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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




As part of the Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative announced in March, USDA pledged to continue Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) payments and to provide aid to producers and businesses left behind. USDA announced that implementation of the assistance during the next 60 days will include $6 billion in support to timber harvesters, biofuels, dairy farmers and processors, livestock farmers and contract growers of poultry, assistance for organic cost share, and grants for PPE. The initiative is focused on filling gaps in previous rounds of assistance and helping beginning, socially disadvantaged, and small and medium-sized producers that need support most.




USDA has set a July 23, 2021, deadline for agricultural producers and landowners to apply for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) General signup 56. Additionally, USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) will accept applications for CRP Grasslands from July 12 to August 20, 2021. Both signups are competitive and will provide for annual rental payments for land devoted to conservation purposes. This year, USDA says that it has updated both signup options to provide greater incentives for producers and increase conservation benefits, including reducing the impacts of climate change. To enroll in the CRP General signup, producers and landowners should contact their local USDA Service Center by the July 23 deadline. To enroll in the CRP Grasslands signup, they should contact USDA by the August 20 deadline.




Researchers at Australia's Curtin University are publishing a study in PLOS ONE that showed that aspirin, which naturally occurs in the bark of the willow tree and other plants, can improve the survival of grass species important for ecological restoration and sustainable pasture when applied in a seed coating. The study using native perennial grasses showed that very low concentrations of salicylic acid applied as a seed coating can improve plant survival and effectiveness in reaching restoration goals. Research team member Kingsley Dixon noted, "Further research is now needed to test salicylic acid as a coating in other wild species to improve native plant resistance to drought, extreme temperatures, salinity, pathogens, and herbicides."




The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) plans to resume in-person meetings in October 2021, in Sacramento, California. The in-person meeting will be webcast live for those who are not able to travel. Should circumstances not permit an in-person meeting, the meeting will be held virtually. The NOSB invites public comment on agenda topics and will hear comments in-person October 19-21, 2021, at the meeting in Sacramento and during webinars on October 13 and 14, 2021. Written comments may be submitted via regulations.gov. Meeting materials including the agenda, public comment registration links, and other resources—including details on how to register for oral comment slots and how to submit written comments—will be added to the National Organic Standard Board (NOSB) Fall 2021 Meeting webpage as they become available.




USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and the State of South Dakota have finalized a Cooperative Interstate Shipment (CIS) agreement, which provides an opportunity for selected state-inspected meat and poultry processors to ship their products across state lines. Currently, nine states participate in the program to promote the expansion of business opportunities for state-inspected meat and poultry establishments: Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Vermont, Wisconsin, and now South Dakota. Under CIS, selected state-inspected establishments that comply with federal inspection requirements are permitted to ship their product in interstate commerce.




USDA has unveiled a new resource guide to help rural community leaders start and expand employment opportunities and access resources to train, recruit and create a sustainable rural workforce. The resource guide outlines programs and services available at USDA and other federal agencies that support workforce development in rural communities. It helps community leaders and other local entities access resources more easily to create jobs, train talent, expand educational opportunities and provide technical assistance. The guide also features examples of how customers have used USDA programs to support each of four key assistance types.




USDA announced that it is offering $41.8 million through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to help agricultural producers in Arizona, California, Colorado, and Oregon alleviate the immediate impacts of drought and other natural resource challenges on working lands. USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will set aside $11.8 million directly for drought-related practices. Funding will be available through a new EQIP option, Conservation Incentive Contracts, and applications will be accepted through July 12, 2021. Through five- to ten-year contracts, producers manage, maintain, and address important natural resource concerns and build on existing conservation efforts. Conservation Incentive Contracts offer conservation activities that producers implement to address resource concerns. Practices include forest management plans, tree/shrub establishment, brush management, prescribed grazing, pasture and hay planting, wildlife habitat, livestock watering systems, and cover crops. Although the Conservation Incentive Contracts are only available in selected states in fiscal year 2021, NRCS announced that will roll out nationwide in fiscal year 2022, using this pilot to refine implementation of this new option.




NCAT is scaling up its Soil for Water project to support livestock producers and farmers across seven southern states. The project builds on a successful peer-to-peer network of Texas ranchers who are implementing innovative grazing techniques to improve soil health and increase profitability. The effort combines appropriate technology, peer-to-peer learning, and on-farm monitoring to encourage regenerative agricultural practices. By late summer, the project will be available to ranchers and farmers in Texas, New Mexico, California, Colorado, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Virginia.




A new publication from University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources scientists covers how to manage burrowing rodents without the chemicals used on conventional farms. Burrowing Rodents: Developing a Management Plan for Organic Agriculture in California outlines management within organically acceptable methods using an integrated pest management approach. It is available free online.




The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) published a new report, "Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the Food System: Building the Evidence Base," in which experts estimates that food-system emissions amounted to 16 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide or equivalents (CO2eq) in 2018, an 8% increase since 1990. The report found that agricultural activity now represents 33% of all human-caused GHG emissions. The ongoing study considers GHG emissions linked to farm-gate production, land use change at the boundary between farms and natural ecosystems, and supply chains including consumption and waste disposal, to offer a clear view of trends at the global, regional, and country levels. One emergent theme identified by the study is that optimal GHG mitigation strategies require a focus on activities before and after farm production, ranging from the industrial production of fertilizers to refrigeration at the retail level.




The Pennsylvania Department of Education is encouraging schools, child care centers, and summer meal sites to participate in the Pennsylvania Harvest of the Month Program and other programs that connect farms with schools to get more fresh, locally grown food on students' plates. Pennsylvania Harvest of the Month provides tools and resources for promoting local products to help expand students' palates and understanding of food grown across the commonwealth. A Pennsylvania Harvest of the Month calendar identifies a Pennsylvania-grown agricultural product each month. The program also offers resources for finding Pennsylvania farms and growers, along with recipes that incorporate the designated item of the month.




Worsening soil pollution and waste proliferation threaten the future of global food production, human health, and the environment, and require an urgent global response, according to the new Global Assessment of Soil Pollution. The joint report was released by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations Environment Program. According to a press release, the joint assessment found that widespread environmental degradation caused by soil pollution, due to the growing demands of agri-food and industrial systems and an increasing global population, is getting worse and is one of the world's major challenges for ecosystem restoration. Industrial and mining activities, poorly managed urban and industrial waste, fossil fuel extraction and processing, as well as unsustainable agricultural practices and transport, were identified as the main sources of soil pollution.




The Cornucopia Institute has released a report on organic beef production and a scorecard that help consumers understand the spectrum of beef production practices. Value Meal: The Benefits of Authentic Organic Beef Production takes a deep dive into beef production and also provides user-friendly summaries of the relative merits of organic beef for anyone interested in shifting their beef buying habits to prioritize quality over quantity. Meanwhile, the Organic Beef Scorecard ranks 175 brands of beef based on their production practices.




The Soil for Water Network run by the National Center for Appropriate Technology is a growing community of land managers who are trying regenerative practices, monitoring changes in their soils and vegetation, and learning together how to improve soil health so that it will catch and hold more water. Soil for Water invites land managers involved in commercial livestock agriculture in Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, or California to join the free network. Members must be interested in regenerative land management practices, committed to monitoring changes in their soils and vegetation over a period of many years, and willing to share their results and stories with other members of the network.




USDA has announced plans to invest more than $4 billion to strengthen critical supply chains through the Build Back Better initiative. According to a press release, the new effort will strengthen the food system, create new market opportunities, tackle the climate crisis, help communities that have been left behind, and support good-paying jobs throughout the supply chain. Funding announcements under the Build Back Better initiative will include a mix of grants, loans, and innovative financing mechanisms to support priorities such as investing in food production workers, supporting regional processing capacity, investing in food system infrastructure for distribution and aggregation, and supporting new and expanded access to markets, as well as access to healthy foods.




