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USDA is gathering input to help shape a planned grant program focused on improving the resiliency of our food and agricultural supply chain by addressing labor shortages in agriculture, reducing irregular migration, and improving labor protections for farmworkers. USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) will hold three virtual listening sessions for the new farm labor stabilization and protection pilot grant program. The first, in the morning of September 28, 2022, is for agricultural employer organizations, and the second, that afternoon, is for labor unions. The third listening session, for the broader farmworker advocacy community, will be on the afternoon of September 29, 2022.

American Farmland Trust (AFT) has released Smart Solar℠ principles for solar development to help projects meet three important goals — to accelerate solar energy development, strengthen farm viability, and safeguard land well-suited for farming and ranching. The principles call for prioritizing solar siting on buildings and on land not well-suited for farming, for safeguarding the ability for land to be used for agriculture, for growing agrivoltaics, and for promoting equity and farm viability. AFT notes that although solar energy development has the potential to cause conflicts between the use of agricultural land to grow food and its use to produce renewable energy, the Smart Solar principles can help save the land that sustains us.

American Farmland Trust and the Farmers Market Coalition announced the winners of the summer-long 14th annual America's Farmers Market Celebration. More than 2,000 markets nationwide participated in the 2022 celebration, with more than 10 million supporters engaged through voting for their favorite markets, visiting the celebration website, and engaging with the celebration on social media. The first-place national winner, awarded $5,000, is Overland Park Farmers Market in Kansas. Other winners were Columbia Farmers Market in Missouri, Nampa Farmers Market in Idaho, West Windsor Community Farmers Market in New Jersey, and Monroe Farmers Market in Connecticut.

Purple needlegrass, California's official state grass, is recognized for its drought tolerance, ecological role in attracting beneficial root fungi, and role in recovery of burned lands. Researchers from UC Riverside and the University of Oregon teamed up to study how to promote the health of needlegrass plants. The results of their six-year study, published in the Journal of Applied Ecology showed that purple needlegrass did better in places where sheep were allowed to graze. Researchers believe grazing helped needlegrass survive by creating space for it to grow and by eating non-native grasses that compete with it.

The Thomas A. Lyson Center for Civic Agriculture and Food Systems announced the release of A Regional Imperative: The Case for Regional Food Systems. The report explores the concepts, practices, challenges, and promise of regional food systems. Eight chapters take a wide perspective on the dimensions and attributes of regional food systems and identify challenges and suggestions for what is needed. Authors Kathy Ruhf and Kate Clancy collaborated with a diverse Discussion Team to strengthen their initial report, first released in January 2022, around race and equity.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig today welcomed Iowans and interested organizations to nominate qualified individuals to serve on the Local Food and Farm Program Advisory Council. The Council exists to support and advise statewide efforts to increase the availability of locally grown, raised, and produced foods. Openings include positions for a poultry producer, a livestock producer, a dairy producer, a fruit or vegetable producer, a food hub manager, and two people engaged in local or regional community food organizations, as well as numerous positions related to processing, food service, and marketing. Nominations must be submitted by October 15, 2022.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is accepting applications for the 2023 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) Technical Review Committee (TRC) through September 28, 2022. The committee reviews, evaluates, and makes recommendations to CDFA on proposals submitted for funding to California's SCBGP. TRC members are responsible for reviewing and providing feedback on six to 15 proposals and attending two meetings, held virtually, to discuss final proposal scoring with fellow TRC members. TRC members gain firsthand insight into the SCBGP selection process and help prioritize SCBGP funding to ensure that it aligns with the needs of the California specialty crop industry.

The Nature Conservancy's Dunn Ranch Prairie is the Midwest's first grassbank, reports Harvest Public Media. A grazing agreement allows two local ranchers to put cattle on the tallgrass prairie in Missouri for a couple of months. This allows the ranchers' land to rest, while the cattle's hoof trampling and grazing help keep the prairie healthy. Experts stress the importance of grazing and other natural forces in prairie restoration, saying that planned and managed grazing helps control weeds and invasive species.

The Nature Conservancy announced that its five-year project to advance agroforestry in 38 states across the eastern United States and Hawai'i received $60 million in funding through the Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry Partnership Initiative. With the involvement of numerous partners, this project will transform 30,000 acres into agroforestry systems, building a foundation for scaling agroforestry nationally. The project should generate carbon sequestration equivalent to 1 to 2.5% of 2020 U.S. emissions from all sources. According to a press release, this project will provide $40 million in direct incentive payments to producers for tree planting, creating a national network of demonstration farms that will be used for education and outreach. The project will also catalyze new financial mechanisms and business models—such as leasing tree-planting rights to investors—which project partners expect will attract hundreds of millions of dollars of private and institutional investment in coming decades.

Research at Aalto University in Finland revealed that diverting agricultural byproducts for use as livestock and fish feeds could make food for as many as a billion people available without additional natural resource use or diet changes. According to a press release, a team analyzed the flow of food and feed, as well as their byproducts and residues, through the global food production system. They then identified ways to shift these flows to produce a better outcome. For example, livestock and farmed fish could be fed food-system byproducts, such as sugar beet or citrus pulp, fish and livestock by-products, or even crop residues, instead of materials that are fit for human use. Researchers concluded that with these changes, 10 to 26% of total cereal production and 17 million tons of fish (approximately 11% of the current seafood supply) could be redirected from animal feed to human use.

Virginia Tech announced that it received an $80 million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture for a pilot program that will pay producers in Virginia, Arkansas, Minnesota, and North Dakota to implement climate-smart practices on farms. The three-year pilot involving up to 5,200 operations representing up to 600,000 acres will test the feasibility of a national program. The pilot program will pay producers $100 per acre or animal unit for voluntary adoption of climate-smart practices. The program pays producers more than the cost of implementation and will issue tracking certificates for products from participating producers, to identify them in the marketplace. At least 40% of the pilot program's participants will be underserved and small producers.

According to a study commissioned by CoBank and conducted by researchers at the University of Missouri, 82% of U.S. farm household income now comes from off-farm sources. Most farmers cited reliable income as the top reason for off-farm employment, as one-half of farm households have negative farm income in a typical year. Health and retirement benefits were also cited as keys reasons for off-farm jobs within farm households. Off-farm jobs are especially critical for young and beginning farmers as they build their businesses. Among the study's key findings is that rural communities have increasingly diverse economies, and success within a rural community's agricultural sector is largely dependent on other sectors of the regional economy at large.

Montana State University Food Product Development Lab wishes to find interested Montana pulse growers to complete an online survey in early November. Prior to completing the survey, participants will be asked to read a report that highlights the culinary qualities and nutritional values for culinary pulses (i.e., dry beans, dry peas, chickpeas, and lentils). If you are a Montana pulse grower interested in participating in the survey, contact

Swiss research published in eLife shows that crops bred for monoculture can adapt over just two generations to growing in a multispecies environment. Researchers say the three-year study didn't provide time for genetic adaptation, but it probably allowed plants with existing genotypic variation to select particular genotypes. Plots of wheat, oat, lentil, flax, camelina, and coriander mix grew taller in two generations, although yields didn't increase. "Our findings have important implications for the shift to more diversified agriculture," concludes senior author Christian Schöb. "They suggest breeding plants to grow in mixed-species plots may further improve yields and reduce the need for fertilizer and other harmful practices."

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) and its partners have been awarded four Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities grants through the USDA's historic investment in expanding climate-smart agriculture. NCAT and its five Climate Beneficial Fiber project partners—Carbon Cycle Institute, Colorado State University Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, Fibershed, Seed2Shirt, and New York Textile Lab— will receive up to $30 million to support the expansion of climate-smart wool and cotton production on 135 farms and ranches spread across 2.1 million acres. The project builds on the existing Climate Beneficial™ fiber program, which has a track record of growing America’s ability to produce climate-smart fiber, regenerate our soils, and expand economic opportunities for wool and cotton growers. NCAT is also partnering with organizations around the country on the following climate-smart commodities projects that received funding: Farmers for Soil Health Climate-Smart Commodities Partnership; Expanding the STAR Program Across Colorado and the West; and Building Soil, Building Equity: Accelerating a Regenerative Farming Movement in Appalachia and the Southeast.

The Center for Rural Affairs (CFRA) completed a series of 12 videos on working with federal farm conservation programs that is available on YouTube. The videos introduce programs like CSP and EQIP, and help producers understand the information they will need to work with their local USDA Service Center and with program administrators. The videos are available in both English and Spanish, and they complement a series of fact sheets that CFRA published on the same topics.

Midwest Messenger reported on a new business called Haggle, that helps farmers earn income from their assets. The company offers an app that lets farmers buy and sell equipment, as well as lend and borrow equipment and book and hire services. The app is also expanding to offer bartering. Nathan Greuel, owner and operator of Haggle, reports that one user traded a cow for use of a tractor. Others traded grain storage space for a grain spot contract. Greuel envisions users bartering the use of expensive and rarely used equipment. The company currently serves areas of Illinois and Iowa.

The Provenance Co. will premiere The Wallace Project, a short documentary about their grassland regeneration project, at the Kansas City Underground Film Festival. The seven-minute film explains how The Wallace Project was created as part of The Provenance Co.'s mission to share the effects of land degradation, and the potential for large-scale grassland restoration through Holistic Management of livestock.

USDA National Organic Program has a new online course available on Understanding the Origin of Livestock Rule (OOL) for organic agriculture. This course teaches organic certifiers, inspectors, and producers about the updated OOL requirements in the USDA organic regulations, published in April 2022. This course also teaches knowledge and skills that will help implement the OOL requirements in the USDA organic regulations. The course is available free through the Organic Integrity Learning Center operated by USDA Agricultural Marketing Service.

Farmers’ Legal Action Group released a new publication, Farmers' Guide to Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA), that highlights the aspects of this legislation that will impact farmers. This guide looks first at what the IRA calls "relief for borrowers." Second, it looks at what the IRA calls "Discrimination Financial Assistance." Third, it looks at changes the IRA makes to the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The guide is available free online and will be updated in the future.

USDA has selected 70 projects to receive up to $2.8 billion in funding under the first pool of the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities funding opportunity. According to USDA, these initial projects will expand markets for climate-smart commodities, leverage the greenhouse gas benefits of climate-smart commodity production and provide direct, meaningful benefits to production agriculture, including for small and underserved producers. Funding for Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities will be delivered through USDA's Commodity Credit Corporation in two pools. Projects announced today are from the first funding pool, which included proposals seeking funds ranging from $5 million to $100 million. A complete list of funded projects is available online. USDA anticipates that these 70 projects will result in more than 50,000 farms reached, encompassing more than 20-25 million acres of working land engaged in climate-smart production practices such as cover crops, no-till and nutrient management. In addition, more than 50 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent will be sequestered over the lives of the projects.

As part of a funding package for food banks and school meal programs, USDA announced that it will provide nearly $500 million to expand the Local Food Purchase Assistance (LFPA) cooperative agreement program. LFPA supports states, territories, and tribes to purchase food from historically underserved producers, as well as local and regional producers, to support emergency food assistance efforts. An allocation of $471.5 million will be used for cooperative agreements with states, tribes, and territories to purchase locally available food grown within each state or within 400 miles of the delivery destination that will be distributed to meet the unique local needs of each community through emergency nutrition programs, including food banks, schools, and organizations that reach underserved communities.

The Center for Biological Diversity is hosting a free, online Food Justice Film Festival, September 15-18, 2022. The event includes award-winning films and interviews with filmmakers and activists. Topics include pesticide exposure, farm labor, youth gardening, reclaiming ancient foodways, seed saving, and land loss.

A Rutgers University study published in Nature Ecology & Evolution says that biodiversity of the bee population is critical to maintaining the ecosystem function of crop pollination. Research on farms in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and California showed that different bee species pollinated the same plants at different times of year, and that different bees pollinated a single plant species in different years. Researchers say that although abundance of bee species is important, diversity of species mattered even more for ensuring pollination in the long term. "We found that two to three times as many bee species were needed to meet a target level of crop pollination over the course of a growing season compared to a single date," explained lead author Natalie Lemanski. "Similarly, twice as many species were needed to provide pollination over the course of six years compared to a single year."

