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The Regenerative Organic Alliance (ROA) announced that the Regenerative Organic Certified™ (ROC™) certification standard for food, fiber, and personal care products has completed its pilot phase and is now open for general certification. Before being eligible for ROC, farms must first hold USDA organic certification. ROC then adds further criteria to ensure soil health, animal welfare, and social fairness. The new certification also has three levels—bronze, silver, and gold. The levels require farms and businesses to phase in more rigorous regenerative organic practices over time. Following completion of a pilot program, ROA will now increase the number of approved certifiers and begin certifying new brands, effective immediately in partnership with their program manager, NSF International.

The USDA National Agroforestry Center (NAC) has recently updated its library of archived webinars related to agroforestry practices and related issues, including webinars presented by NAC staff. The expanded library now contains more than 160 archived webinars and can be filtered by agroforestry practice or by year. Additionally, NAC's index of SARE grants related to agroforestry has also been updated to include reports on 15 new projects related to alley cropping, forest farming, windbreaks, and silvopasture.

USDA announced additional commodities that will be covered by the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). Also, the deadline to apply for the program has been extended to September 11, 2020. The newly added products include nursery crops and cut flowers, several aquaculture species, liquid and frozen eggs, sheep, and a number of specialty crops including microgreens and pumpkins. The full list is available online. Furthermore, USDA announced that producers who already had approved applications and received 80% payments will automatically receive the remaining 20% of their payments.

A $3 million state investment will help bring a new urban farming campus to Chicago's south side. The $32 million project will transform a vacant brownfield parcel into a new Green Era Urban Farming Campus that will provide access to fresh food, renewable energy, and resilient growth for a community that has historically suffered from disinvestment and a lack of employment opportunities. Green Era's farming campus leverages cutting edge technology for sustainable outcomes to increase local food supply, while transforming waste bound for landfills into reusable sustainable energy for local businesses. The new Campus seeks to resolve the prevalence of food deserts on Chicago's South Side by increasing access to fresh, locally grown food, as well as by increasing capacity for residents to grow their own food. The new Campus will include 13,000 square feet of greenhouse space, expected to grow over 26,000 pounds of food per year. An anaerobic digester will break down organic food waste, producing nutrient rich compost on site to help meet the demand of urban farmers and community gardeners, and to produce renewable energy that will power its facilities. All on-site programming will be operated by the Urban Growers Collective, which will support youth and adult education and engagement, community growing and the Farmers for Chicago program. Construction on the vacant, 9-acre site is slated for completion in March 2022 and will create hundreds of permanent and construction jobs for members of the community.

USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) has announced policy changes that streamline the process for emergency haying and grazing of acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Previously, emergency haying and grazing requests originated with FSA at the county level and required state and national level approval. Now approval will be based on drought severity as determined by the U.S. Drought Monitor. Producers located in a county that is designated as severe drought (D2) or greater on or after the last day of the primary nesting season are eligible for emergency haying and grazing on all eligible acres. Additionally, producers located in counties that were in a severe drought (D2) status any single week during the last eight weeks of the primary nesting season may also be eligible. To date in 2020, 500 counties nationwide have triggered eligibility for emergency haying and grazing on CRP acres. A list by state and map of eligible counties are available on FSA's website and updated weekly.

Under contract to USDA's Risk Management Agency (RMA), Agralytica is holding a series of virtual listening sessions to collect feedback from farmers and ranchers who sell to local food markets, and their representatives in the federal crop insurance industry. As part of the 2018 Farm Bill, Congress required RMA to solicit feedback about improved crop insurance coverage options for farmers and ranchers selling to local food markets, including but not limited to farmers markets, Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs), roadside stands, restaurants, retailers, schools, and institutions. This includes discussing how existing crop insurance programs can be improved, as well as exploring the possibility of a new crop insurance program. The sessions, which will be held from mid-August through early September, are divided by region, commodity, and market channel. Additionally, there will be sessions specifically for approved insurance providers (AIPs). The schedule of 16 different sessions is available online.

University of Kentucky doctoral student Karina Garcia is studying the many ways birds positively and negatively affect crops and whether farmers could incorporate some bird species into their integrated pest management (IPM) strategies. She published a review of research on birds in agriculture, highlighting examples of agricultural benefits from birds, as well as discussing technologies that could help birds be integrated successfully into IPM programs. Garcia notes that much more research is needed to determine the impacts that different bird species have upon crops. One example would be DNA-based analysis of bird fecal samples to determine a bird's diet. Garcia concludes that the bird species, crop, and region would all play a role in utilizing birds in IPM.

Pasa Sustainable Agriculture has published a new report, Water Farming: Managing Agricultural Lands for Clean & Safe Water. This booklet examines both the challenges and opportunities agriculture offers for improving water quality and, in turn, human and environmental health. It also explores why implementing sustainable farming practices—like planting cover crops, rotationally grazing livestock, and maintaining riparian buffers—is one of the most straightforward and cost-effective solutions available for alleviating water pollution. Although the geographic focus for this booklet is Pennsylvania, the core issues discussed—water, farming, and a sustainable future—are global.

USDA has launched a new annual customer experience survey to evaluate USDA customer service and help identify areas for improvement. The survey specifically covers the Farm Service Agency (FSA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and Risk Management Agency (RMA). A selection of 28,000 producers will receive the survey over the next few weeks, but all farmers are encouraged to take the survey online. The survey consists of 20 questions and takes approximately 10 minutes to complete. Responses are confidential, and individual responses will be aggregated. The survey will be open for at least six weeks and will be closed once USDA receives a 30% response rate.

USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) announced that it will authorize Approved Insurance Providers (AIPs) to extend deadlines for premium and administrative fee payments, and that it will defer the resulting interest accrual and allow other flexibilities to help farmers, ranchers, and insurance providers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, USDA is authorizing AIPs to provide policyholders additional time to pay premium and administrative fees and to waive accrual of interest to the earlier of 60 days after their scheduled payment due date or the termination date on policies with premium billing dates between August 1, 2020, and September 30, 2020. In addition, USDA is authorizing AIPs to provide up to 60 additional days for policyholders to make payment and waive additional interest for Written Payment Agreements due between August 1, 2020, and September 30, 2020.

Local Food is Essential is a movement founded by Minnesota and Wisconsin non-profits, businesses, and farming organizations in response to the unexpected challenges facing producers and makers in the MN/WI food system as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Local Food is Essential website is offering an online campaign toolkit for local food, including web banners, sample posters, and logos formatted for social media. The toolkit also contains a variety of recipes and a branded blank recipe card. Access to the toolkit is free for individuals and organizations.

Extension programs from Illinois, Michigan State, Nebraska, Penn State, Rutgers, and Virginia Tech have introduced a YouTube channel called Energy Answers for the Beginning Farmer & Rancher. USDA sponsored the development of a series of extension materials that utilize farm energy experts from university extension programs across the country to answer hot-topic energy questions for beginning farmers and ranchers. Topics for the short videos include energy audits, biodiesel, livestock ventilation, sizing produce coolers, solar on a farm, and many more.

The Land Stewardship Project is moving its beginning farmer training course, Farm Beginnings, online this year. The year-long course helps beginning farmers clarify their goals and strengths, establish a strong enterprise plan, and start building their operation. This year, sessions will take place online from November through March, with on-farm educational events to follow later in 2021. Applications are due September 15, 2020, but applications that are received and accepted before August 15, 2020, will receive a $100 discount. Applicants from Minnesota, western Wisconsin, and northern Iowa will be given priority. The course is farmer-led and focused on sustainable agriculture.

A study led by the Centre for Sustainable Aquaculture Futures in the United Kingdom analyzed the interaction of human, environmental, and animal health (so-called 'One Health') parameters in aquaculture. The results, published in the journal Nature Food, recognize that societal buy-in, equity of access to the food produced, and environmental protection must be adequately addressed as the aquaculture industry expands over coming decades. The analysis identified a set of success metrics that are proposed for inclusion into national aquaculture strategies across the globe to improve sustainability as the industry expands.

A new nine-minute video from Montana State University Extension shows the impact and causes of soil acidification and offers Montana farmers management options to prevent, adapt to, or correct acidic soil, which can lead to heavy yield losses. When pH drops below 6, legumes have trouble fixing nitrogen, and when pH goes below 5, aluminum that exists naturally in soil is released and can be taken up by plants, damaging crops. Research shows that ammonium fertilizers, including urea, are the major cause of soil acidification in agricultural soils. Liming and manure applications are the primary long-term fixes for acidic soil, although some crops that are more tolerant of low pH will gradually help raise the pH of the soil.

A study conducted by the University of California, Berkeley, concluded that California Rangeland Trust's conservation easements across the state provide $900 million to $1.44 billion in environmental benefits annually—including habitat, carbon sequestration, food, and watersheds. The study explored both the environmental and monetary value of 306,718 acres of conservation easements. The study also found that under current zoning requirements, conservation easements return up to $3.47 for every dollar invested. The study's findings estimate that conservation efforts by California Rangeland Trust provide ecosystem services valued at more than $236 million in food and $13.9 million in water annually. Similarly, California Rangeland Trust's conservation supports $250.6 million in the maintenance of biodiversity, nearly $100 million in habitat lifecycle production, and $28.5 million in recreation opportunities annually to the state.

A team from Oregon State University published the results of its work on interactions between ground-nesting bees and soils in Soil Science Society of America Journal. Ground-nesting bees can be important crop pollinators, but little is known about the best soil habitats for them. This study explored the physical and chemical properties of soils collected from active bee and sand nest wasp sites in the Willamette Valley of western Oregon. This study found that active nesting sites were present in locations with little to no rock cover and low vegetation. Nesting sites were found in areas with low organic matter coverage, independent of land slope and aspect. The emergence holes remained open throughout the year. Study leader Rebecca Lybrand explained, "Soil scientists and entomologists can partner with growers to identify soil habitats that support and attract more of these pollinators to agricultural lands. Improving our understanding of the connections between agriculture and the soils that bees, crops, and living organisms rely on to survive is important. Our research also provided a framework for studying ground-nesting organisms—an area of soil science that is underrepresented."

Forty-six farmers markets across New York are participating in the Give Back NY initiative in honor of National Farmers Market Week, August 2-8, 2020. Coordinated by the Farmers Market Federation of New York, Give Back NY invites farmers markets to connect with the emergency food programs and pantries serving their region to host food drives. Consumers and farmers are encouraged to offer donations to their neighborhood food programs during their visit to the farmers market during National Farmers Market Week. The Farmers Market Federation of New York put together a toolkit to help both food pantries and farmers markets prepare for and implement Give Back NY. A full list of participating markets and how to get involved is available online.

USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is proposing to amend the USDA organic regulations to strengthen oversight and enforcement of the production, handling, and sale of organic agricultural products. The proposed amendments are intended to protect integrity in the organic supply chain and build consumer and industry trust in the USDA organic label by strengthening organic control systems, improving farm to market traceability, and providing robust enforcement of the USDA organic regulations. Topics addressed by the proposed rule include unannounced on-site inspections of certified operations, annual update requirements for certified operations, certifying agent personnel qualifications and training, and others. A 60-day public comment period will begin when the rule is published in the Federal Register, a date not yet announced.

USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) has posted a topic page that highlights ERS research and data specifically produced to help interpret and understand the emerging vulnerabilities and impacts for agriculture, food, and rural America resulting from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. ERS' research program considers links in the farm-to-consumer supply chain that may be affected by the pandemic, including farms, processers, handlers, retail outlets, and trade. ERS also examines the economic impacts of the pandemic on consumers, food assistance program participants, residents of rural America, and farmers. The page will be updated as more information becomes available.

The Pilot Agricultural Microloan Program from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture's (MDA) Rural Finance Authority (RFA) is doubling the maximum amount that emerging farmers can borrow, to $20,000. Loan funds can be used for working capital (annual costs such as seed, feed, fertilizer, land rent) or equipment and other farm asset purchases with a common useful life of 10 years or less. Applicants must meet the following criteria to be eligible: be a resident of Minnesota, be a member of a Protected Group or a qualified non-citizen as defined under Minnesota statutes, use the funds toward production and marketing of specialty crops or eligible livestock, and demonstrate an ability to repay the loan.

Eat Local First Collaborative, a group of food system organizations from Washington state, has created the Eat Local First WA Directory, an online resource that merges a number of online farm-finding tools. Eat Local First collects food finder resources for the state and regions within it. An interactive food and farm map helps connect consumers with food producers. Users can also find features like Community Supported Agriculture shares, farmers markets, online ordering and home delivery, and various other ways to connect with local farmers and food businesses.