With broad bipartisan support, Maine's legislature passed An Act To Establish the Maine Healthy Soils Program, reports the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA). This legislation creates a one-stop-shop in the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry for farmers seeking healthy soils information, technical support and funding opportunities to implement best practices for improving soil health. Maine joins 14 other states that have adopted healthy soils programs. "I'm proud of our state for recognizing the important role our farmers play in protecting one of our most valuable resources: the soil that nourishes us," said bill sponsor Sen. Stacy Brenner, who also serves as board president of MOFGA. "Once Governor Mills signs this into law, and the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry sets up the program, all farmers in Maine will benefit from this investment in our future."




USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) reopened the comment period on its April 28, 2015, proposed rule to amend the origin of livestock requirements for dairy animals under the USDA organic regulations. The proposed rule relates to whether AMS should prohibit the movement of transitioned cows in organic dairy production. In particular, AMS is seeking comment on rules for the movement of transitioned livestock and the updated economic analysis of the proposed rule. The comment period will be open until July 12, 2021. Previously submitted comments do not need to be resubmitted.




Researchers at the University of Illinois found that beneficial arthropods are nearly twice as abundant and diverse in uncultivated field edges in the spring as they are in areas that are cropped, if the edges offer plant diversity and not just mowed grass. The study findings were published in the Journal of Insect Science. The study focused on overwintering arthropods in organic farm fields and field edges in Illinois, because use of pesticides may wipe out many of these beneficial creatures. Researchers note that the overwintering predatory insects can play a key role in controlling pest infestations at the start of the growing season.




Researchers reporting in American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural Food and Chemistry have identified five strawberry cultivars that are best suited for hot, dry regions such as Texas. The researchers grew 10 common strawberry cultivars in northwest Texas, comparing seven spring-bearing and three day-neutral varieties. They evaluated the plants for survival, yield, and berry quality. The researchers concluded that five cultivars—Albion, Sweet Charlie, Camarosa, Camino Real and Chandler—can grow well in Texas' climate and have the best flavor and aroma.




Pennsylvania is highlighting its support of urban agriculture for food sovereignty. The 2019 and 2020 Pennsylvania Farm Bill Urban Agriculture Infrastructure Grant Program invested $1 million in building infrastructure for food sovereignty and security in urban areas of the commonwealth. In addition, $10 million of Pennsylvania's CARES Act dollars were dedicated to low-income, often urban, communities in a move to increase the availability, accessibility, safety, and affordability of nutritious foods and combat food apartheid through the COVID-19 Fresh Food Financing Initiative (FFFI). "The pandemic has made one thing abundantly clear: hyper-local food production is key to addressing food insecurity, especially in urban areas of the commonwealth where food apartheids are a sad reality," said Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. "Access to affordable fresh and nutritious foods is key to building healthy communities and that was the impetus of both the Urban Ag Program and Fresh Food Financing Initiative."




A three-year project in Texas that was funded by a Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program grant explored the best methods for soil carbon sequestration. NCAT was one of the collaborating organizations in a project that studied the results of management strategies on different soil types over time and also looked at incentives that can motivate producers to adopt management practices designed to sequester carbon in soils. The project included production of many documents and outreach activities across Texas to share results as it sought to identify conservation practices that were practical in the real-world but could also sequester carbon.




The Conservation Learning Group, a think tank organization based at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and dedicated to addressing conservation and environmental challenges, recently published a series of infographics that provide insight into water quality and conservation topics. Using a combination of visual elements and text, each of the new documents presents facts and figures that will help readers easily gain an understanding of key issues. For those interested in delving deeper into these topics, each infographic contains references to additional helpful resources. Six infographics are available: Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy—Aiming to Improve Water Quality, Iowa Nutrient Reductiondown Strategy—Frequently Asked Questions, and four A Closer Look publications: Harmful Algal Blooms, What Drives Conservation Decisions in Iowa?, Iowa Farmland Ownership and Water Quality, and Stream Delivery of Nitrogen and Phosphorus. The infographics are available online and are free to download and distribute.




Agricultural producers who have coverage under most crop insurance policies are eligible for a premium benefit from USDA if they planted cover crops during this crop year. The Pandemic Cover Crop Program (PCCP), offered nationally by USDA's Risk Management Agency (RMA), helps farmers maintain their cover crop systems, despite the financial challenges posed by the pandemic. The PCCP is part of USDA’s Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative. PCCP provides premium support to producers who insured their spring crop with most insurance policies and planted a qualifying cover crop during the 2021 crop year. The premium support is $5 per acre, but no more than the full premium owed. All cover crops reportable to FSA are eligible, including cereals and other grasses, legumes, brassicas and other non-legume broadleaves, and mixtures of two or more cover crop species planted at the same time.




The Organic Center developed a calculator that totals the impact of choosing organic dairy in terms of avoiding chemical usage. The calculator and an accompanying report help illustrate for consumers the impact that their choices have on synthetic fertilizer use, synthetic pesticide use, and dairy drug use. It also highlights how organic dairy choices affect climate change, biodiversity, antibiotic resistance, and farmworker health.




Pasa Sustainable Agriculture in Pennsylvania has introduced a Diversified Vegetable Pre-Apprenticeship program to provide introductory hands-on training for people who want to explore sustainable farming as a career but have little to no prior farming experience. The curriculum is based on the core duties, skills, and qualifications for Pasa's two-season vegetable farming apprenticeship program. The program is hosted by local partner organizations with established farmer training programs focused on teaching sustainable growing practices.




Insects can help soybean yields by carrying out more effective pollination than the plants attain without them, according to a recently published study conducted by an international team of scientists. Researchers found that wild bees and honey bees can improve soybean yields upward of 20% when they help to pollinate the soybean plants. The study suggests that introducing pollinator habitat to soybean fields may lead to production benefits, in addition to environmental advantages. "This is another piece of the puzzle that suggests the trade-off between crop production and ecosystem services is not as large as many people think," said co-author and Iowa State University professor Lisa Schulte Moore. "There might be really nice synergies, especially in soybeans."




The fifth National Farm Viability Conference is seeking proposals for workshop sessions for the 2021 conference taking place virtually from October 1-29, 2021. The mission of the conference is to strengthen farm sustainability, build stronger and more resilient local food systems and support long term profitability of farming and agri-entrepreneurs from start-ups to generational businesses. The conference is geared towards professionals in the fields of farm and food business planning, financial planning, agricultural financing, farmland conservation, agricultural market development, and food hub management. A list of suggested workshop topics is available online. Workshop proposals are due June 18, 2021.




University of California scientists have completed a new publication, Herbicide Symptoms on Hemp. The eight-page publication is available free online in PDF. It looks at symptoms that could be expected in hemp that has been exposed to specific herbicides that are widely used in a range of crops during the summer hemp growing season. The authors note that as hemp becomes more popular as a crop, producers are eagerly seeking more information on how to produce and market it successfully.




Ethnographers from Penn State University studied ecological farmers in Taiwan to explore what technologists could learn from permaculture and eco farming. They learned how farmers are developing and choosing an approach to farming that is based on sustainable design principles. "The farmers seem to be prototyping an alternative way of doing food production. They have created an alternative economic system and an alternative set of values, alternative community relations, and an alternative practice for actual food growth and food distribution," explained researcher Jeffrey Bardzell.




A 15-year study of wild bees visiting blueberry fields in Michigan highlighted the impact of extreme weather on pollinators. The study was published in Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment. This long-term study is one of few that utilize the same methods year after year, so its results are especially valuable. Researchers found that 2012 was a noteworthy year in the study period. A warm spring was followed by a late freeze and then a hot summer. This led to a 61% decline in bee numbers for the following study period. Although some wild bee populations recovered quickly from the event, others experienced years of slow recovery. Researchers say this study highlights the need to develop programs that monitor wild bees across the United States.




