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The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) will launch an online information clearinghouse in 2021 to promote solar-energy development on agricultural lands while protecting—and even improving—those lands' agricultural capacity. NCAT was selected for a $1.6 million cooperative agreement from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop the Agri-Solar Clearinghouse (ASC), a national information hub and professional network that connects researchers, technology companies, solar developers, landowners, farmers, and consumers. ASC will showcase and develop practical, affordable solar-energy solutions through research, success stories, case studies, and multi-media outreach. The project will also connect participants through an online forum, mailing list, workshops, and farm tours to facilitate peer-to-peer exchanges and mentoring. ASC is expected go live in the summer of 2021.




Northeast Montana farmers Shauna and Terry Farver began offering value-added baking and meal mixes four years ago, incorporating wheat and lentils grown on their farm. The Prairie Star reports that more recently, they've developed a snack product made from lentils grown at their farm. Over time, the business has grown to have its own dedicated building and employee. This past year, Farver Farms purchased a restaurant that serves products from their farm in the local community. The business continues to develop, with new flavors and products coming out in the near future.




USDA has launched a new AskUSDA Contact Center program. The AskUSDA Contact Center will serve as the "one front door" for phone, chat, and web inquires, transforming how the public interacts with USDA and providing an enhanced experience for the public. USDA says the new AskUSDA Contact Center assures that farmers, researchers, travelers, parents, and more have efficient access to the information and resources they need. The public can contact AskUSDA by phone at (833) ONE-USDA with representatives available 9:00am-5:30pm EST weekdays. The website (https://ask.usda.gov/) is available 24/7 and includes live chat agents available 10:00am-6:00pm EST on weekdays. Inquiries can also be sent via email at any time to askusda@usda.gov.




The Eat Local First Collaborative has launched a new Washington Food & Farm Finder, a comprehensive and mobile-friendly searchable database connecting residents with more than 1,700 sustainable and organic farms, farmers markets, and food businesses around the state. Eat Local First Collaborative is a collective of food system organizations from around Washington working together to merge various online food-and farm-finding resources into a single easy-to-use platform. By offering free listings on the Washington Food & Farm Finder through 2021, the group aims to increase accessibility to consumer and wholesale markets for farms that otherwise might not be able to access such support.




The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) announced vacancies on the Certified Farmers Market Advisory Committee. This committee advises the CDFA secretary on all matters pertaining to the Direct Marketing Program, including legislation, regulations, enforcement, and administrative policies and procedures pertaining to the direct marketing of California-grown agricultural products at the approximately 650 Certified Farmers Markets in thee state. The current vacancies include producers or representatives of agricultural organizations that represent producers; alternate producers or organizations that represent producers; and alternate market operators or their representatives. Applications will be accepted until the positions are filled.




Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) is seeking an agricultural producer to fill a vacant seat on its Administrative Council and provide a "voice" for the direction of sustainability across the Southern region. The Administrative Council guides the vision of the SARE program, sets goals related to sustainable agriculture, oversees the review of grant calls for proposals, evaluates projects, and serves as SARE ambassadors. The three-year term would begin in February 2021. Nominations from all 13 states in the southern region, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands will be considered. The deadline to apply or nominate someone is December 31, 2020.




The CSA Innovation Network has assembled a renewals promotional package of social media and print templates for use by Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) operations. The package is available for free online download. It includes shareable and customizable Facebook and Instagram posts, printable flyers, and other graphics that farmers can edit and make their own when encouraging members to renew their support. CSAs can use the materials in this package to promote early membership renewals to customers and followers.




Family Farm Action Alliance, in partnership with Open Markets Institute, has released a new report, The Food System: Concentration and Its Impacts. According to a press release, the report provides the latest data on agricultural market shares in the United States, as part of a holistic and comprehensive analysis of the shortcomings of our overly concentrated food supply chain. It also includes proposals for decentralizing our agri-food system. The 28-page report is available online.




Northeast SARE reports that recipients of one of its Farmer Grants tested alternative planting dates for strawberries on a West Virginia farm. Kent and Jennifer Gilkerson of Sunset Berry Farm and Produce tested three different planting dates for strawberries in plasticulture, beginning two weeks after the current recommended August planting date. Plantings on September 5 and September 20 had favorable branch crown development and fruit production. As a result of the project, the Gilkersons have changed their strawberry planting dates to the first week of September. This helps them spread labor to a less-busy time, and helped them have healthier strawberries with less weed pressure and lower labor requirements for removing runners and weeding.




The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) announced that it has updated its publication Farmers' Guide to the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). This guide is a resource for farmers who want to learn more about CSP or who are thinking about enrolling in the program. It has been updated to reflect recent changes in the program. The guide helps walk farmers through the application and implementation processes for CSP, and the updated version contains a full list of CSP practices and profiles of farmers who use CSP. The guide is available free online.




A comprehensive University of Illinois study looked at water withdrawals in U.S. agriculture and food production from 1995 to 2010, and found an 8.3% decline in use of water for irrigation during this period. However, the savings were not evenly distributed across crop types. For example, oilseed crops experienced a 98% increase in water demand over the period, even as water use in cereal grains, fruits, and vegetables declined due to irrigation efficiency improvements. This analysis considered water use at all stages in the supply chain.




Farmers for America is a documentary film directed by Graham Meriwether and narrated by Mike Rowe that celebrates young and beginning farmers and the opportunities agriculture has to restore rural communities. NCAT joined with the National Young Farmers Coalition, National Farmers Union, the Farmer Veteran Coalition, and other national outreach partners in promoting showings of the film. During the next two months, 25% of PBS affiliate stations across the country will air the film. A schedule of broadcast dates is available online, as is a trailer for the film.




A story from Harvest Public Media highlights the difficulties that female farmers can have in finding tools and equipment designed for them, or that are practical for them to use. Many farming tools are scaled for taller heights and upper body strength typical of men. With numbers of female farmers increasing—to roughly 36% of all farmers—the issue is receiving more attention and becoming ever more relevant. At least one company, Green Heron Tools, is focusing on researching and designing tools and machinery that are easier for women to use.




Organic produce company Grimmway Farms has donated $5 million to Cal Poly College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences to establish an on-campus Center for Organic Production and Research. According to a press release, Cal Poly will expand its emphasis on applied research in organic production and soil health by providing a unique, collaborative platform for academia, industry, and government from across California and beyond to come together to advance the organic industry. "Our partnership with Grimmway will facilitate bringing increased science and technology to the production of organic food," said College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences Dean Andrew Thulin. "Cal Poly is at the forefront of using the power of collaboration to solve real world problems. This new center will integrate the greatest talents in academia, private industry, government and a wide range of disciplines to benefit the organic industry as a whole."




In honor of its 75th anniversary, Noble Research Institute has posted a collection of 75 facts about beef. The facts range from trivia about the history of the beef industry in the United States to statistics on the current beef market. They also address the environmental impact of beef production, the connection between beef cattle stewardship and soil health, and details on how cattle production can contribute to carbon capture and wildlife habitat.




An eight-year study in Latin America demonstrated that in-kind payments incentivized farmers to conserve agrobiodiversity, reports the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). The innovative payment scheme for ecosystem services successfully encouraged farmers to cultivate and conserve agrobiodiversity in exchange for items ranging from fertilizer to furniture. In four Latin American countries, affordable in-kind payment schemes encouraged farmers to cultivate threatened varieties of important crops such as quinoa and maize. The programs appealed to both farmers and policymakers. Researchers report that because the programs use awards that are requested by communities, they create conditions to incentivize extremely high compliance by farmers.




Hawaii-based agroforestry innovators Permanent Agriculture Resources (PAR) and Forest Agriculture Research Center (FARM Center) have announced the launch of a free online platform called the Agroforestry Design Tool to assist planners and growers in developing agroforestry plans. The Agroforestry Design Tool guides the user in selecting from a range of planting patterns suitable for multistory agroforestry. The user can then select species from a list of more than 200 fruit, nut, timber, native, and culturally significant plants from throughout the Pacific Islands. Finally, the tool provides visualizations and an animation of the growth of the user's agroforest, as well as a summary report in PDF. The tool also assists users in meeting standards for multistory agroforestry set by USDA NRCS and in meeting a standard for regenerative agroforestry.




The Soil Health Academy instructed by Ray Archuleta, Gabe Brown, Shane New, and Allen Williams, Ph.D. will offer an online version of their educational program as "Regen Ag 101." Regen Ag 101 is an online, self-paced, interactive media experience that contains video lectures, case studies, and supporting research from Soil Health Academy live workshops. The course consists of nine documentary instruction modules. Pre-enrollment is open, with a course launch date set for December 2020.




USDA announced that signup for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) will be open from January 4, 2021, to February 12, 2021. Through CRP, farmers and ranchers establish long-term, resource-conserving plant species, such as approved grasses or trees, to control soil erosion, improve water quality, and enhance wildlife habitat on cropland. Signup for CRP Grasslands runs from March 15, 2021, to April 23, 2021. CRP Grasslands helps landowners and operators protect grassland, including rangeland, pastureland, and certain other lands while maintaining the areas as grazing lands. Both programs are competitive and provide annual rental payments for land devoted to conservation purposes.




Farmers' Legal Action Group (FLAG) has published the Farmers' Guide to Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2 (CFAP 2), a direct payment program for farmers run by USDA. The 96-page PDF is a detailed explanation of how CFAP 2 works. Potential applicants should be aware that CFAP 2 is a completely different program than the first CFAP program. The introductory chapter describes very briefly the outlines of CFAP 2 and its background. Later chapters describe eligibility rules for CFAP 2 and how USDA says the program will work, including how payments will be calculated. The program application deadline is December 11, 2020.




The Targeted Grazing Committee of the Society for Range Management is developing a certification program for targeted graziers, to ensure that they are knowledgeable, reliable, and exhibit ethical business and livestock-management practices. The certification will help natural resource managers differentiate practitioners in order to employ service providers (graziers) who offer a defined standard of service. The certification program involves a written exam, letters of testimonial, and submission of a portfolio of photos or video. Certified graziers must maintain membership in the Society for Range Management and pay a $100 initial, non-refundable application fee. Certification of targeted grazers will begin in 2021.




The South Dakota Department of Agriculture (SDDA) announced that it has received final approval from USDA for the South Dakota Industrial Hemp Plan. SDDA is taking actions to promulgate emergency administrative rules to establish the program in accordance with state law and the USDA-approved plan. Applicants for processor licenses and grower licenses will be able to apply as soon as those rules become effective. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture is accepting online applications until April 30, 2021, from individuals and businesses wishing to grow or process hemp in Minnesota in 2021. This will be the first year that the program will operate under a new, federally approved state plan that governs production and regulation.




CSA Innovation Network has released Farmer to Farmer eCommerce Platforms Report, a comparison of farm-specific sales platforms. The 11-page report includes includes details on pricing and features of different platforms and provides farmer ratings for the five most popular of those farm-specific sales platforms, plus four additional platforms that are not farm-specific but are used by many farmers. The information was compiled through a national survey of farmers conducted by the CSA Innovation Network in 2020 that received 170 responses.




The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) and partners at the University of Minnesota received a Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program grant through USDA to develop a roadmap for strengthening statewide support for small- and medium-sized agricultural producers in Minnesota. This project will engage producers in direct-to-consumer sales, like farmers markets, U-Pick, and CSAs, as well as those engaged in wholesale markets, such as selling to schools, grocery stores, restaurants, and through distributors. MDA will work with the UMN's College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS), Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture, UMN Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships, and the nonprofit Renewing the Countryside to gather currently uncollected market data and identify how MDA's promotion and regulation programming can best serve the needs of Minnesota producers that sell in local and regional markets.




Native American Agriculture Fund has released a 19-page publication on Reimagining Native Food Economies. It offers a vision for native food and agriculture infrastructure rebuilding and recovery. The publication asserts that a regional food system grounded in Native culture, that provides economic opportunities and diversification for Tribes and producers to feed their communities, is necessary. The authors propose building 10 regional food hubs in Indian Country to provide necessary processing and distribution infrastructure for food grown and raised by Tribal farmers and ranchers. They note that these hubs could also serve as critical resources to broader rural communities.




Researchers who analyzed 13 years of data from California's agriculturally productive Kern County discovered that less-diverse croplands led to greater variability in pesticide use, as well as to higher peak pesticide application. Data supported the theory that diversity promotes stability in biological systems. "We find increasing cropland in the landscape and larger fields generally increase the level and variability of pesticides, while crop diversity has the opposite effect," the study authors wrote in the journal Nature Sustainability. Smaller fields have more perimeter area that can serve as beneficial insect and crop-pest predator habitat, and these pest predators were able to access the entire field when it was a small field. Also, having different crops in proximity prevented insect pests from multiplying unimpeded.