National Farmers Market Week is set for August 2-8, 2020. Farmers Market Coalition (FMC) points out that this is a great opportunity to show the nation how much value markets bring to their communities. FMC offers resources, tools, and fun activities for market managers, vendors, and attendees to use for planning and participating in National Farmers Week, as well as examples of how some markets have observed National Farmers Market Week in the past. FMC has more than 30 downloadable templates, tools, graphics, and resources available online for farmers market operators to use to plan and celebrate National Farmers Market Week.

A new free online course called "Rural Resilience: Farm Stress Training" is available to teach participants stress management, suicide awareness, and how to communicate with farmers suffering from stress. USDA's Cooperative Extension System, Farm Credit, American Farm Bureau Federation, and National Farmers Union worked together to bring this course online for the public. The content was created by Extension professionals at Michigan State University, University of Illinois, University of Wisconsin, Montana State University, and South Dakota State University. In this course, you will learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of stress and suicide, ways to effectively communicate with people under stress, and how to reduce stigma related to mental health concerns. The self-paced course takes approximately two hours and 45 minutes to complete.

A five-year study led by Penn State is exploring how food systems in urbanized landscapes can remain economically and environmentally sustainable. Researchers say 97% of net farm income in Pennsylvania is from metropolitan regions and adjacent, nonmetro counties. However, the sustainability of agriculture in these areas is threatened by competition for land and water and by complaints about the "disamenities" of agriculture, such as dust, odors, and pollution. The team is evaluating how on-farm practices, such as nutrient management, and policy tools, such as zoning, could impact a shared future with agriculture. The project is in its first year, and it will include workshops, courses, and extension programs in its stakeholder outreach.

Researchers with the Texas A&M University System received a grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture for research, education and outreach relating to grassland revitalization in Texas. The $364,854 grant provided funding to create the Restore Texas Grasslands Revitalization Partnership, which will foster education, research, and outreach programs relating to the sustainable management of grassland ecosystems in Texas. Among other objectives, the project will provide high-impact learning experiences and research opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students. The team has chosen three research priority areas to guide future studies: woody plant expansion, water resources, and soil health.

USDA posted a blog on the Subtropical Soil Health Initiative, a Conservation Innovation Grant project in the Lower Rio Grande Valley that is led by the National Center for Appropriate Technology. The project is a collaboration with a University of Texas Rio Grande Valley team that is testing different cover crops in the field to determine the best species for farmers in the hot, humid Lower Rio Grande Valley. Sunn Hemp appears to be the best option to date. Local farmers have been very involved in the project, and the project team envisions their work benefiting the community by helping it reach local food production potential.

The Organization for Competitive Markets has posted a video on Meat Processing and Inspection with Dr. James Dillon, Director of the Texas Meat and Poultry Inspection Program. The video discusses the difference between federal, state, and custom-exempt inspection, as well as the implications of different legislation relative to each type of inspection. The one-hour video and a PDF file of the slides from the presentation are both available online.

North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) announce that Donn Teske and Fred Madison have been named the 2020 NCR-SARE Heroes. The NCR-SARE Hero Recognition highlights, recognizes, and pays tribute to those who have made significant contributions to NCR-SARE and/or National SARE. Farmer Donn Teske worked for the Kansas Rural Center and the Kansas State University Agricultural Economics Department and served as National Farmers Union Vice President from 2014-2018. Teske served on NCR-SARE's Administrative Council from 2011 until 2018. Fred Madison, "Dr. Dirt," is receiving his recognition posthumously. He served on the Administrative Council for 15 years and as a SARE State Coordinator in Wisconsin.

Research led by Rutgers and published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences shows that crop yields for apples, cherries, and blueberries across the United States are being reduced by a lack of pollinators. Scientists collected data on insect pollination of crop flowers and yield at 131 farms across the United States and in Canada. Apples, sweet cherries, tart cherries, and blueberries showed evidence of being limited by pollination, indicating that yields are currently lower than they would be with full pollination. The findings suggest that adopting practices that conserve or augment wild bees, such as enhancing wildflowers and using managed pollinators other than honey bees, is likely to boost yields.

Scientists from the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig say the biomass of small animals that decompose plants in the soil is declining both as a result of climate change and over-intensive cultivation. They explain that while the changing climate reduces the body size of the organisms, cultivation reduces their frequency. The researchers warn in the trade journal eLife that even by farming organically, it is not possible to counteract all the negative consequences of climate change, which challenges soil animals with high temperatures and unusual precipitation conditions with more frequent droughts. Reduced biomass of these animals reduces their decomposition performance, and this means that nutrient recycling is slowed down. Although organically farmed ecosystems are generally deemed less susceptible to climatic disturbances, "not everything that threatens to break down as a result of warming can be saved by environmentally friendly land use," note the scientists.

A new direct-marketing short course for meat producers and processors will be offered in November and December. The Western Meat School is a collaborative effort of Oregon State University, Montana State University, University of Wyoming, Colorado State University, and Mesalands Community College. This six-week-long course for farmers, ranchers, butchers, and others will cover key topics in production, processing, and marketing to produce high-quality meat and sell to diverse market channels. Learn new ways to manage risk in your meat business and improve your profitability. Expert speakers, both practitioners and academics, will be beaming in via Zoom for six Wednesday evenings in a row in November and December. The course will be offered once each week in person in 12 locations across five states if COVID restrictions allow, and it will also be available for anyone to participate in at home via computer and a decent Internet connection. The organizers are making this short course as flexible as possible for those who want to meet and network in person or those who want to learn from home.

USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced that it is investigating suspicious, unsolicited packages of seed that appear to be coming from China. USDA urges anyone who receives an unsolicited package of seeds to immediately contact their State plant regulatory official or APHIS State plant health director. USDA advises recipients to hold onto the seeds and packaging, including the mailing label, until someone from the State department of agriculture or APHIS contacts them with further instructions. Do not plant seeds from unknown origins. USDA is currently collecting seed packages from recipients and will test their contents and determine if they contain anything that could be of concern to U.S. agriculture or the environment.

Good News Network reported on Growing Change, a nonprofit that turned a decommissioned prison in North Carolina into a sustainable agriculture operation staffed by jobless veterans and at-risk youth. The youth learn life skills and sustainable farming practices with leadership from wounded veterans who are earning university degrees in sustainable agriculture. The entire operation also benefits local communities by providing a local source of healthy and nutritious food and rehabilitating a brownfield site.

A University of Maryland research professor has published a detailed history of the consolidation of agriculture in the United States, based on analysis of USDA data from 1982 through 2017. This study characterizes the steady shift to fewer and larger farming operations across the country in 60 of the 62 crop and livestock commodities analyzed over the 35-year period. Professor James MacDonald credits technology with being a driving force in the trend, as labor-saving equipment, materials, and organizational changes allow one farmer to manage more acres. He predicts continued technological change through application of precision agriculture.

USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) published an Economic Research Report titled Consolidation in U.S. Dairy Farming. According to the report, the number of licensed U.S. dairy herds fell by more than half between 2002 and 2019, with an accelerating rate of decline in 2018 and 2019. These declines took place even as milk production continued to grow, because production has been shifting to much larger but fewer farms, and that shift shows no sign of slowing. The report credits the decline to larger operations' persistently lower costs of production. The 61-page report and a summary are available online.

NRDC posted an interview with Temra Costa, one of six current co-owners of Green Valley Farm + Mill in Sebastopol, California. This 172-acre operation combines four individual businesses on one parcel of land. Each owner contributes a unique skill set to the operation. Green Valley is exploring transitioning from an LLC to a cooperative model with farms that are leasing its land. The cooperative arrangement helps prevent some of the challenges of running a farm as a sole proprietorship, although Costa notes that an arrangement that provides housing for all owners and educational facilities presents a zoning challenge of its own.

Minnesota Department of Agriculture had recorded 84 written dicamba complaints by July 17, 2020, reports Minnesota Farm Guide. That's nearly four times the number of complaints received in 2019, and the most since Minnesota instituted a June 20 cutoff date for dicamba application. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California ruled June 3, 2020, that growers couldn't apply three dicamba products. After June 8, 2020, Minnesota allowed growers to apply dicamba that they had already purchased, but weather conditions were challenging. Minnesota Department of Agriculture noted that this year there is a particularly high number of complaints involving fencerow-to-fencerow damage.

For the month of August, Northern Plains Resource Council is challenging Montanans to eat more local foods, to ask for more local foods in their communities, and to help support Montana agriculture. Participants sign up online and agree to eat local food every day in August and participate in weekly challenges. Participants report their successes online and are entered to win prizes. Categories for adults and kids are offered. Online resources offer guidance on where you can dine out on local food, where to source your local ingredients, and why buying local food matters. The event helps people learn about and experience local food and support the local food system and economy.

Southern SARE reports on a grant-funded project that demonstrated how renewable energy and biomass-based greenhouse heating systems can cut farmers' energy bills in half when integrated with a root zone heating system. Systems built for greenhouses on two farms in North Carolina utilized solar collectors to heat water for root zone heating, combined with biochar kiln backup systems. These systems cut propane heating costs for one greenhouse by half or more, while creating conditions for the other, passively heated, greenhouse to be used year-round.

Researchers in Spain propose mitigating methane production by dairy cattle through breeding, according to work published in the Journal of Dairy Science. Scientists are targeting reduction of enteric methane in the breeding objectives for dairy cattle to select for animals that use feed more efficiently and thus produce less methane. This study concludes that "if annual methane production per cow is included in breeding goals and ad hoc weights are placed on methane production, GHG emission from cattle could be reduced by 20% in 10 years." This study shows the potential for selecting for environmental traits as well as producer profitability.

USDA announced a third round of Farmers to Families Food Box Program purchases with distributions to occur beginning by September 1, 2020, with completion by October 31, 2020. The purchases will spend the balance of $3 billion authorized for the program. In this third round of purchases, USDA plans to purchase combination boxes to ensure all recipient organizations have access to fresh produce, dairy products, fluid milk, and meat products. Eligibility in the third round will be open to entities who can meet the government's requirements and specifications. Proposals will be expected to illustrate how coverage will be provided to areas identified as opportunity zones, detail subcontracting agreements, and address the "last mile" delivery of product into the hands of the food insecure population.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is offering two new ways that farmers and others involved in agriculture can contact the Minnesota Farm and Rural Helpline: text and email. The confidential service, available 24/7, connects Minnesota farmers and others in the agricultural community to counselors who can serve as a sounding board, provide emotional support, link callers with a rural mental health specialist, or help them find information about financial and legal resources. Users are welcome to remain anonymous. Contact options now include toll free phone (833-600-2670), text (FARMSTRESS to 898211), and e-mail (

The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Argonne National Laboratory released results of a study that sought to quantify how much farmers could reduce their carbon footprint by adopting sustainable practices and novel technologies. The study considered how practices such as conservation tillage, reducing nitrogen fertilizer use, and implementing cover crops impacted the carbon intensity of farming in the corn belt of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, Michigan, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. The study was aimed at exploring how different farming practices could impact the carbon intensity of production for corn destined for ethanol. It found significant differences in corn's carbon intensity, depending on the practices used to produce it.

An international team of more than 360 scientists from 42 countries published a correspondence article in Nature Ecology & Evolution, calling for a global transition to agroecological production. The authors argue that agroecological principles should be integrated in the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, which will be decided at the 15th Convention of the Parties (COP15) meeting in China. According to the University of Göttingen, the authors "argue that farming landscapes can provide habitats for biodiversity, promote connectivity between protected areas and increase species' ability to respond to environmental threats."

A $10 million grant from USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture will help a research team led by Iowa State University, Penn State, and Roeslein Alternative Energy develop new methods of turning biomass and manure into fuel. Through this five-year project, the consortium will innovate methods for farmers to make more efficient use of resources with an emphasis on the generation of renewable natural gas, improved rural economic outcomes, and protection of the environment. Tom Richard, director of Penn State's Institutes of Energy and the Environment, explains,"We will be working with farmers and other industrial partners to update anaerobic digestion for the 21st century, applying the principles of process intensification, automation and economies of scale to reduce costs, simplify operations and expand digester feedstocks beyond manure to incorporate perennial grasses and winter crops into their operations as a source of biomass for the digesters." The consortium also will engage producers, commodity groups and companies to see how receptive farmers and businesses are to implement management practices and other knowledge emerging from experiments.

