Latest News




Research from the University of California, Davis, found that wild birds may not pose the food safety risk once suspected. Researchers found that starlings and other birds that flock on the ground near cattle are more likely to spread pathogenic bacteria to crops like lettuce, spinach, and broccoli, while insect-eating species are less likely to carry pathogens. Researchers compiled more than 11,000 bacteria tests of wild bird feces and found that Campylobacter in 8% of samples. Meanwhhile, pathogenic E. Coli and Salmonella were only found in less than 0.5% of the samples. The researchers say this means that the current practice of removing bird habitats around produce growers' farms may not solve food safety problems and could, in fact, benefit the species that pose more risk and harm the beneficial, pest-eating ones.




The Good Food Foundation announced the 244 exceptional crafters of food and drink who are the 2022 Good Food Award Winners. This year's winners hail from 39 states and Washington, D.C. Across 18 categories, each recognized crafter demonstrated exceptional taste and a deep commitment to building a more sustainable, just food system. The complete list of winners is available online.




A Regional Imperative: Making the Case for Regional Food Systems, a new Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NESAWG) report by Kathy Ruhf and Kate Clancy, takes a comprehensive look at regional food systems and makes a compelling case for their importance in food systems change work. This new report explores the concepts, practices, challenges and promise of regional food systems. It focuses on the U.S. Northeast, a laboratory of regional food systems thinking and action, but it also describes regional food systems development across the country. The report contains dozens of examples of region-scale endeavors. Clancy and Ruhf argue that "local" and "regional" are different and that both are essential. The report is a project of NESAWG and will be posted on its website. In a January 26, 2022, webinar, the authors will present the key concepts of the report, along with examples from the field.




Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service's South Carolina New and Beginning Farmer Program received a $600,000 grant from USDA-NIFA to support the program for the next three years. The program is an agribusiness public education program focused on enabling new and beginning farmers to be successful, productive, and innovative members of their local agricultural community by providing them with the tools, knowledge, and skills necessary to be successful entrepreneurs, sound business managers, exemplary stewards of the natural environment and successful marketers of the unique products they create. The SCNBFP Class of 2022 cohort program will run from May to August 2022 and includes a series of 10 core agribusiness workshops focused on farm business management. Topics include business concept and plan development, financial and risk management, legal and regulatory issues, marketing strategies, soil health and pest management, and an introduction to federal, state and local agricultural resources. Any legal resident of South Carolina, at least 18 years of age, who is just beginning to farm or who has actively farmed for less than 10 consecutive years is eligible to apply for the SCNBFP cohort program. The deadline to apply is February 20, 2022.




A feature in Texas Monthly showcases ranchers Meredith Ellis, at G Bar C Ranch, and Travis Krause of Parker Creek Ranch, who discuss what regenerative agriculture means for them and their ranch operations. Both ranchers explain some of the economic considerations of a regenerative approach to agriculture, as well as the environmental benefits, based on their own experiences.




Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship awarded more than $300,000 in grants to 14 partners, to help grow demand for Iowa's specialty crops. Specialty Crop Block Grants help raise awareness about, drive demand or create new markets for specialty crops. The projects awarded in this round of funding focus on particular crops, such as Christmas trees, red wine, hazelnuts, honeyberry, and specialty melons, as well as broader efforts to increase the utilization of Iowa produce in schools. Additional projects address food safety for specialty crops, seeds for native plants, and training for refugee farmers.




Kenzo Esquivel and Patrick Baur wrote in a National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition blog about their recent study of farmers who prioritize biodiversity on-farm. They found that larger farms that sell to wholesale markets often experience barriers to diversifying, while small, limited-resource farms frequently lack the means to diversify. Mid-scale farms have the highest rate of adoption for diversification practices, according to this study. The researchers noted that mid-scale farmers also enjoyed secure land tenure and access to capital and resources that facilitated diversification, as well as relationships with buyers. All of these assets contributed to mid-scale farmers' ability to invest in biodiversity and, eventually, benefit from it.




The University of British Columbia released results of a study on how different farming indicators impact the diversity of local birds in the farmland bordering the former Iron Curtain in Germany. A sharp difference in farm sizes exists along the former border, allowing for comparisons of the effect of smaller and larger agricultural landscapes and land uses. Researchers found that increased farm sizes resulted in a 15% decline in bird diversity. "Providing a mix of different crop type and other land uses such as forests and grassland within the agricultural landscape is crucial for biodiversity conservation and can mitigate the negative impact of agricultural industrialization," explained Assistant Professor Frederik Noack. "Our results show that the negative impact of increased farm size can be mitigated by conserving land cover diversity within the agricultural landscape. In practice, this could mean incentivizing riparian buffer strips, forest patches, hedgerows, or agroforestry."




Gary Hirshberg, Stonyfield Co-Founder and former long-time CEO, announced the launch of the Northeast Organic Family Farm Partnership, a first-of-its kind partnership, created to solve the crisis of disappearing family farms, reports Vermont Business Magazine. The Partnership, collaboration of farmers, processors, activists, and government agencies, is inviting consumers to sign a pledge at saveorganicfamilyfarms.org to purchase one-fourth of their weekly dairy purchases from 35 brands that have committed to increase their purchases of northeast organic family farmers' milk. In addition, the partnership is inviting dairy retailers to become licensed as partners and commit to carrying partner brands.




The American Veterinary Medical Association reports that interest in veterinary medicine for honeybees is growing in the United States. For example, veterinary students at Michigan State University are offered a three-week elective course on the subject, and a new textbook, Honey Bee Medicine for the Veterinary Practitioner, was published in 2021. In addition, there's a Honey Bee Veterinary Consortium, a nonprofit organization formed with the purpose of training veterinarians in honeybee medicine. Its website offers resources for veterinarians, and the group is developing a certification course for veterinarians that will require 150 hours of training in honeybee medicine.




NCAT's Armed to Farm program has released its first Armed to Farm News. This free, quarterly newsletter highlights Armed to Farm training opportunities for military veterans, as well as funding and other opportunities. The newsletter also features an alumni spotlight that showcases one of the program's participants. Visit the NCAT website to subscribe.




USDA National Organic Program (NOP) shared the results of an annual peer review process conducted to strengthen its organic accreditation and enforcement program. The 2021 Peer Review Report recommends one area of improvement: risk impartiality analysis. In response, NOP has requested that the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) review and facilitate public comment on its draft Risk Mitigation Table, outlining how the program safeguards impartiality in its oversight and enforcement activities.




The National Institute of Food and Agriculture's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative is investing $9 million in six projects to bolster climate research and connect and share climate-smart solutions directly with the agricultural community. The funding goes to new Cooperative Extension and USDA Climate Hubs partnerships. "These new NIFA-funded projects will work toward net-zero emissions in agriculture, working lands and communities adapted to climate change, training a diverse workforce that can communicate and incorporate climate considerations into management and climate justice that is appropriate for unique U.S. agronomic conditions," said NIFA Director Dr. Carrie Castille. The projects are led by the University of California, Davis; Pennsylvania State University; Montana State University; Ohio State University; The Desert Research Institute Native Climate; and the USDA Caribbean Climate Hub.




Farmers Business Network and Environmental Defense Fund launched the FBN Regenerative Agriculture Finance Fund (RAFF), an agricultural financing program that rewards farmers who meet soil health and nitrogen efficiency standards through access to lower rates and fees, as well as agronomic insights to optimize the on-farm benefits of regenerative practices. RAFF credit lines will replace traditional operating loans with a one-year line of credit that includes a 0.5% discount from a farmer's base rate. To qualify, farmers must meet environmental eligibility requirements developed by EDF and backed by peer-reviewed scientific research, including nitrogen management and soil conservation standards. The $25 million pilot fund is currently enrolling 30 to 40 farmers growing a combination of corn, soybeans, and/or wheat, who will each receive one-year lines of credit of up to $5 million.




USDA has announced that it is investing $50 million in 118 partnerships to expand access to conservation assistance for climate-smart agriculture and forestry. The Equity Conservation Cooperative Agreements, administered by USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will fund two-year projects to expand the delivery of conservation assistance to farmers who are new to farming, low income, socially disadvantaged, or military veterans. Projects will support USDA's broader effort to address climate change and equitable access to programs. A full list of the partnerships is available online. It includes funding for an NCAT project, "Investing in Underserved Farmers to Regenerate Their Farms' Ecologies."




USDA and the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund have signed an agreement signifying a continued partnership to increase the number of minority landowners in the South and support them in sustainable forestry and agroforestry practices. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack signed on behalf of USDA's Forest Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and National Agroforestry Center, which have roles in implementing the agreement. The agreement renews USDA's commitment to working with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives to assist African American landowners and other underserved farmers, and ensure they have access to critical resources and information. The agreement focuses on the key role that underserved landowners play in forest management, food production, conservation, wood energy, and climate mitigation.




USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced new and expanded opportunities for climate smart agriculture in 2022. First is nationwide availability of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Conservation Incentive Contracts option, as well as a new and streamlined EQIP Cover Crop Initiative and added flexibilities for producers to easily re-enroll in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). Specifically, NRCS is investing $38 million through the new targeted Cover Crop Initiative in 11 states to help agricultural producers mitigate climate change through the widespread adoption of cover crops. States include Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and South Dakota. Meanwhile, Conservation Incentive Contracts offer producers annual incentive payments to implement management practices as well as conservation evaluation and monitoring activities to help manage, maintain and improve priority natural resource concerns within state high-priority areas and build on existing conservation efforts. Additionally, NRCS updated CSP to allow an agricultural producer to immediately re-enroll in the program following an unfunded application to renew an existing contract, rather than having to wait two years before applying again.




Northeast dairy farmers struggling to produce feed and comply with nutrient-management regulations can benefit from double cropping and injecting manure into soils, says a research team led by Penn State. Professor Heather Karsten explains, "We have been trying to identify how to help dairy farms be profitable and produce more of their feed and forage crops while at the same time ease the challenges of nutrient management. Double cropping small grains such as winter wheat or winter rye and corn silages provides a strategy that can benefit dairy farms in the northeastern U.S. as they take advantage of a longer growing season. Also, subsurface application of manure may reduce nutrient losses as the region faces warmer temperatures and greater precipitation." The researchers say that double cropping could help protect Northeast farmers from effects of summer droughts expected to become more common, while injecting manure rather than broadcasting it will help reduce nutrient runoff and emissions that would otherwise increase with expected higher summer temperatures.




Sand County Foundation and national sponsor American Farmland Trust present the Leopold Conservation Award to private landowners in 23 states for extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation. Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the award recognizes those who inspire others with their dedication to land, water, and wildlife habitat management on private, working land. Sponsors and application requirements vary by state, but the award is typically $10,000 in each participating state. Nominations may be submitted on behalf of a landowner, or landowners may nominate themselves. Nominations are currently open for landowners in Kansas, New York, Kentucky, Montana, South Dakota, Colorado, and Nebraska.




The Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development is working with the Kentucky Farm Bureau Education Foundation and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture to develop the Kentucky Agriculture Disaster Relief Program. This program will help farmers in Kentucky access needed farm supplies from local farm retailers following the disasters experienced in many areas of Kentucky on December 10 and 11, 2021, and on January 1, 2022. Farm retailers in the program will receive funds to offset the costs of supplies for farmers, up to $1,500 per eligible farmer. Eligible supplies include fencing materials, chain saws, tools, feeders, and feed. Farmers will have to certify that they have farm property in one of the following counties and experienced farm damage from the specified storms: Barren, Caldwell, Calloway, Christian, Fulton, Graves, Hart, Hickman, Hopkins, Logan, Lyon, Marion, Marshall, Muhlenberg, Ohio, Taylor, and Warren.




The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) is partnering with Holistic Management International (HMI) to bring its Armed to Farm (ATF) training to the Southwest. Veterans who want to attend the week-long training in Albuquerque, New Mexico, can apply online until February 11, 2022. This training is for veterans in the Southwest, with preference given to those in New Mexico. The number of participants will be limited. The ATF training, scheduled for March 28-April 1, 2022, in Albuquerque allows veterans and their spouses to experience sustainable, profitable small-scale farming enterprises and explore career opportunities in agriculture. At ATF, participants learn about business planning, budgeting, recordkeeping, marketing, USDA programs, livestock production, fruit and vegetable production, and more. Participants gain a strong foundation in the basic principles of operating a sustainable farm.




The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is holding an online listening session on Whole-Farm Revenue Protection. Are you a farmer enrolled or previously enrolled in a WFRP insurance policy? What draws you to WFRP? What barriers to access and other challenges have you faced? How could WFRP be better for your farm? Join this one-hour Zoom session on January 10, 2022, at 4 p.m. Eastern to share your experience.