The University of Illinois has released a new review that shows some crops, including corn, cannot distribute their resources effectively to take advantage of extra CO2 in the atmosphere. Although some types of crop plants, including soybeans, rice, canola, and all trees, become more productive under elevated CO2 levels, other types of crops, including corn, sorghum, and sugarcane, are no more productive with more CO2. Scientists say that these plants would have to be engineered to allow them to have more productivity under conditions likely to exist as atmospheric CO2 levels increase.




USDA has mailed ballots for the Farm Service Agency (FSA) county committee elections to eligible farmers and ranchers across the country. To be counted, ballots must be returned to the local FSA county office or postmarked by December 7, 2020. Each committee has three to 11 elected members who serve three-year terms of office, and at least one seat is up for election each year. County committee members help FSA make important decisions on its commodity support programs, conservation programs, indemnity and disaster programs, and emergency programs and eligibility. Producers must participate or cooperate in an FSA program to be eligible to vote in the county committee election. A cooperating producer is someone who has provided information about their farming or ranching operation(s) but may not have applied or received FSA program benefits.




USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is awarding more than $14.6 million in Conservation Innovation Grants. They support 24 projects to develop innovative systems, tools, and technologies for production and conservation on agricultural lands. Grants this year focused on five priority areas: air quality, water quality, water reuse, energy conservation, and wildlife habitat. A complete list of funded projects is available online. Highlights include a Practical Farmers of Iowa project that will increase the adoption of fertilizer and manure management practices that result in lower greenhouse gas emissions from small grains production and a grant to a coalition involving groups from Montana to New Mexico that has a three-year project to reduce conflicts between people and predators.




Research at the University of New Hampshire showed that nearly half of New Hampshire restaurants would prefer to purchase their food directly from farmers in support of local food systems. The researchers found 44% of restaurants want to purchase food directly farmers if no other constraints exist, such as seasonal availability and delivery issues. The study also revealed that 37% of restaurants already procure food directly from producers. "Overall, buyers are more likely to purchase local if they feel they are socially or economically benefiting their community," the researchers found. Buyers were most interested in purchasing locally produced vegetables, fresh-cut produce, local cheese, and local beef, and least interested in grains, wine, and yogurt. All buyers cited taste as important or very important, also noting quality, cost, and product marketability as important. Nearly all respondents said consistent supply and quality was important or very important, according to a press release.




The Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program is seeking individuals to serve on its Administrative Council. The 20-member governance committee sets program policies for Northeast SARE, participates in the grant review process and makes final award decisions for all grant programs. Northeast SARE is seeking to fill three open seats representing: agricultural lending and farm financial management; non-profit organizations engaged in environmental work; and for-profit agricultural businesses/industry. Interested individuals should submit a letter by December 4, 2020, describing their interest in serving on the council, a resume, and a short description of the business or organization where they work.




The University of New Hampshire researchers received a grant from USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture that will explore how forage legumes could help the region's organic dairies improve production efficiency. The $2 million grant will support testing on maximizing forage yields and identifying best practices for implementing forage-rich diets. The forage legumes could help organic dairy producers reduce imported feed inputs, improve milk quality, and access premium specialty markets for grass-fed dairy products.




In northern New York, Cornell University Cooperative Extension researchers worked with farmers to identify optimal sampling levels for seven key soil health indicators. The project, funded by a Northern New York Agricultural Development Program (NNYADP) grant, will help more accurately assess the restorative effectiveness of farms' efforts to improve soil health over time. In this research soil-sample analysis determined the number of samples needed to detect a 10% improvement in soil health based on soil pH, soil organic matter, surface hardness, subsurface hardness, within-field phosphorus, aggregate stability, and soil respiration. The number of samples needed varied widely across the indicators under evaluation. The least variable soil health indicator within a field in this project was soil pH. The most variable within-field soil health indicator was soil phosphorus. As a general guideline, based on this project's findings, the researchers suggest a minimum of 40 to 50 sub-sample locations per field for farmers who wish to begin monitoring soil health status and improvements over time on a broad scale. To evaluate individual soil health components, more intensive sampling can be done.




University of Missouri Extension reminds farmers in crisis that they can take advantage of a 24-hour hotline for stress counseling as well as information and referrals. Through the North Central Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Center, the Iowa Concern Hotline is available to residents of 12 north-central U.S. states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Call 800-447-1985 or go to extension.iastate.edu/iowaconcern to access the service. Individuals can also email experts questions related to finance, legal issues, stress, and crisis and disaster. Calls, chats and emails are confidential, and language interpretation services are available. Missouri also offers state-specific resources, including Show-Me Strong Farm Families on Facebook.




American Farmland Trust is providing online access to the methods, tools, and training resources it used in its Quantifying the Economic and Environmental Benefits of Soil Health project to develop case studies featuring successful farmers. Specifically, partners will be able to use AFT's Retrospective Soil Health Economic Calculator (R-SHEC) Tool, an 11-tab Excel-spreadsheet tool, to evaluate the costs and benefits of soil health conservation practices, including no-till or reduced tillage, cover cropping, nutrient management, and conservation crop rotation. The tool presents the net economic benefits in a partial budget analysis table and an estimate of the Return on Investment, or ROI, in the soil health practices. Available materials also include instructions on using the R-SHEC and how to obtain the data needed to run the tool. There is also information on correlating results with calculations from USDA's Nutrient Tracking Tool and COMET-Farm Tool.




Heroes to Hives is a Michigan State University Extension program that seeks to address financial and personal wellness of veterans through free professional training and community development centered around beekeeping. Veterans leave the program with a broad depth of beekeeping knowledge, as well as personal and professional relationships that open up new opportunities and ensure long-term peer support. Students learn to understand the importance of pollinators in U.S. agriculture and stand to protect managed honey bees through small-scale sustainable beekeeping operations. Registration for the 2021 program is open until February 28, 2021.




The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences reports that an international research group found that increasing diversity in crop production systems benefits ecosystem services and biodiversity without compromising crop yields. Researchers analyzed nearly 42,000 comparisons between diversified and simplified agricultural practices, and found that both above- or below-ground diversification were beneficial for the environment. Management practices that contribute to diversity include growing multiple crops in a rotation, planting flower strips within fields, reducing tillage, adding organic amendments that enrich soil life, and establishing or restoring species-rich habitat in the landscape surrounding crop fields. Additionally, diversification practices maintained or even increased crop yields in a majority of cases.




Research from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, published in People and Nature, indicates that eating more food from tropical trees has the potential to improve both human and planetary health. "Planting the right type of trees in the right place can provide nutritious foods to improve diets sustainably while providing other valuable ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration," notes the study's lead author. Scientists point to overconsumption of wheat, rice, sugarcane, and maize as contributing to climate change and loss of biodiversity, and they contend that tropical tree fruits offer more nutrients. They call for scaling up agroforestry systems to produce more and healthier food, while simultaneously diversifying income sources for smallholder farmers. Crops like avocado, mango, Brazil nuts, and dozens more are options.




The Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission released a new video in its nine-part Farms in Focus Series showcasing Southern Maryland's diverse agricultural profile. This video explores the technology, skill, and artistry involved in raising plants and flowers through the experience of three growers engaged in different cultivation and business models—small and large. Part of the video features Priscilla Wentworth Leitch, of Anchored Roots Farm in St. Mary's, who explains how she and another small farm are partnering to grow a combined floral inventory to supply area florists and meet the growing consumer demand for locally grown flowers for weddings and other special occasions.




USDA is amending the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances for organic crops and handling, based on public input and the October 2018 National Organic Standards Board recommendations. The change allows non-organic tamarind seed gum to be used as an ingredient in organic handling when an organic form is not commercially available, effective December 7, 2020. This published rule does not finalize the proposed actions on natamycin or blood meal made with sodium citrate.




Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT) is accepting applications for its Humane Farming Mentorship Program until December 31, 2020. The one-year program, from the end of February 2021 to February 2022, is for beginning livestock and poultry farmers seeking personalized guidance from an experienced farmer. Farmers who currently raise animals and have at least one year of farming experience are eligible to participate as mentees, for $200. Mentors are also sought. Ideally, a mentor will have 10 years of experience or more raising animals, and mentors must use humane animal management practices. Mentors are compensated $300 for participating. This program is open to farmers in the continental United States, and an online info session is offered on December 9, 2020.




Livestock producers in the southwestern United States are faced with rising temperatures that require them to adapt to keep farming practical, reports The Guardian. Producers in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, and California are utilizing cooling methods such as shade shelters and sprinklers to keep livestock cool enough to be productive. Cattle ranchers, meanwhile, are developing new breeds that are less heat-sensitive. However, in some locations, the cost of heat mitigation for livestock can outstrip the profitability of raising stock.




A new report from CoBank's Knowledge Exchange, Field of Agronomic Dreams: Rethinking the Farm Supply Co-Op to Drive Value, suggests that it may be time for farm supply cooperatives to rethink their business model, in the face of current challenges. Price competition, manufacturer ability to sell direct to farmers, and large farms contracting directly for services that coops used to provide are all challenges facing farm supply cooperatives, according to the report. However, the report says farm supply cooperatives can create additional value by pursing economies of scale, diversifying product offerings and revenue sources, and simplifying operations. One opportunity could be partnerships with emerging tech companies to help guide farmers through digital transformation.




A newly revised bulletin from SARE, A Whole-Farm Approach to Managing Pests, discusses ecological approaches to pest management and highlights cases of farmers using innovative methods to manage pests. The publication describes ecological pest management strategies that focus on strengthening natural relationships throughout the farm to reduce pest pressures. These holistic strategies emphasize knowledge of cropping systems, biodiversity, and farm resource management. Part one examines how biodiversity and biological control drive management practices that can boost the natural defenses of your farm. The second part puts those tools into practice by providing reliable and profitable strategies to successfully manage pests. The 16-page publication is available free in print and for download.




Western Illinois University Assistant Professor Shelby Henning leads a project that is testing varieties of peppers and tomatoes to determine which do best in high tunnels. Researchers planted 22 varieties of tomatoes and 15 varieties of peppers in a high tunnel facility at the University's agricultural research farm this season. The results will be published in the Illinois Fruit and Vegetable News a free-access, online newsletter published by the University of Illinois for commercial growers.




USDA recently announced the latest round of Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) grant awards. This program has been the only federal program dedicated to training the next generation of farmers during the past decade. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coaltion (NSAC) notes that the 48 new grants that will invest over $16 million over the next three years actually represent a decline in funding below the program's peak in 2014. Approximately 28% of BFRDP applicants received funding, and NSAC offers an analysis of award trends, along with several examples of projects funded this year.




The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has awarded nearly $25.4 million in grant funding to dairy methane reduction projects across the state. These projects, part of the Dairy Digester Research and Development Program and the Alternative Manure Management Program, will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from manure on California dairy and livestock farms. The collective projects will reduce an estimated 191,360 metric tons of greenhouse gases per year and contribute $32 million in matching funds. Dairy digesters help capture methane emissions and use them to produce electricity or natural gas. Changing manure management practices so that manure is handled in a dry form (such as staying on pasture longer or compost pack barns) is another way to reduce methane emissions significantly.




Greenhouse Manual: An Introductory Guide for Educators, a project of the U.S. Botanic Garden, NCAT, and City Blooms, has been honored with a 2nd place national award by the American Alliance of Museums in the Education category of their publications awards. The manual is an easy-to-use guide designed to help educators who have access to greenhouses with planting gardens, growing for farm to school programs, or integrating plant science into an existing curriculum. The manual opens with a basic explanation of greenhouses and continues with how to integrate their use into classroom and out-of-classroom learning. It contains lesson plans and information on greenhouse operation, growing plants, starting seeds, plant nutrition, disease and pest management, greenhouse budgeting, and succession planting. The manual is available free online.




Indigo Agriculture has announced the first commitments from large global brands to purchase verified agricultural carbon credits through Indigo Carbon. Companies including Boston Consulting Group, Shopify, Barclays, JPMorgan Chase, Givewith, IBM, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, and New Belgium Brewing committed to a credit purchase price of $20/tonne of carbon dioxide equivalents sequestered and abated in the 2020 growing season. Net on-farm GHG emissions will be measured and verified by a newly developed Soil Enrichment Protocol, as well as a Methodology for Improved Agricultural Land Management (MIALM) that is currently undergoing final review.




The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a rule that Application Exclusion Zones (AEZ) for pesticides can only be enforced on-farm and not on neighboring property, reports The Hill. These rules keep people other than the pesticide handlers from being in the area as pesticides are applied. Opponents of the rule change argue that pesticides do not respect property boundaries and that the rule change will endanger farmworkers on neighboring properties when pesticides are applied, as well as nearby community members. EPA argued that regulations on areas beyond the farm's property are difficult to enforce, and that the modified rule will be more workable for farm owners. The rule also reduced the size of AEZ needed for some pesticide applications.