University of California, Riverside, researchers have developed a wearable sensor that can indicate chickens likely to have a case of mites, based on their behavior. Scientists predicted that infected birds would spend more time pecking, preening, and dustbathing as they tried to rid themselves of mite infestations. The chickens wear tiny, portable motion sensors, and a computer algorithm considers the shape and features of graphed data from the sensors to indicate likely mite infestations. The tool is designed for use in free-range chickens, to let farmers know when to examine them for parasites. It could also help farmers track the results of feed and environmental alterations by indicating changes in behavior.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced the availability of $59 million in Beginning Farmer Tax Credits over the next decade for those who sell or rent agricultural land, livestock, equipment, buildings, or other assets to qualified beginning farmers. The Department of Community and Economic Development, in consultation with the Departments of Agriculture and Revenue, will allocate up to $5 million in tax year 2020, and up to $6 million annually through the 2030 tax year, for credits of 5% of the lesser of the sale price of fair market value of the agricultural asset, up to $32,000; or 10% of the gross rental income of the first, second, and third year of the rental agreement, up to $7,000 per year. Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding noted, "With our average farmer being 59 years old, we can't grow and thrive without attracting new leaders to feed us in the future. These tax credits will combine with PA Farm Bill investments to provide incentives to current farmers and tear down barriers faced by aspiring farmers."

USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) accepted more than 1.2 million acres in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Grasslands during the recent signup period. Through CRP Grasslands, farmers and ranchers can protect grasslands, rangelands and pastures while retaining the right to conduct common grazing practices, such as haying, mowing or harvesting seed from the enrolled land. Participants will receive an annual rental payment and may receive up to 50% cost-share for establishing approved conservation practices. The duration of the CRP contract is 10 or 15 years. FSA ranked offers using a number of factors, including existence of expiring CRP land, threat of conversion or development, existing grassland, and predominance of native species cover and cost.

USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) released its annual update on the adoption of genetically engineered (GE) corn, upland cotton, and soybeans in the United States. ERS reports that more than 90% of U.S. corn, upland cotton, and soybeans are produced using GE varieties that are herbicide-tolerant (HT), insect-resistant (Bt), or stacked varieties that are a combination of both HT and Bt traits. Both the data sets and a summary of recent trends are available online.

The Climate Science Alliance and the California Department of Food and Agriculture have released 2020 Climate Change Impacts for Specialty Crops: Southern California Region, a report that collects feedback and recommendations from producers across Southern California. Regional producers, technical advisors, and researchers contributed to this effort to better understand the climate impacts and challenges in the region and how best to support producers in building their resilience. The full 60-page report is available online in PDF. Summary guides are also available online in English and Spanish.

A team of researchers surveyed veterinarians in California, Colorado, Washington, and Oregon regarding their treatment for backyard poultry and livestock. Of 880 survey respondents, most veterinarians perceived an increase in backyard poultry and livestock in their practice areas, but few were actively treating such animals, according to UC Davis. Reasons cited included lack of facilities, interest, or experience. Dr. Alda Pires, co-principal investigator, noted, "Due to the potential for public health issues and the spread of zoonotic disease, veterinary professionals need increased training and better awareness of the health and welfare of these animals." Co-investigator Dr. Dale Moore commented, "A previous survey found that the owners want more access to livestock and poultry medicine. This follow-up survey highlights the need for veterinarians, along with extension specialists, to work with small-scale poultry owners to improve biosecurity measures, better detect disease, and mitigate potential future outbreaks."

A Holland, Michigan, program called Local Farm Relief Effort is collecting funds from the community to purchase fresh produce from local farmers and supply it to food pantries, reports WZZM. "It helps the farmers, it helps the families, and it keeps the dollars in our community," explained one of the founders. The program has raised nearly $40,000 that will keep it running until October. Farmers are pleased to have an additional outlet for their produce and to support their community. Meanwhile, food pantries are pleased with the variety of exceptionally fresh produce.

The 10-year-old Tongue River Winery raises a wide variety of fruit for its products, according to The Prairie Star. Bob Thaden talked about his family's operation in a recent webinar. They are growing 2,000 grapevines, numerous apple, pear and plum trees, and 200 carmine jewel bush cherries, as well as yellow and red raspberries, haskaps, rhubarb, currants, and other fruits. Thaden offered advice on fruit production in a northern climate, on selecting fruit for wine, and on producing wines that match the market.

In late March, Blue Hill and Stone Barns Center partnered to launch resourcED, a program to support the independent local food movement during the pandemic and beyond. In response to the data collected in a Farmers Survey, resourcED initiated Harvest Corps, a program that links college students and unemployed hospitality professionals with northeastern farms experiencing labor deficits. WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) has joined this initiative. The program will run from mid-August to mid-October. Participants will be engaged in on-farm work based on operators' needs, and in exchange they will receive vibrant learning opportunities. When possible, participants will be connected with farms that provide room and board. All participants will engage in remote Community Supported Learning designed and presented by resourcED team leaders. The curricular aspect of the program will enrich participants' experiences and provide a deeper connection to how their work and education fit into the greater food system. The deadline to apply to be a participant in this program is July 20, 2020.

Research published in the journal Insect Conservation and Diversityfound a 94% loss of plant-pollinator networks in the Northeast— networks comprised of wild bees and the native plants they historically rely on. About 30% of plant-pollinator networks were completely lost, with the bees, the plants, or both completely disappearing. In another 64% of the network loss, the wild bees or native plants are still present in the ecosystem, but the bees no longer visit those plants and the association is lost. The researchers identified changing climate and invasive and non-native species of both plants and insects as key factors in the network loss. The researchers say an increase in habitat restoration and native flowering plants in agricultural landscapes are critical for improving wild bee biodiversity, but also food security for humans.

Researchers from Penn State, the University of Vermont, and Oklahoma State University have received a $500,000 grant from USDA for a three-year project on agritourism. The project will develop a research-based resource for agritourism support organizations, to help them navigate regulatory hurdles and other barriers hampering success. Researchers will examine the laws, regulations, and level of support for agritourism in each state and compare them with a set of economic indicators to reveal why some counties are more effective at supporting agritourism enterprises than others. The team also will use social network analysis to understand how agritourism operators interact with one another and supporting organizations. Based on the results of this work, the team then will develop and pilot-test outreach materials for farmers, policymakers, agricultural lenders and insurers, and county, regional, and statewide support organizations.

eOrganic is making available eight introductory pollination guides for common vegetable crops, developed by Hannah Swegarden of Cornell University as part of the NOVIC project. These photographic guides are intended to provide a brief overview of how to make crosses using controlled pollination techniques. They are available in PDF or PowerPoint format for beans, cole crops, cucumbers, peas, peppers, potatoes, squash, and tomatoes.

The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) announced that they have awarded three grants to bolster soil health by developing innovative organic strategies for controlling weeds, pests, and disease. Martin Guerena with the National Center for Appropriate Technology was awarded $17,337 to measure the efficacy of biosolarization. At the University of Texas Rio Grande, Pushpa Soti received $19,620 to address weed and pest management in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Also, Mary Barbercheck at Pennsylvania State University received $19,468 to provide farmers and agricultural professionals with information on using beneficial soil organisms to manage plant health and pests.

Maine Harvest Federal Credit Union (MHFCU) has announced a new program that pays closing costs for purchasing or refinancing farmland in Maine. The Conservation Grant Program will enable potential borrowers to take advantage of historically low interest rates by reimbursing borrowers up to $3,500 in closing costs, per loan. "Closing costs on farm loans are high, and often make it financially difficult to refinance, even at lower rates," says Scott Budde, CEO and co-founder of MHFCU. Budde hopes this grant will incentivize farmers looking to buy land, expand acreage, or reduce monthly mortgage costs. To qualify, borrowers will need to have a land analysis performed by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, to evaluate conservation practices that could be implemented to improve soil, water, and environmental quality.

Olivette Riverside Community and Farm, a North Carolina farm-to-table living community, reports that it is working with area nonprofits to provide freshly grown, organic foods to area families each month to help support them during the pandemic. The 346-acre community features a year-round organic farm run by a full-time organic farmer, who has been working with local nonprofits to provide fresh, organic produce to area families who need support most.

For more than a decade, American Farmland Trust's Farmers Market Celebration has highlighted the important role farmers markets play in communities across the nation. During the summer-long event, shoppers can endorse their favorite farmers markets. This year, AFT's 12th annual Farmers Market Celebration is making it easier than ever for shoppers to support their favorite market and help them earn national recognition, including a cash prize for the top markets. Visit the Celebration's webpage through September 20, 2020, to endorse your favorite market.

USDA announced the appointment of 15 members to serve on the Advisory Committee on Minority Farmers. The newly appointed members serve terms of up to two years, through 2022. The Committee is made up of 15 members, including representatives for: socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers, nonprofit organizations, civil rights organizations or professions, and institutions of higher education. Congress authorized the Committee in 2008, and since its inception, it has served to advise the Secretary and USDA on the implementation of the section 2501 Program of the Food, Agriculture, Conservation and Trade Act of 1990; methods of maximizing the participation of socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers in USDA programs; and civil rights activities within USDA. A list of the newly appointed members is available online.

Members of the Iowa Meat Processors Association approached the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship in 2019 about implementing the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) Cooperative Interstate Shipment (CIS) program to help small meat processing facilities grow their businesses. Under the CIS program, smaller, state-inspected facilities can remain under state inspection but are allowed to apply a federal-style mark of inspection and sell products across state lines. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig signed the CIS agreement with USDA FSIS on May 20, 2020, and the first processing facility, Story City Locker, LLC, has been approved for the program. There are 68 meat processing facilities in the state of Iowa that are eligible for the CIS program and, to date, 14 meat processing facilities have applied for it. Secretary Naig commented, "We pursued the CIS program to help small Iowa businesses grow, and give consumers more access to Iowa-grown meat and poultry products."

The Western Landowners Alliance has released a new publication titled Paying for Stewardship: A Western Landowners' Guide to Conservation Finance. This guide presents some ways landowners can earn compensation for their stewardship efforts directly or indirectly, through schemes sometimes referred to as payments for ecosystem services, ecosystem services markets, or conservation finance. The guide provides both descriptions and illustrative case studies of these strategies at work.

The Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA) has awarded eight northern New York farm and food businesses with a total of $100,000 in grant funding for efforts that will bolster food and farm security in the region. Grant awards range from $3,500 to $25,000 and will fund projects that help strengthen local food systems. The funding comes from anonymous donors. The projects selected include equipment that will help a creamery double production, create an on-farm store, boost capacity of a regional food hub, and provide low-income, senior and food insecure audiences with CSA shares, among others.

Annie's Project is taking a closer look at agricultural women's involvement with its new survey, the Agriculture Women's Community & Leadership Survey. The survey is sponsored by Annie's Project and Farm Credit and the results will be used to help design educational programs to expand women's involvement in their communities and agricultural organizations. Anyone with an interest in women's agricultural leadership is encouraged to take the 10-minute online survey before August 20, 2020.

Farmers' Legal Action Group has released Volume 9 of the Farmers' Guide to Disaster Assistance, The Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+). It's the ninth in a series of guides that describe the rules for programs such as the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP), Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP), Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP), Farm Service Agency Emergency Loans, and other disaster assistance programs. This Guide discusses WHIP+, which replaces a different and older program,the 2017 Wildfires and Hurricane Indemnity Program (WHIP). WHIP+ provides payments to farmers that suffered crop, tree, bush, or vine losses that occurred in calendar years 2018 and 2019. The losses must be from Hurricanes Michael or Florence or other hurricanes, floods, snowstorms, tornadoes, typhoons, volcanic activity, wildfires, or related conditions, across the entire United States. The 88-page guide is online in PDF.

A report by the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA), Ohio Farmers Market Network (OFMN), Ohio Food Policy Network (OFPN), and Produce Perks Midwest (PPM) captures how local and regional food systems and nutrition assistance in Ohio were impacted by COVID-19. Opportunity in a Time of Crisis: Recommendations for Building a More Resilient Ohio Food System offers eight policy recommendations Ohio's decision-makers can implement to invest in the capacity of state farmers and farmers markets and build food security for vulnerable families. In addition to discussing support for farmers markets, the report also describes the need to invest in food preservation and processing facilities, federal aid for underserved farmers selling into local markets, tax credits to assist landowners in transferring land to beginning farmers, and revisions to state contract bidding for food purchases as necessary to support a robust regional food system that will create jobs and build community wealth. The full report is available online.

A study by Cornell University found that small-scale farmers who are educated in food safety and develop a food-safety plan have new markets opened to them. The study showed that although the relative cost burden for implementing food safety plans is higher for smaller-scale producers, they enjoy more relative benefits of increasing sales to new markets and buyers. "The study highlights the value of food safety to all farmers," said co-author Elizabeth Bihn. "It's great to know that by investing in food safety, you are actually getting a market benefit."

