississippi's underserved landowners, the program's goals include raising broader awareness about the benefits to both people and nature that can come from removing barriers for historically marginalized communities to secure land rights in the southern United States and beyond.




The Missouri Chestnut Roast Festival at the University of Missouri research farm in New Franklin helps introduce people to the taste of chestnuts, reports St. Louis Public Radio. Experts say Missouri growers can't keep up with the demand for local chestnuts, and they say that growers can make $6 per pound or $6,000 per acre harvesting chestnuts. Chestnut farmer Greg Heindselman in Lewistown, Missouri, said a chestnut farmer could make a living on as little as five to 10 acres. This makes chestnut an appealing option for people with a small farm, especially because chestnut growing doesn't require a lot of expensive equipment.




USDA has a new online tool to help ranchers document and estimate payments to cover feed transportation costs caused by drought, which are now covered by the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-raised Fish Program (ELAP). The new ELAP Feed Transportation Producer Tool is a Microsoft Excel workbook that enables ranchers to input information specific to their operation to determine an estimated payment. ELAP now covers feed transportation costs where grazing and hay resources have been depleted. This includes places where drought intensity is D2 for eight consecutive weeks or drought intensity is D3 or greater.




USDA is investing $10 million in a new initiative to sample, measure, and monitor soil carbon on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres to better quantify the climate outcomes of the program. This initiative will begin implementation in fall 2021 with three partners (Michigan State University, Mississippi State University, and Ducks Unlimited) conducting soil carbon sampling on three categories of CRP practice types: perennial grass, trees, and wetlands. These three Climate Change Mitigation Assessment Initiative projects are funded through the Farm Service Agency's program to work with partners to identify Monitoring, Assessment and Evaluation projects to quantify CRP environmental benefits to water quality and quantity, wildlife, and rural economies.




A team of scientists at seven institutions, led by D. Raj Raman at Iowa State University, received a five-year, $10 million AFRI Sustainable Agricultural Systems grant from USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture to study the potential benefits of using perennial grasses as cover crops. Annual cover crops require farmers to plant and harvest them every year, so researchers are investigating perennial ground covers that could provide environmental benefits and save farmers money. The scientists will work to identify and refine perennial covers that go dormant during the period when specific cash crops are growing and determine the best practices for using these cover crops without sacrificing crop yields.




A research team at Iowa State University received a a $1.4 million grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture to apply genetic tools to the development of organic sweet corn and varieties of corn for specialty uses, such as for popcorn and tortillas. Project leader Thomas Lübberstedt explains, "In this new project, we say that there's quite a few genes that are already known in maize that would add value to rapidly generate new sweet corn or specialty corn varieties if you could handle them efficiently using the tools and methods allowed in the organic production context." The researchers will create proof-of-concept corn varieties better suited for organic production, using an organic-compatible version of doubled haploid technology.




The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), a 15-member volunteer advisory board appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture, meets twice each year in a public forum to discuss and vote on recommendations to the USDA. USDA notes that the open meetings allow for public input on topics of interest to the organic community, and resulting standards support farmer and consumer confidence in the integrity of the USDA organic seal. The public comment days for the Fall Meeting are October 13-14, 2021, followed by the public meetings October 19-21, 2021. The meeting Zoom links, agenda, proposals, discussion documents, and Federal Register notice are available online.




Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SSARE) is seeking nominations for its Sustainable Agriculture Leadership Program for spring/summer 2022. The Sustainable Agriculture Leadership Program recognizes the community leadership contributions of historically underserved farmers and ranchers and the community groups and NGOs who serve those audiences. The program seeks to enhance the resiliency, strength, and vivacity of historically underserved farmers and ranchers, including minority and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, beginning farmers and ranchers, military veterans, and women farmers. The program provides a small amount of sponsorship funds (up to $3,000) to support education and training activities specifically targeted to historically underserved farmers and ranchers. Applications to participate are due by January 1, 2022.




The National Farmers Union is accepting applications for its Beginning Farmer Institute (BFI) until December 1, 2021. BFI is a free, year-long training program intended to improve the health of your farm or ranch business. Three trainings will be hosted virtually on Zoom and one session will be hosted in-person in St. Louis, Missouri. Participants from diverse backgrounds come together around shared learning objectives related to business formation, taxation, accounting, land, labor, credit, and business planning.




American Farmland Trust and The Farmers Market Coalition announced the winners of the 13th annual America's Farmers Market Celebration, a national event that ran between June 21 and September 19, 2021. Markets receiving the most votes from the public are declared winners of the "People's Choice" category, and top markets in five regions nationwide are recognized. More than 2,000 markets across the nation participated in the celebration, with more than 1 million supporters voting, visiting the celebration website, or engaging with the celebration on social media. The "People's Choice" awards went to Columbia Farmers Market in Missouri, Oxford Community Market in Mississippi, and Monroe Farmers Market in Connecticut. Regional winners were the aforementioned Monroe Farmers Market, Columbia Farmers Market, and Oxford Community Market, as well as Napa Farmers Market in California and Dripping Springs Farmers Market in Texas.




USDA announced the recipients of more than $6.6 million in grants and cooperative agreements awarded through the Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production. USDA is awarding $4.75 million for 10 Planning Projects and 11 Implementation Projects, as well as $1.92 million for 24 pilot projects to develop and implement strategies for municipal compost plans and food waste reduction plans. The Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production (UAIP) Competitive Grants Program will support activities such as operating community gardens and nonprofit farms, increasing food production and access in economically distressed communities, providing job training and education, and developing business plans and zoning.




Scientists in Canada are evaluating soil health by measuring enzymes involved in carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous, and sulfur nutrient cycles in the soil, counting fungi and bacteria varieties, and determining the ratio between the two. They are using these measurements to study the long-term soil health effects of different crop-growth systems, explains an American Society of Agronomy press release. The study found that fields in perennial grasses had the healthiest soils, with lots of biological activity and diverse microbes and fungi. Fields growing both a perennial grass and a legume called birdsfoot trefoil were especially healthy. In contrast, fields constantly growing soybeans came in last place, while corn fields were between the two.