An international team of scientists laid out a strategy for sequestering carbon in soil to fight climate change. Their work, published in Nature Communications says that carbon sequestration in agricultural soil could offset a third of greenhouse gas emissions, and would result in increased crop yields, as well. The strategy set forth by the scientists calls for simple actions such as mulching, adding biochar, and increasing plant growth through accurate liming, fertilization, and irrigation. However, the scientists say, implementing this type of strategy requires locally adapted actions that prioritize treatment of already-degraded soils and handle different types of soils appropriately.




As part of the Agriculture Innovation Agenda, to assist farmers in accessing and adopting new approaches, USDA is requesting input on the most innovative technologies, practices, and management tools that can be readily deployed through one or more USDA programs. Recommended approaches should enable the U.S. agriculture industry to meet USDA's goal to increase agricultural production by 40% to meet the needs of the global population in 2050, while cutting the environmental footprint of U.S. agriculture in half. USDA's goal is to identify the best "ready to go" innovations, as well as request input on how to best incorporate these innovations into USDA programs and accelerate their adoption. USDA will consider comments received by November 9, 2020.




The Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program is seeking immediate nominations or self-nominations for a qualified individual to represent non-government organizations involved with underrepresented agriculture groups on its Administrative Council. There will also be an opening for a second position to represent agri-business (preferably in the processing sector) available in early March 2021. The Administrative Council provides oversight of research needs, competitive proposal reviews, and budget allocation for Western SARE. The term of service is four years, and applications are due by January 8, 2020.




Researchers at Australia's RMIT University have discovered a new type of ultra-efficient catalyst that can make low-carbon biodiesel and other valuable complex molecules out of diverse, impure raw materials. This new catalyst can make biodiesel from low-grade feedstocks containing up to 50% contaminants, whereas today's commercial processes require oil that's 98% pure. The new catalyst is sponge-like, and modeled after the way that enzymes in human cells coordinate complex chemical reactions. It's the first time a multi-functional catalyst has been developed that can perform several chemical reactions in sequence within a single catalyst particle. RMIT reports that making low-carbon biodiesel from agricultural waste with these catalysts requires little more than a large container, some gentle heating, and stirring.




The Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) received more than $591,000 through USDA's Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. Producer groups, trade associations, nonprofits, and colleges and universities were eligible to apply for grant funds through the department. IDOA will split the funds between ten projects that are intended to expand the availability of fresh, locally grown produce and strengthen the state's specialty crop industry. A list of projects is available online. Meanwhile, the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry (DACF) has announced the recipients of this year's Specialty Crop Block Grant (SCBG) awards in that state. In addition to a host of products from strawberries to mixed vegetables, funding will also go to a pilot project supporting farmers seeking certification in Good Agricultural Practices.




USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) launched a new tool on farmers.gov to help producers with the application process for the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+). The new tool documents information about a producer's operation and helps USDA identify producers who may need more information about or assistance with the program application process. After the online survey is completed, the local FSA county office will follow up with producers who provide contact information. The program compensates producers for losses due to hurricanes, floods, snowstorms, tornadoes, typhoons, volcanic activity, drought, excessive moisture, and wildfires occurring in calendar years 2018 and 2019. The deadline to submit applications for disaster recovery assistance through WHIP+ is October 30, 2020.




A project led by South Dakota State University surveyed North and South Dakota livestock producers to identify barriers to adopting rotational grazing. Producers who haven't adopted rotational grazing identified water and labor as the major barriers to adopting the practice, and adopters agreed that supplying water to multiple paddocks was their greatest challenge. The survey showed that among rotational graziers, 84% have used the practice for 10 years or more, and they find benefits to soil and water quality and profitability. However, the number of graziers switching to rotational grazing has stagnated in recent years. This NIFA-funded project is helping researchers determine why more producers haven't adopted the beneficial practice and how they might be convinced to make the switch.




The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) announced the appointment of 17 members to the new Emerging Farmers' Working Group that will help shape the future of farming in the state. The group's purpose is to advise the MDA and Minnesota Legislature on ways to advance the success and sustainability of farmers who traditionally face barriers to the resources necessary to build profitable agricultural businesses. Emerging Farmers are defined as women, veterans, persons with disabilities, American Indian/Alaskan Native, communities of color, young, and urban farmers. The working group's first meeting will take place November 6, 2020, via Webex. Members of the public are welcome and public comments can be made through the chat box.




The Midwest Grazing Exchange, a new website created by the Midwest Perennial Forage Working Group, is a free matchmaking service that aims to connect graziers and landowners. Graziers can search for forage to graze and landowners can search for livestock to graze their land in a six-state region that includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin. The site allows visitors to create listings for land or livestock they have to offer, search and save existing listings, and find information on grazing contracts and regenerative grazing, as well as locate organizations and grazing specialists that can offer support in each participating state.




Certified American Grown, a diverse and unified coalition of small to large cut flower and greens farms across the United States, has transitioned from a marketing and governmental relations group under the auspices of the California Cut Flower Commission to an independent trade association representing cut flower and greens farmers nationwide. As a trade association, Certified American Grown will continue its efforts to lobby on behalf of cut flower and greens farmers, sponsor American Grown Flowers Month in July, host the annual American Grown Field to Vase Dinner Tour, and give consumers confidence in the source of their flowers and greens by providing the only third-party guarantee in the floral industry validating bouquets and bunches purchased were actually homegrown.




In the first month that applications for the second round of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP 2) were open, USDA approved more than $7 billion in payments to producers. CFAP 2 provides agricultural producers with financial assistance to help absorb some of the increased marketing costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Since CFAP 2 enrollment began on September 21, 2020, FSA has approved more than 443,000 applications. The top five states for payments are Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, Illinois, and Kansas. USDA has released a data dashboard on application progress that is updated weekly. CFAP 2 applications will be accepted through December 11, 2020, and a total of $14 billion is available.




USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) has released the results of the 2019 Organic Survey, which show total sales of $9.93 billion in organic products, an increase of $2.37 billion, or 31% percent, from 2016. There were 16,585 certified organic farms, a 17% increase from 2016, which accounted for 5.50 million certified acres, an increase of 9% over 2016. The top organic sector was livestock and poultry products. Survey results showed that $2.04 billion in organic products were sold directly to retail markets, institutions, and local/regional food hubs, while another $300 million in organic products were sold directly to consumers, and value-added products accounted for $727 million in sales. The survey also revealed that 29% of farms plan to increase their level of organic production, and more than 1,800 certified organic farms currently have land in transition to organic production. Additional survey results are available online.




USDA has published the final rule for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program update as directed by the 2018 Farm Bill. The changes incorporated in the final rule include higher payment caps for producers participating in the Organic Initiative, advance payments for historically underserved producers, and new language specifically including soil health and weather and drought resilience in the national priorities. In addition, the Conservation Innovation Grants program was changed to include field research and lower matching funds requirements for historically underserved producers. Also, the Conservation Innovation Grants program now includes opportunities for On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials and Soil Health Demonstration Trials.




Farmers' Legal Action Group (FLAG) has published a third edition of its Farmers' Guide to Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). FLAG noted that there have been a number of changes to the program since the second edition came out in June. This third edition describes the two main aspects of CFAP—the component of CFAP that provides direct payments to farmers (what this Guide calls the CFAP direct payments program, or CFAP for short) and the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. The guide is available free online.




Farmland for a New Generation New York is a partnership between the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, American Farmland Trust, and a network of 27 land trusts that has connected more than 50 farmers with farmland over the past two years. The program combines online listings for farmland and farmers with staff who work one-on-one with farmers facing complex decisions for the future of their farms. Farmland for a New Generation New York provides these services for free to retiring farmers to help them keep their land in farming, to farmland owners who don't farm their land to ensure they can make their land available for farming, and to new and existing farmers to help them overcome barriers in finding land to launch or expand farm businesses. In the two years since the launch of the program, more than 1,500 participants have received direct assistance leading to 53 matches of farmers to nearly 2,000 acres of farmland across the state.




The 2018 Farm Bill legalized industrial hemp production nationwide and many hoped it would be a profitable new crop for farmers, reports Politico. However, after a boom in acreage planted last year, plantings of industrial hemp were down in 2020. Growers say a drop in price and a lack of markets have discouraged wider adoption of the crop. A patchwork of state regulations, combined with USDA requirements and pending FDA regulations, also complicate entry into this industry.




Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) is accepting applications for its 2020-2021 Farm Beginnings program. The eight-week course is a farmer-led program to help guide those with a strong commitment to creating a sustainable farm business achieve their goals. Designed for farmers with at least one year of production experience, this series of intensive workshops will help you to develop a whole farm plan through realistic goal setting, reflection, and assessment of your resources, skills, and markets—and give you the business-planning tools necessary to implement your plan successfully. Applicants from Maine will be given priority. The course takes place virtually in January and February; applications are due by December 1, 2020.




Research published in Agricultural & Environmental Letters notes that information regarding soil health is often too generalized. Practices that are beneficial in one region could create challenges in another. Postdoctoral scientist Grace Miner says that practices need to be tested at the regional level to determine their effects, and that more study is needed on how soil health improvements impact crop yield.




Sonja Brodt, deputy director of the University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Program, is leading a collaborative effort with California farmers and UC researchers to develop native western elderberry as a hedgerow cash crop. Planting hedgerows with edible and medicinal species such as elderberry can help growers generate additional revenue while fostering beneficial insects and improving soil health. California's native blue elderberry subspecies is more heat- and drought-tolerant than the more commercialized North American and European subspecies of elderberry. "Elderberries have this great potential as a 'win-win' crop. Farmers harvesting and selling elderberries from their hedgerows can receive a direct income from a farm practice that benefits the local ecosystem," says Brodt. A field trial found that elderberry yields from a 1,000-foot, multispecies hedgerow could provide $2,700 to $4,800 in revenue, after harvest and de-stemming costs, in only the second year after hedgerow planting.




A new University of California report, Statistical Review of California Organic Agriculture, 2013-2016, says that organic agriculture continues to expand in the state and now includes more than 360 commodities. According to the report, the number of organic growers in California jumped from 2,089 in 2013 to 3,108 in 2016, based on data collected from farms that register as organic with the California Department of Food and Agriculture. In 2016, the top-10 organic commodities (by sales value) were cow milk, strawberries, carrots, wine grapes, table grapes, sweet potatoes, almonds, raspberries, salad mix, and chicken eggs. California organic sales were $3.1 billion in 2016, says the report.




USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Horticultural Crops Research Laboratory in Corvallis, Oregon, working in cooperation with the Oregon State University Agricultural Experiment Station, has introduced three new blackberry varieties. Eclipse, Galaxy, and Twilight are thornless blackberries that blend desirable traits of eastern erect-cane blackberries and western trailing blackberries. Because the varieties mature at different times, they help cover gaps in the fresh-market harvest season.




The Organic Farming Research Foundation announced that it has awarded four new grants to support researcher/farmer collaborations in the areas of crop breeding and organic seed development, in response to organic producer needs identified in a national survey. The first grant, to Sarah Hargreaves at the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario, supports three breeding projects focused on providing best practices for adapting to climate change with vegetable varieties that are locally adapted to low-input organic systems for southern Ontario and the northeastern United States. The second grant, to Helen Jensen at Seed Change, supports the evaluation of selection methods and efficacy in on-farm breeding of organic wheat and oat varieties. The third grant was awarded to Carol Deppe at Fertile Valley Seeds to breed disease-resistant heirloom-quality tomatoes. The fourth grant, to Lee-Ann Hill at Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance, will look beyond the marketability of heritage grains to explore their impact on soil health, climate adaptivity, weed pressure, and insect pressure through farmer-driven, participatory research. Research data collected from this project will be published in a free online Heritage Grain Trials Handbook.




Research from Rice University shows that in some regions, extensive use of biochar could save farmers a little more than 50% of the water they now use to grow crops. This would lead to a monetary savings over and above the acknowledged carbon benefits of biochar application. The study provides formulas to help farmers estimate irrigation cost savings from increased water-holding capacity (WHC) with biochar amendment. Results with biochar depend on the type of soil and the characteristics of the biochar itself. The greatest benefits were found to occur in regions with sandy soil. A study co-lead noted, "Biochar soil amendment can enhance soil carbon sequestration while providing significant co-benefits, such as nitrogen remediation, improved water retention, and higher agricultural productivity. The suite of potential benefits raises the attractiveness for commercial action in the agriculture sector as well as supportive policy frameworks."




