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The American Lamb Board has introduced a suite of new tools that focus on why consumers can feel good about eating American lamb, highlight sheep and lamb production throughout history, emphasize how sheep and lamb are intrinsic to our existence, and explain the unique relationship among sheep, humans and other animals. A 9-minute video serves as the central storytelling tool, but the suite of materials includes a 2-minute version of the video, six shorter-form social media clips, photography, and a print narrative. The full video is featured on the new americanlamb.com website.




Drones could play an important role in the future of sustainable agriculture, according to a researcher from the University of California, Davis. Elvira De Lange's review article notes that drones can be used in Integrated Pest Management to patrol fields for signs of pest activity and to deliver biological control agents or highly targeted pesticides. Another potential application for drones is assessing plant health and need for fertilizer.




A Stanford University study published in Environmental Research Letters showed that Midwest farmers who reduced tillage increased corn and soybean yields while improving soil health and lowering production costs. The research team used machine learning and satellite datasets to develop satellite-based crop yield models. Researchers calculated that, across nine Midwest states between 2005 and 2016, corn yields improved an average of 3.3% and soybeans by 0.74% on fields managed with long-term conservation tillage practices. The researchers calculated that it takes 11 years for corn farmers to see full benefits of reduced tillage, and twice that long for soybean growers. However, reduced tillage lowered production costs from the start, due to reduced need for labor, fuel, and farming equipment.




Penn State Extension has created a set of free online tools for small-scale cheesemakers, to help them develop food safety systems for their facilities and conduct risk assessments of their processes. The tools include a Guide for Implementing a Food Safety System in Small-Scale and Raw Milk Cheese Plants, which provides an overview of what is needed and how to approach setting up a food safety system and conducting a hazard analysis. Another tool is the Food Safety Plan for Raw Milk Gouda Cheese Teaching Example, which provides a comprehensive hazard analysis that can be adapted by cheesemakers. A blank template for building a food safety plan is also available. Printed copies are available for cheesemakers that do not have access to the Internet.




Farm Credit, American Farm Bureau Federation, and National Farmers Union are partnering on a program to train individuals who interact with farmers and ranchers to recognize signs of stress and offer help. Based on the farm stress program Michigan State University Extension developed for the USDA Farm Service Agency, this combination of online and in-person trainings is designed specifically for individuals who interact with farmers and ranchers. It provides participants the skills to understand the sources of stress, learn the warning signs of stress and suicide, identify effective communication strategies, reduce stigma related to mental health concerns, and connect farmers and ranchers with appropriate mental health and other resources.




The Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP) is launching endorsements for soil health, integrated pest management, and wildlife in addition to the 10-year water quality certification a farmer or landowner receives in the program. MAWQCP is a voluntary opportunity for farmers and agricultural landowners to take the lead in implementing conservation practices that protect water. Those who implement and maintain approved farm management practices will be certified and in turn obtain regulatory certainty for a period of ten years. The MAWQCP partnered with various non-profit organizations, such as Pheasants Forever and the Minnesota Soil Health Coalition, and state agencies to develop the three new endorsements. Certified producers who achieve an endorsement will receive an additional sign for their farm and recognition for their conservation excellence.




The Savanna Institute has released Overcoming Bottlenecks in the Midwest Hazelnut Industry: An Impact Investment Plan. The 63-page free report represents the first stage in Savanna Institute's push to catalyze the Midwest hazelnut industry. It provides a roadmap for connecting capital with the key practitioners, researchers, and educators on the ground. The report gathers critical information from across the community of hazelnut stakeholders, identifies the industry's central development bottlenecks, considers the competing priorities and merits of various approaches to these hurdles, and conducts an object assessment and ranking of priorities for impact investment.




USDA has announced a $237 million investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). The current round of funding will support 640 awards to applicants in all 50 states, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the Western Pacific. Recipients can use REAP funding for energy audits and to install renewable energy systems such as biomass, geothermal, hydropower and solar. The funding can also be used to increase energy efficiency by making improvements to heating, ventilation and cooling systems; insulation; and lighting and refrigeration.




Bloomberg reports that a livestock feed supplement developed by Swiss agritech company Mootral reduces emissions enough to qualify the farmers who use it for carbon-offset credits. The credits are offered through the nonprofit organization Verra, whose VCS Program allows vetted projects to turn their greenhouse gas emissions reductions into tradable carbon credits. The garlic-and-citrus feed supplement has been proven to cut greenhouse-gas emissions by dairy cows in England by 38%. Mootral expects the first "CowCredits" to be generated next year, and plans to expand to sheep and goats in the future.




A study led by the University of Vermont is inviting farmers throughout the country to participate in a 10- to 15-minute survey on agritourism. The data will be used by cooperative extension and research personnel to develop resources to help increase the success of small- and medium-sized farms that offer on-farm direct sales, education, hospitality, recreation, entertainment, and other types of agritourism. In addition to demographic and farm information, the survey is collecting data on direct sales and agritourism experiences offered, visitor numbers and goals, successes, challenges, and future plans for agritourism. Farmers can also provide input on the types of support needed to achieve success with agritourism, including on-farm direct sales.




The University of Connecticut is collaborating with other New England institutions to put together a USDA grant on Agriculture and Food Research Initiatives. The focus is on sustainable poultry production to help small, medium, and large poultry farmers, processors and industry personnel to increase profitability, reduce input costs, increase productivity, and reduce losses due to environmental and biological stresses. In addition, this grant would help develop tools to enhance rural prosperity and health by ensuring access to affordable, safe, and nutritious poultry products to sustain healthy lifestyles. Long-term, the project seeks to ensure the sustainability of antibiotic-restricted broiler production by enhancing bird, human, and environmental health, and ultimately increasing consumer acceptability and economic returns to farmers. Project collaborators are collecting information on needs for poultry research, education, and outreach in the region through a three- to five-minute online survey questionnaire.




USDA has announced the award of $23.5 million in grant funding through the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) and the Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP). The programs are designed to increase domestic consumption of, and access to, locally and regionally produced agricultural products, and to develop new market opportunities for farm and ranch operations serving local markets. There were 49 projects funded under the FMPP and 42 projects through the LFPP. Lists of the recipients are available online, along with brief descriptions of the projects selected for funding.




USDA is opening signup for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) on December 9, 2019. The signup deadline for general CRP is February 28, 2020, although signup for continuous CRP is ongoing. A separate CRP Grasslands signup will be held after the general signup. Farmers and ranchers who enroll in CRP receive a yearly rental payment for voluntarily establishing long-term, resource-conserving plant species to control soil erosion, improve water quality, and develop wildlife habitat on marginally productive agricultural lands. CRP already has 22 million acres enrolled, but the 2018 Farm Bill lifted the cap to 27 million acres. This means farmers and ranchers have a chance to enroll in CRP for the first time or continue their participation for another term.




USDA has announced five new members for the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). Nathaniel Powell-Palm of Cold Springs Organics in Belgrade, Montana, will serve on the Board in a farmer seat. Kimberly Huseman, the Director of Specialty Ingredients for Pilgrim's, will serve in a handler seat, as will Gerard D'Amore of Munger Farms. Eastside Food Co-op Grocery Manager Mindee Jeffery will serve on the Board in the retailer seat. Lastly, the Senior Vice President of Sustainability for Agriculture Capital, Wood Turner, will serve in an environmental protection and resource conservation seat. These new members will serve five-year terms beginning in January 2020.




A blog post from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition highlights three different farm operations that received Value Added Producer Grants (VAPG) to expand their businesses. The post explains how a dairy farm in Alabama, a hog farm in Georgia, and a farmer-led cooperative in Minnesota utilized the VAPG program, and it includes videos of the grant recipients discussing how VAPG helped them. These grant recipients have all successfully utilized VAPG more than once. The post also notes that this year's application period is expected to open soon.




Colorado is considering a statewide soil health program that will support farmers and ranchers in efforts to implement regenerative agriculture practices, reports The Colorado Sun. The state's governor has requested funding for the program from the legislature, and the Colorado Collaborative for Healthy Soils is trying to envision the program's role and how it would work. It's a group of farmers, ranchers, and stakeholders from across the state that is exploring ways to encourage and incentivize soil management practices. Agency employees, consultants, and farmers and ranchers themselves recognize that change isn't easy for agricultural producers who are already struggling economically. They say a statewide program could help provide the knowledge and financial incentives that producers need to develop practices that will be effective at improving soil health on their particular operations.




A paper published in Ecology Letters by Washington State University scientists shows that small farms with more plant diversity attract more visits by pollinating bees. The researchers say that having a variety of plants that flower at different times and offer beneficial traits is the best way to increase pollinator activity. Increasing bee visits to a farm in turn increases pollinator efficiency. The study showed the effect held true for both honey bees and wild pollinators. "If a farmer is thinking about buying more bees, planting more diverse crops could be an alternative," said study co-author Elias Bloom.




University of Kentucky researchers led a study published in the journal Insects that demonstrated the potential of fine-mesh netting for insect control in blackberries. The fine-mesh exclusion netting reduced the abundance of numerous insect pests and resulted in a higher yield of marketable fruit, compared to organic spinosad insecticide treatment. The researchers point out that fine-mesh netting can be substituted for netting conventionally used to keep birds out of small-fruit crops, because it excludes bird as well as insects. Therefore, using the fine-mesh netting could be particularly feasible for producers of grapes, caneberries, and blueberries who already utilize netting to exclude birds.




