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USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) has released the results of the 2019 Organic Survey, which show total sales of $9.93 billion in organic products, an increase of $2.37 billion, or 31% percent, from 2016. There were 16,585 certified organic farms, a 17% increase from 2016, which accounted for 5.50 million certified acres, an increase of 9% over 2016. The top organic sector was livestock and poultry products. Survey results showed that $2.04 billion in organic products were sold directly to retail markets, institutions, and local/regional food hubs, while another $300 million in organic products were sold directly to consumers, and value-added products accounted for $727 million in sales. The survey also revealed that 29% of farms plan to increase their level of organic production, and more than 1,800 certified organic farms currently have land in transition to organic production. Additional survey results are available online.




USDA has published the final rule for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program update as directed by the 2018 Farm Bill. The changes incorporated in the final rule include higher payment caps for producers participating in the Organic Initiative, advance payments for historically underserved producers, and new language specifically including soil health and weather and drought resilience in the national priorities. In addition, the Conservation Innovation Grants program was changed to include field research and lower matching funds requirements for historically underserved producers. Also, the Conservation Innovation Grants program now includes opportunities for On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials and Soil Health Demonstration Trials.




Farmers' Legal Action Group (FLAG) has published a third edition of its Farmers' Guide to Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). FLAG noted that there have been a number of changes to the program since the second edition came out in June. This third edition describes the two main aspects of CFAP—the component of CFAP that provides direct payments to farmers (what this Guide calls the CFAP direct payments program, or CFAP for short) and the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. The guide is available free online.




Farmland for a New Generation New York is a partnership between the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, American Farmland Trust, and a network of 27 land trusts that has connected more than 50 farmers with farmland over the past two years. The program combines online listings for farmland and farmers with staff who work one-on-one with farmers facing complex decisions for the future of their farms. Farmland for a New Generation New York provides these services for free to retiring farmers to help them keep their land in farming, to farmland owners who don't farm their land to ensure they can make their land available for farming, and to new and existing farmers to help them overcome barriers in finding land to launch or expand farm businesses. In the two years since the launch of the program, more than 1,500 participants have received direct assistance leading to 53 matches of farmers to nearly 2,000 acres of farmland across the state.




The 2018 Farm Bill legalized industrial hemp production nationwide and many hoped it would be a profitable new crop for farmers, reports Politico. However, after a boom in acreage planted last year, plantings of industrial hemp were down in 2020. Growers say a drop in price and a lack of markets have discouraged wider adoption of the crop. A patchwork of state regulations, combined with USDA requirements and pending FDA regulations, also complicate entry into this industry.




Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) is accepting applications for its 2020-2021 Farm Beginnings program. The eight-week course is a farmer-led program to help guide those with a strong commitment to creating a sustainable farm business achieve their goals. Designed for farmers with at least one year of production experience, this series of intensive workshops will help you to develop a whole farm plan through realistic goal setting, reflection, and assessment of your resources, skills, and markets—and give you the business-planning tools necessary to implement your plan successfully. Applicants from Maine will be given priority. The course takes place virtually in January and February; applications are due by December 1, 2020.




Research published in Agricultural & Environmental Letters notes that information regarding soil health is often too generalized. Practices that are beneficial in one region could create challenges in another. Postdoctoral scientist Grace Miner says that practices need to be tested at the regional level to determine their effects, and that more study is needed on how soil health improvements impact crop yield.




Sonja Brodt, deputy director of the University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Program, is leading a collaborative effort with California farmers and UC researchers to develop native western elderberry as a hedgerow cash crop. Planting hedgerows with edible and medicinal species such as elderberry can help growers generate additional revenue while fostering beneficial insects and improving soil health. California's native blue elderberry subspecies is more heat- and drought-tolerant than the more commercialized North American and European subspecies of elderberry. "Elderberries have this great potential as a 'win-win' crop. Farmers harvesting and selling elderberries from their hedgerows can receive a direct income from a farm practice that benefits the local ecosystem," says Brodt. A field trial found that elderberry yields from a 1,000-foot, multispecies hedgerow could provide $2,700 to $4,800 in revenue, after harvest and de-stemming costs, in only the second year after hedgerow planting.