The Global Alliance for the Future of Food has released Systemic Solutions for Healthy Food Systems, a guide for governments to take action for better food systems that promote human, ecological, and animal health and well-being. The 19-page online guide provides 14 recommendations to tackle the interconnectedness of food systems through policy and practice. The recommendations are supported by a set of case studies from different countries, cultures, and contexts, contained in a companion publication, Systemic Solutions for Healthy Food Systems—Approaches to Policy & Practice. The suite of materials calls on national governments to radically change approach to policy and practice, building resilience and improving food security outcomes post-COVID-19.




North Carolina A&T professor Chyi Lyi (Kathleen) Liang is heading a project that's introducing specialty vegetables to North Carolina Growers, reports the Greensboro News & Record. Liang says that specialty vegetables now imported to the state by ethnic groceries and restaurants could be grown locally by small-scale farmers. Her project is identifying crops that grow well in the state and introducing them to farmers, restaurant owners, grocers, and others through workshops, demonstrations, and training. The aim is to help small-scale farmers diversify and earn more profit.




Regenerative Agriculture and the Soil Carbon Solution, a new white paper from Rodale Insitute, says that a global switch to regenerative crop and pasture systems could draw down more than 100% of annual CO2 emissions. The full paper, as well as a fact sheet and action toolkit, can be downloaded. According to Rodale Institute, the new publication shows that a global switch to a regenerative food system could not only feed the world while reducing chemical exposure and improving biodiversity and soil health but could also be the key to mitigating the climate crisis. The paper was compiled through extensive peer-reviewed research data and interviews with leaders in the fields of soil microbiology, ranchland ecology, agronomy, and more, as well as research conducted in Rodale Institute's long-term comparison trials, including the 40-year Farming Systems Trial.




The Savanna Institute has posted a five-minute video from Saturn Farm in Illinois, on the results of alleycropping trials in black currant. Saturn Farm received a USDA SARE grant to test alleycropping with asparagus, rhubarb, and native prairie strips. This video demonstrates the results of interplanting these species between rows of machine-harvested black currants and describes the potential for overyielding.




World Food Day, October 16, 2020, is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The event theme is "Grow, nourish, sustain. Together. Our actions are our future." World Food Day is calling for global solidarity to help all populations, and especially the most vulnerable, to recover from the COVID-19 global health crisis, and to make food systems more resilient and robust so they can withstand increasing volatility and climate shocks, deliver affordable and sustainable healthy diets for all, and decent livelihoods for food system workers. World Food Day is being observed with events that celebrate food heroes. Resources for schools, governments, and the private sector are available online.




A study by University of Illinois and USDA Agricultural Research Service demonstrated that early-terminated rye provided weed suppression in edamame without harming crop yield. However, in tests with snap beans, the cover crop reduced weed biomass by about half but also reduced crop yield. In tests with lima beans, the rye cover crop both failed to suppress weeds and led to decreased crop yield, which the researchers attributed to poor crop establishment. The researchers say the rye cover crop alone doesn't provide adequate weed control for edamame, but it could work well in combination with other weed-management strategies.




The Ecosystem Services Market Consortium (ESMC) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) have announced a pilot project in Minnesota to provide financial incentives to encourage more farmers to implement practices that help improve soil health, store carbon in soils, and reduce nutrient run-off from farm fields. The project will test and streamline the creation and sale of environmental credits from farmland. Project partners will work with farmers, at no cost to them, and a number of agricultural businesses and stakeholders to test ESMC's market protocols on 50,000 acres that have corn and soybean cropping systems with a heavy dairy or livestock component. This project is one of several pilots being launched this fall and next spring.




The USDA AMS National Organic Program's Organic Integrity Learning Center is offering a new free online course on Natural Resources and Biodiversity. USDA organic regulations require operations to maintain or improve the natural resources of the operation, including soil and water quality. This course teaches organic certifiers and inspectors how to assess natural resources and biodiversity requirements as indicated in organic system plans (OSPs) and on-site during annual inspections. The course provides tools that help certifiers and inspectors know what to review and what to include in inspection protocols and reports.




USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) opened enrollment for the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs for the 2021 crop year. These safety-net programs help producers weather fluctuations in either revenue or price for certain crops. ARC provides income support payments on historical base acres when actual crop revenue declines below a specified guaranteed level. PLC provides income support payments on historical base acres when the effective price for a covered commodity falls below its reference price. Covered commodities include barley, canola, large and small chickpeas, corn, crambe, flaxseed, grain sorghum, lentils, mustard seed, oats, peanuts, dry peas, rapeseed, long grain rice, medium and short grain rice, safflower seed, seed cotton, sesame, soybeans, sunflower seed and wheat. Enrollment for the 2021 crop year closes March 15, 2021.




National Public Radio news reported on how solar energy sites are working with farmers to combine energy production and food production on the same land, in a practice known as agrivoltaics. Keeping land in farming production can help solar companies overcome community opposition to new installations, and the two uses can complement one another. Sheep grazing in solar installations prevent the need for mowing, while the panels provide shade for grazing animals. Sites managed through grazing can offer other benefits, as well, such as pollinator habitat. The American Solar Grazing Association is a new industry group organized around the practice. Solar installations can also complement produce production by providing shade for crops, say researchers. Massachusetts is offering incentives for projects that combine solar with vegetable production.




The Council of Development Finance Agencies (CDFA) has released Advancing Local Food Systems Through Development Finance, the sixth and final publication of its Food Finance White Paper Series. The 20-page online publication presents replicable strategies for reframing food projects and businesses, building the connectivity between players involved in food system restoration, and planning for the financing needed to make developments in the food system happen. Through this work, CDFA says it aims to advance opportunities and leverage existing capital financing streams that scale local and regional food systems and increase access to better food while creating new, living-wage jobs in communities across the country.




The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign announced that it is launching the Illinois Regenerative Agriculture Initiative (IRAI), a project that will bring together researchers on campus and other stakeholders to create agriculture and food systems resilient to climate change, improve soil and water quality, support healthy communities, and enhance food security. The IRAI will be offering seed grants to interdisciplinary teams composed of Illinois scholars and farming or food-system stakeholders who address key metrics of regenerative agriculture: soil health parameters, on-farm biodiversity, or community health and resilience.




The North Central Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Center (NCFRSAC) is a 12-state collaborative that will create and expand stress management and mental health resources and services to agricultural producers and stakeholders in the North Central region. The program was awarded nearly $7.2 million through the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network grant program administered by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. With this funding, the NCFRSAC network will work with partner organizations to expand programs that provide professional agricultural behavioral health interventions, support farm telephone hotlines and websites, and provide training and resources for producers and those in agriculture-related occupations.




An international study led by Auburn University concluded that the significant use of nitrogen fertilizers in the production of food worldwide is increasing concentrations of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas, in the atmosphere. The study by an international consortium of scientists from 48 research institutions in 14 countries quantified global nitrous oxide sources and sinks. Nitrous oxide has risen 20% from pre-industrial level, driven predominantly by agriculture. The study's co-leader summarized the key implications: "This new analysis calls for a full-scale rethink in the ways we use and abuse nitrogen fertilizers globally and urges us to adopt more sustainable practices in the way we produce food, including the reduction of food waste...These findings underscore the urgency and opportunities to mitigate nitrous oxide emissions worldwide to avoid the worst of climate impacts."




USDA announced October 30, 2020, as the deadline to submit applications for the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program – Plus (WHIP+) for 2018 and 2019 losses. USDA did not originally specify a deadline when the program was announced. WHIP+ compensates producers for losses due to hurricanes, floods, snowstorms, tornadoes, typhoons, volcanic activity, drought, excessive moisture, and wildfires occurring in calendar years 2018 and 2019. Drought and excessive moisture were added as eligible losses for the program in March 2020. FSA plans to launch a new tool on the farmers.gov WHIP+ webpage to help producers understand eligibility for the program and whether they had possible losses in 2018 and 2019.




The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy unveiled the Net Zero Initiative, an industry-wide effort that will help U.S. dairy farms of all sizes and geographies implement new technologies and adopt economically viable practices. According to a press release, the initiative is a critical component of U.S. dairy's environmental stewardship goals, endorsed by dairy industry leaders and farmers, to achieve carbon neutrality, optimized water usage, and improved water quality by 2050. Through foundational science, on-farm pilots, and development of new product markets, the Net Zero Initiative aims to knock down barriers and create incentives for farmers that will lead to economic viability and positive environmental impact. The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy also announced a commitment of up to $10 million and a multi-year partnership with Nestlé to support the Net Zero Initiative and scale access to environmental practices and resources on farms across the country.




Researchers at the University of California, Davis, published results of a study showing that loss of flowering plants and pesticide use combine to drastically reduce wild bee reproduction. This research found that blue orchard bee reproduction was reduced by 57% and there were significantly fewer female offspring when the bees were exposed to the neonicotinoid insecticide imidacloprid and had less access to flowers. The pesticide exposure was responsible for greater declines than deprivation from food alone. A press release noted that "the research can help farmers make decisions about how they manage the environment around orchards. It reinforces the need for growers to carefully think about the location where they plant flowers for bee forage, to prevent flowers from becoming traps that expose bees to pesticides."




North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (NCR-SARE) awarded a total of more than $4.1 million to 46 projects through three grant programs in 2020. The Research and Education, Graduate Student, and Professional Development programs offer competitive grants for researchers, graduate students, organizations, agricultural educators, and others who are exploring sustainable agriculture in the Midwest. A list of the recipients, with project titles, is posted online.




North Dakota siblings Erin and Drew Gaugler have been conducting research on the soil health impacts of bale grazing on their farm through a grant from North Central SARE, reports Farm & Ranch Guide. After two seasons of bale grazing, the Gauglers say they noticed an obvious difference in plant production in the bale-grazed areas. Soil tests didn't show an immediate difference in organic matter in the bale-grazed areas, but did show increases in levels of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. The Gauglers will be continuing their research under a new grant that will help them document and share the results of multi-species bale grazing to build soil health.




The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) announced that Specialty Crop Block Grants totaling $299,350 will support seven projects to benefit Vermont fruit, vegetable, and value-added producers and increase consumer access to locally produced food. The projects will undertake a range of research, development, education, business planning, and marketing efforts. Projects will address specialty crop production of maple syrup, saffron, weed and disease control, and more.




Cooperative Extension at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University presented the North Carolina Small Farmer of the Year award to Amos and Kaci Nidiffer, the owners of Trosly Farm. On less than five acres, the Nidiffer family grows greenhouse products, such as lettuces, greens and tomatoes; and livestock, such as hogs and pullets. They operate a CSA that involves the community in understanding how food is produced, and have hosted workshops on small-scale farming. The Nidiffers were presented with a plaque, monogrammed jackets, and $1,500 during an online event.




USDA released the Final Rule making changes directed by the 2018 Farm Bill to the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). This Final Rule better aligns CSP with NRCS's Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) through common applications, contracting operations, conservation planning, conservation practices, and related administrative procedures. Additional changes include increased payment rates for adoption of cover crop rotations, a new supplemental payment for advanced grazing management, a one-time payment for developing a comprehensive conservation plan, and specific support for organic and transitioning-to-organic production activities.




USDA has announced the award of $19.1 million in grants through the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers (2501) Program. The grants help provide training, outreach, and technical assistance. Grants were issued to 49 organizations in 28 states conducting outreach and assistance for socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers. Additionally, Alcorn State University received funding to continue to administer the Socially Disadvantaged Policy Research Center. Projects funded under the 2501 Program include conferences, workshops, and demonstrations on various farming techniques, and connecting underserved farmers and ranchers to USDA's programs and services.




Signup for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2 (CFAP 2) continues through December 11, 2020. CFAP 2 provides eligible producers with direct financial assistance due to market disruptions and associated costs because of COVID-19. Many more commodities are eligible for CFAP 2 than CFAP 1. USDA has introduced a new, easy-to-use CFAP 2 Eligible Commodities Finder at Farmers.gov that simplifies finding payment rates specific to your operation.




USDA's National Organic Program announced that three new courses for certifiers have been added to the Organic Integrity Learning Center. The first, a course on recordkeeping, introduces certifiers and inspectors to a variety of recordkeeping systems and helps certifiers structure recordkeeping reviews. Another course, on Organic System Plans (OSP), teaches requirements related to OSPs in the USDA organic regulations, examines the different functions of the OSP, discusses critical organic control points, and provides OSP evaluation and design considerations for certifiers. Finally, Certification Review Essentials guides certification reviewers through OSP requirements and critical control points, OSP assessment, inspection report review, and applying skills using case scenarios.




Match.Graze is a free online platform created by University of California Cooperative Extension that connects California landowners who want to have their property grazed with livestock owners who can provide vegetation management services. Grazing can help reduce the accumulation of fire fuels, even on steep and remote land. To find a local grazing partner, visit MatchGraze.com, set up a free account, create a pin on the map, and make a match.




