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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




Niman Ranch generates more than 50% more economic value for the local economy than the conventional hog industry, per 100,000 hogs sold, a new economic impact analysis revealed. The analysis, by respected regional economist Dave Swenson, also showed that Niman Ranch creates more than 150% more jobs than conventional hog production and in 2019, the year studied, generated more than $20 million in added value for the local Iowa economy. In additional findings, for every $1 million in direct sales, Niman Ranch farms produce 14 jobs and generate an additional $2.03 million in other economic inputs, including labor income and value-added spending. Iowa's 195 Niman Ranch farms created nearly $50 million in total output (value of hogs).




EPA has posted a webinar for on-demand viewing as part of its series on Pollinator Health and Habitat. This webinar provides a brief overview of EPA's tiered process for assessing risks to bees. EPA scientists discuss the predictive models and residue monitoring studies that the Agency uses in higher-tiered assessments to refine risk estimates and exposure models. The webinar also provides an overview of honey bee colony simulation models and new approach methodologies that are under development to help reduce reliance on in vivo tests.




USDA notes that the number of agricultural producers who purchase crop insurance for their specialty and organic crops continues to climb as options expand and improve. USDA's Risk Management Agency (RMA) recently released reports on specialty crops, organic crops, local food production, and greenhouse production. These highlighted improvements in insurance options for specialty crops and organic crops. For example, beginning in the 2021 crop year, direct market producers insured with Whole-Farm Revenue Protection could report two or more commodities using a new combined direct marketing code. Additionally, a multi-peril hemp insurance program was created last year and expanded this year. RMA notes that from 1990 to 2020, liabilities for insured specialty crops rose from $1 billion to more than $20 billion. Similarly, from 2010 to 2020, liabilities for insured organic crops rose from $207 million to more than $1.7 billion, and the number of policies more than doubled.




An interview in The Guardian showcases farmer Chris Newman, who founded Sylvanaqua Farms with his wife, Annie. Sylvanqua is a 120-acre operation in northern Virginia that produces pasture-raised chicken, eggs, and pork and grass-fed beef. The farm donates half its harvest to food aid organizations, in order to widen access to sustainably produced food. In this interview, Newman discusses how his Black and indigenous heritage influences his farming, farming scale, and food equity.




Cornell University scientists published their work in Nature Scientific Reports on how pyrolysis, or heating without oxygen present, can convert liquid dairy manure into biochar fertilizer with the nutrients retained. The researchers treated their biochar with carbon dioxide to enrich it with nitrogen. This enriched biochar produced greater plant growth and higher nitrogen uptake than manure biochar alone. "Coupling the local excess of manure nutrients with regional fertilizer needs could help farmers save money and alleviate environmental issues,"explained lead author Leilah Krounbi.




The Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program (SSARE) announced 19 funded projects for the 2021 Graduate Student Grants Program. The projects received a total of $302,661 in funding. The projects range widely in scope, from weed and pest-control research to production research on specialty crops such as tea, vanilla, and fruit. Some projects deal with social considerations such as farmer networks, absentee landowners, and food-system equity. A list of funded projects is available online and research results will be available through SSARE.




The Kansas Departments of Agriculture and Transportation are launching a Heartland Opportunities Markets and Environment (HOME) pilot project. This pilot will provide the infrastructure improvements necessary for farms located near U.S. 83 and U.S. 81 highways in northwest and north central Kansas to gain access to high-speed Internet. In exchange, producers will be asked to implement soil health principles on at least one of their fields. Kansas Soil Health Alliance and No-Till on the Plains are hosting free workshops to introduce the program to producers.




Washington State University researchers published proof-of-concept research that indicates measuring electrical current generated by microbes can indicate soil health. The researchers used a tool developed to measure the electrochemical signal of microbes in aquatic environments to measure the electrical current in soil. When two similar soils were compared, the one that had the higher electrical current had more functioning microbes, and this was, in practice, the more productive soil. The researchers want to test more soils and work on interpretation of the results. "This sensor has the potential to be able to do real-time measurements not just of the structure of the soil, but how it's actually functioning. It would be a huge advance in the field,” noted one of the study co-authors.




A USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture-funded project led by North Dakota State University and involving scientists at Montana State University, Oregon State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service is focused on developing a biodegradable mulch that's approved for organic production. Organic growers struggle with annually removing and recycling plastic mulches, because none of the commercially available biodegradable mulches are approved for use in organic growing. This project will explore hydromulches that are made from fiber and water and spray-applied. Researchers will be testing the hydromulch in different locations and on a range of crops.




Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides released Pesticides and the Climate Crisis, an infographic that shows the relationship between pesticide use and climate change, as well as pesticide's effects on the environment and human health. The infographic highlights impacts of pesticide manufacture, use, and environmental persistence. The infographic also presents actions that individuals can take to reduce pesticide use.




The Local Food Research Center of the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP) released a report called Experiencing Local. It discusses the findings of research on the impact of place-based food and farm experiences on support for local food systems. The research shows that direct experiences with local food and farms—specifically, attending farmers markets and farm tours—are a powerful way to cultivate interest in food and food production, instill a concrete sense of community belonging, and activate engagement with the region's evolving food system. The full report is available online in PDF.




USDA announced an update to the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2 (CFAP 2) that makes contract producers of eligible livestock and poultry and producers of specialty crops and other sales-based commodities eligible to apply. Additionally, USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) has set an October 12, 2021, deadline for all eligible producers to apply for or modify applications for CFAP 2. With this update, contract producers of broilers, pullets, layers, chicken eggs, turkeys, hogs and pigs, ducks, geese, pheasants, and quail may be eligible for assistance. Grass seed has also been added as an eligible sales commodity. In addition, contract producers can now elect to use eligible revenue from January 1, 2018, through December 27, 2018, instead of that date range in 2019, if it is more representative.




A long-term study conducted by Penn State researchers showed that it's possible for no-till producers to cut their herbicide use by practicing integrated weed management. Over nine years, researchers tested herbicide-reduction practices in a dairy crop rotation. Their published results showed that practices such as banded herbicide, seeding small grain, and tilling every six years could allow producers to reduce herbicide use. Although weed biomass was greater without herbicide in corn and soybean crops, it did not affect yield, and the weed biomass declined during the alfalfa rotation. One researcher explained that they concluded, "herbicide reduction is viable provided there is a diverse rotation with a broad array of control methods."




USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service (RBCS) published a Request for Information in the Federal Register, announcing a listening session on October 6, 2021, and inviting written comments regarding the Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program. The VAPG program helps agricultural producers enter into value-added activities related to the processing and marketing of new products. RBCS is currently considering how it can streamline the application process, clarify eligibility requirements concerning food safety, reduce the burden for meeting requirements, and implement such requirements. Information on how to participate in the listening session and submit comments electronically is available online.




In recognition of 2021 World Food Day and in keeping with the power of poetry to move hearts and minds towards needed anti-hunger actions, Poetry X Hunger and its partners have announced an important Call for Poetry Submissions. Collaborators include the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Liaison Office for North America, the Capital Area Food Bank and, poet Rebecca Roach. Poets ages 18 and older who currently live in Canada or the United States are invited to submit one published or unpublished poem focused on one of the following topics: the World Food Day theme, "Our Actions Are Our Future;" any facet of food (in)security, hunger, nutrition, or sustainable agriculture; or the critical roles of Food Heroes and providers such as farmers, food workers, food assistance and food bank employees and volunteers, and others. Poems should be submitted by September 10, 2021.




The University of Missouri's Center for Regenerative Agriculture has launched a new website that offers information on regenerative agriculture practices and concepts. The site provides information tailored to farmers, landowners, farm advisors, and consumers. It also offers links to resources on a variety of regenerative agriculture topics.




Californians who raise chickens and game fowl are invited to participate in a study to help the University of California more effectively deliver poultry health information and prevent the spread of diseases such as avian influenza. The survey takes 10 to 15 minutes to complete and includes questions about the flock; biosecurity practices; buying, selling and trading birds; and movement of birds for shows and fairs. The researchers encourage owners of small-scale poultry operations to contribute to the research project.




Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientist Richard Teague published a research article, "The role of ruminants in reducing agriculture's carbon footprint in North America," in the Soil and Water Conservation Society's Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. Teague's research showed appropriate grazing management practices in cattle production can be among the solutions for concerns related to agriculture's impact on the environment. His research suggests benefits from moving toward regenerative grazing practices designed to improve soil biology and function, specifically, improving soil carbon, rainfall infiltration, and soil fertility.




Penn State researchers surveyed ginseng sellers confidentially over eight years to help determine the extent to which forest farming and planting of commercially acquired seeds may contribute to wild ginseng harvest amounts. The survey results indicated that more sellers are "forest farming" ginseng by scattering seeds in forests on private land in Pennsylvania. Use of this practice seems to be increasing ginseng production in those areas, which can alleviate pressure on wild ginseng populations. However, some of the seeds used are obtained commercially from other locations, and the researchers are concerned that planting them in the wild could weaken the wild ginseng germplasm in those areas.




Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) has released its 2020 Cooperators' Program Report, summarizing the results of on-farm research trials that are collaborative efforts between farmers and PFI staff scientists. In 2020, 66 Cooperators participated in 81 research trials. The 24-page online report highlights findings of farmer-led research trials involving field crops, horticultural crops, livestock, and habitat.




A study published by University College London says that pollinating insects such as bees, butterflies, hoverflies, and wasps, interact more with plants at well-managed farmland ponds than those that are severely overgrown by trees. The lead author, Richard Walton, commented, "It's very exciting to see with this study how the management and restoration of ponds reaches beyond the watery realms and has massive benefits to our pollinating insects...Our research shows that pond habitats can be incredible food resources for struggling pollinator populations. With careful management of the trees and shrubs growing around farmland ponds, the number of different plants available to pollinating insects significantly increases and we see the pollinators make use of those improved resources."




PASA Sustainable Agriculture has released Financial Benchmarks for Direct-Market Vegetable Farms: 2021 Report. The report offers the most comprehensive review of direct-market vegetable farm businesses to date, sharing detailed financial benchmarks from 39 farms. It's the result of a three-year study designed to help fill a critical gap in information and offer insights that could help vegetable farmers start and grow their businesses. Both the full report and a summary are available online.




USDA has announced the details of the new Pandemic Market Volatility Assistance Program. Through the program, USDA will provide about $350 million in pandemic assistance payments to dairy farmers who received a lower value for their products due to market abnormalities caused by the pandemic. The assistance is part of a larger package including permanent improvements to the Dairy Margin Coverage safety net program. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack explained, "Family dairy farmers have been battered by the pandemic, trade issues and unpredictable weather and are the life-blood of many rural communities throughout Vermont, the Northeast and many other regions. This targeted assistance is the first step in USDA's comprehensive approach that will total over $2 billion to help the dairy industry recover from the pandemic and be more resilient to future challenges for generations to come."




The Western IPM Center reported on research it funded on California dairies to calculate the economic impact of biting stable flies. The project found that stable flies are a serious seasonal problem for dairy producers that costs the average 2,000-milking-cow dairy at least $10,000 a year in lost milk production in addition to the cost of control measures. Cows that bunch to avoid the biting flies don't rest, eat, or drink as much, and consequently don't produce as much milk. Researchers also found that higher stable fly counts resulted in more bunching, and that stable flies and bunching were worse in pens near the perimeter of dairies and worse generally on dairies surrounded on three sides by field crops. In addition, fly counts were higher on dairies that incorporated agriculture by-products or wet distillers grain in their feed, while bunching was reduced on dairies that regularly cleaned manure away from fence lines and pen edges.




The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it will stop the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos on all food to better protect human health, particularly that of children and farmworkers. In a final rule, EPA is revoking all "tolerances" for chlorpyrifos. In addition, the agency will issue a Notice of Intent to Cancel under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act to cancel registered food uses of chlorpyrifos associated with the revoked tolerances. Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate insecticide used for a large variety of agricultural uses, including soybeans, fruit and nut trees, broccoli, cauliflower, and other row crops, as well as non-food uses. It has been found to inhibit an enzyme, which leads to neurotoxicity, and has also been associated with potential neurological effects in children. EPA noted that the agency is committed to reviewing replacements and alternatives to chlorpyrifos.




In collaboration with USDA Agriculture Marketing Service, Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network (NMPAN) just completed So You Want To Start A Meat Plant?, a short guidebook that offers a primer on starting a new meat plant. It includes sections on regulations, economics, assessing feasibility, business planning, labor, and a case study of a new plant just built in Marfa, Texas. The six-page guide is available free online.




The University of Cambridge led an international project that created the first planetary risk index of the causes and effects of dramatic pollinator declines in six global regions. The team identified the top three global causes of pollinator loss as habitat destruction, land management, and widespread pesticide use. Climate change was the number four cause, based on limited data. According to the study, the biggest direct risk to humans across all regions is "crop pollination deficit": falls in quantity and quality of food and biofuel crops. Experts ranked the risk of crop yield "instability" as serious or high across two-thirds of the planet— from Africa to Latin America. Reduced species diversity was also a high-ranking global risk.




The Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences will be the site of a new Center for Environmental Sustainability through Insect Farming, established through a $2.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Science Foundation. The project is a collaborative effort that also includes Mississippi State University (MSU); Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis (IUPUI); and 34 national and global industrial partners. The center will explore new avenues to produce food either for direct human consumption or as feed for livestock, poultry, and aquaculture. Center leader Jeff Tomberlin said in a press release that "insect farming represents a burgeoning link in the global food supply chain, and has the potential to strengthen and compliment traditional protein production in an efficient and environmentally friendly way."




California almond growers faced by water scarcity are making difficult choices, according to a feature story on National Public Radio. Some are underwatering their almond orchards, diverting water from other crops, or removing almond orchards altogether. The state's almond industry has more than tripled in size over the past 25 years, but much of the most recent expansion was in areas that lack reliable water supplies. Some industry observers predict that a third of the state's trees may not survive the current drought. Critics suggest that because 70% of the almond crop is shipped abroad, water for almonds should not be a higher priority than conflicting uses. Growers predict, meanwhile, that the world will see a smaller supply of almonds if California producers go out of business.




The City of Pittsburgh, Pennsylania, and Dortmund, Germany have been selected as partner participants in the International Urban and Regional Cooperation (IURC) Program. According to a press release, the cities will work together to share information and develop localized policy as part of the Sustainable Agriculture: Food Systems, Urban Gardens cluster. The program provides the opportunity for cities to collaborate and share information on municipal policies, programs, and initiatives related to sustainable food systems for up to two years. During that time, Pittsburgh and Dortmund will work closely together while also having access to other cities and organizations committed to developing urban agriculture solutions.




A global manifesto for collective actions on forgotten foods was released in July. The Manifesto is part of a collective action program on forgotten or indigenous foods, and it calls for concrete actions. The Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT is the convener for the next steps, which will include the finalization of an action plan and the creation of a community of practice for forgotten foods. The manifesto addresses six points, including calling for transformative action to turn forgotten foods into respected, valued, and supported ingredients of healthy diets, sustainable livelihoods, and resilient seed and food systems. A draft copy of the document is available online and will be updated.




A new report by USDA Economic Research Service explored how local food farmers (less than 9% of all farms) of varying levels of experience responded to the increasing demand for local food. A survey was used to compare how experience in direct marketing and experience in farming affect producer choices. The report focuses on production and marketing practices. Specifically, the survey revealed that more experienced farmers were less likely to have Internet access, that participation by local food producers in USDA programs is low, and that producers with more direct marketing experience were more likely to have positive net farm sales.




Scientists at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have created a new model to track carbon through the agroecosystem. The team's complex advanced agroecosystem model, named ecosys, integrates advanced model simulations with observational data to model energy, water, carbon, and nutrient fluxes cycling in the agroecosystem. The team says the model will help advance precision agriculture to increase crop yields and sustain soil organic content.




A study by researchers at North Carolina State University found that crop insurance serves as a disincentive for farmers to adopt climate change mitigation measures. Crop yield variability is more acceptable to farmers who have crop insurance, this study found. "This could be an unintended consequence of providing subsidies for crop insurance," explained Rod M. Rejesus, professor of agricultural and resource economics at NC State and the corresponding author of the research study. "The concept of moral hazard could be present here. If insurance will cover crop losses due to various effects like drought or severe weather, a farmer may not want to pay the extra expense for climate change adaptation efforts such as using cover crops to improve soil health, for example."




Northern New York Agricultural Development Program reports that a New York potato grower and biocontrol nematode laboratory owner Mary DeBeer of DeBeer Seed and Spraying will make a trial application of biocontrol nematodes grown to reduce the population of wireworms that damage the roots, sprouts, and tubers of potato crops. "Our biocontrol nematode applications on multiple organic farms in New York and Canada have resulted in reduced wireworm damage to root crops and reduced soil populations of wireworms. With this application in northern New York, we would expect some protection in year one with full activity of the biocontrol nematodes in the potato field in year two," said a Cornell University entomologist who advised the trial project.




The American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and the Soil Science Society of America released a statement on Advancing Resilient Agriculture: Recommendations to Address Climate Change. The statement provides recommendations under seven categories: agricultural practices, data, research, food system resilience, communication and outreach, diversity, and collaboration. The statement is intended to inform the Societies' work with policymakers in Congress, the administration, federal agencies, partner organizations, and agricultural stakeholders. The complete statement is available online.




