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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 Farmers.gov 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 farmers.gov/cfap.




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.gov. Farmers who want to participate can send a landscape-format photo or video of less than 15 seconds to sharingoursuccesses@usda.gov. 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."




A study led by a New Mexico State University researcher showed that cover crops can increase the biological health of soils on hot and dry semiarid lands. The five-year study was a collaboration between weed scientists, agronomists, agri-economists, and soil scientists from the NMSU Agricultural Experiment Station centers, USDA Agricultural Research Service, and Colorado State University. The cover crop treatments tested were combinations of grasses, legumes, and brassicas. By the third and fourth years of the study, cover crops increased the biological health of soils. Legumes and their mixture with other cover crops were the most effective in improving soil biology, while oats and their mixtures were most effective in increasing organic matter. Study leader Rajan Ghimire warns, however, that cover crops on dryland require careful planning for species selection and timing, in order not to use so much moisture that the yield of the following crop is reduced.




A study by Pennsylvania State University researchers evaluated more than three decades of crop yield and weather data to predict that warming in the Midwest will cause the best corn and soybean growing area to move north. The study concluded that if warming conditions continue, within 50 years the best conditions for corn and soybean production will shift from Iowa and Illinois to Minnesota and the Dakotas. Researcher Armen Kemanian explains, "It doesn’t mean that Iowa will stop producing crops, but it might mean that Iowa farmers adapt to a warmer climate producing two crops in a year or a different mix of crops instead of the dominant corn-soybean rotation. The changes are likely to be gradual, and farmers and the supply chain should be able to adapt. But things will change."




Cornell University has begun offering the Produce Safety Alliance Grower Training course in an online format. The training course helps produce growers comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act Produce Safety Rule by developing and implementing a farm food safety plan. The online course includes six modules: Introduction to Produce Safety; Worker Health, Hygiene and Training; Soil Amendments; Agricultural Water Part I: Production Water; Agricultural Water Part II: Postharvest Water; and How to Develop a Farm Food Safety Plan. Participants who complete the course will earn a certificate from the Association of Food and Drug Officials and the Produce Safety Alliance.




USDA's Risk Management Agency (RMA) announced flexibility regarding organic certification status to help those impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Approved Insurance Providers may allow organic producers to report acreage as certified organic, or transitioning to organic, for the 2020 crop year if they can show they have requested a written certification from a certifying agent by their policy's acreage reporting date. Policyholders who have requested but not received an organic certificate, organic plan, or other written documentation must notify their insurance agent within 30 days after the certifying agent informs them of their organic plan or certificate status. RMA has also announced a number of other flexibilities for producers, including accepting electronic notifications and reports, extending deadlines, providing additional time and deferring interest on premium and other payments, and allowing the use of self-certification replant inspections for certain crops.




Scientists at Northern Arizona University (NAU) and Purdue University are studying bacterial and fungal communities in soil to understand how microbiomes impact agricultural crops. Specifically, researchers have been exploring how crop rotations affect the microbiome and how that, in turn, affects crop yield. Study results showed that rotating to a closely related crop did not adversely affect yield, and they also revealed that the microbiome legacy of a crop extends into the second crop year. Professor Greg Caporaso at NAU explains his long-term goal of collaborating with organic farmers who are practicing regenerative agriculture techniques. "We can learn how they can use advances in microbiome science to their advantage. I believe that this can help lower their fertilizer costs and water use, and build resiliency and food security in our communities."




With shortages of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) making it difficult for agricultural workers to obtain the equipment needed to apply some pesticides, Oregon IPM Center has published a list of low-risk pesticides. These pesticides can be applied with only basic protective equipment such as a long-sleeved shirt and pants and chemically resistant gloves. In addition to requiring less equipment for application, these low-risk pesticides have the added benefit of reducing human and environmental health risks. Agricultural workers applying these pesticides will need to follow label directions and understand relevant local regulations.