Penn State University researchers conducted a study that compared six different riparian buffer scenarios featuring grass and trees and explored the potential for biomass harvest from them. The researchers suggest that farmers would be more likely to install riparian buffers on their properties if they were allowed to harvest biomass from them, which is currently not allowed under Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program regulations. This research tested how well buffers performed when switchgrass and swamp willow trees were harvested from them. The results of this Pennsylvania study showed that harvesting vegetation from the buffer only minimally impacted water quality compared with the performance of unharvested buffers. They found that the location of the buffer was a key factor in its water-quality protection performance.




Farm to Institution New England announced the fourth biennial ​Northeast Farm to Institution Summit, an event that will take place virtually on the first three Thursdays of April 2021. Organizers are inviting you to be part of creating this event by submitting a proposal for a session. Organizers are encouraging proposals from all those involved or interested in mobilizing institutions to transform our food system. This year's theme is "​Reflection, Resilience, Renewal​," and proposal guidelines and conference objectives are detailed online. The deadline for proposal submission is November 23, 2020.




The Kansas Department of Agriculture has been awarded $331,846 through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. The funds will support six projects that increase opportunities for specialty crops in Kansas. These include training for specialty crop growers; education for children, college students, and others about growing specialty crops; and programs to build markets for specialty crops by promoting them to consumers.




Practical Farmers of Iowa has released a report discussing the results of on-farm research on control of squash vine borer. Two organic farmers who have both struggled with vine borers undertook a trial comparing five methods of organic control. Julia Slocum and Mark Quee compared organic methods to control squash vine borer in susceptible varieties of winter squash. They found that row cover was the most effective control practice, keeping more plants alive and producing higher yields. The trial also showed that Bt injections were effective at Quee's but were much more labor-intensive than row cover. The full research report is available online.




The Association for Temperate Agroforestry and the Savanna Institute are co-hosting the online 2020 Perennial Farm Gathering December 6-9, 2020. The event is designed to help put research into practice by facilitating stronger connections between farmers, practitioners, scientists, and community members. All are invited to submit proposals for talks, posters, or organized sessions on any aspect of agroforestry research, education, or application. Organizers encourage presentations intended for academic as well as non-academic audiences. Abstracts can be of three types: oral presentations, poster presentations, or organized sessions. Abstracts must be submitted by November 2, 2020.




The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) announced that California has received $23.8 million in funding through the 2020 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP). The SCBGP provides grants to state departments of agriculture to fund projects that enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops. With the grant, CDFA will fund 58 projects, awarding grants ranging from $50,000 to $450,000 to non-profit and for-profit organizations, government entities, and colleges and universities. These projects focus on increasing sales of specialty crops by leveraging the unique qualities of specialty crops grown in California; increasing consumption by expanding the specialty crop consumer market, improving availability of specialty crops and providing nutritional education for consumers; training growers to equip them for current and future challenges; investing in training for growers/producers/operators to address current and future challenges; and conducting research on conservation and environmental outcomes, pest control and disease, and organic and sustainable production practices. Abstracts for the funded projects are available online.




The UN- and World Bank-led International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), published in 2009, is still viewed as perhaps the most comprehensive assessment of global agriculture. Now, after 10 years, 40 eminent food system experts, most of them authors and review editors of the initial IAASTD, have taken stock of changes to the food system during the past decade in a new book titled Transformation of Our Food Systems—The making of a paradigm shift. The publication is available online in its entirety. The book combines scientific studies, UN agreements, updates, and infographics to highlight trends in the food system and make a case for an agroecological approach to sustainable food systems.




Research published in the Vadose Zone Journal, a publication of the Soil Science Society of America, indicated that soybean-oil-coated sand has potential to be developed into an alternative to plastic film mulch. Plastics commonly used in agriculture can cause soil and water-quality problems as they degrade, so researchers at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas are seeking a more sustainable alternative that can help minimize water loss and aid in weed control. In this test, scientists mixed nearly equal volumes of sand and biobased oil, and then heated the mixture to partially polymerize the oil. The resulting product allowed water to pass through, which is important for irrigation, but slowed the process of water wicking from the soil to reduce evaporative losses by as much as 96%. The scientists warn that additional research is needed on the longevity of the material when exposed to the field environment, but preliminary research on this alternative looks promising.




Scientists from the U.S. Southwest and Mexico published an article in the journal Plants, People, Planet that presents a new model for farming in arid regions. The researchers propose selecting wild food crops already adapted to extreme conditions, in order to reduce climate disruptions to food security, human health, and rural economies. They say in "An Aridamerican model for agriculture in a hotter, water scarce world" that agriculture in arid regions should shift away from water-consumptive, heat-intolerant, annual plants to utilize no-till cropping of hardy perennials that are heat- and drought-tolerant. In the new model, production of these plants would be co-located with rainwater harvesting and renewable energy production. Furthermore, the researchers say these desert foods could benefit human health as well as land health.




The MOSES Organic Farming Conference will be a virtual event in 2021, and the Organic Research Forum is inviting researchers, academic faculty and staff, graduate/undergraduate students, and farmer researchers to submit their research in the form of four-minute speed presentation videos with a PDF research poster. Research must be conducted in a certified organic system, and acceptable topics are listed online. All accepted research presenters receive full conference admission. The deadline for submissions is January 11, 2021.




Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) announced that it has awarded new grants to farmer/researcher collaborations at the Georgia Organic Peanut Association and the University of Idaho. Donn Cooper of Cooper Agricultural Services, working in collaboration with the Georgia Organic Peanut Association, will examine the effectiveness of an integrated weed control system in organic peanut production. The system utilizes regular mechanical cultivation and Eugenol, a broad-spectrum herbicide derived from cloves and approved for certified organic production in the commercial formulation known as Weed Slayer. The second grant was awarded to Professor Arash Rashed, leader of the Idaho IPM Laboratory at the University of Idaho, to evaluate the efficacy of two biological control agents of wireworms in organic production. The research team aims to identify the most effective entomopathogenic treatment against wireworms and successfully establish the biocontrol agent in organic farm soil.




USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) announced it has awarded $27 million in grant funding through the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP) and $9.3 million in grant funding through the new Regional Food System Partnerships (RFSP) grant program. FMLFPP supports the development, coordination, and expansion of direct producer to consumer markets and local and regional food business enterprises. Through this program, awards totaling approximately $13.5 million were made to 49 Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) projects and awards totaling approximately $13.5 million were made to 44 Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP) projects that support and promote local and regional food business enterprises. Meanwhile, RFSP is supporting partnerships that connect public and private resources to plan and develop local or regional food systems, by funding 23 partnerships in 15 states. Lists of the grant recipients are available online.




New analysis from researchers at The University of Texas at Austin showed that the pesticides flupyradifurone (sold under the brand name Sivanto®) and sulfoxaflor (sold under the name Transform® WG) have harmful effects on bees, similar to neonicotinoids. This analysis reviewed 19 studies from the past five years, and it revealed that in addition to harming honeybees, the insecticides also showed signs of harming other beneficial insects, such as wild bumblebees and lacewings. In addition to increased mortality, the pesticides reduced reproductive ability and made pollinators less efficient foragers.




The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) is reminding stakeholders that the comment period for the Strengthening Organic Enforcement Proposed Rule closes at 11:59 pm Eastern on October 5, 2020. According to NOP, the proposed changes will significantly update the USDA organic regulations to increase oversight of complex organic supply chains. NOP published a six-part series in Organic Insider, detailing the proposed changes. Farmers and businesses can submit comments on how the changes will impact them.




Penn State University researchers have developed a decision-support tool that will help organic producers decide how much nitrogen to apply to corn crops. The online tool predicts corn yield based on the amount of nitrogen released from the soil and decomposing cover crops. A $500,000 grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture will allow the tool's developers to expand testing to different types of soil and different cover crops. Under this project, researchers will field test the tool and engage in outreach activities to introduce it to producers.




Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SSARE) has created the Equity and Prosperity Sustainable Agriculture Leadership Program to champion the leader­ship contributions of historically underserved farmers and ranchers and non-governmental organiza­tions that serve those audiences within the Southern region. The sponsorship funds support both giving and acquiring education and training activities for historically underserved farm­ers and ranchers in areas of sustainable agriculture. Program participants can receive sponsorship support to conduct education and training activities in areas of sustainable agriculture specifically targeted to historically underserved farmers and ranchers such as minority and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, beginning farmers and ranchers, military veterans, and women farmers. Sponsorship funds may also support program participants who want to attend a training to help em­phasize sustainable ag aspects of their overall community efforts. The funding amount requested can be up to $3,000. Activities funded must be completed by January 31, 2021.




A study led by Purdue University Extension surveyed more than 300 Indiana grain farmers to identify barriers to organic certification. The study results, published as Supporting the wider adoption of organic certification for Indiana grain farmers, are available online as a nine-page PDF. Problems that participants in the survey identified included production loss due to weed pressure, certification ineligibility caused by GMO pollen drift, and crop damage and contamination caused by pesticide drift. Conventional farmers also cited a lack of successful organic farmer mentors as an obstacle to transitioning to certified organic production. The study also identified opportunities for policy initiatives to address concerns about market competition from imported organic grains and for new Extension programs to support organic farms.




USDA announced the appointment of five new members to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). They will serve five-year terms beginning in January 2021. Nebraska organic farmer Amy Bruch will fill a Farmer Seat on the 15-member board, as will Logan Petrey, farm manager for Grimmway Farms locations in Georgia and Florida. Dr. Carolyn Dimitri of New York University will serve in a Public/Consumer Interest Seat, and so will educator, farmer, and longstanding NOFA-NY member Brian Caldwell. Meanwhile, the USDA-accredited Certifier Seat will be filled by Kyla Smith, Certification Director for Pennsylvania Certified Organic.




ProPublica is making available county-by-county maps for the United States, illustrating how changes in heat and humidity, wildfires, sea level, and farm crop yields, as well as climate impacts on economies, will impact individual counties. The information is based on data from the Rhodium Group, analyzed by ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine. An article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed how the "climate niche" most suitable for human habitation is predicted to shift either significantly or dramatically northward, depending on the level of carbon emissions during the next fifty years. Some regions will see significant declines in their suitability for habitation, while crop yields in some areas of Oklahoma and Texas could drop by as much as 70%.




The Sand County Foundation, in partnership with the New York Department of Agriculture and Markets, presented the inaugural Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM)-Leopold Conservation Award to Sang Lee Farms. The 97-acre certified organic farm, owned and operated by father and son, Fred and William Lee, grows more than 100 varieties of specialty fruit and vegetables. An early adopter of the AEM program, Sang Lee Farms uses modern technology and environmental best practices, including annual crop rotation to aid pest management, and inter-seeding of cover crops to suppress weeds, increase soil fertility, and to protect and conserve water resources. Their creative use of cover crops has helped them meet their goal to achieve a regenerative form of agriculture—one that increases soil fertility, builds organic matter, suppresses weeds, and eliminates erosion.




The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has announced the award of more than $53 million in grants across three programs. The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) awarded more than $16.7 million in 48 projects to deliver the support new farmers and ranchers need. NIFA also awarded grants totaling $28.7 million to four regional entities contributing to the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network: University of Illinois, National Young Farmers Coalition, University of Tennessee, and Washington State University. NIFA also announced $9.6 million awarded to 17 projects through Enhancing Agricultural Opportunities for Military Veterans Program (AgVets). These projects will equip military veterans with skills, training, and experience for careers in food and agricultural and may also offer workforce readiness and employment prospects.




University of California Cooperative Extension organic production specialist Joji Muramoto received a $411,395 grant from USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture to explore disease controls for strawberries that offer an alternative to pesticide fumigants. This project will test both a variety of alliums and wheat as suppressive crops for controlling disease in strawberries. Muramoto warns that there's likely not a single alternative to pesticide fumigation but says that a combination of biological approaches could create a soilborne disease-management strategy.




A $2 million grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative is supporting a three-year, multi-institution project to develop value-added grain infrastructure for ancient and heritage grains. A Cornell University scientist is leading the project, which aims to establish an organic industry for wheat, naked barley, hulless oats, rye, emmer, spelt, and einkorn in the Northeast and Midwest. It will breed regionally suited varieties and identify best organic management practices, as well as increasing consumer demand and building supply chains. In addition to having market value of their own, these crops can also serve as rotational crops for organic vegetable growers.




The Managing Soil Carbon working group of the Science for Nature and People Partnership announced the launch of AgEvidence, a visualization dashboard of data from nearly 300 peer-reviewed research papers about the environmental impacts of agriculture practices. The 40 years of research compiled in AgEvidence focuses on the environmental and agronomic impacts of cover crops, tillage management, pest management, and nutrient management practices used in growing corn and/or soybean crops in the Midwest. Visualization analytics enable users to easily navigate and interpret the data based on areas of interest, including climate mitigation, crop yields, pest management, soil nutrients, and water quality.




