ATTRA's COVID-19 statement

Spring Update: You can now download any of our technical materials for FREE!

Latest News




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




Gro-connect.com, a global food-supply chain networking platform that connects farmers with buyers, is currently waiving its yearly membership fee until the COVID-19 global pandemic clears. The platform serves as a neutral and safe hosting destination where food-supply chain users create custom profiles to connect with other users looking to buy or sell nationally and globally. Each profile allows for photo and data uploads, website and social media links, private messages, and a rating system that enables members to evaluate the interaction of other users.




Just over one year ago, The Livestock Conservancy launched an initiative to build interest among fiber artists in rare breed sheep's wool. The Shave 'Em to Save 'Em program introduces fiber artists to rare breed fiber by sponsoring a challenge to start new projects and earn items upon completion. The Conservancy had modest hopes that perhaps a few hundred fiber artists would sign up over the course of three years, bringing business to the shepherds and increasing the populations of rare sheep breeds on its Conservation Priority List. To date, more than 1,700 fiber artists have joined and the initiative's Facebook group has welcomed nearly 4,000 members. Additionally, more than 1,100 people are part of the Ravelry group (a social media site designed specifically for fiber artists). In addition to benefiting from increased interest in their rare sheep, the shepherds raising them have gained valuable knowledge about their customer base through this initiative.




The University of Idaho, Oregon State University, and Boise State University, on behalf of the Western Cover Crops Council, are conducting a survey to improve understanding of cover crop use throughout the U.S. West, Guam, and Micronesia. Specifically, the survey aims to include a range of perspectives from farmers and ranchers on the benefits and barriers related to cover crops and the effectiveness of policy incentives. The data collected from this SARE-funded study will guide the development of cover crop outreach and inform incentive programs. Whether you plant them now, planted them in the past, or have not ever planted them, your perspective is important. This brief survey will take approximately five to 10 minutes to complete. The survey is confidential, and your responses cannot be linked to you. Upon completion you will have the opportunity to enter a drawing for one of 10 $50 Amazon gift cards.




USDA announced it is seeking public and private sector input on the most important ag innovation opportunities to further its work on the Agriculture Innovation Agenda. Using input provided, USDA will identify common themes across the agriculture customer base to inform research and innovation efforts in the Department, the broader public sector, and the private sector. USDA is accepting public comments and written stakeholder input through August 1, 2020. Respondents are asked to identify transformational innovation opportunities for the next era of agriculture productivity and environmental conservation and propose approaches to these opportunities with an eye to the public and private sector research needed to support them. Based on this stakeholder input, USDA will develop a comprehensive U.S. agriculture innovation strategy that it intends to release by the end of this year.




USDA seeks nominations of qualified individuals for five open seats on the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). The 15-member advisory board considers and makes recommendations on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances and other issues involved in the production, handling, and processing of USDA certified organic products. Each member serves a five-year term and represents specific sectors of the organic community. Current openings for positions beginning January 2021 include two individuals who own or operate an organic farming operation, or employees of such individuals; two individuals who represent public interest or consumer interest groups; and one individual who is a USDA-accredited certifying agent. Nominations are due by June 1, 2020.




Assistance from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture's (MDA) Rural Finance Authority (RFA) will be available to help farmers whose operations are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. A $330 million Minnesota COVID-19 relief bill just signed into law contains provisions expanding the use of funding for the RFA to open up the Disaster Recovery Loan Program for loss of revenue due to human contagious disease. Governor Tim Walz recently signed a bill into law allocating $50 million to the RFA, replenishing the funds available to offer Minnesota farmers affordable financing and terms and conditions not available from traditional lenders.




Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) and the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) have extended the deadline for responding to their two surveys of organic producers until June 1, 2020. One national survey is for certified organic producers and a second is for producers transitioning to organic. This collaborative effort is part of a project to learn about the challenges and research priorities of organic operations. OSA points out that during these uncertain times, it's more important than ever for farmers and ranchers to make their voices heard.




The National Farm Medicine Center is highlighting options for health insurance for farm families who may have lost coverage, or who previously may not have had coverage. A press release recommends checking your state's health insurance exchange, and notes that 11 states have re-opened their health insurance exchange for a special enrollment period. According to the release, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is also considering opening a special enrollment period for the 32 states that are run by the federal government.




The West Virginia Department of Agriculture (WVDA) is working with local producers and farmers impacted by COVID-19 mitigation efforts by facilitating communication between producers and potential buyers. The Department will provide an ongoing directory to those who are interested in being connected with local West Virginia farmers and their food products. Producers who are interested in being added to the list can reach out to the WVDA Business Development Division. In order to add items to the distribution list, producers should be prepared to provide contact information and details of available products. Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt said, "We have advocated for local farmers markets and all agriculture operations to stay open during this time. Consumers should take advantage of them while taking the necessary precautions."




The California Department of Food and Agriculture announced the projects selected for 2019 State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP) grant awards. The program offers funding to improve water and energy efficiencies on farms and ranches, increasing agriculture's resiliency to drought and climate change impacts. From throughout the state, 125 agricultural operations have been selected to receive $9.7 million in total, to improve crop irrigation systems that result in water savings and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. The list of funded projects is available online. The selected projects are estimated to save 74,900 acre-feet of water and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 32,800 metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent over 10 years, the equivalent of removing more than 7,000 vehicles from the road.




The sixth nationwide cover crop survey by SARE, the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC), and the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) is inviting farmers to provide their insights on cover crops. Farmers experienced with cover crops, new users of cover crops, and farmers who have not planted cover crops at all are invited to participate. The online survey takes about 10 to 15 minutes to complete. Participants who complete the survey by April 12, 2020, can enter a drawing for Visa gift cards worth $100 and $200. The ongoing yearly survey helps to guide national research, communications, and policy on cover crops.




USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is seeking public comment on proposed revisions to 49 national conservation practice standards. The 2018 Farm Bill required NRCS to review all 169 existing national conservation practices to seek opportunities to increase flexibility and incorporate new technologies. Improvements to the 49 revised conservation practice standards include expanding and updating their scope to incorporate new technology and increase flexibility, enhancing water conservation practices such as irrigation, and addressing wildlife issues. The comment period for these revisions will be open until April 23, 2020. NRCS plans to seek public comment on additional conservation practice standards throughout 2020.




A tool that could help agricultural producers faced with the loss of markets is Virginia MarketMaker, says Virginia Tech. Virginia MarketMaker is an online platform that connects producers with markets and is free to Virginia businesses, Extension agents, and retail shops. The platform, which is part of a larger nationwide network, has been available in Virginia since 2015 and already has a database of producers and other food processors around the state. The platform allows new users to set up a profile for free, which gives them access to enter their own business information, appear in search results for markets, and post product needs and availability. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, MarketMaker has also made it possible for individual farms to set up an online store for free. In addition to producers, food banks, and other emergency feeding programs can use MarketMaker to find products. The platform is also available to community gardens, hydroponic growers, and other non-traditional producers and businesses who may be struggling to replace now-closed lines of operation.




USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) is relaxing the loan-making process and adding flexibilities for servicing direct and guaranteed loans to provide credit to producers in need. FSA is relaxing the loan-making process, including the following measures: extending the deadline for applicants to complete farm loan applications; preparing Direct Loans documents even if FSA is unable to complete lien and record searches because of closed government buildings; and closing loans if the required lien position on the primary security is perfected, even for loans that require additional security and those lien searches, filings, and recordings cannot be obtained because of closed government buildings. Additionally, FSA is extending deadlines for producers to respond to loan servicing actions, including loan deferral consideration for financially distressed and delinquent borrowers. FSA will temporarily suspend loan accelerations, non-judicial foreclosures, and referring foreclosures to the Department of Justice.




The recently completed general signup for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) accepted more than 3.4 million acres. Through CRP, farmers and ranchers receive an annual rental payment for establishing 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. The 2018 Farm Bill established a nationwide acreage limit for CRP, with the total number of acres that may be enrolled capped at 24.5 million acres in 2020 and growing to 27 million by 2023. Although the deadline for general signup has passed, signups for continuous CRP, Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, CRP Grasslands, and the Soil Health and Income Protection Program (SHIPP) are ongoing. Additionally, USDA plans to launch a new pilot conservation program, Clean Lakes, Estuaries, and Rivers 30 (CLEAR 30), this spring.




The Student Farm at the University of California, Davis, is operating with new precautions in place. Workers wear single-use gloves, stay six feet apart, and sanitize tools and surfaces that are touched. Produce from the farm goes to 120 Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscribers, as well as UC Davis Dining Services and the ASUCD Pantry and Aggie Compass—the Basic Needs Center. For now, a skeleton crew will harvest spring crops, plant summer vegetables, and share their produce with the Davis community, as the students who would usually be working and learning at the farm during the spring transition to online learning, instead.