AgriSafe will be hosting two free webinars each day of National Farm Safety and Health Week, September 18-24, 2022. The webinars center on daily themes of tractor and roadway safety, overall worker health, children and youth, confined spaces, and women's health. All 10 events will be livestreamed to YouTube.

FieldWatch, Inc., a non-profit company that promotes communication and stewardship among crop producers, beekeepers, and pesticide applicators, announces that New Jersey has joined as its 24th member state. The membership will enable New Jersey beekeepers to use a secure, easy-to-use online registry to identify and map the locations of apiaries that pesticide applicators should avoid. The free and voluntary registry BeeCheck™ will be available to all New Jersey beekeepers. FieldCheck® is the online and mobile portal that pesticide applicators can use to improve decision-making and avoid damage from spray drift to beehives.

Researchers at Michigan State University found that plants grown under elevated carbon dioxide levels had less phosphorus in their shoots and leaves. Exploration at the cellular level revealed that plants were avoiding overloading their chloroplasts with phosphorus as an adaptive response to increased carbon dioxide levels. With too much phosphorus, the plant failed to grow; however, with less phosphorus, the plant becomes less nutritious.

Farmers Heather Martin and David Jarnagin have been evaluating elderberry varieties for commercial production in Florida, with funding support from a Southern SARE Producer Grant. Over three years of testing, they've been looking for varieties best suited to Florida's subtropical environment in terms of productive organic cultivation, insect and disease resistance, and flower and berry quality, while producing the highest antioxidant qualities and flavorful value-added products. From the study, roughly two dozen "finalists" were identified and later refined to 12, including three exceptional candidates. Martin and Jarnagin have received a $125,000 Small Business Innovation Research grant to expand on their work and explore marketing strategies. They also intend to explore whether using the native Florida elderberry as rootstock would improve the commercial crop's drought tolerance and disease resistance.

USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists and collaborators from the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment tested how soil disturbance influences the response of U.S. Great Plains rangeland to climate change. The study, published in Global Change Biology, shows that effects of increased carbon dioxide and warming differ significantly in disturbed rangeland compared to intact native rangeland. Testing conducted in mixed-grass prairie in southeastern Wyoming over a five-year period evaluated plant production, plant diversity, and soil carbon levels on both disturbed and undisturbed plots that were exposed to high levels of carbon dioxide and warm temperatures. On disturbed prairie, higher carbon dioxide levels led to high production of invasive knapweed and a decline in species diversity. On intact prairie, higher carbon dioxide led to moderate increases in plant production and increased plant diversity. The disturbed prairie also experienced greater carbon loss at higher temperatures.

Get Started! A Guide to USDA Resources for Historically Underserved Farmers and Ranchers, a new multi-agency guide for USDA assistance for underserved farmers and ranchers, is available online from USDA. If you are a farmer or rancher and are a minority, woman, veteran, beginning, or limited-resource producer, you can use this 40-page booklet to learn about assistance and targeted opportunities available to you. This includes programs offered through the Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Risk Management Agency. The guide is also available in Spanish, Hmong, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, and Chinese.

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) plans to meet in Sacramento, California, in October. Online comment webinars are scheduled for October 18 and 20, 2022, and the in-person public meeting is set for October 25-27, 2022. The meeting agenda, subcommittee proposals, discussion documents, and other resources— including details on how to register for oral comment slots and how to submit written comments — are available on the NOSB Fall 2022 Meeting webpage.

Approximately $400 million is available through USDA's new Regional Food Business Centers program to provide essential local and regional food systems coordination, technical assistance, and capacity building services. USDA will fund at least six regional centers, to include a national tribal center and at least one center serving each of three targeted areas: Colonias (counties on the US/Mexico border), persistent poverty or other communities of high need/limited resources areas of the Delta and the Southeast, and high-need areas of Appalachia, as well as centers in other regions of the country. The Regional Food Business Centers will provide coordination, technical assistance, and capacity building to help farmers, ranchers, and other food businesses access new markets and navigate federal, state and local resources, thereby closing the gaps or barriers to success. The Regional Food Business Centers will assist small and mid-sized producers and food and farm businesses with the goal of creating a more resilient, diverse, and competitive food system. The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is soliciting applications from organizations across the nation to develop the Regional Food Business Centers that will be geographically based, serving regional needs. Applications must be submitted by November 22, 2022.

Montana State University is accepting applications for a new leadership program focused on sustainable agriculture and agritourism. The Montana Agritourism Fellows Program: Developing Leaders to Advance Sustainable Agritourism is designed to establish and train leaders who will communicate and promote sustainable agriculture topics to farmers, ranchers, professionals and communities. The inaugural cohort will consist of 12 fellows, and applications are due by October 1, 2022. Over the course of two years, fellows will attend four two-day seminars hosted at various sustainable agritourism operations across Montana. Fellows will apply what they've learned to plan and host a statewide agritourism conference to be held in 2025. Program organizers say the fellows will gain sustainable agriculture and agritourism knowledge and skills through exposure to industry issues, experiences, and experts. They will also learn how to advocate for sustainable agritourism and conduct outreach events for industry promotion.

A paper published in Proceedings of Royal Society B showed that ants can be more effective than pesticides at controlling pests that attack food crops, reports The Guardian. The research examined 17 crops in countries including the US, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Brazil, and compared yields and plant damage in areas with greater and lesser diversity of ants. The study found that a greater diversity of ants provided a greater diversity of pest control, and that some ant species were more effective—and less costly— than pesticides at controlling crop damage. In general, areas farmed with agroforestry provided better ant habitat and enjoyed the benefits of more ant species. Scientists caution, however, that the role of ants in agriculture is not completely understood, as they may increase numbers of pests that produce honeydew.

Allegheny Grass Fed Cooperative sold its first labeled meat this summer, reports American Agriculturist. The cooperative has just five members at present, selling Red Devon, Red Angus, and Black Angus in Western Pennsylvania, but it's helping members get a premium for their meat and expand into new markets without having to put more effort into marketing. The new cooperative obtained a grant that helped it develop a model, elect officers, and develop a label. Challenges that lie ahead include expanding membership, ensuring that production standards are met, and complying with regulatory challenges like labeling, as well as arranging processing.

USDA announced that it is making Whole-Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) and Micro Farm, two of its most comprehensive risk-management programs, accessible to more producers. The maximum insurable revenue under WFRP is being doubled to $17 million, and the eligibility limit for Micro Farm is being more than tripled, to $350,000. In addition, paperwork requirements for WFRP are being reduced. Producers will be able to report and self-certify yield at the beginning of the year for commodities without other insurance options, in a way similar to those with individual crop policies. Also, expense reporting is being eliminated. WFRP will reduce the expected revenue of commodities a producer is unable to plant to 60%, similar to prevented planting for other programs. The updates to WFRP and Micro Farm take effect in crop year 2023.

USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) announced that producers with Federal crop insurance for crops in transition to organic or a certified organic grain or feed crop are eligible to receive premium assistance for the 2023 reinsurance year. The Transitional and Organic Grower Assistance (TOGA) Program, offered by RMA, reduces a producer's overall crop insurance premium bills, and helps them continue to use organic agricultural systems. Premium benefits for TOGA include 10 percentage points of premium subsidy for all crops in transition, $5 per acre premium benefit for certified organic grain and feed crops, and 10 percentage points of premium subsidy for all Whole-Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) policies covering any number of crops in transition to organic or crops with the certified organic practice. Producers can receive both RMA's TOGA and premium assistance from other premium subsidy programs, and no paperwork is needed to apply.

Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SSARE) announced that it funded 20 Graduate Student Grant projects for FY2022, totaling $316,024. Master's and PhD students enrolled at accredited institutions throughout the Southern region are eligible to apply for the program. A list of the funded projects is available online and includes projects on pest control, climate change adaptation, cover crops, plant variety development, soil health and fertility, and the role of Black farmer organizers in promoting healthy and sustainable local community food access.

A feature story from Iowa Farmer Today highlights Whippoorwill Creek Farm in Southern Iowa, where Beth Hoffman and John Hogeland raise grass-fed beef and goats. The couple describe how they entered the livestock business and discuss challenges they encountered in implementing their business plan. They also reflect on how previous careers equipped them for their current endeavor, and how they work to make their farm environmentally friendly.

USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) announced that an additional $21.9 million of funding is being awarded to 111 grant projects through the Meat and Poultry Inspection Readiness Grant Program (MPIRG), bringing total funding to $54.6 million. The funding will help strengthen and develop new market opportunities for meat and poultry processors throughout the United States. Facility improvements and expansions funded through MPIRG will help processors obtain a Federal Grant of Inspection or qualify for a state's Cooperative Interstate Shipment program. To further these efforts, AMS is also encouraging MPIRG awardees and eligible participants in USDA's Meat and Poultry Supply Chain initiatives to request assistance through the Meat and Poultry Processing Capacity Technical Assistance Program (MPPTA).

USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service announced the award of more than $11.2 million to 22 grant projects through three grant programs: Acer Access and Development Program, the Federal State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP), and the Micro-Grants for Food Security Program (MGFSP). Acer Program funds are being distributed to four Market Development and Promotion projects and eight Producer and Landowner Education projects to increase market opportunities for the domestic maple syrup industry. Through FSMIP, USDA is awarding more than $1 million to five projects to explore new market opportunities for U.S. food and agricultural products and to encourage research and innovation aimed at improving marketing system efficiency and performance. Finally, through MGFSP, USDA is awarding $4.4 million to agricultural agencies in Alaska, American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and Hawaii to increase the quantity and quality of locally grown food through small-scale gardening, herding, and livestock operations in communities that have significant levels of food insecurity and import significant quantities of food.

American Farmland Trust, in partnership with Conservation Law Foundation, released a report titled Regenerative Agriculture for New England: Sustaining Farmland Productivity in a Changing Climate. The report presents key findings on the greenhouse-gas mitigation potential of regenerative practices in New England agriculture and the importance of supporting farmers in their transition to them. It models current greenhouse-gas mitigation impacts and the possible future impacts with increased adoption of practices such as no-till, cover crops, nutrient management, and more. "New England's farmers are on the front lines of the climate fight," said Scott Sanderson, Interim Director of Conservation Law Foundation's Farm & Food Initiative. "This report highlights all the great ways regenerative farmers are making our food system more resilient, protecting waters, and providing us access to healthy, local, affordable food. It's time for our leaders to step up and make it easier for farmers to transition to regenerative systems."

Michigan State University has released recommendations from more than 150 organizations from Michigan agriculture, food, health, education, business, and governmental sectors in the updated 2022 Michigan Good Food Charter. The Charter is a guide for creating and sustaining good food systems rooted in local communities. The 2022 Charter outlines six goals, six strategies, and 22 action recommendations to achieve a good food system that is accessible, equitable, fair, healthy, diverse, and sustainable.

USDA will mail the 2022 Census of Agriculture to millions of U.S. agriculture producers in phases, starting with an invitation to respond online in November followed by paper questionnaires in December. Farm operations of all sizes, urban and rural, which produced and sold, or normally would have sold, $1,000 or more of agricultural product in 2022 are included in the ag census. The Census of Agriculture is conducted every five years by USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) and shows the value of U.S. agriculture. It highlights land use and ownership, producer characteristics, production practices, income and expenditures, among other topics. Changes to the 2022 questionnaire include new questions about the use of precision agriculture, hemp production, and hair sheep, as well as updates to internet access questions.

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), Alabama A & M University, and the Rural South Institute are teaming up to bring NCAT's Armed to Farm veterans sustainable agriculture training to Alabama for the first time. Military veterans who want to attend the free training in Huntsville October 31 - November 4, 2022, can apply online until September 23, 2022. At Armed to Farm, participants learn about business planning, budgeting, recordkeeping, marketing, USDA programs, livestock production, fruit and vegetable production, and more. Armed to Farm trainings include an engaging blend of farm tours, hands-on activities, and interactive classroom instruction. Applicants from the Gulf States and Southeast regions will receive selection priority for this training.

California received $21.3 million in funding through the 2022 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. The California Department of Food and Agriculture will fund 50 projects with this money, awarding grants ranging from $100,000 to $500,000 to non-profit and for-profit organizations, government entities, and colleges and universities. The projects selected for funding focus on increasing sales of specialty crops by leveraging the unique qualities of specialty crops grown in California; increasing consumption by expanding the specialty crop consumer market, improving food availability and providing nutritional education for consumers; investing in training for growers/producers/operators to address current and future challenges; and conducting research on conservation and environmental outcomes, pest control and disease, and organic and sustainable production practices.