A European project is developing a robot with artificial intelligence to assist small, organic farmers and greenhouse growers, reports Horizon, The EU Research & Innovation Magazine. The robot can assist farmers by taking on mechanically demanding tasks, such as weeding, or help save time by monitoring plants for disease and insect outbreaks. The ROMI project is specifically designed to serve the needs of small farmers who have typically been overlooked by large agricultural equipment manufacturers. The robot was designed to be lightweight and inexpensive, so it's built with off-the-shelf electric motors and open source hardware and software. "This robot is made for small farms, not big farms. There is a huge need for this type of tool," noted one of the researchers involved.




The Small Business Administration opened its Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) portal on May 4, 2020, to agricultural enterprises only. This opening is due to the Paycheck Protection Program and Healthcare Enhancement Act, which provided additional critical funding for farmers and ranchers affected by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. An Economic Injury Disaster Loan advance of up to $10,000 is designed to provide economic relief to businesses that are currently experiencing a temporary loss of revenue. This loan advance will not have to be repaid. Agricultural producers who submitted an EIDL loan application prior to the legislative change will not need to re-apply.




The Asian giant hornet, Vespa mandarinia, has been seen in Washington state, say scientists from Washington State University. The 2-inch-long hornet is a significant predator of honey bees, and its sting can pose a health risk for humans. The insect is native to the forests and low mountains of eastern and southeast Asia, where it feeds on large insects. The hornets attack honey bee hives, killing adult bees and devouring bee larvae and pupae. Washington state fruit growers are concerned that beekeepers will be reluctant to provide bee pollination services in areas where the hornet has been seen. Scientists with the WSDA Pest Program are taking the lead on finding, trapping, and eradicating the pest, and they ask citizens to notify them of sightings using the WA Invasives app.




Researchers from the Food and Health Lab at Montana State University are conducting a survey to understand the role of diversified farming for resilience and vulnerability in the food system. This 15- to 20-minute anonymous, online survey will help the researchers better understand barriers and opportunities for diversified farming, as well as how diversified farming systems respond to stressors such as climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey is open to all producers in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming who have grown crops for at least one growing season.




Rockville, Maryland, restaurants Silver Diner and Silver are offering weekly farm takeout boxes with products from regional farms that were supplying ingredients to restaurants before COVID-19 closures. This week was the first week for the Farm Boxes and they were a huge success, with 400 boxes costing $35 each pre-ordered online in just two hours. The first week's box contained a half gallon of milk, one dozen eggs, 8 ounces of mushrooms, four sweet potatoes, hydro bibb lettuce, two tomatoes, a Vidalia onion, radishes, and asparagus. A press release notes that future boxes will also contain meat. Three different weekly pickup dates are available. Guests can pick up the box as carryout or curbside pickup on the designated day. "When we're finally able to re-open, we may continue this Farm Box program to continue to help the farmers," executive chef and co-founder Ype Von Hengst noted.




Farmers' Legal Action Group published an update of its Farmers' Guide to COVID-19 Relief, dated April 27, 2020. This update reflects program changes and additions signed into law on April 24, 2020, to provide further economic relief from the COVID-19 pandemic. The guide includes programs found in the the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). It is available free online.




The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has assembled a listing of websites, guides, and directories to help people find local food. National resources are listed, as well as state resources sorted by state. The listing supports the current big uptick of interest in buying direct from local farmers, ranchers, and fisherman as a way to support struggling small and mid-sized farmers and ensure family food security.




USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) has announced a pilot program that offers farmers and landowners in the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay regions an opportunity to enroll in a 30-year Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contract. The CLEAR30 program is available in Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. The program signup period will run from July 6 to August 21, 2020. Eligible producers must have expiring Clean Lakes, Estuaries and Rivers (CLEAR) initiative contracts, including continuous CRP Cropland contracts with water-quality practices or marginal pasturelands CRP contracts devoted to riparian buffers, wildlife habitat buffers, or wetland buffers. Annual rental payment for landowners who enroll in CLEAR30 will be equal to the current Continuous CRP annual payment rate plus an inflationary adjustment of 27.5%, since CLEAR30 contracts will be for 30 years—much longer than the 10- to 15-year contracts for Continuous CRP offers.