Farm Aid announced that Farm Aid 2021 will be an in-person festival on September 25 in Hartford, Connecticut. Farm Aid's annual festival is a an all-day celebration of music and family farmers featuring a unique lineup of artists and genres, along with family farm-identified, local and organic foods. The event will feature performances by Farm Aid board members Willie Nelson & Family, John Mellencamp, Neil Young, Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds, and Margo Price, as well as Sturgill Simpson, Tyler Childers, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Bettye LaVette, Jamey Johnson, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Allison Russell, Particle Kid, and Ian Mellencamp. NCAT will be participating in the Homegrown Village, where festivalgoers explore hands-on activities that engage all of their senses in the Farm Aid mission. Tickets for the festival have already sold out, but opportunities to watch and listen at home are available.




Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education's (SARE) newest book, the fourth edition of Building Soils for Better Crops, provides rich detail on ecologically sound practices for developing and maintaining healthy soils. The new edition of this highly regarded book provides critical updates to reflect the new science and many new, exciting developments in soil health over the past 12 years. It includes detailed information on soil-improving practices as well as in-depth background. Along with providing practical strategies for achieving agricultural sustainability with high-quality soil, the book presents readers with a holistic appreciation of the importance of soil health. Building Soils for Better Crops is written by Fred Magdoff (University of Vermont emeritus professor of plant and soil science) and Harold van Es (Cornell University professor of soil science); it is published by the SARE program and is available free online.




A Clemson University irrigation specialist conducting on-farms trials found that soil moisture sensors in fields can increase income for farmers. Installing soil moisture sensors in six South Carolina fields of cotton, peanut, or soybean irrigated by center pivots resulted in an average net income increase of nearly 20%. The farmers used an app to monitor soil moisture levels and followed guidelines on when to irrigate. The study will continue for two more years to see if the results hold true.




The U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Poultry & Eggs (US-RSPE) is inviting public comment on its multi-stakeholder sustainability reporting framework for the full U.S. supply chains for chicken, turkey, and eggs from producer to final customer. This US-RSPE Sustainability Framework was created as a tool for all U.S. poultry and egg supply chains to measure and report on their sustainability and track continuous improvement. Comments are due by August 31, 2021.




A study published in the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development explored the potential of food forests, based on evidence from more than 200 food forests worldwide and detailed insights on 14 exemplary ones in Europe, North America, and South America. The findings indicate that the majority of food forests perform well on social-cultural and environmental criteria by building capacity, providing food, enhancing biodiversity, and regenerating soil, among others. The study finds, however, that for broader impact, food forests need to go beyond the provision of social-cultural and environmental services and enhance their economic viability.




Researchers at South Dakota State University surveyed producers in the eastern part of the state about their perceptions and use of cover crops. Of the 708 South Dakota producers who responded to the survey, more than 80% expressed interest in adopting cover crops in the future, including those who did not use them. More than 40% of the survey respondents planted cover crops. Furthermore, the percentage of cover crop users reporting a profit of 5% or more increases as the number of years of cover crop usage increases. Moreover, those who use cover crops for grazing are more likely to view them as increasing their profitability. A majority of the farmers who use cover crops have also adopted no-till or reduced tillage practices.




OATS, the Organic Agronomy Training Service, has introduced a new podcast series, The Dirt on Organic Farming. OATS says the series brings honest and fair answers to the six most common criticisms of organic grain farming. Co-hosts Mallory Krieger and Nate Powell-Palm openly discuss the sometimes messy promise of the organic opportunity in a show that combines expert interviews with real world examples to get beyond "us vs. them" and towards a more informed understanding of organic agriculture.




An international research team led by the University of Göttingen says that a landscape mosaic of natural habitats and small-scale and diverse cultivated areas is the key to promoting biodiversity on a large scale in both conventional and organic agriculture. Their statement was published in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution. "Landscapes with high crop diversity, small fields, and at least one fifth near-natural habitats can promote biodiversity significantly more than just organic certification," explains first author Professor Teja Tscharntke. "Landscapes with small fields and long edges have many times more species than landscapes with large fields, and are equally feasible both in organic and conventional agriculture."




California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) accepted proposals for consideration of new practices to be included for funding under the Healthy Soils Program during 2020. Submitted proposals were reviewed by a technical sub-committee of subject matter experts from California universities and USDA NRCS. Recommendations developed by CDFA staff as a result of the review process are available for public comment through August 27, 2021. They include recommendations in favor re-saturating Delta peat soils, biochar application, and food waste hydrolysate application to soil.




Fifty small- and medium-sized enterprises around the world have been announced as the Best Small Businesses of the "Good Food for All" competition, held in conjunction with the UN Food Systems Summit. Selected from nearly 2,000 applications from 135 countries, the 50 winners all showcase inspiring, diverse, and impactful solutions in improving access to healthy, sustainable food. They will also share $100,000 in cash prizes. Each winner was selected for how their business contributes to healthier, more sustainable and equitable food for the communities they serve; the strength of their vision for the future; and how well they communicate the current and future impact of their business. Half are youth and nearly half are women. Winners come from a total of 42 countries. One of two North American winners was Woolley's Lamb, a Canadian business that practices silvoculture, grazing sheep in fruit orchards to produce multiple crops from one piece of land.




Penn State University researchers report that management strategies can be used to reduce the nitrous oxide emissions generated when manure is applied to legume cover crops. Legume cover crops and manure applications are both ways to increase the fertility of cropland and are often used in conjunction by organic growers in particular. However, large quantities of carbon and nitrogen in both of these soil amendments can lead to formation of nitrous oxide, an extremely powerful greenhouse gas. This is particularly the case when high levels of fast oxygen consumption in the soil result from the burial of cover crop residues and manure. The scientists suggest removing a portion of legume cover crops' biomass before applying manure, to control the amount of nitrogen on site.




Scientists at the University of California, Riverside, published a study showing that neonicotinoid insecticides used by growers on ornamental plants are deadly to solitary bee species. The study authors initially thought more watering of the plants would help reduce the toxicity to bees, given that neonicotinoids are water-soluble. However, testing showed a 90% decrease in solitary bees' reproduction when they were raised on native flowering plants treated with the insecticide, whether the plants were irrigated a lot or a little. Though the effect of neonicotinoid seed treatments on bees has been studied extensively, this is one of the first studies to explore the impact of neonicotinoid insecticide use on ornamental plants.




Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds announced members of the Agriculture and Energy Working Groups of the Carbon Sequestration Task Force that will explore carbon sequestration and the opportunities it presents for further economic development in the state. The Carbon Sequestration Task Force, chaired by the governor, will be supported by two working groups focused on Agriculture and Energy. Members of the working groups are comprised of diverse subject matter experts and stakeholders representing industries and interests integral to the carbon sequestration supply chain in the state of Iowa.




A study published by Cornell University found no evidence that environmental or biological stresses on hemp plants caused their THC levels to increase. When THC levels exceed 0.3%, the crop is classified as "hot" and cannot be sold as hemp. This study helped show that genetics, and not conditions such as disease or drought, determine the THC level of hemp plants. Scientists note that more research and breeding is needed to select appropriate genetics that lead to high CBD but low THC, and they recommend that growers make sure they get high-quality CBD-producing seeds to reduce their risk.




Identification, Mitigation, and Adaptation to Salinization on Working Lands in the U.S. Southeast is a new guide developed by the Southeast Climate Hub, in collaboration with USDA's Agricultural Research Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service. The free, 79-page publication can assist southeastern producers, as well as extension agents, landowners, field staff, and private consultants, in determining their land's stage of soil salinization. The guide also presents mitigation and adaptation practices that can reduce soil salinization impacts on productivity, such as leaching with freshwater, installing water control structures, and planting more salt-tolerant crops.




United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack proclaimed August 1-7, 2021, as National Farmers Market Week. In his proclamation, Vilsack noted the role that farmers markets play in providing Americans access to healthy food and providing market access to small-to-medium, new and beginning, socially disadvantaged, and veteran agricultural producers.




A new study from the University of Illinois and The Ohio State University surveyed Midwestern farmers, Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) employees, and agricultural researchers about their conceptualizations and prioritization of soil health and common soil tests. The results revealed that farmers are much more concerned about soil health than academics and professionals thought, and that there is surprising agreement on how all three groups conceptualized soil health. Although all groups said they value soil health tests that incorporate measurements of soil microbial activity, farmers aren't often using them, indicating a barrier to be overcome. The study concludes that, given broad agreement on the importance of soil health, efforts can transition from introducing the concept of soil health to measuring the benefits of practices that improve soil health.




Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA will provide $67 million in competitive loans through the new Heirs' Property Relending Program (HPRP), which aims to help agricultural producers and landowners resolve heirs' land ownership and succession issues. Intermediary lenders—cooperatives, credit unions, and nonprofit organizations—can apply for loans up to $5 million at 1% interest once the Farm Service Agency (FSA) opens the two-month signup window in late August. Heirs' property issues have long been a barrier for many producers and landowners to access USDA programs and services, and this relending program provides access to capital to help producers find a resolution to these issues.