Researchers at University of California-Riverside who are studying the disappearance of the ancient Maya say that drought was not the primary driver of collapse for the civilization. Their work shows that the Maya had 500 edible plants available to them, many of which proved to be highly drought resistant, such as cassava, hearts of palm, and chaya. The researchers say their study demonstrates the importance of exploiting a variety of plants to survive drought and climate change. "Even given a series of droughts, maintaining a diversity of resilient crops would enable people, both ancient and modern, to adapt and survive," noted UC Riverside plant physiologist Louis Santiago.




USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced the award of 10 grants totaling $6 million for Pollinator Health research to sustain healthy populations of pollinators, which are crucial to the nation's food security and environmental health. NIFA noted that pollinators play a vital role in the production of healthy crops for food, fiber, and other agricultural uses. Pollinator health projects address the current problem of declining populations of managed and wild pollinators, such as bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, moths, beetles, and bats. These grants are a part of NIFA's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative program.




Understanding Ag, LLC, is offering a new, online course providing practical insights and techniques on adaptive grazing. The course is specifically tailored for farmers and ranchers seeking to improve their pastures and profit margins. The virtual course developed by Gabe Brown, Shane New, and Allen Williams, Ph.D., is a companion to their virtual Regen Ag 101 course. Both courses are designed to help farmers and ranchers successfully transition from conventional agricultural practices to more profitable and climate-friendly regenerative practices. A third Regen Ag online course focusing on regenerative cropping strategies is scheduled for release later this year.




An international, multi-disciplinary team that conducted a review of scientific literature found that honeydew contaminated by systemic insecticides poses a threat to beneficial insects. Honeydew, the excretion product of sap-sucking insects, is an important food source for many beneficial insects, including both pollinators and natural enemies of insect pests. However, researchers documented that when honeydew was produced from the sap of plants grown from seeds treated with neonicotinoids, parasitic wasps and pollinating hoverflies died after consuming the honeydew. "Our review describes how honeydew contaminated with systemic insecticides may play a role in insect declines," said Penn State University entomology professor John Tooker. "Honeydew is a hidden driver of direct and indirect interactions among insects that is likely to be affecting the population dynamics of herbivores, biological control agents, and pollinators."




USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) researchers created a new tool, called Pathogen and Tree Fruit Health Map (PATHMAP), that will connect growers in different states and allow them to share important data regarding tree fruit diseases, disorders, and insect pests. This online interactive tool will enable growers to modify and adjust their pathogen and pest-control programs based on real-time data, provide quick access to time-sensitive data, give access to experts in the field, provide access to previous years' observations, and track current diseases, disorders, and pests.




Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Attorney General Merrick B. Garland have expressed their shared commitment to effectively enforcing federal competition laws that protect farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural producers and growers from unfair and anticompetitive practices, including the antitrust laws and the Packers and Stockyards Act. A statement of principles released by the two deartments asserts that farmers, ranchers, and other producers and growers deserve the benefits of free and fair competition, and the Justice Department and USDA therefore are prioritizing matters impacting competition in agriculture. The agencies will jointly develop within 30 days a centralized, accessible process for farmers, ranchers, and other producers and growers to submit complaints about potential violations of the antitrust laws and the Packers and Stockyards Act. Furthermore, both agencies commit to vigorously enforce the laws that protect farmers, ranchers, and other producers and growers from unfair, deceptive, discriminatory, and anticompetitive practices.




Recognizing that poultry products are the primary route for human exposure to the foodborne disease Salmonella, researchers at Iowa State University are exploring the link between poultry immune and nervous systems as a potential treatment. They found that treating chickens with the drug Reserpine triggers intestinal cells to release a neurochemical called norepinephrine that activates an antimicrobial immune response that significantly reduces salmonella bacteria. "Using this approach is really about stimulating the host's ability to fight the infection on its own and solve the problem at its source," explained study leader Melha Mellata. The researchers say their research offers a model that could be effective with other drugs and to treat other animal species that are reservoirs for food pathogens.




University of California, Davis, researchers tested eight commercial varieties of grape rootstocks under drought conditions to identify traits that might indicate drought resistance. They found that rootstocks with a lower capacitance (less root shrinkage) were better able to maintain photosynthesis during drought than other rootstocks. "This research gives us a new trait to target for breeding more drought tolerant rootstocks," study co-author and Ph.D. student Gabriela Sinclair said.




University of Florida scientists found that biopesticide and the predatory mite Amblyseius swirskii can more effectively control the chilli thrips pest on strawberries than traditional pesticides can. Sriyanka Lahiri, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of entomology, infected strawberry plants with thrips and then treated them with biopesticide and introduced predatory mites. The fruit of the treated plants had less fruit damage than untreated plants. Chilli thrips is a significant pest of strawberry crops in Florida, causing economic loss to growers.




A Montana nonprofit organization, Missoula Community Food and Agriculture Coalition, received a USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant to support training for beginning farmers and ranchers, reports the Missoulian. The group will use the funding to launch Certified Farm Startup, a free program that will pair aspiring farmers and ranchers with trained mentors. The program will address land acquisition, business planning, financial management, and marketing through classroom curriculum and site visits. Applications are open until February 15, 2022, and the 2022 program will run from March through October.




Montgomery Sheep Farm in North Carolina combines an unusual mix of enterprises, reports radio station WFAE. The 200-acre farm is home not only to 400 sheep and other livestock, but also a 20-megawatt solar farm and a bed and breakfast. "Agriculture alone is very, very difficult to make work, so every single farmer has to do something else," says Joel Olsen, the solar developer who envisioned the diverse operation. The farm also hosts tours and dinners.




Farm Aid announced that it distributed nearly $1 million in grant funding in 2021. Farm Aid prioritized organizations working to support family farmers, advance racial equity and social justice in our food system, advance farmer-led solutions to climate change, and build power for systemic change in our farm and food systems. Farm Aid distributed $817,500 in December to 86 family farm, rural service, and urban agriculture organizations. Highlights of the awards and an explanation of the organization's granting priorities are available online.




Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientists published a study on bioenergy sorghum hybrids that shows they can capture and sequester significant amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide in soil. Specifically, the study revealed that an acre planted with a bioenergy sorghum hybrid accumulates about 3.1 tons of dry root biomass. In addition, a press release notes that bioenergy sorghum's 6.5-feet deep root system can reach water and nutrients that other annual crops don't. Researchers suggest the crop can help manage fertilizer runoff from other annuals in a crop rotation.




The Food Systems Leadership Network is offering a ten-week online training intensive for a cohort of value chain coordination (VCC) practitioners. The training series starting in February will help participants deepen their knowledge of strategies, tools, and best practices that guide impactful VCC work. This training series will focus on how to organize and prioritize VCC activities. This will be a virtual learning cohort of about 28 total participants, composed of individuals and regional groups performing VCC from regions around the United States. Organizers are seeking a diverse cohort in terms of the race, gender, experience level, and role of the participants. The training is free to all participants. Apply to participate by January 10, 2022.




Oregon State University Extension Service Small Farms program has been awarded two grants for projects to strengthen the food system by improving the viability of small and mid-size farms and food businesses. The first is a Regional Food Systems Partnerships Program grant that will support work with eight food hubs in Oregon. The second is a $591,951 grant to the Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network for "Meat in the Middle," which will create a stronger mid-tier niche meat supply chain through training, business coaching, and peer support. The project will provide virtual short courses, business mastermind groups, coaching, peer support, and learning tools for at least 1,800 farmers, ranchers, meat processors, and butchers across the country.




USDA Farm Service Agency has announced updates to the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). CREP is part of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and enables USDA's Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC), through Farm Service Agency (FSA), and partners to co-invest in partner-led projects. CREP also plays an important role in USDA's broader climate change strategy, bringing together producers, landowners and partners for climate-smart land management. USDA has updated the CREP rule regarding matching fund requirements, allowing partners to provide the required 50% matching funds in the form of cash, in-kind contributions, or technical assistance. Additionally, USDA has invested in additional staff to work directly with partners for streamlined, partner-driven conservation efforts. 




The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), in partnership with the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, has launched a redesigned Virginia Farm Link website. The Virginia Farm Link website is an online database designed to link farm owners interested in exiting agriculture with those seeking farms and farm businesses. The new website includes filters to narrow farm seekers and owners' searches, an organized transition resources page, and an updated interactive map. Access to the Farm Link website and online database is free to all users.




Practical Farmers of Iowa's 2022 winter webinar series, referred to as "farminars," begins January 4, 2022, and runs weekly through March 29, 2022. Farminars free to attend and anyone with an internet connection is invited to participate. Each presentation focuses on a unique production or business management topic, and is led by a farmer or subject-matter expert. Attendees are able to ask questions in real-time using a chat box during the presentations. Topics in the 2022 series include organic no-till in row crops; on-farm research on cover crops, manure, and nitrogen; organic seed production; day-neutral organic strawberries; integrating prairie strips into farm fields; grass-fed beef marketing; estate planning; online direct marketing; and working lands conservation programs.




A free one-hour course developed by Western Kentucky University is available to aid healthcare professionals in acknowledging and lessening farmer suicides. The course guides healthcare professionals on how to prevent farmer suicide through cultural respect, understanding, sensitivity, and humility (CRUSH). The course delves into the culture of farming and how knowledge of the agricultural sector can help healthcare workers respond to a farmer in crisis. The Continuing Education qualifying program is designed for all healthcare professionals and is available online.




A study by researchers from Rutgers University-New Brunswick and the University of Maine indicates that agricultural practices can help increase carbon storage in soils. Ecosystem Service Valuation Approaches and Carbon Mitigation Considerations for Garden State Agriculture says that cover cropping, grazing management, and agroforestry can increase the amount of carbon stored in agricultural soils and help New Jersey meet emissions reductions goals. In addition, these practices can help provide other ecosystem services, ranging from soil health to flood mitigation.




Iowa's Farm to Table Task Force commissioned during the 2021 state legislative session has submitted a set of recommendations to the Iowa Legislature that are intended to improve the farm to table supply chain. The group of 12 local food experts was charged with identifying strategies to improve the farm to table supply chain in Iowa, with a special focus on increasing sales to institutional purchasers, including schools. The task force's full report is available online and contains recommendations including the following: improving sales of local foods to institutions, including farm to school and early care efforts, by increasing the efficiency of local food distribution and awareness of local options for institutional buyers; developing and supporting expanded processing opportunities for local foods; researching and increasing support for local food farming and scaling up local food agriculture; revitalizing and expanding the Local Food and Farm Advisory Council; and increasing the usage of the Farm to Food Donation Tax Credit and exploring other food donation programs.




Researchers at Western Illinois University's School of Agriculture are growing ginger and turmeric to help develop them as alternative crops for Illinois growers. The researchers are growing ginger and turmeric in high tunnels to gather information about how these high-value crops perform locally and how they could fit into local growers' crop rotations. The research team raised five varieties of ginger this year and plans to test more varieties next year. The ginger has medicinal and culinary uses, including applications in brewing. They raised one variety of turmeric, as well as a variety of other high tunnel vegetable crops.




USDA has extended the deadline for agricultural producers who are certified organic, or transitioning to organic, to apply for the Organic and Transitional Education and Certification Program (OTECP). This program provides pandemic assistance to cover certification and education expenses. The deadline to apply for 2020 and 2021 eligible expenses is now February 4, 2022, rather than the original deadline of January 7, 2022.




Penn State Extension is offering a home-study course on meat goat production, beginning February 2, 2022. The course includes six weekly lessons covering profit-enhancing production principles for raising meat goats. It's available via the Internet or by mail. Lesson topics include production basics, nutrition, health, reproduction, marketing, and financial issues. Each lesson has information about the topic and a worksheet for producers to complete and return for comments.




University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources researchers and their collaborators conducted a multi-year study on how cover crops in almond orchards and tomato fields affected groundwater recharge. The studies revealed that cover crop water use was negligible, and at season's end, soil moisture in cover-cropped fields was equal to that in clean cultivated fields. The living covers helped offset moisture losses from evapotranspiration, leading researchers to conclude that cover crops could be used for their multiple environmental benefits without impairing groundwater recharge. These findings can inform groundwater planning in California.




Organic Seed Alliance and the Accredited Certifiers Association have developed a new course titled "Organic Seed Search" that is offered online through the National Organic Program's (NOP) Organic Integrity learning Center. This course provides best practices for addressing some of the most common challenges that certifiers and inspectors face when reviewing seed searches. The course also explains how to document organic seed searches and provides operations with resources for sourcing more organic seed and conducting variety trials. The Organic Integrity Learning Center is a self-enrolled learning program and all trainings are free.




Three new research reports on projects led by farmers and conducted on-farm have been published by Practical Farmers of Iowa. The research is part of the organization's farmer-led research program. These reports relate the results of trials in feeding whey to pastured broiler chickens, using clover as a companion cover crop or living mulch with corn, and planting corn in 60-inch row widths for interseeding cover crops. The reports are available free online.