Researchers at Washington State University have developed a deicer solution made from grape skins and other agricultural waste. The new combination causes less damage to concrete and asphalt than salt-based deicer, and also poses less risk to water bodies. What's more, its manufacture creates no waste, and it melts ice faster than other alternatives. The production process can be modified to use other agricultural wastes, as well. Professor Xianming Shi explains, "We can use this same platform technology in different regions of the country but choose a different agricultural product, depending on what source of waste is available."




Scientists at Colorado State University have determined that there are two broad categories of soil organic matter that are different in origin and makeup. "Particulate organic matter" is made up of lightweight, partly decomposed plants and fungi residues that are short-lived and not well protected, while "mineral-associated organic matter" is largely made of byproducts of the decomposition of microbes that chemically bind to minerals in the soil. Professor Francesca Cotrufo explains that particulate organic matter is like the "checking account" of soils: it turns over continuously and supports nutrient cycling but requires regular deposits to stay vital. Mineral-associated organic matter, meanwhile, is the "savings account" that gets a smaller fraction of deposits but is inherently more stable. Conventional agriculture, Cotrufo says, has caused us to exhaust our checking account and start living off our savings.




A program of the Pennsylvania Farm Bill has awarded $500,000 in Small Meat Processor Grants to fund 15 projects to improve the supply of locally produced meat in the commonwealth. The grants include funding for a mobile poultry processing trailer, an organic processing facility, value-added product equipment, and numerous processing facilities to serve nearby farms. At least one farm will implement on-farm meat processing through the grant program. The funded projects will create local jobs and open new markets for farmers.




A study led by Los Alamos National Laboratory and published in Nature Climate Change shows that not only will droughts become more frequent under future climates, but more of those events will be extreme, adding to the reduction of plant production essential to human and animal populations. "Even though plants can, in many cases, benefit from increased levels of carbon dioxide that are predicted for the future atmosphere, the impact of severe drought on destroying these plants will be extreme, especially in the Amazon, South Africa, Mediterranean, Australia, and southwest USA," said lead study author Chonggang Xu. The combination of low soil water availability, heat stress, and disturbances associated with droughts could offset any benefits plants might gain from fertilization by higher carbon dioxide concentrations.




Good Food 100 Restaurants has announced its 2019 Good Food Farmer and Purveyor of the Year Award recipients. The awards honor producers and purveyors from seven regions of the country who are committed to sustainability and transparency. This year's recipients: Carne Locale (New England); PrairiErth Farm (Great Lakes); Good Shepherd Poultry (Plains); White Oak Pastures (Southeast); Niman Ranch (Southwest); Croft Family Farm (Rocky Mountain); and Produce Express-Distributor (West). The awards honor and celebrate one farmer, rancher, fisherman or one purveyor/distributor nominated by the participating 2019 Good Food 100 chefs in each region. Winners are selected by the Good Food Media Network team based on their commitment to sustainability, transparency, and advancing good food practices, as well as quantity and quality of the nomination forms.




After a full year of providing education and support to help farmers and ranchers transition from conventional to regenerative agriculture, the Soil Health Academy (SHA) announced that it has become a federally recognized, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. SHA's three-day schools feature instruction by David Brandt, Ray Archuleta, Gabe Brown, Allen Williams, Ph.D., Shane New, and other technical consultants, all of whom are widely considered to be among the most preeminent pioneers, innovators, and advocates in today's soil health and regenerative agricultural movement. As a nonprofit, SHA President David Brandt said, the organization will be better positioned, long-term, to deliver programs and services to help farmers make the successful transition from chemically dependent conventional farming methods to nature-mimicking regenerative methods.




Alabama farmer Annie Dee is one of the early participants in an incentive program for carbon sequestration, reports AL.com. Dee enrolled in Indigo Agriculture's Terraton Initiative, which pays $15 per ton of carbon sequestered in the soil she farms. Dee is already a no-till farmer who uses cover crops and crop rotations, so she will collect payment for practices already in place. Indigo Ag predicts that farmers who implement its full suite of regenerative growing practices, including cover crops, no-till, reducing fertilizer and chemical inputs, crop rotation, and integrating livestock, could sequester two to three tons of carbon per acre, per year. Indigo Ag says farmers have committed more than 12 million acres to its program to date.




Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a silk coating for seeds that both protects the seeds and helps them to germinate even in saline soil conditions. The silk coatings are also treated with rhizobacteria that convert nitrogen from the air to a form that plants can uptake, providing fertilizer that helps get the plants off to a good start. Researchers say the seed coating could be applied as a dip or spray, and could make it possible to grow food crops in marginal soil. Next, the team intends to explore coatings that could help seeds germinate and thrive in drought conditions by absorbing water from the soil.




The popularity of hemp farming has exploded in the United States this past year, reports National Public Radio, but the young industry is experiencing struggles. About 90% of hemp is grown for cannabidiol, but growers are challenged with production of a crop that can turn from being high quality to having illegal concentrations of THC overnight. If THC goes over the legal limit, crops must be destroyed, resulting in losses for the grower. Also, a glut of hemp on the market has overwhelmed processors and caused prices paid to farmers to drop. Some farmers have opted for the long-term fiber and seed market, but these producers also face equipment, processing, and marketing challenges in a young industry.




Some Massachusetts dairy farmers are combining manure with food waste to produce renewable energy, reports PBS. Dairy farmers are diversifying their operations, working with a renewable energy company that builds anaerobic digesters on their farms. The digesters not only help farmers manage manure, but also take in food waste from the surrounding area. Unsold produce, spent distillers grains, and food-processing waste are trucked to the farms, ground, and used to produce energy for the farms and surrounding communities. The feature notes that a state ban on food waste in landfills and renewable energy incentives helped launch the operations and make them economically feasible.




University of California researchers found that hedgerows bordering farmland support beneficial, bug-eating birds that help with pest control. A study published in Ecosphere tested how access to habitat improved the predation success of birds on codling moth cocoons. Not only hedgerows, but also the presence of mature walnut trees, helped birds reduce codling moth populations. The study authors also point out that, in addition to birds, hedgerows can attract beneficial insects to a farm, including pollinators.




The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) has developed a global map that illustrates the sustainability of food systems on a country-by-country basis. The assessment was based on 20 indicators in four dimensions: environment, economic, social, and food and nutrition. According to CIAT, the tool can be used to track changes in sustainability over time and has the potential to guide policy and action as climate change, rising populations, and increased demand for food place unprecedented pressure on global food systems. Christophe Béné, the study's lead author, commented, "Our research highlights how little is currently known about food systems. [N]ational statistical systems, in both high- and lower-income countries, are collecting only a small portion of the information that is needed to build a comprehensive picture of the whole system."




USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced the award of more than $24 million in grants through On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials, a new component of the Conservation Innovation Grants program. NRCS announced that 16 projects are receiving these funding awards, including nine awards under the Soil Health Demonstration Trial. These nine projects focus on the adoption and evaluation of soil health management systems and practices. The remaining seven projects focus on irrigation water management, precision agriculture, and a variety of management technologies. A complete list of recipients is available online.




Registration is now open for the 10th Organic Seed Growers Conference, scheduled to take place in Corvallis, Oregon, February 12-15, 2020. The conference is the largest event focused solely on organic seed in North America, bringing together hundreds of farmers, plant breeders, researchers, food companies, seed companies, and others. The biennial conference has been convening the organic seed community for nearly two decades and includes a packed agenda of presentations, panel discussions, networking events, and celebration. Farm tours and short courses are held prior to the full two-day conference.




The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) is one of 33 organizations that the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has selected for Climate Smart Agriculture Technical Assistance awards totaling $2.1 million. With these funds, the recipients will provide technical assistance to the applicants and awardees of CDFA's Alternative Manure Management Program and the Healthy Soils Program. Grant recipients will perform outreach for the programs and assist farmers in many application-related tasks such as developing a project design, estimating the benefits of proposals, and submitting applications. "These technical assistance grants are so important to supporting farmers and ranchers of every size and in every region of our state understand the application requirements as well as the kinds of climate smart agriculture projects that qualify," said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross.




Researchers from Pennsylvania State University say that forest farming could provide a model for the future of forest botanical supply chains. They say that transitioning from wild collection to forest farming as a source of medicinal herbs such as ginseng would create a sustainable supply chain, not only in terms of the environment, but also in terms of social justice for people who harvest the plants. The researchers point out that forest farming would allow more transparency in the supply chain, which could lead not only to better-quality herbal products, but also to a reliable and stable income for forest farmers.




In December, USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) will be mailing surveys to more than 22,000 U.S. producers involved in certified or transitioning-to-certified organic farming. The 2019 Organic Survey results will expand on the 2017 Census of Agriculture data by looking at several aspects of organic agriculture during the 2019 calendar year, including production, marketing practices, income, expenses, and more. Producers who receive the 2019 Organic Survey are required to respond by federal law. Farmers and ranchers are asked to complete their surveys online via the secure NASS website by January 10, 2020.




Researchers at the University of Illinois have been studying how well honey bees do in agricultural areas. They found that although bee colonies thrive on the soybean flowers and corn pollen early in the summer, the lack of flowering plants later in the summer causes populations to crash. Later in the summer, bees forage primarily on clover near field edges. The researchers found that when bees were moved to restored prairie with more blooming plants, colonies rebounded to healthy levels. The scientists say there's not enough prairie available to "rescue" all the bee colonies from agricultural land, so they recommend installing strips of prairie within or alongside agricultural fields to support healthy bee populations.




