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USDA awarded $8 million in grants to strengthen markets for U.S. agricultural products through four programs: Acer Access and Development Program (Acer), Dairy Business Innovation (DBI) Initiatives, Federal State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP), and Sheep Production and Marketing Grant Program (SPMGP). Acer awarded $3.6 million to eight projects to increase market opportunities for the domestic maple syrup industry. The new DBI program focuses on diversifying dairy-product markets to reduce risk and develop higher-value uses for dairy products; promoting business development to diversify farmer income through processing and marketing innovation; and encouraging the use of regional milk production. Nine FSMIP projects will explore new market opportunities for U.S. food and agricultural products and to encourage research and innovation aimed at improving marketing system efficiency and performance. Meanwhile, one SPMGP project was awarded $1.9 million.

Heifer International has announced that its Heifer Ranch, in Perryville, Arkansas, will shift its focus from public educational activities to farmer education and training, reports the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Public Relations Director Chris Coxon said the ranch would provide a live classroom experience for farmers. "Our focus is really on equipping farmers with the tools and expertise they need to make farms successful and build a sustainable business," Coxon said.

California received $22.9 million in 2019 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program funds through USDA. The program provides grants to state departments of agriculture to fund projects that enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops. The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) will fund 69 projects, awarding grants ranging from $50,000 to $450,000 to non-profit and for-profit organizations, government entities, and colleges and universities. Selected projects focus on increasing sales of specialty crops by leveraging the California Grown identity; increasing consumption by expanding the specialty crop consumer market, improving availability, and providing nutritional education for consumers; training growers to equip them for current and future challenges; and conducting research on conservation and environmental outcomes, pest control and disease, and organic and sustainable production practices.

A study led by Cornell University and published in Science reports that the total breeding bird population in the continental U.S. and Canada has dropped by 29% since 1970. The team analyzed both long-term population surveys and radar imagery in their effort. Although scientists have long recognized declines in the populations of some species, it appeared that increases in other species, such as raptors and waterfowl, might offset the net decline. However, this study showed massive losses among birds in every biome. The study authors say habitat loss is a driving factor in the decline.

The Soil Health Institute (SHI) and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) have released Impact of 2018 Farm Bill Provisions on Soil Health, a comprehensive review of each new provision in the 2018 Farm Bill and its role in advancing soil health. The report also compares funding for soil health in the 2014 and 2018 Farm Bills. "The report provides a detailed summary of almost 60 provisions that may affect soil health," said Ferd Hoefner, NSAC Senior Strategic Advisor. "It will be a valuable time saver for those who wish to gain information quickly. For example, the report provides a brief description of each provision, how it impacts soil health, and links to the respective USDA agency responsible for implementing that provision."

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has received $28 million from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund in 2019 to award grants for agricultural management practices that promote soil health by sequestering carbon and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These grants are part of the CDFA's Healthy Soils Program (HSP). Three public stakeholder meetings are scheduled, on September 23, 24, and 25, 2019, to provide updates on the program and to receive comments and suggestions for the next round of funding. Each meeting will include a webinar component to allow remote attendance and participation.

USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced that it has invested $77.8 million in research that will focus on sustaining a more abundant, nutritious, and accessible food supply through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative's (AFRI) Sustainable Agricultural Systems program. Eight universities will lead projects aimed at integrating sustainable agricultural approaches covering the entire food production system. Western Illinois University will lead research aimed at developing pennycress as an oilseed crop. New Mexico State University will focus on improving the efficiency of Southwestern ranches using precision farming. North Carolina State University is leading a multi-institutional project that focuses on increasing crop productivity, conserving natural resources, and reducing the agro-ecological footprint using cover crops. The University of Arkansas' project will focus on broiler production sustainability. Other projects relate to urban agriculture, livestock production, and perennial grassland agriculture.

University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources Agricultural Issues Center and UC Cooperative Extension have released cost studies with sample costs to produce and harvest organic strawberries for fresh market and romaine lettuce hearts in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties. The cost analyses are based on hypothetical well-managed farming operations using practices common to the Central Coast region. The costs, materials, and practices in the studies are intended to assist growers in estimating their own costs. Ranging analysis tables show net profits over a range of prices and yields. Free copies of these cost studies, as well as cost studies for many other commodities, are available online.

A University of Saskatchewan study published in the journal Science found that neonicotinoid pesticides could be responsible for a decline in wild songbird populations. Using new tagging and tracking technologies, researchers found that white-crowned sparrows who consumed small doses of imidacloprid suffered weight loss and delays to their migration. "Our study shows that this is bigger than the bees—birds can also be harmed by modern neonicotinoid pesticides, which should worry us all," said one of the study's co-authors.

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that more than $18.6 million in funding will support conservation easement projects on 25 New York dairy farms. Through the Farmland Protection Implementation Grant program, dairy farms can diversify their operations or transition their farms to the next generation at more affordable costs, while ensuring the land forever remains used for agricultural purposes. The projects awarded in this funding round will protect 10,253 acres of viable agricultural land comprised of prime soils. Following the success of Round 1 of this program, New York State is launching a second round of the Farmland Protection Implementation Grant program specifically for dairy. The state will accept applications on a rolling basis for farmland protection grants of up to $2 million from eligible entities, such as land trusts, municipalities, counties, and soil and water conservation districts. There is no application deadline.

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced that it will invest $48 million in wetland conservation projects in eight states through the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership. WREP project partners are providing nearly $2.3 million in matching funds for projects that will protect, restore, and enhance more than 15,000 acres of wetlands in critical watersheds. The partners work directly with eligible landowners interested in enrolling their agricultural land into wetland conservation easements. The projects in Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee are briefly described online.

The Food and Land Use Coalition (FOLU) has published Growing Better: Ten Critical Transitions to Transform Food and Land Use, The Global Consultation Report of the Food and Land Use Coalition. The global report proposes a reform agenda—centred around ten critical transitions—of real actionable solutions. FOLU says these could deliver the needed change to boost progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement, help mitigate the negative effects of climate change, safeguard biodiversity, ensure more healthy diets for all, drastically improve food security, and create more inclusive rural economies. The report and executive summaries are available online.

The theme for the 2019 National Farm Safety & Health Week, September 15-21, is "Shift Farm Safety into High Gear." According to USDA, this week is an opportunity to spread awareness of the inherent risks associated with work in the agriculture sector and commit to improved practices that advance the health and safety of farm and ranch operators, their family members, and their hired workers. The National Education Center for Agricultural Safety is providing informative webinars each day of the week, focusing on special daily themes.

Farmers' Legal Action Group has announced the release of the fifth volume in its seventh edition of the Farmers' Guide to Disaster Assistance. This fifth volume, Disaster Set-Aside Program, describes the rules for the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP); Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP); Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP); Farm Service Agency Emergency Loans; and other disaster-assistance programs. This volume and others in the edition are available free online.

MOSES Organic Broadcaster reported on research that is underway on developing hulless barley varieties specifically for organic production. A multi-year project led by Oregon State University and funded by USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture's Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative is progressing in three different regions. It has already resulted in the release of a new variety, 'Buck,' and has produced resources that share production and utilization results from trials with feed and brewing barley.

A European Environment Agency report, Climate Change Adaptation in the Agricultural Sector in Europe, finds that crop and livestock production is projected to decrease and may even have to be abandoned in parts of Europe's southern and Mediterranean regions due to the increased negative impacts of climate change. The report looks at the key climate change problems facing agriculture in the EU and the outlook for the years ahead. It also gives an overview of how EU policies and programs address climate change adaptation and includes examples of feasible and successful adaptation actions. The report notes that adaptation at the farm level is key, and recommends effective use of already-available adaptation measures, such as introducing adapted crops, utilizing improved irrigation techniques, making use of field margins and agroforestry, and practicing crop diversification and precision farming.

Grassroots advocacy group Vote Hemp has released its 2019 U.S. Hemp License Report, showing more than quadruple the acreage planned for hemp cultivation in the United States in 2019 as compared with 2018. The number of acres of hemp licensed across 34 states totaled 511,442 in 2019. Vote Hemp estimates that 230,000 acres of hemp will actually be planted and just 50 to 60% of that will be harvested due crop failure, non-compliant crops, and other factors, resulting in 115,000 to 138,000 acres of harvested hemp in 2019. In addition, states which license processors reported 2,880 processing licenses, an increase of 483% over 2018. Vote Hemp notes that 46 states have defined industrial hemp as distinct and removed barriers to its production.

Michigan State University Extension has introduced a self-paced, online course, "Growing Lavender: A Curriculum for Growers." The course was developed under the leadership of Michigan State University, Kansas State University, and the United States Lavender Growers Association, with funding from the USDA's North Central Regional Center for Rural Development. It addresses the needs of both beginning and more seasoned growers, including commercial growers, with seven learning modules that take approximately an hour each to complete. The course utilizes videos, audio, Web resources, and interactive content, and it includes examples from growers in multiple locations within the United States. The course is designed for lavender growers across the country.

A report released by the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) highlights 14 state-level programs that use nontraditional financing mechanisms, including crop insurance discounts and transferable tax credits, to incentivize conservation adoption. Innovative State-Led Efforts to Finance Agricultural Conservation found that states that embrace innovative new ways to finance on-farm conservation can deliver multiple benefits to farmers, state residents, taxpayers, and the environment. For example, farmers benefit from support in adopting conservation practices, which is particularly important in a depressed farm economy. State residents benefit from improved water quality, reduced agricultural water consumption, increased wildlife habitat, and a more resilient food system. Taxpayers benefit from programs that are tailored to states' specific needs to make more cost-effective use of public dollars. Additionally, the entire country benefits from the incubation of ideas that can be implemented in other states or at the federal level.