USDA announced that it will award $18.6 million in grants to provide training, outreach, and technical assistance to historically underserved and veteran farmers and ranchers in 21 states through the 2501 Program. Descriptions of the 29 funded projects are available online. The Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (The 2501 Program) helps socially disadvantaged farmers, ranchers, foresters, and veterans who have historically experienced limited access to USDA programs and services.




USDA is investing $4.7 million to establish partnerships with organizations to provide outreach and technical assistance to historically underserved farmers and ranchers. The partnerships will support participation in Farm Service Agency (FSA) programs, including those that are part of USDA's Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative. USDA is funding 56 proposals, covering all states and territories, to assist historically underserved farmers and ranchers in accessing FSA programs.




USDA announced that nine projects to improve the oversight capacity of the organic industry will receive $1.73 million in funding. Projects will support and expand the pool of qualified inspectors, reviewers, and other professionals who oversee organic production. The funded projects provide support across the human capital pipeline, from initial workforce development to creating resources for existing professionals. Specifically, the funded projects will support creation of training and educational programs, recruitment strategies, mentorship opportunities, inspector apprenticeships, and professional development resources. A list of recipients is available online.




USDA announced a Request for Applications for the new Pandemic Response and Safety (PRS) Grant program and encourages eligible entities to apply by November 22, 2021. Approximately $650 million in funding is available for the PRS grants, which will assist small businesses in certain commodity areas, including specialty crop producers, shellfish farming, finfish farming, aquaculture, and apiculture; specialty crop, meat, and other processors; distributors; and farmers markets. Small businesses and nonprofits in these industries can apply for a grant to cover COVID-related expenses such as workplace safety measures (e.g., personal protective equipment (PPE), retrofitting facilities for worker and consumer safety, shifting to online sales platforms, transportation, worker housing, and medical costs. The minimum funding request is $1,500 and the maximum funding request is $20,000.




USDA is rolling out a new insurance option specifically for agricultural producers with small farms who sell locally. The new Micro Farm policy simplifies recordkeeping and covers post-production costs like washing and value-added products. It is offered through Whole-Farm Revenue Protection and will be available beginning with the 2022 crop year. The Micro Farm policy is available to producers who have a farm operation that earns an average allowable revenue of $100,000 or less.




USDA announced the projects that will receive more than $146 million in funding through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture's (NIFA) Sustainable Agricultural Systems program. This investment is part the third installment of NIFA grants within its Agriculture and Food Research Initiative's (AFRI) Sustainable Agricultural Systems program, designed to improve plant and animal production and sustainability, and human and environmental health. These grants are available to eligible colleges, universities and other research organizations. Descriptions of the 15 funded projects are available online. They include projects focused on agrivoltaics, crop diversification, hemp as an aquaculture feed, algae as a livestock feed additive, and more.




Collaborative research out of the University of California, Davis, and University of Bordeaux, studied the effect of increasing temperatures on the quality of wine grapes in the Napa Valley and Bordeaux, France. As temperatures exceeded what was considered the optimal level for quality, the grapes produced better wines; however, there was a point where high temperatures degraded the grape skin and color enough to reduce wine quality. Researchers anticipate that increasing temperatures from climate change are likely to lead to shifts in wine-growing regions as some areas become too hot but other areas become suitable for wine-grape growing.




USDA awarded a $50,000 Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) planning grant to the University of Rhode Island in collaboration with The Organic Center and a diverse team of researchers, organizations, and farmers. The planning grant will conduct a needs assessment using a national survey and convene a multi-stakeholder summit to pinpoint the most challenging incongruities between food safety and NOP policies. These activities will determine which producers are most impacted, which food safety requirements are most difficult to synchronize with NOP standards, and which research opportunities can best address these conflicts. In the effort, The Organic Center and University of Rhode Island will collaborate with organic farmers, certifiers, and researchers to develop a full OREI research proposal for 2023 submission.




Farmers' Legal Action Group, Inc. (FLAG) has released a new publication, Farmers' Guide to the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2 (CFAP 2) 3rd Edition. CFAP 2 is a USDA program that gives direct payments to farmers affected by the COVID-19 crisis. This 3rd Edition of the guide includes recent changes to the program that expand the eligibility of contract growers to include producers of ducks, geese, pheasants, and quail, as well as producers of hogs, pigs, broilers, pullets, layers, chicken eggs, and turkeys. In addition, the 3rd Edition explains the recent changes to how CFAP 2 payments are calculated, including a change that allows farmers to substitute their 2018 sales and indemnities for their 2019 sales and indemnities. This change is beneficial for farmers who had a higher production in 2018 than 2019. Note that the final deadline to sign up for CFAP 2 is October 12, 2021.




USDA announced that it is planning for another $100 million from the American Rescue Plan Act that will be used to furnish loan guarantees to help leverage additional funding for expanding meat and poultry processing capacity and financing other food supply chain infrastructure. According to USDA, the loan guarantees will help start-up or expand entities in our food supply chain that aggregate, process, manufacture, wholesale or distribute food; address supply chain bottlenecks; and increase the resiliency of the food supply chain. USDA is preparing to issue a notice soon to announce eligibility requirements and the application window.




The Center for Arkansas Food and Farms is accepting applications for its 11-month Farm School until October 15, 2021. Learn how to make a living as a specialty crop farmer through a curriculum that combines hands-on specialty crop farming with core-knowledge classes in production, business, and legal issues. Students will learn about sustainable farming production systems and the business applications needed to succeed in growing fruit, vegetables, flowers, and herbs for local and regional markets. Classes meet on weekdays throughout the program.