A new online resource called FarmRaise serves as a one-stop shop for farm funding that matches farmers with grants, cost-share programs, and loans, and then helps them apply by simplifying and de-jargoning the paperwork. FarmRaise is free for farmers to use to access more than 40 federal funding opportunities. Participating farmers fill out a brief eligibility quiz that determines which opportunities they match.




Future Harvest Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture is accepting applications for three levels of its free Beginning Farmer Training Program until October 16, 2020. The year-long immersive training experience combines a comprehensive classroom curriculum with hands-on learning at some of the region's leading sustainable farms. The region-wide program is open to beginning farmers in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Washington, DC, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania, and offers training in diverse operation types, including vegetables, fruit, cut flowers, herbs, and livestock at urban, peri-urban, and rural farm settings. Level 1 is for those who are relatively new to farming and offers attendance at a number of field days, as well as a winter workshop series. Level 2 provides intensive, hands-on experience for those with a year or more of farming experience. Level 3 is for intermediate level farmers with three to five years of experience, who are paired one-on-one with a farming mentor.




USDA Risk Management Agency is seeking public comments on recommended improvements to the Pasture, Rangeland, Forage (PRF) Rainfall Index Crop Insurance Program by November 5, 2020. Improvements that have been recommended include the following: Adjusting the County Base Value (CBV) productivity range; Better targeting of indemnities; Focusing PRF on viable forage production areas; Focusing coverage on risk-reducing intervals; Taking an alternative approach to reducing frequent shallow losses; and Modifying the CBV. Details on the recommendations are available in a report published on the RMA website for public review and comment.




The Wisconsin Farm Support Program, a joint program between the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) and the Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR), distributed $8.4 million to more than 3,300 Wisconsin farmers in the second round. The second round of funding was open to farmers whose gross income from farming in 2019 was between $10,000 and $5 million. "In this round, almost 60% of funding recipients reported a gross income from farming of less than $40,000," said DATCP Secretary-designee Randy Romanski. "Clearly, there was a need for additional support among Wisconsin's smaller farm operations." In total, the Wisconsin Farm Support Program utilized $50 million of the state's CARES Act funding to quickly provide direct support to help cover economic losses during the pandemic.




USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) announced modifications to the Whole-Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) program to decrease paperwork and recordkeeping burdens for direct marketers beginning with the 2021 crop year. Participants in stakeholder meetings recommended RMA decrease the requirements for reporting yield and revenues for each commodity, which is especially difficult for direct marketers who may sell several commodities through a roadside stand. The newly implemented modifications allow growers to report two or more direct-marketed commodities as a combined single commodity code with a combined expected revenue for all commodities. Additionally, the combined direct-marketed commodities will count as two commodities in calculating the diversification premium discount. Revenue history will be based on reported revenue from the combined direct-marketed commodities and total acres planted to those commodities.




Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides has posted a five-minute video titled Successes in Organic Hazelnut Production: Biodiversity and Management of Filbert Moth. The video features grower Taylor Larson of My Brothers' Farm in Creswell, Oregon, demonstrating how to manage hazelnut orchards for increased biodiversity and healthy soil. This video was created with support from Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, and in cooperation with the Oregon Organic Hazelnut Cooperative.




Walmart Foundation, Cargill, and McDonald's are investing over $6 million in an initiative led by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) that aims to make lasting improvements to the grasslands of the Northern Great Plains. The new program, known as the Ranch Systems and Viability Planning network, will support ranchers across the ecoregion—focusing primarily on Montana, Nebraska, and South Dakota—with technical expertise, training, and tools to help advance grazing practices that improve the health of the land. Organizers say that by improving management of one million acres over five years and avoiding conversion, this effort will result in increased carbon storage and sequestration, improved water infiltration, and better outcomes for biodiversity. WWF will work with ranchers on private and tribal lands to provide extension services in one-on-one and group workshops, offer ongoing technical expertise, and provide cost share and monitoring to help ranchers design, document, and implement ranch plans.




The Cornell Maple Program has a new notebook for producers available free online. The 202-page Sugarbush Management Notebook addresses topics such as maintaining a healthy sugarbush, sugarbush improvement, pest and disease monitoring, regeneration, ecosystem health, and more. The publication joins the Cornell Maple Program's notebook series, which includes publications on beginning syrup production, marketing, production, and value-added products.




A project funded by North Central SARE explored the potential for quinoa to be grown organically in North Dakota. The hardy and versatile crop is experiencing increased market demand, and North Dakota farmers Glendon Philbrick and Steve Eid were awarded a grant that supported their investigation of planting methods, harvesting and processing systems, weed control, crop rotation, organic fertilization, and marketing for quinoa. Although they found that the crop could be grown under proper conditions, they found that it could not be marketed due to a lack of accessible processing equipment for removing the quinoa's bitter saponin coating.




Wild Farm Alliance (WFA) has announced plans to create the first Songbird Farm Trail, with the goal of one million nest boxes being installed on farms from Baja to British Columbia along North America's Pacific Coast. A description of the project, outlining the important role beneficial birds play on farms and the critical role farmers play in protecting declining bird populations, is located on WFA's Multimedia Story Platform, "Benefits of Birds on the Farm." WFA, with the help of farmers, will be tracking occupancy of bird boxes over time to collect data about the changes in local bird populations. This citizen science data will also help farmers realize the benefits they are receiving from providing bird habitat. WFA hopes that the Songbird Farm Trail will serve as a model that can be replicated on farmland throughout the country.




Scientists at the University of Turku, in Finland, found that when poultry manure with glyphosate residue is applied to plants, their growth is decreased. In testing, both meadow fescue and strawberries showed less growth, and strawberries put out fewer runners, when fertilized with manure from quails that were fed with feed containing glyphosate. The researchers suggest that higher levels of glyphosate are applied to glyphosate-tolerant crops, which can lead to higher levels of glyphosate residue in animal feeds made from those crops. This, in turn, leads to higher glyphosate levels in the animal manure, which has an effect on plants in fields where this manure is used as fertilizer. The researchers also identified indirect effects stemming from field application of glyphosate-contaminated manure.




USDA will accept applications for an additional $14 billion in aid to agricultural producers who continue to face market disruptions and associated costs because of COVID-19. Signup for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP 2) will begin September 21, 2020, and extend through December 11, 2020. USDA announced that it has incorporated improvements in CFAP 2 based from stakeholder engagement and public feedback to better meet the needs of impacted farmers and ranchers. CFAP 2 payments will be made for three categories of commodities: Price Trigger Commodities, Flat-rate Crops, and Sales Commodities. Sales commodities include specialty crops, aquaculture, nursery crops and floriculture, and other commodities not included in the price trigger and flat-rate categories. Payment calculations will use a sales-based approach, where producers are paid based on five payment gradations associated with their 2019 sales. Additional commodities are eligible in CFAP 2 that weren't eligible in the first iteration of the program.




USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service announced that it will invest $50 million through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) Alternative Funding Arrangements (AFA) in 10 conservation projects across 16 states. Regional partners will contribute more than $65 million to the selected projects. Through the AFA provision, NRCS has the authority to pursue innovative conservation approaches, such as pay-for-performance. Brief descriptions of the funded projects are available online. They include efforts aimed at preserving water quality, improving soil health, and protecting forests.




National Farmers Union (NFU) and Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) announced that they are working together to foster diversity and inclusion in agriculture professions. The organizations signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) summarizing the ways in which they will collaborate to provide educational and leadership opportunities for young people of all racial and ethnic identities, develop federal policy priorities, and extend each other's reach within agricultural communities.




The Quivira Coalition, Holistic Management International, and American Grassfed Association are accepting applications for the 2020 REGENERATE HERD Fellowship, which provides scholarships for beginning agrarians, land stewards, and students in related fields to attend the virtual 2020 REGENERATE Conference. The conference is scheduled for October 26 through November 20, 2020. The Fellowship will award a minimum of 30 full scholarships (covering the conference registration fee), prioritized to support individuals who come from historically underrepresented or economically low-resource communities and other marginalized identities in agriculture. Sponsors specifically encourage applications by Tribal, Latinx, Chicanx, Hispanic, Black/African American, Asian, Pacific Islander, and/or LGBTQ+ beginning ranchers, farmers, land stewards, and college students. However, qualified applicants from any background with a strong application will also be considered. Interested individuals can apply by submitting an online application or completing an interview by phone by September 30, 2020.




USDA Agricultural Marketing Service has published its final decision on withdrawal of the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Rule (OLPP) in the Federal Register. After reviewing the Economic Analysis Report related to the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices final rule and the public comments on it, AMS issued its Final Decision concluding that no additional rulemaking action with respect to the OLPP Rule is necessary.




North Central SARE reports that one of its grants supported Women's Environmental Institute (WEI) in creating an online farmers market to support the regional food system in east central Minnesota. WEI received a two-year grant that helped it coordinate the effort to recruit participating farmers using sustainable practices, build the website, and develop a customer base. North Central SARE says that North Circle Online Farmers Market offers products from 22 farmers and producers, delivered at seven drop sites from June-October. Farmers post their offerings online, and customers place orders from Saturday to Wednesday. On Wednesday, sales close and WEI notifies the farmers about what they have sold, collects the produce at the WEI packing barn, and arranges deliveries of customized boxes to drop sites.




A study published in Scientific Reports by FAI Farms, the University of Bristol and The Norwegian University of Life Sciences shows that slower growing broiler chickens are healthier and have more fun than conventional commercial breeds. The study tested how varying stocking density and breed affected animal welfare in four production systems. The authors concluded in their study of commercial production settings that, while there are benefits of providing chickens with more space by slightly lowering the animal density, changing to a slower growing breed results in much better health and more positive experiences for these birds.




USDA is letting residents and agricultural producers affected by recent wildfires know about assistance programs available through the department. These include USDA's emergency loan program, the Livestock Indemnity Program, the Livestock Forage Disaster Program, and the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program. In addition, USDA can also provide financial resources through its Environmental Quality Incentives Program to help with immediate needs and long-term support to help recover from natural disasters and conserve water resources. Farmers and ranchers needing to rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters can apply for assistance through USDA's Emergency Conservation Program. There are also programs to help restore forestland and orchards. USDA also has resources available for rebuilding rural and tribal communities.




A global study led by Lancaster University in the UK examined soil erosion data from 38 countries on six continents for insight on how erosion impacts soil longevity. The study revealed that more than 90% of the conventionally farmed soils in the study were thinning, and 16% had lifespans of less than a century. The study's lead author noted, "This study provides the first evidence-backed, globally relevant estimates of soil lifespans." He added, "Our study shows that soil erosion is a critical threat to global soil sustainability, and we need urgent action to prevent further rapid loss of soils and their delivery of vital ecosystem services." The study also showed that only 7% of soil under conservation management had lifespans shorter than a century, and nearly half exceeded 5,000 years, while some soils under conservation management were actually thickening.




The National Agricultural Law Center published a 12-page fact sheet that can help those considering adding a farm stay enterprise to their operation, Ten Legal Issues for Farm Stay Operators. The free, online resource reviews the top 10 potential legal issues farm or ranch operators may face when considering adding a farm stay business. It also illustrates the connection between different types of farm stay and the resulting legal risks and requirements. The PDF publication includes a checklist to assist operators with the process of considering and managing farm stay legal issues.




University of Tennessee Extension has published Considerations for Producing and Marketing Hops in Tennessee, a new manual to assist farmers and landowners who are considering growing hops. The 30-page guide addresses costs associated with establishing a hops plot, the annual costs associated with hops production, and marketing concerns like the craft brewing industry and agritourism. It also includes information on harvest, processing, and marketing hops to buyers.




A modeling study by Tufts University, published in Environmental Science & Technology, found that some but not all U.S. metro areas could grow all the food they need within 155 miles. The study considered 378 metropolitan areas across the country, and found that metro centers in the Northwest and interior of the country have the greatest potential for localization. Although large portions of the population along the Eastern Seaboard and the southwest corner of the U.S. could not meet demand locally, other cities are surrounded by ample land to support local and regional food systems, researchers say.




A feature in The Prairie Star describes how North Dakota rancher Lacey Block is direct-marketing beef through Rancher's Rebellion Beef Company, LLC, in North and South Dakota convenience stores and gas stations. Block describes navigating the regulations and paperwork for starting the business that supplies steaks, roasts, ribs, brisket, and ground beef from her own family's ranch as well as neighboring ranchers. She located narrow coolers in local stores to avoid the markup that chain stores would charge. The business launched in February, just when demand for local beef increased.