Conservation Learning Group has released the Whole Farm Conservation Best Practices Manual to aid farmers in selecting conservation measures appropriate for their farms. The manual was developed in cooperation with the Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance, and Practical Farmers of Iowa, and with the support and input from multiple local, state, and federal organizations. The manual is designed for beginning farmers, but provides a broad range of information that could be beneficial to any producer. It includes detailed information regarding implementation and expected outcomes for tillage management, cover crops and diverse rotations, and edge-of-field practices such as wetlands, bioreactors, saturated buffers, controlled drainage, and prairie strips.




USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) has sent the 2020 National Farmers Market Managers Survey to 15,000 farmers market managers. This survey is gathering data on farmers market operations in 2019. It will provide an empirical estimate of the number of farmers markets in the United States and share general information about market organizational characteristics, agricultural business support activities, and market development activities. Participants can respond by mail, phone, or through an online portal. Managers are urged to participate in the survey. Results may be used to inform USDA's future grant and policy decisions and the data could help farmers market managers and associations improve and grow their markets and customers.




EcoFarm is now accepting workshop and speaker proposals for the 41st EcoFarm Conference, set for January 20-23, 2021. Workshop/speaker proposals will be collected through June 1, 2020, and can be submitted online. Farmers, ranchers, distributors, retailers, consumers, industry reps, consultants, activists, and educators are invited to submit ideas.




Pennsylvania's Center for Dairy Excellence has compiled an online library of resources to help dairy farm families manage crisis planning, stress and wellness, and financial planning during this time. The resource pages provides links to COVID-19 prevention information, workforce management tools, food safety instructions, crisis planning examples, and wellness resources.




A one-hour webinar hosted by Oregon Tilth on online sales platforms for farmers is available for viewing as a recording. Watch this webinar to learn more about direct-to-consumer online sales platforms, including Barn2Door, Harvie, Local Food Marketplace, Food4All, and Open Food Network. Oregon Tilth has also posted questions to ask when considering online sales platforms.




USDA has announced that USDA Service Centers will continue to be open for business by phone appointment only, and field work will continue with appropriate social distancing. FSA and NRCS program delivery staff at the Service Centers will continue to come into the office, they will be working with producers by phone and using online tools whenever possible. Producers can find their Service Center's phone number at farmers.gov/service-center-locator and more information about Coronavirus and USDA Service Centers at https://www.farmers.gov/coronavirus.




The National Center for Appropriate Technology, home of the ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture program, is pleased to announce it is now providing all the technical resources on the ATTRA website at no cost. This means that you no longer need to pay an annual subscription fee or individual publication fee to access any of our digital publications, videos, podcasts, and other resources and materials. Remember that we still rely on private income to make ends meet and hope you will consider a tax-deductible donation. Visit https://attra.ncat.org/become-a-friend-of-attra/ to learn more and to make your contribution.




Community Alliance with Family Farms (CAFF) and Farmers Guild are compiling tips, resources, and guidelines to help keep family farms safe, informed, and in business during this crisis. Resources available online range from policy advocacy tools for consumers to venues for connecting resources with those who need them to solve supply-chain problems. The online information also includes food safety details and employer regulations.




University of Vermont Extension has posted a document and a podcast discussing Considerations for Fruit and Vegetable Growers Related to Coronavirus & COVID-19. The resource provides information on health and food safety steps that growers should take, as well as planning and communication advice for markets and farmers markets. It also provides examples of what leading farms and markets are doing to address risk.




The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) issued a statement on how the pandemic will continue to cause both short- and long-term disruptions to our farm and food system. NSAC suggests that the resilience of our farm and food system will be an essential factor in determining our success in responding to this pandemic, and makes a number of policy recommendations designed to protect and sustain farmers, ranchers, and other affected individuals. In addition, NSAC highlights community-scale opportunities to act for individuals, organizations, and businesses. The statement also recommends philanthropic avenues for support. NSAC also references two new resource publications, Support for Local and Regional Food Systems in COVID-19 Response and Mitigating Immediate Harmful Impacts of COVID-19 on Farms and Ranches Selling Through Local and Regional Food Markets.




Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP) has organized an interim farmers market in Asheville, North Carolina, as a response to farmers market closures due to the COVID-19 emergency. This new market is designed to protect shoppers and vendors by maintaining social distances and mitigating potential virus transmission points. The number of shoppers in the market area at one time will be tightly controlled. Products will be pre-packaged or bunched, and there will be no cash, card, or token payments made at the market. Payment is made online after shopping, by credit, debit, or SNAP cards.




Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI-USA) posted tips for farmers market managers on how they can support vendors who need to move to online or home delivery sales. The page provides updated information for market managers on how to help boost farmers' pre-order and delivery sales. Suggestions include spreading the word, allowing drop-offs at the market site, and aiding farmers in setting up online sales.




Purdue University is encouraging consumers to support local farmers by connecting with them and buying their goods. Some markets are being postponed or potentially canceled, which can present an economic catastrophe for farmers. However, it's possible to connect with farmers through social media and other digital communications, such as online directories of producers. Some farms are offering CSA deliveries or other alternative marketplaces for their goods. Purdue Extension is also offering information on food safety and produce in season.




Cornell Small Farms Program posted "Building Farm Resilience in this Crisis," offering ideas on how we can take care of ourselves, our farms, and our local communities. Program director Anu Rangarajan presents suggestions on how farmers can look after themselves, stay in contact and support others, plan for potential labor shortages and prepare for market changes. The post invites readers to share their own additional ideas on how to come together to get through this time of crisis.




USDA is modifying the NOSB Spring Meeting 2020 to be held live online, instead of in-person. Two webinar-based public comment periods on April 21 and 23, 2020, are being expanded. Instructions for signing up for a comment time slot are available online. The public meeting will be held live online via webinar on April 29 and April 30, 2020. The virtual meeting will be open to the public and the transcript will be posted online after the meeting.




A new study conducted by the University of Maryland in collaboration with The Organic Center provides a big-picture understanding of the organic techniques that have the most impact on soil health. The study reviewed more than 150 studies from around the world on the benefits of organic farming to soil health and climate change mitigation. This review illuminated four specific organic farming practices that are the best of the best in supporting healthy soils: Planting cover crops, Applying combinations of organic inputs, Increasing crop rotation diversity and length, and Conservation tillage. Study author Dr. Kate Tully explained, "the specific impacts of organic practices on soil health are not well understood. This study compares strategies within organic systems to understand where the benefits from organic farming arise, and how they can be maximized." .




USDA is seeking qualified individuals to serve as peer reviewers for fiscal year 2020 proposals for the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program. This program, also known as the 2501 Program, helps socially disadvantaged, veteran, and beginning farmers and ranchers own and operate farms and ranches and ensures equal access to the full range of USDA programs and services in agriculture, forestry, and related programs. The peer review process will take approximately three to four weeks. Reviewers will examine proposals electronically for two to three weeks, then gather in Atlanta, Georgia, to finalize reviews and scoring. USDA will provide compensation and travel expenses for reviewers. If you are interested in serving on the peer review panel, and your affiliated organization is not applying for a 2501 grant, send your resume to 2501grants@usda.gov, no later than April 30, 2020.




Sand County Foundation presents the Leopold Conservation Award to private landowners in 20 states for extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation. In North Dakota, the $10,000 award is presented with North Dakota Grazing Lands Coalition, North Dakota Association of Soil Conservation Districts, and the North Dakota Stockmen's Association. Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the award recognizes landowners who inspire others with their dedication to land, water, and wildlife habitat management on private, working land. Nominations may be submitted on behalf of a landowner, or landowners may nominate themselves. The deadline is April 15, 2020.




The Farmers Market Coalition (FMC) maintains that farmers markets are necessary for the livelihood of tens of thousands of farmers and for food access for millions of consumers. FMC asserts that farmers markets should be addressed in the same manner as grocery stores, pharmacies, and other essential public services as decisions are made regarding containment protocols. FMC has posted a web page, Farmers Markets Respond to COVID-19, that provides news updates on impacts and regulations on farmers markets, as well as resources for mitigating risks in market operation and suggestions for communicating effectively with market vendors and customers.




Purdue University released an online guide to help local producers navigate the COVID-19 outbreak and the disruption to local production cycles for food, fiber, and other products. The guide notes that postponement and cancellation of farmers markets, as well as changing demand from restaurants, could have a major impact on local food producers. The guide recommends that producers become proactive in connecting with customers, perhaps by changing business models. CSA delivery may be an option for some producers, and online sales are also an alternative. The guide also offers reminders about food safety standards, suggestions on inventory management, and information on delivery systems.




University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Andrea Basche and her colleagues administered a 28-question survey to agricultural sustainability scientists across the country to gauge their opinions on the current strengths and weaknesses of the field. Respondents expressed high levels of satisfaction in their relationships with community members and local producers. Interest from students and research communities were also cited as positive factors in their work. Lack of research funding, entrenched financial interests and political partisanship were the top perceived obstacles listed by scientists. Those surveyed also expressed difficulties in communicating their findings beyond academia to the media and policymakers.