Multinational food giant Nestlé announced that it is investing $1.29 billion over the next five years to support and accelerate the transition to regenerative agriculture across its global supply chain, reports Food Dive. Nestlé says it will work with its 500,000 farmers and 150,000 suppliers to promote practices that enhance biodiversity, soil conservation, regeneration of water cycles, and integration of livestock. Meanwhile, Cargill has announced its own regenerative agriculture program that will pay farmers for carbon sequestration and improved soil health, says a Successful Farming news story. The carbon-measurement firm Regrow will measure, report, and verify carbon outcomes for participating farmers.




USDA announced that it is establishing an Equity Commission and is requesting nominations for membership on the Equity Commission Advisory Committee and Equity Commission Subcommittee on Agriculture. The Equity Commission will advise the Secretary of Agriculture by identifying USDA programs, policies, systems, structures, and practices that contribute to barriers to inclusion or access, systemic discrimination, or exacerbate or perpetuate racial, economic, health and social disparities. The Subcommittee on Agriculture will be formed concurrently and will report back to the Equity Commission and provide recommendations on issues of concern related to agriculture. Subsequent subcommittees will focus on other policy areas, such as rural community and economic development. Nomination for the Equity Commission and the Subcommittee on Agriculture membership is open to the public and any interested person or organization may nominate qualified individuals for membership. The Equity Commission and the Subcommittee on Agriculture will each be comprised of 15 members.




The Center for Land-Based Learning is offering beginning farmers the opportunity to lease land through its Farm Incubator Program. Land is available to lease in both West Sacramento and at the organization's new headquarters in Woodland, California. Plot sizes range from 1/4 acre up to one full acre, depending on the site. Beginning farmers can lease land for as long as four years. Prior commercial growing experience and a solid business plan are required.




USDA announced that it is preparing $3 billion in investments that will support drought resilience and response, animal disease prevention, market disruption relief, and purchase of food for school nutrition programs. The support will be made available via the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC), and it includes funding for water-smart management practices, relief from agricultural market disruption, and assistance to help schools respond to supply chain disruptions. USDA also announced a new initiative to finance the deployment of climate-smart farming and forestry practices to aid in the marketing of climate-smart agricultural commodities. USDA is accepting public comment and input on design of this new initiative until November 1, 2021. USDA is encouraging comment from a wide range of stakeholders.




Scientists at Washington State University received a $1.5 million grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture's Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative to find ways to protect organic fruits from decay and illness-causing pathogens. A team of scientists and students, including food safety and postharvest systems specialists, will test promising technologies using heat and controlled atmosphere in storage, as well as fruit coatings and sprays, to limit infection and preserve organic fruit quality. Project leader Achour Amiri notes that organic packers currently lack effective methods to stop postharvest pathogens and physiological disorders.




Northeast SARE's Graduate Student Research Grant Program recently awarded a total of $408,780 in grants to 28 students for sustainable agriculture research. Graduate students at any accredited Northeast university, college, or veterinary school were invited to submit proposals. The funded proposals address climate adaptation, pest and disease control, saltwater intrusion, soil health, value-added products, and more. A full list of funded projects is available online.




California carrot growers were lacking information on irrigation and nitrogen application for carrots that was specific to the local climate conditions. Researchers with UC Agriculture and Natural Resources conducted experimental trials and gathered data from commercial fields to develop key recommendations of when—and at what rate—to irrigate and apply fertilizers in the low desert environment. The best management practices can help growers improve efficiency and reduce nutrient leaching, helping promote water quality.




An international study led by Penn State University found that microgreens could help provide global nutrition security. Microgreens can be grown in a variety of soilless production systems and grown indoors with or without artificial lights, meaning that they can be grown in food deserts or where food supply chains have been disrupted. Sprouting a variety of species including herbs and vegetables produces food in a variety of colors, textures, and flavors, and with a complex nutritional profile. "Nutrient-dense microgreens have great potential as an efficient food-resilience resource," noted study leader Francesco Di Gioia.




Iowa State University professor of natural resource ecology and management Lisa Schulte Moore has been named a 2021 MacArthur Fellow. Schulte Moore has conducted groundbreaking research as a landscape ecologist working closely with farmers to build more sustainable and resilient agricultural systems. Schulte Moore's instrumental role in the prairie STRIPS research team has produced numerous advancements in the understanding and management of native prairie on agricultural landscapes that show far-reaching environmental benefits. Schulte Moore also is the lead developer of the People In Ecosystems Watershed Integration (PEWI), a computer simulation that shows how land use practices impact the soil, water, agricultural production and wildlife habitat. And she leads the Consortium for Cultivating Human and Natural regenerative Enterprise (C-CHANGE), which received a $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop new value chains for U.S. farmers, particularly the generation of renewable natural gas using biomass from perennial grasses. Schulte Moore will receive a $625,000, no-strings-attached award as part of the MacArthur fellowship, as an investment in the potential of her work.




Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT) is accepting applications for its new financial training program for farmers. FACT is partnering with the Food Finance Institute (FFI), based out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, to offer free financial training for livestock and poultry farmers to help their farm businesses thrive. The three-part training includes a free webinar series, a limited number of a one-year subscriptions to FFI's Edible-Alpha digital resource hub that provides access to online courses, and a four-day intensive Boot Camp for 20 farms. The application deadline is October 31, 2021.




The National Farm to School Network (NFSN) is restructuring and broadening its network of partners to ensure that the organization's structure reflects its commitment to shifting power and achieving a racially just food system. NFSN is seeking Partner organizations from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., the five U.S. territories, and Native nations to join in its efforts. The new structure is flat, with all partners given equal recognition for their roles, and no cap on the number of partners. NFSN expects that Partners be actively working toward shifting power and centering racial equity and contribute to community-driven policy and systems change; facilitate diverse and multisectoral networking and movement building; and co-create resources and leadership development opportunities to advance community food systems rooted in justice.