The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture is seeking stakeholder input in the the development of its 2021 Request for Applications (RFA) for its Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP). NIFA will be collecting this input via a webinar scheduled for September 16, 2020, from 1:00 – 2:30 Central Time, and by written comments submitted through e-mail by September 30, 2020. Join the ZoomGov Meeting with the Meeting ID: 160 595 0572 and Passcode: 299337. Send written comments via email to: Denis Ebodaghe at Denis.Ebodaghe@usda.gov or Desiree Rucker at desiree.rucker@usda.gov.




Organic farming training for specialty crop growers is now available free online from the University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF), and California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. The training program contains six learning modules: soil health, weed management, irrigation and water management, insect and mite pest management, disease management, and business management and marketing. The program provides a combination of written content, videos, and exercises that allow students to follow along at their own pace and test their grasp of the knowledge. "While it was developed for California specialty crop farmers, the content is based on foundational principles that are relevant to all organic farmers and our hope is that growers across the U.S. find it to be a useful resource," said OFRF Education and Research Program Manager Lauren Snyder.




New Entry Sustainable Farming Project and Tufts Food Lab are conducting a Grain Flash Poll to collect information on Northeast farmers' interest and experience in growing grains. This information will inform the design of a research and education project to help grow a local grain economy in the Northeast. If you grow grains or cover crops in rotation with veggies or fruit, grow grains for seed or straw, grow forage or feed for livestock, or if you are already growing grains for human consumption, please complete a three- to five-minute online poll before September 18, 2020.




Purdue University has announced the inaugural AgrAbility Virtual State Fair, set for October. The online event will provide resources and information for farmers, ranchers and other agricultural workers who are working in production agriculture with a disability, functional limitation, or health condition. "Cultivating Accessible Agriculture" will be the recurring theme as each day during the month, one of the 19 states participating in AgrAbility will highlight how it supports and serves this critically important population. The National AgrAbility Project (NAP) housed at Purdue University supports all the state AgrAbility projects and provides limited services to farmers and ranchers in states without AgrAbility projects.




The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has released the 2020 edition of its Greenbook publication, featuring Agricultural Growth, Research, and Innovation (AGRI) Sustainable Agriculture Demonstration Grant projects from the last three years. Projects, which last two to three years, are located on Minnesota farms in all regions of the state and involve innovative topics including cover cropping, soil fertility, fruits and vegetables, alternative markets or specialty crops, livestock, and energy. The annual Greenbook summarizes the completed projects and offers an overview of eight new projects that will be reported in future editions.




A new report from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy says that payments to compensate for damages from climate change cost taxpayers more than subsidizing good agricultural practices that would make farms more resilient. Agricultural Finance for Climate Resilience surveys policies and instruments in five segments of U.S. agricultural and agribusiness finance: taxpayer subsidized private crop and livestock insurance; federally regulated public and private agricultural loans; bond issuance to finance those loans; commodity futures markets whose prices should serve as reliable benchmarks for farmers' pre-harvest forwarding contracts of grains and oilseed crops; and the disclosure of corporate climate financial risks, particularly of agribusiness, to investors, lenders, credit rating agencies and other interested parties. The report concludes that each of these segments of agricultural finance must modify their policies and instruments, e.g., insurance premiums and indemnification rates, to internalize climate-related financial risks into pricing.




The Midwest Cover Crops Council has revised its Cover Crop Selector Tools that assist farmers in choosing cover crops to include in field crop and vegetable rotations. Users from 12 Midwest states can select their location and then select the goals they have for cover crops, such as erosion control, nitrogen scavenger, fighting weeds, and providing forage. They also can provide information about the cash crops they are planting and drainage data for their fields. The tool offers the best cover crop options for the specified conditions. Clicking on a particular cover crop brings up data sheets that offer more information about each crop, seeding rates, and more.




The Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program (SSARE) announced 16 funded projects for its 2020 Graduate Student Grants program. Grants totaling $236,875 will support sustainable agriculture research by master's and PhD students enrolled at accredited institutions in the southern region. This year's projects will address integrated grazing systems, soil moisture sensing, anaerobic soil disinfestation, intercropping for pest control, insect management, ramps production, food hubs, and more.




The U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) awarded $4.5 million through its SMARTFARM project to an effort led by the University of Illinois to develop technology to calculate carbon credits at the farm scale. The project, named "SYMFONI," combines satellite observations, mobile soil sensing, and supercomputers to provide field-level quantification of carbon intensity. It will be developing commercial products to calculate the value of various ecosystem services related to crop and land management decisions.




Agricultural, development, environmental, financial, and consumer economists at the University of Illinois have launched a new Center for the Economics of Sustainability (CEOS). The research center is exploring how best to manage natural resources and how to design policies and markets to achieve sustainability at the lowest possible cost. CEOS has a website with a library of articles, working papers, and public data sets for people collecting information on a certain research topic, and also offers opportunities to collaborate with CEOS researchers.




USDA announced that it is reopening the comment period for the interim final rule that was published on October 31, 2019, establishing the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program. The reopening will provide an additional 30 days for interested persons to comment on the interim final rule. Stakeholders, especially those who were subject to the regulatory requirements of the IFR during the 2020 production cycle, are invited to provide comments. Comment topics of particular interest are listed online. Comments must be received by October 8, 2020.




Researchers at the University of Georgia tested using the food additives levulinic acid and sodium dodecyl sulfate as a pre-harvest spray on tomatoes. In on-farm tests, the spray treatment was found to significantly reduce the levels of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, salmonella, and L. monocytogenes on the surface of the tomatoes. This study found the pre-harvest spray to be an environmentally preferable and labor-saving way to control foodborne pathogens on produce, compared to post-harvest washing using chlorine. In addition, the spray can be applied using equipment that is already common on many farms.




Environmental Defense Fund has released Financing Resilient Agriculture. This 49-page report provides a path forward for lenders to mitigate climate risks and finance resilient agriculture. It's for agricultural lenders and lending institutions, as well as others interested in understanding the climate risks faced by the agricultural lending sector and the role of agricultural lenders in financing resilient agriculture. The report is available free online in PDF. The report's foreword notes, "This report makes a clear and compelling case that long-term farm profitability is not undermined by near-term investments in conservation and climate resilience—it depends on it."




Research published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution set a value of $14.6 to $19.5 billion annually on non-chemical crop protection in 23 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, reports CABI. This international study "unveils the magnitude and macro-economic relevance of biodiversity-based contributions to productivity growth in non-rice crops over a 100-year period between 1918 and 2018." The study shows how 75 biological control agents mitigated 43 pests over the study period, and demonstrates the economic value of biological control in comparison to other agricultural strategies.




Writing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from North Carolina State University and Pennsylvania State University argued for curbing the use of neonicotinoid insecticides by discontinuing the practice of applying them preventively on crop seeds. Although the practice is widespread in the United States, at least one study has cast doubt on its efficacy. Furthermore, evidence shows that these pesticides spread through the environment to pollinators, predators, and other insects they are not intended to kill. These scientists say that using less neonicotinoid insecticide could help reduce cascading effects on the environment from insecticides whose risks have not been fully characterized.




Research conducted by Cornell University and Cooperative Extension vegetable specialists and funded by Northern New York Agricultural Development Program evaluated production and harvest of ground cherries and goldenberries. Ground cherry (Physalis pruinosa) and goldenberry (Physalis peruviana) are warm-season annual crops that yield a yellow fruit popular as a healthy snack food. Golden cherry is currently grown and sold by farms in northern New York. It grows close to the ground and drops its fruit when ripe, making harvest labor-intensive. Goldenberry grows upright, is harvested by picking, and is being evaluated as a new crop for growers in northern New York. In this project, a harvesting frame built to collect ground cherries efficiently worked well. However, three methods of trellising for the upright-growing goldenberry proved too costly. The complete project report, with production and harvesting data, and costs and a video are posted online.




Nonprofit certifier A Greener World (AGW) has launched a plan-based regenerative certification, Certified Regenerative by A Greener World. The new certification will provide a whole-farm assurance of sustainability, measuring benefits for soil, water, air, biodiversity, infrastructure, animal welfare, and social responsibility. The program will be backed by A Greener World's ISO/IEC Guide 17065 accreditation. The core feature of this program is a farmer-led Regenerative Plan whereby farms assess risk, set goals, and track progress toward their own meaningful milestones.




The 2021 MOSES Organic Farming Conference will be a virtual event, tentatively scheduled for the last week of February. The planning team is inviting video submissions from farmers of Farmer Speed Presentations. Through a four-minute video, you can show others an insightful tip you've developed to make a farm chore easier, demonstrate a cool tool you're using or hack you've created, or simply give a virtual tour of your farm. Farmer speed presentation videos must be submitted by October 31, 2020.




The Soil Health Institute is releasing Cotton & Covers, a Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton video series that follows three Southeastern cotton producers as they discuss their individual journeys to build profitable soil health management systems on their farms. The series features Sonny Price from Dillon, South Carolina; Zeb Winslow from Scotland Neck, North Carolina; and Burton Heatwole from Millen, Georgia. These cotton producers discuss why they decided to explore practices that promote soil health and the benefits they've discovered as they experimented with reduced tillage, increased cover crop species diversity, and livestock grazing. New videos in the series will be made available weekly through September.




Farmer's Business Network has launched GRO Network™, a grain supply chain that creates value for environmental stewardship. According to GRO Network, buyers are looking for environmentally responsible agriculture products, while farmers want to expand conservation efforts and earn compensation for regenerative practices. GRO Network advocates for a near-term focus on emissions abatement to create immediate improvements for farmers and the environment, that can be tracked with existing farm technology. For buyers, GRO Network provides the technology, service, and tools to source and score Low-Carbon Grain. Bringing Low-Carbon Grain to the Agriculture Supply Chain, a white paper that explains the concept, is available online.




A new study from researchers at the University of Minnesota and Iowa State University found in a large-scale, long-term field experiment at Iowa State University's Marsden Farm that diversifying crop rotations can greatly reduce negative environmental and health impacts, while maintaining profitability for farmers. The experiment, initiated in 2001, compares the performance characteristics of a two-year corn-soy rotation with those of a three-year corn-soybean-oat rotation and a four-year corn-soybean-oat-alfalfa rotation. Adding small grains and forages to the conventional corn-soybean rotation resulted in less fertilizer use, less fossil fuel use, and lower greenhouse-gas emissions.




USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture announced the award of grants through the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) and Organic Transitions Program (ORG). A list of 20 recipients of OREI grants totaling $17 million is available online. This program helps fund research, education, and extension projects to improve yields, quality, and profitability for producers and processors who have adopted organic standards. Additionally, 12 ORG grants totaling $5.6 million were awarded to support research, education, and extension efforts to help existing and transitioning organic livestock and crop producers adopt organic practices and improve their market competitiveness.




A new study led by Colorado State University predicted significant climate benefits stemming from the use of current and future advanced biofuel technologies. Accounting for all of the carbon flows in biofuel systems and comparing them to those in grasslands and forests, the team found that there are clear strategies for biofuels to have a net carbon benefit. In one model in particular, switchgrass can be processed by cellulosic biofuel refinery, and the remaining byproduct, representing half the carbon, is available for carbon capture and storage. "This analysis shows a quantitatively reasoned case as to why the biofuel industry should advance, not simply as a means to provide a truly renewable source of biofuel but—when combined with carbon capture and storage—a means to actually remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere at scale and in a viable manner," said co-author Stephen Long, at the University of Illinois.




Kiss the Ground, an 85-minute movie that explores key soil health and regenerative agricultural principles, will stream September 22, 2020, on Netflix. Directed by Josh and Rebecca Tickell, the film features soil-health practitioners Gabe Brown and Ray Archuleta, along with Woody Harrelson, Gisele Bundchen, Jason Mraz, and Ian Somerhalder, and interviews with a wide range of authors, researchers, and scientists. The movie's thesis proposes that by regenerating the world's soils, humans can rapidly stabilize Earth's climate, restore lost ecosystems, and create abundant food supplies. The film uses creative graphics and visuals, along with NASA and NOAA footage, to illustrate how, by drawing down atmospheric carbon, many of humankind's most pressing climate and environmental problems can be solved. A preview of the movie is offered online.




University of Texas Rio Grande Valley graduate student Stephanie Kasper conducted research under a Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SSARE) grant on how moisture and nutrient availability affect the ability of the cover crop Iron and Clay Cowpea to fix nitrogen. Although soil moisture and micronutrients have an impact on a plant's ability to produce nodules, this research showed that timing of moisture has an even larger impact on nodulation. "During the course of the plant's lifetime, it is most important that it has moisture during the beginning of the season, when it's first starting to grow and it has the opportunity to form the relationship with the bacteria. If it is dry during the beginning of the season, and the relationship between the plant and bacteria doesn't form because there isn't enough moisture in the soil, then you probably won't see nitrogen fixation even if you get water later," explained Kasper.