The Land Stewardship Project (LSP) announced that Mark Schultz will be stepping down as the nonprofit organization's executive director. Schultz will be working closely with LSP's board of directors in coming months to ensure a seamless and effective transition. During Schultz's tenure as executive director, LSP launched a major soil health program, established a 501(c)(4) political action arm called the Land Stewardship Action Fund, advanced work on racial and gender justice, grew the organization's membership base, and developed strong relationships with allied groups locally, regionally, and nationally. LSP will begin an extensive search for a new executive director in October.

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) adopted new climate resiliency policy at its Annual Meeting. NASDA announced that it "acknowledges the necessity of adapting to a changing climate to protect and enhance our nation's natural resources, while also building a resilient agricultural and food supply chain." NASDA's policy asserts that addressing climate resiliency in agriculture requires a comprehensive approach. NASDA encourages the collaboration of governments, corporations and philanthropic communities to develop incentive-based programs and pursue research that helps agriculture adapt to the effects of a changing climate.

The National Credit Union Administration announced that it has granted a federal charter and Share Insurance Fund coverage to Maine Harvest Federal Credit Union. The credit union will serve the employees and approximately 13,000 members of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association and the Maine Farmland Trust. It was chartered to make affordable member business loans to small farms, farmers, and other food producers within its field of membership. Loan funds will be available through mission-based deposits. Maine Harvest Federal Credit Union expects to begin operations this fall.

The National Farmers Union in the United Kingdom has released Achieving Net Zero: Farming's 2040 Goal, a report that puts forth a strategy for British farmers to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040. The strategy is based on three pillars: improving farming's productive efficiency, improving land management and changing land use to capture more carbon, and boosting renewable energy and the wider bio-economy. According to NFU, the first of these pillars is about reducing emissions, using a wide variety of techniques to enhance productivity and deliver the same output or more from every farm, and working smarter to use fewer inputs. The second is about increasing farming's ability to capture more carbon though bigger hedgerows, more trees and woodland, enhancing soil organic matter and conserving existing carbon stores in grassland and pasture. The third pillar involves displacing greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through bioenergy and bio-based materials such as hemp and sheep wool. The report is available online.

University of Minnesota Extension is offering an online course on growing fruit. The self-paced online course will teach students how to plan, plant, and manage fruit trees, bushes and vines for success throughout the growing season. Through the course, participants will learn to grow apples, pears, grapevines, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, stone fruits (such as plums, cherries, apricots, and peaches), and other fruit such as currants, gooseberries, kiwiberries, elderberry, aronia, and serviceberry. An optional, in-person session offers an opportunity to meet with the instructor and fellow students and work on individualized growing plans.

Ten years after Vermont's Farm-to-Plate Investment Program was created, Vermont Public Radio's Did It Work? series explored the program's accomplishments. The initiative aimed for economic development in the state's food and farm sector, job creation, and improved access to healthy food. Stakeholders helped create a strategic plan in 2011, and the state's lawmakers have committed nearly $9 million for matching grants through the Working Lands Enterprise Fund. According to this evaluation, the program has largely worked, as local food spending has tripled since the program began, and the number of food and beverage manufacturing businesses has grown 72%. The feature offers two case studies highlighting success stories under the program. The state's lawmakers recently renewed the legislation for the coming decade.

Delaware Valley University in Pennsylvania is offering a non-credit short course designed for people who want to raise their own livestock. It's the second year the course has been offered, due to the increasing public interest in small farms and homesteads. The six-week course takes place each week on Tuesday evening. Topics include soil, beef and pigs, poultry, sheep and goats, equines, and alternative animals.

USDA announced that agricultural producers affected by natural disasters in 2018 and 2019 can apply for assistance through the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+) beginning September 11, 2019. More than $3 billion is available through the disaster-relief package, including new programs to cover losses for milk dumped or removed from the commercial market and losses of eligible farm-stored commodities due to eligible disaster events in 2018 and 2019. Also, prevented planting supplemental disaster payments will provide support to producers who were prevented from planting eligible crops for the 2019 crop year. WHIP+ will be available for eligible producers who have suffered eligible losses of certain crops, trees, bushes, or vines in counties with a Presidential Emergency Disaster Declaration or a Secretarial Disaster Designation (primary counties only). Disaster losses must have been a result of hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, typhoons, volcanic activity, snowstorms, or wildfires that occurred in 2018 or 2019. Also, producers in counties that did not received a disaster declaration or designation may still apply for WHIP+ but must provide supporting documentation to establish that the crops were directly affected by a qualifying disaster loss. Details on applying are available online.

North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (NCR-SARE) has announced the projects selected for funding through its Research and Education, Graduate Student, and Professional Development competitive grant programs. More than $4 million was awarded to 49 projects this year through these three programs. Brief descriptions of funded projects are available online. They address topics including perennial flax, grazing management, composting, cover crops, agriculture education, and agroforestry.

A study published in Scientia Horticulturae compared conventional, organic-input, and organic agroecological blueberry production systems in Chile. The systems were compared on environmental and economical bases. In the study of 12 farms, four of each type, a farm that used organic management based on agroecological principles achieved the highest yield, though yields were not statistically different. The organic management based on agroecological principles also had the lowest cost of production, showing it as the most efficient production system from both an environmental and an economic perspective.

Georgia farmers Mandy and Steve O'Shea began their business in 2011 with a commitment to sustainability, reports The Red & Black. Now they're having to adapt their growing season to deal with warmer winters and hotter summers. Instead of December and January being the slow time on their farm, they're shifting their heat-sensitive flower crops away from July and August, and using those months as a rest period. The O'Sheas also power their farm with solar and biofuels. Other area farmers are also adapting to hotter weather and increased precipitation by using cover crops, and they're making efforts to reduce their fossil fuel use, as well.

A Mississippi State University study funded by Southern SARE compared conventional rice production practices to low-external-input practices that reduce external inputs by utilizing ecosystem resources. The low-external-input sustainable agriculture (LEISA) flooded rice fields over winter, creating a wetland-like habitat to reduce tillage, attract bird populations, and address soil health, water quality, and nutrient run-off. Researchers found that flooding fields in winter increased soil quality by attracting migratory birds whose waste contributed fertilization but was found not to cause a pathogen issue. Foraging birds also contributed to soil carbon by incorporating rice straw in the soil. Low-input fields in the study used less fertilizer and chemicals, and had lower planting costs. Although yields in the LEISA fields were lower, net returns were higher because of reduced costs.

The Organic Center reports on a study published in the journal Insects that showed flower strips and trap crops are more effective at pest-insect control when used in combination. The study showed that while pest insects were drawn into the trap crop, natural predators established themselves in the flower-strip habitat and were able to control pests in the cash crop. The study was led by the University of Missouri and involved organic cabbage plantings that included the insectary plants sweet alyssum and buckwheat with a trap crop of mustard, kale, and collards.

A study led by the University of Arizona and published in Nature Sustainability presents the first field-data assessment of outcomes of a multi-year study of agrivoltaics in dryland regions. Agrivoltaics is the co-locating of agriculture and solar photovoltaic panels. The study's agrivoltaics research site grew chiltepin pepper, jalapeno, and cherry tomato plants under a PV array. Researchers found that shade provided by the PV panels resulted in cooler daytime temperatures and warmer nighttime temperatures, as well as moister air than the traditional, open-sky planting system. Chiltepin and tomato production were greater under the panels, and jalapeno production was equal but used less water. In addition, having plants under the panels reduced their operating temperature and made them more efficient. Researchers note that panel shade also created a cooler working environment for farm laborers.

Kansas Rural Center has released a series of four articles based on the 2018 Harvesting Opportunities in Kansas Symposium. These offer an in-depth look at the opportunities and challenges in building, maintaining, and growing local and regional food systems in Kansas. The stories showcase diversifying agricultural operations to include more fruit and vegetable production to sell locally, building relationships in the food system, making good connections with community members and policymakers, and opportunities for financing and investing to grow and expand Kansas food and agriculture businesses.

The Times Herald-Record reports on a survey of what motivates farmers market shoppers in the Northeast, as conducted by Cornell University's School of Applied Economics and Management. The survey of shoppers in New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Maryland evaluated why people shopped at farmers markets, why they stopped shopping there, or why they had never shopped there. The survey revealed support for local food purchasing and showed that shoppers value the convenience of one-stop shopping. Interestingly, the survey found little appeal for shoppers in establishing relationships with farmers at the market, and it found that adding entertainment, crafts, children's activities, and prepared food at the market did not draw additional shoppers, nor motivate buyers to buy more.

The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) and Tuskegee University are holding the 2020 Organic Agriculture Research Forum (OARF) in partnership with the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG) as part of the 2020 SSAWG Conference, on January 23, 2020, in Little Rock, Arkansas. The research forum will feature oral presentations, facilitated round table discussions, and a robust joint poster session with SSAWG. Presenters are invited to submit abstracts for the forum online by October 18, 2019. Topics of interest are listed online. Oral and poster presentations will be selected based on their innovative excellence, relevance to the research, education, and extension needs and priorities of organic farmers and ranchers, soundness of the methodology used, and the overall scientific quality.

Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT) released a series of seven handouts showcasing the nutritional benefits of pasture-raised food. The handouts can be downloaded, printed, and shared in-person or online. They highlight the different food-producing animals: beef cattle, dairy cows, laying hens, meat birds, pigs, sheep and goats, and a summary of all the animals. FACT is also offering farmers the opportunity to personalize the handouts with photos from their own farms.

USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) has announced several updates to the Whole-Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) policy for the 2020 policy year that expand safety net options and flexibility for agricultural producers. Beginning with the 2020 policy, producers with Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) and WFRP may receive indemnity payments under both policies, but producers carrying NAP cannot receive a premium discount under the WFRP program. Also, the expected revenue limit for livestock and nursery is increasing from $1 million to $2 million. An additional change is that several measures will now be available as options to prevent large drops in approved revenue from year to year and to smooth the historical values. WFRP Coverage and Frequently Asked Questions web pages are available from USDA with further details.

The Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy (IATP) has released a set of seven case studies on its Farm to Head Start program in Minnesota. These seven case studies illustrate how IATP's Head Start partners were able to incorporate Farm to Head Start activities in ways that met their individual needs and goals. The case studies (and three accompanying videos) describe each program's unique context and outline steps taken to address challenges that arose. They provide concrete examples, resources, and ideas for anyone in any setting to begin their own Farm to Head Start initiative.

Jason Hubbart, director of Institute of Water Security and Science at West Virginia University, has published research showing that the growing season in West Virginia is getting longer. Hubbart found that, between 1900 and 2016, maximum temperatures in West Virginia trended downward, average minimum temperatures ascended, and annual precipitation increased. These changes have led to higher humidity that makes growing the state's traditional crops more challenging. However, the changes have also opened opportunities for growing new types of crops, and for double-cropping within a single season. "Winter wheat and soy bean crops are just a couple of examples of future agricultural investment," Hubbart said. "Those crops, and many broadleafs do well in short winters. Basil, specialty teas, specialty vegetables, those are plants that have had trouble growing here historically, but now, and in the future, they may fare better."

USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) National Organic Program (NOP) has posted meeting materials for the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) Fall Meeting to be held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, October 23-25, 2019. Posted materials include a tentative meeting agenda, proposals, and discussion documents. NOSB invites public comments that address topics on the Fall 2019 meeting agenda. Written comments and requests for oral comment speaking slots must be received by October 3, 2019.

Minnesota farmers Grant and Dawn Breitkreutz highlighted the benefits that their operation receives from grazing cover crops in a media tour reported in Illinois Farmer Today. Over the past 20 years, the Breitkreutz family has adopted no-till methods for soybeans and corn, and made extensive use of mixed cover crops for grazing. Today they raise soybeans, corn, and alfalfa, have permanent wooded pasture land, and include family members in a direct-marketing operation for the farm's beef and pork. Grant Breitkreutz points out that the grazing practices have reduced input costs for the operation by reducing fertilizer and herbicide expense and breaking pest cycles. In addition, the land with cover crops has a high infiltration rate and helps protect water quality.

Researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, conducted a global assessment of seaweed aquaculture's carbon sequestration scaling potential. According to the study, there is substantial suitable area—roughly 48 million square kilometers—in which seaweed could be farmed, and a relatively small proportion (0.001%) of this would be enough to render the entire global aquaculture industry carbon neutral. However, farming seaweed alone won't balance emissions from global food production, scientists warn, although seaweed farming in an area of only 3.8% of California's West Coast Exclusive Economic Zone would be enough to offset the carbon produced by the state's agriculture sector. Additionally, seaweed farming offers additional environmental benefits, such as nutrient uptake and provision of marine habitat, as well as food production and carbon sequestration.

The Council of Development Finance Agencies (CDFA) has released the latest title in its Food Finance White Paper Series, Food Systems & Targeted Tools. This paper focuses on targeted tools, which are specifically used to target certain geographies and difficult-to-finance sectors. Summaries are made about a variety of these tools, including tax increment financing, special assessment districts, property assessed clean energy financing, and tax abatements. Case studies demonstrate the ways in which various types of targeted tools support food-related businesses and projects, as well as the ways in which communities utilized targeted tools to redevelop, brand, or improve their neighborhood business districts. With this series, CDFA aims to offer useful information for those working in the food system about the variety of development finance tools available to support food-related projects, as well as evidence that such financing programs are successful when applied to efforts within the food system.

The Woolsey Farm Project, spearheaded by NCAT Southeast's Luke Freeman, is a collaboration between NCAT, Cobblestone Farms, and the City of Fayetteville, Arkansas. It is supported by an EPA Environmental Education Award. The project seeks to educate Northwest Arkansas K-12 students and adults of all ages about sustainable agriculture and environmental conservation, to demonstrate the effect of local food systems on the environment, and to illustrate the role that sustainable agriculture can play in environmental stewardship. In its first few months, the project has helped three incubator farmers start farm businesses, hosted the first two in a series of farm production workshops, and played host to honey bee hives from a cooperative of beekeepers hoping to improve the genetic stock of honey bees in Northwest Arkansas.

The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) has released Understanding and Optimizing the Community of Soil Life, the ninth topic in its Soil Health and Organic Farming Series of guidebooks and webinars. The complete series is available free online. This guidebook is designed to help organic farmers by providing up-to-date, science-based information on the soil food web, assessing and monitoring soil life, biological management of plant diseases, and microbial inoculants and biostimulants.

USDA's Risk Management Agency announced that coverage for hemp grown for fiber, flower, or seeds will be available under the Whole-Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) program for crop year 2020 to producers who are in areas covered by USDA-approved hemp plans or who are part of approved state or university research pilot programs. Producers can obtain WFRP coverage for hemp now if they are part of a Section 7606 state or university research pilot as authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. Other producers cannot obtain coverage until a USDA-approved plan is in place. A hemp producer must comply with applicable state, tribal or federal regulations for hemp production and have a contract for the purchase of the insured industrial hemp. Having THC above the compliance level will not constitute an insurable cause of loss, nor will hemp qualify for replant payments under WFRP.

Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SSARE) has announced funding for 22 projects through its 2019 Graduate Student Grants program. The program is open to Master's and PhD students enrolled at accredited institutions throughout the Southern region. Projects selected for funding this year address insect pest and disease management, weed control, grazing management, animal health alternative feed for aquaculture, and agricultural development topics. A list of funded projects is available online.

A study by scientists with University of Washington, University of California Cooperative Extension, and the U.S. Forest Service demonstrated that California vineyards with large oak trees had greater bat foraging activity, helping to provide natural insect pest control. In a study of 14 vineyards, bat foraging activity was 1.5 times greater at trees compared to open, treeless areas. Furthermore, bigger trees attracted more bats, and the vineyards with trees had more species of insect-eating bats than other vineyards did. "We hope the study will increase awareness of these beautiful and beneficial trees and make the case for conservation and restoration," said co-author Bill Tietje.

Researchers at the University of Guelph, in Canada, found that high numbers of ground-nesting bees are exposed to lethal doses of the neonicotinoid pesticide clothianidin in the soil of crop fields. Previous research has focused largely on the effect of neonicotinoids on honey bees, which do not nest in the ground. However, bee species that spend most of their lives in the soil are at particular risk from the 80% of neonicotinoid seed treatments that are not taken up by the plant but remain as residue in the soil. This study found that in commercial squash fields, 36% of the squash bee population is probably encountering lethal doses of clothianidin. Among bees near corn and soybean fields, 58% of ground-nesting bees would be exposed to a lethal dose of clothianidin while building their nests.

The Wallace Center is inviting session proposals for the 2020 National Good Food Network Conference, set for March 10-13, 2020, in New Orleans, Louisiana. The conference will bring together practitioners from across the good food value chain to share tools, build capacity, and connect with one another. Sessions will include seven-minute Lightning Talks, 90-minute Breakout Sessions, and half-day or full-day Training Sessions. Proposals to present are due online by September 27, 2019.

The Backyard Poultry/Livestock Survey that was originally created as part of the Healthy Animals, Healthy People workshop series is now open to all owners and small-scale producers of livestock and poultry in California. Conducted by the University of California Cooperative Extension and the School of Veterinary Medicine and funded by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, this online survey will take about 20 minutes to complete. The questionnaire asks about the specific practices and perceptions that you apply to your animals' health, husbandry, and antimicrobial use. It is being conducted for research and outreach purposes in order to find better ways to serve people and communities with backyard and small-scale livestock or poultry.

In Practical Farmers of Iowa's video from the August 2019 conference, Making Small Grains Work, Wisconsin farmer John Wepking gives an overview of the critical production and post-harvest handling requirements for a food-grade, artisan end product. In his one-hour presentation, Wepking also delves into his farm's process of establishing value-added, artisan, food-grade markets for its flours and other grain products.

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation and California Department of Food and Agriculture has announced the members of a cross-sector working group created to identify, evaluate, and recommend safer, sustainable pest management solutions that can replace the pesticide chlorpyrifos. The group includes leaders and experts from a wide cross section of interests—including agriculture, California universities, environmental justice groups, farmworker health and safety organizations, and pesticide manufacturers, among others. The group will begin work in August 2019 and conclude in the spring of 2020. It is tasked with developing short-term, practical solutions to transition to safer more sustainable pest-management solutions and with developing a five-year action plan to identify and develop safer, more sustainable pest management tools, practices, and alternatives.

The Ecosystem Services Market Research Consortium (ESMRC) seeks nominations to form an inaugural team of science advisors to participate in ESMRC Working Groups to provide expert insight and advice on the ESMRC research and implementation agenda and activities to advance soil health through a private, voluntary ecosystem services market. Operating under a three-year grant through a public-private partnership, the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium LLC is working with partners and collaborators across the agricultural supply chain to invest in critical research to build a technologically advanced ecosystem services market to reward and incentivize beneficial impacts of sustainable agricultural practices and systems. Nominations for science advisors are due by September 13, 2019.

The National Education Center for Agricultural Safety has announced a special webinar series for National Farm Safety and Health Week, set for September 15-21, 2019. The theme for the week is "Shift Farm Safety into High Gear," and there are also special themes for each day. A free webinar corresponding with the theme will be offered each day during the week, at noon Central, and additional webinars are planned for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, at 2:00 p.m. Central.

Growing strips of wildflowers near watermelon fields can help attract pollinators, according to the dissertation of a Clemson University graduate student. Mimi Jenkins published Enhancing Native Pollinators of Watermelon Agroecosystems in South Carolina as an Extension publication. Her research showed that most watermelon pollinators were native bees, and that these tiny sweat bees most often visited fields that included wildflower strips or hedgerows of wild shrubs and trees. Improved pollination led to improved watermelon yield. Jenkins advises growers to increase floral resources by planting wildflower strips of native flower species in or along the edges of fields, increase nesting sites by maintaining semi-natural areas on farms and reducing soil-level disturbances, and minimize pesticide use.