An agroecologist at the University of Göttingen published an article in One Earth, pointing out that encouraging pollinators is a particularly important way for smallholder farmers to increase agricultural yields. Better pollination services not only increase the amount of fruit that crops produce but can also increase the nutrient content and improve storage life, according to Professor Teja Tscharntke. He recommends restoring agricultural landscapes for ecosystem services. "Pollination services in agriculture should be given more attention, in addition to pest regulation and good nutrient supply."




Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship has been awarded a $500,000 grant through the USDA NIFA "Farm and Ranch Assistance Network" to expand farmer mental health support programs in the state. The Department will partner with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach to help raise awareness about mental health and wellness resources and help make them more accessible to farmers and rural communities. Through this grant, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach staff will offer community outreach and programming to individuals involved in agriculture and those who support them. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach will also conduct facilitator training for programs focused on strengthening families. Farmer resource packets will be available with information on how to access stress assistance, wellness, and family-finance programming.




Rodale Institute is asking professionals in the organic agriculture industry to complete an online Organic Production Body of Knowledge survey. The survey's audience is key stakeholders in the organic production community, including but not limited to, certification and regulatory professionals, agronomists, farmers, consultants, researchers, and students. Rodale Institute intends the results of this survey to guide development of its Certified Rodale Regenerative Organic Professional (CRROP) Program. The CRROP program will support regulatory and agricultural professionals to ensure that there is a credible baseline body of knowledge within the organic auditing community to ensure consistent, sound and sensible enforcement of the regulations. The survey will help define the core content areas and key knowledge required to provide high-level consulting to organic and regenerative organic farmers.




A new report from USDA Economic Research Service documents a growing market for chicken products raised without any antibiotics. The Market for Chicken Raised Without Antibiotics, 2012–17 says that household expenditures for classic, processed, and sausage products labeled as "raised without antibiotics" grew substantially during the study period. The report also notes that the chicken labeled as being raised without antibiotics commanded higher prices per pound than conventional chicken products. The authors point out that "[t]hese findings suggest there is significant consumer interest and market opportunities for production practices between conventional and organic."




Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center's organic and specialty crop breeding program is moving Texas up in the ranks of organic suppliers and markets. The program expects to release the first organic guar and cowpea varieties in the country. Breeders are focusing on varieties that have good pest and disease resistance, so that they work well for organic producers. The program is also working on winter crops, including lentils and barley.




Extension specialists and vegetable growers from Florida and Alabama evaluated pest control practices for cucurbits in a multi-year project funded by Southern SARE. The research team explored the best ways to implement pest-control tactics like row covers, companion planting, adding beneficial bacteria to the soil, and releasing predator insects. They found that row covers, though effective, were not always economical. Opening the row covers to encourage natural pollination helped reduce costs of introducing pollinators. The research also found that companion planting could help control aphids. The team shared the results of their research widely.




Kiss The Ground is offering scholarships to Soil Health Academy's Regenerative Agriculture 101 online course. The scholarships are available to beginning farmers and ranchers, student/young/intern farmers and ranchers, military veteran farmers and ranchers, and educators/influencers. The scholarships provide free, one-year access to the online training taught by a world-renowned teaching cadre. The course educates farmers and ranchers on how to increase profitability, build resiliency into their land, decrease input costs, and improve the nutrient density and the marketability of the agricultural products they produce. Anyone can apply anytime through an online rolling application.




The Prairie Project is a consortium of researchers, extension specialists, and educators from Texas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska that is exploring prescribed burns and grazing as ways to combat woody invasive species on Great Plains grasslands and make grazing land more resilient to wildfire and extreme heat. The Prairie Project received $10 million in funding from USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture for a five-year trial of pyric herbivory, which involves combining prescribed fire with mixed-animal grazing to restore grasslands lost to encroaching woody plants.




The Center for Rural Affairs posted an update highlighting farm to school successes in Nebraska. The state's farm to school program just added its first full-time employee, and this past June, University of Nebraska Extension and partners hosted the first statewide Farm to School Institute. The Gering public school district's director of food services has been adding more local products to the farm to school program over the last three years. Some districts involve students in growing food that supplies cafeterias or is sold at farmers markets. Meanwhile, farm to school advocates point to how using local food in school meal programs can strengthen local economies.




At the United Nations Food Systems Summit, USDA highlighted planned investments and several steps it has taken to advance the goals of ending hunger and malnutrition and building more sustainable, resilient, and inclusive food systems. For example, USDA announced the formation of the Coalition of Action on Sustainable Productivity Growth for Food Security and Resource Conservation, a global, multi- sector coalition that will accelerate the transition to more sustainable food systems through agricultural productivity growth that optimizes the social, economic, and environmental dimensions of sustainability. USDA also announced that it plans to invest $5 billion from the American Rescue Plan and from pandemic assistance funds: $4 billion willstrengthen food systems through support for food production and improved processing, distribution, and market opportunities and the additional $1 billion is to help bridge the gap from pandemic assistance to food systems transformation by supporting more efficient systems and infrastructure to ensure access to healthy diets for all. USDA noted that it is also implementing its recently released Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry Strategy.




The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement (CIRAD) released a new publication in support of the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables 2021. Fruit and Vegetables: opportunities and challenges for small-scale sustainable farming offers guidance to small-scale farmers when starting up or expanding fruit and vegetable production. The book illustrates practical options to ensure sustainable production, stable value chains and dynamic markets, and provides recommendations on how policymakers can create an enabling environment to support food system transformation. The publication also highlights 14 case studies from around the world, including tomato grafting in Viet Nam, successful agroforestry in Brazil, biological techniques to control fruit flies on Réunion, and big data to help small-scale mango farmers in Senegal.