Multi-year field research published in the journal Weed Science showed that weed biomass dramatically declined as cover crop biomass and diversity increased. However, this research by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada found that monocultures of buckwheat, oat, pearl millet, or sorghum sudangrass were typically more productive and more weed suppressive than the average mixture. "If weed suppression is the primary goal, consistent evidence suggests that a single, high-performing cover crop may be the most effective option," says Andrew G McKenzie-Gopsill, Ph.D., a research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

Farm Rescue, a nonprofit organization that provides free planting, haying, harvesting, commodity hauling and livestock feeding assistance to farm families who have experienced a major injury, illness, or natural disaster, will begin offering its services in Illinois for the spring planting season. With the addition of Illinois in 2023, Farm Rescue and its volunteer workforce will serve a total of eight states. The nonprofit is currently accepting applications for assistance from families and referrals within Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, and South Dakota.

The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) announced that it is investing more than $3.5 million to get locally-grown food on school lunch trays across the state this coming school year. The Washington State Legislature provided funds to expand WSDA's Farm to School program. The grant program is administered in partnership with Washington's Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. The grants are available to school districts and childcare centers that have a USDA child nutrition program, tribal schools, and tribal early learning centers. These 83 grants will help facilities buy Washington-grown foods for their child nutrition programs. Grant awards range from $2,900 to more than $400,000, based on the number of meals served at the site.

Washington State Department of Agriculture is awarding $4.7 million in specialty crop block grants to 20 projects submitted by non-profits, government organizations, universities and community colleges, and agricultural commissions. Grants range from $106,000 to $250,000 and include efforts to control pests and diseases, improve food safety and minimize recalls, train and educate growers and food processors, improve innovative technologies, and market specialty crops.

Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship has awarded more than $334,000 in grants to help grow demand for Iowa's specialty crops. Specialty crop block grant funding is made available through a partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture. The funded projects address cut-flower production, no-till vegetable production, blueberry establishment, food safety, irrigation sensors, winemaking, local food promotion, and more.

A study published in the Journal of Environmental Quality shows that washing lettuce grown in urban gardens can effectively remove most lead contamination. Cornell University researchers grew lettuce in an urban community garden in Brooklyn, New York, and in a rural field site in Ithaca, New York, with high and low levels of lead contamination. They tested rinsing with tap water, soaking in water, soaking in vinegar, or soaking in a commercial vegetable wash solution and found that all these wash methods effectively removed lead contamination from lettuce leaves.

The University of Illinois is launching a year-long Illinois Small Farm Apprenticeship Program to train beginner specialty crop growers in every aspect of farm operation and management. The program will combine year-round experiential knowledge gained on-farm with lessons from faculty experts in soil science, pest management, and other topics. Apprentices earn a certificate of completion from the program. Apply by October 15, 2022, for the program that starts January 23, 2023. The program costs $6,000 for the full year.

Sample Costs to Produce and Harvest Organic Strawberries in the Central Coast Region-2022, a revised cost-of-production study, was released by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics. The analysis is based on a hypothetical well-managed organic strawberry farm that uses practices common in Santa Cruz, San Benito, and Monterey counties of California. Experts and producers provided input and reviewed the study. Growers can use it as a baseline to compare to their own costs, to make sure they have an accurate understanding of the profitability of this enterprise. The UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics also offers free, online cost-of-production studies for many other crops.

A project funded by a Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SSARE) Producer Grant explored how cereal grains could be incorporated into the crop rotation for diversified small farms. Virginia farmer Michael Grantz scaled heirloom wheat and rye production to one-acre plots for use as cover crops on a five-acre vegetable farm and is creating enterprise budgets that take into consideration the labor and expenses of growing the crop, as well as the price the market will bear. Cereal grains can be beneficial for soil health, but very small farmers face particular challenges with production timing, as well as equipment and labor needs. Grantz believes that value-added cereal grains may be a viable product that would help further diversify small farm incomes.

A study led by Lancaster University researchers and published in the American Geophysical Union journal Earth's Future found that urban gardeners and hydroponics can meet and sometimes exceed the yields of rural farms. The new study compiles studies on urban agriculture from 53 countries to find out which crops grow well in cities, what growing methods are most effective, and what spaces can be utilized for growing. The researchers found that urban yields for some crops, like cucumbers, potatoes, and lettuce, are two to four times higher than conventional farming. Other urban crops had yields comparable to rural farms. The study also explored which crops grew well in gray spaces (like rooftops), in hydroponic systems, and in vertical indoor growing conditions.

USDA announced investments of $121 million in critical infrastructure to combat climate change across rural America. The investments include $111 million for 289 projects to help people living in socially vulnerable communities. This announcement includes funding awards through three programs specifically designed to help people and businesses in rural areas: Community Facilities Disaster Grants, Rural Energy for America Program Renewable Energy Systems & Energy Efficiency Improvement Guaranteed Loans & Grants, and Rural Energy for America Program Energy Audits and Renewable Energy Development Grants. The funding will help agricultural producers and rural small businesses purchase and install renewable energy systems as well as make energy efficiency improvements.

USDA Agricultural Marketing Service announced it has signed a $3.4 million cooperative agreement with Minnesota to increase purchase of nutritious, local foods for the state's school meal programs. Minnesota is the first state to enter into a cooperative agreement under the program. Through the Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture will purchase and distribute local and regional foods and beverages for schools to serve children through the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. With this funding, MDA expects to increase the number of Minnesota schools engaging in local food procurement; increase the amount of local food purchased by schools; and create new partnerships between schools and Minnesota food producers, specifically underserved farms and small businesses. Funds will be sub-awarded to schools through a competitive Farm to School grant program that will reimburse schools for local food purchases.

USDA announced the appointment of 12 members to the newly established Equity Commission Subcommittee on Rural Community Economic Development (RCED). RCED Subcommittee members include representatives of community-based organizations, lending institutions, small business or cooperatives, tribal entities, and two members from the Equity Commission. The RCED Subcommittee will work with the Equity Commission and its Agriculture Subcommittee to provide recommendations to the Secretary that specifically address issues and concerns to rural development, persistent poverty, and underserved communities. The newly appointed subcommittee members reflect diversity in demographics, regions of the country, background, and in experience and expertise. A complete list of the new members is available online.

Northeast SARE's Administrative Council announced a one-year pause in four of the organization's seven regional grant programs, to work on implementation of Northeast SARE's Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice strategic plan. The following four grant programs will pause by not releasing calls for proposals in 2023: Partnership, Professional Development, Research and Education, and Research for Novel Approaches. Three programs will not be paused: Farmer Grants, Graduate Student Research Grants, and State Program Grants. Calls for proposals for the four paused grant programs are expected to resume in 2024.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced details of the Department's $300 million investment in a new Organic Transition Initiative. In order to help reverse declines in the number of farms actively transitioning to organic production, the new initiative will deliver wrap-around technical assistance, including farmer-to-farmer mentoring; provide direct support through conservation financial assistance and additional crop insurance assistance; and support market development projects in targeted markets. Specifically, NRCS will develop a new Organic Management conservation practice standard and offer financial and technical assistance to producers who implement the practice. In addition, USDA will provide $25 million to RMA for the new Transitional and Organic Grower Assistance Program (TOGA) which will support transitioning and certain certified organic producers' participation in crop insurance, including coverage of a portion of their insurance premium. Also, USDA will invest up to $100 million to help improve organic supply chains in pinpointed markets.

Research by a University of California Cooperative Extension crops advisor showed California watermelon growers that by using grafted plants, they could plant fewer plants and get the same yield, with consistent fruit quality through the season. The grafted plants are more robust, and when they are planted at four- to five-foot spacing, they produce the same yield as conventional plants at three-foot spacing. After two years of field testing, growers reported that, on average, their successfully grafted fields produced 15% to 25% more watermelons than non-grafted fields per acre, while using 30% fewer plants and the same amount of water and fertilizers. The practice could also benefit other vegetable and fruit crops.

The University of California, Davis, announced that its new fund for agave research will support outreach and research into the plants and their viability as a low-water crop in California. Agave can be a source of fiber and alternative sweetener as well as the distilled spirits tequila and mezcal. Earlier this year a group of growers, distillers and retailers formed the California Agave Council to foster collaboration and offer a chance to share knowledge among members who previously had no formal network. Proponents believe agave grown in California could be larger and sweeter than Mexican agave and could do well with little to no water. Initial research will focus on growing sites and plant attributes.

A University of Wisconsin Madison research group published a dairy lifecycle assessment in the Journal of Cleaner Production that shows small organic dairy farms that focus on grazing and organic production techniques are low greenhouse gas champions. The peer reviewed study uses a breakthrough methodology that includes accounting for the carbon sequestration benefit of grazed pastures. The modeling assessment was done with farm-specific input provided by Organic Valley and reflects the nature and style of production common within the co-op's dairy membership. Other factors contributing to the low greenhouse gas emission results included the avoidance of synthetic crop inputs and use of organic crop amendments, the longevity of cattle, and prevalent use of manure as a fertilizer source. The study found greenhouse gas emissions to be 24% lower on organic dairy farms as compared to conventional U.S. dairy averages.

Practical Farmers of Iowa has released its 2021 Cooperators' Program Report, available online. The report summarizes the results of 55 on-farm experiments designed and conducted in 2021 by 42 cooperating farmers across the state of Iowa. On-farm research trials are collaborative efforts between farmers and PFI staff scientists who guide the design of experiments based on questions posed by the participating farmers. The report includes field-crop, horticulture, and livestock trials.

The Organic Center reported on a study published in the International Journal of Agricultural Economics that focused on identifying organic price premiums for eight different regions in the United States. An analysis of USDA data showed that factors that affect price premiums for organic apples, cucumbers, strawberries, and tomatoes include not just geographic location, but also package size, season, and plant variety.

USDA announced that Akiptan, Inc., the Cherokee Nation Economic Development Trust Authority (CNEDTA), and the Shared Capital Cooperative have been approved or conditionally approved as intermediary lenders through the Heirs' Property Relending Program (HPRP). Once HPRP loans with these lenders close, these lenders will help agricultural producers and landowners resolve heirs' land ownership and succession issues. Currently, more than $100 million of HPRP funding is available for these competitive loans. Heirs' property issues have long been a barrier for many producers and landowners to access USDA programs and services, and this relending program provides access to capital to help heirs find a resolution.

The Coalition of Agricultural Mediation Programs (CAMP) is a network of 43 USDA-Certified State Agricultural Mediation Programs. Each state program provides free support to farmers and ranchers for resolving ag-related debt, lease issues, neighbor disputes, farm transition planning, organic certification, and more. Mediation is a confidential process where the parties control the outcome and avoid costly litigation. These private meetings can improve communication, repair relationships, and enable the parties to tailor solutions that work for them. A map of participating states and contact information for each program is available online.

The Soil Health Institute (SHI) announced its recommended measurements for assessing soil health: 1) soil organic carbon concentration, 2) carbon mineralization potential, and 3) aggregate stability. The recommendation is based on results of a three-year, $6.5-million project to identify effective measurements for soil health across North America, in which SHI partnered with more than 100 scientists at 124 long-term agricultural research sites. Although many measurements are effective for assessing soil health from a research perspective, these three recommended measures also score well in terms of cost, practicality, availability, redundancy, and other filters. Details on SHI's recommended protocols for sampling and analyzing soils are described on its website.

Scientists at Staffordshire University in the U.K. are researching the scale of plastic pollution in agricultural soils and its impact around the world. According to a press release, microplastics in soil are estimated to take up to 300 years to completely degrade, and their presence alters soil characteristics such as its structure, water-holding capacity, and microbial communities. The researchers say their work shows that microplastic pollutants in soil can cause a decrease in seed germination rate and changes to seed production that could impact food production yields. They note that microplastics are accumulating in soil over time from use of plastics in greenhouse films and irrigation systems, and that this microplastic cannot be removed from the soil.

National Water Quality Month is dedicated to making the most of the relatively small amount of fresh water we have, because having clean water is vital to our individual health, our collective agricultural needs, and the needs of our environment. National Water Quality Month reminds us to take a moment to consider how important water sources are not just to humans, but also to the other inhabitants of these ecosystems.

The Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NESAWG) is looking for five new board members to lend their voice, experience, and perspective to the organization's board of directors. Recently undergoing an intentional transition to a BIPOC-led organization, NESAWG is hoping their new and expanded board will be ready for critical systems analysis and the creation of an organizational Theory of Change that centers BIPOC voices. NESAWG is also seeking the contributions of folks who may be interested in this work but do not have the capacity to commit to a board. Several working committees seek members and require less time and energy than a board position: Fundraising, Governance, Finance, Human Resources, and Ambassador. Apply to the board or a committee by September 30, 2022.

Nonprofit certifier A Greener World (AGW) has announced that its Certified Regenerative by AGW program is now open to the public and accepting applications from farmers, growers, and processors. The certification provides a whole-farm assurance of regeneration and sustainability, measuring benefits for soil, water, air, biodiversity, infrastructure, animal welfare, and social responsibility. The core of the program is a farm-specific, steward-led Regenerative Plan where producers assess risks, set goals, and track progress toward their own meaningful milestones with support from qualified experts in agronomy, biodiversity, water quality, and other fields. Plans are reviewed, approved, and then audited on an ongoing basis by A Greener World, offering farmers and consumers a third-party source of accountability for each farm's regenerative progress.

Texas A&M AgriLife researchers have developed a novel bioremediation technology for cleaning up per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, also known as "forever chemicals." The team uses a plant-derived material that adsorbs PFAS into its cell walls. When a microbial fungus consumes the plant, it also eats the chemical that was adsorbed, and destroys it. This is a sustainable treatment system with a powerful potential to remove harmful chemicals to protect human health and the ecosystem in a non-toxic, more cost-effective way, according to associate professor and research leader Susie Dai.

A study led by Auburn University researchers explored the soil health impacts when cattle grazed cover crops on cropland during the winter months. The study, published in Agrosystems, Geosciences & Environment Journal evaluated the soil under cover crops planted after mid-October harvest and grazed from mid-January until spring planting on farms in Alabama. After two years of study, scientists did not find that winter grazing impacted the soil very much, but they will be continuing the study to look for long-term effects, such as compaction from cattle hooves or effects of manure application.

A new study from North Carolina State University, capturing county-level data from 12 states in the U.S. Midwest, shows that no-till farming increases agricultural land values, with a 1% increase in no-till farming translating to a $7.86 per acre increase in land values across the Midwest. In Iowa, the data show a $14.75 per acre increase in land value with a 1% increase in no-till farming. "This study suggests that farmland benefits translate into land value benefits, which is typically not considered in debates on no-till pros and cons, and ultimately whether or not conventional-till farmers should convert to no-till practices," corresponding author Rod Rejesus said.

USDA announced that the newly passed Inflation Reduction Act will deliver $19.5 billion in new conservation funding to support climate-smart agriculture. Under this funding, a streamlined initative will incentivize nutrient management activities through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), EQIP Conservation Incentive Contracts, and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). Additionally, a new outreach campaign will highlight the economic benefits of nutrient management planning for farmers. The funding will also help streamline the certification process for Technical Service Providers.

USDA is awarding $197 million for locally led conservation projects through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), a partner-driven program that leverages partner resources to advance innovative projects that address climate change, enhance water quality, and address other critical challenges on agricultural land. The 41 funded agreements include both RCPP Classic and RCPP Alternative Funding Arrangements. Private landowners can apply to participate in an RCPP project in their region through awarded partners or at their local USDA service center. A complete list of projects that received funding is available online and includes initiatives to restore habitat, provide conservation easements, and improve water quality.

In North Dakota, landowners have the opportunity to collect flea beetles to release on their property for control of leafy spurge, reports Farm & Ranch Guide. The North Dakota Weed Control Association holds field days at sites with healthy populations of the beetles, where participants collect beetles with cloth nets and then divide them up and receive thousands to take home. The beetles have proven an effective control for the noxious weed.

Investing in Regenerative Agriculture Infrastructure Across Value Chains, a new report from the Croatan Institute, details the importance of supporting small-to-mid-scale, mission-aligned infrastructure to process, transport, and market regenerative food products. This report identifies finance opportunities and pathways to build resilient value chains for regenerative farms. The authors examined more than 100 regenerative agriculture infrastructure businesses based in the United States and interviewed capital providers, regenerative business owners, and technical assistance practitioners. The report outlines the lessons learned for investing in infrastructure that works with the unique needs of regenerative agricultural enterprises. The aim is to encourage greater investment in infrastructure, which will expand regional and profitable regenerative markets.

USDA is awarding $2.2 million in Risk Management Education funding to 16 organizations to educate historically underserved producers, small-scale farmers, and others on farm risk management and climate-smart farm practices. This funding from USDA's Risk Management Agency (RMA) provides the resources for organizations to develop training and resources for producers on risk management options. The funded projects include in-person trainings, podcasts, online courses, and other opportunities for tribal, veteran, African American, and other producers to learn about crop insurance, marketing, and mitigating risk.

The Southeastern African American Farmers’ Organic Network (SAAFON), the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), and Minorities in Agriculture Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) announced that three students have been awarded the Cynthia Hayes Memorial Scholarship. The three student awardees, Rhema Meggett, Justin Walker, and Sydney Lawson, were each presented with $5,000 to support their continued work in sustainable agriculture and bolster their commitments to promoting racial equity in food and farm systems.

The Drought Discussion Podcast is a new podcast designed for ranchers and rangeland managers, bringing listeners seasonal precipitation outlooks and seasonal forage productivity outlooks for the Southern Plains, New Mexico, and Arizona. New episodes that are released every two weeks provide updated outlooks as the forage forecast incorporates the precipitation-to-date into end of season forage production estimates.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture's Emerging Farmers' Working Group has openings for nine volunteer members for two-year terms. Minnesotans interested in making it easier for new and emerging farmers to create or sustain an agricultural business are encouraged to apply now through September 8, 2022. The department is particularly interested in the perspectives of women, veterans, persons with a disability/disabilities, American Indian/Alaska Native, communities of color, young people, and urban people.

USDA published a proposed rule on Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards, proposing requirements for organic poultry and livestock living conditions, care, transport, and slaughter. The public comment period on the proposed rule will be open for 60 days from the August 5, 2022, publication date. USDA says this new proposed OLPS rule would change the USDA organic regulations to promote a fairer and more competitive market for organic livestock producers, by making sure that certified USDA livestock products are produced to the same consistent standard. USDA National Organic Program will also host a public webinar listening session on August 19, 2022, to hear oral comments on the proposed rule.

USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is extending the comment period for its proposed rule titled Transparency in Poultry Grower Contracting and Tournaments for an additional 15 days, through August 23, 2022. Comments may be submitted anonymously. Information regarding the proposed rule and commenting process is available in a recorded webinar, posted on the AMS website. The webinar provides information regarding the proposed rule to protect American poultry growers from abuses and enhance competitiveness in U.S. livestock and poultry markets. Information is included in the webinar to instruct anyone who wishes to comment anonymously.

Penn State Extension has introduced a Farmer-to-Farmer Case Study series of six videos that provide farmer perspectives and approaches to managing soil health. The 10-minute videos feature the perspectives of one transitioning and two experienced organic feed grain and forage producers from Pennsylvania to help farmers understand how to successfully capture this growing market. The intent of this video series is to encourage peer learning among farmers who want to understand what crop sequences and management tactics are used on organic farms, why they work, and what their limitations are from the perspective of other farmers.

California Climate and Agriculture Network (CalCAN) is inviting farmers, students, faculty, agricultural professionals, advocates and agency staff to submit their poster proposals for consideration for the 2022 CalCAN Summit. There are three tracks for the Summit: Policy, Science and Innovations, and Practical Topics and Resources for Growers. Topics must have an explicit focus on sustainable and organic agriculture and/or farmworker issues related to climate change mitigation and/or resilience. Proposals are due by September 16, 2022, and presenters must be available to set up their posters at 7:30 a.m. on November 14, 2022.

The Center for Arkansas Farms and Food (CAFF) is accepting applications for its Farm School in Fayetteville, Arkansas, until September 30, 2022. Farm School is an 11-month program beginning in January 2023 that combines hands-on specialty crop farming with classes in production, business, and legal issues. The Farm School prepares farmers to become specialty crop entrepreneurs, contributing to local and regional foodsheds in Arkansas. CAFF is also accepting applications for its Farm Apprenticeship program in Northwest Arkansas. Participants complete twenty-one educational classes and then learn alongside successful farmers. The priority placement deadline is December 1, 2022, for the 2023 season.

A long-term farm study in the United Kingdom showed that measures to reduce biodiversity losses don't have to cause declines in food production. A ten-year study at Hillesden, a 1,000-hectare commercial arable farm in Buckinghamshire, by scientists from the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, demonstrated agri-environmental measures to reduce biodiversity loss. These included creating wildlife habitats for birds, pollinators, and small mammals on land that was unprofitable or difficult to farm. Promoting pollinator populations in these areas increased yields on more productive parts of the farm. Marek Nowakowski of the Wildlife Farming Company says, "The Hillesden study shows that it is possible to balance wildlife conservation with efficient food production. I am confident other farmers could achieve similar results with the right training and advice."

The Farmers Market Coalition has an online toolkit available for National Farmers Market Week, scheduled for August 7-13, 2022. The toolkit includes downloadable templates, graphics, and other tools and resources for farmers market operators to use to plan and celebrate National Farmers Market Week.

Research by Cornell AgriTech scientists showed that New York onion growers can cut insecticide and fertilizer use without affecting yields. When growers used action thresholds for applying insecticides to control onion thrips, they made an average of 2.3 fewer pesticide applications per season. The scientists also discovered in three years of field trials that farmers could use 50 to 100% less fertilizer without reducing yields. In testing, the amount of fertilizer applied to an onion at planting had no impact on thrips population levels, bulb rot, or on onion bulb size and yield.

A partnership between the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) and the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) and Minnesota Dairy Initiative (MDI) is offering technical support for farmers entering or exiting the profession. The organizations will work with farmers to put together "kitchen table" on-farm teams to help farmers navigate their way through farm transition and succession planning. Areas such as property law, property transfer, establishment and dissolution of partnerships, leases and other contracts, accounting, lending, psychological or spiritual support, and other types of support are available. This service is available on a first-come, first-served basis until funding for the fiscal year runs out, regardless of membership status with MFBF.

The USDA Southwest Climate Hub in partnership with Montana State University, UC Davis, and the National Center for Appropriate Technology has an opening for an agricultural risk associate who will focus on improving climate, weather, and risk communication with key stakeholders through the development of online visualization tools. This is an annual position with an optional extension of up to three years, housed at the Southwest Climate Hub in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The successful candidate will work with a diverse team of researchers at USDA Climate Hubs, Montana State University, UC Davis, and the National Center for Appropriate Technology. Applications are due by November 15, 2022.

USDA encourages urban producers and others to attend the second public meeting of the Federal Advisory Committee for Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production on August 5, 2022, from 1 to 3 pm Eastern Time. The Committee will discuss new urban conservation practices, focus areas and priorities for the Commission, and the new Farm Service Agency (FSA) urban county committees, among other topics. Register to attend the online meeting by August 4, 2022. USDA will post the final agenda 24 to 48 hours prior to the meeting on

Scientists from USDA Agricultural Research Service are collaborating in an innovative, cross-disciplinary project designed to turn nuisance insects into poultry feed, reports Iowa Ag Connection. The project proposes chemical-free traps for crop pests such as mosquitos, which are then utilized as poultry feed. The researchers say chickens love the high-protein feed, which they believe could help pack eggs with extra nutrients. The team's goal is to fabricate a trap that could be built inexpensively from components available at the local hardware store.

A study by an interdisciplinary group of researchers, published in Nature Plants, found that larger organic farms operate more like conventional agricultural operations than smaller organic farms, according to The Cornell Chronicle. Researchers surveyed 542 organic fruit and vegetable farmers about the use of eight agroecological practices and found that smaller organic farms were more likely to use more of these practices. Larger operations were more likely to substitute organically-allowed pesticides than to focus on ecological system design. Larger operations also tended to use only the agroecological practices that boost efficiency. The research is part of a project that's identifying barriers to scaling up agroecological principles.