Organic Farming Research Foundation has introduced a digital toolkit titled Organic Agriculture in the Face of a Changing Climate—a Toolkit for Consumers, Advocates and Policymakers. It's part of a virtual campaign to inspire, educate, and inform people on how best organic practices help mitigate climate change and build resilience, leading to healthy people, ecosystems, and economies. The toolkit includes farmer stories, details on how organic agriculture increases resilience to climate change, and advocacy materials. It's available free online.




An international study published in Advances in Agronomy showed that a uniform seeding pattern resulted in higher yields in 76% of trials, and fewer weeds in 73% of trials. Researchers found that plants equidistant from neighbors both within the row and between rows were able to more quickly establish root systems and produce greater yield. Though this study focused on wheat, maize, and soybean, researchers say the benefits would extend to other crops, as well. They found that the grid pattern also helps plants absorb nutrients, which reduces the environmental impact of nutrient loss and inputs. New precision seeders could be key to utilizing this discovery.




Changing food demand is rocking the U.S. food system, revealing areas of strength and weakness, according to a New Hope Network feature. Diversified small farmers are weathering the challenge better than most, as increased demand for CSA subscriptions is helping to offset decreased restaurant business. Farmers who have a diversity of crops and a range of market outlets are maintaining sales, notes the article, while farms that grow just one crop or have only one customer are struggling. Small farmers are quickly adapting their businesses to meet customer demand, in a way that large operations can't. At least one farmer has taken to neighborhood deliveries with a farm truck akin to an ice cream truck. However, the future is still uncertain for many small operations facing the loss of off-farm incomes and for rural communities dependent on community interaction.




University of California, Davis, released six new varieties of beans for organic growing. The varieties were selectively developed from traditional and heirloom varieties, to give them excellent flavor and aesthetic characteristics, as well as improved yield and disease resistance. The new varieties are UC Tiger's Eye, similar to Tiger's Eye; UC Southwest Gold, similar to Zuni Gold; UC Sunrise, similar to Zuni Gold; UC Southwest Red, similar to Anasazi; UC Four Corners Red, similar to Anasazi; and UC Rio Zape, similar to Rio Zape. Seeds of the new bean varieties are available through the UC Davis Foundation Seed Program.




Erratic weather, including excessive rain and changing growing seasons, is posing a challenge for New Jersey's farmers, according to a feature on Community News. Farmers' fields are too wet to plant, produce quality is low due to water damage and disease, and pest outbreaks are damaging plants. Even experienced farmers are worried about their futures as growing conditions change markedly. Although technologies such as high-tunnel growing offer some hope of mitigating the weather, farmers are still worried about how to cope with unpredictable weather, and observers note a decline in the number of producers and the range of offerings at farmers markets.




American Farmland Trust released Understanding and Activating Non-Operator Landowners: Non-Operator Landowner Survey. The survey focused on lands that are individually or partnership owned, clearing up misconceptions and identifying opportunities to advance conservation on agricultural lands owned by those who do not farm it. The survey found a clear communications gap between renters and landowners. It found that landowners do care about conservation, though they often lack information and access to resources that could help them put values into practice. The survey also revealed that many respondents do not have a succession plan for their land.




USDA Agricultural Marketing Service posted a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) that provides details of how the Farmers to Families Food Box Program will work. The post explains recipient eligibility, box offerings, the ordering process, product specifications, food safety, and how the program will interact with USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) Food Distribution Programs.




Fiber Artist Market announced that due to the to the cancellations of festivals and fairs because of COVID-19, its online markeplace will be free to vendors until further notice. This site supports producers of fiber from animals or plants, farm-related products, independent fiber artists, and related products. Vendors can set up their own stores and sell direct trade to their customers. Fiber Artist Market manages the SEO, advertising, secure payment pathway, and stable bandwidth. Voluntary donations of from sales of 1% to 10% to help with upkeep of the site are appreciated.