ITV America and Nobody's Hero are currently casting a new greenlit documentary series with a major cable TV network. The show will follow the stories of American farmers who are in need of a farm transformation of a lifetime. Each episode will follow a farming expert coming alongside new, beginning, or unique farmers who are struggling to succeed, and through hard work, expert resources, and practical knowledge will help them transform their struggling farms into the farms of their dreams. The program creators are searching nationwide this week for homesteaders and farmers who'd like to learn how to forage—who are in need of help and assistance. A casting call is available online.




A new fact sheet from the Center for Rural Affairs explains how grazing on solar sites can enhance value and keep land in agriculture use. Solar grazing is the use of livestock, usually sheep, to manage vegetation at solar sites. It takes the place of traditional mowing, offering numerous environmental and financial benefits and meeting clean energy and agricultural goals simultaneously. Making the Case for Solar Grazing addresses the economics and environmental benefits of solar grazing, provides steps for the planning process, discusses what developers and farmers should consider when developing a contract, aids in considering appropriate seed mixes, and offers recommendations to policymakers that incentivize beneficial practices.




Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is soliciting nominations for members to serve on the National Advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry Inspection (NACMPI). USDA expects to appoint committee members in 2022. USDA is seeking nominations from individuals with knowledge and interest in meat and poultry food safety and other FSIS policies and is also seeking representation of small and very small establishments and geographic diversity of members. Persons in academia, industry, state and local government officials, public health organizations, and industry and consumer organizations are invited to submit nominations. Self-nominations are welcomed. All nominations must be received by February 18, 2022.




An interactive dashboard tool developed by Purdue University tallies inputs needed for different food industries, provides the share of total cost of upstream inputs and labor, and evaluates the risk of several different food industries based on a diversity score. The meat industry has the worst diversity score, meaning it is the most vulnerable. The dashboards are part of a portfolio of public dashboards created through Purdue's Center for Food Demand Analysis and Sustainability and designed to inform industry leaders and policymakers about how to protect food supplies.




Many designs for bat boxes may be putting the residents at risk from excess heat, say University of Illinois scientists who have conducted extensive thermal testing. The temperature inside the boxes may be 68 degrees higher than the air temperature, and boxes crowded with bats also concentrate their body heat. Scientists are looking at longer, four-sided designs that offer bats a chance to escape afternoon heat while they roost. They've also looked at insulated designs. Joy O'Keefe, an assistant professor and wildlife extension specialist in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences at Illinois, maintains a website providing tips for making bat boxes safer for bats.




University of Illinois researchers studied how nitrogen in crop residues contributes to loss of soil carbon as the residue decomposes. Their trials showed that any form of nitrogen, either present in the residue or applied as fertilizer, accelerated decomposition by microbes and produced more carbon dioxide. When the residue was fully decomposed, microbes turned to soil carbon, or stable organic matter. This led to greater overall carbon dioxide production from nitrogen-fertilized residue, as well as a long-term loss of soil organic matter. The researchers plan to conduct similar testing in other soil types to see if they perform the same way.




The Federal-State On-Farm Compost Work Group launched an On-Farm Compost Resource Website that provides information and tools to help farmers and ranchers compost agricultural byproducts, including manure, while maintaining compliance with federal, state, and local regulations. The website is hosted by the California Department of Food and Agriculture and was developed as part of a larger collaborative working group that was co-led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service, and California Environmental Protection Agency as well as eleven additional state and regional regulatory bodies. CDFA Secretary Karen Ross noted, "This multi-agency effort will help meet farmer demand for more on-farm composting to ensure safe, nutrient rich soil, and this new online resource provides a single location to show our producers how to put it all together in compliance with California environmental regulations."




Researchers at Penn State say that cover crops in vineyards can reduce erosion during heavy rainfall, enhance soil health, reduce herbicide use, and improve water quality. In addition, they say growers who inform and educate consumers about using cover crops for their environmental benefits may be able to charge more for their wine. Specifically, in a survey conducted during this study, 72% of 956 wine consumers from the mid-Atlantic region were willing to pay $18.99 for a 750-ml bottle of wine, which included a $1 surcharge to cover the additional costs of sustainable production, including use of cover crops.




The FruitGuys Community Fund has announced that it will accept applications for a 2022 small farm sustainability grant cycle beginning in January. FruitGuys Community Fund is asking for volunteer grant reviewers, in the interest of community participation in grantmaking, one of the core building blocks of the movement that connects people with their food system, communities, and the land. Past grant review committees have included community members, small farm and food system advocates, alumni grantees, The FruitGuys' employees, alumni, and clients. Each year 10 to 20 reviewers are invited to participate. The time commitment begins in February and goes through March, totaling about 15 to 20 hours. All participation is virtual. Apply to participate as a reviewer by completing an online questionnaire.




Researchers with the University of California found that grazing can play a role in protecting biodiversity and vulnerable plant species in California's vernal pool habitat. Vernal pools are seasonal, ephemeral ponds that are reservoirs of native plant biodiversity in California's grasslands dominated by invasive and non-native species. However, researchers noted that where pools had been fenced off to protect them from grazing, biodiversity was declining. They found that when cattle were allowed to graze under carefully controlled conditions, biodiversity increased. The cattle preferred to graze on grasses, keeping their expansion in check, while the cattle's footprints filled with moisture, creating miniature vernal pools that sustained greater numbers of native plants.




A new study from the University of British Columbia warns that the supply of ocean-farmed seafood could drop 16% by 2090 if no action is taken to mitigate climate change. Researchers say that if we continue to burn fossil fuels at our current rate, the amount of seafood such as fish or mussels able to be farmed sustainably will increase globally by only 8% by 2050, and decline by 16% by 2090. By comparison, in a low-emissions scenario where the action is taken to mitigate climate change, mariculture is projected to grow by about 17% by the mid-21st century and by about 33% by the end of the century. The effects of climate on mariculture include loss of area where fish farming is viable and shortages of fish-oil and fish-meal-based feeds.




One Good Idea is a new online platform and campaign to help farmers get started and have success with soil health and regenerative practices. Created by a multi-state team of university Extension professionals and farmers, One Good Idea was designed to facilitate farmer-to-farmer learning about practices that can improve soil, land, and bottom lines, such as cover crops, conservation tillage, rotational grazing, and nutrient management. As a clearinghouse of videos and podcasts that feature farmers' ideas and experiences with these practices, One Good Idea creates a centralized location for farmers to learn from their peers about what has worked or hasn't, the benefits and precautions, and other nuts and bolts of using conservation practices on their operations. This content is crowdsourced and has been contributed by university Extension, nonprofits, government agencies, farmer-led groups, and individual farmers from across the Midwest and Mid-south. One Good Idea is the product of a collaboration between Mississippi State University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Kentucky, University of Arkansas, and University of Illinois.




Agricultural Enterprise Areas (AEAs) are community-led efforts to establish designated areas important to Wisconsin's agricultural future. As a part of the state's Farmland Preservation Program, AEAs strive to support local farmland protection goals. Through this designation, communities can encourage continued agricultural production and investment in the local agricultural economy. Eligible landowners within an AEA can sign a 15-year farmland preservation agreement committing all or a portion of their farm to agricultural use and maintaining state soil and water conservation standards. In return, they may be eligible to claim the farmland preservation tax credit. Currently, the Sauk County Land Resources and Environment Department is working with landowners in the Bear Creek agricultural enterprise area (AEA) to further protect and support farmland preservation. Landowners in the AEA who sign a new farmland preservation agreement will receive a $2,000 signing bonus for enrolling up to 200 acres, or a $3,000 signing bonus for enrolling more than 200 acres. A limited amount of funding is available.




A new three-year, $470,387 USDA Acer Access and Development grant will allow the University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension and partners to expand maple sugaring outreach and education efforts in Wisconsin. The project is geared toward private woodland owners, farmers, tribal communities, and other groups that have been overlooked by previous outreach efforts but are well positioned to take advantage of the economic, culinary, and cultural benefits of sugaring. From financial planning to equipment selection and product marketing, the project will meet landowners where they are and help them balance their business and land management goals. A producer needs assessment will commence in early 2022 with outreach efforts beginning later in the year.




American Farmland Trust's Women for the Land Initiative launched a new program, Women Veterans for the Land, to offer resources for women veterans in agriculture over the next three years throughout the Pacific Northwest. The project, funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture AgVets program, aims to foster a community of practice among veteran women farmers in Washington and Oregon through a series of listening sessions, learning circles, and regional convenings. The project will support non-formal education to provide veteran women the necessary skills, training, and experience to be successful in agriculture. AFT will offer a combination of in-person and virtual learning opportunities tailored to the needs and interests of veteran women beginning farmers, current farmers, and farmland owners.




The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) is accepting applications until December 15, 2021, for a new bilingual program offered to help small, specialty crop farms forced to adjust in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to a WSDA Specialty Crop Block Grant, WSDA Regional Markets Program is partnering with Business Impact NW to offer "Profiting from Your Pivot," a new business service providing one-on-one coaching to specialty crop farmers who had to “pivot” their business model due to the pandemic. Program participants will receive free business coaching, farm mentorship, and the opportunity to select from a portfolio of professional services including sales and marketing, financing and loans, business planning, and Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) audit support. Participants can get reimbursed for their first successful USDA GAP certification, if achieved during the course of the program.




In the summer of 2021, the WSU Food Systems Docuseries crew set out for the Portland and Seattle-metro areas to talk with farmers first-hand about their experiences farming in an urbanizing region. The Peri-Urban Agriculture Network has posted the first episode, "Farming Within the Peri-Urban Context: Re-framing the paradigm of what viable agricultural economies look like in urbanizing regions." The 15-minute film is available online. It's the first of five planned episodes.




The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) is providing a $796,878 Seeding Solutions grant to Cornell University to study how different plant genomes respond to environment conditions throughout the entire growing season, with the goal of improving crops' climate resiliency. BASF, Limagrain and Virginia Crop Improvement Association are providing matching funds for a total investment of nearly $1.6 million. To develop climate resilient crops, breeders must first understand how traits such as yield vary across environments and whether genetic variations can influence a crop's sensitivity to climate conditions. With this knowledge, breeders and growers can use genomic data to predict crops' resiliency and select plants for breeding that are best suited to expected and unexpected future climate conditions.




USDA is making $100 million in American Rescue Plan Act available through the Food Supply Chain Guaranteed Loan Program to furnish nearly $1 billion in loan guarantees; these loan guarantees will back private investment in processing and food supply infrastructure. Through the Food Supply Chain Guaranteed Loan Program, USDA will partner with lenders to guarantee loans of up to $40 million to help eligible entities expand meat and poultry processing capacity and finance other food supply chain infrastructure. Lenders may provide the loans to eligible cooperatives, corporations, for profits, nonprofits, Tribal communities, public bodies, and people in rural and urban areas. Funding may be used to start-up or expand food supply chain activities such as aggregating, processing, manufacturing, storing, transporting, wholesaling or distributing food; address supply chain bottlenecks; or increase capacity and help create a more resilient, diverse and secure U.S. food supply chain. USDA is accepting electronic applications from lenders through the Food Supply Chain Online Application System until funds are expended.




USDA has announced the establishment of the Local Food Purchase Assistance Cooperative Agreement Program (LFPA) that will award up to $400 million for emergency food assistance purchases of domestic local foods. Utilizing American Rescue Plan funds, these purchases will expand local and regional markets and place an emphasis on purchasing from historically underserved farmers and ranchers. The awards will be made through non-competitive cooperative agreements with state and tribal governments. Eligible state and tribal governments can apply until April 5, 2022. The cooperative agreements will provide organizations the flexibility to design food purchasing programs and establish partnerships with farmers and ranchers within the state or within 400 miles of the delivery destination that best suit their local needs, accommodates environmental and climate conditions, accounts for seasonal harvests, and meets the needs of the population within their service area. State and tribal governments can partner with nonprofits and will be required to submit proposals indicating how they will use the funds to purchase commodities to support local, regional, and historically underserved farmers and ranchers within their states or region.




Researchers at Iowa State University, The Ohio State University, and the USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS) partnered to find ways to make apple-orchard pesticide applications effective while causing the least harm to the environment. They found that a targeted spraying method that used laser beams and sensors to detect foliage could reduce overall pesticide use by 30-70%. In addition, using a weather-based warning system that measures the number of hours that humidity is over 90% in the orchard helped indicate the appropriate times to use fungicide. This cut fungicide applications by 25%. The research project involved on-farm demonstration trials, and has produced a website, blog posts, podcasts, and short videos to share research results.




An international coalition announced a $19 million research project aimed at understanding how a farmer or rancher's grazing management decisions impact soil health on pasture and rangeland and—in turn—how soil health can positively impact a producer's land and well-being. The "Metrics, Management, and Monitoring: An Investigation of Pasture and Rangeland Soil Health and its Drivers" project was announced at the National Grazing Lands Coalition triennial meeting. The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research awarded Noble Research Institute a $9.5 million grant to lead this critical research that is improving soil health on grazing lands. In turn, Noble Research Institute is providing $7.5 million to the project. For decades, farmers and ranchers who have implemented soil health principles have improved the overall health of their land and have experienced more profitable operations; however, these observations have been largely anecdotal. This research is quantifying these observations and examining how management decisions on grazing lands are connected to the overall health of the ecosystem, including the social and economic well-being of the farmer, rancher, and land manager.