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) and the United States Botanic Garden (USBG) are offering a unique hybrid model of their popular Armed to Urban Farm veterans' urban agriculture training in Memphis, Tennessee, in October. The free training will be a hybrid of several online sessions via Zoom in early October and in-person farm tours in Memphis from October 17-19, 2022. Participants will learn about whole-farm planning, farm financial planning, urban crop production, urban soils, marketing, and more. Participants will gain a strong foundation in the basic principles of operating a sustainable farming enterprise. In addition, attendees will join a nationwide network of supportive farmer-veterans and agricultural advisors. Online applications are due by September 2, 2022.

USDA announced more than $10 million in Farm to School Grants to 123 projects across the country, to serve more than 3 million children at more than 5,000 schools in 44 states and the District of Columbia. USDA is also empowering states with $60 million in non-competitive grants to develop stronger and sustainable Farm to School programs over the next four years. These non-competitive grants will allow states to better assist program operators in purchasing and using more local foods in meals for kids between Fiscal Years 2023-2026. The resources will also expand agricultural education for children.

The Organic Association of Kentucky (OAK) is inviting proposals for presentations and on-farm tours for the 2023 OAK conference, set for January 26-28, 2023, in Frankfort, Kentucky. Organizers are looking for proposals for 20-minute presentations by farmers, full 60- or 90-minute sessions, half-day or full-day workshops, or farm tours. Session proposals are due by July 29, 2022. OAK's annual farming conference, now in its 12th year, includes a growing audience of hundreds of Kentuckians and neighbors active in community food systems: farmers, researchers, nonprofit professionals, federal and state agency partners, allied service providers, and conscious consumers working collectively to build a local, resilient, and healthy food system.

When a University of Illinois study showed elevated levels of lead in soils across Chicago, scientists undertook a project to examine how much of that lead was accumulated by urban agriculture crops. Their study of tomatoes grown in backyard gardens showed that they took up so little lead that they were likely safe to eat even when grown in highly lead-contaminated soil. Tests showed that the average adult male would have to consume almost 400 pounds of tomatoes a week to reach toxic lead levels, and even a 60-pound child could consume 80 pounds of tomatoes per week without reaching dangerous levels. However, the scientists warn that the practices of tillage and planting could easily expose the urban farmer or gardener to dangerous levels of dust. They recommend steps to minimize dust, such as heavy mulch, and recommend being careful to wash the fruit.

The Peasant and Indigenous Press Forum reports that a growing body of scientists, researchers and farmers are demonstrating that Indigenous varieties of crops are not only more nutritious but more climate-resilient and equitable for farmers growing them. For example, Debal Deb, founder of Basudha, a rice conservation farm in India, has published the micronutrient profiles of 550 Indigenous species of rice which contain between 20 ppm to 152 ppm of iron, significantly more than genetically modified fortified rice varieties. As another example, Deccan Development Society, an organization representing over 5,000 women farmers in the state of Telangana, documented superior drought-tolerance of their Indigenous varieties of millets and rice. A Press Forum on August 2, 2022, will share food solutions stories from peasant and Indigenous communities at the forefront of food and land issues.

The Ecological Farming Association is making 22 years of EcoFarm Conference audio and video recordings available online. Through an online community space called Mighty Networks, it's possible to access these presentations, as well as connect, chat, ask questions, and share resources. Eco Farm is offering the opportunity to join free to access this year's conference recordings, as well as content dating all the way back to 2000.

The USDA Forest Service has posted a free, 27-minute on-demand webinar originally delivered at the 2019 Restoring the West Conference, titled Using Fire to Build Soil Carbon and Water Holding Capacity. In this presentation, Dr. Deborah Page-Dumroese, a soil scientist with the USDA Forest Service, discusses loss of soil functions and what can be done, learning from a biochar model, and increasing soil water at the landscape scale.

USDA reviews and renews the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) Charter every two years. The 2022 NOSB Charter update process is now complete, and the new version is posted on the AMS website. The 2022 NOSB Charter includes a change from previous charters. Four seats have been re-designated from being Representatives to being Special Government Employees (SGEs). The four re-designated seats include the three individuals with expertise in areas of environmental protection and resource conservation; and the one individual with expertise in the field of toxicology, ecology, or biochemistry. The transition to this designation will be accomplished either voluntarily by current members, or as terms expire and new members are appointed to these seats.

The House Agriculture Committee is accepting input from producers, stakeholders, and consumers on how various farm bill programs are working for them, as part of the oversight and review process of the 2018 Farm Bill and further preparation for the 2023 Farm Bill. Input regarding specific programs may be provided online.

A collaboration between Chevron and Texas A&M AgriLife is reviving the use of peanuts as a renewable feedstock for diesel fuel. A five-year, multi-million-dollar project will work to increase oil content in "diesel nut" varieties of peanuts, while also increasing disease resistance and drought tolerance, so that the nuts can be grown on non-irrigated acreage. The project will also identify best management practices for crop production and harvest, as well as developing enterprise budgets. Project participants anticipate that developing the "diesel nut" could expand the area of peanut cultivation and lower the carbon intensity of diesel production.

Scientists at the University of Reading in the UK analyzed years of data on the poorly understood effect of pollinators on crop yield stability. They found there was 32% less variation in the yields of apple, faba bean, and oilseed rape plants visited by bees and other pollinators than those grown in absence of pollinators. The study, published in the journal Ecology Letters, suggests that pollinators can help to mitigate supply issues and market shocks that cause global price spikes by holding food supplies steady. Dr. Jake Bishop, a crop science researcher who led the study, said, "Our findings suggest that preserving pollinators provides a double benefit, reducing fluctuations in food supplies as well as boosting supplies in the first place."

Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT) has compiled a selection of its information resources into a Pastured Poultry Short Course that's available free online. The course consists of archived webinars, plus new materials. The material is applicable to producers who are new to raising poultry, looking to expand an existing flock, or switching from a conventional setup to a pasture-based system. Topics include breed selection, appropriate fencing, brooder management, mobile housing, marketing, and more.

American Farmland Trust's (AFT) new report Farms Under Threat 2040: Choosing an Abundant Future calls attention to the need to protect food-producing agricultural land in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada. AFT research has shown that by 2040, nearly 1.5 million acres of farmland may be lost to urban and low-density conversion across these four states. This loss, together with water availability constraints heightened by extreme drought, could dramatically impact food production in the region. AFT calls for smart growth choices and farmland protection to help keep productive agricultural land providing food, jobs, and additional benefits.

A study led by the University of Colorado, Boulder, produced a report published in One Earth that calls for increased collaboration to build a more resilient global food supply. Global food security faces many threats, ranging from limited water supply to heat waves, droughts, and political instability, but researchers say that building more resilient food systems in general could help strengthen food security in the face of any or all of these threats. According to the study's lead author, "It doesn't matter whether it’s a climate, environmental or political shock to the system—if you have resilient systems in place, they'll be able to deal with all the different kinds of shocks." This study surveyed experts in food security about top priorities for promoting food security, and many respondents prioritized food system diversification.

A study led by the University of Waterloo showed that biobased fertilizers like compost produced fewer greenhouse gases than conventional nitrogen fertilizer. In temperate climates with repeated freeze-thaw events, fertilizers made from biobased residues, like food waste, biosolids from sewage sludges, and digestate from plant materials, resulted in less greenhouse gas production. "The premise of our study is that biobased residues, which are generated as the natural by-product of our lives and economy, have the potential to reduce global warming thanks to our highly variable spring freeze-thaw cycle—in Canada and across the temperate world," explained the study's lead author. According to a University of Waterloo press release, this study offers proof that climate change mitigation can be achieved through carbon sequestration and soil improvement, with an added bonus of job creation.

Minnesota Public Radio reports that just 650 Minnesota farmers identify as Hispanic or Latino, but the number is growing. This feature story showcases several farms in Minnesota that were started and are owned by Hispanic or Latino farmers. These operations raise a variety of vegetables, and some either have or are pursuing organic certification. Most of the farmers have off-farm jobs and farm part-time with the help of family members, but they are learning and working to overcome challenges and planning to expand their farming activities.

A feature in The Washington Post highlights the key role that bison play in a healthy ecosystem. Grazing bison are pivotal in spurring plant growth, and numerous other species benefit from the bison trampling, grazing, and fertilizing. The InterTribal Buffalo Council, a coalition working to restore the animal on tribal lands, recognizes them as a keystone species that promotes biodiversity and healthy ecosystems that in turn help mitigate climate change.

Mississippi farmer Stephen Wyatt received a Southern SARE Producer Grant to support his design of a greenhouse system that integrated rabbit production and strawberry production to help overcome challenges experienced with traditional production methods. "The rabbit and strawberry system that evolved from the original inception to the completed project is astoundingly optimized, and weather, pestilence and predator-protection optimized," explains Wyatt. Strawberry plants provide shade that contributes to rabbit well-being, while rabbits provide fertilizer that increases strawberry production. Wyatt found the integrated system economically viable. "By joining these two production systems a combined solution is generated that is cost-saving, more sustainable, and increases marketability of the product," Wyatt explains.

Northern New York Agricultural Development Program (NNYADP) reported on research that evaluated opportunities to increase the value of alfalfa-grass forage crops. The northern New York regional climate has spurred farmers' interest in growing winter-hardy perennial grasses in combination with alfalfa, traditionally the dairy industry's go-to crop for highly-digestible, high protein forage to support milk production. "Adding as little as 5% grass in an alfalfa-grass seeding will significantly increase the fiber digestibility of that forage mix compared to an all-alfalfa crop, and a 1% unit increase in fiber digestibility can bring from 0.5 to more than one pound of milk production per cow per day," says NNYADP alfalfa-grass project leader Debbie J.R. Cherney, a Cornell University Animal Science professor. "If the grass percentage is less than 50% of the mix, the crude protein content of the mix is going to be sufficient for lactating dairy cows," Cherney points out.

USDA's Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Grassland Signup is accepting more than 3.1 million acres this year, the largest number in the history of the program. This program allows producers and landowners to continue grazing and haying practices while protecting grasslands and promoting plant and animal biodiversity and conservation. In total, about 5.6 million acres are entering CRP through various programs in 2023, surpassing the 3.9 million acres expiring this year. As part of the Agency's Justice40 efforts, producers and landowners who are historically underserved, including beginning farmers and military veterans, will receive 10 additional ranking points to enhance their offers. From more than 5,000 underserved producers, USDA accepted offers of more than 1.9 million acres, about 87% of those who submitted applications.

Colorado Public Radio reports that a farm in the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado has agreed to what could be the nation's first groundwater conservation easement. The farmer negotiated an agreement with Colorado Open Lands to stop watering 1,800 acres and devote those water rights—amounting to 358 million gallons— to preserving the area's groundwater supply. The farmer will sell the land to the Rio Grande Water Conservation District, which will revegetate it with native plants. Taking this one farm out of production will help the area meet its water sustainability goals, so that other farms located there can keep operating without state-mandated water-supply restrictions.

Scientists at Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico tried roasting green chiles using concentrated sunlight. They say that burning propane to roast peppers in New Mexico leads to a seasonal emission of approximately 7,800 metric tons of carbon dioxide, so a search for more environmentally sustainable alternatives is worthwhile. Their experiment with roasting green chiles produced results comparable to the propane roasting, and the scientists say the high-temperature roasting could have applications for many different foods. This experiment used sunlight concentrated by 38 to 42 heliostats to maintain roasting temperatures over 900 degrees F for six minutes.

A study led by Emory University and published in Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems found that soil water-holding capacity will be critical to helping farms weather heat stress due to climate change. Researchers analyzed 30 years of data on corn, soybeans, cotton, and wheat to quantify the long-term impact of climate and soil properties on crop yields. They found that growing-degree days were the most important climatic factor and water-holding capacity was the most influential soil property affecting crop-yield variability. "The take-home message," lead author Debjani Sihi says, "is that farmers in regions facing added heat stress for their crops may want to proactively focus on the water-holding capacity of their soil."