USDA announced that additional commodities have been added to the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), and that it has made several other adjustments to the program based on comments received and review of market data. The newly added commodities are alfalfa sprouts, anise, arugula, basil, bean sprouts, beets, blackberries, Brussels sprouts, celeriac, chives, cilantro, coconuts, collard greens, dandelion greens, greens (others not listed separately), guava, kale greens, lettuce, marjoram, mint, mustard, okra, oregano, parsnips, passion fruit, peas (green), pineapple, pistachios, radicchio, rosemary, sage, savory, sorrel, fresh sugarcane, Swiss chard, thyme, and turnip top greens. Additionally, funding for sales losses in apples, blueberries, garlic, potatoes, raspberries, tangerines, and taro was expanded, and payment rates for several products were corrected. Also, peaches and rhubarb no longer qualify for payment under the CARES Act sales-loss category.

A listening session coordinated and hosted by the National Center for Appropriate Technology, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and the Organic Seed Alliance enabled farmers and others to provide input on what the USDA should prioritize in the decades ahead, reports Agri-View. Coordinators asked, "What are the biggest challenges and opportunities in the next 10 to 30 years to optimize agricultural production and resiliency?" Attendees responded with answers ranging from food as medicine, to involving non-farmers in the issue, to research on the impact of climate change.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) have joined forces to make forage on state lands available to Minnesota livestock farmers. Many livestock owners were unable to send animals for processing due to COVID-19-related disruptions at meat slaughtering facilities, and as a result some farmers have larger herds and are running out of feed. These changes, along with drought conditions in parts of the state, are putting additional pressure on an already-low statewide forage stockpile. The agencies are working to streamline the process of approving haying and grazing on state-owned land. Livestock farmers can expect to pay market value for hay and grazing done on public land.

A study led by Rutgers University compared 40 options to tackle the interrelated problems of climate change, food security, and land degradation and looked for trade-offs or co-benefits with 18 categories of services provided by ecosystems, such as clean air and clean water, and the United Nations' 17 sustainable development goals. Several interventions show potentially significant negative impacts on sustainable development goals and ecosystem services. Study authors say that some potential options that don't get as much attention globally, but are quite promising with fewer trade-offs, include integrated water management, reducing post-harvest losses in agriculture, improving fire management, agroforestry, and investing in disaster risk management.

USDA Risk Management Agency announced changes to several crop insurance policies improving options for producers, including introducing a new Quality Loss Option, a new unit structure assignment option for Enterprise Units (EU), and new procedures for Multi-County Enterprise Units (MCEU). Specifically, the new Quality Loss Option allows producers to replace post-quality production amounts in their Actual Production History (APH) databases with pre-quality production amounts, thereby increasing their actual yields for individual crop years. The changes regarding the Quality Loss Option and EUs are further described in a final rule available on the Federal Register. Interested parties may comment on the rule for 60 days; the deadline for submitting comments is August 28, 2020. The final rule also outlines additional changes to premium offsets, Administrator reinstatement, notice of loss, double cropping requirements, prevented planting and units.

Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) is taking its "In Her Boots" peer learning program for women farmers virtual this year. In Her Boots events that encourage women farmers to learn from each other will be held online as webinars, and the program will build on these events through In Her Boots Podcast and Facebook group. Also, there will be an eight-week weekly "Resilience Boot Camp" enews filled with tips to help you build capacity to manage the many curveballs of farming.

At least 27 farmers markets in Oregon have launched online ordering systems in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Oregon Farmers Markets Association (OFMA), in partnership with the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) and the Oregon Coast Visitors Association (OCVA), launched a new statewide project this spring, aimed at helping Oregon's farmers markets establish online ordering systems. The online markets offer an opportunity for consumers to support local businesses and preserve the farmers market industry, which serves communities across the state. Online ordering offers some farms their only current means of selling products. It also offers vulnerable and at-risk populations safer access to local food.

Researchers at Cornell University have identified the fungal pathogen that causes bitter rot in apples. This fungus is in the genus Colletotrichum, as is a related fungus that causes rot on other fruit, which this study found for the first time on apples. Growers in New York suffer bitter rot losses as high as 25% per year, and organic growers have experienced crop loss to bitter rot. Identifying the pathogen responsible for bitter rot will help growers understand the environmental conditions that produce the disease, and they can look for ways to manage those conditions. In addition, scientists can begin work on breeding resistant apple varieties. The study's senior author commented, "We think that the range of these pathogens is expanding because of global warming, however, more work needs to be done to demonstrate this."

USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has launched a new video series that tells the stories of farmers, ranchers, and others impacted by invasive feral swine. Episode 1- Mississippi is an 11-minute video that looks at the impacts feral swine have on farmers large and small, as well as the levy system, natural resources, and archaeological sites.

A team of Cornell University experts recently presented a pasture walk where they offered tips on ecological controls for pasture flies. They stressed cleaning up the farm as the first step to preventing infestations of flies that breed in undisturbed manure piles and rotting organic matter. Managing these potential breeding areas helps to prevent fly problems from developing and reduces the need to use insecticides. Additional control strategies include non-chemical traps for horn flies, parasitic wasps for confined systems, and organic chemical controls as a last resort.

The National Industrial Hemp Council and The Hemp Industries Association® announced an agreement to work together to explore the creation of a marketing checkoff program to promote hemp. USDA checkoff programs seek to promote farm commodities and expand market opportunity for farmers, importers, and industry stakeholders. Checkoff programs are funded through assessments on the produced commodity at the first point of sale. They allow producers of commodities to pool resources for research, education, and promotion efforts that can expand sales and improve production efficiencies. The two organizations say they expect to form a working group with representatives from across the industry that would discuss the details of how a hemp checkoff would be structured and operate. This working group would guide the development of a checkoff program proposal to submit to the USDA that will include an industry analysis, justification for the program, program objectives, and analysis of the impact on small businesses.

The national action plan released by the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis includes a chapter on agriculture, reports the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC). According to NSAC, "The agriculture section of the Select Committee's report includes seven major components—increasing carbon sequestration and resilience, decreasing agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, improving technical assistance and research, supporting on-farm renewable energy and energy efficiency, supporting the next generation of farmers, preserving farmland, and reducing food waste." NSAC highlighted recommendations in the plan that pertain to sustainable agriculture in a blog post.

The Organic Center has released The Benefits of Organic Meat, a report that gathers together scientific literature to show the differences in the way organic meat is produced and why those differences are critical to the health of the animals, the health and safety of consumers, the health of the soil, and the impacts on climate change. The report shows that organic meat provides greater nutritional benefits, including more good omega-3 fatty acids, less cholesterol, and more antioxidants; a lower risk of exposure to antibiotics, growth hormones and pesticides; and fewer negative effects on the environment, including being less of a contributor to climate change. The full report is available online.

Research published in the Journal of Applied Ecology by agroecologists at the University of Göttingen showed that flower strips and organic farming both encourage wild bee populations. The research team selected nine landscapes in the vicinity of Göttingen, Germany, along a gradient of increasing field size and then analyzed the wild bees and hoverflies in each landscape at the edge of an organic wheat field, in a flower strip along conventional wheat, and at the edge of a conventional wheat field without flower strips. The study found the most pollinators in the flower strips, but organic fields, characterized by more flowering wild plants than conventional fields, were also beneficial. Bumblebee colonies established on the margins of fields as part of the project produced more queens in flower strips when located in landscapes with small conventional fields. In contrast, large areas were particularly advantageous when it came to flower-rich organic fields. Researchers concluded that flower strips offer a high local density of pollen and nectar, but organic areas compensate for this by their increased area.

Auburn University College of Agriculture announced that it was awarded a $3 million On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials grant through NRCS' Conservation Innovation Grants program. The funded project will encourage the use of innovative conservation practices among Alabama row-crop farmers, such as cover crops and water-smart irrigation. The project also will help farmers evaluate nutrient losses and demonstrate the agronomic, economic, and environmental benefits of improved conservation practices. Three farms have been selected to serve as demonstrations for the project, and Extension offices will serve as learning sites that host project meetings with participating farmers and neighboring farmers.

USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists have developed the concept of "manuresheds" that would link surplus manure nutrients from livestock operations with the nutrient sinks offered by crop production. Researchers noted that most animal farms have insufficient land for using all of their manure, while crop producers rely on commercial fertilizers to supply the nutrients their crops need. They classified counties nationwide as either "sources" or "sinks" and developed a system that highlights opportunities for redistributing manure within regional "manuresheds."

The Center for Rural Affairs released Guide To Cover Crop Cost Share in Iowa, a fact sheet that describes state, federal, and industry-based programs available to assist Iowa farmers and landowners with the cost of cover crops. "We know implementing cover crops can be a significant cost in your operations, especially with commodity prices where they are currently," said Kayla Bergman, policy associate for the Center for Rural Affairs. "That's why cost-share programs that offset these costs are crucial." Programs included in this guide not only provide technical assistance, they also provide financial assistance for implementation.

The Northwest Wisconsin Hazelnut Growers Cluster is bringing growers together to support harvesting and processing infrastructure for the crop, reports Agri-View. Supporters of hazelnuts have worked for more than a decade to develop hybrids of the native crop that produce well. Now they're fostering the development of grower groups that can share the cost of specialized equipment. Hazelnuts offer growers a perennial crop that stabilizes soil, provides a windbreak for other crops, and can furnish farms with a new source of income. They can produce as soon as three years after planting.

USDA Food and Nutrition Service announced the award of $12.1 million in Farm to School Grants. These grants support projects that will help bring fresh, local foods into schools and foster economic opportunity for America's farmers. This year, the annual Farm to School Grant Program included a new track specifically for state agencies seeking to engrain the use of local foods not just in the school meals programs but also in childcare centers and at summer meals sites. A total of 27 states applied for and received this grant. Grants of between $20,000 and $100,000 were awarded to a total of 159 projects in 46 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam. Information about this year's grantees and projects is available online.

A new study from the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) explores how much land and feed it takes for 10 different pastured livestock farms in Pennsylvania to produce a pound of grass-finished beef, pastured pork, or pastured chicken. The study is aimed at identifying what it would take to make pastured systems the mainstream model of animal agriculture and how that scaling up might affect land use and the environment. PASA notes that while one pastured beef cattle farm was capable of producing 71 pounds of meat per acre of pasture and hay, another farm was producing just 31 pounds of meat per acre. The most efficient of the pastured poultry farms the study examined produced 1,760 pounds of meat per ton of feed, while the least efficient produced 540 pounds of meat per ton of feed. PASA concludes that many pastured livestock farms likely have the ability to become significantly more efficient at translating feed and land into marketable meat. However, the study also notes that at these rates, providing six ounces per day of meat protein for all of Pennsylvania's 12.8 million residents would require all of the state's current cropland, plus an additional 7.2 million acres of pastureland and 1.2 million acres of cropland outside the state.

A report commissioned by a coalition of the California Farm Bureau Federation and other groups says that pandemic-related losses to California farms, ranches, and agricultural businesses will range between $5.9 billion and $8.6 billion this year. The study revealed that the state's agricultural sector has already suffered $2 billion in losses from disrupted markets and rising production costs related to the COVID-19 outbreak. Meanwhile, a commentary released by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) and the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association looks at Economic Impacts of COVID-19 on Food and Agricultural Markets. The commentary is authored by agricultural economic researchers from institutions around the country, and it addresses topics including macroeconomics; trade; supply chain; consumer behavior; food service/grocery; meat processing; forestry and wood products; local food systems; food waste; food insecurity; major commodity crops; agriculutral finance; agricultural labor; rural health care; and research and outreach priorities. The commentary is available free online.

A study by the Crossroads Resource Center revealed that New Mexico residents spend $6.5 billion each year buying food sourced outside the state. The study report, titled New Mexico Farm & Food Economy, says New Mexico could gain economically by building soil health and feeding its own people. It notes that if each New Mexico resident purchased $5 of food each week directly from some farm in the state, farmers would earn $544 million, which is more than current net cash income. The 46-page report is available online.

Vermont's Working Lands Enterprise Board announced the award of $1.4 million in grants and contracts to 35 Agriculture and Forestry businesses and service providers. This year's awards emphasized large-scale market level and supply chain impacts in the dairy and forestry sectors. Funding goes to several categories of farm and forest businesses, as well as supply chain and market-level operations. The Working Lands Enterprise Initiative (WLEI) and governing board (WLEB) were created by the state legislature in 2012 to stimulate economic development in the agricultural and forestry sectors.

Farmers' Legal Action Group is reminding farmers that the application deadline for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is June 30, 2020. Recent changes to the rules may make the program more appealing to farmers. Under PPP, self-employed people, including farmers, can receive low-interest loans that may be forgiven if the farmer spends at least 60% of the loan money on payroll costs and meets other requirements. Even if the PPP loan is not forgiven, the loan terms are more favorable than the terms of many farm loans. However, to be eligible for PPP, a farmer must show a net farm profit on a 2019 IRS Form 1040 Schedule F.