The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) announced 21 Conservation Partners Program grants totalling $3.9 million to help agricultural producers implement voluntary conservation practices on farms and ranches. NFWF manages the Conservation Partners Program in partnership with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and General Mills, with additional funding from Truterra, LLC, the sustainability business at Land O'Lakes, Inc. The program supports efforts across the United States to accelerate the adoption of conservation practices and regenerative agriculture principles on private working lands. Grant recipients provide technical assistance to farmers and ranchers to help them develop management plans, design and implement best practices, participate in Farm Bill programs, and share their experiences and lessons learned. A complete list of funded projects is available online.




A study by the University of Vienna explored whether pollutants carried by nano- and microplastics travel through agricultural soils to end up in groundwater. The study notes that fertilizers such as compost manure or sewage sludge and the remains of agricultural mulching foils carry large quantities of plastic particles, so-called macro-, micro-, and nanoplastics, onto agricultural land. These plastic particles always contain numerous additives. Though this study found that the additives don't typically travel through the soil to contaminate groundwater, it found that they instead are released in upper layers of the agricultural soil, where they have a negative effect on soil microbes and crops.




The California Department of Food and Agriculture's (CDFA) Office of Environmental Farming and Innovation is accepting public comments on its Conservation Agriculture Planning Grant Program (CAPGP) Draft Request for Proposals. The CAPGP will fund the development of one or more plans to help farmers and ranchers identify actions for climate change mitigation and adaptation, with a goal of ensuring food security well into the future. Stakeholders are encouraged to review the Draft Request for Proposals and submit comments by October 19, 2021. CDFA will hold a stakeholder workshop on September 23, 2021, to update the public on the program and on RFP changes.




Lynn Sosnoskie, assistant professor at Cornell University, received funding from USDA NIFA for two weed-management projects, reports the Cornell Chronicle. Sosnoskie is part of a three-year, $2 million project that will test electric weed control in perennial fruit crops and evaluate the financial viability of electric weeders. She is also the leader of a three-year project that will study weed controls in hemp crops and develop recommendations for variety choice, planting timing, cover crops, and other strategies.




USDA is extending the application deadline for the Pandemic Livestock Indemnity Program (PLIP) until October 12, 2021. Producers who suffered losses during the pandemic due to insufficient access to processing may now apply for assistance for those losses and the cost of depopulation and disposal of the animals. PLIP provides payments to producers for losses of livestock or poultry depopulated from March 1, 2020, through December 26, 2020, due to insufficient processing access as a result of the pandemic. Payments are based on 80% of the fair market value of the livestock and poultry and for the cost of depopulation and disposal of the animal. Eligible livestock and poultry include swine, chickens, and turkeys. USDA is also accepting applications until October 12, 2021, for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2, which provides critical support to agricultural producers impacted by COVID-19 market disruptions.




The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science led an international project that has assembled a quantitative assessment for agriculture sustainability at the national level, the Sustainable Agriculture Matrix, or SAM. The assessment is based not only on environmental impacts, but also on economic and social impacts. The first edition of the matrix is composed of 18 indicators that measure the direct impacts of agricultural production on the environment and economy, and broader impacts on the whole society. The matrix provides independent and transparent measurements of agricultural sustainability that can help governments and organizations evaluate progress, encourage accountability, identify priorities for improvement, and inform national policies and actions towards sustainable agriculture around the globe.




A feature in The Counter highlights the growing number of food banks across the country that have developed urban farms on-site. Though these farms don't produce food on a large enough scale to impact food-bank demand, advocates say they can play an important role in building relationships with community organizations and broadening the community approach to addressing food insecurity. For example, some urban farms distribute seedlings to food-growing organizations that serve clients. Others hold demonstrations and workshops that contribute to food security through education. Some food bank gardens provide job training and life-skills development for local youth. Food bank gardens can also help diversify offerings at the food bank or help create ties with community members who volunteer or buy produce.




The National Center for Appropriate Technology is reminding farmers and ranchers during Farm Safety and Health Week, September 19-25, 2021, that its ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture service includes trusted and practical resources to stay safe on the job. For Tractor Safety & Rural Roadway Safety Day on Monday, September 20, NCAT is releasing a series of 13 Spanish-language tractor safety and maintenance videos. NCAT is releasing a video on chainsaw safety for women to mark Safety & Health for Women in Agriculture Day on Friday, September 24. These resources and a new guide to preparing for disaster join an archive of other equipment-related guides available at ATTRA.NCAT.ORG.




New Hampshire Public Radio reports on a new mental health initiative for state farmers, funded through the American Rescue Plan Act. The $500,000 project is a continuation of efforts begun last year with a $25,000 grant through the National Young Farmers Coalition. That project focused on destigmatizing mental health and raising awareness in the agriculture community about sources of stress. The new funding will support a four-pronged approach: outreach, direct technical assistance, a resource library, and trainings and education. The effort is especially timely, given pandemic-related stresses impacting farmers. According to the news story, some in the agriculture community are concerned about whether the assistance will reach underserved groups of farmers who might most benefit from it.




New market research shows that Iowa farmers are interested in working with their lenders to better understand and realize the benefits of soil health. Banking on Soil Health: Farmer Interest in Transition Loan Products, a report conducted by agriculture market research firm Beck Ag in collaboration with Environmental Defense Fund and The Nature Conservancy, analyzes interviews with 100 Iowa farmers to understand their interest in adopting soil health practices and tests multiple ways agricultural lenders could support the transition. The analysis shows that farmers perceive a significant financial transition in adopting soil health practices. Although just 40% believe that soil health practices improve profitability in the first year or two of adoption, nearly 90% stated that they improve long-term profitability.




USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced that it will invest more than $30 million in 33 grants that support organic farmers and ranchers through the Organic Agriculture Program. Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative projects will help fund research, education, and extension projects to improve yields, quality, and profitability for producers and processors who have adopted organic standards. Meanwhile, NIFA's investment in Organic Transitions Program projects will support research, education, and extension efforts to help existing and transitioning organic livestock and crop producers adopt organic practices and improve their market competitiveness. Lists of the funded projects are available online.