The 5th annual Pennsylvania Urban Agriculture Week this week is celebrating urban agriculturalists making a difference in local food systems and the state's Urban Agriculture Infrastructure Grant Program, which invests $500,000 annually into projects addressing urban food insecurity. Since 2019, the Urban Agriculture Infrastructure Grant Program has invested $1.5 million in 93 urban agriculture projects across 19 counties. The program has leveraged an additional $1.5 million in local investments through matching dollars, totaling a $3 million initiative to grow food access in urban communities. Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding is touring 19 urban farms and agricultural operations this week to mark the event.

Farm Bill Law Enterprise (FBLE) partners have released the latest in a series of reports that are the result of a year-long study of the farm bill to develop concrete recommendations that will advance shared public values. This new report, Farm Viability, recommends ways to better support small and mid-sized producers while strengthening food systems and leveling the playing field among agricultural operations. The report, along with others in the series, is available online. FBLE is a national partnership of law school programs working toward a farm bill that reflects the long-term needs of our society, including economic opportunity and stability; public health and nutrition; climate change mitigation and adaptation; public resources stewardship; and racial and socioeconomic justice.

Koch Foods, Inc. and Koch Meat Co., Inc. (doing business as Koch Poultry Co.) have agreed to settle a class action lawsuit brought against them by broiler chicken growers who allege that Koch unlawfully conspired to artificially reduce the amounts they paid to broiler chicken growers for Broiler Grow-Out Services. Koch denies that they did anything wrong and have asserted defenses to the claims against them. Koch will pay $15.5 million into a Settlement Fund to settle the class action antitrust, and PSA claims against them and to provide certain cooperation to plaintiffs in this litigation against the remaining defendants. You may be eligible to receive a payment if you reside in the U.S. or its territories and were paid by any defendant or any alleged co-conspirator to provide Broiler Grow-Out Services at any time between January 27, 2013, and December 31, 2019.

A study by Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands found microplastics in 75% of meat and milk products tested and in every blood sample from cows and pigs taken in the study, reports The Guardian. Microplastics appeared in milk from supermarket cartons, from farm bulk tanks, and in milk from hand-milked cows. Microplastics also appeared in every sample of animal pellet feed tested in the study, indicating a potential root source of contamination for the meat and milk products.

The Diverse Corn Belt project is seeking farmer input through focus groups and allowing in-field research. This is a multidisciplinary project exploring alternative crops, longer rotations, integrating livestock and perennials that could help increase resilience in Midwest agriculture. The Diverse Corn Belt project is funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture through an Agriculture and Food Research Initiative competitive grant. Members of the research team represent land-grant institutions, federal agencies, and non-profit organizations.

A study led by Freie Universität Berlin showed that perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) impact microbially-driven processes in soil, including soil respiration, litter decomposition, and soil structure, as well as soil pH, reports Higher Education Press. This research found that PFAS significantly increased litter decomposition and significantly increased soil pH. PFAS also reduced soil respiration, as well as reducing microbial population and soil water-stable aggregates.

Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder are studying the environmental fate of sulfur that is applied as a fungicide by California winegrowers. Research published in Environmental Research Letters tracked the unique fingerprint of the agricultural sulfur as runoff through downstream waterways. Sulfur is the top pesticide used in California agriculture, mostly in vineyards. "This work could help inform the development of technologies that help farmers to choose when and how much they apply, rather than just applying the same amount preventatively all the time," explained the study's senior author Eve-Lyn Hinckley. "My objective as a scientist is to always work in partnership with the landowners and with the farmers. My hope is that we can reach a place where they're able to continue in a very sustainable way that also protects the surrounding environment."

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is awarding $1.85 million to the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) to increase technical assistance for California's organic farmers. CDFA's State Organic Program is executing $850,000 in contracts with UC ANR to run through September 2024, while CDFA's Office of Environmental Farming and Innovation is awarding a $1 million grant to run from July 2022 to June 2025. The CDFA funds will allow UC ANR to hire two academic coordinators, which are currently being recruited. "The academic coordinators will work directly with growers, as well as develop research and extension projects that will involve existing UC Cooperative Extension personnel," according to Houston Wilson, director of UC ANR's Organic Agriculture Institute. "One of the coordinators will specifically focus on connecting our efforts with small-scale and historically underserved growers through our partnership with the UC Small Farms Program."

The Operation Grow project, part of the Alabama Beginning Farmer program, provides special emphasis on the training needs of military veterans interested in agriculture. The program provides a three-step farm planning support system using hands-on, on-farm, and digital media-based training. It also fosters networking with other veteran support agencies and non-governmental organizations. The training utilizes an online course called Farming Basics.

An article published in the open-access Journal of Integrated Pest Management furnishes information on nut-feeding curculio species that have become pests of hazelnuts. The article covers the ecology, impact, management, and identification of the four known species of hazelnut-injuring weevils throughout the world. The authors note that "the significance of weevils that feed on and injure hazelnuts is increasing as countries such as the United States and China continue to develop hybrids of hazel plants to increase their hazelnut production."

A newly published study by University of Florida IFAS researchers explored the opportunities, barriers, and needs faced by urban farmers. Researchers surveyed 53 urban farmers across the state and found that labor was the most common barrier faced by urban farmers, followed by access to capital and profitability. Participating farmers identified value-added products and agritourism as the most promising future opportunities they saw, but also cited new crops, online sales, and training and education as potential opportunities. The researchers will use their findings to develop new information products through Extension. The full report, Commercial Urban Agriculture in Florida: Needs, Opportunities, and Barriers, is available online.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture's Fertilizing Materials Inspection Program and California State Organic Program announced that a penalty of $1.89 million has been issued to the Florida company Agro Research International LLC, for adulteration and mislabeling of the registered organic input material AGRO GOLD WS. The product was found to contain the synthetic herbicides diquat and glyphosate.

A feature in The Prairie Star relates Montana rancher Dale Veseth's 15-point drought-planning strategy. North Central Montana is in the second year of a drought that has challenged ranchers in stewarding resources while staying in business. Veseth presented his plan, which includes use of federal programs, careful resource management, and innovations, at a recent conference.

A feature in Farm & Ranch Guide introduces the practice of agrivoltaics, or farming under solar panels. The article discusses options for agriculture under solar arrays, including dairy and sheep grazing, beekeeping, and horticultural or forage crops. Pollinator habitat under solar panels can also be beneficial to neighboring crop fields. This feature discusses some of the considerations involved in agrivoltaics and presents the concept of low-impact solar development that can make it easier to implement agrivoltaics.

The North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NCR-SARE) Program announced that it is awarding more than $745,000 in Farmer Rancher grants to 42 projects. This competitive grants program supports farmers and ranchers who want to explore sustainable solutions to problems through on-farm research, demonstration, and education projects. A complete list of funded projects is available online. They span topics ranging from agroforestry to aquaponics, perennial grains, and local food systems.

The Farm Equity Office at the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is seeking three external reviewers for a review panel as part of the application process for a new grant program: the Beginning Farmer and Farmworker Training and Workforce Development Program (BFFTP). This program is designed to provide support to organizations to enhance or expand beginning farmer and farmworker training/apprenticeship programs. The overall goal of the program is to ensure that resources are dedicated to strengthening support for socially disadvantaged and/or beginning farmers and ranchers in the first ten years of business, and farmworkers who need job skills training to provide job sustainability. The external technical review panel will consist of members of the public who have expertise working with socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers and/or farmworker training/workforce development programs as outlined in the funding track(s) they review. Technical review panel applications will be accepted through July 15, 2022.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) announced the award of $66 million in grants from its Healthy Soils Program to a total of 940 projects. The projects aim to improve soil health, sequester carbon, and reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases. The selected projects will have an estimated impact across more than 82,000 acres of California farm and ranchland and will provide an annual projected greenhouse gas emissions reduction of more than 250,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.

University of Illinois Extension commercial agriculture educators are working with hemp producers to source field data and provide cutting-edge research through the Midwestern Hemp Database. Producers have until July 24, 2022, to apply to participate in the program for the 2022 growing season. Participating hemp producers submit information about their crop and university staff analyze and share that data with the public. In exchange for their involvement, growers receive discounted cannabinoid testing through private laboratories, ranging from $35 to $40 per sample.

USDA Food and Nutrition Service's (FNS) Farm to School Program has released a revised Procuring Local Foods for Child Nutrition Programs Guide, which provides an overview of federal procurement principles and covers topics related to sourcing and purchasing local foods for State agencies and child nutrition program operators. The guide highlights a variety of mechanisms schools can use to purchase local products while staying in accordance with federal procurement regulations. The guide features examples of how to target local foods when conducting both formal and informal procurements, use the Geographic Preference option, and use the USDA Foods and DoD Fresh Programs to enhance local purchasing.

University of Illinois Extension released a new, six-page guide for producers, gardeners, and home owners, How to Handle Pesticide Drift Complaints. The publication explains what pesticide drift is and what to do when it has occurred. It details the roles of Extension and of the Illinois Department of Agriculture in drift cases and lays out the drift complaint process in Illinois.

A study published in Urban Agriculture & Regional Food Systems Journal by Purdue University researchers found that leaf-mold compost can have particular benefits for degraded urban soil. The high-quality leaf-mold compost takes longer to develop than stirred compost, but researchers found that leaf mold compost promoted colonization by beneficial fungi and contributed disease suppression. Tomatoes grown in this study produced more and had less disease in soil amended with leaf-mold compost. Researchers suggest that these study results support the diversion of more urban leaf waste for compost production.

Scientists from Colorado State University and the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory published the results of their study on optimizing land-management tactics to produce more corn and soy while also reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and increasing carbon storage in the soil. Life cycle analysis showed that farmers could repurpose 30% of corn stover for biofuel, plant cover crops, and reduce tillage after the growing season to attain sustainable intensification.

A new, free, online tool is available to help agricultural producers assess the effects of different management practices on soil health. The Soil Health Matrix Decision Tool was developed by the Soil Health Nexus. Producers who are considering implementing a new soil health practice on their operation can use this comparative tool to learn which practices benefit soil health and are the best fit for their operation. The tool includes four practices: tillage, manure, cover crops, and crop rotation, as well as two complementary practices: controlled traffic and managed grazing, evaluated by means of eight soil health indicators. Users can select their current practices and then select any practices that they are considering implementing on their operation to compare the soil health scores. The tool also includes a future considerations table that breaks down the equipment, time and labor, skill level, and cost for implementing new practices.

The University of Minnesota published a feature on Tiffany LaShae, a graduate student in its Land and Atmospheric Science program who is also a vegetable farmer and food justice activist. LaShae is empowering farmers of color and activating white allies throughout the Midwest and the country, through her involvement leading a Farmers Against Racism workshop and other educational activities. She also focuses on growing crops that are culturally important to the Black community. According to the feature, she "plans to explore the connections between farmer knowledge, practice, and soil health, with a focus on Black farmers across the United States."

The UC Davis Food Systems Lab has launched a new project to connect farmers and ranchers, slaughter and processing facilities, and meat purchasers in new local and regional meat supply chains in California. The project will focus on building supply chains in the Sacramento Valley, Sierra Foothills, and North Coast regions of California. Connect with the project by completing one of three online surveys for producers, processors, or purchasers.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced USDA efforts to ensure that Federal investments benefit communities that are marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution and underinvestment. The efforts are part of President Biden's Justice40 Initiative, which aims to deliver at least 40% of the overall benefits of climate, clean energy, affordable and sustainable housing, clean water, and other investments to disadvantaged communities. The programs that USDA identified as covered by the Justice40 Initiative are housed in four of USDA's eight mission areas: Farm Production and Conservation; Research, Education and Economics; Rural Development; and Natural Resources and Environment.

NCAT is teaming up with the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union to bring our Armed to Farm training to Boulder, Colorado, from August 29-September 2, 2022. Veterans who want to attend the week-long training in Boulder should apply by July 15, 2022. This training is for veterans in the West, with selection priority given to those in Colorado. The free Armed to Farm training gives veterans and their spouses the opportunity to experience sustainable, profitable small-scale farming enterprises and explore career opportunities in agriculture. Armed to Farm trainings include an engaging blend of farm tours, hands-on activities, and interactive classroom instruction.