HEAL Food Alliance and Union of Concerned Scientists released a policy brief called Leveling the Fields: Creating Farming Opportunities for Black People, Indigenous People, and Other People of Color. It notes that U.S. agriculture is rife with obstacles for Black people, Indigenous people, and other people of color (BIPOC), including immigrants, migrants, and refugees. These can include difficulty securing capital, credit, land, infrastructure, and information. This policy brief reviews opportunities for governments, the private sector, philanthropies, and others to contribute to simultaneously building socioeconomic equity and sustainability in U.S. food systems.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) has created a new audio podcast series called "Rural Realities" that will initially focus on dealing with stress on the farm. "The goal of the podcast is to provide farmers, farm families and everyone in the agriculture sector with information and techniques to decrease stress in their lives and navigate the various challenges in farming," said Jayne Krull, director of DATCP's Farm Center. "While the first group of podcasts will focus on stress on the farm, the podcasts eventually will cover a wide range of topics impacting farmers and rural audiences." The weekly series began June 22, 2020. The pre-recorded podcasts run between 20 and 30 minutes.

Exotic Bee ID, a free website that helps identify non-native bees in the United States, has been expanded to include more information and species. The resource was created through a collaborative effort between the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and Utah State University as a tool for screeners monitoring for non-native bees entering the country. However, the website can also be used by growers and hobbyists seeking to identify bee species. The guides can be entered at any point using the bee's color and distinctive features, to make identification easier.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), the Dairy Strong Sustainability Alliance (DSSA), and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) collaborated to produce Producer-led Group Roadmap: Producer-led Group Roadmap: Finding Success in Farmer-Led Watershed Organizations. The 16-page guide is a roadmap that provides detail on steps that have been critical to the success of existing producer-led groups. Farmer-led conservation groups have been growing in popularity as a way for farmers to expand conservation practices and document their progress in water quality and soil health.

A new fact sheet series is available to help specialty crop growers prepare for and respond to possible dicamba and 2,4-D drift. The series provides tips for being proactive, detailed steps for documenting and responding to damage, and a brief background on why dicamba and 2,4-D have been especially problematic. A Frequently Asked Questions fact sheet highlights various concerns pertinent to specialty crop production. The new fact sheet series was co-written by specialists at The Ohio State University and Purdue University, with support from the North Central IPM Center Working Group on Herbicide-Drift Risk Management. Experts note that although recent legal decisions limited the use of three dicamba products for this growing season, both dicamba and 2,4-D will continue to pose a risk in areas with diversified or organic production.

The Center for Rural Affairs (CFRA) has released a white paper titled Crop Insurance: Taking a Look at Access in Nebraska and Iowa that outlines CFRA outreach efforts with underserved producers. The paper explains that Whole-Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) may make diversifying easier for farmers, and that diversification is a risk-management strategy. Farmers who have avoided diversifying for fear that they can't insure their crops could utilize WFRP.

Three projects by scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory aim to quantify and reduce the carbon intensity of agriculture. Two are part of the SMARTFARM initiative that seeks to make the biofuel supply chain carbon negative. One project will monitor emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane from five commercial farms in California and Arkansas growing corn and crops for straw. Scientists will conduct atmospheric sensing of greenhouse gases, genomic analyses to characterize the soil microbiome, and life cycle analysis to determine the ratio of carbon input to output.

Minnesota Department of Agriculture announced that by June 29, 2020, all critical sector businesses, including all farms and farmers' markets, are required to develop and implement a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan that complies with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) COVID-19 guidelines and OSHA standards. The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) has created a preparedness plan template that includes all required plan components and is available in Hmong, Somali, and Spanish. Farms may use other templates, such as the produce farm-specific plan from the University of Minnesota Extension, if all components outlined in the DLI template are addressed.

Ohio University has released an online resource guide titled, What Is a Food Desert? Causes, Statistics, and Resources. This resource guide was created for food poverty associations, nutrition assistance organizations, and healthy living communities who are looking to share information on how food deserts impact America and ways to increase healthy food access to those in need. This guide provides detailed insights and resources on what food deserts are and common factors and causes of food deserts. It also offers resources for individuals living in food deserts and for nutritional education, as well as information on how to help those in poverty find food and ways to increase access to healthy foods.

A study by scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Shandong University revealed that nanoplastics can accumulate in plants. The researchers state, "Plant accumulation of nanoplastics can have both direct ecological effects and implications for agricultural sustainability and food safety." UMass Amherst environmental scientist Baoshan Xing explains, "Our experiments have given us evidence of nanoplastics uptake and accumulation in plants in the laboratory at the tissue and molecular level using microscopic, molecular, and genetic approaches." Plants in this study that were exposed to nanoplastics were shorter and had less biomass than controls.

USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced the award of $90 million for nine projects through the Sustainable Agricultural Systems program. The $10 million awards will support projects at eight institutions that address topics such as improved practices in poultry production, sustainable shellfish farming, efficient water use, perennial grain, and improvements in the value chain of biofuel production. Summaries of the projects are available online.

Join NCAT, the Organic Seed Alliance, and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition for a virtual listening session on June 30, 2020, to help shape agricultural research priorities for the next three decades. At 10 am (PT), participants will have the opportunity to discuss the biggest challenges and opportunities for optimizing agricultural productivity and resilience, strengthening economic viability, and decreasing the environmental impact of our nation's farms and ranches. Your input will be shared with the USDA to directly influence the department's Agricultural Innovation Agenda, including objectives for public- and private-sector research and development. We will also help participants submit their own comments directly to USDA. Farmers, ranchers, researchers, conservationists, and others interested in shaping the direction of USDA-funded research are encouraged to attend. Registration is required.

Cornell Cooperative Extension is inviting nursery/greenhouse/cut-flower growers who have been impacted by COVID-19 market disruptions to complete a survey. This survey will help in providing data to USDA, which may help impacted farms qualify for CFAP farm disaster funding. These types of farms were left out of USDA's Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) disaster payment program for farmers due to lack of information on losses. USDA is seeking information to determine if these industries were affected by COVID-19 market impacts and are eligible for CFAP. While this survey is specific to the nursery, greenhouse, and cut-flower producers, Cornell Cooperative Extension encourages other commodity producers (ex: aquaculture, niche specialty crops) currently not covered under CFAP to submit comments to USDA for inclusion.

The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF) announced its latest round of Agricultural Development Grant (ADG) program awardees. For 2020, eleven Maine agricultural producers and organizations are sharing a total of $472,736.96. "We are excited to provide grant funding for market and technology development at this critical time for Maine agriculture," says Amanda Beal, DACF Commissioner. "These grants are helping agricultural producers to expand and improve production, strengthen their ability to respond to consumer demand, and be more competitive while benefiting a broad community of partners." The full list of projects and grant awards appears on on the ADG webpage.

Practical Farmers of Iowa has issued Economic and Soil Health Impact of Grazing Cover Crops, 2018-2019. This report describes the economic and soil health impacts six Iowa cooperators experienced in grazed cover crop systems. The cooperators grazed cover crops in the fall, winter and/or spring, kept cover crop and grazing records, and had their soil sampled in May 2019. This study found that economic returns are realized from cover crop grazing within a year's time, while soil health impacts seemingly are slower to manifest.

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has launched a Conservation Agricultural Mentoring Program that matches an experienced producer who is passionate about conservation with an NRCS field employee that is new to the job or new to the area. Once matched with a producer mentor, the employee will go out on the land with them six to 12 times per year for a period of 12 to 18 months to learn about common agricultural practices, local concerns, and how producers use conservation measures. More information is available online, and interested producers can contact local coordinators to become mentors.

Farmers' Legal Action Group published an updated Farmers' Guide to Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). There have been a number of changes to the CFAP program since the first edition of this Guide was published on May 29, 2020. These include a new Handbook that USDA released that governs CFAP, and new rules in the Federal Register. In addition, this Second Edition of the Guide includes more information on the possibility of farmer appeals of USDA decisions on CFAP, as well as on USDA's discrimination complaint process. The publication is available free online.

The National Center for Appropriate Technology's (NCAT) Executive Director Steve Thompson issued a message on the organization's commitment to racial justice. Thompson writes, "We acknowledge that NCAT needs to do more to address the root causes of racial injustice. We stand with those who peacefully protest the continuing American legacy of racism and institutional violence. We pledge to do more to embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion in our offices across America."

Farm Aid has announced that it is distributing $400,000 to launch a national COVID-19 Farmer Resilience Initiative in response to COVID-19. As part of the initiative, Farm Aid, with the help of local and regional partners, is distributing grants in $500 increments to help farmers meet household expenses. In addition to the grants, Farm Aid is providing resources from its national partners, which include Farmers' Legal Action Group (FLAG), Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA (RAFI-USA), Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative, Intertribal Agriculture Council, and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. The initiative includes a number of measures designed to support farmers.

Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) has released a new online book titled Conservation Tillage Systems in the Southeast. It explores the importance of conservation tillage and provides in-depth management guidance to help farmers control erosion and build soil quality. Its emphasis is on the use of conservation tillage in rotations of agronomic crops and cover crops typical of the Southeast. The publication addresses the core components of conservation tillage systems and provides specific strategies to help farmers in the southeastern United States incorporate conservation tillage systems into their operations. The publication is available as online text or as a PDF.

In research funded by Northern New York Agricultural Development Program, seven farms in northern New York are hosting commercial grower trials of juneberry, honeyberry, and aronia berry. These northern-climate-tolerant fruit crops represent significant income potential from fresh market and value-added sale. Trials of the three fruits are evaluating how well they adapt to and thrive under New York growing conditions. Evaluations from those farm trials are available in an online report, Establishing New Commercial Fruit Crops for Northern NY, that includes notes on 11 commercial varieties, four ornamental varieties, and nine wild-collected varieties of juneberry; 15 varieties of honeyberry; and four commercial varieties and two ornamental varieties of aronia berry.

Research by the University of Reading, published in the journal Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, provides the first observed evidence that agroforestry increases wild insect pollinator numbers and increases pollination. The research team found that agroforestry sites had double the number of solitary bees and hoverflies compared to monocultures, and in arable agroforestry sites there were 2.4 times more bumblebees. Solitary bee species richness also increased tenfold at some sites. These increases in wild insect pollinators resulted in more pollination. Study leader Dr. Alexa Varah noted, "Our study finally provides some proof that agroforestry is win-win for wild pollinators and for farmers growing crops that need pollinating."

Pipeline Foods is partnering with the Real Food Campaign to create the Small Grains Partner Program—a collaborative effort focused on connecting soil, plant, and human health to improve the nutritional quality of the planet's food supply. The effort begins with wheat and oats. Organic and/or conventional farmers can submit soil and grain samples for free and answer some questions about practices used in growing the crop. Participants will get a detailed report on the levels of protein, polyphenols, minerals, and antioxidants in their grains and total carbon, respiration, pH, and mineral content of their soil. Interested farmers are invited to fill out a quick online intake form to begin with the program.

National Pollinator Week is set for June 22-28, 2020. The Pollinator Partnership is urging socially distant, appropriate events that celebrate pollinators and spread the word about what you can do to protect them. An interactive map showing planned activities is available online. One possible activity is lighting of buildings in yellow and orange to show support for pollinators. The Pollinator Partnership is providing an online toolkit of resources that includes graphics, social media posts, printable pollinator fact sheets, and more.

The international sustainability nonprofit Forum for the Future has released Growing Our Future, a roadmap for scaling regenerative agriculture in the United States. With funding from the Walmart Foundation, Forum for the Future led a collaborative process with stakeholders from across the American agriculture system to identify the key opportunities to scale regenerative agriculture. These are published in a new report that identifies 16 barriers to scale, along with a seven-point plan to help overcome them and drive transformational change, and specific recommendations for how different actors can enable this transition. The 37-page report is available free online.

A study published in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution found that milkweed samples from California's Central Valley were all contaminated with pesticides. This contamination was at high enough levels to harm monarch butterflies that rely on the milkweed as a sole food source, as well as other insects. Although data on toxicity to monarchs is available for just four of the 64 pesticides identified in testing, 32% of the samples collected in this study contained pesticide levels known to be lethal to monarchs. Samples contained an average of nine different pesticides, with a high of 25 different pesticides on a single sample. University of Nevada researchers participating in the study say the findings indicate that key breeding grounds for western monarchs are contaminated with pesticides at harmful levels.

A meta-analysis of 226 studies, led by Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands, showed that intercropping can significantly increase yields while reducing fertilizer inputs. The study concluded that intercropping appears to give a 16-29% larger yield per unit area than monocultures in intensive agriculture under the same circumstances, while using 19-36% less fertilizer per unit product. The study results were published in Nature Plants, and researchers noted that these results applied to intensive agriculture as well as low-input agriculture.