Low Carbon Beef, a cattle certification program that enables beef farmers and ranchers to earn premiums by reducing carbon emissions of their cattle operation, announced it has secured approval as a USDA Process Verified Program (PVP) Service Provider from the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). This approval marks the first USDA PVP for calculating the life cycle GHG emissions for beef production. The PVP will enable beef providers to differentiate and market beef that is raised with reduced greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). Family farms, cattle ranchers, feedyards, and beef packers are eligible to enroll their cattle for the LCB certification. To qualify for the program, cattle must demonstrate at least 10% lower greenhouse gas emissions than the industry standard baselines based on the Low Carbon Beef Scoring Tables. Cattle are measured across 20 criteria associated with feeds, fuels, fertilizers, and cattle function (performance).




The May Ranch in Lamar, Colorado, is finding that environmental stewardship pays, reports the Colorado Sun. The ranch's certification from Audubon Society as a bird-friendly ranch helps add marketing appeal to its products, and Ducks Unlimited paid carbon sequestration credits for vegetation management practices. A conservation easement on the property also proved valuable. The ranch won a 2021 Leopold Conservation Award and has been recognized by researchers for the habitat it provides plant and animal species alike.




California Rangeland Trust posted a video from Yolo Land & Cattle Company in its series of virtual tours. In the last couple of years, the ranch has been hit with devastating wildfires and detrimental drought. The Stones have devoted their time and effort to finding innovative ways to rehabilitate the land and are utilizing compost as a way to sequester carbon and improve the health of the soil. Learn more in the six-minute video.




The Center for Agricultural Development & Entrepreneurship and project partners are surveying New York farmers about what they want to see for the future of New York State's food system by 2050. Participating farmers will be asked to prioritize investments for the NYS food and farming system. Results from this survey will contribute to the VISION 2050 project. The survey represents the second phase of the stakeholder engagement process, built on the results of 17 focus groups which brought together a total of 90 stakeholders from all sectors of the NYS food system in a series of roundtable discussions. This survey will take 15 minutes to complete and will close on December 31, 2021.




The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets announced that more than $1.2 million in Specialty Crop Block Grant Awards will support seven advanced research, education, and marketing projects to help specialty crop farms across New York State grow and remain competitive. The funding will support five grower research and education projects led by Cornell University. Cornell University was also awarded $460,000 for research on identifying alternatives to neonicotinoids and chlorpyrifos for controlling insect pests in New York's specialty crops. In addition, $190,000 from the Specialty Crop Block Grant program will support the marketing and promotion of New York's specialty crops at tradeshows.




On December 7, 2021, NCAT's four-part webinar series focusing on hemp production and cultivation on the West Coast will air as part of the online World Ag Expo's hemp track. This series features the nation's leading hemp experts and includes a wide range of considerations for a sustainable hemp operation. Topics include marketing, production, harvesting, processing, regulation, and insurance.




USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) announced that it is strengthening the hemp crop insurance policy by adding flexibilities around how producers work with processors, as well as improving consistency with the most recent USDA hemp regulation. Producers are no longer required to deliver hemp without economic value for insurability. Additionally, RMA clarified how the amount of insurable acreage is determined if the processor contract specifies both an acreage and a production amount. This change was made in the policy to ensure producers know how their insurable acreage is determined for those contracts. Additionally, RMA added a new requirement for producers who grow direct-seeded hemp, or hemp grown from seeds planted in the ground. Before insurance attaches, producers must have acreage inspected and must have a minimum of 1,200 live plants per acre. The hemp crop insurance policy is available in certain counties within 25 states.




The University of Minnesota is leading a multi-year, multi-state, organic benchmarking effort in partnership with Minnesota State Farm Business Management program to collect and analyze organic financial data. Through this multi-state effort, organic farmers in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota can receive a 25% to 50% cost-share for farm business management participation. Organic producers are eligible if they are an organic dairy farm, raise organic livestock, or produce organic alfalfa, corn, hay, soybeans, wheat, or specialty crops. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Organic data submitted to the FINBIN database will be used in an aggregate form to provide regional benchmark reports and build Extension programming and curriculum regarding the financial stability of organic production.




The University of Minnesota's Forever Green initiative is working to develop and improve crops that provide continuous living cover for farmers. Successful Farming reports that crops that can be used as continuous living cover offer an additional revenue stream to farmers, as well as promoting healthy soil and water. Forever Green has identified a list of productive and profitable crops that includes perennials, winter annuals, and native woody crops.




The Ohio State University published results of a study that examined consumer willingness to purchase cosmetically imperfect produce. The study showed that consumers in a farmers market setting would purchase carrot bundles that contained up to 40% misshapen carrots, if they were accompanied by explanations of both their health equivalence and that using them prevents food waste. This research focused on winning consumer acceptance of imperfect produce without discounting it, a strategy that undermines the food value chain. Although consumer willingness to pay was lower when any imperfect carrots were included in a bunch, consumer acceptance increased with education. This study helped analyze the price point that would make harvesting "ugly" produce profitable for farmers.




The Virginia Farmers Market Association (VAFMA) announced that it received $652,940 of local food system grant funding from USDA, with an additional $163,235 of matching funds committed, to establish the Virginia Certified Farmers Market System. VAFMA says the voluntary branding and support program will help farmers markets emerge from the pandemic with more resilience, capacity, and profitability. The Virginia Certified Farmers Market program will offer markets incentives and support for adopting best practices and adhering to state guidelines. At the core of the program will be VAFMA's extensive online training platform. It will include a range of webinars, mini‐workshops, and full multi‐session courses that will help market managers, farmers, and vendors achieve greater success. VAFMA anticipates launching the program in early spring.




The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a proposed agricultural water rule as part of the agency's implementation of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). It proposes to replace some of the existing requirements for agricultural water in the Produce Safety Rule (PSR). For example, it would require farms to conduct comprehensive assessments that would help them identify and mitigate hazards in water used to grow produce. Key provisions in the proposed rule include a requirement for farms to manage their agricultural water quality based on the results of a comprehensive systems assessment, an annual assessment by farms of their pre-harvest agricultural water, a requirement that farms implement expedited mitigation measures for hazards related to certain activities on adjacent and nearby lands, and removal of certain testing requirements for pre-harvest agricultural water (to be replaced with assessments).




USDA's Risk Management Agency (RMA) announced updates to crop insurance to respond to the needs of agricultural producers, including organic producers, as well as to support conservation of natural resources on agricultural land. RMA is making permanent a provision that allows producers to hay, graze, or chop cover crops and still receive a full prevented planting payment. To accommodate the different farming practices across the country, RMA is also increasing flexibility related to the prevented planting "1 in 4" requirement, as well as aligning crop insurance definitions with USDA's National Organic Program. RMA Administrator Marcia Bunger explained, "We want to provide producers tools to help mitigate and adapt to climate change as well as ensure crop insurance works well for a wide variety of producers, including organic producers."




Producer’s Voice is a new online publication that uses modern-day storytelling to highlight those who are living in the agriculture industry every day. Born out of the desire to provide a place for producers to connect with each other’s stories, Producer’s Voice hopes to facilitate producer-to-producer networking in conjunction with educating subscribers seeking a connection to the industry. The production team will be sharing news, producer features, technical assistance, and more.
To access this post, you must purchase An ATTRA Annual Pass.





North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (NCR-SARE) is seeking applicants with sustainable agriculture expertise for three vacancies on its Administrative Council: 1994 Land Grant University Representative, 1862 Land Grant University At-Large representative. and State Department of Agriculture Representative. Council members must live and work in one of the 12 states that comprise the North Central SARE region. The term for each of these SARE Administrative Council slots is three years. Applications are due by December 17, 2021.




Dairy specialists with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach have recently published a series of nearly a dozen publications related to farm stress. Seven Farm and Family Stress Resources publications are available for free download, in addition to four Managing Farm Stress and Distress publications. The publications cover the varying levels of stress, how to prevent and cope with stress, and how to respond after stressful things happen. The publications strive to cover all facets of life, including family, financial, and relational stress, and there are publications that are unique to men, women, and children.




The Farmer Equity National Assessment Project is seeking to better understand the needs and challenges of Farmers of Color and to highlight farmers' barriers, constraints, and innovations through storytelling. The project team consists of a very diverse team of Ag specialists from the National Center for Appropriate Technology, partners from the Intertribal Ag Council and Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, and Ag professionals who serve as the project's Advisory Council. Information gathered gives us the opportunity to learn how we can better assist Farmers of Color through the services of each organization, as well as informing philanthropy on farmers' needs. We need your help! If you are willing, please complete a survey to be entered on a list of farmers to potentially serve as case studies. We will hand-select 50 farmers for the case studies. If selected, you will be notified and receive a $500 stipend. If you would like to participate, please complete the survey by December 15, 2021.




Researchers with Washington State University have confirmed discovery in the United States of a parasitoid wasp that is the natural enemy of the fruit-damaging spotted-wing drosophila (SWD) fly. The wasp, Ganaspis brasiliensis, is native to South Korea and is a host-specific parasite of spotted-wing drosophila larvae. The Ganaspis parasitoids were recently approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to be reared and distributed around the United States as a biocontrol, but before that could happen, the species apparently made its way into Washington on its own. This means that distribution of the species around the state will not be regulated or limited by USDA.




A team of biochar producers, practitioners, scientists, and engineers have published a roadmap for future development of the biochar industry in the Pacific Northwest and beyond, reports Washington State University. The 184-page report, Biomass to Biochar: Maximizing the Carbon Value, assesses the current state of the biochar industry, identifies the barriers to its development as a key carbon-drawdown strategy, and recommends the research and development needed to overcome these barriers. The roadmap proposes strategic investments, including additional research and development, business support infrastructure, and collaborative policy development. The report also outlines a proposed long-term integrated research program to resolve the most important technical issues associated with the large-scale development of biochar technology needed to draw down large quantities of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in the coming century.




Researchers at Penn State University who have been studying horn fly resistance in dairy cattle report that Holsteins with predominately white coats had lower fly loads than those that were predominately black. The researchers were looking for heritable resistance to provide organic producers with more options for horn fly control. Horn flies not only cause painful bites, but can lead to decreased milk production and poor animal health. Researchers aren't yet suggesting breeding for whiter cattle, however: they can be prone to sunburn and eye cancers. Also, the cattle with the least horn fly resistance were the ones that produced the most milk.




University of Tennessee Knoxville campus is producing its own 'UT Beef' to prepare and serve on campus. Cattle are produced at UT's Northeast Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center in Greeneville, and brought to the table through an agreement with UT Dining Services managed by Aramark. The beef cattle are raised primarily on a pasture-based system, using intensive grazing. "This model should serve producers and consumers across Appalachia as well as those in other regions with the same ability to grow their own forages capable of supporting a complete livestock enterprise," says Justin McKinney, director of the UT Northeast Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center. In addition to providing beef, the program fosters university research in plant and animal science and veterinary medicine.




USDA announced that it will provide approximately $75 million in American Rescue Plan funding to 20 organizations to provide technical assistance to connect underserved producers with USDA programs and services. Organizations were selected for their proven track records working with underserved producer communities, such as veterans, beginning farmers, limited resource producers, and producers living in high-poverty areas. The recipients are as follows: Federation of Southern Cooperatives, Intertribal Agriculture Council, National Black Farmers Association, The Socially Disadvantaged Farmer and Rancher Policy Center at Alcorn State University, Indian Land Tenure Foundation, Land Loss Prevention Project, Rural Coalition, Center for Farm Financial Management, Hmong American Farmers Association, Farmer Veteran Coalition, The Kohala Center, Inc., Alaska Village Initiatives, Farmers Legal Action Group, National Young Farmers Coalition, National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association, The Center for Heirs Property Preservation, National Immigrant Farmer Initiative, Inc, National Cooperative Business Association, National Black Growers Council, and World Farmers, Inc.




The call for presentations for the 2022 International Workshop on Agritourism is open until November 30, 2021. Potential presenters can submit proposals for 20-minute oral presentations, 60-minute workshops, or poster presentations. A list of potential topics is available online. Organizers are also seeking peer reviewers for presentations proposals. The event will take place in Burlington, Vermont, and online from August 30 - September 1, 2022.




Retired Army Reserve Major Amy Hess is ramping up her farming career, reports Farm Week. Hess is raising livestock, poultry, and vegetables. She recently purchased an incubator and invested in a new tractor that will allow her to mow her own hay. She has plans to build a farm stand next year for on-farm sales of meat, eggs, and produce. Hess explains why veterans are well equipped for farming, and credits the Farmer Veteran Coalition with helping bring her plans to fruition.