A report in The Christian Science Monitor explains the benefits that farmers are finding in practicing silvopasture. Advocates say that combining trees and livestock helps sequester carbon, improves soil health, and helps protect the livestock from heat stress. Silvopasture is apparently on the rise in the United States, and some universities are offering farmers technical help and incentives to try the practice. Experts advise, however, that simply turning animals into a woodlot is not the same as implementing a silvopasture system that maximizes the health of both trees and animals.




The Climate Adaptation Fellowship has posted a Climate Adaptation Curriculum on its website. The curriculum includes four separate modules tailored for northeastern land managers (farmers or foresters) and the advisors who work with them. Modules are designed to address the specific issues and concerns of vegetable/small fruit producers, dairy producers, tree fruit producers, or foresters who live and work in the northeastern United States. Each module was created by a team of researchers, outreach and technical service providers, and land managers and will be refined based on utilization. The modules include education lessons and hands-on activities.




Researchers from Washington State University recently published results of a study on the food safety of using dairy manure as fertilizer on red raspberries. The study evaluated a number of manure-derived fertilizers: anaerobically digested liquid effluent, aerobically composted dairy manure, and more concentrated refined fertilizers, such as ammonium sulfate and phosphorus solids. The study found no Shiga toxin-producing E. coli or Listeria monocytogenes in any soil samples. Though Salmonella was found in some fertilizer samples, it was not present in soil, foliar, or fruit samples taken after two or four months. Based on results of this study, the researchers concluded that application of manure-derived fertilizers to raspberry plots four months prior to harvest under GAP did not introduce microbiological safety risk.




Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) has published a newsletter highlighting several recently completed projects funded by its Farmer Grants. These include production of verijuice from unripe grapes, exploration of materials for seasonal wreaths, disease management in hops using sheep, and a test of the feasibility of organic Belgian endive as a winter crop.




Wisconsin's fifth round of Producer-Led Watershed Protection Grants has been awarded to 27 groups of farmers by the state's Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). Farmers will work with conservation agencies and organizations to address soil and water issues specific to their local conditions. Grants range from just over $7,500 to $40,000 for conservation practice incentives, education and outreach, and water quality testing and monitoring efforts. All projects are led by farmers in collaboration with local partner agencies and organizations to increase conservation activities in their watersheds.




Environmental Defense Fund has released a new report, How Conservation Makes Dairy Farms More Resilient, Especially in a Lean Agricultural Economy. Four Pennsylvania dairy farmers opened their books to allow for a comparative analysis of how their conservation practices impacted their budgets. The overriding lesson learned from this analysis is that conservation contributes to the economic well-being and resilience of dairy farms. The report also finds that conservation practices can pay at the farm level, often in unanticipated ways. The report also offers recommendations for increasing educational, technical, and financial resources for farmers to make adoption of conservation practices more viable.




Whitney Economics has released "The Field of Dreams: An Economic Survey of the United States Hemp Cultivation Industry," a cultivation and processing report. The survey concludes that hemp has the potential to become the third-largest agricultural crop in the United States by revenue, second only to corn and soy. According to the report, the total value of the hemp biomass is an estimated $11.3 billion or roughly 6% of the total value of the entire U.S. cash crops. However, the report also reveals that 65% of farmers who responded to the national survey did not have a buyer, and that there is one processor for every four growers. This means the average land area per processor is 138 acres, signifying a major constraint in the hemp supply chain. The full results of the survey are available online.




With funding from the first-ever Pennsylvania Farm Bill, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and PennAg Industries are launching the Center for Poultry and Livestock Excellence to assist swine, poultry, and small ruminant producers with everything from expanding processing capacity to biosecurity planning. The center will provide the following resources and investments to the industry: biosecurity education and planning assistance; biosecurity implementation grants; regional workshops for strategic and emergency communications planning; buildout of statewide animal agriculture infrastructure; research to approve hemp for animal feed; and Investments in improved food safety infrastructure.




University of Minnesota research published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution evaluated the productivity and biodiversity of land that had once been used for agriculture and then abandoned. The study considered grasslands and savannas in Minnesota that were abandoned for agricultural use as recently as one year previously to as long as 91 years ago. Researchers found that local grassland plant diversity increased significantly over time, but incompletely recovered, and plant productivity did not significantly recover. Even 91 years after abandonment, the fields had just 73% of the plant diversity and 53% of the plant productivity of neighboring land that was never plowed. Study authors suggest that the findings support active restoration efforts to restore biodiversity on abandoned agricultural land worldwide, in order to prevent plant extinctions.




The American Society for Horticultural Science reports that researchers from the University of Florida have published a review of literature exploring how controlled-environment production can be applied to urban agriculture. Celina Gómez and her fellow researchers delved into the likelihood that controlled environments will revolutionize urban food systems and the techniques that can be employed for them to do so. The review identifies many factors worthy of consideration regarding controlled-environment production in urban areas: local demand and supply of food, location, population density, facility design, and crops produced. Additionally, there are market considerations: sustainability for these urban farms requires understanding of capital investment and operating costs, production volume, product quality and consistency, and local market trends.




Purdue University is receiving about $1 million of a $10 million U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant awarded to North Carolina State University through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative. Purdue scientists are part of a team of researchers who will examine the benefits of cover crops in corn, soybeans, and cotton during the five-year study. Purdue scientists are interested in how much nitrogen cover crops can add to soil. As part of the study, researchers will be monitoring the impact of cover crops on water movement through soil, soil temperature, soil moisture, and other factors that can affect soil organic matter, nutrient losses, and irrigation needs.




A paper published by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says that diversifying crop production can make the food supply more nutritious, reduce resource demand and greenhouse gas emissions, and enhance climate resilience without reducing calorie production or requiring more land. This conclusion is based on assessment that used rice production in India as an example. Scientists note that, over time, the diversity of cultivated crops has narrowed considerably, with many producers opting to shift away from more nutritious cereals to high-yielding crops like rice. They say that planting less rice and more nutritious and environmentally friendly crops such as finger millet, pearl millet, and sorghum would benefit nutrition, farmers, and the environment.




DISARM, an active European network dedicated to finding innovative solutions for antibiotic resistance, has launched a new range of platforms inviting farmers, veterinarians, agricultural advisors, and others to join discussions about farmed-animal health and antibiotic usage. The DISARM Project brings people together from agricultural sectors across Europe to share knowledge and ideas. It aims to reduce the need for antibiotic treatments in livestock farming by keeping animals healthy, preventing disease, and promoting appropriate, prudent use of antibiotic treatments. New resources developed by the network include a dedicated DISARM website www.disarmproject.eu, which provides details on events and workshops, and the DISARM Community of Practice, a Facebook-based discussion group where members can ask questions and share their ideas and experiences. The first official DISARM event, in Brussels on December 3, 2019, and available via livestream, will present the project and include a discussion forum and Q&A session.




A group of botanical experts has published a paper in the journal Planta Medica, warning of the effects of climate change on medicinal plants. In Scientists' Warning on Climate Change and Medicinal Plants, they write that "populations may be threatened by changing temperature and precipitation regimes, disruption of commensal relationships, and increases in pests and pathogens, combined with anthropogenic habitat fragmentation that impedes migration." The paper warns that these effects, combined with unsustainable harvest, could push many plant populations to extinction. Furthermore, they note that increased environmental stresses could alter the chemical content of medicinal plants. The authors recommend measures such as conservation and cultivation of plants, harvester education, and efforts to mitigate climate change.




A feature in Knowable Magazine explores a role for low-input agriculture as a middle road between organic and conventional agriculture. The article discusses the extent of the organic agriculture yield gap, the relationship between organic agriculture and biodiversity, the performance of organic agriculture in aspects other than yield, and the failings of conventional agriculture. It identifies a need for more research to advance organic agriculture and highlights the production potential and environmental benefits of greater use of low-input agriculture.




Research at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology in the United Kingdom, published in Environmental Pollution, found that high concentrations of microplastics in soil can reduce worm fertility by 50%. Ecotoxicologist and study leader Dr. Elma Lahive explained that the smaller the plastics, the greater the reduction in reproduction, which could be linked to ingestion of plastics by the worms. "Given we know that microplastics are accumulating in our soils and can stay there for a very long time, we clearly need to understand the effect they are having on our soil ecosystems and the long-term risks they may pose," said Lahive.




A new paper from the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) addresses the risks associated with the dwindling genetic diversity of livestock and poultry. Protecting Food Animal Gene Pools for Future Generations—A paper in the series on The Need for Agricultural Innovation to Sustainably Feed the World by 2050 is available free online from CAST as a 24-page PDF. In it, authors argue for greater efforts to protect the genes of animal livestock breeds, noting that "up to 25% of global livestock breeds are either at risk of being lost, or have already been lost." The paper includes five recommendations that build on current conservation practices, including preservation of breeds with diverse properties and research on genetic and phenotypic diversity.




Organic Farming Research Foundation shared results from a project it funded to assess resistance among selected cucumber and muskmelon seedstocks to the problematic diseases Bacterial Wilt and Cucurbit Downy Mildew. The first year of the project (2018) identified cucumber seedstocks that performed well, and a second grant in 2019 supported testing those varieties more broadly with a goal of releasing the varieties with best resistance in 2020.