Penn State Extension has launched a 10-week video series, Agriculture: Working for You, that features home-recorded videos of extension educators engaging in agriculture-related activities in their family operations. Extension educators say they hope the videos will grow consumer awareness of agriculture's connection to food and fiber in Pennsylvania. The videos are designed for both agriculturalists and non-farmers. Topics range from vegetable production to livestock rearing.

To help farmers adapt quickly to the market opportunity of online sales, North Central SARE, the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture, and University of Minnesota Extension are offering free one-on-one coaching for up to 50 farmers who are interested in taking online orders for their products. Farmers can spend up to two hours individually with a coach, via Zoom, and be guided through the process of setting up a Wordpress site to advertise products for sale and a Google Form to take customer orders, as well as transferring order information from Google Forms to Google Sheets, to tally orders and calculate what's owed by each customer. Up to one hour of additional troubleshooting time is also offered for participants.

The 2020 Organic Industry Survey released by the Organic Trade Association shows that organic sales in 2019 in the food and non-food markets totaled a record $55.1 billion, up 5% from the previous year. Organic food sales were $50.1 billion, up 4.6 percent%, while organic non-food sales totaled just over $5 billion, up a 9.2%. The survey also showed that organic produce makes up almost a third of all organic food sales, and organic fruits and vegetables have captured 15% of the U.S. fruits and vegetables market. Meanwhile, organic dairy and eggs accounted for more than 8% of the total U.S. dairy and eggs market.

A University of Florida study funded by a Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SSARE) On-Farm Research Grant showed the soil health benefits of cover crops as a green manure for vegetable farms. The two-year study explored the benefits of using cover crops such as cow pea and sunn hemp on eight Florida farms. The soil health benefits included increased organic matter and increased water-holding capacity, decreasing soil pH, and increasing soil protein content. The funded project included development of a six-module in-service training for Extension faculty on incorporating cover crops in crop production.

Rattan Lal, a soil scientist at The Ohio State University and founding director of the Carbon Management and Sequestration Center, has been awarded this year's World Food Prize. Lal was recognized for his long-term work on improving agricultural soils, spanning five continents. Lal is credited with research that demonstrated how healthy soil can help solve the problems of both food insecurity and global warming. The prize includes an award of $250,000, which Lal will donate for future soil research and education. "It is a privilege and honor to be of service to the many small farmers from around the world because I was one of them. They are stewards of the land. They are the ones with the tremendous challenge of feeding the world," said Lal.

USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is partnering with the University of Kentucky, Colorado State University, and Penn State University, as well as 16 trade associations, to conduct a national study on the COVID-19 pandemic's effects on local food systems. According to a University of Kentucky news story, "The study seeks to answer how sectors of local and regional food systems are responding to COVID-19, what successful adaptations have been implemented, what obstacles the various arms of local food systems have encountered and the economic and value-chain impacts." The year-long study will conduct marketplace assessments and collecting production and marketing strategies and innovations that will be shared via webinars, fact sheets, and other resources. AMS expects to use the study results in developing support programs for local food systems.

The National Organic Coalition is seeking feedback from organic farmers on the USDA Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) direct payment plan for farmers, to better understand how to advocate for meaningful support for organic farmers. Organic farmers who have considered applying for CFAP are invited to complete a short online survey.

The National Young Farmers Coalition has created a Racial Equity Toolkit designed to orient and incite members toward preliminary consciousness-raising and direct action. According to the National Young Farmers Coalition, it is an initial resource for people who are overwhelmed by the breadth and depth of the problem, and need help determining how to start dismantling racism in their communities.

Grazing expert Dr. Allen Williams compiled 10 tips for summer grazing success that are available on Understanding Ag. This list of basic grazing tips focuses on protecting resources through good management practices. Williams concludes, "if you practice these 10 tips routinely, you will have a great grazing season and you will learn more with each day you spend in the pastures with your livestock."

USDA announced that new features on will help farmers and ranchers manage their conservation activities online and request assistance from USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Using the new features, producers can now view, download and e-sign documents; request conservation assistance; reference technical terms and submit questions; access information on current and past conservation practices; and view detailed information on all previous and ongoing contracts, including the amount of planned and received cost-share assistance. According to USDA, the new features include the most popular functionalities from NRCS's Conservation Client Gateway (CCG) while providing enhanced functionality and an improved user experience.

USDA Agricultural Marketing Service has published proposed changes to the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances (National List) section of USDA's organic regulations in the Federal Register. This rule proposes to add the following substances to the National List: Oxalic acid dihydrate as a pesticide for organic apiculture; pullulan for use in organic handling in products labeled, "Made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s))"; and collagen gel casing as a nonorganic agricultural substance for use in organic handling when organic forms of collagen gel casing are not commercially available. Public comments on the proposed changes will be accepted until August 7, 2020.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has published guidance announcing flexibility in the eligibility criteria for the qualified exemption from the Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption (Produce Safety Rule), due to disruptions to the supply chain for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency. As set forth in 21 CFR 112.5(a), a farm is eligible for a qualified exemption and associated modified requirements in a calendar year if during the previous three-year period, the average annual monetary value of food the farm sold directly to qualified end-users exceeded the average annual monetary value of the food the farm sold to all other buyers during that period, and the average annual monetary value of all food the farm sold during the three-year period was less than $500,000, adjusted for inflation. In order to support affected farms in selling food to all available buyers during the COVID-19 public health emergency, under specific circumstances FDA does not intend to enforce the criteria for sales to qualified end-users when determining eligibility for the qualified exemption under the Produce Safety Rule, for the duration of the public health emergency.

Basics of Organic Farming is a self-directed online course designed for beginning orchard and vegetable-crop farmers, existing organic farmers, and farmers in transition to organic production. This course is a joint effort of the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF), the University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (UC SAREP), and California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. The course consists of six modules: 1) soil health; 2) weed management; 3) irrigation and water management; 4) insect pest management; 5) disease management; and 6) economics and marketing. The first two modules are currently available online, and OFRF is asking for farmer feedback through a brief survey, to help develop remaining modules.

The Ninth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals vacated the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's approval of three dicamba formulations for use on dicamba-tolerant soybeans and cotton, effective June 3, 2020. DTN Progressive Farmer reports that the decision's timing during the growing season is worrying farmers. Meanwhile, states are interpreting the ruling differently and taking a variety of routes to implementing it. This article provides listings of actions by numerous states, with links to the sites of state regulators.

Kiwiberry is a grape-sized relative of the more familiar kiwi that can be grown in colder climates. Although the plant was first introduced to the United States in 1876, it is not widely grown commercially. One obstacle to more growers producing it commercially has been the challenge of obtaining appropriate varieties. The University of New Hampshire (UNH) Kiwiberry Research and Breeding Program has been working to standardize variety names in an effort to help growers obtain varieties that are recommended for New England. The UNH team partnered with Hartmann's Plant Company to certify the identity of the varieties offered by the company, so they can be sold as genetically verified varieties recommended for commercial production. "These UNH-verified varieties will revolutionize the kiwiberry industry," said Danny Hartmann, president of Hartmann's Plant Company.

The Livestock Conservancy is offering two free courses on Teachable that can help fiber producers connect with customers. Marketing Your Fiber Products focuses on connecting and creating better communication between the people who produce wool and those who use it. This course will help both buyers and sellers of wool and fiber connect and understand the various social media outlets available. The other course, From Farm to Fiber Folk, explains the difference between wool, hair, and kemp and what breed's wools are best for which projects. This course will also help you understand how fleeces grow and how to select a good one. Both courses are part of the Shave 'Em to Save 'Em program that is working to make sheep breeds profitable for shepherds.

Since it began taking applications May 26, 2020, USDA has approved more than $545 million in payments to producers who have applied for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). USDA has already received more than 86,000 applications for the program. In the first six days of the application period, FSA made payments to more than 35,000 producers. FSA will accept applications through August 28, 2020. Through CFAP, USDA is making available $16 billion in financial assistance to producers of agricultural commodities who have suffered a five-percent-or-greater price decline due to COVID-19 and face additional significant marketing costs as a result of lower demand, surplus production, and disruptions to shipping patterns and the orderly marketing of commodities.

The Center for Agroforestry at the University of Missouri has developed three modules on agroforestry for use as undergraduate, online curriculum. The introductory material could be integrated into undergraduate courses in environmental sciences, sustainability, landscape design, plant sciences, horticulture, agronomy, ecology, and other disciplines. The modules available in the What is Agroforestry? Practices and Pathways for Multifunctional Landscapes curriculum are as follows: 1) Understanding agroforestry as it is situated in a broader ecological and social context; 2) What is the value of integrating perennial crops in agroecological systems?; and 3) Planning, design, and management approaches for specialty crops in agroforestry.

A new online Cover Crop Information Map resource is providing access to published research and cover crop trial results. The interactive map is a free service of the GO SEED company, and is searchable by region or topic. "The Cover Crop Information Map is a free resource for agricultural producers, researchers, and industry influencers wanting access to unfiltered, raw research data, and methodology to help them translate and apply findings to their own trials and practices," says Jerry Hall, director of research for GO SEED. The map collects more than 200 pieces of research and trial summaries on 26 different topics such as compaction, forage for livestock, and planting green, and it offers contributors the opportunity to add new information.

A four-year study led by UC Cooperative Extension evaluated the potential for producing sorghum and garbanzos in the San Joaquin Valley, using high residue, no-till techniques. No-till production has the potential to increase agricultural water use efficiency, but little was known about how it affected yield for diverse California crops until this study. In this trial of a sorghum/garbanzo rotation, the sorghum yield was similar in no-till and standard production, while no-till garbanzos yielded an average of 3,417 pounds per acre versus 2,738 pounds per acre for standard tillage.

A new report from agricultural economists at the University of California examines the current and long-term impacts of COVID-19 on California's cattle, dairy, produce, strawberry, tomato, nut, and wine industries. Profiles in the report illustrate the different ways the pandemic has impacted dairy, beef, produce, and tree nuts. Additionally, experts assess what the future could hold for California's leading agricultural industries. The report also addresses the effect of the pandemic on farm labor, and the authors conclude that farm labor supplies are likely to be reduced due to the pandemic, hastening the trend toward mechanization.

Farms Under Threat: The State of the States, a new report by American Farmland Trust, demonstrates how developing farmland puts food security, the environment and our way of life in jeopardy. The report shows the extent, location, and quality of each state's agricultural land and tracks how much of it has been converted since 2001. The report also identifies the 12 states with the most threatened agricultural land, and points to the threat that low-density residential development poses to working agricultural land. Meanwhile, the report's Agricultural Land Protection Scorecard analyzes six programs and policies that are key to securing a sufficient and suitable base of agricultural land in each state and highlights states' efforts to retain agricultural land. Additionally, it recognizes the 12 states with the most proactive policy responses to farmland protection.

The Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Department of Labor have issued interim guidance for agriculture workers and employers as a template of action to protect agriculture workers from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). This guidance may be adapted by state and local health departments to respond to rapidly changing local circumstances, and by agricultural employers to protect workers at their particular work sites or in specific work operations. The guidance recognizes that "agriculture work sites, shared worker housing, and shared worker transportation vehicles present unique challenges for preventing and controlling the spread of COVID-19."

Peterson and Control Union released a new regenerative agriculture platform at the Innovation Forum: The Future of Food virtual conference. Called "regenagri," the initiative focuses on continuous improvement of agriculture practice, promoting holistic farming techniques. Members gain market access and accreditation from a global certifying body.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, and The Johns Hopkins Alliance for a Healthier World have launched the Food Systems Dashboard, an online tool that houses food systems data from more than 230 countries and territories. According to a press release, "The Food Systems Dashboard is a unique holistic resource intended for policymakers, non-governmental organisations, businesses, civil society leaders, and other actors to enable timely visualization of national food systems, understand the interconnections across multiple sectors, perform comparisons with other countries, identify key challenges, and prioritize actions." The Dashboard brings together data for more than 170 indicators from 35 sources. It will enable stakeholders to compare their food systems with those of other countries, and will provide guidance on potential priority actions to improve food systems' impacts on diets and nutrition.

The Farmer Veteran Coalition of Illinois, Illinois Farm Bureau, and Illinois AgrAbility have introduced Farm Corps, a new partnership program that will pair furloughed or unemployed veterans with agricultural producers who have an immediate need for on-farm labor. "Labor is a continual need for agriculture," said Raghela Scavuzzo, Illinois Farm Bureau associate director of food systems development. "At this time, as farms work to keep employees safe, the demand is greater than ever. The Farm Corps program serves dual roles by allowing farms to post positions and hopefully identify workers, and connect veterans and servicemen that are furloughed with agriculture. We feel this program could be of great assistance to our state and are excited to assist."