Agriculture reporter and journalism professor Beth Hoffman moved from California to Iowa and began farming with her husband on family land. She discusses her insights on farming ideals, implementing unconventional farming practices, the importance of making a farming operation pay, and systemic challenges in the industry in an article in The Counter.




Writing on The Fish Site, Isle of Skye mussel farmer Jude Brown explains how she chose her current enterprise and discusses the biodiversity at her farm site. Brown had a background in fisheries, and when she evaluated alternatives, she decided on mussel farming as a sustainability winner. It provides a low-input source of animal protein, helps improve water quality, and offers habitat for a wide range of species.




USDA announced a $90.2 million investment in 203 projects to strengthen and explore new market opportunities for local and regional food businesses through the Local Agriculture Marketing Program. Through the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Programs, this funding will help support direct producer-to-consumer marketing projects such as farmers markets, community-supported agriculture programs, roadside stands, and agritourism, as well as regional food business intermediary supply chain activities including processing, distribution, aggregation, and storage of locally or regionally produced food products. Meanwhile, the Regional Food System Partnerships program will support partnerships that connect public and private resources to plan and develop local or regional food systems. A full list of grant recipients is available online.




Delaware Governor John Carney, the Delaware Department of Agriculture, and the Delaware Council on Farm and Food Policy announced that the state will use $2 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding to establish the First State Integrated Food System Program. The program is designed to help stabilize and strengthen Delaware's small and mid-sized farmers and local food supply chain operations. According to the governor, "the Council on Farm and Food Policy will work with partners to develop and administer a diverse portfolio of grants and loans to improve the availability and accessibility of local produce, animal protein, value-added products, and other foods, promoting overall economic growth here in Delaware."




As some California farmers struggle with drought conditions, many Central Coast farmers can provide models of successful water conservation, reports the Monterey Herald. Farms that were threatened by saltwater intrusion decades ago have developed strategies for farming successfully with less water, such as recycling wastewater, using drip irrigation, and choosing crops that require less water. Some farmers use dryland techniques to produce crops that don't need to be watered for months at a time. Improving soil organic matter can also help the soil hold water longer.




First Nations Development Institute is accepting applications for its Native Farmer and Rancher Apprenticeship Network until December 22, 2021. The Network will provide training and technical assistance, as well as networking opportunities, to a cohort of 30 select Native American Beginning Farmer and Ranchers to expand their business capacity and strengthen land management strategies. Eligible applicants should be located in one of the following six states: Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Arizona, or New Mexico. Applicants should be willing to commit to a 30-month apprenticeship, from February 1, 2022, to July 31, 2024, which will involve traveling to regional in-person trainings, participating in virtual webinars and fieldwork, and networking with other producers.




A large-scale survey carried out by the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, partners, and more than 1,000 landowners across the country highlighted the importance of pollinator habitat. It found that woodland and hedgerow creation, along with other actions such as restoring wildflower meadows and organic farming with mass-flowering crops, can play a crucial role in action to reverse declines in insects that are essential for crop yield and other wildlife. Researchers found up to twice as many insects in broadleaved woodland areas as in intensively farmed grassland. They also estimated that without hedgerows, pollinator abundance on farmland could fall by as much as 21%. The findings underscore the importance of incentive programs for creating and protecting pollinator habitat.




The Kentucky Department of Agriculture announced that USDA's Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials program awarded two grants in the state. In the first project, Handsome Brook Farms will support five beginning farmers in adopting climate-smart regenerative egg practices. In the second project, as part of a multi-state effort, the University of Kentucky Research Foundation will increase adoption of bale grazing to improve winter feed management for beef cattle farmers by demonstrating the practical, economic and ecological benefits of this strategy.




The Yale Center for Business and the Environment's Regenerative Agriculture Initiative released a new publication, Soil Health Policy: Developing Community-Driven State Soil Health Policy and Programs. Two Yale Master of Environmental Management students worked with dozens of practitioners and other experts in farming, climate adaptation, policymaking, sustainable investment, coalition-building, and related fields to provide practical advice for people interested in developing community-driven, state-level soil health policy and programs. Readers will find counsel on outreach, drafting, writing, implementation, and monitoring for soil-relevant outcomes.




Washington State University reports that scientists testing sweetpotato as a potential crop for Washington have achieved better yields than in southern states. Researchers say the sweetpotatoes grow bigger and faster with longer daylight in the Pacific Northwest. They used biodegradable plastic mulch to warm the soil to encourage production. The crop could provide producers with another crop to add in rotation—one that also produces a nutritious and high-value product. In addition, the edible sweetpotato vines could be used as a dairy feed. One potential threat to the crop is wireworm, and researchers are testing varieties for resistance.




The Kansas Rural Center (KRC) received a Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) grant from USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture to develop a beginning farmer and rancher training program. Over the next year, KRC will form the curriculum for the training with feedback from new and prospective farmers, as well as partners from around Kansas and the Farm Beginnings Collaborative. The beginning farmer training program will feature instruction on business formation and management, recordkeeping, access to land and capital, state and federal farm assistance programs, and many more topics. Farmers and other agriculture professionals will provide the primary instruction for each farmer cohort, with classroom instruction in the winter months and farm tours and workshops during the growing season.




With funding from a USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) grant, University of Florida/IFAS Extension agents, the University of the Virgin Islands, and central Florida farmers are exploring sorrel's potential as a commercial crop in Florida. The hardy plant is native to Africa, but is commonly grown in the Caribbean islands and is a common ingredient in Caribbean foods and beverages. The plant is being grown in research plots in Florida, and the SARE-funded project will be documenting and doing outreach on the production methods, cost of production, yields, and income projections for the crop.




The Sand County Foundation has announced the Leopold Conservation Award recipients for 2021 in North Dakota, Wisconsin, New England, Missouri, and Utah. This award, named after renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, recognizes farmers, ranchers, and foresters who inspire others with their dedication to land, water, and wildlife-habitat management on private land. The awards, which include $10,000 and a crystal award, are presented annually in numerous states by the Sand County Foundation, national sponsor American Farmland Trust, and many state and local sponsors.




The Heinz Family Foundation in Pittsburgh has announced the winners of the twenty-sixth annual Heinz Awards. Established in 1993 to honor the memory of Sen. John Heinz, the awards recognize extraordinary individuals for their achievement in finding solutions to critical issues in areas that were important to Heinz: the arts and humanities; the environment; the human condition; public policy; and technology, the economy, and employment. The award includes an unrestricted cash prize of $250,000. One of the 2021 Environment Award recipients is Gabe Brown, from Bismarck, North Dakota, a pioneer in regenerative agriculture and soil health who is catalyzing the movement to change land use practices.




Thanks to funding from Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE), NCAT is offering a six-month course for beginning livestock farmers who are women. This course will be offered in convenient virtual classes where students will interact with each other and with women mentors, including NCAT specialists. It will be capped with a two-day in-person training offered in two locations: Cookeville, Tennessee, June 20-21, 2022, and Fayetteville, Arkansas, June 27-28, 2022. We are excited to gather a group of 30 women to participate in each location. The application is available online.




A report released by the Iowa Food Hub Managers Working Group and ISU Extension and Outreach showed that school purchases of local food from food hubs dropped from 2020 to 2021, when financial incentives were no longer available. In 2020, schools received Local Produce and Protein Program grants, but when those funds were no longer available in 2021, many fewer schools purchased local food. Schools that already had established relationships with local food providers were likely to continue to purchase local foods, however. Over time, schools with established relationships tend to make larger and more frequent purchases of local food. The study also made several recommendations on how food hubs could help schools increase local food purchasing.




A methodology developed by the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, the Varietal Threat Index, proposes a systematic way to monitor changes in varietal diversity on farm, between areas, and over time. The approach uses a rapid assessment technique to gather farmer knowledge about local agrobiodiversity, combined with a four-cell assessment method to identify and calculate the level of threat for each crop and variety reported, including both farmer and improved varieties. A study in India that involved 600 farmers identified significant diversity among landrace crops, but it also revealed that 76% or more of landraces were reported as vulnerable, near-threatened, threatened, or lost.




The Cornell Small Farms Program is offering a block of online agriculture courses with live instruction beginning in January 2022. Topics include access to capital, farm business courses, and production courses covering beekeeping, mushrooms, sheep, pastured pigs, high tunnels, and vegetables. These courses have tiered pricing based on household size and income to make access to the courses more affordable and equitable for everyone. Registrants receive permanent online access to their course content.




Quivira Coalition is accepting applications until December 15, 2021, for its New Agrarian Program's 2022 season. This program partners with skilled ranchers and farmers to offer eight-month apprenticeships in regenerative agriculture, usually from March or April until November. Participants are involved in four types of education: experiential learning with a mentor, supplemental monthly online sessions that are topic-based, visits to other operations, and the annual Quivira Conference. Mentoring locations are in Montana, Colorado, New Mexico, and California and offer housing and stipends.




Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops announced a partnership with CropTrak, a cloud technology company, to accelerate adoption of the Stewardship Calculator 2.0 across the specialty food supply chain. The partnership leverages CropTrak's technology and on-the-ground expertise with growers to deepen the level of insight and improve user experience of the tool. The Stewardship Calculator 2.0 can be used to track on-farm water, energy/GHG, fertilizer use efficiency, and soil organic matter, as well as biodiversity, food waste, and irrigation efficiency. This empowers participants across the supply chain to baseline the environmental impacts of fruit, nut and vegetable production and identify opportunities for continuous improvement.




USDA announced formation of the USDA Indigenous Food Sovereignty Initiative to promote traditional food ways, Indian Country food and agriculture markets, and Indigenous health through foods tailored to American Indian/Alaska Native dietary needs. To kick off the Initiative, the Office of Tribal Relations (OTR) is partnering with several tribal-serving organizations to develop seven projects that raise awareness of Indigenous perspectives about food and agriculture and inform future USDA programs and policies. Projects will explore issues such as marketing Indigenous-produced foods, supporting seed saving centers, and transitioning to bison production.




USDA is accepting applications for approximately $650 million in funding through the Pandemic Response and Safety (PRS) Grant Program until November 22, 2021. Small businesses and nonprofits can apply for a grant to cover COVID-related expenses such as workplace safety measures (e.g., personal protective equipment (PPE), retrofitting facilities for worker and consumer safety, shifting to online sales platforms, transportation, worker housing, and medical costs. Specialty crop producers and processors, aquaculture, apiculture, distributors, and farmers markets are eligible. USDA reminds potential applicants that the first step in applying is getting a DUNS number, which can take up to five days.




In its first major public initiative, the Organic Agriculture Institute—a program of University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources—is conducting a statewide needs assessment for organic agriculture, as well as forming a knowledge-sharing network that connects UC experts with growers, processors, producer organizations, certifiers, crop consultants, community groups, and state agencies. This California Organic Agriculture Knowledge Network, or Cal OAK Network, builds upon the productive partnerships and knowledge systems established by organic growers and other stakeholders over many decades. The Institute recently received a planning grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture to conduct a formal needs assessment through summer 2022. In surveying growers and other stakeholders, the Institute seeks to identify their primary research and extension priorities, as well as gain a better understanding of the key people and organizations they currently rely on for information about organic production.




The Midwest Perennial Forage Working Group was awarded a NCR- SARE Research & Education grant for its proposed project, "Match Made in Heaven: Livestock + Crops." The project will survey producers in six Midwestern states about the opportunities and barriers related to integration or re-integration of livestock and crop production with the goal of identifying strategies to capture the environmental, economic, and social benefits of diverse crop rotations and integrated systems. The three-year project will create opportunities for farmers to speak about their interests, challenges, and needs, and allow the crop and livestock organizations that they engage with to adapt their programming to meet current and future interests and needs. The grant will fund a complementary activity to explore the economics of re-integrating crops and livestock production.




USDA is investing $20.2 million in Dairy Business Innovation Initiatives at University of Tennessee, Vermont Agency for Food and Marketing, University of Wisconsin, and the California State University Fresno. DBI Initiative provides valuable technical assistance and sub-grants to dairy farmers and businesses across their regions, assisting them with business plan development, marketing and branding, as well as increasing access to innovative production and processing techniques to support the development of value-added products. More information on the specific activities of the regional initiatives is available online.




The Oregon Department of Agriculture announced that nearly $2 million in Specialty Crop Block Grants from USDA will be awarded to 15 Oregon projects aimed at helping producers overcome obstacles, making their operations more profitable, and helping them grow, making them more competitive in the marketplace. A list of the funded projects is available online. It includes projects on beekeeping, pest management, Asian herbs, vineyard irrigation, and more.




With support from the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA), the Eat Local First Collaborative has expanded the Washington Food & Farm Finder, an online tool to connect consumers with food that is grown, caught, raised, and made by Washington growers and producers. The expansion added a section for wholesale vendors to the directory in late October, to better assist school districts and other institutions trying to source locally grown produce. Institutional buyers can search listings by city name, Zip code, category, product, distribution method, delivery area, and more. The wholesale tool also includes five diversity and seven sustainability icons to indicate a vendor's identities and their environmental and social practices.