A four-year Organic Research and Extension Initiative grant will support a multi-institution team in exploring dual uses for perennial grain, Cornell University announced. Low yields for perennial grain has limited its appeal for farmers, and this current project will develop best-practice growing guidelines for the crop and look at using it as an animal forage to increase profitability. The researchers will test grazing the leaves early in the season, then letting the grain grow to harvest, followed by grazing animals again on the straw. The work is part of a larger effort to build a Northeast niche market for perennial grains.




University of Massachusetts Amherst food scientists are investigating the food safety of using retrofitted washing machines to spin water off of leafy greens after washing them. Although the practice is common among small growers in the Northeast, scientists say that the method has not yet been well tested regarding food safety. The UMass team is working with the University of Vermont, which has provided information for farmers on how to convert washing machines to work as leafy-greens spinners. A grant-funded project now underway will allow researchers to assess microbial contamination potential and communicate the results of that work to farmers.




In an interview featured on the Patagonia blog The Cleanest Line, Australian farmer Charles Massy explains how he came to implement regenerative agriculture practices and what regenerative agriculture has to offer for the environment. Massy discusses the benefits of regenerative agriculture for the land, for the farmer, and for the planet. He highlights the role that regenerative agriculture can have in addressing global warming by sequestering carbon, and says it "has the potential to help us avoid the dangers of the Anthropocene."




Although solar energy production and food production often conflict over limited land resources, The Christian Science Monitor reports that agrivoltaics offers a way to combine both objectives on a single plot of land. Researchers found that both livestock and crops can be raised beneath solar panels, benefiting from both shelter and shade. Although panels must be mounted higher for cattle, sheep seem to be a good fit with solar arrays. Chickens do well in panels' shelter, but don't graze enough to keep the grass down. The American Solar Grazing Association helps to promote the concept nationwide. Meanwhile, research showed that some crops can yield better and use less water when grown below solar panels.




USDA announced the award of $9.5 million in grants through the Specialty Crop Multi-State Program. A total of 11 collaborative, multi-state projects received funding to enhance the competitiveness of U.S. specialty crops. The funded projects address topics such as food safety in cover crop grazing, increasing pomegranate yields, enhancing avocado production, laser scarecrows, and chestnut genetics. A full list of grant recipients and their project descriptions is available on the SCMP Awarded Grants page of the Agricultural Marketing Service website.




USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has introduced a new funding opportunity available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Producers within the Prairie Pothole Region of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, and Montana that have unmanipulated wetlands of two acres or less within working cropland, will be able to sign up for the Prairie Pothole Water Quality and Wildlife Program. NRCS will work with applicants to determine which wetlands are eligible based off the National Wetlands Inventory. The Prairie Pothole Water Quality and Wildlife Program emerged from a North Dakota concept called the Working Wetlands program. Farmers and conservation leaders worked together to find a new approach to conserve small wetlands in working cropland.




CCOF has introduced "We Are Essential," a blog series that explores how the organic community is navigating the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Each week, the blog shares a new story that highlights how organic farms, ranches, and businesses are critical to the global response. For example, a post from Jamie Collins, owner of certified organic Serendipity Farms near Monterey, California, describes measures implemented to promote safety in the field and at the farmers market.




The Grassland Productivity Forecast, or "Grass-Cast," is an online tool developed by USDA scientists to predict whether grasslands are likely to produce above-normal, near-normal, or below-normal amounts of vegetation. Originally designed for ranchers and grassland managers in the Northern Plains, the tool was expanded in 2019 to cover the Southern Plains. In 2020 it will be expanded again to also cover much of New Mexico and Arizona. Additionally, Grass-Cast will now be providing forecasts for individual 6-mile x 6-mile areas, rather than the county-by-county results available in previous years. The first Grass-Cast maps for the 2020 season were released in mid-April and will be updated every two weeks until the end of August to incorporate newly observed weather data.




A blog from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) provides available information on the USDA Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). The program includes $3 billion in funding for direct purchases of meat, dairy, and specialty crops for distribution in Food Boxes. Although details of this program are still emerging, NSAC says it "could be a genuine opportunity for food hubs, community kitchens, and local food producers." USDA Agricultural Marketing Service announced that a Request for Proposal will be published on the program webpage on April 24, 2020, with a proposal submission deadline of May 1, 2020.