The National Audubon Society certified 21 family ranches in the Panorama Organic Grass-Fed Meats® network—spanning 690,902 acres of grassland habitat—as bird-friendly. The collective of ranches initiated large-scale habitat improvements for birds and other wildlife by enrolling in Audubon's Conservation Ranching initiative. With the certification, beef products from Panorama Organic will carry the Audubon Certified seal. In addition to meeting standards in the areas of habitat management and environmental sustainability, Audubon Conservation Ranching requires animal health and welfare criteria to be met in order for ranches to receive bird-friendly certification. "I made a commitment to raising grass-fed, organic beef that would protect the land and keep the ranch viable for generations to come," said founding Panorama Organic rancher Darrell Wood. "Grass-fed beef is important for this ecosystem to survive and improve. It is important to the environment because cattle keep the landscapes healthy, sequestering carbon in the soil and removing greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. "

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) announced that it will meet in Sacramento, California, October 25-27, 2022. The in-person meeting will be webcast live. Public comment webinars are scheduled for October 18 and 20, 2022. The NOSB invites public comment, both written and oral, on its agenda topics. Written comments must be received by September 29, 2022. Oral comment registration will open in late August when the agenda and proposals are posted.

The Farmers Market Coalition is teaming up with Farm Aid to bring back the National Farmers Market Poster Contest. Entries will be accepted until July 15, 2022. FMC will award a cash prize to five winning farmers markets whose posters depict a combination of engaging graphics, informative messaging, and regional or market identity across the following categories: overall, EBT/nutrition incentive, metrics collected at the market, and fan favorite (determined through online voting).

American Farmland Trust (AFT) and the Farmers Market Coalition (FMC) announced the start of the 14th annual America's Farmers Market Celebration. The event is an annual ranking of the top farmers markets in the United States as voted on by the public between June 20 and September 19, 2022. The summer-long event is a fun competition that helps farmers markets across the country earn national recognition and local prestige, as well as an opportunity to compete for $10,000 in prizes divided among the five most popular markets. Visit the website to locate markets and to vote.

A study released by the University of Sydney revealed that 19% of the global food system's greenhouse-gas emissions result from food transport. "Food transport emissions add up to nearly half of direct emissions from road vehicles," notes the study's lead author. The study showed that fruit and vegetables together constitute over a third of food transport emissions, and the emissions of transportation exceed those of production. The study's authors conclude that eating local, seasonal foods would have a dramatic effect in reducing emissions.

A study by University of Nevada, Reno found that the fire danger posed by invasive cheat grass across the Intermountain West could be reduced through targeted grazing. Researchers found that placing supplemental feeding stations in areas dominated by cheat grass led to cattle reducing the fine-fuel biomass by more than 50%, as well as encouraging growth of native grasses. They suggest that strategic placement of protein supplements could be used to reduce fuel loads in areas of particular concern, such as where fuel loads are particularly high or adjacent to biological or cultural resources.

A study led by University of New Hampshire researchers and published in Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment explored the environmental benefits of silvopasture compared to clearing forests to create open pastures. Trials in New Hampshire and New York compared a reference forest to a silvopasture with about half the trees removed and cows grazing on planted forage and to an open pasture. The silvopasture system had less climate consequences than the open pasture, releasing lower levels of carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide. Soil carbon storage was the same on the test plots, as was air temperature.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack proclaimed June 20 – 26, 2022, as National Pollinator Week, dedicated to recognizing the role that pollinator species, such as bees, other insects, birds, and bats play in producing agricultural crops. USDA also released its "Annual Strategic Pollinator Priorities Report” that outlines USDA pollinator research and programmatic priorities for the coming year. Research priorities focus both on managed and wild pollinators.

"To build resilience within our food and farm systems, we must transition to agroecology," says the Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy (IATP). IATP has introduced a new Agroecological Transistions web hub to answer questions like these: What does agroecology look like in practice? How, as a systems approach, can agroecology address the multitude of problems within our food system from field to plate? And, what must we do to usher in agroecological transitions around the globe? The web hub also features agroecology case studies.

University of Minnesota Extension has a new online course, Growing Cold Climate Grapes, available for grape growers, vineyard managers, gardeners, and prospective vineyard owners. The free course is not scheduled, so students can utilize the course materials at their own pace. The course contains 11 modules. Each module covers a different topic about vineyard management, from planting to harvesting and everything in between. The modules include a variety of videos, interactive images, and written content. At the end of each module, a quiz invites participants to test their knowledge of the topic.

USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced an outreach and education campaign to help prevent the introduction and spread of African swine fever in the United States. African swine fever is a deadly, highly contagious viral disease that affects both domestic and wild pigs. It does not impact human health but quickly spreads between swine populations. The new Protect Our Pigs website will house materials such as downloadable fact sheets and posters, instructional videos, shareable social media graphics, a new interactive biosecurity guide, and offer the latest disease updates. APHIS will host African Swine Fever: What You Need to Know, a Facebook event on June 29, 2022, which will feature a panel of experts representing the pork industry, pig owners, and veterinarians who will discuss the latest on the disease and protective actions and respond to questions.

USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) is accepting nominations for county committee members. County committee members make important decisions about how Federal farm programs are administered locally. Agricultural producers who participate or cooperate in a USDA program and reside in the Local Administrative Area that is up for election this year may be nominated for candidacy for the county committee. A cooperating producer is someone who has provided information about their farming or ranching operation to FSA, even if they have not applied or received program benefits. Individuals may nominate themselves or others and qualifying organizations may also nominate candidates. USDA encourages minority producers, women, and beginning farmers or ranchers to nominate, vote and hold office. Nomination forms for the 2022 election must be postmarked or received in the local FSA office by August 1, 2022. 

A study in California's Imperial County showed that using drip irrigation on sweet corn crops conserves water, reduces fertilizer use, and boosts crop yield. About 8,000 acres of sweet corn are planted in the county each year. In this study of 11 sweet corn fields, the six fields that were drip irrigated used an average of 37% less water than the fields that were furrow irrigated. They also showed a 5% increase in yield. The study also showed that the drip irrigation helped farmers save 25% in fertilizer costs, compared corn fields that were furrow irrigated.

An international study led by Penn State University researchers found that maintaining large areas of natural habitat with flowering plants around apiaries can help offset the impacts honey bees experience from changing climate. Researchers believe that declines in bee health and populations are driven by climate change and habitat loss. "There was a positive correlation between the proportion of grassy–herbaceous natural land around the colonies and greater colony weight gain, indicating that this type of land cover can help moderate the detrimental effects of warm and wet climates," said study co-author Christina Grozinger.

The U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards program recognized a class of seven exceptional farms, businesses, and partnerships for their socially responsible, economically viable, and environmentally sound practices and technologies that have a broad and positive impact. Farms in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Minnesota, and California were recognized for Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability. Other companies received recognition for dairy processing sustainability, supply chain sustainability, and community impact.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released four drinking water health advisories for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and is inviting states and territories to apply for $1 billion to address PFAS and other emerging contaminants in drinking water, specifically in small or disadvantaged communities. The funding can be used to reduce PFAS in drinking water in communities facing disproportionate impacts. Meanwhile, the agency's new health advisories provide technical information that federal, state, and local agencies can use to inform actions to address PFAS in drinking water, including water quality monitoring, optimization of existing technologies that reduce PFAS, and strategies to reduce exposure to these substances.

Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) and partners Agraria Center for Regenerative Practice, Central State University, and Common Greens have announced the 2022 OEFFA Sustainable Farm Tour and Workshop Series. The series features 18 farms, businesses, and workshops in Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana, providing unique opportunities for farmers, educators, and conscientious eaters to learn about sustainable agriculture and local foods on the farm. The tour schedule runs from June through November.

Writing for The Conversation, former Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan says that the United States should support not just increased production, but also nature-based solutions in response to rapidly rising synthetic fertilizer prices. She provides examples of farming practices that help farmers reduce or forgo synthetic fertilizers, such as crop rotation, composting, and raising crops and livestock together. Merrigan also discusses biological products such as biofertilizers and bionutrients that can substitute for harsher chemical inputs.

An analysis by North Carolina State University researchers predicts that the invasive spotted lanternfly could reach the wine-growing region of California in five years, and could be established throughout much of the United States by 2037 if all efforts to control it are stopped. The invasive insect can damage or destroy commercially valuable crops such as grapes, apples, almonds, walnuts, cherries, hops, and peaches, as well as certain trees. It kills plants by directly feeding on them, and can also damage them by leaving behind a residue known as "honeydew" that helps mold grow. Both Washington and California have been identified as areas with climates that are highly suitable for the spotted lanternfly.

USDA and Reinvestment Fund are partnering to invest $22.6 million through the Healthy Food Financing Initiative to improve access to healthy foods in underserved communities across the country. The investments that were announced will support 134 projects in rural, urban, and Tribal communities in 46 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington D.C. For example, the funding will help San Carlos Apache communities develop a general store on a tribally owned 90-acre farm. The local food store will serve as the main retail outlet for locally grown fresh produce, value-added products, and other foods, staple goods, and crafts from the community.

A new report from Council of Development Finance Agencies (CDFA) shows that food-system loans perform and that revolving loan funds can successfully support local food system borrowers in their communities. Debunking Risk in Food System Lending reports on data from over a thousand loans made to food-focused enterprises, showing low default rates in line with the performance of traditional revolving loan fund portfolios. CDFA concludes that food-related enterprises are strong borrowers that can be well-suited for traditional lending approaches like those offered through revolving loan funds.

Seeds for Bees encourages the use of cover crops to increase the density, diversity, and duration of bee forage in California orchards, farms, and vineyards, while improving soil health. Enrollment is open from June 1 through August 31, 2022, to California farmers growing honey bee pollinated crops, nuts, and fruits. The seed mixes available through Seeds for Bees are designed to bloom at critical times of the year when natural forage is scarce but managed and native bees are active. Seed availability is limited, and growers are encouraged to apply early. First-year Seeds for Bees enrollees are eligible for a $2,500 discount off their total seed purchase, and second-year enrollees are eligible for a $1,500 discount off their total seed purchase.

Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has awarded a total of $551,000 in grants to 14 statewide projects under the Agricultural Growth, Research, and Innovation (AGRI) Urban Agriculture Grant Program. This is the fifth year of the program. Its purpose is to encourage urban youth agricultural education and urban agriculture community development by assisting organizations and communities in obtaining the materials and services necessary for the successful promotion of urban agriculture. A list of funded grants is available online. It includes development and improvement of community garden spaces and urban agriculture sites, as well as urban farmer training for youth.

USDA, in coordination with other federal agencies, announced that it will develop a pilot program utilizing up to $65 million in American Rescue Plan funding to provide support for agricultural employers in implementing robust health and safety standards to promote a safe, healthy work environment. The program will address labor shortages in agriculture, expand legal pathways for migration, and improve working conditions for farmworkers.

Soil microbiome studies led by Nakian Kim at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign showed the effects of continuous corn cropping and long-term nitrogen fertilization. Kim found that two years' use of cover crops can't undo decades of soil microbial dynamics in response to continuous corn and heavy nitrogen fertilizer use. "In the Midwest, our soils are healthy and resilient, but we shouldn't overestimate them. A soil under unsustainable practices for too long might reach an irreversible threshold," Kim says.

A Washington State University study published in the journal Computer and Electronics in Agriculture showed the potential for automated drones to scare away pest birds that damage fruit crops. Over several years, the research team developed a camera system to detect birds in a field and customized very small drones that can be deployed to scare birds with their whirring noise. This study followed work that showed that drones flown manually could scare away pest birds to reduce crop losses. "Growers don't really have a good tool they can rely on for deterring pest birds at an affordable price," said the study’s corresponding author, Manoj Karkee. "With further refinement and industry partnerships, this system could work."

The agricultural production certification organization A Greener World (AGW) is offering virtual summer road trip around the world, stopping at AGW-certified farms and ranches along the way. Follow along on social media to visit farms and ranches in California, Wyoming, and Colorado, then on to the Midwest, Northeast, and Atlantic coast of the United States, followed by visits to South Africa and the United Kingdom. Meet the farmers (and the animals!), get a glimpse of daily farm life, and hear why their certifications matter. AGW offers certifications such as Animal Welfare Approved, Certified Grassfed, and Certified Regenerative.