A new team of USDA staff will lead a department-wide effort focused on serving beginning farmers and ranchers. The 2018 Farm Bill directed USDA to create a national beginning farmer and rancher coordinator position and state-level coordinators for the Farm Service Agency (FSA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Risk Management Agency (RMA), and Rural Development (RD). Sarah Campbell was selected as the national coordinator to lead USDA's efforts. USDA says she will work closely with the state coordinators to develop goals and create plans to increase beginning farmer participation and access to programs while coordinating nationwide efforts on beginning farmers and ranchers.




A study published in Science indicates that an increasing frequency of unusually hot days is leading to local extinctions of bumblebees. The study of 66 bumblebee species across North America and Europe found that increasing frequency of hotter temperatures reliably predicts species' local extinction risk. Furthermore, the method developed in this study that permits spatially explicit predictions of climate change–related population extinction-colonization dynamics could also predict and explain wider biodiversity losses.




USDA Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) and University of Illinois researchers say that planting machine-harvested edamame at half the rate currently suggested by seed companies could improve producer profits. Based on a test of four cultivars at five different densities, researchers say the economically optimal planting density ranges from 35,200 to 48,600 plants per acre. This rate reduces seed costs and produces plants more suitable for machine harvest and with less vegetation per pod. The research underscores the point that edamame are not produced the same way as grain-type soybeans.




North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NCR-SARE) is accepting nominations to fill a new seat on is Administrative Council for a three-year term. Candidates should have expertise in rural sociology and/or quality of life factors pertaining to the social aspects of agricultural sustainability. Nominees should have an understanding of how the social (human) dimension of the three legs of sustainability (social, economic, and environmental) contributes to overall sustainability, including more effective adoption of sustainability approaches and considerations on sustaining families and communities involved in farming and ranching. Candidates should live and work in the 12-state North Central Region. Nominees from Illinois and Kansas are particularly welcomed. Self-nominations can be submitted until April 10, 2020.




NCAT has been closely monitoring developments related to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and, in consultation with our co-sponsors, has made the difficult decision to postpone the Soil Health Innovations Conference scheduled for March 30-31, 2020. Recent developments have convinced us that postponing the conference is the right and necessary thing to do. We will be working closely with Montana State University to schedule a future date for the conference. Watch for an announcement of new dates soon. Because we are re-scheduling, we ask that you hold off on requesting a refund until you know you cannot attend on the new dates. If you prefer an immediate refund, please visit our website and complete the form.




Purdue University College of Agriculture's Urban Agriculture team has announced an Urban Agriculture Certificate offered completely online. Purdue Extension educators crafted a curriculum that affords participants a heightened understanding of the challenges urban agriculturalists face, from issues of soil contamination to land access and workforce cultivation. Students are able to take courses in any order, start at any time and have 60 days to complete each course. The full certificate can be earned within a year. Registration for the program is open, and the "Growing Guide for Healthy Crops" course begins March 16.




A study led by the University of California, Davis, showed that natural habitat around strawberry farms helps protect yields, reduce grower costs, and protect the environment. Additionally, the presence of natural habitat posed no threat to food safety. The study indicated that adding natural habitat can decrease costs of crop damage by birds by 23%, while removing natural habitat can increase costs by as much as 76%. The natural habitat mutes the effect of birds on crops. The results of this study run contrary to recommended farm management practices that have been encouraging habitat removal to decrease bird fecal contamination and crop damage.




Agricultural producers who have not yet completed their 2019 crop year elections for and enrollment in the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs must schedule an appointment to do so with their local USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) by Monday, March 16, 2020. Contact FSA now to enroll in the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) safety net programs for the 2019 crop year. Producers not enrolled by the March 16, 2020, deadline are ineligible to receive ARC or PLC payments for the 2019 crop year.




Iowa Learning Farms (ILF) and Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) have published the final results of their 10-year field-scale study of the effects of winter rye cover crops on corn and soybean yields. With consistent results across the full decade of recording and measurements, the final report notes no significant improvement or decline in cash crop yields attributable to the use of cover crops. "The cooperating farmers in the study were asked to plant full field length contiguous strips with and without the cover crop to provide a valid comparison at field scale," said Jaqueline Comito, director of ILF. "While five farms stayed the course for the full 10 years, other participants saw enough value or improvement to convince them to plant cover crops in the entire field, thereby removing themselves from the study." Stefan Gailans, PFI project lead, adds, "While the yields did not show significant changes, the cooperating farmers noted significant increases in biomass and reduced erosion and washouts in fields with cover crops." The final report from the study is available online.




Organic Seed Alliance has unveiled an online Organic Seed Producers Directory, an easy-to-use tool that connects organic seed producers with seed companies and wholesale seed buyers. Seed producers are invited to create a profile in this directory so wholesale seed purchasers can easily find and connect with them. Companies looking for wholesale seed can use this directory to find farmers who are already growing organic seed for wholesale or are interested in contracting with companies to do so. The tool includes filter functions and a map to make searching for seed producers easy.




The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) is partnering with Holistic Management International (HMI) to bring its Armed to Farm (ATF) training to the Southwest. Veterans who want to attend the May 18-22, 2020, training in Albuquerque, New Mexico, can apply online until April 10, 2020. ATF allows veterans and their spouses to experience sustainable, profitable small-scale farming enterprises and explore career opportunities in agriculture. At ATF, participants learn about business planning, budgeting, recordkeeping, marketing, USDA programs, livestock production, fruit and vegetable production, and more. ATF trainings include an engaging blend of farm tours, hands-on activities, and interactive classroom instruction. The event is free for those chosen to attend. This training is for veterans in the Southwest, with preference given to those in New Mexico.




A study from Mississippi State University, published in HortTechnology, evaluated the impact insect pest management strategies have on the economic return of small-scale tomato production. Researchers compared a calendar spray schedule, conventional pesticide management based on action thresholds, and management based on action thresholds using organic controls. Action thresholds are levels of pest density that result in loss of crop quantity or quality. In this study, the greatest total and marketable yields were obtained for use of conventional pesticides according to action thresholds. Production costs for the organic threshold-based approach proved greater due to an increased number of insecticide applications required. However, the premium received for organic tomatoes offset this cost. Economic return for both conventional and organic threshold-based insect pest management was greater than for the conventional calendar method.




A project funded by the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program is helping dairy farmers decide whether a crossbreeding enterprise for beef production would be a good addition for their business. Holstein-beef crossbred calves can bring a market premium over purebred Holstein calves. The premium is higher when sires are selected using Expected Progeny Difference (EPD) data points. This project collected data on 125 calves. The final report for the "Where's the Beef in Value-Added Dairy-Beef Crosses Research Project" is available online.




Research led by the University of California, Riverside shows that as domestication of plants yielded larger crops, it also had a negative effect on the way plants interact with their microbiomes. Domesticated plants became more dependent on fertilizer than their wild relatives, as they lost their ability to interact with soil microbes that provide beneficial nutrients. Senior author Joel Sachs explains, "We're so focused on above ground traits that we've been able to massively reshape plants while ignoring a suite of other characteristics and have inadvertently bred plants with degraded capacity to gain benefits from microbes." This has contributed to energy consumption and pollution related to the manufacture and use of fertilizers for plants. Although microbial soil amendments are coming on the market now, some domesticated plants may have lost the ability to benefit from them. "If we’re going to fix these problems, we need to figure out which traits have been lost and which useful traits have been maintained in the wild relative," Sachs said. "Then breed the wild and domesticated together to recover those traits."




A project funded by a grant from Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education has produced a publication titled Edible Weeds on Farms: Northeast farmer's guide to self-growing vegetables. The free PDF is a resource guide for farmers on how and why to use edible weeds as crops. To the farmer, edible weeds provide supplemental income, diversify production, abate biological risks, increase the dollar-per-acre yield, offset labor costs and fossil fuel input, and open new markets. To everyone else, edible weeds offer novel flavors and phytonutrients that are inaccessible from cultivated crops. The 98-page publication discusses weeds as foods, outlines harvesting and marketing, and offers weed identification resources and recipes.




A new report from American Farmland Trust provides an analysis of New England's farmland and its farmers' enterprises, showing threats to the land, its people, and its food production. Farms Under Threat, A New England Perspective details the recent and rapid loss of many states' most productive, versatile, and resilient land. It outlines opportunities to bolster conservation and build resiliency for healthy and sustainable food production for the future. The report recommends immediate actions for policymakers, thought leaders, and funders to improve land conservation, equitable land access, and food security, which can ultimately impact public health and wellness.




A study published in Agrosystems, Geosciences & Environment showed that cover crops can increase soil health in a semi-arid region. Researchers from New Mexico State University and the United States Department of Agriculture found that cover crops increased the biological health of soils at New Mexico test sites, as indicated by carbon dioxide emissions. The researchers are continuing their work to identify a balance of cover crops for arid regions that can produce nitrogen without increasing carbon dioxide emissions beyond what the cover crop itself can utilize. "Cover crops are a great way to sequester carbon, reduce global warming, and increase agricultural resilience," says New Mexico State University's Rajan Ghimire. "But there is still a lot to learn about cover cropping, especially in semi-arid environments."