The National Cattlemen's Beef Association has published a white paper on the environmental footprint of beef production in the United States. Data in the report shows that only 3.7% of U.S. greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions come directly from beef cattle. This report also offers data showing that all agriculture accounts for 8.4% of U.S. GHG emissions, while the transportation sector is responsible for 28% of U.S. GHG emissions. The white paper also discusses improved efficiencies in beef cattle that are credited with reducing the environmental impact of U.S. production. A lifecycle assessment that evaluates sustainability achievements and opportunities across the entire beef lifecycle was conducted in partnership with USDA and is set to be released in the first half of 2020.




The Savanna Institute has produced a new series of free "Key Perennial Crop" information sheets in collaboration with the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems and the USDA-SARE program. The information sheets offer descriptions of 12 key Midwestern agroforestry crops: Aronia, Asian Pear, Black Currant, Black Walnut, Chinese Chestnut, Cider Apple, Elderberry, Hazelnut, Honeyberry, Northern Pecan, Pawpaw, and Serviceberry. They are available free online.




The Center for Rural Affairs has released several Conservation Innovation Grants farmer case studies. The case studies feature new, experienced, and veteran farmers who raise a variety of livestock, grow crops, and are involved in agritourism. Each PDF case study includes an overview of the farming operation, a statement from the farmer about the value of conservation, and the advice they would offer to a beginning farmer.




Iowa State University scientists published a study in Global Change Biology Bioenergy that showed cover crops stimulating microbes deep in the soil can lead to improved water quality by preventing nutrient loss. However, the study also found that because the stimulated microbes consume the carbon in the cover crop, carbon dioxide is released to the atmosphere and that carbon is not sequestered in the soil. "Greater plant growth doesn't necessarily mean gains in carbon sequestration if microbial activity also increases," explained co-author Steven Hall.




The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has released a new report of policy and practice recommendations based on the latest climate science: Agriculture and Climate Change: Policy Imperatives and Opportunities to Help Producers Meet the Challenge. The paper, developed by NSAC's Subcommittee on Climate Change, explores both the impact of climate change on U.S. agriculture, as well as the contribution of U.S. agriculture to global climate change mitigation. Several key issues are analyzed: the impact of confined animal feeding operations on climate and environment; the relationship between the climate crisis and overproduction; how the structure of the federal crop insurance system contributes to overproduction and by extension climate change; and sustainable production practices that make an impact, including perennial cropping systems, resource-conserving crop rotations, and management intensive grazing. The 78-page report is available free online in PDF.




Researchers with the Multi-Use Naked Barley for Organic Systems project funded by a 2017 Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) grant have posted results of a national survey of organic barley growers. The project surveyed 81 organic barley producers on how many acres they are growing, what varieties they grow, what markets they are growing barley for, whether they receive a price premium for organic barley, whether they are growing or would be interested in growing multi-use naked barley, what production challenges they face, and what traits they would like to see improved. A 20-page PDF report on the results is available online.




USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has awarded a five-year, $10 million grant to North Carolina State University and USDA-Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) to lead a collaborative, nationwide effort to enhance agricultural systems through the use of cover crops and precision agriculture technology. The interdisciplinary team of nearly 100 scientists at 36 institutions in 23 states will research how cover crops can impact key factors like pest and disease pressure, water use, soil nutrient levels, and overall yield of cash crops. An existing research network, called Precision Sustainable Agriculture, will expand in order to collect more types of data from more locations, with diverse climates and different soil types. The project aims to accelerate the adoption of cover crops to address challenges in agriculture and to create more sustainable and adaptable growing systems in the face of declining soil fertility, water scarcity, and climate change.




Farm Beginnings is a farmer and rancher-led training and support program offered by Dakota Rural Action (DRA) that provides participants an opportunity to learn first-hand about low-cost, sustainable methods of farming and offers the tools to successfully launch a small or large farm enterprise. This is the 10th year DRA has offered the Farm Beginnings course in South Dakota, and classes will be held every other Saturday from January until early May in Rapid City. Farm tours and skills sessions will follow during the growing season. The deadline for applications is December 22, 2019.




The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has announced Cultiv@te, a global technology and innovation initiative for sustainable agriculture. Cultiv@te—an innovation initiative of UNDP supported by the Singapore Government—will curate multi-stakeholder coalitions to tackle key challenges faced by developing countries across the globe and explore opportunities in urban agriculture, climate resilience, and livestock farming. According to UNDP, "the program offers mature growth-stage startups and R&D teams from academic institutions a unique opportunity to work in a number of emerging markets with immense potential and needs. The global cohort will join local innovators, technology experts, corporate mentors, and financiers to co-design solutions with farmers and policy makers." Applications are now open via www.cultivate.technology.




A group of scientists published an opinion in Nature Sustainability, saying that debate over quantifying the potential for soil carbon to mitigate climate change is obscuring additional reasons to implement policies that build soil carbon. "The benefits of soil carbon go beyond climate mitigation," said Stephen Wood, soil scientist at The Nature Conservancy and associate research scientist at Yale. "Rebuilding soil carbon on agricultural lands is important to building sustainable and resilient agricultural systems. We need to make sure that the debate about how to mitigate climate change doesn't undermine efforts to build soil health for the many other things we care about, like agricultural productivity and water quality."




USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is seeking public comments on its interim final rule for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) through January 13, 2020. Changes to the program in this rule include increasing payment rates for adoption of cover crop rotations, introducing a new supplemental payment for advanced grazing management, creating one-time payment for developing a comprehensive conservation plan, and providing specific support for organic and transitioning to organic production activities. NRCS will evaluate public comments to determine whether additional changes are needed. The agency plans on publishing a final rule following public comment review.




A 20-year study by Iowa State University researchers showed that fertilizing crops with poultry manure can benefit soil health and farm profits when compared to a commercial fertilizer. In the study's first decade, experiments compared three treatments in a corn-soybean rotation, and in the second 10 years, treatments for continuous corn cropping were compared. After 20 years, the study found particulate organic matter and several other measures of soil quality were significantly better in the manured plots. Corn yields increased from manure treatment during the continuous corn phase of the study, and were similar during the corn-soybean phase. Although the manure treatment was generally more expensive, the increased yields helped offset this cost. Additionally, nitrate-nitrogen losses were 7% to 16% lower from the cropland fertilized with manure.




A feature in Tri-State Neighbor profiles a new demonstration farm in Huron, South Dakota. Ducks Unlimited signed the 310-acre farm over to Beadle Conservation District, which will both manage it as a demonstration farm and maintain hunter access. The farm will highlight use of cover crops, grazing to promote wetland management, soil health, no-till, and improving farm income. A team including representatives from Beadle Conservation District, Ducks Unlimited, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, South Dakota State University, and other partners will make management decisions. The farm is already offering a management example for neighborhood farmers, as soil quality improves.




USDA has announced that it will make available $800 million to agricultural producers in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia affected by hurricanes Michael and Florence. The state block grants are part of a broader $3 billion package to help producers recover from 2018 and 2019 natural disasters, which includes the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program-Plus (WHIP+), as well as programs for loss of milk and stored commodities. USDA and the governor's office in Florida and the state departments of agriculture in the other two states are working out final details for the grants, which will cover qualifying losses not covered by other USDA disaster programs. Grant funding will cover losses of timber, cattle, poultry, as well as for necessary expenses related to losses of horticulture crops and present-value losses associated with pecan production.




The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is seeking nominees to serve on the Farm, Ranch, and Rural Communities Committee (FRRCC). Established in 2008, the FRRCC provides independent policy advice, information, and recommendations to EPA's Administrator on a range of environmental issues and policies that are of importance to agriculture and rural communities. Members may represent allied industries and stakeholders including farm groups, rural suppliers, marketers, processors, academia/researchers; state, local, and tribal government; and nongovernmental organizations. EPA will consider qualifications such as the following: whether candidates are actively engaged in farming, hold leadership positions in ag-related organizations, possess a demonstrated ability to examine and analyze complicated environmental issues with objectivity and integrity, have experience working on issues where building consensus is necessary, and are able to volunteer several hours per month to the committee's activities. EPA is specifically seeking 20 to 30 members for two- to three-year terms, and the Committee expects to meet approximately twice a year. Nominations must be received by December 31, 2019.




The Midwest Cover Crops Council has developed a series of free PDF "recipes" for growing cover crops, available on its website. The site has recipes for Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, and North Dakota that explain how and why to add cover crops into a corn-soybean rotation. The cover crop recipe guides tell how to plan for cover crops, choose corn and soybean hybrids, and purchase seed. They also explain crop sensitivity to selected hybrids and effects of residual herbicides. The simple, three-page guides tell what field work must be done in fall and spring for best results and provide details such as seeding rates and nutrient applications.




Pennsylvania State University is constructing a solar farm of more than 150,000 solar panels on 500 acres leased from local landowners that will provide 25% of the school's purchased electricity over the next 25 years. The project is designed to be reduce energy costs, lower greenhouse-gas emissions, support local communities and farmers, and be regenerative, in terms of providing wildlife habitat and improving soil. Part of that effort includes planting pollinator habitat among the panels and hedgerows around the edge to provide honeybee habitat. One site will incorporate mixed flowers and low-growing vegetation below the solar arrays to support grazing livestock.




The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis reports on a study published in the journal Nature Communications that found human impacts have greatly reduced plant-fungus symbioses, or mycorrhiza. These play a key role in sequestering carbon in soils, encompassing storage of some 350 gigatons of carbon globally. Researchers say that restoring these mycorrhizal ecosystems more broadly could help slow climate change, and they suggest restoring native vegetation to abandoned agricultural and barren land to enhance soil carbon storage.