Practical Farmers of Iowa has posted results from on-farm trials of heat-tolerant cabbage varieties. In the 2020 trial, four cooperating farms each tested up to six different cabbage varieties for midsummer yield and quality. The varieties included Farao, Red Express, Tiara, Charmant, Red Jewel, and Famosa. The trials showed that Farao and Tiara generally performed best, but each farm had slight differences in which variety performed the best. Also, the red cabbage varieties in this trial failed to produce well in summer growing conditions.




Bloomberg Businessweek notes that the market for premium eggs is growing. Consumers have demonstrated willingness to pay considerably more for organic eggs and free-range eggs. Now, some companies are seeking to market premium eggs based on use of regenerative agriculture on the farms where the eggs were produced. They believe consumers will be willing to pay more for eggs produced with practices that could help combat climate change. The feature notes that being able to tell the story of the product will be crucial to convincing customers to pay the premium for eggs that look the same as conventional eggs.




USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) has announced an initiative to quantify the climate benefits of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts. This multi-year effort will enable USDA to better target CRP toward climate outcomes and improve existing models and conservation planning tools. USDA is seeking proposals for projects to survey, sample, and measure the climate benefits of grassland, forest, and wetland enrolled in CRP. Projects should be for a three- to five-year term, with the potential for renewal. Projects should be a minimum of $1 million and not exceed $9 million. Applications are welcome from all types of organizations, including public, private, and nonprofit institutions. The deadline for proposals is July 2, 2021.




Researchers at Washington State University have identified a new, heat-resistant strain of the fungus Metarhizium that can survive inside honeybee hives. The fungus releases spores that germinate on varroa mites, killing them from the inside out. Bees, on the other hand, have high immunity against the spores, so the treatment is safe for them. The researchers will next seek Environmental Protection Agency approval and work on a delivery method. Steve Sheppard, corresponding author on the study published in Scientific Reports, says, "We hope in 10 years that, rather than chemical miticides, Metarhizium is widely used to control Varroa mites...And that the mite problem for beekeepers has been significantly reduced.”




Scientists at Cornell University have developed a new app that allows grape growers to predict their yields much earlier in the season and more accurately than costly traditional methods. Growers video grape vines while driving a tractor or walking through the vineyard at night, then upload the video for computer vision analysis. The method is less labor-intensive and more accurate than having workers count grapes in a sample section of the field and extrapolating the results to the entire vineyard. Researchers will field test the app this summer, and they intend the app to be open sourced.




The Dairy Strong Sustainability Alliance announced its transformation into Farmers for Sustainable Food, a nonprofit organization that provides resources, advocacy, support and empowerment for farmers who are innovating and demonstrating sustainable farming practices. The Dairy Business Association and The Nature Conservancy originally organized the alliance in Wisconsin around the goal of helping dairy farmers make tangible improvements to the environment and other aspects of their farms. Since then, additional partners have come aboard representing various parts of the food supply chain, from individual farms and agricultural groups to food processors and food companies. The group is now facilitating greater opportunities to achieve environmental goals and promote progress in Wisconsin and elsewhere in the Upper Midwest.




The Northeast Dairy Business Innovation Center (NE-DBIC) announced grant awards totaling $112,857 through the Multi-Business Agritourism Grant program. Six dairy farmers, processors, and organizations in Maine, New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont will launch innovative agritourism projects through the NE-DBIC's first competitive grant round. The projects funded are designed to raise awareness, understanding, and consumption of Northeast produced dairy products through agritourism activities that impact multiple dairy businesses. Descriptions of the funded projects are available online.




Research by the University of California, published in Sustainability, showed that managed grazing by livestock can support conservation of threatened plant and animal species in California. Habitat loss due to land use change is a primary driver of species loss, so grazing as a land use helps preserve needed habitat. Furthermore, if the grazing is well managed, it can help control non-native species that threaten both endangered plants and endangered animals. Grazing can also help manage vegetation change to help preserve suitable habitat for threatened species, according to the study results. The researchers noted, "Livestock grazing is perhaps the only ongoing land use that can be feasibly manipulated to manage vegetation and habitats at the landscape scale."




The CEA Food Safety Coalition, comprised of leaders in the controlled environment agriculture industry, has introduced a food safety certification program specifically for CEA-grown leafy greens. Members of the Coalition can choose to be assessed for the CEA Leafy Greens Module, and upon successful completion will be allowed to use the CEA food-safe seal on certified product packaging. The Leafy Greens Module is measured against science-based criteria and is an add-on to existing compliance with an underlying Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) recognized food safety standard.




Minnesota's Cropland Grazing Exchange matches cattle producers wishing to find grazing land with producers looking for cattle to graze their land, reports Ag Update. The exchange has been operating for several years and has become a model for similar exchanges in other states. Now, a Midwest Grazing Exchange covers a four-state region and gives producers more options.




Phase one of Organic Valley's dairy life cycle assessment (LCA) evaluated on-farm greenhouse gas emissions from dairy farms in a diverse range of climates using different management practices. University of Wisconsin-Madison's assessment reveals that, on average, the dairy farms of Organic Valley's members have a smaller carbon footprint than average U.S. conventional and organic dairy overall. Including carbon sequestration from pasture in the LCA reduced the net farm emissions of the cooperative's dairy farms by an average of 15%. Organic Valley farmers report engaging in 50% more pasture grazing than required by the National Organic Program, and it explains that the LCA results are impacted by this significant difference.




The Global Farm Metric is set to become a new standard by which farmers and supermarkets measure and manage the environmental and social impact of food production, according to Fresh Produce Journal. Supporters hope to make the Global Farm Metric an international standard. Patrick Holden, founder of the Sustainable Food Trust, explains that each participating farm would have an annual sustainability audit. "This involves the measurement of soil organic matter, water quality, greenhouse gas emissions, energy and resources use, biodiversity, data on crop management, and of course social and cultural impact," he notes. "The data is combined to produce a score which can be used by supermarkts and food companies; by governments to broker new international agreements for trade; and to give consumers the power to identify sustainable products."




USDA published its first notice of funding availability (NOFA) announcing loan payments for eligible borrowers with qualifying direct farm loans under the American Rescue Plan Act Section 1005. The official NOFA will be published in the Federal Register and USDA expects payments to begin in early June and continue on a rolling basis. Section 1005 of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 provides funding and authorization for USDA Farm Service Agency to pay up to 120% of direct and guaranteed loan outstanding balances as of January 1, 2021, for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers as defined in Section 2501(a) of the Food, Agriculture Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990. Qualifying loans under this announcement are certain direct loans under the Farm Loan Programs and Farm Storage Facility Loan Program.




A review paper published by the University of Maryland; University of California, Santa Barbara; and the University of North Texas examined pollinators from both an economic and ecological perspective. This study revealed that pollination services are a more important income stream for beekeepers than honey, but it also notes that little is understood about how managed pollination services provided by imported bees affect native pollinators and the larger ecosystem.




The 4M Farms, an organic dryland grain and cow/calf operation in Montana, is featured in The Prairie Star. Anna and Cliff Merriman are growing organic mustard, safflower, spring wheat, and malting barley this spring. They purchased the farm in 2012, with a downpayment loan through the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and an FSA loan for purchasing farm equipment. Their own land, as well as land they lease, is certified organic. The Merrimans participate in the Conservation Stewardship Program and are seeding cover crops for their cattle to graze. 4M Farms will host a Montana Organic Association tour this summer on July 6 2021.




The Soil Health Partnership, created by the National Corn Growers Association in 2014, grew to work with 200 farmers in 16 states over its seven-year program, advancing farmers' understanding of soil health, conservation, water quality, and carbon sequestration. Now Progressive Farmer reports that the program is shutting down because of financial challenges. The program was significant because it was led by a national commodity association and worked directly with farmers to explore, document, and share the economic and environmental benefits of employing a variety of soil health practices. Those involved note that the soil health topic area has become much more competitive recently, and they say that funding to support the program's testing and outreach efforts was lacking.