USDA released an Economic Impact Analysis of the U.S. Biobased Products Industry that shows the biobased products industry supported 4.6 million American jobs and contributed $470 billion to the U.S. economy in 2017. The analysis also noted that "biobased products displace approximately 9.4 million barrels of oil annually, and have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 12.7 million metric tons of CO2 equivalents per year." "Biobased products are widely known for having a substantially lower impact on the environment compared to petroleum-based and other non-biobased products," USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Justin Maxson said.




USDA announced an investment of more than $21.8 million to 1890 Land-grant Institutions to support agriculture research at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded the funding to 58 projects designed to build capacity for teaching, research and extension activities at eligible institutions including curriculum design, materials development, faculty development, student recruitment and retention, and extension program development support. Funded projects include an heirs property project at Tuskegee University, Kentucky State University's project for training minority producers in produce handling and developing value-added products, and other Tuskegee projects related to pastured poultry and meat goat improvement. A list of funded projects is available online.




The South Dakota Grazing Exchange has been connecting livestock producers with landowners for more than a year now, reports Ag Update. The site is overseen by the South Dakota Soil Health Coalition Coordinator, who sees it as a way to promote healthy land management practices and let producers connect to offer help to one another. The site also offers example grazing agreements.




Texas Local Food Education & Discovery has introduced two free online courses: "How Social Media Can Help Promote Your Farmers Market" and "Selling at a Farmers Market for Beginners." Both courses are introductory-level (101). The first offers a basic overview on social media as a promotional tool for farmers markets, and is designed for farmers market organizers new to social media, needing a refresher course, or looking for promotional support. In the second course, you will learn whether farmers markets are the right sales outlet for your business and how to research which farmers market to choose, and you will gain knowledge that will support you in making your decision on selling at any farmers markets.




The USDA National Agroforestry Center recently published Marketing Agroforestry Products: Lessons from Producers. This free, 15-page PDF publication highlights producers' experiences in agroforestry businesses including maple syrup, pecans, ramps, elderberries, and more. It also summarizes lessons learned by producers in marketing agroforestry products.




The Pasture Project, in partnership with the Regenerative Ag Idea Network (REGAIN), is offering a training series on regenerative grazing for ag educators and advocates based in Illinois and Indiana (applicants from other states in the Upper Midwest are also invited to apply). This educational series will increase regenerative grazing awareness and knowledge among participants that serve Indiana and Illinois farmers, specifically. The goal of the series is to broaden and strengthen the community of people who can advocate for regenerative grazing and support farmers in navigating resources and opportunities to implement these practices. This series is also designed to build a stronger and a more interconnected network of regenerative grazing advocates in the Upper Midwest through an integrated cohort structure. The series will be held over eight weeks, starting the week of August 30, 2021, and wrapping up the week of October 18, 2021. Applications to participate in the series are due by July 30, 2021.




A study published in PLOS Genetics by University of Missouri researchers shows that cattle are losing the genetic adaptations that help them thrive in specific environments. The researchers say farmers' lack of information about genetics is contributing to the loss of adaptations to environmental stresses. Over time, while genes associated with higher productivity and fertility improved due to careful selection by farmers, many genes connected to environmental adaptations have faded, say the scientists. They propose affordable genetic tests that could identify for farmers traits such as heat resistance in cattle.




The Savanna Institute released Overcoming Bottlenecks in the Eastern U.S. Chestnut Industry: An Impact Investment Plan. The free, 56-page report is designed to serve as a catalyst for the chestnut industry, providing a roadmap for connecting capital with the key practitioners, researchers, and educators on the ground. It explains background on chestnuts and identifies bottlenecks in the industry and assesses options for overcoming them, concluding with recommendations for priority strategies.




An economist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach has compiled a new report, How to Grow and Sell Carbon Credits in US Agriculture. The report offers a comparison of 11 private voluntary carbon credit and incentive programs across 26 characteristics, including payments per new carbon credit, cost of participation, eligible crops, and credit verification. "What we are seeing so far is more a patchwork than a market," said report author Alejandro Plastina. "There are different rules, incentives, and penalties depending on the program. The market is still in its formative stage and is very dynamic, focused on testing protocols through small-scale pilot programs, and lacks transparency and liquidity."




The Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) have developed an Agrobiodiversity Index, with support from the CGIAR Research Programs on Water, Land and Ecosystems. The Agrobiodiversity Index is the first standard way of measuring agrobiodiversity in consumption, production, and conservation. It helps assess performance and progress towards managing agrobiodiversity for sustainable food systems, through three commitment indicators, four action indicators, and 15 status indicators. Private companies are beginning to use the index for monitoring, assessment, and decision-making.




Practical Farmers of Iowa released Find Cover Crops, a new app designed to help farmers easily locate cover crop seed, services, and suppliers in Iowa and surrounding states. The app is free to download and use, and its content is also available on a website. The app also provides access to advice and management recommendations for cover crops.




A national team of researchers and practitioners led by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach developed a national database for both food systems practitioners and educational resources. Iowa State's Indicators Team collaborated with Colorado State University and Local Food Economics, North Carolina State, American Farmland Trust, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, National Center for Appropriate Technology, University of Vermont and the Food Safety Clearinghouse, the North American Food Systems Network, eXtension, and the Wallace Center at Winrock International to develop the database. The site currently contains 92 educational resource profiles and 79 practitioner profiles across the nation, added during a limited pilot in spring 2021. Anyone engaged or interested in food systems can add their profile and use the database to learn about educational resources and practitioners in their area.




USDA is seeking input from the public on how to invest an estimated $500 million of American Rescue Plan funds to improve infrastructure, increase capacity, and hasten diversification across the meat and poultry processing industry. A notice in the Federal Register identifies specific considerations regarding fair treatment of workers, loans, grants, technical assistance, partnerships and general topics on which USDA seeks input. USDA invites input from a wide range of industry stakeholders, and will consider comments received by August 30, 2021.




Research is finding that excess fertilization of grass crops such as wheat and corn can lower yields during drought, says a story in Civil Eats. The fertilization leads to eutrophication as plants grow quickly, then struggle due to increased competition for water and rapid depletion of water supplies. "There is a consensus that when you add nutrients to a system, it becomes limited by water," USDA soil scientist Philip Fay explains. "That system, then, becomes more tied to changes in water variability." The finding is especially relevant given widespread drought in western states this year.




Research led by the University of Kansas found that constructed wetlands are the most cost-effective way to reduce nitrate and sediment loads from agricultural runoff in large streams and rivers. A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences used computer modeling to compare watershed approaches to reducing runoff in the Le Sueur River Basin in southern Minnesota. Constructed wetlands at the watershed scale were the most cost-effective way to cut the types of runoff from the Mississippi River Basin that contribute to the Gulf of Mexico "Dead Zone."




A report from the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program on research conducted at North Carolina A&T State University shows that planting cowpea alongside pollinator-dependent vegetable crops can significantly increase yields. "Cowpea can allow producers to grow two marketable crops in a field. At the same time, cowpea attracts more pollinators and fixes nitrogen in the soil. Cowpea is an overlooked crop for intercropping programs," said principal investigator Beatrice Dingha. This project first tested 25 varieties of cowpea to find the best performers: Dixielee, Penny Riley, Whippoorwill Steel Black, Whippoorwill, and Pinkeye Purple Hull. Researchers then planted cowpeas with okra, squash, and watermelon and compared the yields to monocropped plots of the vegetables. The researchers saw a 50% increase in pollinators in the intercropped plots and a clear increase in vegetable yield, topped by a 54% increase in watermelon yield in the intercropped plot.




The Council of Development Finance Agencies (CDFA) released Food Finance Detroit: A landscape map for financing Detroit's local food system. This free online resource highlights traditional development finance tools and programs that can help advance local food system redevelopment in Detroit. According to CDFA, "The purpose of this report is to highlight possible financing resources at the state and local levels that can be brought into coordination with the existing efforts to rebuild Detroit's food system."




Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education's newest free bulletin, Sustainable Agriculture Through Sustainable Learning, presents five best practices educators can use to facilitate effective learning among farmers. Educators using the best adult learning practices have a greater effect on participants' learning and retention, and they can empower farmers to make sustainable changes to their operations. This publication explains that educators can maximize the impact of learning opportunities by making the content relatable, engaging positive emotions, giving learners choice, identifying mental models, and providing opportunities for practice and application.




Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) is accepting nominations for its 2022 Organic Farmer of the Year award. This award recognizes organic farmers who show a strong commitment to organic principles, use innovative practices on their farm, and share their experience to help other organic farmers succeed. Nominees must be certified organic and farming in a Midwest state: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, or Wisconsin. The award is presented at the annual MOSES Organic Farming Conference.




Licensed hemp growers in Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, or Iowa can apply to participate in the Midwestern Hemp Database Project. The goal of this project is to provide regional insight into agronomic performance and cannabinoid development of industrial hemp cultivars. Participating producers receive significantly discounted cannabinoid profiling. Results of the project (seed source, cultivar, planting date, sampling date, cannabinoid production, yield, etc.) will be made available through a publicly accessible database. Apply by July 31, 2021 to determine eligibility for participation.