Scientists at the University of Illinois teamed computer modeling with field data to shed light on how cover crops can impact cash crop yield. The study revealed that proper management is key to maximizing benefits of cover crops and minimizing negative impact on cash crops. Choosing the right cover crop and planting and terminating it at the right time are the keys to success with cover crops. Soil factors such as the levels of oxygen, nitrogen, and water in the soil also play an important role in choosing the best cover crop for a particular site and cash crop.




The Blue Food Assessment, a group of more than 100 leading researchers led by Stanford University's Center for Ocean Solutions and Center on Food Security and the Environment, the Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University and EAT, published five papers in the journal Nature that constitute a review of the aquatic foods sector. The papers evaluate aquatic foods in terms of sustainability, the potential for the growth of small-scale producers, and the climate risks that face aquatic food systems. The papers identify opportunities for diverse aquatic foods to provide healthy diets, lower the environmental footprint of the food system, and provide livelihoods. Researchers found that "blue," or aquatic foods, rank more highly than terrestrial animal-source foods in terms of their nutritional benefits and potential for sustainability gains.




The National AgrAbility Project is celebrating 30 years of making agriculture accessible for people with disabilities. The National AgrAbility Project housed at Purdue University and 20 State/Regional AgrAbility Projects address a wide variety of disabilities, functional limitations, and health conditions in agriculture workers through educational programs, networking opportunities, and direct individual consultations. During October, AgrAbility projects from 20 states will participate in the AgrAbility Virtual State Fair on Facebook and Twitter. Each day will highlight how a state or regional program supports and serves. Educational programs and assistive information will also be shared each weekend for veterans in agriculture, assistive technology, caregivers, youth and underserved populations, including Black, Latino, and Native American direct support.




Savanna Institute partnered with Farm Commons, Wisconsin DATCP, and a group of experienced farmers to address the subject of food safety when integrating livestock in agroforestry systems. Their free guide, Managing Food Safety Liability Risks When Integrating Livestock with Specialty Crops, is available online. It outlines three steps to reduce food safety legal liability risks in agroforestry systems, three action steps for achieving regulatory consensus, and examples of how these rules apply to specific farms. The guide is supported by a series of webinars and videos that share how to meet food safety requirements while integrating livestock in specialty crop systems.




Since 2019, the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) and The Piney Woods School in rural Mississippi have partnered to educate the next generation of sustainable farmers, ranchers, soil scientists, and food security advocates. Thanks to a grant from USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, NCAT and The Piney Woods School are educating students about gardening, sustainability, and regenerative grazing practices at the school's 200-acre on-campus farm, sparking interest in agriculture-related career fields. They're now telling the story of this unique partnership in a new short video posted by NCAT.




The Minnesota Department of Agriculture's Emerging Farmers' Working Group (EFWG) has openings for nine volunteer members for two-year terms. Minnesotans interested in making it easier for new and emerging farmers to create or sustain an agricultural business are encouraged to apply. Priority areas for membership include women, veterans, persons with a disability/disabilities, American Indian/Alaska Native, communities of color, young, and urban. The deadline to apply for EFWG membership is September 27, 2021.




University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign led a location-specific study that accounted for net carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide emissions from all subsectors related to food production and consumption. The study results could help identify the primary plant- and animal-based food sectors contributing major greenhouse gas emissions and guide policymakers in taking effective action to reduce the highest emissions at each location. The findings are available in an open-access database. The study found that food-based agriculture accounts for 35% of all human-made greenhouse gas emissions. Of that, plant-based foods emissions contribute 29%, animal-based food emissions contribute 57%, and nonfood utilization such as cotton and rubber production contributes 14%.




USDA has accepted offers for more than 2.5 million acres from agricultural producers and private landowners for enrollment through this year's Grassland Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Signup. USDA notes that this is double last year's enrollment and brings the total enrollment across all CRP signups in 2021 to more than 5.3 million acres. Through Grassland CRP, producers and landowners can conserve grasslands, rangelands, and pastures, while retaining the right to conduct common grazing practices, such as haying, mowing, or harvesting seed from the enrolled land, pursuant to approved conservation plans designed to promote thoughtful use while creating and maintaining vital habitat. FSA rolled out a number of updates to its CRP signups earlier this year. This included setting a minimum payment rate for Grassland CRP as well as establishing new national priority zones: the Greater Yellowstone Elk Migratory Corridor and the Historical Dust Bowl Region.




A research team led by Cornell University is testing the potential for biochar, manure, and rock dust amendments to farmland to sequester carbon and boost crop yields, reports Yale Environment 360. Basalt rock pulverized into dust has been the most successful soil amendment tested during trials in New York and California. Adding rock dust to agricultural soils creates chemical reactions with the magnesium, calcium, and silica in the rock that help the soil lock up carbon long-term. Trial plots in California showed doubling of carbon update on treated lands. In addition, the nutrients in the rock dust helped corn and alfalfa trials yield 30% more.




A feature on KQED from Inside Climate News explores how California's Full Belly Farm is being affected by climate change. Though the farm focuses on practices that promote resilience, it has been challenged recently by both fire and drought. In addition, owners say this farm and other small farms like it are shut out of some sources of aid for climate adaptation because agricultural policy is tailored for large, industrial agriculture. Small farms with intact and functioning ecosystems provide a range of environmental services to society that aren't currently recognized and rewarded. They also provide a model for farming that uses less fossil fuel and may help counteract climate change.




An article published in USDA Economic Research Service's Amber Waves shows that off-farm income is a major component of household income for farm households. Research revealed that in 2019, 96% of farm households derived some income from off-farm sources. On average, off-farm income contributed 82% of total income, or $101,638, for all family farms in 2019. On average, small family farms, those with an annual GCFI under $350,000, derived more than half of their total household income from off-farm income in 2019. A breakdown of income sources by type and size of farm is available online.