Horizon Organic dairy brand announced plans to be carbon positive across its supply chain by 2025. According to Horizon Organic, its "Next Frontier" project involves achieving carbon neutrality, and then going even further, to remove and prevent additional carbon from entering the atmosphere. Horizon is reducing emissions through soil health practices and management of cows' diets and manure. The company will also help family farmer partners boost the energy efficiency of their farms, with a $15 million investment fund to help farmers with low and no-cost loans to get training, tools, and technology. Horizon Organic is also considering manufacturing facilities, product transport, and packaging as part of its efforts.




Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection (DATCP) is accepting nominations for vacancies on the Wisconsin Organic Advisory Council, a group that helps guide organic farming and food in the state. The Council's purpose is to give guidance to the governor, DATCP, the Wisconsin Legislature, and other state or federal agencies about actions that could further Wisconsin's organic agriculture industry. The four openings include seats in each of the following categories: organic farmer, business, non-profit, and at-large. Members serve three-year terms, and the council meets quarterly. Nominations are due by March 20, 2020.




The Pennsylvania secretaries of agriculture and human services highlighted the role of the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System (PASS) in a roundtable discussion. The program provides farmers funding to get food that would otherwise go to waste to vulnerable families who need it most. Since the PASS program was first funded in April 2016, more than 11.4 million pounds of food has been distributed to all 67 counties in the state through partners that are part of the Feeding PennsylvaniaOpens In A New Window and Hunger-Free PennsylvaniaOpens In A New Window networks of food banks. Sixty different Pennsylvania-produced foods have been sourced from 134 farmers, processors, and growers across the state. The roundtable sought to gather input from program partners.




A poll conducted by South Dakota State University, in partnership with the South Dakota Soil Health Coalition, shows that a significantly higher percentage of producers who are using soil health-improving practices on their operations experienced less stress, are more satisfied with farming and/or ranching, and are more optimistic about their futures than their conventional peers. Soil-health producers reported having lower input costs and a higher degree of confidence that their operations would be better positioned, both in terms of natural resources and economics, for generational succession. Specifically, 31% of soil-health farmers and ranchers reported increased profitability during the past year, while only 12% of conventional producers did. Additionally, when asked to look ahead three to five years, a significantly higher percentage of soil-health producers predicted that their farm profitability would increase. The survey also asked farmers and ranchers to predict the future resiliency of their farming and ranching operations. Soil-health producers were significantly more optimistic than their conventional counterparts (83% vs. 60%) that their operations would be more resilient to weather extremes.




USDA announced that farmers and ranchers may apply to enroll grasslands in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Grasslands signup beginning March 16, 2020. Through CRP Grasslands, participants retain the right to conduct common grazing practices, such as haying, mowing, or harvesting seed from the enrolled land. Participants will receive an annual rental payment and may receive up to 50% cost-share for establishing approved conservation practices. The CRP contract lasts either 10 or 15 years, and signup runs through May 15, 2020. The 2018 Farm Bill set aside two million acres for CRP Grassland enrollment.




The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) Spring Meeting will held in Crystal City, Virginia, April 29 – May 1, 2020. The public comment period is now open for topics included on the Spring 2020 meeting agenda, which include discussion of substances petitioned for addition to or deletion from the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances (National List), substances due to sunset from the National List in 2022, and recommendations on organic policies. Stakeholders can submit written comments or request an oral comment speaking slot by April 3, 2020. The complete agenda, proposals, and instructions for commenting are all available online.




The Soil Science Department at North Dakota State University is beginning a second season of its Soil Sense podcast. This podcast highlights how building healthier soils is not just a prescription, but rather a pursuit. It's a journey requiring collaboration, curiosity, and communication among farmers, agricultural researchers, agronomists, consultants and Extension. In the 15 weekly episodes of this podcast, you'll hear their stories and discover how they're working together to make sense out of what's happening in the soil. The first episode of the new season, released March 2, 2020, focuses on Soil Health Collaboration Between Ag Retail and Extension. Meet Tim Becker and Jason Vollmer and learn how their unlikely collaboration resulted in better information and learning for the farmers they helped.




Since 1988, Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) has awarded nearly $300 million to more than 7,300 projects that improve profitability, stewardship, and quality of life by investing in groundbreaking research and education by farmers, ranchers, researchers, and educators. SARE offers lists of funded grant projects by state, and has just updated these lists to reflect recent grants. State Portfolio Summaries and lists of grants are available online.




Northern New York Agricultural Development Program (NNYADP) funded research conducted by a Miner Institute research team into calf feeding and environmental conditions in different housing systems on Northern New York dairy farms in winter. The data has enhanced understanding of their impact on calf energy needs, growth, health, and farm economics. Project leader Sarah Morrison explains, "This project shows important considerations from a milk feeding standpoint for calves during the Northern New York winter season, and it has prompted great interest from the agricultural community in learning how they can manage winter season challenges related to achieving optimal calf health on their farms." The full report is available online.




National Farmworker Awareness Week occurs annually during the last week of March to raise awareness of farmworker conditions and honor their important contributions. The Equitable Food Initiative (EFI) has created a website for the event that honors the contributions of farmworkers and offers suggestions on how consumers and farmers can support farmworkers. EFI and its partners are utilizing this opportunity to build awareness of the links between training and engaging farmworkers, improving working conditions, and increased food safety.




The FEWSION project, a multi-institutional team of researchers led by Northern Arizona University, published a study in Nature Sustainability, illustrating that fallowing irrigated cropland in the Colorado River Basin could alleviate regional water shortages. The study found that irrigated crop production accounts for 86% of all water consumed in the western United States, and by far the largest portion of this goes to produce cattle-feed crops such as alfalfa and grass hay. Specifically, says study Principal Investigator Ben Ruddell, "In the Colorado River basin, that cattle feed water use is nearly three times greater than all the water used for urban, industrial, and electrical power purposes combined." He continues, "I can hardly believe that such a large fraction of our western water problems is linked to irrigation of cattle feed, or that such a large fraction of our western water problems could be fixed with a single prescription—fallowing. It's rare that science clearly finds a 'silver bullet' that solves such a big problem so well, and so affordably," Ruddell said.




Pennsylvania State University researchers published results of a study that evaluated feeding dairy cattle 3-Nitrooxypropanol as a supplement. Feeding the 3-NOP supplement to cattle reduced their enteric methane emissions by 26% without adversely impacting lactational performance or sensory properties of their milk. Researchers had previously tested essential oils, oregano, and seaweeds as means of reducing enteric methane emissions, but these supplements either proved ineffective in the long term or required further research. 3-NOP is a synthetic molecule that is expected to be affordable for farmers to use.




A new global analysis from the University of Illinois shows that planting cover crops after row-crop harvest can significantly boost soil microbial abundance, activity, and diversity. "Our analysis shows that across 60 field studies, there was a consistent 27% increase in microbial abundance in fields with cover crops versus no cover crops. It's across all these studies from around the world," says study co-author Maria Villamil. The study also found that microbial activity increased 22% with cover crops, and microbial diversity increased 2.5%. However, researchers noted the use of burndown herbicides to terminate cover crops had a strong moderating effect on the microbial community. The work was published in Soil Biology and Biochemistry.




Through the Wildfires and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+), USDA is helping producers recover from losses related to 2018 and 2019 natural disasters. USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) will open signup on March 23, 2020, for producers to apply for eligible losses of drought (D3 or above) and excess moisture. USDA is also entering into agreements with six sugar beet processing cooperatives to distribute $285 million to grower members of those cooperatives who experienced loss. Producers who suffered qualifying losses in 2018 and/or 2019 can apply for WHIP+ assistance at their local FSA office. The Appropriations bill also expanded WHIP+ to include assistance for crop quality loss, and USDA is gathering data and input on how to administer quality-loss assistance.




The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) published a special report that analyzes the Conservation Stewardship Program's (CSP) contribution to conservation-minded producers and landowners. In addition to enrollment, renewal, and land-use trends, the report analyzes the use of various conservation practices and enhancements across the country, and it documents CSP's critical role in supporting conservation efforts across diverse farmer groups. The 24-page Analysis of CSP Enrollment in FY2018 is available online in PDF.




USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) announced a new crop insurance endorsement, Hurricane Insurance Protection—Wind Index (HIP-WI). HIP-WI covers a portion of the deductible of the underlying crop insurance policy when a county, or an adjacent county, is within the area of sustained hurricane-force winds. HIP-WI provides coverage for 70 different crops and is available in counties in the vicinity of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic, as well as Hawaii. The deadline to purchase HIP-WI coverage for the 2020 crop year is April 30, 2020. An administrative fee and premium for the crop covered by each HIP-WI Endorsement will be due in addition to any administrative fee and/or premium for the underlying policy. However, the HIP-WI administrative fee may be waived if the producer qualifies as a limited resource farmer, a Beginning Farmer Rancher (BFR), or a Veteran Farmer Rancher (VFR).