Growers of organic kernza, a perennial grain, gathered early in July in Minnesota to incorporate the Perennial Promise Growers Cooperative, reports the Star Tribune. "The farmer who wants to grow this won't have time to focus on finding and developing markets," said Carmen Fernholz, a longtime organic farmer who helped organize the co-op. "We said, let's put our growers together, pull together usable amounts of our crop, and find someone to market it for us." The co-op plans to hire a full-time marketing agent. Over 1,000 acres are planted to the crop in Minnesota, and organizers expect 50 to 100 producers to join the co-op.




Researchers at the University of Illinois categorized available crop biostimulant products into eight classes based on their modes of action. They published the results in the journal Agronomy. Half of the products classified are live microorganisms, including nitrogen-fixing bacteria, mycorrhizal fungi, phosphorus-solubilizing microbes, or other beneficial microbes. The other half are chemistries or chemical byproducts including seaweed extracts, humic and fulvic acids, concentrated enzymes, and biochar. The researchers say that producers will want to match the biostimulant that they use with their specific goals. Otherwise, biostimulants may not deliver the desired result.




"Growing the Agritourism Business in Montana," a project sponsored by the Montana Department of Agriculture Specialty Crops Block Grant, has produced a website that offers resources on agritourism. These include an agritourism directory for the state, a series of podcasts that provide case studies and address specific issues, and extensive links to producer resources on getting started in agritourism, best practices, offering activities, and connecting with the community.




USDA Farm Service Agency has updated its list and map of counties where Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands are eligible to be used for emergency haying and grazing. Producers located in a county that is designated as severe drought (D2) or greater by the U.S. Drought Monitor on or after the last day of the primary nesting season are eligible for emergency haying and grazing on all eligible acres. For much of the Northern Plains, that date was July 15, and many counties were added to the eligibility list. Nearly all counties in most western states currently qualify. Before haying or grazing eligible acres, producers must submit a request for CRP emergency haying or grazing to FSA and obtain a modified conservation plan from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Emergency grazing is authorized for up to 90 days and emergency haying is authorized for up to 60 days.




In Idaho, the Wood River Wolf Project is leading efforts to implement non-lethal controls to help protect livestock from wolves, reports National Public Radio and WBUR's Here & Now. In addition to monitoring wolf behavior and modifying livestock distribution in response, the collaborative effort is testing technology such as flashing lights on sheep and sound deterrents. It has also accessed funding for riders that help look after livestock.




A feature in National Geographic describes how scientists are seeking to identify and reduce sources of dust in Western snowpack. Dust combined with the snow makes it darker, which makes it melt faster. In areas of the West where water is already scarce due to drought, losing snowpack early has important implications for agriculture that's dependent snowmelt for irrigation, as well as recharging the water system in general. Researchers believe that altering grazing and recreation practices on desert lands could help reduce dust levels.




USDA announced that it is awarding a total of $12 million in Farm to School Grants to 176 grantees. This year's Farm to School Grants will help expand the access to fresh, local foods and hands-on agricultural learning for children across 45 states and the District of Columbia. USDA also released results from the 2019 Farm to School Census that show school districts purchased nearly $1.3 billion in local fruits, vegetables, and other foods during the 2018-2019 school year. A complete list of grant recipients and the full census results are both available online.




USDA is letting producers know that it has several risk management and disaster assistance options to help producers recover after disasters. These include crop insurance and programs to help producers of livestock and perennial crops. Key programs offered by USDA's Farm Service Agency include the Livestock Indemnity Program and the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybee and Farm-raised Fish Program. Also, the Tree Assistance Program provides cost share assistance to rehabilitate or replant orchards and vineyards when storms kill or damage the trees, vines or bushes. Additionally, the Emergency Conservation Program and Emergency Forest Restoration Program can assist landowners and forest stewards with financial and technical assistance to restore damaged farmland or forests.




Michigan State University Extension's Heroes to Hives (H2H) program is expanding to offer hands-on training opportunities in more states. H2H offers military service members nine months of comprehensive beginning beekeeping training through a free, hybrid learning program that uses online lectures and hands-on educational experiences at six MSU Extension and education apiaries across Michigan. Previously, only Michigan participants were able to take part in the hands-on training. Now, partnerships with University of Missouri Extension and the University of Central Missouri, University Nebraska-Lincoln, and the University of Minnesota will offer students the chance to have hands-on training opportunities in these states and will serve as the basis for partnerships with other universities to launch hands-on H2H educational programming across the country. Enrollment for the 2021 program is closed, but service members interested in participating in the 2022 program can complete an online interest form.




A feature in Civil Eats highlights GrownBy, a producer-owned cooperative that spun off from the National Young Farmers Coalition to help farmers sell their products online and help consumers find local farmers with food available. In contrast to other tech-led ventures into local food marketing, GrownBy charges producers just a 2% service fee, and producers who sell through the platform can buy a share in the co-op. A new app is helping the platform support sales from CSA boxes to item pre-orders. Fifty farms are currently using the platform, with more than twice that number signed on in anticipation of offering products. The feature also mentions a handful of other, similarly producer-affordable efforts to link producers and consumers for online purchasing.




On July 1, 2021, Vermont's Act 31, an act aimed at protecting agritourism businesses from liability issues, went into effect. Act 31 establishes a limitation on liability for agritourism hosts. The Act acknowledges that there are "inherent risks" in participating in agritourism activities and shifts those risks to properly warned consumers. University of Vermont Extension has posted a web page to help agricultural producers learn more about the required specifications of Act 31. It includes links to resources such as fact sheets, guides, checklists, and signage for agritourism operators. It also includes information on liability and links to insurers.




The Center for Rural Affairs (CFRA) released a series of resource guides on federal working lands conservation programs. Available in English and Spanish, the free, downloadable resources provide details on the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Both offer financial and technical assistance to producers who want to improve their natural resources, including soil, water, and wildlife habitat, without taking land out of production.




Research and cooperative extension faculty from Vermont, California, Oregon, and West Virginia have released results of a national online survey on agritourism that concluded in February 2020. A total of 1,834 farmers, ranchers, and vineyard operators from all 50 states responded. Survey results indicated that direct sales are the most commonly offered experience, with 79% of respondents offering them. Nationally, 59% provide tours and other educational experiences. Survey respondents indicated plans for growth and identified time management, labor, and marketing needs as challenges. The respondents also showed interest in obtaining marketing assistance, legal and liability information, and safety information. Complete survey results are available online, and plans are underway for a follow-up survey to explore how the pandemic affected the industry.




An Executive Order signed July 9, 2021, by President Biden promotes competition in the American economy, specifically including the agriculture sector. The Executive Order includes 72 initiatives by more than a dozen federal agencies to promptly tackle some of the most pressing competition problems across our economy. In the Order, the President directs USDA to consider issuing new rules under the Packers and Stockyards Act, making it easier for farmers to bring and win claims, stopping chicken processors from exploiting and underpaying chicken farmers, and adopting anti-retaliation protections for farmers who speak out about bad practices. The order also directs USDA to consider issuing new rules defining when meat can bear "Product of USA" labels. Additionally, the order directs USDA to develop a plan to increase opportunities for farmers to access markets and receive a fair return, including supporting alternative food distribution systems like farmers markets and developing standards and labels so that consumers can choose to buy products that treat farmers fairly. Furthermore, the order encourages the FTC to limit powerful equipment manufacturers from restricting people's ability to use independent repair shops or do DIY repairs—such as when tractor companies block farmers from repairing their own tractors.




Researchers at University of Minnesota's College of Veterinary Medicine and the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences synthesized results of 70 individual studies to assess the effectiveness of targeted grazing, which is an increasingly popular land-management tool. They found that targeted grazing was effective because it significantly reduced the abundance of the undesired plants that the livestock were brought in to control. They also found that the number of plant species in grazed areas tended to increase, although studies weren't clear about whether these increases were in native or non-native species. The researchers say there is also a knowledge gap in the long-term effects of targeted grazing once the livestock are removed from the site, which should be addressed by future studies.




A study from North Carolina State University, published in Science Advances, showed that increased climate warming and elevated ozone levels appear to have detrimental effects on soybean plant roots, their relationship with symbiotic microorganisms in the soil, and the ways the plants sequester carbon. In testing, warming and increased ozone levels made soybean roots thinner and weaker. In turn, these weaker roots caused a reduction in and a change in the type of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF). AMF play a role in carbon sequestration by preventing the decomposition of soil organic matter.