A new University of California report, Statistical Review of California Organic Agriculture, 2013-2016, says that organic agriculture continues to expand in the state and now includes more than 360 commodities. According to the report, the number of organic growers in California jumped from 2,089 in 2013 to 3,108 in 2016, based on data collected from farms that register as organic with the California Department of Food and Agriculture. In 2016, the top-10 organic commodities (by sales value) were cow milk, strawberries, carrots, wine grapes, table grapes, sweet potatoes, almonds, raspberries, salad mix, and chicken eggs. California organic sales were $3.1 billion in 2016, says the report.




USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Horticultural Crops Research Laboratory in Corvallis, Oregon, working in cooperation with the Oregon State University Agricultural Experiment Station, has introduced three new blackberry varieties. Eclipse, Galaxy, and Twilight are thornless blackberries that blend desirable traits of eastern erect-cane blackberries and western trailing blackberries. Because the varieties mature at different times, they help cover gaps in the fresh-market harvest season.




The Organic Farming Research Foundation announced that it has awarded four new grants to support researcher/farmer collaborations in the areas of crop breeding and organic seed development, in response to organic producer needs identified in a national survey. The first grant, to Sarah Hargreaves at the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario, supports three breeding projects focused on providing best practices for adapting to climate change with vegetable varieties that are locally adapted to low-input organic systems for southern Ontario and the northeastern United States. The second grant, to Helen Jensen at Seed Change, supports the evaluation of selection methods and efficacy in on-farm breeding of organic wheat and oat varieties. The third grant was awarded to Carol Deppe at Fertile Valley Seeds to breed disease-resistant heirloom-quality tomatoes. The fourth grant, to Lee-Ann Hill at Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance, will look beyond the marketability of heritage grains to explore their impact on soil health, climate adaptivity, weed pressure, and insect pressure through farmer-driven, participatory research. Research data collected from this project will be published in a free online Heritage Grain Trials Handbook.




Research from Rice University shows that in some regions, extensive use of biochar could save farmers a little more than 50% of the water they now use to grow crops. This would lead to a monetary savings over and above the acknowledged carbon benefits of biochar application. The study provides formulas to help farmers estimate irrigation cost savings from increased water-holding capacity (WHC) with biochar amendment. Results with biochar depend on the type of soil and the characteristics of the biochar itself. The greatest benefits were found to occur in regions with sandy soil. A study co-lead noted, "Biochar soil amendment can enhance soil carbon sequestration while providing significant co-benefits, such as nitrogen remediation, improved water retention, and higher agricultural productivity. The suite of potential benefits raises the attractiveness for commercial action in the agriculture sector as well as supportive policy frameworks."




The Global Alliance for the Future of Food has released Systemic Solutions for Healthy Food Systems, a guide for governments to take action for better food systems that promote human, ecological, and animal health and well-being. The 19-page online guide provides 14 recommendations to tackle the interconnectedness of food systems through policy and practice. The recommendations are supported by a set of case studies from different countries, cultures, and contexts, contained in a companion publication, Systemic Solutions for Healthy Food Systems—Approaches to Policy & Practice. The suite of materials calls on national governments to radically change approach to policy and practice, building resilience and improving food security outcomes post-COVID-19.




North Carolina A&T professor Chyi Lyi (Kathleen) Liang is heading a project that's introducing specialty vegetables to North Carolina Growers, reports the Greensboro News & Record. Liang says that specialty vegetables now imported to the state by ethnic groceries and restaurants could be grown locally by small-scale farmers. Her project is identifying crops that grow well in the state and introducing them to farmers, restaurant owners, grocers, and others through workshops, demonstrations, and training. The aim is to help small-scale farmers diversify and earn more profit.