The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) and Ranchin' Vets have teamed up to offer a new level of support for military veterans interested in sustainable agriculture training opportunities. Ranchin' Vets will fund a one-time transportation stipend directly to veterans selected to participate in NCAT's Armed to Farm training program. The one-week sustainable agriculture Armed to Farm training has always been free for veterans and their spouses or farm partners to attend. However, attendees have always been responsible for getting themselves to the training site, which could require long drives across several states or even airfare. "We're very thankful for this opportunity to offer another level of support to the farmer veterans who attend Armed to Farm," said Margo Hale, Armed to Farm Program Director.




The Gilbert family of Iowa Falls, Iowa, operating as Gibralter Farms, has been named by natural meat brand Niman Ranch as its 2021 Sustainable Farm of the Year. The Gilberts raise antibiotic-free, pasture-farrowed pigs, milk Brown Swiss dairy cattle, and grow an array of crops and forage. The Gilbert family uses various sustainable farming practices including crop rotation, no- and ridge-till, riparian buffers, rotational grazing, conservation land, and terracing. A short video about the Gilbert family and their passion for sustainability is posted online.




University of New Hampshire scientists will share in two grants totaling nearly $13 million that will fund investigation into supplementing dairy cow diets with seaweed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve milk quality and animal health. One study, led by the University of Vermont, will focus on using different species of seaweed as an alternative feed in organic dairy management. UNH and UVM researchers will work with the organic dairy and the organic aquaculture industries to further develop their collaboration so that it financially benefits both markets in a sustainable manner. The second project is led by the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences and Colby College and investigates using algae-based feed supplements in conventional dairy industries to balance quality milk production with environmental, economic, and social sustainability.




A professor at Clemson University will lead research funded by USDA NIFA to explore waste carbon sources for use in Anaerobic Soil Disinfestation (ASD). During this study, researchers will explore developing, improving, and evaluating systems-based integrated management programs to address diseases, nematodes, weeds, and insect pest-related problems for organically grown crops. On-farm carbon waste and cover crops will be tested as carbon sources. ASD involves applying organic matter (carbon source) to soil, followed by irrigation, to create an environment toxic to diseases, nematodes, weeds, and insect pests.




A project in New Zealand is releasing a series of 20 reports in November, each providing recommendations for how claims regarding specific possible benefits of regenerative agriculture could be tested in Aotearoa New Zealand. The report releases are accompanied by a webinar series. A group of four reports released last week focused on approaches to test whether regenerative agriculture can offer 'nature-based' solutions for climate change. Three more reports just released focus on regenerative agriculture's impact on animal welfare and biodiversity. The first of these reports says that regenerative farming practices could increase native biodiversity on New Zealand farms. The second report outlines how to assess the impact of regenerative farming on the welfare of animals raised for production, while the third examines how invertebrates like spiders and worms can be counted to evaluate the impact of regenerative farming practices.




Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) announced that 11 members either newly joined or were reappointed to the 19-member Emerging Farmers' Working Group. This advisory group advises the MDA and Minnesota Legislature on ways to advance the success and sustainability of farmers who traditionally face barriers to the resources necessary to build profitable agricultural businesses. Emerging Farmers are defined as women, veterans, persons with disabilities, American Indian/Alaskan Native, communities of color, young, and urban farmers. In 2021, the Legislature appropriated $150,000 to establish an Emerging Farmers Office and hire a full-time coordinator. This new coordinator will help ensure that anyone who wants to farm can access the available resources and build a successful farm business.




North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (NCR-SARE) announced the recipients of its 2021 Research and Education competitive grant program (R&E) and its 2021 Professional Development Program (PDP). The R&E grants awarded more than $3.7 million to 15 projects, and the PDP grants awarded more than $931,000 to 11 projects. Recipients and project titles are listed online, and the results of these projects will be made available on the NCR-SARE website.




USDA is awarding $25 million for 18 new projects under the Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials program. On-Farm Trials projects support widespread adoption and evaluation of innovative conservation approaches in partnership with agricultural producers. This year's awarded projects increase the adoption of new approaches and technologies to help agricultural producers mitigate the effects of climate change, increase the resilience of their operations, and boost soil health. Descriptions of the funded projects are available online. They include topics such as irrigation efficiency, bale grazing, pollinator conservation, and regenerative egg farming.




Research published by the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies explored how the combined stressors of rising temperatures and residual livestock antibiotics interact to affect soil microbial function. The research team found that heat and antibiotics disrupt soil microbial communities, degrading soil microbe efficiency, resilience to future stress, and ability to trap carbon. This research focused on the common livestock antibiotic Monensin, which is poorly metabolised and still active in the waste of treated livestock. With rising heat and antibiotic additions under laboratory conditions, soil bacteria populations collapsed, allowing fungi to dominate and homogenize, resulting in fewer total microbes and less microbial diversity overall. Senior author Michael Strickland, at the University of Idaho, says, "Forces of environmental change do not play out in isolation. Our results show that heat alone, antibiotics alone, and heat and antibiotics together all have different effects on soil microbial communities. These findings highlight the importance of testing multiple stressors simultaneously to more fully understand how our soils, and the essential functions they perform, are changing."




The research project "Supporting a Vibrant Organic Sector" is hosting virtual focus groups of organic farmers in December for a study on economic sustainability of organic farms. Researchers are currently recruiting organic farmers to participate. The first virtual focus group, on December 7, 2021, will involve certified organic fruit and vegetable farmers. The focus group on December 9, 2021, is for farmers who gave up their organic certification. Participants in either focus group will receive a $75 honorarium and can contact Carolyn Dimitri, carolyn.dimitri@nyu.edu, to register.




Organizers of the 11th Organic Seed Growers Conference are inviting suggestions and proposals for the conference agenda. The virtual event is set for February 4-11, 2022, on a new and emerging platform called Organic Seed Commons. This is an opportunity to share important skills and research and ask timely questions related to organic seed. This year, the conference planning committee has expanded the types of sessions and ways to contribute to the event and is welcoming both proposals for peer-reviewed sessions and open proposals. All submissions are due by December 1, 2021. Organizers are particularly interested in proposals that include growers from Black, Indigenous, People of Color, and LGBTQIA+ seed communities.




USDA is accepting applications for up to $20 million in assistance for producers through the new Organic and Transitional Education and Certification Program. The program is part of USDA's Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative and can help cover eligible expenses incurred during fiscal years 2020, 2021, and/or 2022. The program offers assistance for both certified organic operations and operations that are in transition. The program offers cost share for organic certification expenses, registration for educational events on organic production and handling, and soil testing required under the National Organic Program. Applications for fiscal years 2020 and 2021 expense cost-shares will be accepted through January 7, 2022.




American Farmland Trust (AFT) announced its selection of a new national cohort of 48 leading experts in land transfer as partners in its project "Transitioning Land to a New Generation." AFT says the project will build an adaptable, skills-based curriculum to help a new generation of farmers and ranchers navigate the legal, financial, and interpersonal issues involved in accessing and transferring land. The cohort will be trained to field test the curriculum in their communities and provide feedback from producers. The project will foster a service provider network and provide trainers with necessary skills to support farm and ranch transition, meeting growing demands for succession facilitation resources.




The Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides has released two short videos featuring organic producers in Oregon who raise hemp, talking about their approaches to pest management. The videos feature small-scale producer True Roots Organics in Nyssa, Oregon, and mid-scale producer Rainshadow Organics in Central Oregon, hemp growers taking preventative approaches through holistic farm management.




The Livestock Conservancy has produced a set of Heritage Sheep Breed Fiber profiles that sheep producers can use to provide wool information to customers. The 23 profiles detail each breed's fleece weight, staple length, fiber diameters, lock characteristics, natural colors, and best uses for fiber projects. The profiles are downloadable in PDF by breed or as a set.




The Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC) is releasing a new edition of its Cover Crops Field Guide. The pocket-sized in-field reference helps growers effectively select, grow, and use cover crops. Topics include cover crop selection, cropping system recommendations, and effects of cover crops. Updates to the guide include recommendations for cover crop termination in unfavorably wet springs and planting green into cover crops. The cover crop species section of the guide has also been expanded to incorporate white clover, forage brassicas, balansa clover, and several cover crops commonly used in a mix. The publication will be available for sale in early December.




Heifer USA, the U.S. program of global development organization Heifer International, announced its new status as an accredited Savory Global Network Hub with the Savory Institute. The accreditation qualifies Heifer USA's Heifer Ranch in Perryville, Arkansas, to serve as a training, learning and demonstration site for the Savory Institute's Holistic Management framework. According to a press release, "As one of 33 accredited Savory Hubs across the globe, Heifer USA is establishing itself as a best-in-class agriculture institution that is uniquely positioned to transform rural Arkansas and America's heartland into thriving, self-sustaining communities. Heifer USA will be instrumental in scaling up regenerative agriculture to meet U.S. climate commitments, training farmers across the country in methods that will generate healthy farmland, while creating more economically viable farm businesses that connect farmers with new markets."




University of Wisconsin agronomy professor Randy Jackson has been exploring the potential for cropping systems to accumulate enough carbon in agricultural soils to help stabilize the climate, reports Agri-View. Jackson's 15 years of research have shown that all cropping systems studied, including crop rotations and organic rotations, lose carbon over time. Pasture systems were able to maintain carbon levels, but this reflected a small gain in the top 30 cm offset by losses below that level. "We're losing 25 grams of carbon per meter squared in the annual cropping systems when we need to be gaining between 10 and 70 grams to be in serious contention for discussing climate stabilization," Jackson said.




Voters in Maine approved an amendment to the state's constitution specifying that all people have a "natural, inherent and unalienable right" to grow, raise, produce, and consume food of their own choosing as long as they do so within legal parameters, reports The Washington Post. Maine has paced the nation with food sovereignty legislation, and the current measure is aimed at giving communities more control over local food supplies. Supporters of the amendment say it will reduce hunger and protect the food system from corporate control. Opponents say the vague wording of the amendment could lead to problems with animal welfare and food safety.




A six-part webinar series hosted by University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program is exploring aspects of Racial Equity in Extension. The historically tense relationship between Indigenous peoples and government-affiliated programs is one of the discussion topics. The series also discusses issues such as accessing indigenous agricultural knowledge, land access for people of color, closing communication gaps, and inclusive decision-making processes. Organizers say the series has sparked "introspection and a meaningful reevaluation of institutional processes and assumptions." Information on registering for the remaining episodes in the series is available online.




The Washington State Department of Agriculture received approximately $4.6 million from USDA in Specialty Crop Block Grant funds. Awards ranging from $54,000 to $250,000 will go to non-profits, government organizations, universities and community colleges, and agricultural commissions in support of 20 projects that increase the competitiveness of specialty crops grown in Washington. The projects include efforts to address local and international marketing for Washington specialty crops, studying parasitoids with the ability to infest and kill the apple maggot and snowberry flies, removing trees infected with little cherry disease and X-disease, launching and marketing cherries in India, and refining mechanical-assisted harvest technologies. A complete list of funded projects is available online.




A multidisciplinary research team from Penn State University and the University of Florida received a $3 million grant through USDA's Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative for a four-year project to explore how anaerobic soil disinfestation (ASD) can be used to preserve soil health and make organic farming systems more sustainable. This project focuses on optimizing soil health and effectively managing soilborne pests and pathogens by implementing ASD in organic strawberry and vegetable crops in Florida and Pennsylvania. It involves research, on-farm trials, and outreach.




At the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), the United States and United Arab Emirates officially launched the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM for Climate) alongside 31 countries and more than 48 non-government partners. AIM for Climate is a pioneering initiative uniquely focused on increasing investment and enabling greater public-private and cross-sectoral partnerships, intended to both raise global climate ambition, and underpin transformative climate action in the agriculture sector in all countries. Details on participating countries and partners and the objectives and focus of AIM for Climate are available online.




American Farm Bureau Foundation announced 'American Farm Trail,' a new agritourism app that will showcase agritourism operations and tours. The app and its searchable directory are set to launch next spring. For now, developers are looking for agritourism stops to add to the app. Farms and attractions can create their own free profile showcasing their operation, history, products, and more. Instructions for submitting listings are available online.




A new program seeks to answer the economic questions farmers have about cover crops and provide benchmarking data for farmers using or considering planting cover crops. According to a press release, Environmental Defense Fund and the University of Minnesota's Center for Farm Financial Management have partnered to establish a new financial data gathering process for cover crops within the FINBIN database—the largest publicly available farm financial database and benchmarking service in the country. Enterprise-level farm financial data will be gathered in the FINBIN database and analyzed to compare the relative profitability of farms using cover crops to the farms not using cover crops.