USDA announced that it intends to invest $500 million in American Rescue Plan funds to expand meat and poultry processing capacity so that farmers, ranchers, and consumers have more choices in the marketplace. USDA also announced more than $150 million for existing small and very small processing facilities to help them weather COVID, compete in the marketplace, and get the support they need to reach more customers. USDA says it is also holding meatpackers accountable by revitalizing the Packers and Stockyards Act, issuing new rules on "Product of USA" labels, and developing plans to expand farmers' access to new markets. Details on the announcement are available online.




Building on a successful peer-to-peer network of Texas ranchers who are implementing innovative grazing techniques to improve soil health and increase profitability, the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) is scaling up its Soil for Water project to support livestock producers and farmers across seven southern states and Montana. The Soil for Water project grew out of persistent droughts, which put a strain on agricultural producers across the country. The effort is combining the use of appropriate technology, peer-to-peer learning, and on-farm monitoring to encourage regenerative agricultural practices. By late summer, the project will be available to ranchers and farmers across Montana. The effort aims to reach hundreds of family-owned farms and ranches, creating a network of producers who prosper by applying land management practices that improve soil health, catch more water in soil, reduce erosion, sustain diverse plant and animal life and filter out pollutants. "Livestock have the ability to improve soil health, and healthy soil holds more water," said NCAT Regenerative Grazing Specialist and Montana project lead Linda Poole, who also raises sheep in Phillips County. "We know that as more producers adopt regenerative methods, significant economic, environmental and social benefits can be realized."




A feature from High Plains Public Radio explores whether debt relief payments planned by the federal government are coming too late to help generations of Black farmers pushed off their land through discriminatory practices by USDA and farm credit offices. The story of Nicodemus, Kansas, serves as an example of how Black farmers lost land and community due to discriminatory lending. Nicodemus was one of many all-Black farming settlements initiated by formerly enslaved people, and it had 150 Black farmers a hundred years ago. Today, no Nicodemus residents are active farmers, there are few Black farmers in the area, and there are just 50,000 African American farmers nationally. Currently, USDA has launched a number of efforts to change its practices and the federal debt relief program within the American Rescue Plan includes an estimated $4 billion to pay off some outstanding debts marginalized farmers owe the federal government. However, some Black farmers' loans are ineligible for the program and others are skeptical that this plan will help, given that they have as yet received no relief through the decades-old Pigford v Glickman discrimination lawsuit settlement.




The National Organic Program's Organic Integrity Learning Center has introduced a microlearning option. The free online courses each cover one organic topic and can be completed in 10 to 15 minutes. They are designed for all organic stakeholders. New topics are added frequently. Microlearning courses currently available include Writing an Effective Public Comment, Introduction to the National Organic Standards Board, and Three Options for Resolving an Adverse Action.




The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the New Mexico Farm & Livestock Bureau have signed a three-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to expand joint activities supporting the agencies' shared goal of well-managed, sustainable farms. The agreement is the first among states in EPA Region 6. EPA explained that the MOU formalizes a partnership between the two agencies to expand collaboration communication, education and outreach, and promote training on agricultural practices that are good for business and the environment. The agencies will also work to recognize and promote examples of environmental stewardship within the agriculture community and to the general public.




The "Common Ground" series on Montana Free Press launched with a feature exploring how organic and regenerative agriculture are revitalizing rural Montana economies. According to the article, a growing number of Montana farms and ranches are using organic or regenerative agriculture to build topsoil, become more resilient to drought, capture carbon, and increase profits. This piece considers some of the challenges to using either of these growing systems, and tells the stories of Montana crop and livestock operations that have changed their practices.




Research published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology by scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst found that grasses with a healthy microbial community are better able to withstand climate change. The paper's lead author spoke about the importance of microbes for plants: "They protect from pathogens, provide the grass with nutrients such as nitrogen, supply hormones to bolster the plant's health and growth, protect from UV radiation, and help the grass manage drought." Under severe drought conditions, microbial communities became less diverse and had fewer bacteria, total, making the plant more vulnerable to environmental stress.




In partnership with the United States Botanic Garden (USBG), NCAT is bringing a unique hybrid model of Armed to Farm urban sustainable agriculture training for military veterans to Baltimore, Maryland, in September and October 2021. This year's Armed to Urban Farm will be a hybrid of online sessions via Zoom and two days of in-person farm tours. Participants must commit to attending both the virtual and in-person sessions. Participants will learn about whole-farm planning, farm financial planning, urban crop production, urban soils, marketing, and more. All veterans are welcome to apply, but those from the Mid-Atlantic region will receive priority. Applications are due by August 13, 2021.




A Texas livestock operation managed by Maggie Eubank's family is one of the ranches improving soil health through NCAT's Soil for Water program, reports the Albuquerque Journal. Fifteen Texas properties are enrolled in the program and building soil using practices such as removing invasive plants, no-till planting, rotational grazing, and monitoring. Participating producers share their experiences in a peer-to-peer network. The program is expanding this summer to New Mexico and five other states.




National Farmers Market Week is set for August 1-7, 2021, and the Farmers Market Coalition has a toolkit available online to help plan the celebration. The toolkit offers more than 30 downloadable templates, tools, graphics, and resources available for farmers market operators to use to plan and celebrate National Farmers Market Week.




The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program funded trials of early spring high tunnel miniature cabbages and sprouting broccoli crops. These cold-tolerant brassica (cruciferous) crops have the potential to fill the sales gap that occurs between when winter storage crops are sold out and before spring field crop harvest begins. The research team, which includes vegetable production specialists with Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Willsboro Research Farm, harvested its first miniature versions of these vegetables in May 2021. The opportunity to produce miniature varieties of broccoli and cabbages that are quick-growing and able to grow in unheated high tunnels will help northern New York growers respond to the unprecedented surge in demand for local foods spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic. An additional aspect of this Northern New York Agricultural Development Program-funded regional vegetable project is focused on how to plant cold-tolerant brassica species as field cover crops.




An Indiana Conservation Partnership survey reports that Indiana farmers planted a record-setting 1.5 million acres of overwinter living covers. Overwintering covers—cover crops and small grains—prevented 1.6 million tons of sediment, 4.1 million pounds of nitrogen, and more than 2 million pounds of phosphorus from entering Indiana's waterways. The conservation survey also showed that 62% of farmed acres in Indiana were not tilled and 18% had employed reduced tillage after the 2020 harvest. "This year's data may be surprising to some considering the tough farm economy this past year. But over time, our farmers have learned that incorporating a comprehensive management system into their operation that includes cover crops and no-till/strip-till have helped improve the sustainability and productivity of their soils," said Indiana State Conservationist, Jerry Raynor. "As a result, farmers are sequestering more carbon, increasing water infiltration, improving wildlife and pollinator habitat—all while harvesting better profits and often better yields."




The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) is scaling up its Soil for Water project and is looking for input on what information producers are looking for and how it is most helpful. The peer-to-peer learning network is expanding beyond Texas and into New Mexico, Colorado, and California. By late summer it will expand into Arkansas, Mississippi, and Virginia, and next year it will accept producers nationally. NCAT is looking for producer input to inform its redesigned Soil for Water website with a producer forum, success stories, and multimedia features. A brief survey is available online.




Scientists at USDA's Agricultural Research Service Soil and Water Management Research Unit are using perennial kura clover as a living mulch for annual row crops, reports High Plains Journal. The perennial clover helps fix nitrogen and prevent erosion, and it can live for decades, helping farmers avoid the cost of seeding annual cover crops. Researchers say it's ideal for corn silage. Drawbacks are that the seed is hard to find and the clover is slow to establish.




A Conservation Day event in Wisconsin highlighted the successes of local producers with improving soil health and water quality, reports Agri-View. Producer-led groups are showcasing the efforts of farmers like Ron Schoepp, who rotationally grazes a cover-crop mix. The Sand County Foundation is working with farmers to document the economics of grazing cover crops. At the event, Indiana farmer Rick Clark explained his seven-crop rotation and use of regenerative practices. Clark is certified organic or transitioning to organic production on all of the 7,000 acres that he farms.




Research published in Soil Science Society of America Journal shows that applying compost in apple orchards could reduce the need for synthetic fertilizer. A research team led by Gregory Peck at Cornell University applied composts—such as chicken litter and yard waste—to apple orchards. Researchers found that adding compost increased the number of soil bacteria associated with recycling nutrients. The compost provides additional food for the bacteria to help them thrive. This larger microbial community means more nutrients are available to the apple trees, so less fertilizer is needed. Furthermore, using compost in apple orchards helps provides a sustainable use for waste materials.




The new Center for Agricultural Profitability in the University of Nebraska–Lincoln's Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources began operating this week. The center will work to improve the economic viability of the agricultural sector in Nebraska and beyond. It focuses on research, extension outreach, and education related to profitability and supporting informed decision-making and management choices to keep farmers and ranchers financially healthy. The center also will roll out a number of tools for use by farmers, ranchers, and agribusiness professionals. Among these is the Agricultural Budget Calculator, an online program allowing crop producers to estimate their cost of production based on field operations expenses, machinery, labor, and material inputs for different enterprises.