Regenerative Agriculture and the Soil Carbon Solution, a new white paper from Rodale Insitute, says that a global switch to regenerative crop and pasture systems could draw down more than 100% of annual CO2 emissions. The full paper, as well as a fact sheet and action toolkit, can be downloaded. According to Rodale Institute, the new publication shows that a global switch to a regenerative food system could not only feed the world while reducing chemical exposure and improving biodiversity and soil health but could also be the key to mitigating the climate crisis. The paper was compiled through extensive peer-reviewed research data and interviews with leaders in the fields of soil microbiology, ranchland ecology, agronomy, and more, as well as research conducted in Rodale Institute's long-term comparison trials, including the 40-year Farming Systems Trial.




The Savanna Institute has posted a five-minute video from Saturn Farm in Illinois, on the results of alleycropping trials in black currant. Saturn Farm received a USDA SARE grant to test alleycropping with asparagus, rhubarb, and native prairie strips. This video demonstrates the results of interplanting these species between rows of machine-harvested black currants and describes the potential for overyielding.




World Food Day, October 16, 2020, is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The event theme is "Grow, nourish, sustain. Together. Our actions are our future." World Food Day is calling for global solidarity to help all populations, and especially the most vulnerable, to recover from the COVID-19 global health crisis, and to make food systems more resilient and robust so they can withstand increasing volatility and climate shocks, deliver affordable and sustainable healthy diets for all, and decent livelihoods for food system workers. World Food Day is being observed with events that celebrate food heroes. Resources for schools, governments, and the private sector are available online.




A study by University of Illinois and USDA Agricultural Research Service demonstrated that early-terminated rye provided weed suppression in edamame without harming crop yield. However, in tests with snap beans, the cover crop reduced weed biomass by about half but also reduced crop yield. In tests with lima beans, the rye cover crop both failed to suppress weeds and led to decreased crop yield, which the researchers attributed to poor crop establishment. The researchers say the rye cover crop alone doesn't provide adequate weed control for edamame, but it could work well in combination with other weed-management strategies.




The Ecosystem Services Market Consortium (ESMC) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) have announced a pilot project in Minnesota to provide financial incentives to encourage more farmers to implement practices that help improve soil health, store carbon in soils, and reduce nutrient run-off from farm fields. The project will test and streamline the creation and sale of environmental credits from farmland. Project partners will work with farmers, at no cost to them, and a number of agricultural businesses and stakeholders to test ESMC's market protocols on 50,000 acres that have corn and soybean cropping systems with a heavy dairy or livestock component. This project is one of several pilots being launched this fall and next spring.




The USDA AMS National Organic Program's Organic Integrity Learning Center is offering a new free online course on Natural Resources and Biodiversity. USDA organic regulations require operations to maintain or improve the natural resources of the operation, including soil and water quality. This course teaches organic certifiers and inspectors how to assess natural resources and biodiversity requirements as indicated in organic system plans (OSPs) and on-site during annual inspections. The course provides tools that help certifiers and inspectors know what to review and what to include in inspection protocols and reports.




USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) opened enrollment for the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs for the 2021 crop year. These safety-net programs help producers weather fluctuations in either revenue or price for certain crops. ARC provides income support payments on historical base acres when actual crop revenue declines below a specified guaranteed level. PLC provides income support payments on historical base acres when the effective price for a covered commodity falls below its reference price. Covered commodities include barley, canola, large and small chickpeas, corn, crambe, flaxseed, grain sorghum, lentils, mustard seed, oats, peanuts, dry peas, rapeseed, long grain rice, medium and short grain rice, safflower seed, seed cotton, sesame, soybeans, sunflower seed and wheat. Enrollment for the 2021 crop year closes March 15, 2021.