Farm Aid 2020 will be a virtual festival available online at farmaid.org and on AXS TV on Saturday, September 26 from 8-11 p.m. EDT. The 35th anniversary festival will showcase the diversity and strength of family farmers with stories from across the country, as well as performances by Willie Nelson and The Boys, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews, and many other artists. "This pandemic and so many other challenges have revealed how essential family farmers and ranchers are to the future of our planet. Farm Aid 2020 is going to give the whole country a chance to learn about the important work of farmers and how they're contributing to our well-being, beyond bringing us good food," said Farm Aid president Willie Nelson.




Minnesotans interested in making it easier for new and emerging farmers to create or sustain an agricultural business are encouraged to apply to join a legislatively created Emerging Farmers' Working Group through the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Interested people can apply by October 2, 2020, to serve on the working group, which will have 15 to 20 members and meet on a regular basis. Anyone is eligible to apply, and application materials are available online.




Research from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory shows that increasingly hot and dry conditions will change where and when crops can be grown by 2045. Although a third of the vegetables and two-thirds of the fruits and nuts consumed by Americans are currently grown in California, the regions where they are grown may become too hot and dry for continued production in 20 years. The paper "Projected temperature increases may require shifts in the growing season of cool-season crops and the growing locations of warm-season crops" was published in Science of the Total Environment. "If crops can no longer be grown in their current locations, then the farmer has to either move to a new area or grow a different crop, which presents a practical and economic burden on the farmer," notes the study's lead author.




New York berry growers collaborating with Cornell University researchers are reporting success in using exclusion netting to prevent spotted wing drosophila (SWD) infestations. A paper published in Crop Protection documents that in testing over the past few years, early-season placement of exclusion netting was effective in protecting raspberries from SWD. One grower has avoided pesticide use for six years, with less than 1% incidence of SWD. She notes that the cost of the exclusion netting is lower than the cost of pesticides. The netting is attached to a frame that surrounds the berry crop. Producers must be prepared to deal with infestations that can occur from workers moving in and out of the exclusion.




A research brief posted by the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems at the University of Wisconsin says that composting dairy manure and bedding pack before spreading it on fields reduces runoff losses. Composting Manure and Bedding Reduces Potential Soil and Phosphorus Loss shows that composting is a viable way to reduce phosphorus runoff losses from livestock operations with bedded pack manure. A composting step eliminates the need to spread manure on frozen ground, and it both reduces the water solubility of phosphorus and adds stable organic matter that results in reduced erosion. The PDF brief is available online.




USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) is reminding farmers and ranchers that the deadline to apply for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) is September 11, 2020. This program provides direct relief to producers who faced price declines and additional marketing costs due to COVID-19. More than 160 commodities are eligible for CFAP, including certain non-specialty crops, livestock, dairy, wool, specialty crops, eggs, aquaculture, nursery crops, and cut flowers. A complete list of eligible commodities, payment rates, and calculations can be found on farmers.gov/cfap. FSA operates a call center where employees can answer producers' questions and help you get started on your application. Customers seeking one-on-one support with the CFAP application process can call 877-508-8364 to speak directly with a USDA employee ready to offer general assistance.




USDA is extending the signup deadline for the Soil Health and Income Protection Program (SHIPP) pilot program to November 20, 2020. SHIPP, part of the Conservation Reserve Program, enables producers in Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota to receive payments for planting perennial cover for conservation use for three to five years. This pilot supports producers in planting perennial cover that, among other benefits, will improve soil health and water quality while offering the option to harvest, hay, and graze outside the primary nesting season. Producers can enroll up to 50,000 acres in the program.




USDA Agricultural Marketing Service National Organic Program (NOP) has posted meeting materials for the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) Fall 2020 Meeting, to be held virtually on October 20 and 22 and October 28-30, 2020. Available materials include the tentative agenda, proposals, and discussion documents. Proposal documents are available in a single combined PDF, as well as in individual proposals on each corresponding Subcommittee web page.




USDA published a final rule updating the determination of whether land is considered highly erodible or wetland. To be eligible for most USDA programs, producers must be conservation compliant with the highly erodible land and wetland provisions. These provisions aim to reduce soil loss on erosion-prone lands and to protect wetlands for the multiple benefits they provide. This final rule confirms most of the changes made by the December 2018 interim final rule and includes additional clarification on hydrology. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has recently updated its conservation compliance webpages, adding highly erodible land and wetland determination resources for agricultural producers by state.




The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) and farmers and ranchers from across the country have delivered a letter to the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, urging Congress to support and invest in farming and rural communities to address the climate crisis. The letter underscores the fundamental threat that the climate crisis poses to the livelihoods of farmers and ranchers and the viability of agriculture. It was signed by 2,130 farmers and ranchers, and it highlights both the impacts of the climate crisis on agriculture and the opportunities for farmers to lead on climate solutions.




A survey of producers in South Dakota, North Dakota, and Nebraska examined why some agricultural producers prioritize soil health and how to encourage more producers to adopt conservation practices, reports South Dakota State University. The project is part of a four-year, NIFA-funded project evaluating integrated crop and livestock management systems. Almost 38% of the 672 farmers who responded to this survey reported using diversified crop rotation plans, while 71% were grazing livestock on croplands. However, only 28% of the respondents indicated that they used both methods to improve soil health. The survey also assessed what might motivate farmers to begin integrating livestock grazing on cropland. They found that cash incentives would encourage farmers to adopt an integrated system, and that farmers would chose an integrated system over a third or fourth crop in rotation.




Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds allocated approximately $100 million of federal CARES Act relief funds for a range of agricultural programs to offset the impact of COVID-19 on farmers, producers and agricultural industries. The allocations include $60 million for the Iowa Livestock Producer Relief Fund, which will provide grants of up to $10,000 to eligible producers of pork, beef, chicken, turkeys, dairy, fish, or sheep to serve as working capital to stabilize livestock producers. Meanwhile, the Iowa Beginning Farmer Debt Relief Fund received $6 million to provide eligible beginning farmers with a long-term debt service payment of up to $10,000. Two million in funding for the Meat Processing Development and Expansion Program will aid small meat processors in expanding processing capacity across the state to meet protein demand. Additionally, the Farm Produce and Protein Program provides grants to schools that buy produce and other local crops and protein sources from Iowa specialty crop producers. The programs are beginning to accept applications.




USDA announced the availability of assistance to help eligible farmers and ranchers reestablish their operations, for agricultural producers affected by recent wildfires that have burned more than two million acres, mostly in the western states. USDA partnered with FEMA and other disaster-focused organizations to create the Disaster Resource Center, a searchable knowledge base of disaster-related resources. This website and web tool provide an easy access point to find USDA disaster information and assistance. USDA also developed a disaster assistance discovery tool that walks producers through five questions to generate personalized results identifying which USDA disaster assistance programs can help them recover from a natural disaster.




Researchers at Australia's Southern Cross University demonstrated that the neonicotinoid insecticide imidacloprid can impact the feeding behavior of prawns in a laboratory environment, leading to nutritional deficiency and reduced flesh quality. Earlier work with shrimp showed similar risks from neonicotinoid exposure, which is a particular concern given increased detection of the water-soluble pesticide in coastal waters worldwide. "This means prawns and shrimp are highly vulnerable if they become exposed to high levels of neonicotinoids, either through contaminated water or feed, which often contains plant-based material," noted the study's co-author, adding, "Our research identifies the need for effective management of pesticide use and run-off from intensive agriculture in coastal areas with productive seafood industries."




USDA's new Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production announced the recipients of its first grants and cooperative agreements. USDA is awarding approximately $1.14 million for three Planning Projects and approximately $1.88 million for seven Implementation Projects. Activities include operating community gardens and nonprofit farms, increasing food production and access in economically distressed communities, providing job training and education, and developing business plans and zoning. Additionally, USDA is investing approximately $1.09 million through Community Compost and Food Waste Reduction (CCFWR) Projects in 13 pilot projects that will develop and test strategies for planning and implementing municipal compost plans and food waste reduction. A complete list of recipients, with project summaries, is available online.




Penn State research on eight organic dairy farms in Pennsylvania and New York and on research plots at Penn State's Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center showed that cover crop mixes perform very differently in different locations. Participating farmers seeded a standard pre-formulated commercial cover crop mixture of canola, Austrian winter pea, triticale, red clover, and crimson clover, as well as a "farm-tuned" mixture of the same five species that adjusted seeding rates to achieve that farmer's particular goals. Researchers found that cover crop mixture expression varied greatly across farms, depending significantly on soil inorganic nitrogen content and planting dates that influenced the number of growing days.




Researchers from the University of Minnesota and the University of Vermont worked together on a project in California's Central Valley that revealed the value of pollination benefits that neighboring farmers share when some farmers provide bee habitat. "Bees don't pay attention to land boundaries," said the study's lead author Eric Lonsdorf. "In the current system, farmers who choose to conserve habitat for bees on their lands are rarely recognized for the pollination benefits that they're also providing to their neighbors." This study proposes that farmers providing bee habitat be compensated for the pollination benefits they're providing for others. The researchers also note that the more farmers group together to provide habitat, the greater the resulting benefits. Ideally, the researchers say they would like to see their work help inform policies that encourage cooperation and resource sharing amongst farmers.




The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, the New York Dairy Promotion Order (DPO) Advisory Board, and VentureFuel have announced MilkLaunch, a new startup competition focused on accelerating product innovation for dairy products in New York State. MilkLaunch will encourage entrepreneurs to introduce exciting new dairy products with the ultimate goal of boosting dairy sales in New York State. The competition includes more than $200,000 in awards, including providing $15,000 to support four finalists in perfecting their product via lab time, customer insights, research, and elite mentorship from global experts across the consumer products, retail and dairy industries. The grand prize of $150,000 will be used to accelerate the winner(s) of the competition to get to market and drive dairy sales. Entries are open to all including dairy farms, processors, producers, entrepreneurs, academics, and ideators. The entry deadline is September 15, 2020.




A new four-page publication available free online in PDF from Iowa Beef Center explains positive aspects of low stress cattle handling systems as a way to improve performance, animal welfare, and handling efficiency. The publication offers an overview of the natural behavior of cattle and describes general principles of handling cattle. It explains how low stress handling can be properly utilized in an operation. A section on facilities includes two simple designs used most commonly for low stress cattle handing. The information and awareness are helpful for all ages of cattle and types of operation.




The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is seeking public comments on the program priorities for the state's 2021 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP). The SCBGP program priorities are intended to address the current needs of California's specialty crop industry and help guide prospective applicants to submit projects that address the most significant issues affecting the industry. For 2021, CDFA is proposing changes to the priorities to respond to challenges related to COVID-19 and address issues of farmer equity Interested parties should review the Proposed Program Priorities and may attend a web based public listening session or submit emailed comments. Comments from specialty crop stakeholders are strongly encouraged.




Montana Organic Association (MOA) held its annual farm tour in 2020 with just 11 participants, including a video crew that documented the event for posting online. Mark and Jane Smith hosted the 2020 MOA farm tour at their Aspen Island Ranch, a small-scale operation with 65 certified organic grass-fed cow-calf pairs and long yearlings awaiting harvest. The tour is posted on YouTube as a series of nine 3-minute to 39-minute videos dealing with specific management topics.




The California Department of Food and Agriculture has awarded $1 million in Biologically Integrated Farming Systems (BIFS) grant funding for a project led by Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) that will expand the use of low-risk pest control practices in California's walnut industry. "Promoting Biologically Integrated Orchard Systems in Walnuts in Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys" will establish six 40-acre demonstration sites over the next three years, where pheromone mating disruption and biological control programs will be used to manage a suite of major walnut pests.




The Organic Trade Association released Advancing Organic to Mitigate Climate Change, a major report on organic and its ability to mitigate climate change. The white paper identifies policy opportunities to elevate the role of organic in the climate change discussion, support organic farmers, and encourage transition to organic farming. The 33-page PDF is available free online. The trade association also recently announced the launch of a Climate Task Force, open to all Organic Trade Association members.




Farm Aid is creating a montage of farmer faces and voices to be part of its annual festival, showcasing how essential family farmers are. Farmers are invited to submit audio or video clips by August 24, 2020, responding to prompts that encourage you to speak about your life on the farm; COVID-19's impacts on your farm, farmers, and our food system; the connection between food and racial and social justice; and more.




Florida Rural Legal Services (FLRS) is offering free legal assistance to farmworkers across the state through a toll-free hotline, 1-844-443-2769. Callers to the Farmworkers Hotline can access Spanish-, English-, or Creole-speaking migrant unit response team members in person between 8:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. The line specifically caters to the legal needs of Florida farmworkers. Additionally, FLRS offers legal aid designed to support grassroots organizations and promote community-based neighborhood transformations such as revitalization, economic development, and small business growth.