Four California wineries and vintners were named Green Medal winners recognizing a commitment to sustainability in Leader, Business, Environment, and Community categories. O'Neill Vintners & Distillers, located in California's Inland Valleys, is the recipient of the Leader Award, given to a vineyard or winery that excels in the three "Es" of sustainability—Environmentally sound, socially Equitable, and Economically viable practices. Trinchero Family Estates, located in Lodi and Napa Valley, is the recipient of the Business Award, given to the vineyard or winery that best demonstrates smart business through efficiencies, cost savings and innovation from implementing sustainable practices. Shannon Ridge Family of Wines, based in Lake County, is the recipient of the Environment Award, given to the vineyard or winery that best demonstrates environmental stewardship through maximized environmental benefits from implementing sustainable practices. Boisset Collection, headquartered in Napa Valley, is the recipient of the Community Award, given to the vineyard or winery that is a good neighbor and employer using the most innovative practices that enhance relations with employees, neighbors and/or communities.




LandownerHelp.com is a grant-supported website that provides free educational resources and planning tools to create better landowner-tenant relationships that incentivize long-term results. Landowner Help is a service of Stroud Water Research Center, the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, and the University of Maryland Agriculture Law Education Initiative. Among the resources is a series of webinars supported by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Stroud Water Research Center that cover key topics related to land ownership, leasing, and long-term soil health. The website can also help connect landowners and farmers to financial incentives. New resources will continue to be added.




The Narrative Collective of the US Food Sovereignty Alliance compiled a series of stories that explore the concept of food sovereignty, a vision for democratic control over food and agricultural systems. Food Sovereignty in the USA: A Selection of Stories is a multimedia resource that offers nine grassroots stories from members of the US Food Sovereignty Alliance in both print and video. The videos and text are intended to raise awareness and inspire conversations within and beyond the food sovereignty movement.




Tracking by a team of researchers at South Dakota Mines shows an alarming increase in salinity content of stock water dams during the 2021 drought. The team has been monitoring 70 stock dams across 12 watersheds in two northwestern South Dakota counties over the past two years. During the drought, salinity has increased enough in some water to cause adverse health effects for livestock and wildlife, even to the point of being lethal in a few cases. In the Upper Great Plans, stock dams are often located in soils formed from ancient seafloor. These soils can contain elevated amounts of remaining salts from the evaporated seawater. These salts are dissolved and transported downstream to collect in stock dams, riparian areas, and other low-lying regions. Over time the salts accumulate and become more and more concentrated.




Pennsylvania announced the award of $460,000 to eight projects through state Specialty Crop Block Grants funded by the Pennsylvania Farm Bill. The grants fund high priority specialty crops that are not eligible under the federal specialty crop grant program. High priority crops in the state include hemp, hops, hardwoods, honey; and barley, rye and wheat for distilling, brewing and malting. Projects aim to enhance the competitiveness and sustainability of specialty crops through research to increase conservation and environmental outcomes, enhance food safety, develop new and improved seed varieties, or improve pest and disease control.




A feature in The Guardian reports that more than 300 vineyards in mainland France and Corsica are using draft horses in viticulture. This figure was derived from the Equivigne study carried out by the French Horse and Riding Institute in partnership with the French Wine and Vine Institute. The study found that vineyard owners opted for horses because of their contribution to soil health: they compact soil less than a tractor does, plus they can access challenging terrain and cause less damage to vines. Cultivating with horses also offers an alternative to chemical weedkillers that organic and biodynamic growers find appealing. Some vineyards are also employing vitipastoralisme, or grazing sheep in vineyards to aid with weed control and fertilization. The grazing also encourages growth of nitrogen-fixing clover and promotes water quality and soil health.




Pasa Sustainable Agriculture posted a 21-minute video that explains voluntary Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) audits. GAP audits verify that produce is grown, harvested, packed, and stored in ways that minimize microbial food safety hazards. This video visits Who Cooks For You Farm, a CSA vegetable farm serving Pittsburgh, with Jeff Bertram, a food safety inspector with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, to conduct a mock GAP audit with farmer Aeros Lillstrom.




Research published in Nature Plants by a team led by ETH Zurich Professor Christian Schöb revealed that mixed cultures with greater biodiversity produce a much higher yield than monocultures in arable farming. Researchers tested mixtures of two or four different crops in Spain and Switzerland. A mixture of two species increased yield by 3% in Spain and 21% in Switzerland, while four species sown alongside each other increased yield by as much as 13% in Spain and 44% in Switzerland. The researchers credit the biodiverse planting's better use of available resources and more effective natural pest control for the yield increase. They note, however, that no seeds are available specifically for use in mixed plantings and that a change in agricultural practice will be required to harvest and separate mixed crops effectively.




A new study by Penn State researchers looked at emergency room admissions and found that from January 1, 2015, to December 31, 2019, more than 60,000 people were treated in emergency departments for nonfatal, agricultural-related injuries. Nearly a third of those injuries were to youths. This study revealed far more agriculture-related injuries than are reported through mechanisms that tally workplace injuries, because many of the injuries involve youths or elderly people not traditionally counted as part of the workforce. The researchers suggest that recognizing what injuries occur and how they happen could prevent them from recurring. "Small farms are family-oriented businesses, and often they have all their family members helping out," said study author Judd Michael. "And the kids who are helping out or visiting the farm are exposed to hazards that they may not understand or know how to react to. They're not mature enough to foresee hazardous situations. And that leads to injuries or worse, in some cases, fatalities."




The National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances is a tool for managing the substances used in organic production. It also identifies nonagricultural and nonorganic agricultural substances or ingredients that may be used in organic handling. USDA published a final rule in the Federal Register, adding three substances to the National List: oxalic acid as a pesticide for use in apiculture, nonorganic pullulan for use in dietary supplements with "made with organic" claims, and collagen gel as a casing for organic products like sausages. This final rule is effective July 26, 2021.




Preliminary results from the Bee Informed Partnership's annual survey of beekeepers show losses of more than 45% of managed bee colonies in the past year. This is the second-highest loss rate the survey has recorded since it began in 2006. "This year's survey results show that colony losses are still high," says Nathalie Steinhauer, Bee Informed Partnership's science coordinator and a post-doctoral researcher in the University of Maryland Department of Entomology. "Not all beekeepers are affected at the same intensity, but the turnover rate of colonies is still overall higher than beekeepers deem acceptable." This past year, winter losses were reported at 32.2%, which is 9.6 percentage points higher than last year and 3.9 points higher than the survey average. Summer losses were some of the highest ever reported again this year at 31.1%.




USDA is providing a variety of program flexibilities and other assistance to communities and agricultural producers affected by Tropical Storm Claudette. In addition, USDA offers several risk management and disaster assistance options to help producers recover after disasters. These include crop insurance, the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP), and disaster assistance programs such as the Livestock Indemnity Program and the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybee and Farm-raised Fish Program, the Tree Assistance Program, and the Emergency Conservation Program. In addition, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program can help with immediate needs and long-term support for those recovering from natural disasters.




USDA announced that it is providing $10 million to support climate-smart agriculture and forestry through voluntary conservation practices in 10 targeted states. This assistance, available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), will help agricultural producers plan and implement voluntary conservation practices that sequester carbon, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and mitigate the impacts of climate change on working lands. Producers in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin can apply for this funding opportunity. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service selected these states based on demonstrated demand for additional support for climate-smart practices. Each state will determine its own signup period, with signups expected to begin on or around June 24, 2021, in most states.




A study by scientists from U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory says that digital agriculture, crop and microbial genetics, and electrification could reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from grain production by up to 70% within the next 15 years. The team used Argonne's Greenhouse gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy use in Technologies (GREET®) model to simulate adoption of the new technologies. They focused on a two-pronged approach of reducing farming emissions and maximizing soil carbon storage. The study, "Novel technologies for emission reduction complement conservation agriculture to achieve negative emissions from row-crop production," was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States.




The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) published a report titled Climate Solutions for Farmers: Invest in Proven Federal Programs, Not Carbon Markets. It outlines some of NSAC's key concerns about the increasing focus on carbon markets in agriculture. These include carbon markets' history of failure, potential to worsen inequity, benefits to industry rather than farmers, and lack of adequate measurement ability. NSAC advises that "Policymakers should invest in programs with the longest successful track record of addressing on-farm stewardship—the farm bill conservation, research, renewable energy, and rural development programs—as the primary strategy to advance and scale up climate beneficial farming practices."




With its four new agriculture specialists onboard, the National Center for Appropriate Technology will have at the ready first-hand sustainable-agriculture expertise in even more parts of the country. The nonprofit organization is headquartered in Butte, Montana, and boasts a network of regional experts at offices in California, Texas, Mississippi, Arkansas, and New Hampshire, as well as remote staff in Colorado, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. The new specialists will add Idaho, Kentucky, and northcentral Montana to NCAT's list of locations. The new NCAT sustainable agriculture specialists include Linda Poole, an agriculture specialist focused on regenerative grazing practices who is based in Montana; diversified veteran crop and livestock farmer Mike Lewis in Kentucky; regenerative livestock specialist Justin Morris in Idaho; and sustainable agriculture specialist Katherine Favor at NCAT's California office in Davis.