The Land Stewardship Project's Farm Beginnings is a year-long training program that focuses on the goal-setting, marketing, and financial skills needed to establish a successful farm business. The Farm Beginnings course creates a space for participants to name their vision, acquire the tools and skills needed to make it happen, and become part of a community of support to help them succeed. The virtual and in-person hybrid course in the Twin Cities area will run from November 2022 through March 2023, and applications are due by September 1, 2022. Early-bird applications submitted by August 1, 2022, will receive a $100 discount if you are accepted into the class.

As part of its efforts to strengthen the food supply chain and transform the food system to be fairer, more competitive, and more resilient, USDA announced an investment of $43.1 million for grants and cooperative agreements for urban agriculture. Specifically, USDA is investing $10.2 million in new cooperative agreements to expand compost and food waste reduction efforts and $14.2 million in new grants to support the development of urban agriculture and innovative production projects. Additionally, $18.7 million will fund 75 worthy grant proposals from the 2021 application cycle. USDA also announced six new urban county committees to help deliver key USDA programs to urban producers. The new locations are Chicago, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, and Oakland. These join 11 previously announced urban county committees that make important decisions about how FSA programs are administered locally. Each urban and suburban county committee will be composed of three elected members who will serve a term of up to three years. Urban farmers who participate in USDA programs in the areas selected are encouraged to participate by nominating and voting for themselves or others.

USDA Rural Development and partners have launched a new Rural America Placemaking Toolkit, a resource guide to showcase a variety of placemaking activities, projects, and success stories. Placemaking is a comprehensive, intentional, wrap-around approach to community development by exploring what it means for a community to have an identity. The website highlights the importance of placemaking in rural communities and provides a comprehensive resource that will be regularly updated to feature new projects, activities, and successes from rural America.

USDA National Organic Program (NOP) is seeking nominations of qualified individuals for an open seat on the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), for an individual with expertise in areas of environmental protection and resource conservation. NOSB is a 15-member volunteer advisory board appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture that considers public comments and makes recommendations on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances and other topics involved in organic agriculture. The selected candidate will be appointed to serve a five-year term beginning January 2023. NOP encourages applications from traditionally underrepresented individuals, organizations, and businesses to reflect the diversity of the industry. Nominations are due by August 5, 2022.

Considerations for Establishing Silvopastures on Wooded Sites is a new publication from the USDA Forest Service. The 10-page Technical Note is available free online. It addresses key considerations when evaluating an existing woodland for silvopasture management, including soils, slopes, tree management, legal aspects, and more. The publication explains that silvopasture management is distinct from just grazing a wooded pasture because it focuses on managing trees, forage, and livestock together.

A study published by Penn State University researchers in Agronomy Journal focused on identifying the best practices for cover crops to optimize cash-crop yields. Specifically, the study looked at the impact of cereal rye seeding rate, termination time, and nitrogen rate on both the soil and a soybean crop. The researchers found that rye seeding rate had no impact on rye biomass or soil moisture. They also discovered that planting green combined with the lowest rye seeding rate and lowest nitrogen rate kept soybeans yields stable, which they say could help producers save money on both cover crop seed and nitrogen supplements.

Research results published by Michigan State University say that an integrated approach to land management practices in the U.S. can reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere far more than earlier estimates based on separate approaches. A multi-institute team explored how combining bioenergy with land-management practices known to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions for cropland, grazing land, and forests would affect atmospheric carbon dioxide. "We're excited to explore this approach further and fine tune our understanding," study author Phil Robertson said. "But for now, we're confident that an integrated approach that combines bioenergy and advanced management of crop, forest and grazing lands can provide climate benefits far greater than previously realized."

Through its Network Leadership Institute, Food Solutions New England (FSNE) supports food system leaders with skill-building and networking. FSNE will be selecting a diverse group of values-motivated food system leaders who demonstrate deep engagement with and commitment to the New England food system for an immersive, experiential program designed to maximize learning and growth, reflection and connection, and inspiration and renewal. The institute offers more than 35 hours of direct contact hours, facilitation, and networking activities for a cohort of 18 participants between September 2022 and June 2023. This opportunity is open to people working on food system issues in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, or Connecticut. Applications to participate are due by June 20, 2022.

USDA National Agroforestry Center has developed an interactive plant selection tool entitled Tree Advisor that rates woody species for a wide range of different purposes, based on plant attributes. This prototype decision support tool rates 90 species of trees and shrubs for 14 different purposes in 12 sub-regions of the northern and central Great Plains region of the United States. The tool can be used to select woody plantings by purpose rating or individual species attributes, or to compare attributes.

A year after its establishment, the Drought Resilience Interagency Working Group (IWG) released a Summary Report outlining the actions taken to date to improve drought-stricken communities' longer-term resilience to drought through financial and technical assistance. The U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) co-chair the Drought Resilience IWG, which was created under the White House's National Climate Task Force. The Drought Resilience IWG agencies are working cooperatively in a whole-of-government manner, to address drought issues through existing programs and resources. The Drought Resilience IWG will facilitate interagency coordination to effectivity deploy $13 billion in water-related investments, including $12.4 billion at DOI and $918 million at USDA. The report is available online.

USDA has announced details of a framework to transform the food system to benefit consumers, producers, and rural communities by providing more options, increasing access, and creating new, more, and better markets for small and mid-size producers. The new framework focuses on building a more resilient food supply chain, creating a fairer food system, making nutritious food more accessible and affordable for all consumers, and emphasizing equity. Specifically, USDA will invest up to $300 million in a new Organic Transition Initiative and up to $75 million to support urban agriculture. It will also provide financing and technical assistance for food processing development, particularly meat and poultry processing plant projects. Other aspects of the framework are investment in regional food enterprise centers and in farm to school purchasing, as well as healthy food financing and incentive programs.

Pennsylvania's Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding joined the Center for Dairy Excellence, the Penn State Farm Stress team, and the AgriSafe Network for a farm stress podcast discussion in honor of Mental Health Month. The conversation highlighted the unique stressors farmers, agricultural workers, and their families face and resources available to Pennsylvania farm families seeking mental health support.

Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) has published a new California Organic Research Agenda (CORA), a comprehensive report that examines current needs and challenges of organic farmers and ranchers across California and provides policy and research recommendations to address producer-identified issues. The 114-page CORA report is a companion to OFRF's 2022 National Organic Research Agenda. The national organic survey data boasts responses from more than 1,100 producers and 16 listening sessions held across the United States. Using the California subset of the national survey data, the CORA report highlights the top production and non-production challenges cited by California's organic farmers and ranchers.

Grassland 2.0 and UW-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems released The Heifer Grazing Compass, an Excel-based planning tool for anyone considering raising heifers on pasture. The tool is designed to help users predict and understand the cash flow and long-term financial outcomes associated with raising dairy heifers on pasture. It can be used by dairy farmers or other farmers who might want to start raising heifers on pasture as an enterprise. The tool is free to access and use.

USDA announced support, resources, and new rules that will strengthen the American food supply chain, promote fair and competitive agricultural markets, prevent abuse of farmers by poultry processors, and make prices fairer for farmers and American consumers. First, USDA announced a proposed rule under the Packers and Stockyards Act to protect poultry growers from abuse. USDA is also making available $200 million under the new Meat and Poultry Intermediary Lending Program (MPILP) to strengthen the food supply chain and create opportunities for small businesses and entrepreneurs in rural communities. USDA also released a report on Promoting Competition in Agricultural Markets that details the Department's strategy for promoting competition in agricultural markets—including not only actions and initiatives to promote competition in meat and poultry markets, but also other key agricultural sectors like fertilizer and seeds. Additionally, USDA announced plans to complete a top-to-bottom review of its programs to ensure they promote competition and announced that it will update guidance to strengthen the verification requirements for the most widely used "animal-raising claims" to ensure consumers are getting what they are paying for.

North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NCR-SARE) created its annual Hero Recognition to highlight, recognize, and pay tribute to those who have made significant contributions to NCR-SARE and/or National SARE. The 2022 NCR-SARE Heroes are Roy Ballard and Tom Coudron. A press release notes, "Roy Ballard's 40-year career exemplifies his commitment to education, horticulture, and community food systems." Ballard served as Indiana's SARE State Coordinator from 2009 to 2019. Tom Coudron served on the NCR-SARE Administrative Council from 2001 to 2011 and continues to volunteer as a grant reviewer.

A new research project led by Michigan State University assistant professor Emily Huff will examine land management decisions made by people who own of both agricultural land and woodland. A multi-institutional research team will survey Michigan farmers to gauge interest and measure current participation in programs linked to emerging carbon and ecosystem service markets, agroforestry practices and tree planting, non-timber forest products, and woodland management. The project will compile case studies with an emphasis on beginner, female, and minority farmers.

An Emory University study projects that climate change will make the U.S. Corn Belt unsuitable for cultivating corn by 2100, necessitating significant agricultural adaptation. It is critical that this adaptation includes diversification beyond the major commodity crops that now make up the bulk of U.S. agriculture, according to study leader Emily Burchfield. "Climate change is happening, and it will continue to shift U.S. cultivation geographies strongly north," Burchfield says. "It's not enough to simply depend on technological innovations to save the day. Now is the time to envision big shifts in what and how we grow our food to create more sustainable and resilient forms of agriculture."

North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NCR-SARE) announced that 18 projects will be awarded more than $100,000 through the Youth Educator competitive grant program. This program supports educators who teach youth about sustainable agriculture practices and careers. The funded projects include training for teen urban growers, a sustainable agriculture youth camp, apprenticeship and garden leadership programs, herbal tea marketing, and more.

Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture announced more than $2.45 million in federal specialty crop grants awarded to 23 projects that will grow markets and increase the quality, safety and sustainability of the state's vegetable, fruit, nut and nursery specialty crops. Funded projects will grow the state's agriculture industry by improving food safety; battling disease, pest and climate threats; expanding farm markets in urban areas; assessing economics of growing hops to meet demands of the state's booming craft brew industry; protecting pollinators the state's agriculture industry relies on; harnessing the talents of youth and recruiting and retaining a culturally and ethnically diverse workforce. Brief descriptions of the projects are available online.

The Ecosystem Services Market Consortium (ESMC) and the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) announced the launch of ESMC's ecosystem services market program, Eco-Harvest. The program rewards agricultural producers for beneficial environmental outcomes from regenerative agriculture by generating and selling credits for increased soil carbon, reduced greenhouse gases, and improved water quality from agricultural production systems. Partners invested $20.6 million in developing the digitized and advanced technology program and platform to generate high quality, third-party verified credits for soil carbon removals, avoided and reduced greenhouse gases, and water impacts from U.S. farms. ESMC is targeting up to 500,000 acres enrollment. Current Eco-Harvest market program regions include the Midwest Corn and Soy Belt, the Northern Great Plains, the Southern Great Plains, and the Great Lakes regions. Production systems included in the launch include corn, soy, wheat, and alfalfa cropping systems.

The SARE grant project "Match Made In Heaven: Livestock + Crops" has released a new infographic depicting integration of livestock and crops. It's available online, with space for customization. Project organizers say they hope it will be shared widely. "Match Made In Heaven: Livestock + Crops" is a three-year, six-state collaboration led by Green Lands Blue Waters that currently includes more than 50 participating organizations across six Upper Midwestern states.

The Periodic Table of Food Initiative (PTFI) plans to characterize and quantify the biochemical components in food to catalyze major breakthroughs in nutrition and agriculture. The Initiative is supported by The Rockefeller Foundation and its public charity RF Catalytic Capital Inc., the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research and the Seerave Foundation, and facilitated by the American Heart Association® and the Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT (International Center for Tropical Agriculture). According to a press release, the Initiative "will use technology to help develop a food system that more efficiently uses land resources, provides improved nutrition and respects the diversity of foods consumed all over the world, by convening global collaborative efforts across government, academic, and industry laboratories to develop standardized protocols to comprehensively measure and evaluate food composition."

A new program at Kansas State University Extension, the Office of Farm and Ranch Transition, is helping to link retiring farmers and ranchers with people entering the profession, reports Midwest Messenger. A USDA Beginning Farmer/Rancher Development Program grant lets the office work with retiring farmers and ranchers without heirs, to set up lease agreements or lease-to-own plans with beginning farmers and ranchers who are looking for a place to get established. The office offers one-on-one facilitation to help people through the transition process, and also provides education about record-keeping. Ashlee Westerhold, the office's director, explains that they work to link people with shared expectations and values, to facilitate a smooth transition.