The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the winners of its New Era of Smarter Food Safety Low- or No-Cost Tech-Enabled Traceability Challenge. At total of 90 submissions to the challenge were received from around the world. The winning teams representing the United States, Canada, and New Zealand tapped into new technologies and integrated data streams to help to advance the widespread, consistent implementation of traceability systems across the food industry. The primary goal of this challenge was to encourage stakeholders, including technology providers, public health advocates, entrepreneurs, and innovators from all disciplines to develop traceability hardware, software, or data analytics platforms that are low-cost or no-cost to the end user.




USDA announced it will soon publish Requests for Applications (RFAs) for new grant programs — the Pandemic Response and Safety (PRS) Grant program and the Seafood Processors Pandemic Response and Safety Block Grant program — to support agricultural stakeholders who haven't yet received substantial federal financial assistance in responding to the COVID-19 crisis. These grant programs will provide assistance to small businesses in certain commodity areas, including small scale specialty crop producers and processors, shellfish, aquaculture and other select producers, meat and other processors, distributors, farmers markets, seafood facilities, and processing vessels. Approximately $650 million in funding is available for the PRS grants and $50 million is available for SPRS.




CCOF Foundation, Community Alliance with Family Farmers, and "The Farmers Beet" have launched a new podcast titled "Radio Organic." The pilot series of four episodes centers around direct marketing strategies for farms. Long-time organic farmers will discuss the marketing techniques that have helped them run successful, resilient organic farms. The series is available in both English and Spanish.




Lancaster Farming reports that Pasa Sustainable Agriculture received a $1 million grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to create the nation's first regenerative organic dairy supply chain. Pasa aims to transition 10,000 acres on 54 dairy farms in four Pennsylania counties to a regenerative grazing model based on managed grazing and perennial hay. The project team will offer technical assistance with financial planning, production transitioning, and organic certification. At least 40 of the dairies participating in the project will be offered the opportunity for a five-year contract with Origin Milk Co. The project is designed to deliver environmental benefits to the Chesapeake Bay region, as well as economic benefits for participating farmers.




USDA's Risk Management Agency (RMA) is revising Whole-Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) insurance to make it more flexible and accessible to producers beginning in crop year 2022. The changes include increasing expansion limits for organic producers to the higher of $500,000 or 35%. Additionally,a producer may now report acreage as certified organic, or as acreage in transition to organic, when the producer has requested an organic certification by the acreage reporting date. The changes also provide flexibility to report a partial yield history for producers lacking records by inserting zero yields for missing years.




A new report from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) finds that 67% of farmers who applied to access critical government conservation programs from 2010-2020 were rejected, due in part to lack of funding. Report findings underscore that rising farmer demand to access programs that respond to the climate crisis, build soil health and protect water quality is not being met. The report, Closed out: How U.S. farmers are denied access to conservation programs, by IATP's Michael Happ, examines farmer application rate of approvals for two critical conservation programs: The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). The report found that nationally, over the last decade, 69% EQIP applications and 58% of CSP applicants were rejected. The decline in approved CSP applications is connected partially to the 2018 Farm Bill, which put CSP funding on a downward trend, with nationwide funding for the program as high as $2.3 billion in 2019 and projected to decrease to $1.4 billion in 2023.




USDA announced the recipients of $464 million in investments in rural renewable energy infrastructure. This includes $129 million in funding through the Rural Energy for America Program, which helps agricultural producers and rural small businesses purchase and install renewable energy systems and make energy efficiency improvements. A list of the projects that were selected for funding is available online.




USDA awarded $11 million to 21 grant projects to strengthen and explore new market opportunities for U.S. food and agricultural products. The funding is made possible through three funding programs administered by the Agricultural Marketing Service: Acer Access and Development Program (Acer), Federal State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP), and Micro-Grants for Food Security Program (MGFSP). Acer, authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill to increase market opportunities for the domestic maple syrup industry, awarded $5.4 million to eleven projects. FSMIP awarded $1 million to five projects to explore new market opportunities for U.S. food and agricultural products and to encourage research and innovation aimed at improving marketing system efficiency and performance. Meanwhile, the Micro-Grants Program awarded $4.6 million to agricultural agencies or departments in Alaska, American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and Hawaii to support communities that have significant levels of food insecurity and import significant quantities of food.




The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is accepting applications for the 2022 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program Technical Review Committee. The Technical Review Committee is comprised of volunteers with knowledge and expertise regarding California's specialty crop industry. The committee reviews, evaluates, and makes recommendations to CDFA on proposals submitted for funding to California's Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. Interested individuals should submit a resume and application by October 4, 2021.




USDA announced that it will help drought-stricken livestock producers cover the cost of transporting feed for animals that rely on grazing. USDA is updating the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees and Farm-raised Fish Program (ELAP) to immediately cover feed transportation costs for ranchers where drought intensity is D2 for eight consecutive weeks, drought intensity is D3 or greater, or USDA has determined a shortage of local or regional feed availability. Under the revised policy for feed transportation cost assistance, eligible ranchers will be reimbursed 60% of feed transportation costs above what would have been incurred in a normal year. Producers qualifying as underserved (socially disadvantaged, limited resource, beginning or military veteran) will be reimbursed for 90% of the feed transportation cost above what would have been incurred in a normal year. USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) will provide more details and tools to help ranchers get ready to apply at their local USDA Service Center later this month.




USDA announced that $700 million in competitive grant funding will be available through the new Farm and Food Workers Relief (FFWR) grant program to help farmworkers and meatpacking workers with pandemic-related health and safety costs. The program will provide relief to farmworkers, meatpacking workers, and front-line grocery workers for expenses incurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This relief is intended to defray costs for reasonable and necessary personal, family, or living expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as costs for personal protective equipment (PPE), dependent care, and expenses associated with quarantines and testing related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Funds ranging from $5 million to $50 million will be awarded through grants to state agencies, Tribal entities, and non-profit organizations serving farmworkers and meatpacking workers.