Arizona State University's Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems released a new report, The Critical To-Do List of Organic Agriculture: 46 Recommendations for the President. This report addresses some of the lingering challenges faced by the organic industry and provides policy recommendations to better support the growing organic industry and its positive impacts. The report offers recommendations in the areas of governance, health, economics, and climate, developed as an outgrowth of discussions between Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Californians for Pesticide Reform.




The California Invasive Plant Council and the University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program developed two new resources that provide land managers access to the latest information on non-herbicide practices for managing invasive plants in wildlands. Best Management Practices for Non-Chemical Weed Control is a free downloadable manual. The same information has been incorporated into an interactive online tool called WeedCUT (Weed Control User Tool). The publication provides comprehensive descriptions of 21 commonly used non-herbicide weed control techniques and biological control agents for 18 invasive plants.




The American Sheep Industry Association is writing a second volume of the Targeted Grazing Handbook that was first published in 2006. The purpose of this volume is to provide practical information to individuals considering the use of targeted grazing either in their personal operation or as a service to others. In addition, it will help all targeted grazing providers with information on the efficacy and use of targeted grazing to market the use of livestock as a scientifically proven land management option. Targeted graziers are asked to participate in a confidential online survey to inform this publication.




Oregon Department of Agriculture announced that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will resume Produce Safety Rule inspections under the Food Safety Modernization Act in Oregon, reports Morning Ag Clips. Oregon operations may receive a phone call from the FDA requesting to schedule an inspection as early as this month. Inspections started nationwide in 2019 on the largest U.S. produce farms, but they were put on hold for the past year. All farm sizes are subject to routine inspections in 2021. However, large farms not inspected in 2019 will be prioritized over small and very small farms.




USDA Agricultural Research Service scientists found that where honey bees collect their pollen affects the nutritional composition of the food they make from it. The scientists compared spring and fall pollen collected by bees in central Iowa and southern Arizona. Spring Iowa pollen, derived largely from clover, had higher levels of the essential fatty acid, omega-3, helping the bees raise more worker bees. Fall pollen from Iowa had higher levels of certain amino acids and lipids (fats) to help sustain bees through cold weather when they are confined in the hive. The findings could help inform the design of seed mixes for pollinator habitat.




Virginia Tech, Virginia Cooperative Extension, and USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service are teaming up with the Virginia Soil Health Coalition to raise awareness for soil health. Their "4TheSoil" campaign launches on National Soil Health Day, June 23, 2021. Campaign organizers will use a new website and digital media to heighten general soil health awareness and encourage Virginia farmers and residents to adopt four soil health principles: keeping soil covered, minimizing soil disturbance, maximizing living roots, and energizing with diversity. The partnership also highlights soil stewardship success stories and allows website visitors to pledge their support for soil health and these fundamental practices.




Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack issued a USDA proclamation to recognize the designation of the week of June 21 – 27, 2021, as National Pollinator Week. Vilsack encourages the people of the United States to join in celebrating the vital significance of pollinators and all they do to help feed our nation and the world. Resources for celebrating National Pollinator Week and a listing of events scheduled during the week—including online workshops—are available from the Pollinator Partnership website.




Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service is offering a 12-week online program called Generation Next: Our Turn to Ranch for new landowners, those who are inheriting land, or those who are looking to start a new agricultural operation on an existing ranch. The online school allows participants to work toward developing a business plan with support from professionals who specialize in different topics. It will address everything from tax implications and insurance needs to developing grazing or wildlife leases. Attendees will hear from experts who will cover land management techniques and resources, alternative ranching, ecotourism opportunities, and direct marketing. The program cost is $300 and it is limited to the first 100 registrants. It runs from August 16 until November 7, 2021.




In interviews with The San Diego Union Tribune, Kaia Shivers and Jilian Hishaw discussed the connection between the celebration of Juneteenth and the work and contributions of Black farmers in the United States. Shivers is a professor at NYU, editor of Ark Republic, and founder of the Black Farmers Index, a nonprofit listing of Black farmers who work directly with consumers. Hishaw is an attorney, author, and founding director of Family Agriculture Resource Management Services (F.A.R.M.S.), a nonprofit that provides legal and technical assistance to rural, small farmers of color.




Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack released a statement regarding the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices final rule: "We intend to reconsider the prior Administration's interpretation that the Organic Foods Production Act does not authorize USDA to regulate the practices that were the subject of the 2017 Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) final rule. I have directed the National Organic Program to begin a rulemaking to address this statutory interpretation and to include a proposal to disallow the use of porches as outdoor space in organic production over time and on other topics that were the subject of the OLPP final rule. We anticipate sending the proposed rule to OMB within six to nine months from the date of the remand. We look forward to receiving public comments on those topics and, after reviewing the comments, USDA will publish a final rule."




The Minnesota Department of Agriculture awarded $294,907 to schools across Minnesota through two new grants to increase the amount of healthy local foods in school meals. This funding will leverage an additional $239,007 in purchases of Minnesota grown- and raised-foods, for nearly $534,000 in total investment. Schools with little to no experience with local procurement were eligible for First Bite Mini-Grants and schools with local procurement experience were eligible to apply for Full Tray Grants. In addition to the funding, grant recipients may receive technical assistance to successfully implement their farm to school procurement activities from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, thanks to funding from a USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant.




The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the recipients of nearly $11 million in "Farmer to Farmer" grants. The Farmer to Farmer grant funding is available to develop innovative practices within farming communities, measure the results of those practices, and identify how the practices will be incorporated into farming operations. A list of funded projects is available online. They include projects on water quality, agroforestry, grazing for ecosystem services, algae harvesting, and developing farmer networks.




Scientists and government agencies are watching for diminished water resources and potentially severe fire seasons in the western United States this year, reports NASA Earth Observatory. Drought is affecting much of the West for the second year in a row. The June 10 report from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows 88.5% of the land area in western states is experiencing some level of drought, with 55% being classified as "extreme." An estimated 90% of Utah is under extreme drought conditions, as is 87% of Arizona, 85% of California, and 76% of Nevada.




USDA published a Federal Register Notice requesting public input on its efforts to advance racial justice and equity across the Department. The information gained through this Notice and public listening sessions will aid in identifying barriers that people of color, underserved communities, and others may face in obtaining information on USDA programs and services, engaging with USDA staff, and accessing, enrolling, and participating in programs and services including USDA grant, loan, and other financial assistance programs.




A nationwide monitoring program in Germany found that governmental thresholds for pesticides are generally too high to maintain aquatic community health and that even these excessively high levels are still exceeded in over 80% of streams flowing through predominantly agricultural lowland regions. The research was led by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research and published in the scientific journal Water Research. Scientists say the loss of biodiversity can only be halted if the environmental risk assessment of pesticides is radically revised. They found through this research that pesticides affect aquatic invertebrate communities at much lower concentrations than previously assumed by the pesticide risk assessment.




New York Soil Health reported that the New York State Legislature passed legislation establishing the New York Soil Health and Climate Resiliency Act to enhance and maintain the health and resilience of agricultural soils. The bill is awaiting the governor's signature. The Soil Health and Climate Resiliency Act establishes a Soil Health Initiative, a Climate Resilient Farming Initiative, and a Research Initiative through the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets—all steps forward to scale sustainable soil health practices that will increase carbon sequestration to help the state meet its climate goals while improving water quality and promoting resilience to extreme weather events both on-farm and in surrounding communities.




American Farmland Trust and the Farmers Market Coalition are joining together to kick off the 13th annual America's Farmers Market Celebration, running from June 21 to September 19, 2021. The event showcases the essential markets across the nation making a difference for farmers, ranchers, and communities and is the preeminent ranking of the nation's favorite farmers markets. Market shoppers and supporters can vote for their favorite market by visiting markets.farmland.org. Cash prizes will be awarded to the most popular markets, to help with marketing, communications, and other needs that help expand the market's reach and impact.




Landowners and agricultural producers currently enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) now have a wider opportunity to enroll in a 30-year contract through the Clean Lakes, Estuaries, And Rivers initiative, called CLEAR30. CLEAR30 provides an opportunity for producers to receive incentives for a 30-year commitment to water quality practices on their CRP land, building on their original 10- to 15-year CRP contracts. Eligible producers must have certain water-quality benefiting practices currently enrolled under continuous CRP or through the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), under contracts that are expiring this September. This year USDA is expanding CLEAR30, which was previously available as a pilot progrm only in the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay watershed, to be nationwide. Interested producers with CRP contracts expiring September 30, 2021, should sign up by August 6, 2021.