Researchers from Brigham Young University have found that bacteria occurring in the roots of salt-tolerant plants can be used as an innoculant to help crop seeds grow in salty soil. Bacteria isolates from halophytes were applied to alfalfa seed in solution, and the alfalfa could then grow in soil with 1% sodium chloride content. The research team is beginning to conduct lab and greenhouse results on a range of vegetable crops and carry out field trials. The discovery could make increasingly saline cropland in the American Southwest and elsewhere in the world usable again.

American Farmland Trust and USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service have announced the launch of the Genesee River Demonstration Farms Network, a project using real New York farms to highlight practical and innovative conservation practices that benefit farm viability, water quality, and other natural resources. Farmers can visit the Genesee River Demonstration Farms Network webpage to find upcoming field days and events hosted by demonstration farms in the network and gain access to farm case studies, resources, and more. Participating farms include Gary Swede Farms LLC, a 4,500-acre crop and vegetable farm with a partnership with a 2,000-cow dairy, and Har-Go Farms, a 650-acre organic dairy farm that uses cover crops and nutrient management practices.

Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship (DGA) has launched a new online platform designed to showcase Master farms and attract more qualified candidates to the Apprenticeship opportunities. DGA is a nonprofit organization with a federally recognized National Apprenticeship in managed-grazing dairy production. A Featured Farms section on the DGA website now offers visitors and potential Apprentices a view of farms approved as training sites. Linked job openings, which appear on a new public Job Board, provide a description of the position, qualification requirements, and compensation available for an Apprentice.

The Organic Trade Association has announced that it will become the fiscal sponsor of the Organic Agronomy Training Service (OATS) Project. OATS is a train-the-trainer program for agricultural professionals working with organic or transitioning farmers. OATS is a national consortium of independent regional non-profits, universities, businesses, and farmer networks who each work to promote and support domestic certified organic crop production. This year, OATS held three successful pilot trainings across the Midwest focused on organic row crop production. Organic agricultural expert, educator, and farmer Mallory Krieger has been selected as National Program Director of OATS and a steering committee has been formally established to serve as the national decision-making body of the consortium. The committee and National Program Director will work together to develop the OATS national strategic plan and set objectives/goals/aims of the program.

California Climate & Agriculture Network (CalCAN) has released Cultivating Climate Resilience in Farming, an eight-page report that provides a science-based review of some of the most significant impacts of climate change on California agriculture and what is predicted in the coming decades. The report also includes "stories of California farmers and ranchers coping with climate impacts, some strategies they are using, and recommendations for needed resources and tools to keep California producers viable and thriving in the face of the sobering challenges ahead."

USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has announced the award of $5.8 million for 16 research projects through the Agriculture Economics and Rural Communities program area of the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative's (AFRI) 2018 Foundational program. According to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, the grants to universities across the country will support research on the continued viability and profitability of small and medium-sized farms. Many of the projects focus on under-served groups of farmers.

A 19-year study by scientists at the University of California, Davis, found that adding compost is key to storing carbon deep in semi-arid soils. The study compared soil carbon changes at 6-foot depth in conventional, cover-cropped, and compost-added plots of corn-tomato and wheat-fallow cropping systems. This research found that conventionally managed soils neither release nor store much carbon. Cover-cropped soils stored carbon only in the 12 inches nearest the surface, and they actually lost carbon at lower depths. However, when both compost and cover crops were added in an organic-certified system, soil carbon content increased 12.6% over the duration of the study, or about 0.07% annually. The study demonstrated significant carbon-storage potential in soils that have compost added.

Practical Farmers of Iowa has released a video on the results of a research project in which six farmer-cooperators compared four lettuce varieties to determine which grow and taste best during summer in Iowa. In this 5-minute video, PFI horticulture and habitat programs manager Liz Kolbe explains the research project testing Concept, Cherokee, Magenta, and Nevada lettuce varieties. Also, Jordan Scheibel, of Middle Way Farm in Grinnell, talks about what he's looking for in a heat-tolerant lettuce variety and how it can help benefit his operation.

The USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Texas has announced that 32 projects will receive more than $262,000 in grants awarded through Texas Urban and Rural Conservation Projects (TURCP). To address food deserts and educate urban citizens and youth on the benefits of locally grown fresh produce and greening of the urban landscape, NRCS awarded competitive TURCP grants to establish community and pollinator gardens and construct high tunnel systems and rainwater harvesting systems. TURCP project grants are available up to $4,000 for a community garden, $3,000 for pollinator gardens, $6,500 for a high tunnel and $5,000 for a rainwater harvesting system. A list of recipients is available online.

The Pasture Project, Practical Farmers of Iowa, Sustainable Farming Association, and Land Stewardship Project partnered on a four-year NRCS-USDA Conservation Innovation Grant to demonstrate the economic and soil health benefits of livestock grazing on cover crops. Practical Farmers of Iowa reports on the experience of three Iowa farmers who participated in a study that compared soil compaction in conventionally managed row crop fields where no cover crops were planted and no grazing occurred with fields where grazing of cover crops occurred. The cover crop was a six-species mix planted on no-till corn and soybean fields that had never before been planted with cover crops. Four years of data from this study show that grazing cover crops did not contribute to soil compaction in row crop fields. Farmers employed proper grazing management practices, such as avoiding excessive grazing during wet and muddy conditions.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) reports that it has been working closely with the Niche Meat Processors Assistance Network, the American Grassfed Association, and the United States Department of Agriculture's Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) to ensure that FSIS' regulatory approach is right-sized for small and very small meat processing plants. Through this effort, niche producers and processors participated in seven regional stakeholder roundtables where attendees held an open dialogue that directly addressed meat and poultry food safety, as well as the negative impacts of a one-size-fits-all regulatory framework. Five meetings were held in 2016, and two in 2019. NSAC reported on issues raised at the meetings and next steps in the effort.

USDA has announced the award of $9.3 million in grants for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects across the nation through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). REAP supports renewable energy and energy efficiency projects with grants and loan guarantees for farmers, ag producers and rural-based businesses and institutions. These announcements are part of the $50 million Congress appropriated for REAP in fiscal year 2019. Projects selected for funding in all 50 states and Puerto Rico are listed online and include installation of solar arrays to power small and organic farms.

Follow the Food, a multimedia series by BBC Future and BBC World News, investigates how farmers, researchers, and innovators around the world are working to secure a sustainable long-term future for the global food supply chain. Eight episodes available online address topics such as high-tech farming, waste reduction, soil, water, and sustainable food systems. The stories combine text, images, graphics, and video to introduce issues in agricultural production and the research that seeks to address those issues and enable future production.

Multi-year purchase agreements can help to advance adoption of sustainable agriculture practices, says a feature on Conservation Finance Network. For example, Pipeline Foods' Farm Profit Program enrolls growers in a 10-year agreement to purchase their organic crops. The assurance offered by a long-term agreement can help farmers weather the transitional period to organic production. Some organic producers value long-term contracts because they alleviate the need for marketing crops every year, and having a long-term agreement can motivate banks to lend. The feature points out that long-term contracts can also support expensive conservation measures, or practices that take a long time to pay off.

The National Food Hub Survey is currently underway. It's a collaborative research effort of Michigan State University's Center for Regional Food Systems (CRFS) and the Wallace Center at Winrock International, conducted every two years. The survey helps to identify trends in economic growth, services offered, and customers served by food hubs nationwide. Participation in the online survey is voluntary and takes 30 to 60 minutes. Participating in the survey can help improve national understanding of food hubs and inform policy and programming, as well as provide data that can help food hubs.

The perennial grain kernza, developed by Wes Jackson at the Land Institute, is an example of a new model for agriculture that's featured in Yale Environment 360. After 40 years of development, kernza is in commercial production, though still on a small scale as researchers continue to work to improve the plant's yield. The perennial grain is just part of a conceived food-production model that incorporates a self-sustaining perennial polyculture of diverse edible plants, including lupine to fix nitrogen, several perennial grains, and sunflowers grown for oil. A similar approach in agroforestry is based on a complex, multi-layered edible forest agro-ecosystem that combines canopy trees, fruit trees, bushes, herbs, root vegetables, and vines with livestock.

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced the selection of 15 projects for funding through Soil Science Collaborative Research. Projects focus on soil science and soil survey research, and the information gained from the collaborative research will advance NRCS' ability to provide scientifically based soil and ecosystem information. Descriptions of the funded projects are available online.

New legislation in Montana has allowed the number of Food and Agriculture Development Centers (FADC) in the state to increase from four to eight, and also reauthorized funding for them, reports the Montana Standard. FADCs provide assistance to businesses that add value to food, renewable energy, or agricultural products produced in the state, helping them acquire grants and financing.

The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) has introduced a free online training program for beginning farmers, existing organic farmers, and farmers in transition to organic production. The first module in the training is Organic Soil Health Management. The content throughout the training program focuses on organic specialty crop production in California. This open educational resource is a joint effort between OFRF, the University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (UC SAREP), and California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, with funding from the California Department of Food and Agriculture. The self-paced program combines descriptive essays, video lectures from university faculty, and virtual field trips to demonstrate organic principles and practices.

Wolfe's Neck Center for Agriculture & the Environment, together with founding collaborators Stonyfield Organic, the USDA's LandPKS project, and Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), has announced the launch of OpenTEAM, the first open-source technology ecosystem in the world to address soil health and mitigate climate change. OpenTEAM, or Open Technology Ecosystem for Agricultural Management, is a farmer-driven, interoperable platform to provide farmers around the world with the best possible knowledge to improve soil health. According to a press release, OpenTEAM offers "field-level carbon measurement, digital management records, remote sensing, predictive analytics and input, and economic management decision support in a connected platform that reduces the need for farmer data entry while improving access to a wide array of tools." OpenTEAM is projected to provide quantitative feedback on millions of acres of farmland by 2024.