USDA has released Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry: 90-Day Progress Report, an 18-page PDF. The report describes how USDA has been collecting input from Tribes, farmers, ranchers, forest owners, conservation groups, firefighters, and other communities and organizations as part of its strategy development. It also makes recommendations on seven elements that a multi-pronged Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry strategy for USDA should contain. Finally, it outlines next steps in the process of developing the strategy.




The Center for Rural Affairs announced that Nebraska and Iowa lawmakers unanimously approved of bills to assist small meat processors and livestock producers as they work to clear obstacles brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Nebraska Legislative Bill (LB) 324 and Iowa House File (HF) 857 received final round approval and now await signatures from the respective states' governors. LB 324 makes it easier for consumers to buy meat directly from producers or processors. It also creates the Independent Processor Assistance Program to help processors with expansion, modification, or construction of buildings; efficient packaging, processing, and storage equipment; technology to improve logistics or enable e-commerce; and educational or workforce training programs. Meanwhile, HF 857 will establish the Butchery Innovation and Revitalization Fund and Program to provide assistance to new and existing small meat lockers in the form of grants, low-interest loans, and forgivable loans to help them grow. Additionally, a task force to explore the feasibility of establishing a community college artisanal butchery program would be established.




USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) an investment of over $2.3 million as part of the USDA Small Business Innovation Research Program. NIFA recently awarded eight grants totaling $812,939 to small businesses to improve plant production and protection, eight awards totaling $797,602 for animal production and protection, and seven awards totaling $706,120 for conserving natural resources. Information on each of the funded projects is available online. They include projects related to domestic vanilla production, native pollinators, poultry vaccines, and chicken feed freshness testing.




USDA National Organic Program issued a reminder that nominations for the four open seats on the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) are due by June 1, 2021. One seat is designated for an owner or employee of an organic farming operation. Each member of the board serves a five-year term. USDA encourages applications from traditionally underrepresented individuals, organizations, and businesses to reflect the diversity of this industry.




A new report from Vermont Law School's Center for Agriculture and Food Systems reveals dangerous gaps in labor protections that put the health of agricultural workers at risk. The report, Essentially Unprotected, draws from a comprehensive overview of state and federal laws, offering policy recommendations to prevent and treat two of farmworkers' most critical workplace hazards: pesticide exposure and heat-related illness. The report highlights preventive measures that some states have taken, and it calls on all policymakers and agencies to take action.




The Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SSARE) is seeking nominations for its Sustainable Agriculture Leadership Program for summer 2021. This program recognizes the community leadership contributions of historically underserved farmers and ranchers and the community groups and NGOs who serve those audiences. It provides sponsorship funds (up to $3,000) to support education and training activities specifically targeted to historically underserved farmers and ranchers. The application deadline is June 1, 2021.




A new program led by University of Florida researchers, faculty and Extension agents is bringing small-scale growers up to speed on marketing options that connect them with e-commerce opportunities and direct-to-consumer accessibility. The program is available in English and Spanish. The program's curriculum consists of a series of seven workshops conducted in English and Spanish in three Florida counties. To reach a wider audience, each session will be recorded and accessible on-demand for interested growers.




Alabama Cooperative Extension's Mobile Farm Innovation Project brings information to socially disadvantaged and limited resource fruit and vegetable producers in educational trailers that travel though Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. This project shows profitable and practical ways to improve conservation practices on the farm while lowering financial and food safety risks. It combines hands-on activities and modern technology to increase farm viability with food safety and conservation practices. Farmers can learn how to construct a simple on-farm cooler or handwashing sink, sanitize surfaces, utilize vegetative buffers, and more.




Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA (RAFI-USA) announced 50 recipients of its 2021 Farmers of Color Network Infrastructure Fund grants. The fund awarded $369,200 across 10 states. The grant program provides grants of up to $10,000 for farm infrastructure, processing and refrigeration, or collaborative projects with multiple farmers. RAFI-USA's Farmers of Color Network Infrastructure Fund provides support to farmers for new and innovative agricultural projects that will increase farm viability, support community food sovereignty efforts, preserve traditional and cultural farming practices, as well as assist local food economies. Applications that were funded this year include projects to expand poultry and livestock operations, construct walk-in coolers for storage and processing, build solar-powered fencing for livestock grazing fields, and create mobile produce markets. Descriptions of the grantees and projects are available online.




The University of California, Davis, is testing grazing sheep for campus landscape maintenance. The university is conducting an experiment to see if sheep can provide mowing, fertilization, and pest-control services and provide economic and resource savings. A flock of four breeds of sheep made their first three-day foray onto campus lawns in early May. They were watched by student shepherds during the day and transported off-site at night. The grazing will continue intermittently throughout the summer. Landscape condition will be evaluated against a conventionally managed control area during the course of the experiment.




A European study published in Environmental Pollution reports on the results of testing for pesticide residues from historic use on both conventional and organic farms in three different countries. Soils from conventional farms presented mostly mixtures of pesticide residues, with a maximum of 16 residues per soil sample. Soils from organic farms had significantly fewer residues, with a maximum of five residues per soil sample. The residues with the highest frequency of detection and the highest content in soil were herbicides: glyphosate and pendimethalin. Organic soils presented 70–90% lower residue concentrations than the corresponding conventional soils. The scientists note that there is a severe knowledge gap concerning the effects of the accumulated and complex mixtures of pesticide residues found in soil on soil biota and soil health. They also recommend that the process of transitioning to organic farming should take into consideration the residue mixtures at the conversion time and their residence time in soil.




The Livestock Conservancy announced that Ayrshire cattle have graduated from its Conservation Priority List of endangered livestock and poultry breeds. The ranked list of rare breeds is based on the annual number of registrations in the United States and the breed's estimated global population size. Today, more than 3,000 Ayrshire cows are registered each year in the United States, and 5,000 to 6,000 are born annually in the United Kingdom. Worldwide, the population of Ayrshire cattle well exceeds the 25,000 animals needed for graduation. The Livestock Conservancy credits dedicated Ayrshire breeders and partners like the U.S. Ayrshire Breeders Association and other global conservation organizations with helping make this graduation possible. They characterize Ayrshire cattle as an excellent choice for small dairies, family farms, and mixed-breed dairy herds, noting that they are productive dairying animals for grass-based operations.




Wild Farm Alliance posted a case study of Serrano Family Farm that highlights how brother and sister Michael and Christine Serrano are bringing nature back to their family's farm with hedgerows in riparian areas. Hedgerows in riparian areas reduce erosion and stabilize the soil, and also attract beneficial insects, pollinators, and biodiversity.




North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) announced that 58 grant projects were selected to receive a total of more than $709,000 through its 2021 Farmer Rancher Grant Program. This is a competitive grants program for farmers and ranchers who want to explore sustainable solutions to problems through on-farm research, demonstration, and education projects. Descriptions of the funded projects are available online. They address topics including lasers for avian predator control, low-input cut-flower production, management-intensive grazing, value-added products, and many more.




Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan and Michigan State University published a study on how tepary beans adapt to heat stress. They hope that crossing the tepary beans with common beans will help this important legume protein source become more tolerant of the increasingly harsh conditions brought on by a changing climate. Scientists predict that by 2050, the major regions growing common beans may be unsuitable and the overall nutritional quality of the crop will likely be reduced. While the tepary beans are resistant to temperature stress, they are not as disease resistant, so researchers are looking to combine desirable traits by crossing the two types of beans.