California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) and the Organic Produce Network (OPN) will honor long-time organic rice growers Lundberg Family Farms as the recipient of the third annual Organic Grower Summit's Grower of the Year. According to a press release, Lundberg Family Farms was selected based on the company's ongoing commitment and dedication to excellence in organic production and organic industry leadership and innovation. The award will be presented at the Organic Grower Summit, December 4-5, 2019, in Monterey, California. "Not only has the Lundberg Family's decades of work to encourage water conservation, rotate crops, grow cover crops, and use natural methods for pest control made them leaders in organic rice production and wildlife-friendly farming, but they have always found ways to share information about those practices with other organic farmers. This dedication to the environment and community is what makes the organic sector special, so the Lundberg Family could not be more deserving of the title of Grower of the Year," said Kelly Damewood, CEO of CCOF.




Rabo AgriFinance is offering a new loan product designed to make it more financially viable for farmers to seek organic certification. With guidance from Pipeline Foods, a specialty grain supply-chain company, Rabo AgriFinance has developed a financial framework that gives farmers the flexibility to receive the capital needed for upfront costs associated with changing production practices. Farmers can schedule repayments when they receive the additional revenue from selling certified organic goods. "There is demand from consumers and food companies for organic food and ingredients, but farmers repeatedly run into a wall trying to pencil out how they are going to survive the transition period," said Eric Jackson, founder and chairman of Pipeline Foods.




Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientists have determined that produce can be scanned for nutrient content using a handheld Raman spectrometer. In their study, the team scanned corn kernels and were able to calculate levels of protein, carbohydrates, fiber, and carotenoids quickly and without destroying the sample. The technology could be used to assess qualities of grain in the field, and the same scan can help identify diseases in plants even before symptoms appear.




Australian research published in Weed Science shows that planting wheat at the commercially recommended density helps to reduce both weed biomass and weed seed production. Increasing the crop density further, to 400 plants per square meter, led to even greater reductions in weeds, and caused weeds to have an upright growth habit that limited seed spread.




American Farmland Trust (AFT) has released the first of 11 state fact sheets summarizing results from its Non-Operating Landowners Survey. These first results, from Ohio, demonstrate that landowners care about their land and are keenly interested in stewarding it well— keeping it in farming and altering lease terms to support conservation. AFT concludes that the survey results are good news for farmers who want to try new conservation practices on land they rent. AFT will release a full report this winter on conclusions from all surveyed states.




The National Young Farmers Coalition, Farm Aid, and Vermont Farm First received $480,000 from USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) for the establishment of a Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network in the Northeast Region. This program will improve behavioral health awareness, literacy, access, and outcomes for farmers, ranchers, and farmworkers in the Northeast. The program will convene a network of farmer service providers in the region to build connection and collaboration, gather resources, and provide feedback on regional needs; develop an online clearinghouse to share available resources and referrals with farmers and service providers; and train service providers on the network, available resources, and best practices for working with farmers under stress.




The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University has announced Paul Mugge as the 2019 winner of the Spencer Award. The annual $1,000 award recognizes farmers, researchers, and teachers who have contributed significantly to the environmental and economic stability of the Iowa farming community. Mugge raises organic corn, soybeans, small grains and alfalfa on the 300-acre farm he took over from his father, and he has been particularly active with Practical Farmers of Iowa in conducting numerous field trials and hosting field days.




Research published in HortTechnology by Montana State University's Roland Ebel examined how the ancient Aztec use of "chinampas" could inform modern urban agriculture. Chinampas are raised vegetable fields on artificial floating islands in lakes, where vegetables can be grown year-round. Similar systems are in use today in Mexico City and elsewhere in the world. Benefits include low irrigation needs, a microclimate favorable for a variety of crops, high fertility generated by surrounding canals, provision of ecosystem services, and potential for tourism revenue.




Scientists with USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have developed and released a true red spinach variety. The new variety, "USDA Red," has red leaves, not just red veins. The red color comes from betacyanin, a powerful antioxidant, and testing showed the antioxidant capacity of USDA Red was 42–53% higher than other spinach cultivars. In addition, the red leaves offer eye appeal for salad mixes. ARS has applied for a Plant Variety Protection certificate for USDA Red and the agency is seeking a partner to license production of seeds for the market.




Through the James Harrison Hill, Sr. Young Scholar Enhancement Grant program, Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SSARE) gives high school and undergraduate students the opportunity to work with researchers on SSARE-funded projects. Research and Education Grant research recipients with open and on-going SSARE funded projects are qualified to apply for the James Harrison Hill, Sr. Young Scholar Enhancement Grant Program to hire high school or college students to participate in their research programs. This year, participants in the program worked with researchers in Texas, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Georgia on projects ranging from soil health to organic pest control to farmers markets.




The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) has opened public registration for the inaugural Soil Health Innovations Conference, March 30-31, 2020, in Bozeman, Montana. The forum will bring together leading experts and innovative farmers from around the United States to share the latest in soil science, best practices in soil management, and the emerging technologies that will drive the future of sustainable and regenerative agriculture. NCAT is sponsoring the conference in cooperation with USDA Rural Development, Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE), and Montana State University. The goal of the conference, NCAT Executive Director Steve Thompson said, is to provide an opportunity for producers and educators to examine current practices as well as the concepts, techniques, and practical applications that may be available in the future.




A panel of organic farmers testifying before the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research urged strong governmental support for organic agriculture and the stringent enforcement of organic standards, reports the Organic Trade Association. The panel included Jeff Huckaby, president of Grimmway Farms/Cal-Organic vegetable farms, and Steve Pierson, organic dairy farmer from Oregon and member of the Organic Valley cooperative, as well as organic vegetable, flower, and herb grower Benjamin Whalen of Maine, organic cotton farmer Jeremy Brown of Texas, and organic fruit and vegetable grower Shelli Brin of the Virgin Islands. The organic growers, from all locations and both large and small operations, all stressed the importance of strong and consistent support from the government for organic agriculture.




Entomologists at Michigan State University have published a review of recent research, showing that beneficial insects are more abundant in an agricultural landscape with smaller fields and more diversity. "One of the take-homes from our review is that natural enemies can be more abundant when agricultural landscapes are made up of smaller farm fields," explained study co-author Nate Haan. "Some natural enemies need resources found in other habitats or in crop field edges. We think when habitat patches are small, they are more likely to find their way back and forth between these habitats and crop fields, or from one crop field into another." The results could help farmers save money on pest suppression by planning agricultural landscapes that include more diversity.




National Public Radio's The Salt reported on efforts by Practical Farmers of Iowa and Sustainable Food Lab to help corn and soy farmers diversify by growing small grains. Although farmers are interested and adding small grains in rotation can improve water quality and soil quality, farmers need markets for the crops. Some companies are interested in alternative crops for products such as an oat-based drink, but the primary market for these crops could be livestock feed. Research is underway on how small grains perform as feed for commercial livestock. In one experiment, a Montana goat dairy had to pay more for a diverse feed, but the goats produced more milk on the feed and it, in turn, produced more cheese.




Researchers from the University of Minnesota and Oxford University published a report that says foods with positive health outcomes have among the lowest environmental impacts. The report showed that almost all foods associated with positive health outcomes (e.g., whole grain cereals, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and olive oil) have the lowest environmental impacts. Meanwhile, the research found that foods with the largest increases in disease risks—primarily unprocessed and processed red meat such as pork, beef, mutton and goat—are consistently associated with the largest negative environmental impacts.




The Taste NY program, begun in 2013, promotes food, beverages, and gifts made by New York farmers, processors, and artisans. The program retails products from more than 1,100 vendors in 70 locations including retail stores at welcome centers and concessions at state parks and train stations, as well as pop-up sites. Cornell Cooperative Extension is a partner in the effort, operating a dozen retail stores that help connect growers and producers with customers that can help farms and businesses become self-sustaining. In 2018, Taste NY had $17.8 million in sales. Cornell Extension participants credit the program with helping farms and small businesses scale up, expand production, and provide jobs.




Purdue University has received a nearly $1 million USDA grant to explore organic hemp production. The project's leader, professor Kevin Gibson, says the research is especially needed because there are no pesticides currently approved for use on hemp. The project will also consider how hemp can best fit in a crop rotation and be used in conjunction with cover crops. Rodale Institute will partner on the project.




The Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture has released an updated second edition of Sweet Sorghum: Production and Processing, by George Kuepper. Updates in the second edition include a section on sugar cane aphids that details both organic and non-organic approaches to managing this new pest. The second edition also discusses early deheading and describes several sorghum varieties developed since the publication of the original report. In addition, the new edition contains new lists of sources of equipment, supplies, and seed. The new second edition is available in both print ($18) and electronic ($10) formats from the Kerr Center website.




A series of 10-to-15-minute, science-centered "PED Talks" on soil health is now available on YouTube. The PED Talks series was created by the Conservation Technology Information Center, Soil Health Institute, Soil Health Partnership, Soil Science Society of America, Soil and Water Conservation Society, and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Named for soil peds, or aggregated particles, the talks combine explanations of soil health, how we can improve it, and the progress that's being made to ensure soil health. Four talks recorded from live presentations at conferences are currently available online, along with a welcome by NRCS Chief Matt Lohr. The partners plan to continue recording and releasing additional presentations on the PED Talks channel, with a focus on the next generation of scientists and farmer/innovators.