GIE Media Inc. has announced that Hemp Grower will launch August 20, 2019, as a weekly newsletter and website to serve the U.S. hemp industry and emerging hemp markets in North America. GIE plans to publish the first edition of the Hemp Grower print magazine in late 2019. The magazine will be published six times per year and will be free to hemp business owners, senior management, and growers. Hemp Grower will provide regulatory news, analysis of industry trends and business strategy, and expert advice on cultivation, extraction, marketing, financial topics, and legal issues

Equitable Food Initiative (EFI) has released revised certification standards, including a new Ethical Charter Addendum, to help growers demonstrate that they abide by all the principles of the Ethical Charter on Responsible Labor Practices. The Ethical Charter provides members of the fresh produce industry with guiding principles and values as a framework for responsible labor practices. EFI has launched the optional addendum with an updated certification program that has been carefully benchmarked to the Charter. Growers who are audited and certified to the full EFI standards and the addendum can be confident they abide by the Charter principles. Equitable Food Initiative is a nonprofit certification and skill-building organization that seeks to increase transparency in the food supply chain and improve the lives of farmworkers through a team-based approach to training and continuous improvement practices.

USDA has launched a new Farm Loan Discovery Tool on that can help farmers and ranchers find information on USDA farm loans that may best fit their operations. Farmers who are looking for financing options to operate a farm or buy land can answer a few simple questions about what they are looking to fund and how much money they need to borrow. After submitting their answers, farmers will be provided information on farm loans that best fit their specific needs. The loan application and additional resources also will be provided. Farmers can also download application quick guides that outline what to expect from preparing an application to receiving a loan decision.

A team of researchers from Croatan Institute, Delta Institute, and the Organic Agriculture Revitalization Strategy (OARS) has released Soil Wealth: Investing in Regenerative Agriculture across Asset Classes, a report that provides the most comprehensive look to date at the U.S. landscape of investment opportunities in regenerative agriculture. The report highlights 127 investments totaling $321.1 billion that explicitly integrate sustainable food and agriculture in their investment processes, with 70 of those strategies (with combined assets of $47.5 billion) including regenerative agricultural criteria in their investment strategy. The report provides an in-depth analysis of investments in farmland and investment opportunities that support regenerative agricultural value chains and food systems. Across these asset classes, it identifies 67 distinct investment mechanisms, instruments, and approaches for further developing regenerative agriculture capital opportunities. The report concludes with a series of recommendations for investors and stakeholders to build greater "soil wealth" —the benefits associated with improving soil health and increasing rural wealth through regenerative agriculture.

Kansas State University Research and Extension reports that test plots of industrial hemp have been growing for about two months at three of its research centers across the state. K-State researchers are seeking answers to many questions, including whether to grow hemp for grain, fiber or CBD (cannabidiol) oil. K-State Research and Extension is testing several different production techniques, fertilizer treatments, and varieties, as well as looking for pests and diseases. Jason Griffin, director of the John C. Pair Horticulture Center, explains that scientists are rapidly gaining time- and cost-saving experience "so that we can get that information out there for the farmers, for the growers who want to grow this, so that they can learn from our mistakes."

A study recently published in the Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics found that a county seeking to establish its first food hub needs roughly 182,000 residents for that food hub to break even. Researchers found that roughly 500,000 residents would be required to sustain a second food hub and three times more to sustain a third. Stephan Goetz, professor of agricultural and regional economics and director of the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development, comments, "Food hubs have enjoyed public and private support because they play an important role in local and regional food systems...What we've shown is that while there is a market to support food hubs in many places across the U.S., there also is a potential danger to unintentionally over-support and over-populate the sector, which poses a threat to the hubs that have found a business model that works and no longer need government support." By contrast, the study found that only about 105,000 residents are needed to sustain a traditional wholesaler that is not mission-driven as a food hub is.

Washington State University reports that professor Pete Jacoby has developed a Direct Root-Zone irrigation (DRZ) system that could cut vineyard water use by 35%. The system utilizes vertical tubes buried one to four feet in the soil to deliver water directly to the root zones of individual plants. Field research has shown that the system can be a viable option for growers in arid southcentral Washington and other similar climates worldwide.

One author of a paper published in World Archaeology writes on The Conversation that lessons from some past agricultural systems could help make agriculture more sustainable today. One example is the pre-Incan system called Waru Waru, which utilizes raised beds surrounded by water channels to manage water and moderate the local climate, as well as raise fish alongside crops. Waru Waru is particularly resilient to both flooding and drought. Another strategy practiced since ancient times is fish-rice farming, in which fish in the rice fields help control pests and increase rice yields as well as providing an additional protein source.

University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources has developed a new website, "California Agritourism," that compiles information for farmers, ranchers, and everyone involved in California agritourism. The site includes articles, worksheets, checklists, guides, webinars, presentations, contacts, and other materials created by UC ANR advisors and staff; presentations and handouts shared by agritourism stakeholders and educators at UC ANR agritourism workshops; and links to useful agritourism resources created by other universities and organizations. Materials on the site are organized by activity, by region, and by audience. In addition to resources helpful for farmers and ranchers developing their own agritourism businesses, the website shares materials useful for agricultural educators, researchers, county and municipal staff, and the tourism community in supporting agritourism development and regional agritourism promotion.

Long Island Sustainable Winegrowing has launched an online training program funded by the New York Wine & Grape Foundation. The goal of the Sustainable Wine Professional Course is to better equip winery professionals with the industry knowledge needed to educate consumers, trade, and media about the value of sustainable winemaking practices. The curriculum includes an overview of sustainability with an explanation of sustainable winegrowing. Students will learn common strategies for winegrowers to reduce their environmental impact and the sustainable certification logos found on wine labels in the United States.

The Native American Agriculture Fund (NAAF), a newly formed private charitable trust devoted to serving the interest of Native farmers and ranchers, has announced its inaugural Request for Applications. Grant awards will be made on a competitive basis to 501(c)(3) organizations, educational organizations, Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and Native CDFIs, and state and federally recognized tribes for the provision of business assistance, agricultural education, technical support, and advocacy services to existing and aspiring Native farmers and ranchers. Eligible applicants must submit a complete application no later than September 30, 2019. NAAF is a charitable trust created by the settlement of the landmark Keepseagle v Vilsack class-action lawsuit. NAAF is the largest philanthropic organization devoted solely to serving the Native farming and ranching community.

Climate Change and Land, a report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, says that fundamental changes in land management can mitigate and help ecosystems cope with a changing climate. The report reveals how climate change, land management, and global food security interact with each other, creating complex feedback loops. "Sustainable land management can contribute to reducing the negative impacts of multiple stressors, including climate change, on ecosystems and societies," note the report authors. In particular, the report says that wholistic, nature-based solutions, such as agroforestry, reforestation, and afforestation programs, can reduce land degradation and act as carbon sinks. The report highlights the need for individuals, communities, corporations, and governments to take action, stressing that the longer we wait, the more severe the risks.

The National Center for Appropriate Technology's ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture program is inviting submission of proposals for plenary and poster presentations for its inaugural Soil Health Innovations conference being held March 30-31, 2020, at Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana. We encourage proposals that address the future of sustainable agricultural through better soil health practices that incorporate present and future concepts, techniques, and practical applications. These include re-adapted methods, new technologies, groundbreaking research, market-based demand, or innovative social approaches that encourage and expand improved soil health. The conference is being presented in cooperation with Western Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Montana State University. Online submissions are due September 20, 2019.

A report from the National Young Farmers Coalition, Growing Pennsylvania's Future: Challenges Facing Young Farmers and Recommendations to Address Them, analyzes the results of a survey and series of listening sessions. The report highlights three main challenges standing in the way of young farmers: land access, workforce development, and farmer business services. The Coalition says the report is a call to action to policy makers, technical service providers, and agricultural stakeholders, to meet these challenges head on with creative policy solutions designed to invest in the Commonwealth's agricultural economy by investing in the success of young and beginning farmers.

Scientists at Cornell University have published research showing what spotted-wing drosophila adults and larvae eat, and where they lay their eggs. The study found that when fruit is not in season, the insect pest successfully lays eggs and develops early in the season on mushrooms, late in the season on rotting apples, and on complex bird manures. The insight could help growers control pest populations by managing non-fruit-season food sources, which is important because the flies can live for a full year, with a female laying up to 400 eggs per month in non-fruit food sources in early spring.

A study published in the Soil Science Society of America Journal compared vegetable farming systems in California's Salinas Valley that received different amounts and types of organic matter. The American Society of Agronomy reports that cover cropping annually—no matter the type of plant grown—greatly benefits the soil. Adding compost offered less of an increase in soil microbial activity than growing a cover crop did. "Our results on soil enzyme activity illustrate the importance of frequent cover-cropping in tillage-intensive, organic vegetable production," says study leader Eric Brennan. "This raises questions about the sustainability of organic and conventional vegetable systems if cover crops are seldom used. We need to find innovative strategies to help farmers increase cover cropping."

The Montana Local Food Challenge is inviting Montanans to eat local food every day for the month of August. People who sign up to participate in the challenge, and special focus challenges each week of the month, become eligible for local food prize drawings. The Montana Local Food Challenge is an opportunity for individuals, families, and businesses to challenge their current buying and eating habits and make a commitment to eating locally while learning about the myriad of benefits to be gained from localizing our thinking. Meanwhile, across the country, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association is asking individuals to pledge to eat all local and organic foods for one day, one week, or the entire month of August. The pledge highlights the abundance of local organic products that contribute to diverse, tasty meals, and the initiative takes place when many seasonal products are reaching peak abundance.

Oregon State University Extension has released Integrated Pest Management Strategic Planning: A Practical Guide. This 12-page publication is a how-to guide for conducting integrated pest management strategic planning with agricultural industries or other stakeholders.T his guide outlines the method for IPM Strategic Planning within agricultural industries or other pest management settings, and is intended to help maximize the use of this process, which is already in use in the Pacific Northwest. The IPM Strategic Planning methodology has been refined with six Pacific Northwest crops (onion, cranberry, sweet cherry, hazelnut, potato, and mint), and it produces a living document that describes the major pests, challenges, and critical needs of an industry. The publication is available free online.