Meat that is USDA certified organic is less likely to be contaminated with bacteria that can sicken people, including dangerous, multidrug-resistant organisms, according to a study from researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The researchers found that, compared to conventionally processed meats, organic-certified meats were 56% less likely to be contaminated with multidrug-resistant bacteria. The study was based on nationwide testing of meats from 2012 to 2017 as part of the U.S. National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS). The rate of contamination was 4% in the conventionally produced meat samples and just under 1% in those that were produced organically. The study also found that among conventional meats, those processed at facilities that exclusively handled conventional meats were contaminated with bacteria one-third of the time, while those handled at facilities that processed both conventional and organic meats were contaminated one-quarter of the time.




A new publication from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and the Iowa Pork Industry Center offers information on livestock mortality composting for beginners. The publication outlines how to set up the base for the compost, cover the carcass to shed rain, and choose the co-compost material that will act as a biofilter to stop any adverse odors. Field Tips for Successful Composting is available online at no charge.




A Virtual Resource Prosperity Summit is available online to Southwest Georgia farmers, community members, and community organizations through August 31, 2021. This is a joint summit hosted by the Charles Sherrod Community Development Corporation and Golden Triangle Resource and Development Council, and funded by USDA Office of Partnership and Public Engagement. The Prosperity Summit focuses on providing resources tailored toward healthy and affordable food, heirs property, broadband access, back-road infrastructure, economic development, and literacy in adults and children. Webinars are available for viewing at your convenience.




USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is seeking both new and experienced grant reviewers for a variety of grant programs. Grant reviewers help AMS select the best programs from competitive groups of applicants. Reviewers are chosen for specific grant programs based on their knowledge, education, and experience. Grant review panels are selected to reflect diversity of ethnicity, gender, experience, and geography. Reviewers use their expertise to objectively evaluate and score applications against published evaluation criteria. Reviewers gain understanding of the grant-making process and have the opportunity to communicate with colleagues that often share common backgrounds and interests. AMS is currently seeking reviewers for the Acer Access and Development Program, Local Food Promotion Program, Regional Food System Partnerships, Farmers Market Promotion Program, Dairy Business Innovation, and other programs.




Fair Trade USA and Chobani, LLC have launched a groundbreaking certification program for U.S. dairy farms and cooperatives that provides financial premiums to dairy farmers and workers, which will help protect and empower them while raising sustainability standards. The fair trade certification program is available to milk producers throughout the United States. Fair Trade Certification provides farm owners and cooperatives with an opportunity to differentiate, increase engagement with consumers, and receive a financial premium for their investments. Certification also provides greater support for farm workers in an industry that can face challenges in workforce availability, working hours, and farm safety. Fair Trade USA plans to develop an environmental component to this program which will address the unique challenges of the dairy industry. The certification process typically takes six to nine months to complete, and, when certified, milk buyers are authorized to promote their products using the widely-recognized Fair Trade Certified seal.




Midwestern farmers, ranchers, and agricultural workers have direct access to a new tool to help manage stress, anxiety, depression, or substance use issues. The newly launched website, farmstress.org, is aimed at providing the agricultural community with resources and support through the North Central Farm and Ranch Assistance Center. The website lists resources by state and topic, including crisis numbers, telephone hotlines, and training resources. "This new tool will help those in agricultural communities connect with critical information to help themselves, their family members or people they work with," says Iowa project lead David Brown. "Having this information available online helps make mental health information more accessible."




The American Rescue Plan enacted this spring included $5 billion in direct aid for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) farmers, explains the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC). NSAC reports that the USDA Farm Service Administration will be responsible for distributing the approximately $4 billion in farm debt relief payments for BIPOC producers who have farm loans made directly by FSA or through private lenders with USDA guarantees. All Black, Native American, Alaskan Native, Asian American, Pacific Islander, and Hispanic/Latino farmers with specified loan types are eligible for relief. Debt relief payments will be made automatically and do not require farmers to apply for payment.




The Pennsylvania Farm Bill's Urban Agriculture Grant Program is awarding $500,000 in grant funding to 42 projects. The program funded 18 microgrants and 24 collaboration grants for projects that improve agriculture infrastructure in urban areas, the aggregation of product, sharing of resources, and support for community development efforts. Microgrants provide funding up to $2,500 in matching funds for one-time projects or a single entity. Collaboration grants provide up to $50,000 in matching funds for projects that demonstrated cooperative or regional efforts to share resources, aggregate agricultural products or producers, promote the sharing of resources among agricultural entities, and support community development. The projects funded include everything from refrigeration equipment to agricultural infrastructure such as greenhouses, raised beds, irrigation, and tools.




More than 100 farmer veterans received the news that they are being awarded equipment through the 2021 Farmer Veteran Fellowship Fund, a grant that supports veterans in their early years of farming and ranching. Over 11 years, more than 700 veterans have benefited from $3.5 million in equipment grants. This year's recipients include 47 females, doubling the percentage of women awardees compared to prior years, and come from nearly 40 states. Grantees are receiving equipment including greenhouses and grow tents, walk-in coolers and cold storage units, milking systems, water filtration systems, and honey extractors.




Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota has posted a series of silvopasture case studies to help farmers learn from each other. These case studies feature farmers throughout Minnesota who have been using silvopasture practices for three or more years and whose stories offer tangible examples, support, and encouragement to others. A printable PDF version of the case studies is also available online. The Silvopasture Case Studies are made possible through a partnership among the Center for Integrated Natural Resources and Agricultural Management at the University of Minnesota, the University of Minnesota Agricultural Extension, Great River Greening, and the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota.




Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientists and collaborators explored the rural economic impacts of climate variability and identified potential future outcomes for beef cattle production in a research article, "Future climate variability will challenge rangeland beef cattle production in the Great Plains," recently published in the journal Rangelands. Lead author David Briske, Ph.D. noted that cattle operations, which rely on grassland forage for much of their animals' dietary intake, could be especially vulnerable to increased precipitation variability. The research indicates that beef producers will experience a greater number of years where annual forage production may vary by 50%. This increases the already difficult task of balancing forage production with cattle demand. Briske said this increasing weather variability could present sustainability problems for beef cattle operations and regions that have been successful historically.




A study by Mississippi scientists that was published in Soil Science Society of America Journal focused on documenting the impacts of poultry litter application on crop fields. After five years of soil treatments that applied either poultry litter or commercial chemical fertilizers, researchers grew soybeans for three years. They found that soils amended with poultry litter were less compacted and held significantly more water. However, soil carbon content didn't change much, as the hot and humid region caused carbon to evaporate as carbon dioxide. The soybean yields from the fields amended with poultry litter were higher than those that received other treatments. "These results are useful for development of management practices that improve soil health and function," noted lead author Gary Feng, a USDA soil scientist.




North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (NCR-SARE) announced the 16 projects that will receive more than $638,000 in funding through its 2021 Partnership Grant Program. This grant program is intended to foster cooperation between agriculture professionals and small groups of farmers and ranchers to catalyze on-farm research, demonstration, and education activities related to sustainable agriculture. Brief descriptions of the funded projects are available online. They address topics such as collaboration between industrial hemp growers, local foods marketing, building meat processing capacity, and alternative processing and markets for small grains.




California State University Chico's Center for Regenerative Agriculture and Resilient Systems and 12 partners received a Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) grant of nearly $7 million through the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The grant will fund a five-year project called "Soil Health Management Systems for Northern California" that will help orchard and vineyard, rangeland, dairy, and row crop producers in Northern California build food and fiber-production resiliency to counter the challenges from climate change. The project is designed to help the partners combine their efforts and help regional producers learn best practices from each other.




A study by researchers at the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth U.S., and the University of Maryland found that pesticides widely used in American agriculture pose a grave threat to organisms that are critical to healthy soil, biodiversity, and soil carbon sequestration to fight climate change. The researchers compiled data from nearly 400 studies, finding that pesticides harmed beneficial, soil-dwelling invertebrates including earthworms, ants, beetles, and ground-nesting bees in 71% of cases reviewed. This is the largest, most comprehensive review of the impacts of agricultural pesticides on soil organisms ever conducted. It was published in Frontiers in Environmental Science.