USDA has announced the establishment of the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program, to create a consistent regulatory framework for hemp production throughout the United States, as required by the 2018 Farm Bill. An interim final rule formalizing the program will be published in the Federal Register that will allow hemp to be grown under federally-approved plans and make hemp producers eligible for a number of agricultural programs. The rule includes provisions for USDA to approve hemp-production plans developed by states and Indian tribes. These plans will include requirements for maintaining information on the land where hemp is produced; testing the levels of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol; disposing of plants not meeting necessary requirements; and licensing requirements. The program also establishes a federal plan for hemp producers in states or territories of Indian tribes that do not have their own approved hemp production plan. More information about the provisions of the interim final rule is available on the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program web page on the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) website.




The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has awarded Agricultural Growth, Research, and Innovation (AGRI) Sustainable Agriculture Demonstration Grants totaling $241,009 to nine farmers and researchers across Minnesota. Descriptions of these grants, along with annual and final progress reports of grantees announced during the past three years, are featured in the new Greenbook. Projects, which last two to three years, are located in all regions of the state and involve several innovative topics that include cover cropping, soil fertility, fruits and vegetables, alternative markets or specialty crops, livestock, and energy.




USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is seeking public comments on 13 updated conservation practice standards, as part of a Farm Bill-mandated process gathering input on 94 standards for conservation practices. These standards provide guidelines for planning, designing, installing, operating, and maintaining conservation practices relating to irrigation, deep tillage, contour buffer strips, waste treatment, and other topics. Planning and implementing conservation practices on-farm is supported by Farm Bill-funded programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. Comments on these updated standards are due November 21, 2019.




As part of a four-year field demonstration, scientists at Iowa State University have produced a four-page publication titled Establishing and Managing Pollinator Habitat on Saturated Riparian Buffers. It helps landowners identify the best sites for buffers, guides them through the steps to establish a buffer with pollinator habitat, and provides information on various programs available to help with funding and technical information. The publication also outlines the anticipated costs for establishing pollinator habitat, comparing different types of site locations, seed costs, and labor costs. The publication is available free online.




Recent research at South Dakota State University explored how switchgrass, a native prairie plant used as biofuel and feed, can improve properties of marginal soil. Switchgrass was found to improve both physical and chemical properties of marginal soil, as shown by improvement in soil organic carbon levels, infiltration rates, saturated hydraulic conductivity, soil water retention, and pore size distribution, as well as reduced soil bulk density. Researchers also found that switchgrass fields have improved microbe and enzymatic populations in their soil.




The nonprofit group Food and Water Watch has introduced a new website, "Farm vs. Factory," designed to highlight the differences between industrial and sustainable agriculture. The website features photo and video comparisons of animal agriculture, crop agriculture, and how food from each type of production affects humans. The website also includes a resources page with links to further information.




A survey by Penn State researchers revealed that wineries in the Mid-Atlantic region could distinguish themselves for environmentally conscious younger consumers by implementing sustainable practices. Researchers say that recycling or refilling bottles would draw customers back to tasting rooms, as well as creating a sustainability-linked image. The study also surveyed consumers about their attitudes toward packaging alternatives besides glass and cork.




USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced that four regional centers will receive $1.92 million to help launch the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network. Funding comes from the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN) program, authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill, and will help provide stress-assistance programs to support individuals who are engaged in farming, ranching, and other agriculture-related occupations. NIFA is providing funding to four regional entities to help launch the network in North Central, Northeast, Southern, and Western regions. The long-term expectation is that agriculture producers and their families will now have greater opportunities to find help in their communities and states.




Texas A&M AgriLife Research Center in San Angelo is the site of a study on what types of bonding pen experiences produce a better livestock guardian dog. Six puppies in the study will spend approximately three months in bonding pens of an acre each, with both sheep and goats. Once the bonding process is complete, the dogs will graduate to much larger pastures where they will guard flocks or herds. They will continue to have their behavior monitored until they are approximately 18 months old. Bill Costanzo, Texas A&M AgriLife Research livestock guardian dog specialist, believes bonding from birth to 16 weeks of age is probably the single most important thing to do to establish a strong foundation for future success as a livestock guardian dog. This study is exploring whether dogs become better livestock guardian dogs when raised in bonding pens with a sibling or solo, and is testing how much human interaction is optimal for an effective livestock guardian dog.




USDA has published a final rule amending the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances based on public input and the April 2018 recommendations from the National Organic Standards Board. The changes allow elemental sulfur to be used as a slug or snail bait in organic production, to reduce crop losses. The final rule also allows use of polyoxin D zinc salt for organic plant disease control, and it reclassifies magnesium chloride from a synthetic to a non-synthetic substance. The final rule is effective November 22, 2019.




USDA and the U.S. Department of Energy have signed a Memorandum of Understanding that will enhance collaboration and coordination to promote rural energy and the development of technologies that will support and advance rural and agricultural communities and domestic manufacturing. The areas covered by the MOU include facilitating energy-related investments in America's rural communities; streamlining, leveraging and optimizing program resources; encouraging innovation; offering technical assistance to rural communities; strengthening energy-related infrastructure; ensuring affordable and reliable power; and helping rural businesses export energy products and manufactured goods around the world. USDA and DOE have convened interagency working groups to focus on five major issue areas.




The new Farming Basics app from Alabama Extension is a science- and research-based information gateway for small and beginning farmers. The app will serve as a pocket guide to help growers answer everyday questions in the field. The Farming Basics app includes information about major insect pests and diseases, horticultural crop descriptions, and general management tactics. The app also features a fertilizer and irrigation calculator to help beginning farmers save money on inputs.




USDA is extending the deadline for eligible agriculture producers to enroll in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) Grassland Conservation Initiative from October 25, 2019, to November 8, 2019. This program is available to producers with base acreage that has been in grass or grasslands over a nine-year period, rather than planted with commodity crops. Producers must meet or exceed the stewardship threshold for one priority resource concern by the end of their five-year contract. Producers receive $18 per acre per year for the next five years. This initiative has different rules than the rest of CSP and is administered separately.




The Minnesota Department of Agriculture's (MDA) Emerging Farmers Working Group plans to meet in five locations around the state from November until mid-December to better identify the barriers farmers are facing and work toward solutions to remove those barriers. The group's goal is to advance the success and sustainability of immigrant farmers, farmers of color, and beginning farmers, who traditionally cannot access the resources necessary to build a profitable agricultural business. Five listening sessions have been scheduled and are open to the public with an online RSVP.




USDA has announced the launch of the Centers of Community Prosperity (CCP), designed to increase the capacity of rural and underserved communities across the country. The Centers of Community Prosperity will convene stakeholders including local, state, federal, and tribal partners, land-grant universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, tribal colleges and universities, historically black colleges and universities, national development organizations, nonprofit organizations, faith leaders, veterans, and youth organizations. Local Centers around the country include Sitting Bull College in Fort Yates, North Dakota; Alcorn State University in Lorman, Mississippi; and University of Maryland Eastern Shore in Salisbury, Maryland. The Centers will host Community Prosperity Training Summits and capacity-building workshops to assist communities that are engaging in a bottom-up, locally driven process to address challenges in their region, and foster hope, opportunity, wealth creation, and asset building.




According to a study by researchers at NOAA's Northeast Fisheries Science Center, the Northeast has several suitable locations for offshore blue mussel farms. The most promising locations for mussel aquaculture among the six oceanic sites studied are off New York's Long Island, north of Cape Ann in Massachusetts, and off New Hampshire. The authors acknowledge that these waters are busy and already subject to numerous competing and overlapping uses. They argue that finding the optimum locations for farms, where the conditions can support the kind of production that will be profitable, is an essential first step in development.




Hemp acreage in the United States tripled from 2017 to 2018. However, CoBank's Knowledge Exchange division warns in a new report, Industrial Hemp: Overview of Opportunities and Risks, that false, outdated, biased or even contradictory information can make the industrial hemp industry difficult to navigate. The report identifies and assesses nine risks or uncertainties that face the hemp industry for each of hemp's three crops and markets: fiber, grain/seed, and CBD production. Among the report's conclusions are that regulatory and legal hurdles compound the risks for the hemp industry. In addition, lack of processing capacity is a significant barrier for the hemp fiber industry. The report also notes USDA plans to release hemp regulations and guidance in the fall of 2019, in time for the 2020 growing season, and says that USDA and the FDA regulations will not only be crucial in determining risk and defining the outlook of the hemp industry, but also in setting a path forward for leaders to finance hemp.




USDA has issued a proclamation declaring the United States free of plum pox virus. Plum pox is a serious disease impacting stone fruit such as plums, almonds, and peaches. It was first detected in Pennsylvania in 1999 and found in Michigan and New York in 2006. APHIS and its cooperators eradicated the disease from Pennsylvania and Michigan in 2009 and western New York in 2012. By the end of 2018, they completed three consecutive years of stone fruit field surveys in eastern New York with no further detections, putting eradication in reach. To ensure the United States remains free of plum pox virus, APHIS has put in place a strong safeguarding program that includes ongoing monitoring for the disease in stone fruit producing states, science-based import regulations to prevent the disease's reentry via imported nursery stock and propagative material, and continued cooperation with Canada to help prevent plum pox virus incursions from that country.




The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and collaborators have published a study in the Annual Review of Environment and Resources that evaluates the benefits and risks of six different land-based greenhouse gas removal options. The options included afforestation (establishing new forests) or reforestation (replanting previously forested areas with trees), wetland restoration, soil carbon sequestration, biochar (charcoal used as a soil amendment), terrestrial enhanced weathering (dissolution of minerals to remove CO2 from the atmosphere), and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). The study concluded that wetland restoration and soil carbon sequestration deliver almost exclusively positive impacts and could thus be taken up immediately. The other four options involve social and/or environmental risks that could be managed by excluding them from certain regions, areas, or environments.