The Foundation for Agricultural and Rural Resource Management and Sustainability (FARRMS) is offering a mentorship program for beginning farmers in North Dakota. Farmers choose to participate either as a mentor or mentee. Mentees build a lasting relationship and grow in skills and knowledge. Mentors grow in interpersonal and educational skills after having participated in FARRMS' professional development material and after having guided a mentee in learning for one calendar year. Through this 12-month program, mentors will engage in monthly contact with their mentee for a total of 15 hours of communication, including one site visit each to the mentee's and mentor's farm. Mentors are given a $400 stipend for their time, a training scholarship and workshop opportunities, plus mileage reimbursement for any travel incurred. FARRMS is accepting applications from both mentors and mentees, for three different mentorship cycles.




A new study published by The Ohio State University reveals that western U.S. farmers who rely on snowmelt for irrigation will be among the hardest hit in the world by climate change. An interdisciplinary team of researchers analyzed irrigation water demand and snowmelt runoff over a 30-year period and projected how the timing and magnitude of runoff would change under warming of two to four degrees Celsius. They found that areas globally most at risk of not having enough water available at the right times for irrigation because of changes in snowmelt patterns include the San Joaquin and Colorado River basins. The study suggests that under a 4-degree warming scenario, 14% of irrigation water demand in the San Joaquin and 9% in the Colorado river basin would have to be met by new alternative sources to maintain irrigation water supplies.




Researchers at the University of Copenhagen have found a way to make protein powder using fava beans. They say favas offer a better alternative protein for the environment than soy, in part because they can be cultivated in Denmark and don't have to be imported. The researchers used 'wet fractionation' to remove substances that would otherwise inhibit the digestion of the protein from the fava beans. They report that properly processed fava bean retains a naturally bright colour, along with a neutral taste and good texture that suit the product to food manufacturing.




PASA Sustainable Agriculture announced that it will host at least four weekly virtual forums for farmers and markets as people work together to adapt operations and business plans during the pandemic. These lunchtime, one-hour forums will focus on a different theme each week while still leaving time for general updates and questions. Topics will be determined in advance of each forum considering timely issues and frequently asked questions. If you'd like to suggest a forum topic, email covid@pasafarming.org.




University of Maryland Extension has posted information and resources for agritourism operators on how COVID-19 protocols will affect pick-your-own operations. Pick-your-own and other food marketing operations are deemed as essential businesses and can be open, although agri-tainment enterprises should not be open at this time. Communication of COVID-19 protocols to farm customers and employees is key, says the post. The post offers examples of communications from u-pick farms and also provides links to recommended practices and sources of further information.




The Spring Meeting of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) will be held virtually. The agenda includes two afternoons of public comment via webinar, on April 21 and 23, 2020. Speakers for these comment periods signed up in advance, and will receive notice of when they are speaking. The NOSB public meeting will be held on April 29 and 30, 2020. Members of the public will be able to hear the live comments, Board deliberations, and see all slides used. Only Members of the Board may ask questions. Video will not be used in order to maximize accessibility and minimize potential bandwidth issues for board members and the public. Agendas are posted online.




The National Young Farmers Coalition has released a Guide to Direct Sales Software Platforms. The eight-page publication includes an overview chart and detailed listings comparing farm-specific software platforms that support direct-to-consumer sales. The publication also contains links to related educational resources. The PDF is available free online.




USDA's new Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) will take several actions to assist farmers, ranchers, and consumers in response to the COVID-19 national emergency. CFAP will use the funding and authorities provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES), the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), and other USDA existing authorities. The program includes two major elements to achieve these goals: Direct Support to Farmers and Ranchers and USDA Purchase and Distribution. The direct support program will provide $16 billion based on actual losses for agricultural producers where prices and market supply chains have been impacted and will assist producers with additional adjustment and marketing costs resulting from lost demand and short-term oversupply for the 2020 marketing year caused by COVID-19. For purchases, USDA will partner with regional and local distributors to purchase $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy, and meat. Distributors and wholesalers will then provide a pre-approved box of fresh produce, dairy, and meat products to food banks, community, and faith-based organizations.