The Board of Directors of the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SAWG) has announced that the organization will close after nearly 30 years. No new business will be transacted after May 31, 2020, although the organization will complete its responsibilities for existing projects. Southern SAWG has been well known and respected for its annual conference, Practical Tools and Solutions for Sustaining Family Farms, and for its Growing Farm Profits training program, as well as many other accomplishments.

A Colorado State University study reveals the nutritional potential and consumer appeal of microgreens. The tender, leafy shoots of vegetables, grain, herbs, and flowers can be grown indoors, year-round, in cities and rural communities, and in settings ranging from warehouses to homes. Because they have less moisture, the microgreens pose less of a food-safety risk than sprouts, and they pack a significant beneficial punch of nutritional phytochemicals. This particular study evaluated six different types of microgreens: arugula, broccoli, bull's blood beet, red cabbage, red garnet amaranth, and tendril pea, on consumer acceptability. Researchers found that the red microgreens of beet, red cabbage, and amaranth received top marks for appearance, but broccoli, red cabbage, and tendril pea got the highest grades overall. They see potential for microgreens to transition from a garnish to a vegetable, become more widely available to consumers, and be more widely accepted as consumers become educated about the microgreens' benefits.

Wisconsin Public Radio reports that The Farmory, a Green Bay nonprofit providing sustainable agriculture education, is offering yellow perch fingerlings for sale for aquaculture or aquaponics. The fingerlings are raised indoors in a bio-secure facility to be free from disease. Their sale will help fund the educational efforts of the organization, as well as contribute to increased local food production. Most yellow perch sold in the area is imported from Canada. The Farmory will offer three grades of fingerlings, including one ideal for hobby farmers new to aquaculture. The Farmory is also offering an eight-part series of free webinars on raising yellow perch.

Carbon Cowboys, a 10-part documentary of short films by director Peter Byck, was released online by environmental nonprofit Carbon Nation in collaboration with Arizona State University. The 8- to 23-minute films were shot over a period of six years, and they highlight profitable regenerative grazers across the United States and in Canada. Byck says, "The film shows farmers working with nature, rather than against it. You see them caring for their animals and for their land. You see farmers making more money and creating an alternative to industrial farming."

Rodale Institute and The Plantrician Project released a white paper titled The Power of the Plate: The Case for Regenerative Organic Agriculture in Improving Human Health, that considers the effect of industrialized agriculture on nutrition and health. The white paper compiles historical data, as well as comprehensive health, nutrition, and agriculture research from around the world, to conduct a holistic analysis of the global food system and recommend the ways in which agriculture and lifestyle medicine can come together to improve quality of life. The white paper also makes nine specific recommendations for the integration of food and healthcare and the expansion of regenerative health. The white paper is available online.

The Northeast Small Ruminant Parasite Control Program is conducting a survey to obtain current, baseline information on sheep and goat parasite control concerns and practices. Sheep and goat producers living in the Northeast United States, or producers buying animals from or selling animals to Northeast producers, are invited to participate. This information is extremely valuable in continuing to identify needs and develop research and education programs. The survey is being conducted by the University of Rhode Island (URI), Department of Fisheries, Animal and Veterinary Science (FAVS), as part of a USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Project, "Building on success: Expanding opportunities for sustainable management of small ruminant gastrointestinal parasites."

North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (NCR-SARE) has announced the recipients of its Youth Educator grants and its Partnership grants for 2020. The Youth Educator Grant Program supports educators who seek to provide programming on sustainable agriculture for youth, and 12 projects will receive a total of more than $45,000. The Partnership Grant Program awarded more than $582,000 to 15 projects that catalyze on-farm research, demonstration, and education activities related to sustainable agriculture. Brief descriptions of the funded projects are available online.

The European Commission, executive arm of the European Union, has adopted a comprehensive new Biodiversity Strategy and a Farm to Fork Strategy for a fair, healthy and environmentally friendly food system. The European Commission calls the two strategies "mutually reinforcing," and says in a press release that "they propose ambitious EU actions and commitments to halt biodiversity loss in Europe and worldwide and transform our food systems into global standards for competitive sustainability, the protection of human and planetary health, as well as the livelihoods of all actors in the food value chain." The biodiversity strategy calls for enhancing organic farming and for bringing pollinators back to agricultural land. Meanwhile, the Farm to Fork Strategy "sets concrete targets to transform the EU's food system, including a reduction by 50% of the use and risk of pesticides, a reduction by at least 20% of the use of fertilizers, a reduction by 50% in sales of antimicrobials used for farmed animals and aquaculture, and reaching 25% of agricultural land under organic farming."

Southern SARE is seeking two producers and an NGO representative to fill vacant seats on the Administrative Council. Southern SARE's Administrative Council is the governing body for the SARE program in the Southern region. The Administrative Council's 22 members guide the vision of the SARE program, setting goals related to sustainable agriculture, overseeing the review of grant Calls for Proposals, evaluating projects, and being ambassadors for the program. Producer nominations from all 13 states in the southern region, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands will be considered. Three-year terms begin in February 2021. Nominations are due by July 1, 2020.

Pennsylvania State University has launched a new institute in its College of Agricultural Sciences that will address complex, interconnected food-energy-water-land challenges, such as food security, supply chain disruptions, bioenergy production, biodiversity, changing land uses, environmental degradation, and climate volatility. Plans for the Institute for Sustainable Agricultural, Food, and Environmental Science, referred to as SAFES, had been developing for two years, but the pandemic made the issues SAFES seeks to address emerge as critical, speeding its establishment. SAFES will foster research collaboration and coordination. It has already awarded nine seed grants to aid researchers in addressing the impacts of COVID-19 on agricultural, food, and environmental systems.

The FruitGuys Community Fund announced that 15 small farms and agricultural nonprofits have been chosen as its 2020 grantees. They will receive a total of $51,098.87 in funding for specific projects. FruitGuys Community Fund reports that the majority of funds was directed to those most vulnerable during this time, including farmers of color, women farmers, and farmers who are veterans, and that 14 of the grantees are actively increasing low-income food access in an effort to directly contribute to community food security. Descriptions of the funded projects are available online.

Researchers in the University of Georgia College of Engineering published a commentary that explained how society needs to "do less with less" to increase sustainability. They point out that improvements in efficiency or technology often just make resources available for alternative uses, rather than preventing their use. For greater sustainability, they say, people must strive toward energy balance, not merely a shifting of consumption. They cited food systems, meat, and biofuels as examples of negative energy balances, as these can take more energy to operate than they actually produce. A sustainable future without a substantial reduction in energy use isn't possible, the scientists warn.

The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, or CFAP, provides vital financial assistance to producers of agricultural commodities who have suffered a 5%-or-greater price decline or who had losses due to market supply chain disruptions due to COVID-19 and face additional significant market costs. USDA is accepting applications now through August 28, 2020. Eligible commodities include non-specialty crops, wool, livestock, and dairy, as well as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and other crops such as beans and mushrooms. CFAP payments are subject to a per person and legal entity payment limitation of $250,000. Producers should apply through their local Farm Service Agency Service Center.

A study led by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, found that the most effective strategies for protecting livestock from predators are based on ecological principles. Understanding how predators hunt, how prey behaves, and how both interact with the landscape around them are keys to successful prevention of livestock losses. Consequently, the best solution for one location may not be the most effective strategy for other situations. Combinations of deterrents, based on predator ecology, can provide effective protection, say researchers. Wide-ranging alternatives are available, ranging from guardian animals to fladry, and also including night pastures and changes in pasture management strategies.

Researchers from the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries have published an extensive profitability analysis of Müritzfischer, an aquaponics facility in Germany that produces fish and vegetables on a large scale. The result shows that aquaponics may have both environmental and cost benefits, if produced according to good agricultural practice and under suitable conditions. The subject of analysis was a 540-square-meter facility that produces fish and vegetables in a combined recirculating system. The analysis found that aquaponics can be profitable if the system is sufficiently large and if the challenges of high investment costs and high operating costs can be overcome. Researchers say that a profitable model of 2,000 square meters could be suited to urban settings for local food production.

In a blog post, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) discusses how the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed underlying issues in the meat and poultry supply chain. Steadily increasing industry consolidation has made the supply chain particularly vulnerable to disruption. Both livestock producers and processing workers are harmed by this situation. The post discusses the role that small and mid-size meat processors are playing in increasing their production to provide more meat supply and points out the costs and risks involved in that action. Finally, the post concludes with recommendations on how to support local farmers and a sustainable food system through purchasing and advocacy.

NCAT's Jeff Schahzenski is co-author of a viewpoint published in Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development that says blockchain technology could change the way food is distributed and consumed. "Blockchain and Regaining Consumer Sovereignty in Sustainable Food Systems" notes that most consumers are separated from food production and may appreciate knowing more about the farmer or rancher who produced their food. The article suggests that whether local and regional food systems can utilize blockchain to choose to support producers will be a function of its cost to implement and, more importantly, whether customers in these systems will pay the needed higher price to fully reward the farmers and rancher who participate in that food system.

USDA is making available up to $1 billion in loan guarantees to help rural businesses meet their working capital needs during the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, agricultural producers that are not eligible for USDA Farm Service Agency loans may receive funding under USDA Business & Industry (B&I) CARES Act Program provisions included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. B&I CARES Act Program loans must be used as working capital to prevent, prepare for, or respond to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The loans may be used only to support rural businesses, including agricultural producers. Eligible applicants should contact their local USDA Rural Development State Office in the state where the project is located. USDA is developing application guides on the B&I CARES Act Program for lenders and borrowers. The Agency also will host webinars on May 27 and June 3, 2020, to provide an overview of program requirements.

USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) will broaden the use of the Disaster Set-Aside loan provision, normally used in the wake of natural disasters, to allow farmers with USDA farm loans who are affected by COVID-19, and are determined eligible, to have their next payment set aside. In some cases, FSA may also set aside a second payment for farmers who have already had one payment set aside because of a prior designated disaster. FSA direct loan borrowers will receive a letter with the details of the expanded Disaster Set-Aside authorities, which includes the possible set-aside of annual operating loans, as well as explanations of the additional loan servicing options that are available. To discuss or request a loan payment Set-Aside, borrowers should call or email the farm loan staff at their local FSA county office. The set-aside payment's due date is moved to the final maturity date of the loan or extended up to twelve months in the case of an annual operating loan.

To help the IPM community stay connected and informed about new research and extension activities, the Western IPM Center, in coordination with Western state IPM programs, is organizing a new seminar series, The IPM Hour. The aim is to highlight the diversity of IPM research and connect IPM researchers, extension educators, and practitioners across disciplines and borders. The series will be held online, using Zoom, and give people an opportunity to present their research and learn about others' projects. Organizers are asking for audience input on what they'd like to see, via a one-minute online survey.

The National Center for Appropriate Technology's ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture program has a new six-part online tutorial called Taking Your Farm to the Next Level. This tutorial is ideal for beginning farmers or ranchers who have been farming a few years. It was created for producers who have a strong grasp on sustainable production techniques, but need to develop more advanced business management skills. The tutorial is divided into modules: whole-farm planning; farm finances; recordkeeping; legal issues; branding and marketing; and accessing markets. For each module users should watch the video presentations, then complete the accompanying worksheets and read the related ATTRA publications and other resources provided. Some of the modules also have an online forum section where users can post questions and participate in discussions. This course will equip farmers and ranchers with the management skills necessary to operate a successful, sustainable farm business for the long-term.

State chapters of the Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC) have launched in Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee. They join state chapters in nine other states that help the national organization have increased impact at the local level. FVC is a nonprofit that helps veterans pursue careers in agriculture, serving a network of more than 20,000 veteran members nationwide. State chapters help bridge the gap between a nationally driven movement and resources at the state/county level, to help members achieve success in agriculture. The state chapters are essential for ensuring members are aware of regional opportunities. FVC has announced a goal of having 20 state chapters by the end of 2020.

University, government, and nonprofit partners led by a Cooperative Extension specialist in the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine have received a Specialty Crop Multistate Program grant through USDA to explore benefits of livestock grazing in organic farming systems. The nearly $1 million project will study the impacts of livestock grazing of cover crops on food safety, soil building, and environmental health. It will focus on how livestock grazing can help with challenges, such as nutrient immobilization, that have limited the use of cover crops in organic systems, and it will explore whether there is a relationship between grazing and food pathogen transfer.

Farm Commons is offering two free online tutorials to help farm businesses that are adjusting to new markets because of the COVID-19 pandemic. "Adding Home Delivery of Your Farm Goods Without Adding Legal Risks" covers the additional legal concerns that arise with home delivery, whether you are delivering your own farm products or working with your peers to create a whole-diet delivery service. Topics include liability, licensing, employment law complications, and zoning. Meanwhile, "Launching a CSA During COVID-19 with the Law on Your Side" addresses issues like insurance and liability, zoning, and customer sales. Participants who complete this tutorial will know what action steps to take to cultivate a legally resilient CSA program.