The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) has released a major new report, Is Organic Farming Risky? Improving Crop Insurance for Organic Farms. Based on the latest USDA statistics, surveys, and interviews with hundreds of producers, organic farming advocates, and insurance professionals, the 132-page report describes the status of crop insurance for USDA-certified organic farms, identifies problems, and makes recommendations for solving those problems. Despite recent improvements in their access to crop insurance, many organic growers still report difficulty finding policies that meet their needs, insuring the full value of their crops, locating agents who understand organic farming, and filing successful claims. The report is optimistic that the major insurance-related problems of organic farmers can be solved. The authors are especially enthusiastic about Whole-Farm Revenue Protection, an innovative new type of insurance that is well-suited to organic farms and all diversified operations.




The Center for Food and Farm Systems Entrepreneurship at the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture is partnering with successful farms in Northwest Arkansas to offer a new apprenticeship program. The program begins in January 2020 with 12 educational classes, and on-farm placement begins in March. The classes focus on foundational topics important to regenerative farming practices and sustainable farm business management, while the on-farm experience allows apprentices to learn while working alongside experienced farmers. The program also exposes apprentices to farm service providers and resources, offers mentorship with experienced diversified farmers, and provides networking opportunities with other beginning farmers. Applications are being accepted for 2020.




The American Lamb Board newsletter reported on a presentation at the 2019 American Lamb Summit that highlighted recordkeeping as a means of improving sheep profitability. A presentation by Laurie Johnson, Pipestone Lamb & Wool Program instructor, explained how keeping records can inform management decisions. She offered suggestions on how to access several different online options for recordkeeping systems. Presentations and videos from this year's Lamb Summit are available online.




USDA Agricultural Marketing Service has published a proposed rule to amend the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances, according to recommendations by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). This rule proposes to add blood meal, made with sodium citrate, to the National List as a soil fertilizer in organic crop production; add natamycin to the National List to prohibit its use in organic crop production; and add tamarind seed gum as a non-organic agricultural substance for use in organic handling when organic forms of tamarind seed gum are not commercially available. Public comments on the proposed rule must be received by December 17, 2019.




OCIA International announced that Jake Geiger of Alba Ranch in Robinson, Kansas, has been recognized as the 2019 OCIA Research & Education Outstanding Organic Farmer of the Year. The award honors talented producers who excel in thoughtful cropping and livestock practices that build soil and reduce pests and weeds. They maintain and enhance the environment and are innovative in farming practices. Outstanding organic farmers are also involved in their organic community, promoting and supporting organic agriculture. Jake Geiger has been OCIA certified since 1989 and raises diverse crops including clover, alfalfa, oats, rye, wheat, sorghum, soybeans, and corn, as well as American British White Park beef cattle.




Ever-Growing Family Farm, New York's only commercial rice farm, is working with a Cornell agronomist to identify the most climate-appropriate methods for growing rice, with funding from a Northeast SARE grant. This season, farmers Nfamara Badjie and Moustapha Diedhou are testing the African Jola people's traditional method of starting rice plants in the field, rather than in greenhouses, to reduce transplant shock. They're also experimenting with different rice varieties and transplant timing. Erika Styger, rice scientist, agronomist, and associate director of Cornell University's Climate-Resilient Farming Systems program, says that with trends of increased rainfall and warmer temperatures in New York, rice could offer a valuable crop for diversifying organic farmers in the area.




A feature in Forbes describes how a Northern California ranch has adapted Vineyard Infrared Growth Optical Recognition to track pasture quality for its cattle. Genesee Valley Ranch uses aerial imaging to provide data on grass growth and water distribution on pasture land that helps managers decide how to adjust the cattle's grazing schedule. The ranch produces Black Wagyu Beef that is sold through a subscription program.




A study published in Science Advances by Eurac Research showed that landscapes with a variety of plants were provided more ecosystem services. The biodiverse landscapes experienced more pollination and greater pest control by beneficial insects. These areas also had higher crop yields than areas with crop monocultures. "Our study shows that biodiversity is essential to ensure the provision of ecosystem services and to maintain a high and stable agricultural production," explains lead study author Matteo Dainese. "For example, a farmer can depend less on pesticides to get rid of harmful insects if natural biological controls are increased through higher agricultural biodiversity."




In honor of World Food Day, national nonprofit Green America recognized its Soil SuperHeroes, farmers and food companies the group identifies as working to provide major solutions to the climate crisis by employing regenerative soil stewardship practices that build soil health and resiliency. The list of individual farmers, farms, and food companies includes Leah Penniman, Will Harris, Shiloh Valley Family Farm, and Tree Folk Farm, among others.




The PA Veteran Farming Project and Pennsylvania Friends of Agriculture Foundation are partnering on a three-year project designed to promote agriculture enterprise development, expansion, and sustainability for military veterans and their families, reports Pennsylvania Ag Connection. The project received funding under USDA's Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program. The program will raise awareness and understanding of USDA and other federal, state, and local resources and programming; improve access to technical assistance available locally and regionally; and empower participants to use financial resources such as grants, loans, and cost-share programs. Additionally, the project will host annual statewide Veteran Farming Summits, hold five workshops in each of the three years of the program, and create a veteran-to-veteran mentoring program.




American Farmland Trust (AFT) and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) have announced a two-year, $900,000 cooperative agreement to provide conservation planning assistance to farmers and other landowners across Massachusetts. AFT staff will help farmers and landowners evaluate their land and operations with conservation in mind, plan for and implement practices that improve soil health and water quality, protect wildlife habitat, and advance long-term sustainability. NRCS will provide financial support and day-to-day oversight. Farmers and landowners interested in participating should contact their NRCS Service Centers.




The Savanna Institute announced that it has received a grant of nearly $200,000 from the USDA SARE program in Illinois to establish a network of large-scale agroforestry R&D farms across Illinois over the next two years. In partnership with public and private landowners, these farms will enable a broad range of education, demonstration, and research functions. The Savanna Institute already has funding for an initial group of R&D farms in Wisconsin, which are being established this year.




USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is inviting public comment on a petition from the Monsanto Company seeking deregulation of a cotton variety genetically engineered (GE) for resistance to certain insects, primarily those of the Lygus genus. APHIS is interested in receiving comments regarding potential environmental and interrelated economic impacts to assist in assessment of the petition. Members of the public will be able to submit comments through November 25, 2019.




As the young hemp industry harvests its first crop, some growers are organizing into cooperatives to help them get better prices and grow the crop more successfully, reports Morehead State Public Radio. A young Kentucky cooperative of 15 small, organic hemp growers experienced problems with seed and thieves in the field, but is hopeful for the future as they head into harvest this year. The feature story says "many Ohio Valley hemp growers are choosing to join cooperatives to share supplies and give small growers a better shot in an increasingly competitive marketplace." Growers want to have more control over prices as the industry develops, and cooperatives can help small growers have more market clout.




Ohio State University Extension has launched Marketing and Orchard Resource Efficiency (MORE) Ohio Pawpaw, a statewide, grant-funded initiative to help growers produce and market high-quality pawpaw fruit. MORE Ohio Pawpaw will help farmers and nurseries learn to establish productive pawpaw orchards and find markets for their fruit, which could offer a way for farmers to boost income. A pawpaw orchard can produce $15,000 per acre annually for fresh fruit, $30,000 per acre for frozen pulp, and $5,000 an acre for seed, according to the Ohio Pawpaw Growers Association. A second grant will help researchers identify best management practices for pawpaw orchards, including best varieties and how to make wild pawpaw patches more productive. They will also explore the qualities that make pawpaw saleable.




North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (NCR-SARE) is seeking nominees for its grant review committees. Review committee members must live and work in one of the 12 states that comprise the North Central SARE region. 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. Potential nominees should complete an online form and provide a resume.




USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS), in partnership with the University of Vermont, has established its first food systems research station designed specifically to study diversified food systems and the small farms that contribute to those systems. The cooperative agreement, funded at $3 million for the first year, provides for UVM faculty to collaborate with ARS researchers imbedded on the UVM campus. The ARS Food Systems Research Station agreement will be renewed annually for at least five years. The research station will identify factors that affect economic and environmental sustainability, with the goal of better understanding how small farms survive and thrive, and how consumers can best access local sustainably-grown food.




A new crowdfunding platform called Steward is helping individual investors support regenerative agriculture with investments of as little as $100, reports Fast Company. To date, Steward has invested $2.2 million in 16 different farms, mostly in the United States. Investors are to receive dividends from the interest farmers pay on those loans. Participating farms must be "sustainable and regenerative." Steward CEO Dan Miller says investors will soon be able to choose to invest directly in a single farm.




Researchers at Louisiana State University found that when a warm-season grass pasture was over-seeded with cool-season annual cover crops, soil organic matter improved, nitrate concentrations decreased, carbon concentrations stabilized, and soil microbial enzyme activity increased, suggesting a healthy soil environment. The research was funded by a Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SSARE) Graduate Student Grant. Researchers tested the results of overseeding a winter annual mix of grasses (annual ryegrass, triticale, oats), legumes (hairy vetch), clover (crimson clover), and crucifers (radish and turnips), grazed rotationally. At one site, the study found that soil organic matter increased 6% with the treatment during the two-year study.