The National Grazing Lands Coalition has teamed up with On Pasture and Yvette Gibson, an online learning specialist in grazing science, to bring you the information you need to be a successful grazier. The free Grazing 101 e-book introduces the principles you need to manage for soil and pasture health; choose the right fencing, watering systems, handling facilities and livestock; and work smarter, not harder, and actually make a profit. A 43-lesson online course on Grazing 101 and a 24-lesson course on Recordkeeping are also available free.




The National Organic Program (NOP) launched a new web page that compiles resources available to Spanish speakers seeking information about organic certification in one place. The new resource repository includes Spanish translations of the Organic Foods Production Act, organic regulations, the NOP Handbook and a variety of other fact sheets, videos, and training resources.




A graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is collecting and preserving the history of organic/sustainable agriculture in the midwestern and northeastern United States. She is identifying key people, publications, and organizations that helped shape and promote organic/sustainable agriculture. You can help by filling out a brief online questionnaire about how you became interested in organic/sustainable farming. Any identifying/contact information that you provide will be kept confidential.




Fast Company reports that fashion companies such as Patagonia, Allbirds, Timberland, Mara Hoffman, Christy Dawn, and Kering are not just considering where their raw materials are sourced, but are investing in regenerative agriculture. Although the companies produce only a small amount of their materials on regenerative farms, support for the idea is growing. The article highlights examples of how forward-thinking fashion companies are leading the way, and explores what impact the "farm-to-closet" concept could have on the fashion industry and on agriculture.




National Public Radio's All Things Considered reported that a large organic farm in South Dakota is receiving criticism for soil management practices that lead to erosion. Gunsmoke Farms covers 53 square acres, and it is owned by investors that have hired a series of managers to run the operation. Farm owners intend to supply General Mills with organic wheat, peas, and other crops, which they first planted in 2020. Critics say the farm hasn't followed plans that were designed to protect the area's fragile soils and minimize erosion. In addition, 2020 was a dry and windy year that created conditions especially conducive to erosion. Some are concerned that the farm's scale, combined with the current condition of the soil, will make organic, regenerative farming unattainable.




The American Solar Grazing Association (ASGA) has announced that it will collect and analyze data on the agricultural, economic, and environmental impacts of co-locating agricultural enterprises such as commercial beekeeping and sheep grazing on photovoltaic sites. The project is being funded by a $198,000 research grant from the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority. ASGA has already begun recruiting beekeepers, shepherds, and solar sites and will continue enrollment throughout the 2021 growing season. The study will collect data from co-located sites, as well as conventional, stand-alone operations for comparison purposes. Data will be collected during the 2022 and 2023 grazing seasons. Results of the study will address questions about the quality and profitability of farm products from solar sites, trends in soil health on agriculturally managed solar sites, and the benefits to farmers of working with the solar industry. Apply online to be considered for participation in the study.




The Federal Communications Commission announced that it will begin enrollment for the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program on May 12, 2021. This program will provide eligible households with discounts of up to $50 a month for broadband service, and up to $75 a month if the household is on Tribal lands. It also will provide a one-time discount of up to $100 on a computer or tablet for eligible households. Under the law, the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program is open to households that participate in an existing low-income or pandemic relief program offered by a broadband provider; Lifeline subscribers, including those that are on Medicaid or accept SNAP benefits; households with kids receiving free and reduced-price lunch or school breakfast; Pell grant recipients; and those who have lost jobs and seen their income reduced in the last year. Eligible households can enroll through an approved provider or by visiting https://getemergencybroadband.org.




USDA announced a virtual listening session on May 6, 2021, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. ET, for beginning farmers and ranchers. USDA wants to learn how COVID-19 impacted beginning farmers' operations and get their feedback on USDA assistance. Registrants also have the optional opportunity to provide written feedback. This feedback will inform USDA preparations for outreach strategies, programmatic needs, technical assistance and accessible program delivery for beginning farmers and ranchers through Pandemic Assistance for Producers.




Future Harvest CASA, Fair Farms Maryland, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and other founding partners introduced the Million Acre Challenge, an effort to achieve one million agricultural acres in Maryland using healthy soil techniques by 2030. The voluntary program is helping to connect farmers with each other and helping them find the best tools and management practices to address their unique challenges and set and achieve their soil health goals. The Million Acre Challenge website offers soil health information and research to help farmers build organic matter, reduce compaction, and create healthy soil biological communities.




One of the most successful beginning farmer training programs in the country is now accepting applications for its 2021-2022 course session. Land Stewardship Project Farm Beginnings classes will take place in an online setting December through March, with on-farm educational events to follow later in 2022. Applications that are accepted before August 15, 2021, will qualify for a $100 discount, and scholarships are available. Farm Beginnings provides community-based training that focuses on the goal setting, marketing, and financial skills needed to establish a successful and sustainable farm business in the Upper Midwest.




The National Farmers Union of Scotland announced that farmer Patrick Barbour won its Next Generation Climate Change competition that encouraged Scotland's farmers and crofters to record on video the many steps they are taking to reduce emissions and deliver wider environmental benefits. Barbour's three-minute video features his brother and sister and stunningly illustrates the benefits of tree planting, species-rich grassland, rotational grazing for cattle and sheep, and stitching nitrogen fixing crops into pastures on the family farm. The winning video is posted online.




Pasa Sustainable Agriculture is accepting session proposals for its 31st Sustainable Agriculture Conference until June 14, 2021. The 2022 conference is planned for February 10–12, 2022, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, with a virtual pre-conference taking place in January and early February. The goals of the conference are to provide training and education that promote the environmental, economic, and social wellbeing of farms, food systems, communities, and the environment; serve as an outlet for sharing cutting-edge research and science-based solutions, while preserving and passing on traditional farming knowledge and heritage; be a venue where people, businesses, and organizations from across the sustainable agriculture movement make meaningful connections; and embrace an inclusive definition of sustainability, which accepts a diversity of methods and philosophies of production.




Minnesota Department of Agriculture and project partners received a $3.5 million grant from USDA through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) to implement conservation measures on irrigated lands. The five-year project will focus on 20 counties across the state of Minnesota. The MDA project, "Implementing Innovative Irrigation Practices to Protect Groundwater Quality and Quantity," will work directly with agricultural producers using irrigation to implement conservation practices that protect groundwater and promote expanded precision-irrigation practices.




The largest soil health program in New England history has received funding from USDA's Regional Conservation Partnership Program. The project will be led by NRCS and American Farmland Trust (AFT), working with numerous additional partners. It matches a $7.4 million award from NRCS with partner and donor contributions of more than $7.6 million to incentivize adoption of regenerative agriculture practices in western New England. Over the next five years, AFT's Western New England Regenerative Agriculture project will work closely with hundreds of farms, covering tens of thousands of acres of cropland, on soil conservation, including no-till farming, cover-crop usage, the creation of filter strips, converting marginal cropland to pasture, and other regenerative agriculture practices, while also seeking to increase wildlife habitat, improve overall soil health, and protect local water quality.




A new report from American Farmland Trust calls attention to the importance of speeding the implementation of conservation practices on rented farmland and ranchland. "Advancing Understanding of Conservation on Rented Land" was published in the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. The article notes that with nearly 40% of farmland in the United States rented or leased from agricultural landowners, understanding who these landowners are and how they think about conservation is key to getting more conservation practices implemented on rented agricultural lands.




USDA announced that it will hold the first-ever Food Loss and Waste Innovation Fair on May 26, to showcase USDA investments and business leadership in reducing food loss and waste throughout the food system. The free, virtual event will present businesses and research teams that have received USDA funding to research or commercialize cutting-edge food loss and waste solutions. USDA agencies will discuss their food loss and waste activities. Additionally, the event will feature several U.S. Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champions, businesses that have committed to reducing food loss and waste in their operations by 50% by 2030.




USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced the award of $330 million in 85 locally driven, public-private partnerships through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). Projects will address climate change, improve the nation's water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat, and protect agricultural viability. The Department anticipates that these investments will generate at least $440 million in additional conservation funds by communities and other partners.




The University of California has released a new study that outlines costs and returns of establishing and producing organic alfalfa hay. The new study estimates the costs and returns of establishing and producing organic alfalfa using flood irrigation in the Sacramento Valley, north and south San Joaquin Valley, and the Intermountain Region. The 100 acres of organic alfalfa is rented for $345 per acre annually and the alfalfa stand life is four years after the establishment year. Demand for organic alfalfa is high in California as an organic dairy input. "This cost study provides information on how to grow alfalfa hay organically," notes study co-author Rachael Long.




Leading global certification program GlobalGAP c/o FoodPLUS GmbH has launched a new GGN label for consumers. Previous GGN labels were specific to aquaculture and floriculture products, but the new label applies to fruits and vegetables, as well. All products with the GGN label come from a farm whose production process has been independently certified according to international GlobalGAP standards or one of the standards that is recognized by GlobalGAP as equivalent. These standards are holistic in nature and cover food safety, sustainability, environmental protection, animal welfare, workers' health and safety, and supply chain transparency.




Researchers at Penn State University explored how using dairy manure and legume cover crops in corn crop rotations can increase emissions of the potent greenhouse gas nitrous oxide. The increase was largely due to the typical timing of manure application, before planting the corn crop. This study found that farmers could reduce nitrous oxide emissions if they could apply manure after the crop is planted, closer to when the corn begins to take up nitrogen. In this study, better timing for nitrogen application allowed for a reduced total nitrogen application, including use of less inorganic nitrogen fertilizer.




FieldWatch, Inc., a non-profit company that promotes improved communication and stewardship among crop producers, beekeepers, and pesticide applicators, is expanding its SeedFieldCheck registry into Nebraska, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan for the 2021 growing season. SeedFieldCheck integrates into the existing FieldWatch crop and apiary registry and enables seed companies to more effectively communicate the location and presence of seed field workers to pesticide applicators. SeedFieldCheck enables seed companies to register the locations of their field crews daily. Users mark registered fields as "planned" or "occupied" to alert pesticide applicators when there may be crews in the area. The free mapping program debuted in Iowa in 2020, joining FieldWatch's other registries, including DriftWatch Specialty Crop Site Registry, BeeCheck Apiary Registry, CropCheck Row Crop Registry, and FieldCheck.




New York Department of Agriculture, Cornell University New York State Integrated Pest Management Program, and Northeast Regional Climate Center announced the launch of the Network for Environment and Weather Applications (NEWA) version 3.0. This represents a complete update of a popular online system that helps New York farmers protect their crops from insects and plant disease. NEWA 3.0 offers an improved user experience paired with any smart device, a secure user account system with customized preferences, and 17 completed fruit and vegetable insect pest and plant disease forecast models, with seven more lined up for release in coming months. NEWA users report annual cost savings of $33,048 from avoided crop losses, $4,329 from reduced sprays, and $2,060 in overall per acre annually, according to a 2017 survey. NEWA 3.0 (beta) is available for use immediately. There is no charge for access or account creation.




Oregon State University's Jim Myers has developed a purple processing tomato called Midnight Roma. The antioxidant-rich tomato resulted from a cross of the Oregon Star tomato with Indigo Rose, a dark purple tomato that contains anthocyanins. Both varieties were developed at Oregon State University. The Midnight Roma was developed for flavor and disease resistance. Its fruit ripens at about the same time, making it ideal for processing. Because the anthocyanins are contained in the dark skin, the skin must be included in processing to retain the health benefits of these antioxidants. Row 7 Seed Co. has exclusive rights to Midnight Roma and is selling seed online.




A study by Oregon State University researchers found that shade provided by solar panels increased the abundance of flowers under the panels and delayed the timing of their bloom, both findings that could aid the agricultural community. The researchers collected data from 48 species of plants and 65 different insect species, in full-sun, partial shade, and full shade situations. The study, believed to be the first that looked at the impact of solar panels on flowering plants and insects, has important implications for solar developers who manage the land under solar panels, as well as agriculture and pollinator health advocates who are seeking land for pollinator habitat restoration. The researchers explained that extending bloom times is important for pollinating insects because it provides them food later in the season. The findings were published in the journal Scientific Reports.




The Sand County Foundation announced that state-level Leopold Conservation Award recipients have been selected for Colorado, Nebraska, and South Dakota. Sand County Foundation and local partners in the states present the awards in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, to recognize private landowners who inspire others with their dedication to the land, water, and wildlife resources in their care. In South Dakota, Prairie Paradise Farms of Fort Pierre has been selected as the 2021 winner. Switzer Ranch of Loup County is the Nebraska winner, and May Ranch of Lamar is the Colorado recipient. More information on each of the recipients is available online.




Ceres Imaging released a study that uses aerial imaging to quantify the extent and impact of drip irrigation issues in agriculture. This new report finds that there is significant opportunity for growers to increase farm profits and conserve water by quickly detecting and correcting common issues like plugs, leaks, and pressure issues. This is the first publicly available report that uses aerial imagery to quantify the extent and impact of irrigation issues across a vast geography. Ceres Imaging reviewed anonymized data from more than 1 million acres of drip-irrigated specialty crops across California collected over the course of the 2020 growing season. The study found considerable opportunities to improve grower profits and increase agriculture resource efficiency by acting on irrigation issues quickly.




In March, NCAT hosted its inaugural Soil Health Innovations Conference. The conference offered a forum for leading experts and innovative farmers from around the U.S. sharing the latest in soil science, best practices in soil management, and the emerging technologies that will drive the future of sustainable and regenerative agriculture. Feedback from participants was overwhelmingly positive. If you missed the conference, you have another opportunity to access its content: NCAT is making session recordings available online to registered participants until September. Register today to gain access to all of the conference content.




USDA announced that it will open enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) with higher payment rates, new incentives, and a more targeted focus on the program's role in climate change mitigation. Additionally, USDA is announcing investments in partnerships to increase climate-smart agriculture. USDA's goal is to enroll up to 4 million new acres in CRP by raising rental payment rates and expanding the number of incentivized environmental practices allowed under the program. To target the program on climate change mitigation, FSA is introducing a new Climate-Smart Practice Incentive for CRP general and continuous signups that aims to increase carbon sequestration and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Climate-Smart CRP practices include establishment of trees and permanent grasses, development of wildlife habitat, and wetland restoration. The Climate-Smart Practice Incentive is annual, and the amount is based on the benefits of each practice type.




USDA is seeking comments on a Department-wide effort to improve and reimagine the supply chains for the production, processing and distribution of agricultural commodities and food products. USDA is taking this action in response to Executive Order 14017, America's Supply Chains. The comments received will help USDA assess the critical factors, risks, and strategies needed to support resilient, diverse, and secure supply chains. In particular, the request for comment seeks input on bolstering local and regional food systems, developing new market opportunities (including for value-added agriculture and products), creating fairer and more competitive markets, meeting the needs of the agricultural workforce, supporting and promoting consumers nutrition security addressing the needs of socially disadvantaged and small to mid-sized producers, and advancing efforts in other ways to transform the food system. The comment period will close on May 21, 2021.




National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced that it is awarding $21.7 million in several key programs to help agricultural producers manage the impacts of climate change on their lands and production. NIFA awarded $6.3 million for 14 Soil Health grants and $5.4 million for seven Signals in the Soil grants through its Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). NIFA also is investing at least $10 million this year in a new AFRI program area priority, "Extension, Education, and USDA Climate Hub Partnerships," to train the next generation of agriculturalists and foresters to incorporate climate change research into their management practices. Complete lists of funded projects are provided online.