National Public Radio news reported on how solar energy sites are working with farmers to combine energy production and food production on the same land, in a practice known as agrivoltaics. Keeping land in farming production can help solar companies overcome community opposition to new installations, and the two uses can complement one another. Sheep grazing in solar installations prevent the need for mowing, while the panels provide shade for grazing animals. Sites managed through grazing can offer other benefits, as well, such as pollinator habitat. The American Solar Grazing Association is a new industry group organized around the practice. Solar installations can also complement produce production by providing shade for crops, say researchers. Massachusetts is offering incentives for projects that combine solar with vegetable production.




The Council of Development Finance Agencies (CDFA) has released Advancing Local Food Systems Through Development Finance, the sixth and final publication of its Food Finance White Paper Series. The 20-page online publication presents replicable strategies for reframing food projects and businesses, building the connectivity between players involved in food system restoration, and planning for the financing needed to make developments in the food system happen. Through this work, CDFA says it aims to advance opportunities and leverage existing capital financing streams that scale local and regional food systems and increase access to better food while creating new, living-wage jobs in communities across the country.




The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign announced that it is launching the Illinois Regenerative Agriculture Initiative (IRAI), a project that will bring together researchers on campus and other stakeholders to create agriculture and food systems resilient to climate change, improve soil and water quality, support healthy communities, and enhance food security. The IRAI will be offering seed grants to interdisciplinary teams composed of Illinois scholars and farming or food-system stakeholders who address key metrics of regenerative agriculture: soil health parameters, on-farm biodiversity, or community health and resilience.




The North Central Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Center (NCFRSAC) is a 12-state collaborative that will create and expand stress management and mental health resources and services to agricultural producers and stakeholders in the North Central region. The program was awarded nearly $7.2 million through the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network grant program administered by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. With this funding, the NCFRSAC network will work with partner organizations to expand programs that provide professional agricultural behavioral health interventions, support farm telephone hotlines and websites, and provide training and resources for producers and those in agriculture-related occupations.




An international study led by Auburn University concluded that the significant use of nitrogen fertilizers in the production of food worldwide is increasing concentrations of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas, in the atmosphere. The study by an international consortium of scientists from 48 research institutions in 14 countries quantified global nitrous oxide sources and sinks. Nitrous oxide has risen 20% from pre-industrial level, driven predominantly by agriculture. The study's co-leader summarized the key implications: "This new analysis calls for a full-scale rethink in the ways we use and abuse nitrogen fertilizers globally and urges us to adopt more sustainable practices in the way we produce food, including the reduction of food waste...These findings underscore the urgency and opportunities to mitigate nitrous oxide emissions worldwide to avoid the worst of climate impacts."




USDA announced October 30, 2020, as the deadline to submit applications for the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program – Plus (WHIP+) for 2018 and 2019 losses. USDA did not originally specify a deadline when the program was announced. WHIP+ compensates producers for losses due to hurricanes, floods, snowstorms, tornadoes, typhoons, volcanic activity, drought, excessive moisture, and wildfires occurring in calendar years 2018 and 2019. Drought and excessive moisture were added as eligible losses for the program in March 2020. FSA plans to launch a new tool on the farmers.gov WHIP+ webpage to help producers understand eligibility for the program and whether they had possible losses in 2018 and 2019.




The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy unveiled the Net Zero Initiative, an industry-wide effort that will help U.S. dairy farms of all sizes and geographies implement new technologies and adopt economically viable practices. According to a press release, the initiative is a critical component of U.S. dairy's environmental stewardship goals, endorsed by dairy industry leaders and farmers, to achieve carbon neutrality, optimized water usage, and improved water quality by 2050. Through foundational science, on-farm pilots, and development of new product markets, the Net Zero Initiative aims to knock down barriers and create incentives for farmers that will lead to economic viability and positive environmental impact. The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy also announced a commitment of up to $10 million and a multi-year partnership with Nestlé to support the Net Zero Initiative and scale access to environmental practices and resources on farms across the country.