Organic Growers School is accepting applications for its year-long Farm Beginnings program. This is a 12-month hybrid online and in-person training based in Western North Carolina that uses holistic management to help beginning farmers clarify their goals and strengths, establish a strong enterprise plan, and start building their operation. Classes begin October 24, 2021. The program includes courses, conference attendance, mentorship, production training, and more.




The Midwest-based Artisan Grain Collaborative and the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems at Vermont Law School released a free online guide for food-grade grain farmers and processors, Understanding FSMA's Preventive Controls Rule: A Guide for Grain Businesses. The guide breaks down complicated federal food safety regulations related to the Food Safety Modernization Act's (FSMA) Preventive Controls for Human Food Rule (PCR). It aims to help farmers and processors identify which food safety requirements apply to their particular operations and assist them in understanding what they need to do to comply with the rule as they work to build local and regional food systems. The guide includes a flowchart to help grain farms and businesses determine what type of entity category they fall into, with information specific to farms, processing facilities, retail food establishments, and restaurants. It also provides information about how the Preventive Controls for Human Food Rule applies to various entities that process grains and a discussion of how particular activities fit within the rule.




A study from the University of California, Davis, published in Frontiers in Plant Science, found that coastal California grape growers could use 50% less irrigation water than normal. The study measured crop evapotranspiration and tested replacing 25%, 50%, or 100% of the water loss with irrigation. Researchers found that 50% replacement best maintained grape flavor and yield. The finding could help grape growers adapt to climate change and mitigate the impact of drought.




Practical Farmers of Iowa published a Farmer-Led Research Report by Mark Glawe, Economic and Soil Health Impact of Grazing Different Cover Crops Mixes. As an integrated crop and livestock farmer, Glawe began using cover crops 15 years ago. He tracked the economic and soil health impact of grazing cover crops from 2019-2021. Glawe noted a profit of $62.07 per acre in the first year of the research trial. In the second year, he profited $302.01 per acre. Details on economic and soil health results of the different cover crop mixes tested are available in the online report.




The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) announced that it will hold its NOSB Fall 2021 Meeting virtually instead of in-person. The public comment period and public comment registration are now open for the October meeting. Interested parties are encouraged to review the online meeting materials and provide feedback on topics included on the agenda. Meeting materials available online include the tentative agenda, proposals, and discussion documents. Written comments and requests for oral comment speaking slots must be received by September 30, 2021. The public comment days are scheduled for October 13-14, 2021, and the public meeting will be October 19-21, 2021.




USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is soliciting comments and information regarding the labeling of meat and poultry products made using cultured cells derived from animals. FSIS will use these comments to inform future regulatory requirements for the labeling of such food products. Other than new labeling regulations concerning this product, FSIS does not intend to issue any other new food safety regulations for the cell-cultured food products under its jurisdiction. USDA considers current FSIS regulations requiring sanitation and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) systems immediately applicable and sufficient to ensure the safety of products cultured from the cells of livestock and poultry. The comment period will be open for 60 days, and instructions on submitting comments are available online.




The Soil and Water Conservation Society released results from its first-ever Conservation Practitioner Poll (CPP), which surveyed conservation practitioners in the Upper Mississippi River Basin who provide technical assistance, implement programs, and work directly with farmers to realize natural resource conservation goals on the landscape. Among the poll's findings: Nearly all conservation practitioners rated in-person work with farmers and landowners, whether in the office or in the field, as the most effective strategy for getting conservation on the ground, and 92% rated cost-share programs as effective or highly effective tools to support conservation implementation. State-level conservation programs were ranked highest for ease of administration, while the Conservation Stewardship Program, the nation's largest conservation program, was rated most difficult to administer. In addition, 69% of conservation practitioners are interested in receiving training and information about climate-smart agriculture.




Oregon Tilth and Oregon State University's Center for Small Farms and Community Food Systems will be co-hosting the 5th National Farm Viability Conference during October 2021. The conference kick-off event is October 1, 2021, with virtual workshops happening most weekdays throughout the month and a closing event set for October 29, 2021. Featuring an array of virtual programming, the conference will bring together professionals in the fields of farm and food business planning, financial planning, agricultural financing, crisis management, farmland conservation, agricultural market development, and food hub management. Attendees will have the opportunity to network, learn from industry leaders and other professionals in their fields, and develop new knowledge and skills.




This October, USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service will mail its first Hemp Acreage and Production Survey. The survey will collect information on the total planted and harvested area, yield, production, and value of hemp in the United States. The survey will provide needed data about the hemp industry to assist producers, regulatory agencies, state governments, processors, and other key industry entities. Producers will be able to complete the survey online or they may complete and return the survey by mail.




A Corteva Agriscience survey of more than 600 row-crop farmers across 26 U.S. states shows 66% of responding farmers have already implemented soil health practices such as using cover crops and/or reduced tillage. Although only 3% of farmers currently participate in carbon credit programs, many farmers indicate that they would consider a carbon program if the payout per acre reached $20. With a payout per acre of $40, the majority said they would commit to participation in a program. In addition, 44% of farmers who have not already adopted soil health practices report increased interest in on-farm stewardship during the past five years. The survey also identified farmers' perceived barriers to implementing soil health practices and joining carbon credit programs. These included lack of knowledge, lack of equipment, and concerns about payoffs.




Scientists with USDA Agricultural Research Service's (ARS) Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory worked with the Soil Health Institute to evaluate the carbon dioxide flush as a means of indicating soil health. Researchers identified a need for an inexpensive and reliable test that can provide suitable data for measuring soil health, especially for nitrogen mineralization. The carbon dioxide flux test measures carbon dioxide released inside a jar when dry soil is rewetted. The amount of carbon dioxide released during a one-day incubation indicates the level of microbial activity in the soil. The researchers found that this test indicated most soil physical, chemical, biological, and biochemical properties when farming in semiarid conditions.