USDA reminds agricultural producers that the Farm Service Agency is currently accepting new and modified Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) 2 applications. The CFAP 2 signup period has reopened as part of USDA's new Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative. Producers of livestock and row or specialty crops who were directly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic may be eligible for financial assistance through CFAP 2. To learn more, visit farmers.gov/CFAP, call 877-508-8364, or contact your local FSA office.




Zach Johnson and Mitchell Hora, the hosts of American Public Media's popular sustainable agriculture podcast Field Work, produced a short video that explores the conservation culture that developed in Washington County, Iowa. The three-minute video reveals how farmers' willingness to share successes and failures and entrepreneurial problem-solving all played a big role in making Washington County a bastion of sustainable agriculture, and it outlines how other farm communities can replicate that success.




For the past 15 years, the Behavior, Energy & Climate Change (BECC) conference has presented behavioral research and practice to foster individual and organizational change. The theme for this year's virtual conference is Reimagining the Future. BECC invites you to present your work and learn from others about how to encourage behavior change that reduces energy consumption and carbon emissions, evaluate behavior-change programs, understand why individuals and groups change, and make transitions in fair and equitable ways. Submit your 300-word abstract by April 22, 2021.




University of California Cooperative Extension specialists have launched a research project to quantify the potential for chickens to be part of safe and sustainable commercial organic vegetable production. The California trial is part of a national effort to diversify organic vegetable farms with chickens. In the trials, chickens are introduced as part of a rotation that includes cover crops and a variety of vegetable crops. In California, chickens were placed on research plots in April, following a winter cover crop of vetch, peas, fava beans, and oat grass. The chickens themselves are part of a trial of meat quality for pastured chickens. Vegetable crops are subsequently planted on the ground where the chickens were, and soil quality and vegetable yield are being evaluated.




Scientists with the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station evaluated eight varieties of seedless table grapes to determine which grow best in New Hampshire. The study team reports that 'Mars' has performed very well, with consistently high yields, high fruit quality, and relatively good disease resistance. "Seedless table grapes are typically grown in much warmer climates, although several newer varieties released since the 1970s promise increased winter hardiness," experiment station scientist Becky Sideman said. "Seedless table grapes offer potential for existing vineyards that focus primarily on wine grapes to diversify into additional markets. They also may be a new crop to consider for those who do not currently grow grapes. In particular, the crop management requirements and timing could be compatible with other orchard or berry crops."




The U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Poultry and Eggs introduced its multi-stakeholder sustainability reporting framework for the full U.S. supply chains for chicken,turkey, and eggs from producer to final customer. Three full U.S. supply chain pilots (broilers, eggs, and turkeys) have been completed with input from leading companies including Butterball, Cal-Maine Foods, Cargill, Darling Ingredients, Herbruck's Poultry Ranch,Iowa Turkey Federation, Kreher's Family Farms, McDonald's Corporation, Peco Foods, Sanderson Farms, Tyson Foods, and West Liberty Foods. The pilot companies tested the Framework's metrics to ensure they were effective and implementable ahead of the anticipated full launch to the industry early next year. Participants in the initiative cited a need for greater transparency in the poultry industry at the individual and supply chain level.




A study by University of Alberta biologists shows that adaptive multi-paddock (AMP) grazing extracts methane gas from the atmosphere, locking it inside the soil through microbial activity. The study, "Adaptive Multi-paddock Grazing Lowers Soil Greenhouse Gas Emission Potential by Altering Extracellular Enzyme Activity," was published in Agronomy. Researchers compared the fluxes of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, from soils of AMP-grazed grasslands to paired neighboring non-AMP-grazed grasslands across a climatic gradient in Alberta, Canada. Among other results, the study found that methane uptake was 1.5 times greater in soils from AMP-grazed than non-AMP-grazed grasslands.




The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has released Organic Foods: Are They Safer? This 40-page publication notes that organic agriculture is not a guarantee of food safety. This report discusses organic agriculture and its ecological roles in sustaining farming practices and protecting the environment, as well as its economic aspects. This paper also discusses organic agriculture and food safety, and introduces the concept of agroecology.




Practical Farmers of Iowa has released a Farmer-Led Research report on the impact of pruning tomatoes in high tunnels. Iowa farmers Maja and Carmen Black and Natasha Hegmann were interested in learning the impact of double-leader pruning on tomato yield and labor-time in their high tunnels. In this study, cooperators documented labor for different tasks along with tomato weight and fruit count. They found that although time spent on labor was higher for the pruned tomatoes at the Blacks, at Hegmann's, time spent on labor was higher for un-pruned tomatoes. Additionally, at the Blacks' there was no difference in yield, while at Hegmann's the pruned plants produced larger fruits and the un-pruned plants produced more fruits. The full report is available online.




Scientists at Penn State University developed Beescape, an online decision-support tool that integrates multiple national databases to provide indices of bee resources across the United States. Now, a nearly $950,000 grant from USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture's Food and Agriculture Cyberinformatics and Tools grant program will enable the team to expand Beescape's functionality significantly. Penn State reports that Beescape NexGen will feature a tool to assess the economic value of pollination services for all crops dependent on insect pollination in a given area. It also will include a refined seasonal forage-quality index that integrates stakeholder perspectives and additional national data sets. In addition, the application will offer bee-support assessments at local and regional spatial scales and the ability to explore changes across multiple years.




The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has named Purdue University as the new host of the Midwestern Regional Climate Center (MRCC). There are six regional climate centers in the U.S., and the Midwestern center covers nine states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The centers serve as hubs for data collected from federal atmospheric observational sites. Staff use the data to develop tools beneficial to stakeholders across the region. Center director Beth Hall envisions developing tools that monitor plant evapotranspiration, the potential for flash droughts, and growing degree days.




A study led by Cornell University and Utah State University documented how ubiquitous microplastics have become. Plastics cycle through oceans and roadways, and as the pieces become small enough, they can become airborne and move through the atmosphere. Researchers examined the sources of atmospheric microplastics and found that, in the western United States, 84% of microscopic shards came from road dust, caused by cars and trucks agitating the plastic. About 11% entered the atmosphere from sea spray, and 5% was derived from agricultural soil dust. These atmospheric plastics can land and accumulate anywhere, the researchers point out.




USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is extending the deadline to April 22, 2021, for public comment on proposed revisions to 23 national conservation practice standards. The original comment deadline was April 8, 2021. NRCS is encouraging agricultural producers, landowners, organizations, Tribes, and others that use its conservation practices to comment on these revised 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 to help the nation's farmers, ranchers, and private forest landowners better protect natural resources on their working lands. In 2020, 57 conservation practice standards were updated after public review.




Pennsylvania has awarded its first Agricultural Product Promotion, Education and Export Promotion Matching Grants to encourage and maximize the promotion of Pennsylvania-produced agricultural products. A total of $300,000 in state matching funds was awarded to 16 projects aimed at increasing consumer awareness of Pennsylvania agriculture products and market opportunities for agriculture producers. The funded projects include educational activities, promotions for particular crops and markets (such as hardwoods and potatoes), and promotional programs such as destination events. Brief descriptions of the funded projects are available online.




The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) released a new guidebook, Building Healthy Living Soils for Successful Organic Farming in the Southern Region. The goal of this new guidebook is to help the region's current and aspiring organic producers develop effective, site-specific soil health management strategies that support successful, resilient enterprises. The guidebook explores how to apply organic soil health principles to the region's soils through a series of practical steps and strategies, illustrated by innovative farmer stories and brief descriptions of underlying scientific concepts. The guidebook also includes a list of resources for additional reading, a description of the inherent properties of soil types commonly found in the South, and a summary of the latest soil health research being conducted in the region. The publication is available free online.