The Organic Center reports that a study published in Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems found that properly managed manure-based soil amendments are safe for use in crops to be eaten fresh. This study examined the potential for bacterial transfer to fresh produce harvested from USDA NOP certified organic farms. It found that pathogens diminished over time but at different rates. Current waiting periods for organic produce of 90 or 120 days, depending on which part of the plant is to be eaten, were validated by this study. The study authors caution that results should not be generalized and that additional research is needed.




USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has announced an investment of nearly $25 million for 50 grants supporting Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN) State Department of Agriculture projects. Projects selected for funding initiate, expand, or sustain programs that provide professional agricultural behavioral health counseling and referral for other forms of assistance through farm telephone helplines and websites; training programs and workshops; support groups; and outreach services and activities. Information on the projects awarded funding is available online.




California FarmLink is accepting applications for its "Resilerator," a comprehensive business curriculum designed for farmers, ranchers and fishers with at least two years of experience as a business owner. The Resilerator is like a business accelerator, but the emphasis is on long-term resilience and sustainable profits and practices. The Resilerator begins with each participant completing a Business Resilience Self-assessment. The next ten weeks cover topics including business structure, labor, land tenure, accounting, taxation, credit, insurance, and regulatory compliance. The course ends with setting realistic goals for improving business practices for the next two to three years. Applications for the 2022 cohort are due by December 1, 2021, and the course runs from January 11 - March 24, 2022.




Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (Northeast SARE) is seeking a farmer to serve on its 20-member Administrative Council, the leadership committee that provides program oversight, grant proposal evaluation and internal policy guidance. The open seat is one of four that represent farmers. Northeast SARE is especially interested in having the perspective of Black, Indigenous and other People of Color (BIPOC) farmers represented on the AC and encourages BIPOC farmers and growers to consider applying. Interested individuals should email a letter describing their interest in serving, a resume, and a profile of their farm by December 3, 2021.




USDA is investing more than $243 million in grants through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and the Specialty Crop Research Initiative grants program. A total of $169.9 million in non-competitive SCBGP funding will go to the departments of agriculture in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the five U.S. territories, to be used for sub-grants for activities and programs to increase demand for agricultural goods and address issues facing the specialty crop industry including food safety, plant pests and disease, research, education, and marketing and promotion. Meanwhile, the 21 grants through the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) program will help address critical challenges facing conventional and organic food and agricultural production systems across the specialty crop industry. Examples from this round of funding include strawberry transplant health, high tunnel growing systems, and food safety for specialty crops.




The Farm Equity National Assessment project is highlighting stories of BIPOC farmers across the nation and is looking for BIPOC farmers who would be interested in sharing their stories as a case study for this project. Farmers interested in participating can fill out an online survey by November 8, 2021. Selected farmers will be asked to participate in case study interviews following this survey. The case study may include a short video or podcast (interview style) that will highlight innovations, barriers, constraints, or best practices. There is a $500 stipend for the 50 farmers who are selected as case studies.




The Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation and the Soil Health Institute announced the launch of Institute's U.S. Regenerative Cotton Fund (USRCF), a unique, farmer-facing, science-based initiative that will support long-term, sustainable cotton production in the United States, with the goal of eliminating one million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent from the atmosphere by 2026. Organizers say the USRCF will empower cotton farmers to adopt regenerative practices, like cover cropping and no till, in a way that benefits their operation. The Soil Health Institute will work closely with cotton farmers to help them measure and monitor the environmental, societal, and economic benefits of soil health management systems on their operations. Through the USRCF, improvements in soil health and carbon sequestration will be measured through an approach developed by the Soil Health Institute called soil health and soil carbon targets. Participating partners of the Fund include Cotton Incorporated, National Cotton Council, and Field to Market. The USRCF will initially operate in Arkansas, Texas, Mississippi, and Georgia and will look to expand into Alabama, North Carolina, Missouri, California, and Oklahoma.




The Center for Rural Affairs has released a new resource guide to inform producers who grow small grains about crop insurance options, From Seed to Secured: Crop Insurance for Small Grains. The guide includes information about the availability of established Multi-Peril policies for small grains, as well as what to do if there is not an available Multi-Peril policy in your county. It also discusses a special option, or "endorsement," available for malting barley; describes Whole Farm Revenue Protection; and gives a brief overview of the landscape of private policies offered by crop insurance agents. The guide is available free online.




USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has announced fiscal year 2022 assistance opportunities for agricultural producers and private landowners for key programs, such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), and Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) program. Although applications are accepted for these programs year-round, applicants must meet state-specific cutoff dates to be considered for this year's funding. Information on individual states' cutoff dates is available online, along with details on special provisions for historically underserved producers.




The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) will lead a regional partnership to help more than 300 beginning farmers and ranchers across the Northern Great Plains explore the value, viability, and resilience of raising organic field crops. The three-year project is funded by a Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program grant through USDA. Project partners include Montana Organic Association, Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society, Center for Rural Affairs, the Intertribal Agriculture Council, Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society, International Organic Inspectors Association, North Dakota State, and University of Wyoming




Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service is accepting applications for Cohort 11 of the BattleGround to Breaking Ground program for active-duty military, veterans, and others. The program includes face-to-face and online educational training in farm management and production, individualized educational planning to support diverse agriculture business interests, and both hands-on and online learning. Phase 1 is an agriculture workshop. Phase 2 involves 16 weeks of online business-planning courses, individual education planning, educational webinars and additional educational modules. It also addresses business planning, agriculture operations and management, and agricultural marketing. Phase 3 is hands-on training involving eight months of online courses specific to the participant's production area; 100 hours of hands-on learning through mentorship and custom-tailored learning opportunities; ongoing transition and disability support services; and monthly coaching and education planning calls. Each cohort has a limit of 45 participants, and 15 of these spaces are offered tuition-free for active duty and retired military whose applications are accepted. Applications are due by December 1, 2021.




A research team led by The Nature Conservancy and World Wildlife Fund produced a study detailing 20 indicators to support ranch-level sustainability. Identifying these indicators was part of an effort to help ranchers more consistently measure, manage, and communicate about the sustainability of their operations. The team selected 20 commonly used "core" indicators (12 ecological and 8 socioeconomic), which are designed to detect change over time for management practices, are common among many approaches, and/or are critical for outcomes of common interest to producers, companies, and consumers. According to a press release, more consistently used and agreed upon indicators spanning ecological, social and economic interests will lead to a better understanding of sustainability at the ranch level, which in turn would better equip ranchers with the information necessary to communicate how they are making progress toward sustainability goals in their own operations.




Three research reports from Practical Farmers of Iowa report on the economics of different aspects of cover crop grazing. Ben Albright, who operates a diversified crop and feedlot operation with his family, tested grazing feedlot cattle on adjacent fields with cover crops and found the practice profitable. In another project, four farmers tested the profitability of grazing a cereal rye cover crop in a corn-soybean rotation and found the grazing profitable. Experienced cover-crop user Mark Glawe experimented with four different cover crop mixes and determined the forage value of each. The research reports are all available online.




Winrock International received a $1.25 million grant from USDA for its project "Advancing Organic Agriculture in the Mid-South," reports Talk Business & Politics. The project will focus on Arkansas, Missouri, and Tennessee, where organic production lags behind other states. The project will demonstrate successful organic systems at the farm scale and will offer training and education opportunities for the public and farmers who want to transition to organic production. It will also create a community of practice for new organic farmers.




Researchers at Texas A&M University have released two new hybrid varieties of sorghum developed in part for their popping characteristics, reports the American Society of Agronomy. Though sorghum grain is mostly used as an animal feed in the United States, interest in it as a gluten-free grain product for human consumption has risen recently. Popped sorghum is more digestible than the unpopped grain, and can be used in food applications where popcorn is too large, such as granola bars. The popped grain also has been used as an animal feed. The new Texas varieties were chosen for popping efficiency, expansion ratio, and size.




Researchers reporting in Environmental Science & Technology say that per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have been found in samples of organic waste used as agricultural fertilizers, according to the American Chemical Society. PFAS, used in non-stick coatings, water-repellant fabrics and firefighting foams, have already been detected throughout the environment, raising toxicity concerns. This study characterized multiple classes of PFAS in organic waste products such as livestock manures, urban sewage sludges and composts, and industrial wastes, that were applied to agricultural lands in France. Over 90% of the samples contained at least one PFAS, with up to 113 compounds detected in a single sample. The team detected fewer and lower levels of PFAS in livestock manures than in wastes of urban origin. In the urban wastes, they detected high levels of PFAS compounds that are not commonly monitored, suggesting that previous studies underestimated total PFAS levels.




Washington State's new Farmland Protection and Affordability Investment program (FarmPAI) will help land trusts move quickly to protect critical farmland from development, says American Farmland Trust. The program will utilize $7 million in state funding to help land trusts and individual farmers purchase working farmland while they are arranging financing alternatives. Under one scenario, a land trust would purchase land and hold it while an individual farmer secures financing. The trust would continue to hold a conservation easement on the land. The program has an explicit commitment to equitable access for would-be farmers who are Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC). Carol Smith, Executive Director of the Washington State Conservation Commission, explains, “As a new tool in our toolbox, FarmPAI will allow conservation groups to step in and acquire priority farmland and provide an opportunity for land to be offered back to farmers at its agricultural value...Land affordability is a critical issue for the next generation of Washington farmers."




A network of more than 70 farmers in coastal southern California is growing coffee, reports The Denver Channel. The crop helps farmers diversify their income, and they hope that fine California coffee, like fine California wine, will develop a market niche. Strategies such as intercropping are helping to protect the California crop from weather conditions that are threatening equatorial coffee production. Meanwhile, one producer, Good Land Organics, has developed a vertically integrated operation that produces award-winning coffee.




Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) is accepting applications until November 30, 2021, for its Farmer-to-Farmer Mentorship Program. The year-long mentorship program empowers organic farmers through one-on-one guidance as they grow their business, seek organic certification, add farm enterprises, hone production skills, balance farm and family, and more. Mentorships are available in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Applicants must have been operating their farm business for at least one year prior to application date. Applications for both mentors and mentees are being accepted.




USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has announced funding for a new project led by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment. This $10 million, four-year project will study agrivoltaics in a variety of land types and climate scenarios in Illinois, Colorado, and Arizona. "Agrivoltaics—co-locating energy and food production—has the potential to reduce this competition for land," project leader Madhu Khanna said. "Our proposed project for Sustainably Colocating Agricultural and Photovoltaic Electricity Systems (SCAPES) will provide a comprehensive analysis of the transformative potential of agrivoltaics. Our goal is to maintain or even increase crop yield, increase the combined (food and electricity) productivity of land, and diversify and increase farmers' profits with row crops, forage, and specialty crops across a range of environments."




The Journal of Soil and Water Conservation is inviting submission of research papers for a special issue on climate change impacts on soil and water conservation, to be published in January 2023. This special issue will synthesize knowledge of the state of soil and water conservation and advance understanding of the soil-water-climate system, emerging technologies, and climate change adaptation and mitigation policies and practices to foster resilient agricultural and forest systems that can support the people dependent on them. Papers must be submitted for peer review by April 1, 2022.




Practical Farmers of Iowa published the results of a trial of 18 varieties of oats at four Iowa State University research farms. Streaker, a hulless variety, routinely yielded least but always scored the highest test weight at each location, although it was susceptible to lodging. Several varieties exceeded test weights for food-grade oats. Full results of the research are available online.




Kansas Livestock Association reports that Kansas State University Department of Agricultural Economics is in the process of developing resources and services specifically for transitioning agricultural operations and beginning farmers and ranchers. A new Office of Farm and Ranch Transition will provide several services, including helping to connect exiting farmers/landowners with beginning farmers or ranchers through an application and curated matching process; offering one-on-one technical assistance from a K-State farm analyst to help facilitate transition of an existing operation; and developing an extensive training program for beginning farmers and ranchers to master critical financial and business skills. The office is expected to be functional in 2022, with hiring for a director currently underway.




The Soil Health Academy announced that it has launched a web-based platform to connect its regenerative farming and ranching graduates with a growing base of consumers, food processors, and retailers interested in purchasing regeneratively grown products. The 'Shop Regen Foods' platform allows potential buyers to search by location, products available, and shipping options. Although the Soil Health Academy does not verify practices used by producers listed, it does provide links to producer websites so that consumers can conduct their own further research.




The Graze 300 VA initiative is helping farmers across Virginia to achieve 300 days of livestock grazing per year by facilitating better pasture management and environmental stewardship. The initiative began in 2015 and has grown to include 30 Extension agents and specialists working with farmers throughout the state. Now the project has received a grant from the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Strategic Plan Advancement Integrated Internal Competitive Grants Program and the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station. This grant will help the project build on its successes and expand adoption by researching social factors that influence farmer change, providing in-depth grazing management training, developing better educational resources for Virginia's farmers, and broadening the use of technology, including designing a grazing app.