The University of Minnesota highlighted ways in which it is helping farmers adapt to challenging and changing growing conditions. Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships (RSPD) is connecting farmers and communities to U of M research on sustainability projects that grow economic development around Greater Minnesota, including high tunnels and deep winter greenhouses. RSPD is also connecting farmers to rural groceries and expanding markets for hardier crops like grains and hazelnuts. In addition, the University's Research and Outreach Centers are involved in helping farmers be more sustainable and in conducting climate-adaptive crop research.

Scientists at the Spanish Council of Scientific Research have identified two alternatives to insecticides for control of tomato yellow leaf curl disease (TYLCD), reports The American Phytopathological Society. Field and greenhouse trials over three consecutive years revealed that protecting tomato crops with UV-blocking plastics led to reduced TYLCD damage. Researchers also found that the application of a salicylic acid analogue to strengthen tomato plant defenses was effective in reducing TYLCD-associated losses, and they recommend that commercial growers combine the two control practices.

The University of Missouri and USDA Agricultural Research Service have developed a camera system to cost-effectively monitor crop temperatures and indicate irrigation needs. The system combines a digital camera that provides detailed crop images with a miniature infrared camera that indicates hot, under-watered plants. Combined with an algorithm that filters non-plant presences out of images, the technology could help farmers tailor irrigation to the needs of specific plants at a comparatively low cost affordable for mid-size farmers. Using drones could help the system monitor large fields. The system is not yet commercially available.

Rodale Institute has announced its third regional resource center start-up in 2019, the California Organic Center. McGrath Family Farm in Camarillo, California, will be the site of the new California Organic Center, a satellite location for the organic research and education institution to conduct regionally focused research trials, farmer outreach, and consumer education. The project is being funded by Ventura Seed Company, a hemp seed propagation and cultivation company. Rodale Institute says the new center will be conducting research in new climates and soil types, and on crops, pests, diseases, and weeds that are most relevant to farmers in this important agricultural area. Ultimately, the center aims to increase the number of organic farms and acreage in the region, help farmers improve soil health and other key metrics like yields and profitability without synthetic chemicals, and serve as an organic research and education hub for farmers and consumers in Ventura County and California.

The 2019 Techstars Sustainability Accelerator in Partnership with The Nature Conservancy is a three-month accelerator program that provides mentorship, investment, and resources to help entrepreneurs rapidly scale-up technology that is solving for a sustainable future across food, water, and climate change. The ten companies participating in 2019 are focusing on technologies that will help with supply-chain accountability, water management, water quality, soil-carbon markets, agroforestry investment, and verification of regenerative farming. The program runs through October 30, 2019, when the companies will showcase their technologies and pitch to investors.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is seeking public comments on the program priorities for the 2020 Special Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP). Through a two-phase competitive solicitation process, the SCBGP awards funds to projects that solely enhance the competitiveness of California specialty crops. The priorities help guide prospective applicants to submit projects that address the most relevant issues affecting the industry. CDFA is asking for public comments and suggestions on the program priorities. Comments may be submitted at public listening sessions scheduled August 8-15, 2019, or via email to through August 16, 2019.

More than 500,000 acres of Minnesota farmland is now enrolled in the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP), according to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. MAWQCP is a voluntary program for farmers and landowners that protects the state's water resources, with 772 farms certified since the program began in 2014. The MAWQCP puts farmers in touch with local conservation district experts to identify and mitigate any risks their farm poses to water quality. To date, Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality certified farms have added 1,557 new conservation practices, including more than 52,000 acres of new cover crops, that protect Minnesota's waters. Those new practices have kept over 34,000 tons of sediment out of Minnesota rivers while saving nearly 86,000 tons of soil and 41,000 pounds of phosphorous on farms each year. The conservation practices have also reduced nitrogen loss up to 49% and cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 30,000 tons per year.

Operational Tillage Information System (OpTIS), a tool that analyzes remotely sensed images of the landscape, provides conservation-practice adoption data on a regional scale. Developed by Applied GeoSolutions, the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC), and The Nature Conservancy (TNC), OpTIS identifies and quantifies the proportion of cropland that is managed with various types of conservation tillage practices and winter cover crops each year. An initial data release in early July provided information on conservation practice adoption in Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa from 2005 to 2018, with data for the entire Corn Belt to be released soon. The first release showed that adoption of winter cover crops in the region is growing, and use of conservation tillage practices for corn and soybeans remained fairly steady at around 45% through the period.

The Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS) has released two short films that showcase the efforts of farmers and conservationists in the San Luis Valley of Colorado to address agricultural challenges through improved soil health. The 11-minute film Soil Health in the West: The San Luis Valley features the work of farmers Lyle and Erin Nissen, ranchers George Whitten and Julie Sullivan, and their conservationist partners to efficiently use limited water resources and reduce soil erosion through crop rotations, increased biodiversity, and innovative rangeland management practices. Conservation Professionals: Inspiring a Movement is a five-minute film that highlights the essential role of conservation professionals in the soil health movement by documenting the lasting impact that one conservationist—Mike Collins, USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service—had on the landscape and his community.

American Farmland Trust (AFT), in partnership with USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), has released four case studies showing that healthier soil on farmland brings economic benefits to farmers and environmental benefits to society. The two-page case studies focus on corn-soybean production in Illinois and Ohio, almond production in California, and a diversified rotation (sweet corn, alfalfa, corn for silage or grain) in New York. Featured farmers implemented soil health practices including no-till or strip-till, nutrient management, cover crops, compost, and mulching. The case studies were developed as part of a 2018 NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) project, and they are available on AFT's "Accelerating Soil Health" webpage.

Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has announced 20 projects that will be awarded funds under the competitive Value Added and Regional Food System Grant Program. The $1.8 million in grants for the 20 projects will leverage more than $12 million in private investments. A list of recipients is available online. Projects include processing, packing, and storage equipment for crops ranging from blueberries to broccoli.

North Carolina State University announced that researchers there have developed portable sniffing technology that plugs into a smartphone to detect plant diseases in the field. The device works by sampling the airborne volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that plants release through their leaves. The type and concentration of VOCs changes when a plant is sick, so the device can tell when plants are sick and which disease they have. The tool could help farmers quickly differentiate between plant diseases with similar symptoms, right in the field.

Researchers at University of California, Santa Barbara, have published the results of a study of groundwater wells across the United States. They found that wells are getting deeper, and the deepening trend extends across 79% of the areas they looked at, spanning the time period from 1950 to 2015. "What we're finding is that in places where water levels are declining, some people are drilling deeper, maybe to avoid having their primary water supply go dry," study author Debra Perrone said. "Regardless of the reasons why Americans are drilling deeper, we suggest that deeper well drilling is an unsustainable stopgap to groundwater depletion." Deeper water takes more energy to pump and is more saline. The study authors suggest that understanding more about how groundwater is being used is key to future management and governance.

Farmers Market Coalition (FMC) is offering resources, tools, and fun activities for market managers, vendors, and attendees to use for planning and participating in National Farmers Market Week, set for August 4-10, 2019. The online offerings include a webinar tour of the resources and how to use them. Invitations, infographics, marketing materials, and talking points are all available free online. National Farmers Market Week is a great opportunity to show the nation how much value markets bring to their communities.

Atlanta nonprofit Food Well Alliance announced that the City of East Point has been selected to pilot Atlanta's new City Agriculture Plan. The plan will bring growers, community leaders, and city officials together, guided by the planning expertise of the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), to develop city-wide plans that prioritize urban agriculture. The plan will begin in East Point with a community engagement and asset mapping phase led by Food Well Alliance, followed by a six-month planning process undertaken with support from ARC. Once the plan is developed, Food Well Alliance will guide the implementation of the plan and provide a minimum of $75,000 in funding to help the community bring it to life. Six other metro Atlanta cities that rallied to pilot the program will receive funding support to catalyze their own urban agriculture initiatives: Alpharetta, Clarkston, Hapeville, Lawrenceville, Lovejoy, and Pine Lake. The Community Engagement phase of the City Agriculture Plan begins with a kick-off session hosted by Food Well Alliance and the City of East Point on August 22, 2019.

A feature in The Christian Science Monitor tells the stories of young agricultural entrepreneurs who are starting businesses in rural areas of Nebraska. These young people are returning to family farms and rural communities armed with business skills and innovative marketing ideas. Hannah Esch direct-markets beef with social-media savvy, shipping the frozen meat. Twins Matt and Joe Brugger grow hops for local microbreweries and direct-market beef to a university athletic training program and those same microbreweries.

Scientists with USDA Agricultural Research Service published a study in The Journal of Invertebrate Pathology that showed beneficial nematodes are more effective at controlling crop-damaging insects when they're treated with a pheromone that changes their behavior. The pheromone-induced nematodes were 28 to 78% more effective in controlling pecan weevils and black soldier flies in greenhouse soil than non-exposed nematodes. The pheromone is produced by the beneficial nematodes themselves, and its absence or presence either directs the nematodes to disperse or to kill insect pests. ARS has established a cooperative research agreement with Pheronym, an ag-biotech pest control company that develops and produces nematode pheromones.

A European project called Circular Agronomics aims to boost nutrient recycling in the agricultural food chain and to help reduce emissions. New European Union legislation that took effect in June made it easier to sell fertilizer made from recycled agricultural products, reports Horizon: The EU Research & Innovation Magazine. As a consequence, researchers with the Nutri2Cycle project are exploring 24 different ways to break down farm waste to make nutrients available as fertilizer, ranging from biodigesters to manure treatment. Waste streams that are being tested for potential as fertilizer include potato processing water, poultry manure, and dairy processing waste.