California is banning the pesticide chlorpyrifos, reports National Public Radio. California Environmental Protection Agency announced an agreement between the Department of Pesticide Regulation and pesticide manufacturers to withdraw their products. Beginning February 6, 2020, the pesticide will no longer be sold in the state, and agricultural growers will not be allowed to possess or use it after December 31, 2020. The pesticide, used on alfalfa, almonds, citrus, cotton, grapes, and walnuts, has been linked to brain damage and other health defects in children. The California Environmental Protection Agency notes, "The development of safe, more sustainable alternatives to chlorpyrifos is being supported through the current state budget, which appropriates more than $5 million in grant funding for the purpose."




At the Pennsylvania Hemp Summit co-hosted by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and Team Pennsylvania Foundation, Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding announced the availability of $460,000 in new state funding through Specialty Crop Block Grants. The summit offered resources for farmers, investors, processing, manufacturing, and other businesses interested in pursuing industrial hemp opportunities from seed to sales. The new state Specialty Crop Block Grants created under the Pennsylvlania Farm Bill will be available to fund specialty crops not eligible under the federal specialty crop grant program, and those designated as high priority crops in the state: hemp, hops, hardwoods, honey; and barley, rye, and wheat for distilling, brewing, and malting. Guidelines for the new grants will be published on October 19, 2019.




A meta-analysis conducted by the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and the Union of Concerned Scientists found that continuous roots are an effective agricultural practice for helping soil hold water. Researchers analyzed 89 studies across six continents to compare the effects of no-till farming, cover crops, crop rotations, perennial plantings, and cropland grazing on soil's ability to capture water. They found that practices that put roots in the soil and kept them there continuously—such as planting perennials and cover crops— were most successful at soaking up precipitation. This helped those soils better withstand heavy rainfall and alleviated the most severe effects of flooding and drought. This analysis found that no-till agriculture and crop rotation did not increase water infiltration, and it found that livestock grazing reduced water infiltration, although there were few studies on that practice.




The ASPCA, in partnership with Vermont Law School's Center for Agriculture and Food Systems, has created the Farm Animal Welfare Certification Guide. This online publication will help farmers understand the value of certification programs and determine which certification might be right for their farms. The Guide covers three meaningful certification programs that represent a spectrum of higher-welfare ways to raise farm animals: Animal Welfare Approved, Certified Humane®, and Global Animal Partnership. It includes evidence that the market for welfare-certified products is growing, a comparison of key differences between the three programs, case studies from each certification program, and an explanation of funding options available to farmers interested in certification. The guide is available free online in PDF.




A study led by Colorado State University and the University of Idaho found multiple effects on soils caused by applying manure from cows that were administered antibiotics, including alteration of the soil microbiome and ecosystem functions, soil respiration, and elemental cycling. Addition of antibiotics in manure caused a decrease in carbon-use efficiency, resulting in less carbon stored in the soil. The study's lead author, Carl Wepking, noted that given the study's findings, people may want to consider the effects of antibiotics in the soil when using manure as fertilizer.




Michigan's governor, Gretchen Whitmer, has proclaimed October as Michigan Agritourism Month. According to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), agriculture and tourism are leading economic drivers in Michigan, and agritourism provides ways for farmers to diversify their operations by offering value-added products and activities to protect their businesses against challenging weather conditions and market fluctuations. "Agritourism opportunities are available in every county in our state, and Michigan Agritourism Month is a special time to acknowledge and experience the vast, integrated network of family farmers, processors, wholesalers, and retailers who produce a safe and nutritious food supply, as well as so many fun and unique farm experiences," said MDARD Director Gary McDowell.




Iowa State University researchers are teaming with scientists at Cornell University and the University of Kentucky to research physical barriers that can protect organic cucurbits from pests. The project received a $2 million grant from USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Specifically, the research team will study the effectiveness of mesotunnels composed of nylon mesh fabric suspended on hoops placed about 42 inches above the ground, to prevent harmful insects from attacking the crops. Unlike low tunnels, the mesotunnels are designed to let insects pollinate the crops within them, and each mesotunnel will house boxes of bumblebees for pollination. The grant will also allow researchers to explore biocontrol methods for cucurbit disease control in organic production.




The Center for Rural Affairs has published a white paper titled Saluting Service: A Guide to Lending and Farm Program Resources for Veterans. Author Cora Fox writes, "The intent of this publication is to highlight the needs of America's next generation of producers, which includes individuals who served their country and who are now pursuing a second career in agriculture. Additionally, this publication will function as a guide to farm programs that specifically target beginning and veteran farmers and ranchers." The 14-page publication is available free online.




The new nonprofit organization Four Corners Slow Money has made its first $3,000 loan to support the agricultural economy. Through a peer-to-peer lending system, Four Corners Slow Money offers zero-interest micro-loans up to $3,000 to farmers, growers, and food enterprises in the Four Corners region. Loans are repaid over the course of a year, with the payments going into a revolving loan fund. The first loan, to Adobe House Farm in Durango, Colorado, will help fund construction of a climate-controlled greenhouse to grow tomatoes. The group plans to approve five more loans in February, with applications due January 30, 2020.




USDA has announced the award of $16.2 million in grants to provide training, outreach, and technical assistance to underserved and veteran farmers and ranchers through the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (also known as the 2501 Program). Grants are awarded to higher education institutions and nonprofit and community-based organizations to extend USDA's engagement efforts with socially disadvantaged farmers, ranchers, and foresters. A list of grant recipients and project summaries is available online.




Canadian dairy producers who implemented regenerative agriculture say that diverse cover crop plantings have brought bees back to their farm, reports Global News. In addition, on the mixed cover crop rations, the dairy cows are producing milk with higher butterfat and are healthier, say Paul Kernaleguen and Erin Dancey. They say it takes less time to feed the cows and profits are higher.




The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) and Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) announced that they have received a grant through USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture's Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) to conduct national surveys of organic producers enabling them to create an updated and comprehensive roadmap for future research investments. OFRF's 2016 National Organic Research Agenda (NORA) report is a frequently cited resource that has helped ensure research funding is relevant and responsive to the needs of organic producers, while also identifying gaps where additional investment is necessary. The newly funded proposal, A National Agenda for Organic and Transitioning Research, will combine the considerable expertise of OFRF and OSA.




Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture is accepting applications for its second annual Entrepreneurship Intensive for Farmers, in collaboration with Ideagarden and Blue Hill. This immersive, experiential program from January 12-17, 2020 in Pocantico Hills, New York, gives farmers the opportunity to learn from and collaborate with William Rosenzweig, Co-Chair of the Sustainable Food Initiative at Berkeley Haas School of Business, other experts, and one another as they develop their entrepreneurial skills and explore how to integrate community and food culture into the ecological potential of their farms. Farm leaders with five to 10 years of management experience as well as a demonstrated commitment to forming collaborations with culinary partners are encouraged to apply by October 13, 2019.




Minnesota Department of Agriculture and Minnesota Department of Health are offering six free, half-day training sessions around the state to help people build the skills they need to offer help to neighbors, clients, family, and friends having thoughts of suicide. The safeTALK training teaches participants how to recognize someone having thoughts of suicide, how to engage them, and how to make sure they get help. This evidence-based training is effective for people as young as 15 years old. Farmers, lenders, mediators, agency staff, clergy, educators, veterinarians, health care and social service providers, agricultural advisors, and business people are all invited to attend. A schedule for six different training sessions offered from October through December is available online.




A group of researchers led by Arizona State University found that if Phoenix used just 5% of its urban spaces for agriculture, the city could meet its sustainability goal concerning local food systems. The study estimated that nearly 28 square miles are available for urban agriculture in Phoenix, including vacant lots, rooftops, and building facades. Nearly 71% of the available space comes from existing buildings, rather than vacant land. However, use of vacant land would have the additional benefit of adding greenspace to the city. Researchers found that, utilizing the available space, the city could produce nearly 183,000 tons of fresh produce per year, or almost 90% of the current annual fresh produce consumed by city residents. The study also noted that rooftop agriculture could reduce energy use in buildings by 3% per building per year and potentially displace more than 50,000 metric tons of CO2 annually.




A team of Extension educators, farmers, and researchers is exploring piloting a new climate-adaptation curriculum for vegetable and fruit growers in the Northeast region. It's called the Climate Adaptation Fellowship, and it is targeted towards both farmers and agricultural advisors. To gauge interest in a proposed one-year pilot program of the fellowship, the team invites regional stakeholders to participate in a 5- to 10-minute online survey.




USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has invested $11 million in research that will support specialty crop farmers through the Minor Crop Pest Management Program (known as the Interregional Research Project, IR-4). Four universities across different U.S. growing regions will lead regional IR-4 programs that will generate additional data for registration of conventional and bio-based crop protection technology for specialty and minor crops in the United States. The funding was awarded to the University of California, Davis; University of Florida; Michigan State University, and Rutgers University.




USDA Agricultural Research Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers teamed up to investigate the use of waste paper in revitalizing soil to revegetate damaged training grounds. U.S. Army classified papers must be pulverized to a fine consistency, which leaves the material unsuitable for recycling. This research focused on evaluating the use of pulverized or finely ground paper as a soil amendment to improve soil health and the ability to establish desirable native grasses on degraded Army training lands. Trials in Kentucky, Georgia, and Louisiana demonstrated that adding this type of paper waste to Army training grounds improves soil health, increases growth of native grasses, and provides a solution for disposing of classified paper waste. Plant cover was 45% higher on sites that received the recommended application rate of paper, compared to controls.