Wild Hope Farm in Chester, South Carolina, received a Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SSARE) Producer Grant to explore summer cover crop mixes for organic no-till broccoli. In this on-farm research, five summer cover crop treatments were implemented in a no-till broccoli field: tilled bareground after sunn hemp; sunn hemp crimped prior to cash crop planting; sunn hemp and millet crimped prior to cash crop planting; sunn hemp, soybeans and buckwheat crimped prior to cash crop planting; and sunn hemp, millet and buckwheat crimped prior to cash crop planting. Beds with cover crop mixes appeared to perform the best at suppressing weeds. In addition, the farmer found that timing of cover crop termination and weight of the roller crimper is important to prevent the reseeding and regrowth of the cover crops. Details on this project are available online from SSARE.




The North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC) presented its Business for Bees Sustainability Award—an honor reserved for standout organizations that go above and beyond to support pollinators—to the Almond Board of California (ABC) and the state's almond farmers. NAPPC cited ABC's leadership in founding the California Pollinator Coalition, its work promoting on-farm pollinator habitat and its support of years of research and education about the best practices for providing hospitable environments for pollinators in almond orchards and in other habitats. Also, in recent years, California's Central Valley almond farmers have applied to certify more than 110,000 acres of Bee Friendly Farming®, providing pollinator habitat and integrated pest management across the valley to keep that flyway healthy and create badly needed floral resources that complement and expand beyond the annual almond bloom.




Results from 11 agroecology research projects funded by the European Union are available in a CORDIS Results Pack. Summary results are online for projects that focused on the potential of legumes to contribute to sustainable agriculture, on benefits of diversity and variety in agriculture, and on development of the organic sector. The introduction to the collection of research results notes, "Agroecology has the potential to become a fundamental tool for the EU in its effort to promote a sustainable farming sector that respects planetary boundaries and is able to respond to changing needs of society both in terms of sustainable and healthy diets and with regard to the environmental and climate issues related to primary production."




The USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) announced that it will collect additional information on agricultural products marketed as local foods during 2020. In early 2021, NASS collected detailed data on 2020 local food marketing practices from farmers and ranchers who had previously reported local food marketing activity. However in light of the extreme dynamics of the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors, NASS believes it will be necessary to contact more producers to get the complete picture of local food marketing practices. This will delay the report of the results of the survey until early in 2022.




USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) has begun mailing its first Hemp Acreage and Production Survey to 20,500 producers across the nation. The hemp survey will collect information on the total planted and harvested area, yield, production, and value of hemp in the United States. Survey recipients are asked to reply online or by mail by October 25, 2021. NASS will publish the survey results February 17, 2022, on the NASS website and in the NASS Quick Stats searchable database.




The Montana Association of Conservation Districts, Montana Watershed Coordination Council, and partners, including the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), are reaching out across Montana to ask: What more might be done to better support farmers and ranchers in managing soils? Montana land stewards can help us understand ag needs and opportunities by completing a confidential online survey: a five-minute version to capture key thoughts plus a detailed version to provide more context and depth to your responses. Complete one or both surveys before July 2022. Partners will also be reaching out via regional listening sessions, one-on-one contacts, and presentations at various conferences and, in August of 2022, will produce and share a report on what was learned and make recommendations.




A study involving 21 scientists from five continents concluded that 175,000 plant species, or half of all flowering plants, rely mostly or completely on animal pollinators to make seeds. Specifically, a third of flowering plant species globally would produce no seeds without animal pollinators, and half would suffer an 80% or more reduction in fertility. This means that current declines in pollinator populations could cause major disruptions in natural ecosystems, including loss of biodiversity. Professor Mark van Kleunen, a co-author from the University of Konstanz, says it is not a case of all pollinators disappearing: "If there are fewer pollinators to go around, or even just a change in which pollinator species are most numerous, we can expect knock-on effects on plants, with affected plant species potentially declining, further harming animal species and human populations depending on those plants. Pollinators aren't only important for crop production, but also for biodiversity....It also means that plants that do not rely on pollinators, like many problematic weeds, might spread even more when pollinators continue to decline," he adds.




The North Central Region of Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NCR-SARE) is seeking members for review committees for the six different grant programs it offers. Review committee members must live and work in one of the 12 states that comprise the North Central SARE region. Applicants must complete an online form and send a resume or curriculum vitae. Generally, review committee members are required to review proposals, discuss the proposals on a conference call or in-person, and provide recommendations to the Administrative Council.




Researchers from South Dakota State University and Texas A&M University surveyed producers in 2018 in South and North Dakota and in Texas about grazing intensity. The results were just published in Land Use Policy. Of the South Dakota respondents, 39.37% use traditional continuous grazing, 54.92% use rotational grazing, and 5.71% use management-intensive grazing. In North Dakota 29.24% opt for continuous grazing, 60.68% for rotational grazing, and 9.83% for management-intensive grazing. The study found that producers using management-intensive grazing were most likely to expand their grass-based production due to higher profitability, usually achieving expansion of grazing land by converting marginal cropland.




Cornell University and USDA funded a three-year, $500,000 project that will explore forming a business cooperative to provide shepherds grazing under solar arrays with coordination and logistical services. Having sheep graze under solar arrays is becoming more popular as a way to control vegetation and keep the land under solar installations in agricultural production. However, it can be a challenge for large renewable energy companies to manage the grazing services offered primarily by small-scale shepherds. This project will explore the benefits to farmers of business collaboration, not only to offer grazing services, but also to process and market lamb and wool. The project will even examine the possibility of creating a brand for sheep grazed under solar arrays.




A national network led by Cornell University scientists has been awarded a three-and-a-half year, $3 million grant from USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to develop cover crops designed for use by organic growers. Hairy vetch (Vicia villosa), winter pea (Pisum sativum), crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum) and cereal rye (Secale cereale) are the crops the team will focus on developing. The project will work to improve cover-crop qualities such as weed suppression, early vigor, increased biomass, winter hardiness, seed yield, disease and insect resistance, soft and non-shattering seed, and early flowering. The team will be holding field days and compiling crop variety data to inform people about the performance of different cover crop varieties.




The Center for Heirs' Property Preservation and the Mississippi Center for Justice announced the Mobile Basin Heirs' Property Support Initiative, a two-year program designed to help historically underserved families in Mississippi protect and keep their forestland; build generational wealth; and promote productive, sustainably managed forests. With support from World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Kimberly-Clark, the new initiative will provide a combination of legal services, information, and assistance accessing financial resources to help Mississippians resolve land title issues that disproportionately affect Black families and often lead to loss of land, wealth, and forest resources. The initiative will also provide landowners with forestry education and access to additional funding for forest conservation and responsible forest management. In addition to providing direct assistance to Mississippi's underserved landowners, the program's goals include raising broader awareness about the benefits to both people and nature that can come from removing barriers for historically marginalized communities to secure land rights in the southern United States and beyond.




The Missouri Chestnut Roast Festival at the University of Missouri research farm in New Franklin helps introduce people to the taste of chestnuts, reports St. Louis Public Radio. Experts say Missouri growers can't keep up with the demand for local chestnuts, and they say that growers can make $6 per pound or $6,000 per acre harvesting chestnuts. Chestnut farmer Greg Heindselman in Lewistown, Missouri, said a chestnut farmer could make a living on as little as five to 10 acres. This makes chestnut an appealing option for people with a small farm, especially because chestnut growing doesn't require a lot of expensive equipment.




USDA has a new online tool to help ranchers document and estimate payments to cover feed transportation costs caused by drought, which are now covered by the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-raised Fish Program (ELAP). The new ELAP Feed Transportation Producer Tool is a Microsoft Excel workbook that enables ranchers to input information specific to their operation to determine an estimated payment. ELAP now covers feed transportation costs where grazing and hay resources have been depleted. This includes places where drought intensity is D2 for eight consecutive weeks or drought intensity is D3 or greater.




USDA is investing $10 million in a new initiative to sample, measure, and monitor soil carbon on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres to better quantify the climate outcomes of the program. This initiative will begin implementation in fall 2021 with three partners (Michigan State University, Mississippi State University, and Ducks Unlimited) conducting soil carbon sampling on three categories of CRP practice types: perennial grass, trees, and wetlands. These three Climate Change Mitigation Assessment Initiative projects are funded through the Farm Service Agency's program to work with partners to identify Monitoring, Assessment and Evaluation projects to quantify CRP environmental benefits to water quality and quantity, wildlife, and rural economies.




A team of scientists at seven institutions, led by D. Raj Raman at Iowa State University, received a five-year, $10 million AFRI Sustainable Agricultural Systems grant from USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture to study the potential benefits of using perennial grasses as cover crops. Annual cover crops require farmers to plant and harvest them every year, so researchers are investigating perennial ground covers that could provide environmental benefits and save farmers money. The scientists will work to identify and refine perennial covers that go dormant during the period when specific cash crops are growing and determine the best practices for using these cover crops without sacrificing crop yields.




A research team at Iowa State University received a a $1.4 million grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture to apply genetic tools to the development of organic sweet corn and varieties of corn for specialty uses, such as for popcorn and tortillas. Project leader Thomas Lübberstedt explains, "In this new project, we say that there's quite a few genes that are already known in maize that would add value to rapidly generate new sweet corn or specialty corn varieties if you could handle them efficiently using the tools and methods allowed in the organic production context." The researchers will create proof-of-concept corn varieties better suited for organic production, using an organic-compatible version of doubled haploid technology.




The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), a 15-member volunteer advisory board appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture, meets twice each year in a public forum to discuss and vote on recommendations to the USDA. USDA notes that the open meetings allow for public input on topics of interest to the organic community, and resulting standards support farmer and consumer confidence in the integrity of the USDA organic seal. The public comment days for the Fall Meeting are October 13-14, 2021, followed by the public meetings October 19-21, 2021. The meeting Zoom links, agenda, proposals, discussion documents, and Federal Register notice are available online.




Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SSARE) is seeking nominations for its Sustainable Agriculture Leadership Program for spring/summer 2022. The Sustainable Agriculture Leadership Program recognizes the community leadership contributions of historically underserved farmers and ranchers and the community groups and NGOs who serve those audiences. The program seeks to enhance the resiliency, strength, and vivacity of historically underserved farmers and ranchers, including minority and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, beginning farmers and ranchers, military veterans, and women farmers. The program provides a small amount of sponsorship funds (up to $3,000) to support education and training activities specifically targeted to historically underserved farmers and ranchers. Applications to participate are due by January 1, 2022.




The National Farmers Union is accepting applications for its Beginning Farmer Institute (BFI) until December 1, 2021. BFI is a free, year-long training program intended to improve the health of your farm or ranch business. Three trainings will be hosted virtually on Zoom and one session will be hosted in-person in St. Louis, Missouri. Participants from diverse backgrounds come together around shared learning objectives related to business formation, taxation, accounting, land, labor, credit, and business planning.




American Farmland Trust and The Farmers Market Coalition announced the winners of the 13th annual America's Farmers Market Celebration, a national event that ran between June 21 and September 19, 2021. Markets receiving the most votes from the public are declared winners of the "People's Choice" category, and top markets in five regions nationwide are recognized. More than 2,000 markets across the nation participated in the celebration, with more than 1 million supporters voting, visiting the celebration website, or engaging with the celebration on social media. The "People's Choice" awards went to Columbia Farmers Market in Missouri, Oxford Community Market in Mississippi, and Monroe Farmers Market in Connecticut. Regional winners were the aforementioned Monroe Farmers Market, Columbia Farmers Market, and Oxford Community Market, as well as Napa Farmers Market in California and Dripping Springs Farmers Market in Texas.




USDA announced the recipients of more than $6.6 million in grants and cooperative agreements awarded through the Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production. USDA is awarding $4.75 million for 10 Planning Projects and 11 Implementation Projects, as well as $1.92 million for 24 pilot projects to develop and implement strategies for municipal compost plans and food waste reduction plans. The Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production (UAIP) Competitive Grants Program will support activities such as operating community gardens and nonprofit farms, increasing food production and access in economically distressed communities, providing job training and education, and developing business plans and zoning.




Scientists in Canada are evaluating soil health by measuring enzymes involved in carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous, and sulfur nutrient cycles in the soil, counting fungi and bacteria varieties, and determining the ratio between the two. They are using these measurements to study the long-term soil health effects of different crop-growth systems, explains an American Society of Agronomy press release. The study found that fields in perennial grasses had the healthiest soils, with lots of biological activity and diverse microbes and fungi. Fields growing both a perennial grass and a legume called birdsfoot trefoil were especially healthy. In contrast, fields constantly growing soybeans came in last place, while corn fields were between the two.




USDA announced that it will award $18.6 million in grants to provide training, outreach, and technical assistance to historically underserved and veteran farmers and ranchers in 21 states through the 2501 Program. Descriptions of the 29 funded projects are available online. The Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (The 2501 Program) helps socially disadvantaged farmers, ranchers, foresters, and veterans who have historically experienced limited access to USDA programs and services.