Wisconsin farmer Patrick McHugh has diversified by growing 140 acres of alternative crops, reports Agri-View. These include heirloom open-pollinated corn and Aroostook rye that are used by La Crosse Distilling Co. The distilling crops are part of a rotation that also includes organic soybeans and cover crops. McHugh aims for as little soil disturbance as possible, using a flame weeder and striving to add organic matter. He's also trying a new crop: an acre-and-a-half plot of hemp.

Practical Farmers of Iowa has made its cover crop business directory available online. The directory offers fully searchable and sortable tables for locating cover crop seed and providers of cover crop seeding services, custom cover crop spraying, and seed cleaning. The directory will be updated regularly. It includes listings from Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

National Crop Insurance Services (NCIS) has launched a new website at that aims to be an easily-accessible resource where visitors can learn more about the history of crop insurance, download fact sheets, or find a glossary of common terms. As part of this initiative, NCIS also debuted a new Crop Insurance 101 video that explains how crop insurance works. The Crop Insurance 101 website was officially launched at a congressional briefing this week hosted by the new House Crop Insurance Caucus.

Research published in Nature Communications by scientists at Michigan State University showed the importance of soil pore structure in soil carbon storage. Researchers studied five different cropping systems in a replicated field experiment in southwest Michigan, and they found that the two samples with high plant diversity had higher levels of soil carbon. The most stable carbon appears to be the result of microbes producing organic compounds that are then adsorbed onto soil mineral particles. Scientists found that soils from restored prairie ecosystems, with many different plant species, had many more pores of the right size for stable carbon storage than did a pure stand of switchgrass. "If we can design or breed crops with rooting characteristics that favor this kind of soil porosity and therefore that favor soil carbon stabilization, that would be a pretty smart way to design systems that can build carbon faster," notes study co-author Phil Robertson.

"Small" and "very small" produce farms throughout California are being mailed educational letters about their roles in upholding the Produce Safety Rule (PSR) of the federal Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), says the California Department of Food and Agriculture. The letters contain questionnaires to verify commodities grown, determine whether annual sales qualify farms for a PSR exemption, and to help prioritize future inspections. The Department's Produce Safety Program offers a website with the ability to schedule an On-Farm Readiness Review and to register for a mandatory Produce Safety Rule Grower Training Course. "Small" farms with average annual sales of $250,000–$500,000 during the previous three-year period are now expected to be in PSR compliance, with inspections set to begin in January 2020. "Very small" farms with average annual sales of $25,000–$250,000 during the previous three-year period must be in general compliance by January 2020, with inspections set to begin in January 2021. Any farm that does not comply with the Produce Safety Rule may face economic, regulatory, and legal consequences.

Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides has updated its resource guide for alternatives to pesticides, Many Small Hammers. The concept of using "many small hammers" to effectively address pest management problems—rather than the "big hammer" of a pesticide—is an approach grounded in a view of the farm as a living, diverse, and dynamic system. This report provides an overview of several of these "small hammers" for growers who wish to consider implementing alternative methods for pest management: pheromones, cover crops, solarization, and more. The report also provides a brief overview of different federal financial incentive programs available to help pay for the cost of farming with alternative methods. The publication is available free online in PDF.

The Stone Barns Regenerative Farming Fellowship (RFF) provides medium-scale farmers seeking to transition to regenerative farming practices with education, a supportive peer network, and the inspiration, leadership and advocacy skills they need to bring about structural change. The Fellowship, which is being piloted in 2019, is developed and programmed by the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in partnership with the National Young Farmers Coalition and Arizona State University, supported by the General Mills Foundation. The Regenerative Farming Fellowship begins at the annual Stone Barns Young Farmers Conference in Pocantico Hills, New York, on December 3-6, 2019. Fellows will continue their stay at Stone Barns through December 9, 2019, for further in-depth programming featuring experts in the fields of sustainable food and farming. From Stone Barns Center, the cohort will travel to Washington, D.C., for a three-day intensive leadership and advocacy training. Finally, the cohort will gather for three days at the General Mills headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in early April. Up to eight applicants will be selected for the 2019 Regenerative Farming Fellowship cohort. Applications are due by August 7, 2019.

In partnership with the United States Botanic Garden (USBG) and Holden Forests & Gardens, NCAT is bringing the week-long Armed to Farm (ATF) veterans training to Cleveland, Ohio, for a special event focused on urban farming. Armed to Urban Farm will give military veterans an opportunity to see sustainable, profitable small-scale farming enterprises and learn about urban farming as a career. ATF combines engaging classroom sessions with farm tours and hands-on activities. Veterans can visit to complete an application by August 2, 2019. All veterans are welcome to apply, but those from Ohio and the Great Lakes Region will receive priority.

National Farmers Union Foundation (NFUF) has refocused its general farm education programs around the Farm and Ranch Business Health Assessment (BHA) and a new Farm Business Toolbox. These free resources help farmers identify their operations' strengths and weaknesses and offer opportunities to improve their business acumen. After using the BHA to identify farm business improvement priorities, participating farmers can consult the NFUF Farm Business Toolbox for additional information on those topics. The toolbox compiles resources from California Farmlink, Compeer Financials, Cornell University, Farm Commons, Farm Credit East, Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation, Land Grant University Tax Education Foundation, Inc., National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Northwest Farm Credit Services, and Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE).

A study from the University of Vermont found that essential oils from other plant species can be used to repel insect pests from vegetable crops. Researchers found that essential oils of garlic, spearmint, thyme, eucalyptus lemon, and cinnamon bark were effective at repelling swede midge from broccoli, kale, and other cabbage-family crops in Canada and the northeastern United States. Specifically, this study revealed that plants that are more distantly related from the host plant are generally more repellent. The study concluded that garlic was not only one of the most effective repellents, but that it was already readily available for growers to use.

The International Food Policy Research Institute published a study in The Journal of Nutrition, showing that the affordability of both healthy and unhealthy foods varies around the world, and that these price differences help explain health outcomes ranging from stunting and malnutrition to obesity. The study showed marked variations in the affordability of both healthy and unhealthy foods across different regions of the world, and at differing levels of development. The study found that economic development tends to make healthy foods more affordable, but that process also tends to make unhealthy foods cheaper. The researchers noted that policymakers have several tools available to help make nutrient-rich foods relatively more affordable, including nutrition-sensitive agricultural investments that could make healthy foods cheaper, and taxation and regulation efforts—such as food labelling—to curb consumption of unhealthy foods.

The U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) announced that scientists have discovered the specific gene that controls an important symbiotic relationship between plants and soil fungi. ORNL says the discovery could lead to the development of bioenergy and food crops that can withstand harsh growing conditions, resist pathogens and pests, require less chemical fertilizer, and produce larger and more plentiful plants per acre. Mycorrhizal fungi form a sheath around plant roots that help them acquire nutrients and withstand pathogens and pests. Fostering this relationship using the gene that controls it could help create stronger, healthier plants, say scientists involved in the work.

Iowa Learning Farms (ILF) is a hands-on education and outreach program for Iowa landowners and agricultural producers based with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. ILF recently celebrated 15 years of serving the conservation and agricultural needs of Iowa. Since 2004, the program has implemented a multidisciplinary approach in its efforts to increase adoption of conservation practices that would lead to greater natural resource protection. A recently released report on the program highlights successes, touch points, growth, and impacts over the past 15 years.

South Dakota Soil Health Coalition (SDSHC) and Avera Health are collaborating on a project called "Protect Yourself and Your Soil," based on the connection between the potentially harmful effects of sun on skin and what can be seen when producers leave soil exposed to the elements. Both Avera Health and the SDSHC will be distributing wider-brim hats and educational information throughout the summer, highlighting facts about the skin and soil connection, as well as tips to avoid negative health effects. It is their hope that this unique collaboration will increase the quality of life for South Dakota farmers, ranchers, gardeners, and the general public while also promoting the protection and enhancement of one of the state's most important resources.

The International Food Policy Research Institute announced the results of an international study published in Lancet Planetary Health, showing that over the next 30 years, climate change and increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) could significantly reduce the availability of critical nutrients, compared to a future without climate change. According to the study, change shocks and elevated levels of CO2 in the atmosphere are estimated to reduce growth in global per-capita nutrient availability of protein by 19.5%, iron by 14.4%, and zinc by 14.6%. Researchers note that improvements in technology and market effects "are projected to increase nutrient availability over current levels by 2050, but these gains are substantially diminished by the negative impacts of rising concentrations of carbon dioxide." The study also pointed to the impacts on nutrients in key individual crops. Protein, iron, and zinc availability in wheat are projected to be reduced by up to 12% by 2050 in all regions.

The Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development recently voted to approve Food and Agriculture Investment Fund grants for six food and agriculture projects. This new round of grants will help increase the use of Michigan milk and cream, support the state's potato and forest products industries, lead to increased food manufacturing, and support production and processing of diverse grains in Michigan. With these projects, the Commission has approved 24 projects this fiscal year, leading to hundreds of new jobs and millions of dollars of new private investment in the food, agriculture, and forest products sectors of Michigan.

The Rodale Institute has announced that it will launch the Southeast Organic Center, a new regional resource center focused on the unique challenges of farmers in the southeast United States. The center will open in fall of 2019 at 300-acre Many Fold Farm in Georgia's Chattahoochee Hills. "Scientific research and high-quality farmer education conducted by the Southeast Organic Center will validate and expand truly sustainable agricultural practices in order to save our food system, our planet, and ourselves," says Many Fold Farm's Rebecca Williams. The Southeast Organic Center will focus on increasing the number of farms and acres in organic production in the region; establishing a long-term research trial to determine changes in soil health, yields, economic models, and more; solving challenges for organic farmers in the region, including pests, disease, weed management; and farmer training and pathways to market.

USDA Rural Development is reminding farmers, rural small businesses, and agricultural producers that $400 million is available in loan guarantees through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). REAP funding can be used for renewable-energy systems such as anaerobic digesters, biomass, geothermal, hydropower, wind, and solar. It also can be used to make energy-efficiency improvements to heating, ventilation, and cooling systems; insulation; lighting; and refrigeration. USDA accepts applications for REAP funding year-round. Potential applicants should contact their state USDA Rural Development offices for additional information.