A Greener World is advising livestock producers who are experiencing market collapse to "look objectively at their own unique situation in order to make realistic and honest decisions for the future." In a post titled "Farming in the Shadow of Coronavirus: Plan and plan – and then plan some more," the organization offers a series of questions to guide livestock growers through considering alternative markets and risk factors and come up with a plan for the future.




The Center for Rural Affairs (CFRA) is reminding farmers that they can still apply for the federal Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), although the application process has changed to allow for appropriate social distancing and improved safety for both NRCS customers and staff. CFRA has compiled tips and advice for farmers and ranchers seeking to apply. CFRA's post explains how to initiate and advance the application process remotely.




Mercaris is making available a new special report, titled 2020 COVID-19: U.S. Organic Commodity Market & Risks Outlook. Mercaris conducted an industry-wide research initiative identifying the risks stemming from COVID-19, focusing on how and when they may impact organic commodity markets and supply chains in the year to come. This report addresses the impact of COVID-19 on producers as they look ahead to spring planting, risks to grain marketing with uncertain demand and supply chains, changes to the landscape of organic consumer demand, how macroeconomic shifts could shape organic imports, and the uncertainty surrounding the 2020 fall harvest. The report is available free online.




Minnesota Department of Agriculture is surveying the state's organic farmers. The survey asks certified organic farmers to share both their opinions and experiences and includes 27 questions about profitability, production costs and challenges, research needs, marketing, and outlook. "The insights organic farmers share helps us focus programs and resources on areas that will make a difference to their bottom line," said Assistant Commissioner Patrice Bailey. "Organic market demand is very strong, and we want to do all we can to help existing and new organic farmers capitalize on that fact."




NCAT is moving forward with accepting applications from military veterans for the week-long Armed to Farm (ATF) training in Fayetteville, Arkansas, currently scheduled for June 15-19, 2020. We are monitoring the COVID-19 situation and following guidance on travel, social distancing, and group gatherings. If it is not yet safe to hold the training in June, we will postpone the event. ATF allows veterans and their spouses to experience sustainable, profitable small-scale farming enterprises and explore agriculture as a career. ATF's engaging blend of farm tours, hands-on experience, and interactive classroom instruction gives participants a strong foundation in the basic principles of operating a sustainable farm. All military veterans are welcome to apply by May 8, 2020.




The closure of restaurants and schools across the nation has left the farmers that usually supply them with unsold product that they are destroying, reports The New York Times. Products such as milk, eggs, and vegetables are being destroyed even as some areas experience shortages at the retail level. Producers set up to process and package for wholesalers don't have the infrastructure or connections to serve the demands of the retail market, they say. Additionally, the retail market consumes less vegetables than the restaurant market. Though some producers have donated their products to food banks and other outlets, these often don't have the capacity to deal with a large amount of fresh food, and donations aren't sustainable for farms in the longer term.




USDA unveiled The COVID-19 Federal Rural Resource Guide, a resource for rural leaders on federal programs that can be used by rural communities, organizations, and individuals impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The 8-page PDF guide lists resources for rural entities including agricultural producers and ranchers, nonprofits, cooperatives, and rural individuals. The document also contains links to federal agency COVID-19 resources.




Minnesota Department of Agriculture announced the award of 12 Agricultural Growth, Research, and Innovation (AGRI) Urban Agriculture Grants to encourage agricultural education for urban youth and urban agriculture community development. This third year of the program awarded a total of $280,500. "The recipients for this year's grants will use their awards to expand on agriculture projects within their communities," said Assistant Commissioner Patrice Bailey. "These projects not only allow Minnesota's youth to gain hands-on experiences in agriculture and food production, they also strengthen the food system as a whole within each community." A complete list of recipients is available online.