The U.S. Natural Climate Solutions Accelerator program supports projects with potential to substantially increase the use of natural climate solutions. This grant-funding program focuses on helping kick-start innovative and scalable approaches for reducing emissions and storing more carbon on natural and working lands in the United States. The program's second round of grants included $100,000 for the Soil Health Institute's Ecosystem Services Market Consortium. Funding will support testing tools with potential to help farmers and ranchers interested in adjusting crop and livestock production systems to increase soil carbon sequestration and retention, improve water quality, and conserve water. Additionally, the Savanna Institute received $250,000 to help farmers and farmland managers accelerate "alley cropping" in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. The Savanna Institute and its partners will help tree farmers, crop farmers, landowners, and financial backers pull together their projects into an investment product to attract more support. Additional information on funded projects is available online. Applications for a third round of funding are being accepted until March 13, 2020.




Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) released 2019/2020 Report from the Field, highlighting how SARE grantees are improving the sustainability of U.S. agriculture. The 20-page report showcases projects conducted by grantees across the country, in SARE's four regions. Topics range from soil health and weed management to how farms can contribute to local communities. The complete report is available online or in print.




American Farmland Trust has released four "Accelerating Soil Health" case studies to assist farmers who are curious about soil health and technical service providers who want to help farmers adopt soil health practices. The case studies were developed in partnership with USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service under a Conservation Innovation Grant and join four others released in July 2019. The four two-page case studies feature Tom and Dan Rogers, California almond growers who are implementing compost, mulching, and nutrient management; Jim, Julie, and Josh Ifft, Illinois corn and soybean farmers implementing no-till and cover crops; Dan Lane, an Ohio corn and soybean farmer implementing strip-till with banded dry fertilizer and cover crops; and John and Jim Macauley, New York beef and crop farmers implementing no-till, cover crops, and nutrient management.




The National Association of Farmers Market Nutrition Programs (NAFMNP) is accepting applications from markets and direct-marketing farmers for receiving free electronic benefit transfer (EBT) processing solutions from its MarketLink program, through the USDA's Food and Nutrition Services Cooperative Agreement. NAFMNP's MarketLink program assists farmers and markets with accepting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and electronic payments. Under the USDA FNS grant, eligible applicants will receive a card reader, as well as a one-year license for the Novo Dia Group (NDG) Mobile Market+ app. This is a point-of-sale system that accepts EBT along with all other forms of payments, including credit and debit cards.




The FruitGuys Community Fund provides small grants that have big impacts for small farms. This year, the fund received 258 letters of intent, requesting funds up to $5,000 for specific projects. Reviewers have selected 26 semifinalists to continue the application process, and up to 20 grants will be awarded in April. Descriptions of the 26 semifinalist farms and their intended projects are available online. One semifinalist is Across the Creek Farm, whose poultry processing facility has been featured in an ATTRA Voices from the Field podcast.




Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT) awarded $105,000 in Fund-a-Farmer Grants to 44 independent farmers. Grants range from $840 to $2,500 and were awarded for projects that improve the welfare of farm animals and increase the capacity of farmers across the country. This year the program awarded 26 pasture improvement grants, 11 animal welfare certification grants, and seven capacity building grants. Descriptions of the funded projects are available online.




The California Department of Food and Agriculture is preparing to release grant solicitations for the next round of Healthy Soils Program projects. Approximately $25.2 million is available in this round. Several programmatic changes aim to make the application process easier, provide enhanced tools to assist with information required in the application, and achieve better alignment with USDA programs. For example, the 2020 USDA Conservation Practice Standard Payment rates will be adopted. Free technical assistance will also be offered to applicants. (NCAT is one of those assistance providers.)




The Livestock Conservancy awarded microgrants totaling $19,342.65 to 11 farmers, ranchers, and shepherds raising endangered breeds of livestock. "Small financial awards can make a big difference for heritage breeders," explains Livestock Conservancy Executive Director Dr. Alison Martin. "These strategic investments were selected by our panel of judges as the best examples of livestock conservation in action across the United States." The Livestock Conservancy's competitive Microgrants program was launched in 2019. Donations enabled the program to expand throughout the United States this year. A youth division for Microgrants was also launched this year, to encourage the next generation of heritage breeders.




North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NCR-SARE) is inviting self-nominations to serve on six different grant review committees. Review committee members must live and work in one of the 12 states that comprise the North Central SARE region. NCR-SARE's review committees review proposals and make recommendations to the Administrative Council. Since 1988, NCR-SARE has awarded more than $50 million worth of competitive grants to farmers and ranchers, researchers, educators, public and private institutions, nonprofit groups, and others exploring sustainable agriculture. Members of an NCR-SARE review committee may not apply to that particular grant program during their time serving on that committee.




USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) has approved the Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship's application to conduct financial management and production training nationwide. Financial management training by an approved vendor is required for FSA's beginning farmer loan agreements. Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship operates an online school, Managed Grazing Innovation Center, which offers classes to Apprentices and the public. In its 12-week Farm Business Management class, students are introduced to business planning techniques, record-keeping practices, and tools for charting progress toward personal and business goals.




USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) has published Economic Viability of Industrial Hemp in the United States: A Review of State Pilot Programs. This study documents outcomes and lessons learned from state industrial hemp pilot programs and examines legal, agronomic, and economic challenges that may affect the transition from the pilot programs to economically viable commercial production. Industrial hemp acreage in the United States was 90,000 acres in 2018. Challenges identified included difficulty acquiring production inputs and inconsistency between state requirements. The report notes that in the longer term, economic viability of hemp will be affected by competition from other crops, the regulatory environment, and global competition.




Videos of the keynote presentations from the 2020 EcoFarm Conference are now available online. The videos include Leah Penniman on "Farming While Black: African Diasporic Wisdom for Farming and Food Justice," Jonathan Lundgren on "Transforming Science to Foster an Agricultural Revolution," and Bob Quinn addressing "The Past, Present, and Future of Organic." There's also video from a panel of featured successful organic farmers, and Dr. Vandana Shiva presenting "Two Paths to the Future of Food and Farming."




USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced a new pilot program that enables farmers in the Prairie Pothole region to receive payments for planting cover crops on their land for three to five years. The new Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Soil Health and Income Protection Program (SHIPP) pilot is available to producers in Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota. The signup for this pilot starts March 30, 2020, and ends August 21, 2020.




Field, Lab, Earth, the podcast from the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America, recently featured a four-part series on transitioning to organic farming, hosted by Dr. Erin Silva. Part one covers organic certifications with Harriet Behar. Part two discusses organic basics and business operations with Anders Gurda and Paul Dietmann. Part three explores the organic systems mindset with Tom Frantzen. Part four delves into nutrient cycling in organic systems with Dr. Erin Silva.




General Mills has launched a three-year regenerative agriculture pilot with 24 farmers in Kansas' Cheney Reservoir watershed. The company targeted this watershed in conjunction with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to improve water quality as part of the state-wide Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy. The growers were selected from participants who attended one of two, two-day Soil Health Academies in early November. The Understanding Ag consultants are meeting individually with each pilot participant to co-develop and implement regenerative management plans. Participating farmers will have access to continuing education via the Soil Health Academy, farmer-focused field days and a private Facebook group to encourage ongoing exchange of ideas and best practices. The company also announced that an additional 18 growers in Kansas will receive support to enroll in the Soil Health Partnership Associate Program to study outcomes of reduced or no tillage and cover cropping.




USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has announced that farmers and ranchers who initially enrolled in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) in Fiscal Years 2014, 2015, and 2016 can renew their contracts from March 13 to March 20, 2020. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) points out that renewing a CSP contract is easier than reapplying. CSP participants whose contracts expire this year can opt to extend them for another year, renew them for an additional five years, or let them expire. This year's renewals will be ranked competitively, using NRCS's new Conservation Assessment Ranking Tool (CART). Farmers will also need to meet additional criteria to apply for a renewal.




Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA (RAFI-USA) and Vermont Law School's Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS) have released a new free resource for plant breeders, entitled A Breed Apart: The Plant Breeder's Guide to Preventing Patents through Defensive Publication. The guide outlines practices for plant breeders to keep genetic resources in the public domain. It explains how a printed publication that establishes a plant variety as "prior art" renders that variety ineligible for a patent in the future. "This guide is essential for anyone in the plant world trying to prevent plant genetic material from being co-opted—or simply trying to navigate the laws and regulations surrounding intellectual property," said James Myers, a plant breeder at Oregon State University.




The company Cycloponics is growing organic vegetables in empty underground parking garages in Paris, reports Euractiv. Because fewer people have cars now, there are many unused garages in the city, and the company founded by a thermal engineer and an agronomist has been able to establish operations growing mushrooms and endives. The underground spaces help regulate temperatures, and are conveniently located for bicycle delivery of the final product to customers in the city. The company is planning for expansion in France, and other European capitals have expressed interest in the operation.