USDA has announced details of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which will provide up to $16 billion in direct payments to farmers and ranchers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Beginning May 26, 2020, USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) will be accepting applications from agricultural producers who have suffered losses. CFAP provides vital financial assistance to producers of agricultural commodities who have suffered a five-percent-or-greater price decline due to COVID-19 and face additional significant marketing costs as a result of lower demand, surplus production, and disruptions to shipping patterns and the orderly marketing of commodities. Specialty crops, non-specialty crops, wool, dairy, and livestock are eligible for payments. There is a payment limitation of $250,000 per person or entity for all commodities combined. Additional information and application forms, as well as a payment calculator for producers, can be found at

Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) announced the first round emergency assistance grants to California farmers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The California Family Farmer Emergency Fund awarded 24 micro-grants totaling $60,000 and will award more in subsequent weeks. Most of the growers awarded grants are falling through the cracks of state and federal stimulus efforts and unlikely to receive assistance from them. The grants are helping growers impacted by the loss of markets and by hardships created by the pandemic. The fund has received nearly 300 applications to date from farmers across California and has raised more than $200,000. The fund prioritizes smaller operations, particularly on California's Central Coast and in the Central Valley, with at least 50% of the funds committed to farmers of color, immigrant farmers, and undocumented farmers.

Research by University of California Cooperative Extension shows that drip irrigation may help prevent downy mildew in spinach, in addition to saving water and energy. The finding could be especially important to organic spinach growers, who have no approved fungicide option to combat the disease. Field trials showed a four- to five-times reduction in downy mildew in plots grown with drip irrigation compared to sprinkler-irrigated plots, likely due to less moisture left in the plant canopy.

Surging interest in fresh, local food has led to a boom in business for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), reports National Public Radio. Farms that lost restaurant customers have ramped up CSA memberships, and many are offering more add-on options, such as flour and oils. Local CSAs offer consumers a short supply chain that involves fewer people handling the food and less chance of disruption. CSAs that are seeing their businesses double in size are now concerned about finding enough labor. Also, they're hoping they can turn the sudden consumer interest into long-term customer relationships.

The Mississippi Small Farm and Agribusiness Center is currently recruiting new applicants for its Farm Management Educational Program (FMEP) for New, Beginning Farmers and Ranchers (NBFRs) in Mississippi. The overall goal of the program, which is in its second year, is to recruit, train, and provide 300 NBFRs with the necessary resources to generate and implement a feasible farm plan, thereby equipping them to become sustainable in vegetable and meat goat production. The free program will be offered online.

A Pennsylvania dairy farm with an on-farm store turned to bottling as much of its milk as possible after its buyer instructed it to dump milk, reports Mother Nature Network. Whoa Nellie Dairy was already bottling a quarter of its milk for on-farm sale, but when their processor stopped taking milk from their 70 cows, the dairy owners and workers started bottling round the clock and promoting on social media that they are selling directly to customers. The result has been lines of cars waiting to pick up milk, and the dairy sells out every day. The owners are gratified by the outpouring of support for their product, and planning to scale up their processing equipment to handle the volume of milk they produce.

A short video from the Savanna Institute features farmer and fruit explorer Eliza Greenman explaining how she has been experimenting with livestock as a pest control for plum curculio in her orchard. Greenman says in the three-minute video that grazing livestock under apple trees and moving pigs at the right time have drastically reduced pest pressure in her orchards.

USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Agricultural Research Service (ARS) collaborated with universities and other agencies and organizations to complete water-quality studies that were published in the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. Fifteen peer-reviewed research papers and two feature articles in this journal issue focus on water-quality studies that examine the impact of conservation practices. The impacts measured include reduction of sediment and nutrients lost in runoff, improvement in soil quality, and improved understanding of conservation practices to mitigate contaminant losses. Practices that were assessed for their effectiveness included drainage management, conservation tillage, cover crops, buffers, irrigation, nutrient management, water management, and Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) practices.

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service announced that the next deadline for Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) applications to be considered for funding this year is June 12, 2020. CSP helps farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners earn payments for expanding conservation activities while maintaining agricultural production on their land. CSP also encourages adoption of new technologies and management techniques. The 2018 Farm Bill authorized NRCS to accept new CSP enrollments until 2023 and makes some improvements to the program: NRCS now enrolls eligible, high-ranking applications based on dollars rather than acres; higher payment rates are now available for certain conservation activities, including cover crops and resource conserving crop rotations; and the program offers support for organic and transitioning production activities and a special grassland conservation initiative. Applications are accepted continuously, but the deadline for consideration for 2020 funding is June 12, 2020.

USDA has posted a recording of the May 14, 2020, webinar for farmers, ranchers, and other producers interested in applying for direct payments through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). This webinar hosted by USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) provides basic information on how producers can prepare for the upcoming signup for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). It includes information on how to apply once signup opens and how to initiate contact with FSA.

Some designers and companies in the fashion industry are putting their support behind regenerative agriculture, reports Vogue. For example, the Christy Dawn business has invested in regenerative farms growing cotton and botanical dyes in India. The article provides several examples of companies supporting farming practices that build soil health and sequester carbon. Rebecca Burgess, the founder of Fibershed, a non-profit that develops regenerative textile systems, explains the fashion industry's potential to further regenerative agriculture this way: "I do believe fashion is where we can mainstream regenerative ag. I think in some ways, it's more poised than the food industry to lead [the conversation], because fashion is more permanent. You don't know what I ate for breakfast, but you know what I'm wearing."

The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service is now offering the Texas A&M AgriLife Organic Workshop free online. Videos in the nine-part series range from 10 to 90 minutes each and can be viewed at any time. Videos are tailored toward producers in the High Plains and Rolling Plains but provide great insights for producers across Texas, according to AgriLife Extension. Topics include organic production, marketing, pest control, and crop insurance.

Scientists with USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have identified five Romaine lettuce varieties that both brown less quickly after fresh-cut processing and are slower to deteriorate postharvest. Considering browning and deterioration ratings together, the best breeding lines for commercial production, and also for use as parents to develop new varieties, are Darkland, Green Towers, Hearts Delight, Parris Island Cos, and SM13-R2. In addition, researchers found the chromosome region that contains the genes for slow deterioration also contains four genes and one DNA region that code for resistance to downy mildew.

Equitable Food Initiative (EFI), the workforce development and training organization that partners with growers, farmworkers, retailers, and consumer advocacy groups to improve both compliance and business performance, is celebrating its fifth anniversary. Since its launch, EFI has trained leadership teams on nearly 60 farming operations in North and Central America, improving working conditions for more than 36,000 farmworkers. Participating retailers have paid more than $8.5 million in worker bonuses through premiums generated on EFI-certified products. EFI is the only certification that covers three key areas in a single audit: labor practices, food safety, and pest management.

USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) is reminding producers about Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program – Plus (WHIP+) payments to agricultural producers who suffered eligible losses because of drought or excess moisture in 2018 and 2019. Signup for these causes of loss opened March 23, 2020, and producers who suffered losses from drought (in counties designated D3 or above), excess moisture, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, typhoons, volcanic activity, snowstorms, or wildfires can still apply for assistance through WHIP+. To be eligible, producers must have suffered losses of certain crops, trees, bushes, or vines in counties with a Presidential Emergency Disaster Declaration or a Secretarial Disaster Designation (primary counties only) for qualifying natural disaster events that occurred in calendar years 2018 or 2019. Producers who suffered losses should contact their FSA county office.

Each year, The Livestock Conservancy compiles a Conservation Priority List to organize and target conservation efforts for endangered livestock and poultry breeds at risk in the United States. The ranked list of heritage livestock and poultry breeds is based upon the annual number of registrations in the United States and the breed's estimated global population size. Endangered breeds are classified as "Watch," "Threatened," "Critical," or "Recovering." This year, the organization added eight more breeds to the list of 150 endangered breeds: the Puerto Rican Paso Fino and Brabant horses, the Teeswater sheep, and Silver Marten, Argent Brun, Checkered Giant, Standard Chinchilla, and Palomino rabbit breeds.

Future Harvest CASA has posted collections of resources for both farmers and consumers, on how to start a buying club for grassfed meat. The resource collections include links to references on the nutritional benefits of grassfed meat, the cuts that a carcass furnishes, pricing information for farmers, and cooking information for customers. Future Harvest is offering these resources help foster the direct relationship between farmers and customers and continue to build a resilient regional food system.

As supply-chain disruptions are emptying supermarket meat shelves, WGBH explored the potential for local meat producers to fill the void. Just 1% of the meat consumed New England is grown there, the story reports. Local producers face challenges such as high land prices, production costs that price their products considerably above market costs, and lack of processing capacity. However, with the selection of conventional retail products limited, this may be an opportunity for local producers to compete successfully in the market. Some stakeholders predict that food system disruptions will create a new consumer base willing to pay a premium for local food.

USDA's Economic Research Service (ERS) reported in Amber Waves on how adopting a healthier American diet would change natural resource use in the U.S. food system. A study by ERS looked at how all Americans adopting a diet in keeping with the Federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans would affect use of five natural resources: agricultural land, fresh ground and surface water, fossil fuels, forest products, and air (in terms of greenhouse gases). The study found that adoption of this healthier diet would decrease use of agricultural land, fossil fuels, and forest products by the food system. Meanwhile, greenhouse gas emissions would remain essentially unchanged, but more freshwater would be withdrawn from rivers, lakes, and aquifers.

USDA is inviting the public to join in following the progress of the 2020 planting season through the #Plant2020 campaign. Farmers can submit photos or short videos of their planting for an interactive story map on Farmers who want to participate can send a landscape-format photo or video of less than 15 seconds to Participants should provide a photo descriptions, your city and state, and your Twitter handle (if you have one).

Western SARE conducted a survey of the region's state coordinators and grantees about the impact of, and responses to, COVID-19. The survey addressed three main questions: 1) How is the pandemic affecting food systems in your community? 2) What is your community doing to mitigate these effects? and 3) What can WSARE do to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in your community? Respondents indicated that COVID-19 had negatively impacted food production, distribution, and access, as well as having a negative impact on producers economically. A report on the survey results is available online in PDF.

People's attitudes toward honey bees have become more positive as their importance in pollination comes to light, say University of Missouri researchers. This could be an important factor in passing legislation and implementing programs to conserve bees, researchers note. However, they warn that disproportionate attention for the honey bee could imperil native bees by introducing more competition for these even-more-effective pollinators. Study leader Damon Hall says the best thing people can do for native insect pollinators is let the weedy flowers in the yard grow and plant flowers.

Under the federal Food Safety Modernization Act, states are able to enter into a cooperative agreement with the federal government to implement the rules. Earlier this year, Kentucky passed legislation that allows the Kentucky Department of Agriculture to serve as the primary agency for implementing these rules, instead of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The new rules require fruit and vegetable growers averaging $25,000 or above in annual sales during the previous three years (adjusted for inflation) to complete a farm survey with the KDA and a seven-hour Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) Grower Training course.

A blog post from CGIAR's Research Program on Policies, Institutions and Markets discusses why farmers' varieties of crops face challenges in entering commercial markets. Crop varieties developed by farmers over generations can offer desirable traits such as adaptation to harsh growing conditions or particularly high mineral contents. Yet these farmers' varieties usually don't enter the commercial seed market because they're not uniform and stable enough to qualify for seed registration requirements. The post notes that governments and non-governmental organizations around the world are addressing this situation by modifying seed laws to create special type of registration for farmers' varieties or an alternative seed exchange platforms for non-registered varieties. A video highlighting four examples of such efforts is available online.

The Vertical Farming Podcast is hosted by podcast veteran and vertical farming supporter Harry Duran. This new weekly podcast features conversations with CEOs, Founders, and luminaries from the exciting and fast-growing world of vertical farming. The first episode is an interview with serial entrepreneur and CEO of Intelligent Growth Solutions, David Farquhar, in which he breaks down the emergence of vertical farming technologies, opportunities that have been created due to the current global pandemic, and ongoing projects.

Scientists at the Universities of Bath and Sheffield studied how the Campylobacter jejuni bacterium spread from cattle to humans. Their study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, concluded that increased movement of animals globally and intensive farming practices provide the perfect environment for spread of pathogens to humans. Environmental change and increased contact with farm animals are also contributing factors in bacterial infections of animals crossing over to humans. Researcher Dave Kelly noted, "Human pathogens carried in animals are an increasing threat and our findings highlight how their adaptability can allow them to switch hosts and exploit intensive farming practices."