Project for Public Spaces posted a feature calling for greater policy support of farmers markets. The authors note the important role that farmers markets play in bringing healthy food to people, especially customers in food deserts who have no other access to fresh food. They also explain the economic role that local farmers markets supplied by small farmers play in keeping money in the local economy. Conflicting regulatory authority has led to a patchwork of policies affecting farmers markets. This article stresses the importance of market relationships with local regulators and showcases some of the safety innovations implemented by markets across the country that have convinced regulators that markets should stay open.




The Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is offering a new Livestock Compass spreadsheet. The Compass Toolbox project has created a range of whole-farm profit management tools to help growers improve on-farm decision making and financial farm planning. The Compass Toolbox's comprehensive spreadsheets facilitate the analysis of farm records using cost, sales, and labor data. The spreadsheet tools calculate the costs of production and the profitability of different market channels using a farmer's financial data. The improved Livestock Compass for meat and egg producers is available online.




The MOSES Organic Farming Podcast is featuring an episode on Farmer Mental Health in this Crisis. The hour-long podcast notes that with the incredible uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are experiencing mental health problems for the first time, and the added stress is worsening many peoples' underlying mental health conditions. The host converses with Emily Krekelberg, head of Minnesota Extension's Rural Stress Task Force, and farmer and farm advocate Rick Adamski of Seymour, Wisconsin. They have personal experience with mental health issues and draw from those experiences to help others. These conversations can help you recognize mental health issues in yourself or others and give you suggestions on how to address them.




Regeneratively farmed seaweed offers a path to waterfront economic development, according to a feature in Cornell Small Farms Quarterly, written by NCAT's Lee Rinehart. The story explains how Todd Jagoutz, co-founder of Sea Greens Farms, began a seaweed farming and marketing business focused on creating a "blue green economy." It also briefly outlines the process of seaweed farming and provides some pointers for getting started.




The Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has updated its series of Price Tags/Cost Tags. These tags describe many of the hidden costs of commonly eaten foods and encourage eaters to seek out more sustainable alternatives. Updated tags address apples, chicken, dairy products, eggs, hamburger, potatoes, and tomatoes. Available tags in the series also include sweet corn, strawberries, beer, coffee, soda pop, and water. The Price Tags/Cost Tags are available as PDF files that can be printed and copied for distribution. A companion piece, the Power Eaters Guide to Organic and Sustainable Food, provides background information on sustainable eating.




The Equitable Food Initiative (EFI) has curated a library of best-in-class resources and practices that provides for employee communication during the current pandemic. EFI is a workforce development and skill-building organization that partners with growers, farmworkers, retailers, and consumer advocacy groups to promote responsible labor practices and food safety. Worker-manager EFI leadership teams have been trained in communication and problem-solving skills to comply with EFI standards. During this crisis, these teams have come together to adapt public health guidance to the realities of modern produce production. EFI has actively worked with its certified growers to learn from their worker-manager teams and generate educational materials to be shared directly with fresh produce growers and farmworkers.




A new study led by researchers at the University of Virginia and co-authored by The Organic Center shows that organic farming practices can help prevent the global accumulation of reactive nitrogen, and scale back the presence of one of the major contributors to climate change. The research, published in Environmental Research Letters, confirms that the biggest difference between organic and conventional farming is that organic farming helps reduce the buildup of reactive nitrogen by using recycled nitrogen sources like compost and other natural soil amendments. Across all food groups, organic production releases around 50% less new reactive nitrogen to the environment. As a companion piece to the published scientific study, The Organic Center has developed a report titled How organic can help curb nitrogen pollution: the most overlooked cause of climate change…and most other environmental disasters that succinctly describes the findings and puts them into perspective with other research.




A group of California organic vegetable farmers is sharing their experiences with cover crops and reduced tillage as part of a Conservation Innovation Grant, reports University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources. The project highlighting crop production system alternatives had intended to host a field day in March, showcasing Teixeira & Sons Farm's 30 years of using cover crops. Research showed that a mowed and mulched cover crop on the surface of the soil helped prevent as much as five inches of moisture from evaporating. Systems with no-till and cover crops have a 20% higher water-holding capacity. The group of organic farmers is coordinating a number of cover crop, tillage, and mulch experiments.