California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) released Roadmap to an Organic California: Policy Report, a plan to use organic farming to reduce California's greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change. The report outlines the next steps that will maximize organic's ability to combat climate change and ensure food security under a changing climate. It guides policymakers through the next steps to use organic to sequester more carbon, stimulate local economies, and protect the health of all Californians. Beyond the climate benefits, the report outlines the economic and health value of organic farming.




U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has announced the Agriculture Innovation Agenda, by which USDA will stimulate innovation so that American agriculture can achieve the goal of increasing production by 40% while cutting the environmental footprint of U.S. agriculture in half by 2050. The first component of the Ag Innovation Agenda is to develop a U.S. ag-innovation strategy that aligns and synchronizes public and private sector research. The second component is to align the work of customer-facing agencies and integrate innovative technologies and practices into USDA programs. The third component is to conduct a review of USDA productivity and conservation data. Benchmarks will include reduction of food loss and waste, enhanced carbon sequestration, reduced nutrient loss, and increased use of biofuels.




A paper in the journal Nature Food presents a new global food-system approach to climate-change research. The authors of the paper worked together on the Food Security chapter of the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on Climate Change and Land, and their new approach brings together agricultural production, supply chains, and consumption. The authors propose that to respond to climate change via their food systems, countries can now move beyond traditional supply-side mitigation in crop and livestock production to encompass demand-side strategies, mainly dietary changes. The authors say the maximum amount of greenhouse gas reduction achievable through dietary change is eight billion metric tons of CO2 per year.




New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that $1.5 million has been awarded to 16 projects to increase the use of New York farm products in schools and boost the agricultural economy, through Round 5 of the Farm-to-School program. The Farm-to-School program increases the volume and variety of locally grown and produced food in schools, provides new markets for New York's farmers, improves student health, and educates young people about agriculture. The program also supports the expansion of the NY Thursdays Program, a school meal initiative that uses local, farm-fresh foods on Thursdays throughout the school year. The funding will be used to hire Farm-to-School coordinators; train food service staff; provide nutrition education in classrooms and cafeterias; purchase equipment to support food preparation; and support the purchase of more local farm products. Descriptions of funded programs are available online.




The new Curt Bergfors Foundation in Sweden will award the Food Planet Prize, two $1-million awards annually. One prize will be awarded to an existing scalable solution for sustainable foods. The second will be awarded for innovative initiatives that could transform the global food sector. The Curt Bergfors Food Planet Prize aims to recognize ground-breaking initiatives from across the food value chain and around the world that address the Food Planet Challenge. Nominations for The Food Planet Prize are due by April 30, 2020.




The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), the United States Botanic Garden (USBG), and City Blossoms have released Greenhouse Manual: An Introductory Guide for Educators. 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 California Department of Food and Agriculture's (CDFA) Pest Exclusion Branch is accepting applications to fill 13 vacancies on the Industrial Hemp Advisory Board (IHAB). The Board advises CDFA and makes recommendations on matters including, but not limited to, industrial hemp seed law and regulations, enforcement, annual budgets, and the setting of an assessment rate. The term of office for board members is three years. Members include registered cultivators of industrial hemp, as well as industry representatives and other stakeholders. Individuals interested in being considered for these Board appointments should send a letter of interest and resume by March 15, 2020.




The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) and Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) are conducting two national surveys: one for certified organic producers and the other for producers transitioning to organic certification. This collaborative effort is part of a USDA-funded project seeking to learn more about the challenges and research priorities of organic farmers and ranchers, and those transitioning land to certified organic production. Survey results will be published in updated versions of OFRF's National Organic Research Agenda report and OSA's State of Organic Seed report. If you are a certified organic farmer/rancher, respond to the online survey at www.opinion.wsu.edu/organicproduction. If you are a farmer/rancher transitioning to certified organic production (this means no land currently certified organic), take the transitioning producer survey online at www.opinion.wsu.edu/transitionproducers.




Payments from wind energy companies for hosting turbines are helping some farmers stay in business and plan for the future, according to a USA Today feature. Rental payments for land where turbines are sited has helped some farmers pay off equipment, plan for retirement, weather droughts and market price drops, and make succession plans. Some wind energy companies even offer small payments to neighbors of turbines, and wind development can bring jobs to rural communities. Studies show that people receiving payments tend to view wind energy favorably. The country's strongest wind resources correlate with areas where farmland is prevalent. As wind energy development increases, it's becoming increasingly important for farmers to find ways for their operations to co-exist with energy production.




American Farmland Trust released Growing Opportunity for Farm to School: How to Revolutionize School Food, Support Local Farms, and Improve the Health of Students in New York. This report reveals the incredible economic potential for the New York farm economy of recent farm to school initiatives, as well as their opportunity to increase access to healthy, local food for kids throughout the state. According to the report, New York schools could increase their purchases of food from New York farms threefold to nearly $150 million, which would generate over $210 million in economic impact while costing the state less than half that amount over the course of the next five years. The report details the results of an in-depth look at recent farm to school efforts in New York and the current and future impacts of the New York State Farm to School Purchasing Incentive program. The report reveals significant potential for the incentive program and outlines eight recommendations on which the state of New York can act starting immediately to unlock its potential impact on the farm economy and student health.




A study led by a Virginia Tech professor will test pasture mixes of native prairie grasses and wildflowers to find the best combination for both cattle and bees. A team that includes Virginia Tech, the University of Tennessee, cooperating farmers, and a nonprofit called Virginia Working Landscapes received a federal grant for half of the $1.8 million project. The team will test 20 different wildflowers in combination with native grasses on pastures at research centers and on farms in Tennessee and Virginia. Adding native wildflowers to pastures in the fescue belt could become a new conservation practice that USDA's National Resource Conservation Service will cost share, based on the results of this study.




California's Santa Clara County Food System Alliance released Small Farms, Big Potential: Growing a resilient local food system, a 100-page report that highlights the viability of local small-scale agriculture. The report notes that in Santa Clara County, 52% of farmland parcels are 10 acres or less. The report dispels the myth that small farms cannot be viable in the county and builds on the recommendations of the Santa Clara Valley Agricultural Plan. The report includes nine Farmer Profiles that illustrate the diversity and success of local farms.




University of Georgia researchers tested the yields of 13 different sweet pepper varieties under organic production. The study results were published in the open access journal HortTechnology, and the complete article is available online. The study evaluated total yield, graded yield, and early yield of the peppers in a hot, humid climate. Top varieties included Aristotle X3R and Gridiron for fancy and early yield, as well as Sweet Chocolate for early yield.




Practical Farmers of Iowa issued a research report on on-farm testing of camelina as a cover crop for use with corn and soy rotations. Farmers looking for winter-hardy alternatives to small-grain cover crops tried the brassica camelina as a cover crop. In one of three on-farm tests seeded in Fall 2018, the camelina winterkilled. At the other two sites, soy and corn yields were not affected by the camelina cover crop, compared to no cover crop. One of the farmers participating noted that the camelina's small seed size allowed lower seeding rates that would lower application costs.




In partnership with the United States Botanic Garden (USBG), NCAT is bringing the week-long Armed to Urban Farm veterans' sustainable agriculture training to Baltimore, Maryland, May 4-8, 2020. Armed to Urban Farm gives military veterans an opportunity to see sustainable, profitable small-scale farming enterprises and learn about urban farming as a career. Armed to Urban Farm, which is based on NCAT's popular Armed to Farm program, combines engaging classroom sessions with farm tours and hands-on activities. The program is available to military veterans who are interested in starting an urban farm or who are beginning urban farmers. All veterans are welcome to apply, but those from the Mid-Atlantic region will receive priority. Applications are due by March 20, 2020. The event is free for those chosen to attend; lodging, transportation to local urban farms, and most meals will be provided.




Results of six listening sessions conducted by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture have been collected in a report, Emerging Farmers in Minnesota. The report lays out recommendations on reducing or eliminating barriers that make it more difficult for the next generation to enter or stay in agriculture. The report also suggests creation of an Emerging Farmers Task Force in the state. "People who identify as emerging farmers feel unseen in the current system," Assistant Commissioner Patrice Bailey said. "We have tried to identify in this report ways to make our agricultural economy more inclusive to all who want to share in it. This report is an important step in identifying the biggest barriers to entry that prevent many Minnesotans from owning and operating their own farms."




A study led by Conservation International and published in PLOS One says that global heating that makes it possible to grow crops in new areas could have drastic environmental consequences. As many boreal areas in Canada and Russia become increasingly suitable for agriculture, it's likely that they will be put into agricultural production. This could result in water quality issues for population centers downstream, loss of biodiversity as new areas are converted to agriculture, and significant losses of stored carbon from soils on new agricultural frontiers. This carbon release, which could, in worst case scenarios, be equal to putting one billion more cars on the road, would lead to further global heating in a vicious cycle.




USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service has created a new video series that highlights common conservation practices. "Conservation at Work" features 90-second videos that shine the spotlight on farmers, ranchers, and forestland owners from across the United States who tell their own stories and explain how conservation practices are helping them protect and improve resources and save time and money. Topics include brush management, grade stabilization, cover crops, high tunnel, prescribed grazing, wetland restoration, and more.




USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is seeking public comments on its interim rule for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). RCPP helps partners develop and implement unique conservation solutions. The 2018 Farm Bill made RCPP a stand-alone program with its own dedicated funding, simplifying rules for partners and producers. Additionally, the 2018 Farm Bill reduces the number of funding pools and emphasizes partner reporting of conservation outcomes. The updated program also expands flexibility for alternative funding arrangements with partners and availability of watershed program authorities to projects outside critical conservation areas. Public comments on the interim rule are due by April 13, 2020.




The Land Stewardship Project (LSP) released Farming to Capture Carbon & Address Climate Change Through Building Soil Health, a white paper that recommends policy changes at the state and federal level, including increased funding for initiatives that promote and support soil-building farming systems. The white paper is based on an analysis of scientific literature related to soil health and climate change, as well as interviews with Minnesota farmers. The paper documents how soil organic matter can be increased and how managed rotational grazing of cattle and other ruminants on perennial grass pastures, as well as on annual cover crops, can build the soil's ability to store carbon. The analysis also concludes that building soil health could help Minnesota deal with water pollution.




The Nature Conservancy and online farm rental marketplace Tillable announced that they are teaming up to help farmers and their rental landowners more efficiently and cost-effectively adopt conservation agriculture practices. Among other activities, the collaboration will provide conservation metrics and a digital conservation dashboard for both farmers and landowners to evaluate and track changes in land management over time. The effort will also explore opportunities to increase soil carbon storage and reduce greenhouse gas emissions on leased farmland for use in emerging carbon credit programs. Additionally, the partners hope to engage farmland owners to improve the use of conservation practices on lands they operate.




Indiana Department of Natural Resources announced that its Grasslands for Gamebirds & Songbirds (GGS) initiative made a quantifiable impact in establishing habitat for birds and pollinators. GGS provides Indiana landowners with technical and financial assistance to restore native grassland habitat. In the program's first year, 138 habitat projects on more than 1,800 acres started establishing native grasses, wildflowers, and shrubs. Additionally, research and monitoring efforts are underway to assess the impact newly established habitat has on grassland bird species. GGS is led by Department of Natural Resources Fish & Wildlife in partnership with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program.




Field research in Australia is exploring how using biochar as a cattle feed supplement might reduce methane emissions from cattle, reports BBC Future Planet. Although previous studies showed methane reductions, scientists aren't sure of the mechanism that produces these reductions, so further research is needed. Australian cattle producer Doug Pow first became interested in biochar as a way to improve soil health and sequester carbon, and decided to use his cattle as a distribution system for the material. However, he had to import dung beetles to incorporate the biochar-containing cattle manure in the soil. He believes other producers could benefit from implementing the biochar-and-dung-beetle system on their operations.




FutureHarvest debuted an 18-minute video highlighting the benefits of grassfed livestock production, Go Grassfed, at its 2020 annual conference in January. In the video, farmers and food system professionals explain how grassfed beef helps protect the environment and keep money in the local economy, as well as being healthier for the consumer and keeping farmers on the land. They explain how keeping land in permanent pasture builds soil and protects water quality.




Researchers at North Carolina State University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed a model that could boost investment in farm-based sustainable energy projects by more accurately predicting whether a project will turn a profit. The researchers developed a computational model that tells users how to maximize the economic return on cooperative anaerobic digestion systems. Specifically, it tells users where a system should be located, what its capacity should be, and how large a geographic area it should serve. The model runs repeated simulations that account for variation in each area of uncertainty, to come up with a more accurate prediction than previous models.




FieldWatch, Inc., a non-profit company that supports communication, collaboration, and cooperation between crop growers, beekeepers, and pesticide applicators, announced the addition of industrial hemp to the list of sensitive crops included in its registry. According to FieldWatch, this step will enable licensed hemp growers to protect their plots from accidental pesticide exposure, which can damage this sensitive crop. Hemp growers in 16 states where FieldWatch operates, and that have legalized industrial hemp production, can map their sites in the DriftWatch® online specialty-crop registry. This information helps pesticide applicators exercise caution when spraying in the vicinity of hemp plots.




The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) adopted policy and funding priorities to guide the organization's work through 2020. Representatives from NSAC's more than 130 member organizations chose Working Lands Conservation, Beginning and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers, and the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP) as priorities. NSAC also identified additional annual and multi-year campaign issues in which it will engage: climate change and agriculture, small meat processing, and immigration. NSAC members also identified priorities for the group's appropriations campaign.




Western Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) debuted a new podcast series, Fresh Growth: Approaches to a More Sustainable Future from Western Ag Practitioners. The podcast introduces listeners to farmers and ranchers from around the western United States who are finding innovative sustainable practices that enrich the natural resources. The first episode features Colorado farmer Brendon Rockey, discussing how his family's multi-generational farm has experimented and implemented one new farming practice after another, steadily increasing their sustainability, profitability, soil health, and crop quality. The second episode highlights biodiversity at California's Matchbook Winery.




USDA announced that it will invest $56 million this year to help agricultural producers improve water quality in more than 300 high-priority watersheds across the country through the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI) and National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI). MRBI offers $17.5 million to producers in 13 states: Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. Through NWQI, NRCS provides targeted funding for financial and technical assistance in small watersheds most in need and where farmers can use conservation practices to address impaired surface water. NRCS accepts applications for conservation programs year-round, but applications are ranked and funded by enrollment periods that are set locally. Interested producers should contact their local NRCS field offices.




Applications close on February 24, 2020, for the Food Systems Leadership Retreat hosted by the Wallace Center's Food Systems Leadership Network in Canby, Oregon, April 27-30, 2020. The retreat is a 2.5-day facilitated convening of food systems leaders that digs deep into the tools of systems leadership and systems thinking for social change. Participants are guided through hands-on, experiential workshops that will strengthen leadership skills, offer new tools for mapping and finding change levers, and support their growth as effective facilitators of community change processes. This retreat will convene leaders from the Northwest region who are working on equitable economic development through food and agriculture. This opportunity is available to staff and leaders from nonprofit organizations and organizations with fiscal sponsors.




A USDA Agricultural Research Service scientist is inviting citizen scientists to provide input on how they cook and eat beans and other pulses, such as chickpeas and lentils. Plant geneticist Karen Cichy is working to breed faster-cooking varieties of dry beans and pulses. She has teamed with the Global Pulse Confederation to create a dedicated website where citizen scientists can enter information about which type of pulses they chose to cook, what cooking methods they used (e.g., boiling and pressure cooking), how long it took and how often they eat pulses. The project is accepting input until February 29, 2020, from anyone worldwide, whether regular pulse consumers or not.




The North Carolina Bioenergy Research Initiative and the New and Emerging Crops Program recently awarded $500,000 each in research and development grants for a total of 15 projects aimed at boosting bioenergy opportunities and crop production in the state. Bioenergy grants will explore energycane breeding, develop wood-fiber products and fuels, and investigate the synergy between anaerobic digestion and biochar technologies. Meanwhile, grants for new and emerging crops include research on hemp, feasibility of purple carrots, goumi berries, muscadines, purple sweet potatoes, specialty melons, and ethnic crops.




The Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) will present a new award at the MOSES Organic Farming Conference February 27, 2020, in La Crosse, Wisconsin. These awards will recognize "Changemakers" who break down barriers and empower others to farm in ways that are environmentally responsible, socially just, and economically viable. The 2020 Changemaker awards will go to Steve Acheson, Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin, Loretta Livingston, and Joy Schelble.




USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Plant Protection and Quarantine has posted a new Weed Risk Assessment (WRA) for Palmer's amaranth. The purpose of a WRA is to evaluate the likelihood that a weed species will escape, naturalize, and spread in the United States, and harm U.S. natural and agricultural resources. Stakeholders can use WRAs to support their own management or policy decisions as needed. This WRA notes that populations across the global range for Palmer's Amaranth have developed resistance to eight different herbicidal modes of action, with some populations being reported as resistant to two or more of these modes of action. The plant is present outside its native range in 19 states and has caused yield losses ranging from 6% to 94% in corn, cotton, peanut, sorghum, soybean, and sweet potato.




USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) extended the deadline for commenting on changes to the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program until March 20, 2020. ACEP aids landowners and eligible entities with conserving, restoring, and protecting wetlands, productive agricultural lands, and grasslands. Specifically, NRCS is asking whether the Healthy Forest Reserve Program and Regional Conservation Partnership Program should be used primarily to help protect agricultural lands with forest lands that are beyond what is eligible for enrollment as an ACEP Agricultural Land Easement. In addition, NRCS is asking for input on streamlining access to ACEP and ranking criteria. Comments can be submitted online.




Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) is seeking ideas for new information products from SARE-funded research or education projects. Submissions will be prioritized by the SARE Outreach Steering Committee for development based on alignment with SARE Outreach's selection criteria and capacities. An online survey is being conducted to assess information needs and opportunities. Ideas should be submitted by March 1, 2020.




Researchers in the Plant Breeding and Genetics Section at Cornell University are seeking input from dry bean growers producing for organic, specialty, and/or direct markets in the United States or Canada. An online needs assessment survey collects information about growing practices, agronomic challenges, and needs for variety improvement. Results will be shared with growers, public bean breeders, and Extension specialists. The survey takes about seven minutes to complete.




Research into how California ranchers are adapting to climate change revealed a new generation of California ranchers who base their livestock production practices on environmental stewardship. Writing on The Conversation, researchers noted that new ranchers in the state tend to be young, more often female, and ethnically diverse. They are more likely than existing ranchers to have diverse livestock herds with small ruminants or a mix of livestock and smaller landholdings. Many of these new ranchers used production methods chosen for their benefits to the environment, such as mob grazing that promotes carbon sequestration and improves soil health, or grazing designed to reduce fire danger. The authors say there are some funding sources that provide support to ranchers for their environmental stewardship approach, but they conclude that wider funding and informational support is needed to help these new farmers establish themselves and stay in business.




A Washington State University study published in Biological Reviews found little evidence to support a supposed link between wild birds and food-borne illnesses. Although wild bird feces can contain E. coli, Salmonella, and Campylobacter, researchers found only one study definitively linking wild birds to a food-borne illness outbreak. They found no studies with data regarding 65% of North American breeding bird species. "Farmers are being encouraged to remove wild bird habitat to make their food safer, but it doesn't appear that these actions are based on data," said lead study author Olivia Smith. "When you restrict birds from agricultural settings, you are doing something that can lead to their decline."




USDA approved plans for the production of hemp under the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program for the states of Delaware, Nebraska, and Texas and for the Colorado River Indian Tribes, the Fort Belknap Indian Community, the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska, and the Yurok Tribe. Plans previously approved include those for the states of Louisiana, New Jersey, and Ohio, and the Flandreau Santee Sioux, Santa Rosa Cahuilla, and La Jolla Band of Luiseno Indian Tribes. To produce hemp, growers must be licensed or authorized under a state, tribe, or USDA production program. An online resource, Status of State and Tribal Hemp Production Plans, is available to check the status of a plan or to review approved plans.




The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) is partnering with Georgia Organics to bring its Armed to Farm (ATF) training to Georgia. Military veterans who want to attend the April 6-10, 2020, training in Athens, Georgia, can apply online until February 28, 2020. ATF allows veterans and their spouses to experience sustainable, profitable small-scale farming enterprises and explore career opportunities in agriculture. At ATF, participants learn about business planning, budgeting, recordkeeping, marketing, USDA programs, livestock production, fruit and vegetable production, and more. Trainings include an engaging blend of farm tours, hands-on activities, and interactive classroom instruction. This training is for veterans in the Southeast, with preference given to those in Georgia. The event is free for those chosen to attend; the number of participants will be limited.




A Minnesota couple is helping beginning farmers make a start by hosting an incubator farm on their property, reports AgriView. Through the incubator, Dayna Burtness and her husband Nick Nguyen provide land and housing, loan small tools, rent large equipment, and coach and collaborate on marketing for two beginning farmers. The goal is for these farmers to move onto their own farms in one to three years. Incubator participants own their own animals and assume risks, but they are able to benefit from the incubator setting as they get started. Participants utilize a third-party facilitator to help work out disagreements, and everyone commits at the start of the season to being respectful.




Georgia Organics has introduced a Farmer Fund Accelerator that combines tailored on-farm investments with a customized coaching program to help selected farmers grow a more financially sustainable operation more quickly than usual. The Accelerator will provide selected farmers with business and financial consultants, marketing and sales experts, loan and leasing coaches, and production consultants, combined with up to $10,000 in support per farm in the form of paid apprentices, marketing materials, infrastructure and equipment investments, and health insurance premium cost-shares. The Accelerator is free for selected Georgia Organics members and lasts one year. Alumni are eligible to apply for an additional year of support. Applications are due by February 14, 2020.




The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) is working with a coalition of partners on a project that is exploring the pollinator-habitat and other benefits of cover crops. "Orchards Alive" is a demonstration project on two California pecan orchards, totaling 325 acres. A cover crop mix that includes eight native wildflower species will be evaluated to determine how it affects populations of both pest and beneficial insects such as pollinators, as well as how it affects soil quality and carbon sequestration.




Locus Agricultural Solutions® and Nori have announced a partnership that provides a pathway for payments to farmers harvesting carbon. Farmers who work with these startups this year and have been practicing regenerative agriculture since on or after January 1, 2010, will be able to sell their resulting carbon credits. The price is currently $15 for every ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) sequestered. After 2020, the price will be set by the open market. Nori is using the COMET-Farm carbon and greenhouse gas accounting system for creating standardized carbon baselines.




Seed Your Future has introduced a new free online Horticulture Careers Internship Search Tool. Seed Your Future is a coalition of more than 200 partners—including horticulture companies, gardening organizations, schools, colleges, universities, public gardens, youth organizations, nonprofit organizations, and individual advocates—united in their mission to promote horticulture and careers working with plants. The tool will help students find internships across the broad diversity of the horticulture profession. The online tool includes internships across the art, science, technology, and business of plant careers; and lets site visitors search for their future internship by job category, by employer, and by state.




Scientists at Washington State University published an analysis in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showing that organic agriculture sites had 34% more biodiversity and 50% more profits than conventional agriculture sites, even though the organic sites had 18% lower crop yields. The study also showed the importance of location for organic farms. As the fields surrounding the organic farms grew larger, the organic farms' advantage in biodiversity increased, but they became less profitable compared to conventional operations. This suggested that biodiversity, crop yields, and profitability function independently of one another, but are influenced by landscape context.




New research from North Carolina State University shows that prescribed burns in longleaf-pine ecosystems can benefit pollinators. Freshly burned longleaf pine forests have more than double the total number of bees and bee species compared with similar forests that have not burned for 50 years, researchers found. Within those burned areas, bee abundance and diversity tended to be greatest at sites that were most recently burned. The effect is credited to fires maintaining openings in the forest canopy, reducing ground cover, and releasing nutrients into soils at the same time, creating the perfect environment for large blooms and increasing the flower resources pollinators rely on. The study also found that the low-intensity prescribed burns did not reduce the amount of nesting material for above-ground nesting pollinators, and the abundance of above-ground nesting pollinators was not impacted by the fires. Meanwhile, below-ground nesting species appeared to benefit from the increased access to bare soil.




CCOF Foundation reports that Michelob has introduced an initiative called "6 For 6-Pack" that helps farmers transition six square feet of farmland into organic with each purchase of a 6-pack of the company's ULTRA Pure Gold organic beer. The initiative is an expansion of an existing program launched in 2019 called Contract for Change, which offers 3- to 6-year transitional barley contracts with premiums for transitional and organic barley production. Meanwhile, the Midwest's member-owned, Farm Credit cooperative Compeer Financial has introduced an Organic Bridge Loan Program to aid transitioning farmers. Loan proceeds can be drawn for two or three years during the transition process while farmers are only required to pay the annual interest. After organic certification, the loan converts to a term-loan with fully amortized principal and interest payments.




The Vermont Land Trust is accepting applications for an award to celebrate and benefit Vermont farmers. The $5,000 Eric Rozendaal Memorial Award will be given to a Vermont farmer who exemplifies land stewardship, giving back, and entrepreneurial farming. Corie Pierce of Bread & Butter Farm in Shelburne and South Burlington was the winner of the first Eric Rozendaal Memorial Award in 2019. The award will be given annually, until 2029. The awardee must be a resident of Vermont and be actively managing a commercial farm operation in Vermont. The deadline for applications is June 30, 2020.




The Sustainable Cities Research Team, a multidisciplinary effort with participants from several universities, has received a $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation. The team will develop a framework for analysis of food, energy, and water systems for greater Des Moines, which includes the city and the surrounding six-county area, and formulate scenarios that could result in a more sustainable city. Given current and future urban climate conditions/scenarios, researchers will analyze the potential for increased urban agriculture, community gardens, and other green space within city limits. The group intends for its results to inform decisions about food production, energy use, environmental outcomes, and related policies that would apply to a large number of cities in rain-fed climates.




Nonprofit A Greener World (AGW) has launched an updated online directory for its third-party certified farms and products. The newly updated directory is more user-friendly, free to use, and features updated search options for users to find AGW-certified sustainable products. The directory includes farms, restaurants, and retailers selling Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW, Salmon Welfare Certified by AGW, Certified Grassfed by AGW, and Certified Non-GMO by AGW meat, dairy, eggs, fish, and fiber products, along with beauty products, candies, and treats.