Engineers at Cornell University have developed a predictive model for irrigation that combines plant physiology, real-time soil conditions, and weather forecasts. They predict that using this information to decide how and when to irrigate could save 40% of the water consumed by traditional irrigation practices. In addition, this "smart irrigation" could help improve the quality of specialty crops such as grapes, by ensuring that they receive the right amount of water. Researchers conducted a case study using this model for irrigation of grass crops in Iowa, and they are preparing to test it on apples in New York. The research includes an assessment of the costs and benefits of switching from a model based on human decisions to an automated one.

As part of its annual meeting, the Soil Health Institute has released its comprehensive strategy for enhancing soil health. Dr. Wayne Honeycutt, CEO of the Soil Health Institute, explained, "[A] key component of our strategy is to assess the impacts of soil health adoption on profitability and economic risk. Another is to identify the most effective measurements for soil health because farmers cannot be expected to manage what they cannot measure. We then need to provide workshops on locally-relevant management practices proven by other farmers to work for them." In addition, Honeycutt described how information must be supported by a strong research and development program that producers, policy analysts, and society can trust.

The USDA NRCS Soil Health Division has posted an on-demand webinar titled Soil Health Pays. Join Wayne Fredericks to learn about the economic benefits of using soil health management systems to be profitable farming in Iowa. In this webinar, he explore what he has learned on his farm over the last 26 years and how it has contributed to his bottom line. He also shares some of the lessons he has also learned from others respected in the field regarding soil health, concluding with what he feels are the biggest hurdles that lie ahead in adopting practices that promote soil health.

Five UN agencies, The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Program (WFP), and the World Health Organization (WHO), have released The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World. The report gives an updated estimate of the number of hungry people in the world, including regional and national breakdowns, and the latest data on child stunting and wasting as well as on adult and child obesity. This year's report also goes beyond hunger, providing estimates for the first time of the number of people who face uncertainties about obtaining food and have reduced the quality and quantity of the food they eat to get by. The report also offers analysis of the drivers of hunger, food insecurity, and all forms of malnutrition, and this year includes a special focus on the impact of economic slowdowns and downturns.

Market data and online trading platform Mercaris has released a Spring Planting Special Report detailing how organic field crop acreage has been impacted by unprecedented cold and wet springtime weather this year. Mercaris found that less than 3% of U.S. organic field crop acres were located in areas impacted by this spring's most significant flooding but organic growers were still affected by above-average precipitation. The report analyzes how organic growers are using tools like crop insurance and alternative cropping techniques in order to cope with losses this season. Mercaris also conducted a survey of farmers and found that a significant percentage of organic farmers will be filing a Prevented Planting insurance claim this year.

USDA announced the award of more than $9 million for 126 Farm to School Program grants. The recipients are from 42 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, and these projects are expected to serve more than 3.2 million students in more than 5,400 schools. Grants range from $20,000 to $100,000 and fund equipment purchases and experiential learning activities including planting school gardens, offering taste tests to children, and organizing field trips to local farms and food producers.

A study by Cornell University explored farmers' success with release of natural enemies on cabbage crops in New York. Researchers found that releasing pest predators led to fewer pests, less plant damage, and increased crop biomass on farms that were surrounded by more forest and natural areas and less agricultural land. However, on farms predominantly surrounded by other farms, there were more pests and plant damage and reduced crop biomass, in spite of added predators. In simpler agricultural landscapes, insect predators may prey on other predators, and there can be more competition for prey. The researchers say more study is needed before they can make specific recommendations to growers.

The Organic Association of Kentucky (OAK) is seeking engaging, innovative, and educational presentations relevant to Kentucky's thriving regenerative agriculture community for 60- or 90-minute sessions and half-day short courses for the 9th Annual OAK Conference on March 6-7, 2020, in Louisville, Kentucky. Session topics should address concepts, research, best practices, successes and challenges within organic and regenerative agriculture and pertain to one of the following priority areas: Livestock and Forage, Row Crops, Produce Production, Soil Health, Homestead and Urban Agriculture, or Business of Farming. Proposal submission deadline is July 31, 2019.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports that information on the amount and types of agricultural credit to socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers (SDFR) is limited. Congress directed GAO to study agricultural credit services provided to SDFRs, because minorities and women comprise a disproportionately small share of agricultural producers, and certain minority groups have alleged discrimination in obtaining agricultural credit. GAO identified a number of challenges that reportedly hamper SDFRs' ability to obtain private agricultural credit. However, GAO noted that comprehensive data on SDFRs' outstanding agricultural debt are not available because regulations generally prohibit lenders from collecting data on the personal characteristics of applicants for loans.

A team of researchers writing in Global Change Biology says that global food security is at increased risk from farming trends such as monocultures taking up more agricultural land and more crops relying on insects for pollination. The team analyzed UN FAO data from 1961-2016 and found that despite more land being used for agriculture worldwide, the diversity of the crops being grown has declined. Additionally, 16 of the 20 fastest-increasing crops require pollination by insects or other animals, which are themselves at risk. The researchers point out that although poorer regions of the world are at the greatest risk, the consequences of crop failure would be felt worldwide. The team concludes that care should be taken to diversify agriculture worldwide and make it more ecological, particularly by growing a diversity of crops and providing pollinator habitat.

The Guardian reports on a farm in Portugal that is using silvopasture to create a new montado, or diverse pre-medieval Portuguese system of farming. Alfredo Cunhal was managing his family's land as a monocrop farmer, but then turned to a diverse system that uses herds of animals and productive trees and shrubs to produce numerous products. "This used to be a cork oak farm," says Cunhal. "Now cork is just 5% of the turnover. Four years ago we were 100% dependent on the open market and wholesalers. Now nearly 50% of what we grow is sold directly to consumers. We have a butchery, bakery, olive oil press, smoker." The operation's complexity means that running it creates jobs and involves members of the community, even as the diversity contributes to doubling or even trebling production while improving the production capacity of the land.

A grazing school held in Missouri showcased Grazing Acres Farm, where the Pemberton family has utilized cost share and rotational grazing to renovate pasture and improve animal performance, reports University of Missouri Extension. They renovated toxic fescue pastures with a mix of warm- and cool-season grasses and legumes. Annuals help carry them through the summer slump. Water development and shade trees help further improve animal productivity. Cost-share programs through NRCS's Environmental Quality Incentive Program, the Monroe County Soil and Water Conservation District, and the 2002 Farm Bill's Conservation Security Program helped the Pembertons fund fencing, structures, and watering systems.

A new report from The Organic Center titled The Benefits of Organic Dairy explains new research findings that show that organic is an easy way to avoid contaminants in milk, giving consumers an option that doesn't include even trace amounts of pesticides, antibiotics, or synthetic growth hormones. The report highlights what's special about the way organic dairy is produced, and why those differences are important for the health of the cows, the health and safety of your family, and the environment. The 23-page report is available free online.

The Council of Development Finance Agencies (CDFA) has published a new paper in its Food Finance White Paper Series. Food Systems & Bonds provides a basic overview of bonds and describes specific types that could be relevant to food-related businesses and projects, with example case studies of each. With this series, CDFA aims to offer useful information for those working in the food system about the variety of development finance tools available to support food-related projects, as well as evidence that such financing programs are successful when applied to efforts within the food system. The 16-page publication is available free online.

Researchers at Montana State University are exploring the effect that grazing sheep on vegetable or cover crop plots has on soil health. They are studying how using grazing sheep for weed control might reduce the need for tillage or chemical herbicides. After two years of in-field testing on three cooperating farms, they've found that grazing sheep add fertility to the soil, reduce the need for tillage, and don't appear to cause soil compaction. The third year of the Western SARE-funded project involves outreach to producers in the form of tip sheets, workshops, videos, and write-ups.

Integrating sheep with vineyards yields substantial cost savings for farmers, as well as benefits for soil and ecosystems. Researchers from the University of Vermont brought the practice of integrating sheep with a vineyard to the state of Vermont for the first time, and they're working with local vineyards on a study that evaluates "the whole system—the health of the grapes, the animals, the forage and soil, as well as the consumer perceptions, or marketability potential. The existing research on this work has largely looked at these different components in pieces, rather than trying to understand all of these interactions together,” explains researcher and project technical advisor Meredith Niles. In addition to measuring soil quality and animal health and documenting how the vines and grapes respond to the sheep, the research team is surveying winery visitors to determine whether the sheep integration influences buying decisions. In addition, the UVM research team is exploring other types of systems that would be well-suited for sheep in Vermont, like Christmas tree farms, hops fields, cider orchards, or solar panel fields.

A study by the University of Florida, funded by a Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SSARE) On-Farm Research Grant, showed that grafting can help with disease control in tomatoes grown organically in a high tunnel. Specialty tomatoes grafted onto two disease-resistant rootstocks effectively managed Fusarium wilt and were healthier overall than four non-grafted control cultivars. Additionally, fruit yield was considerably higher in the grafted plants. This higher yield meant the grafted tomatoes were more profitable, even though they had a higher production cost.

Farm Aid has announced that its annual music and food festival will return to Wisconsin on September 21, 2019. The event will take place at Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, Wisconsin, and will include performances by Farm Aid board members Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Neil Young, and Dave Matthews with Tim Reynolds, as well as Bonnie Raitt, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Margo Price, Jamey Johnson, Tanya Tucker, Brothers Osborne, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Yola, and Particle Kid. "At Farm Aid 2019, we'll highlight solutions [to the national farm crisis] and show our support for family farmers' contributions to our health, economy and environment," said Farm Aid President and Founder Willie Nelson. In addition to music, the event includes locally grown concessions; hands-on educational activities about soil, water, energy, food, and farming; and demonstrations of agrarian skills.