A Purdue University monthly survey of farmer sentiment revealed that concerns over the impact of the global pandemic on the agricultural economy weighed heavily on farmers' minds. A mid-March survey of 400 U.S. agricultural producers caused the Purdue University/CME Group Ag Economy Barometer to record its largest one-month drop in sentiment. Seventy-four percent of respondents to the survey said they were either "fairly worried" (34%) or "very worried" (40%) about the impact of the coronavirus on their farm's profitability this year. That sentiment also spilled over into their perceptions of financial performance, with 40%t of respondents expecting a worse year compared with 2019.




A Purdue University study revealed that E. coli could be present in hydroponic and aquaponic growing systems. Although these systems were thought to provide little opportunity for pathogens to contaminate the edible parts of plants, testing in this study found E.coli in both types of systems after two months. "Many people think that there is no chance that E. coli could be present in these systems and that risk of contamination is low," said corresponding author Hye-Ji Kim. "Our findings suggest there is some potential for food safety concerns. We're not saying that these foods are unsafe, but that it’s important to handle these plants properly and carefully."




A feature in Civil Eats reports on the recent boom in online food purchasing and how it is affecting small farmers. With more shoppers buying online and requesting delivery, more small farms are moving to online marketing. While some farms are struggling with transitioning to online sales, farms and local food aggregators that had already developed an online sales platform are seeing rapidly increasing sales. Yet this growth can bring challenges of its own, as local food providers struggle to add delivery staff and create delivery routes that maximize efficiency and decrease costs.




A study published by the University of California, Davis, showed that whole-orchard recycling, or grinding and chipping old almond trees and returning them to the soil, had benefits over the standard practice of burning old trees. Compared to burning, the recycling of an almond orchard's woody biomass resulted in carbon sequestration of five tons per hectare, increased water-use efficiency, and a 19% higher crop yield. The study was published in PLoS ONE.




The Land Stewardship Project (LSP) has created an online Farmer-Eater Exchange to help connect its food-producing Upper Midwest members with customers. Some farmer-members have lost access to customers due to the closing of restaurants, universities, K-12 schools, co-ops, and other market options. LSP's online clearinghouse of member-farmers who have products available features farmers who are producing safe, healthy food using regenerative methods. LSP will be updating this clearinghouse on a regular basis in the immediate future.




Under the Paycheck Protection Program administered by the Small Business Administration, farmers with fewer than 500 employees and earning less than $1 million in annual revenues can receive federal emergency relief. Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA) explains that eligible operations, including farms, can receive an emergency loan equal to 2.5 times their average monthly payroll costs. Any loan proceeds used to cover payroll costs, mortgage interest, rent, and utilities during the eight-week period after the loan is made can be forgivable. A post from CSFA offers instructions on how to apply and details on how the program works.




USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) seeks subject matter experts as peer reviewers to objectively evaluate grant applications against the published criteria in its competitive grant programs' Requests for Applications. Programs seeking grant reviewers include the Farmers Market Promotion Program, Local Food Promotion Program, Regional Food Systems Partnerships, and others. Reviewers should expect to commit approximately six weeks during the summer to complete the reviews, by phone and e-mail. Non-federal reviewers will receive a stipend. Application instructions are available online.




A new study by Penn State researchers showed that using no-till and reduced-tillage production methods on soybeans can achieve yields similar to tillage-based production at competitive costs. Researchers compared tillage-based soybean production and reduced-tillage soybean production after corn, using cover crops. The reduced-tillage soybean sequence resulted in 50% less soil disturbance and had lower input costs, which offset its slightly lower yields. Researchers hope the finding will help promote more domestic production of no-till organic soybeans.




Penn State is reminding farmers to be especially conscious of safety with children home on the farm this spring. Nearly a quarter of Pennsylvania farm fatalities in 2019 involved youth under the age of 18, and this year more children are on the farm while agricultural operations are ongoing. Agricultural safety experts stress the importance of assigning children age-appropriate tasks that they understand how to do safely, making sure younger children are safe and visible, and preventing spread of disease through hygiene and social distancing.