Researchers at the University of California, Davis, published results of a study showing that loss of flowering plants and pesticide use combine to drastically reduce wild bee reproduction. This research found that blue orchard bee reproduction was reduced by 57% and there were significantly fewer female offspring when the bees were exposed to the neonicotinoid insecticide imidacloprid and had less access to flowers. The pesticide exposure was responsible for greater declines than deprivation from food alone. A press release noted that "the research can help farmers make decisions about how they manage the environment around orchards. It reinforces the need for growers to carefully think about the location where they plant flowers for bee forage, to prevent flowers from becoming traps that expose bees to pesticides."




North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (NCR-SARE) awarded a total of more than $4.1 million to 46 projects through three grant programs in 2020. The Research and Education, Graduate Student, and Professional Development programs offer competitive grants for researchers, graduate students, organizations, agricultural educators, and others who are exploring sustainable agriculture in the Midwest. A list of the recipients, with project titles, is posted online.




North Dakota siblings Erin and Drew Gaugler have been conducting research on the soil health impacts of bale grazing on their farm through a grant from North Central SARE, reports Farm & Ranch Guide. After two seasons of bale grazing, the Gauglers say they noticed an obvious difference in plant production in the bale-grazed areas. Soil tests didn't show an immediate difference in organic matter in the bale-grazed areas, but did show increases in levels of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. The Gauglers will be continuing their research under a new grant that will help them document and share the results of multi-species bale grazing to build soil health.




The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) announced that Specialty Crop Block Grants totaling $299,350 will support seven projects to benefit Vermont fruit, vegetable, and value-added producers and increase consumer access to locally produced food. The projects will undertake a range of research, development, education, business planning, and marketing efforts. Projects will address specialty crop production of maple syrup, saffron, weed and disease control, and more.




Cooperative Extension at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University presented the North Carolina Small Farmer of the Year award to Amos and Kaci Nidiffer, the owners of Trosly Farm. On less than five acres, the Nidiffer family grows greenhouse products, such as lettuces, greens and tomatoes; and livestock, such as hogs and pullets. They operate a CSA that involves the community in understanding how food is produced, and have hosted workshops on small-scale farming. The Nidiffers were presented with a plaque, monogrammed jackets, and $1,500 during an online event.




USDA released the Final Rule making changes directed by the 2018 Farm Bill to the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). This Final Rule better aligns CSP with NRCS's Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) through common applications, contracting operations, conservation planning, conservation practices, and related administrative procedures. Additional changes include increased payment rates for adoption of cover crop rotations, a new supplemental payment for advanced grazing management, a one-time payment for developing a comprehensive conservation plan, and specific support for organic and transitioning-to-organic production activities.




USDA has announced the award of $19.1 million in grants through the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers (2501) Program. The grants help provide training, outreach, and technical assistance. Grants were issued to 49 organizations in 28 states conducting outreach and assistance for socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers. Additionally, Alcorn State University received funding to continue to administer the Socially Disadvantaged Policy Research Center. Projects funded under the 2501 Program include conferences, workshops, and demonstrations on various farming techniques, and connecting underserved farmers and ranchers to USDA's programs and services.




Signup for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2 (CFAP 2) continues through December 11, 2020. CFAP 2 provides eligible producers with direct financial assistance due to market disruptions and associated costs because of COVID-19. Many more commodities are eligible for CFAP 2 than CFAP 1. USDA has introduced a new, easy-to-use CFAP 2 Eligible Commodities Finder at Farmers.gov that simplifies finding payment rates specific to your operation.




USDA's National Organic Program announced that three new courses for certifiers have been added to the Organic Integrity Learning Center. The first, a course on recordkeeping, introduces certifiers and inspectors to a variety of recordkeeping systems and helps certifiers structure recordkeeping reviews. Another course, on Organic System Plans (OSP), teaches requirements related to OSPs in the USDA organic regulations, examines the different functions of the OSP, discusses critical organic control points, and provides OSP evaluation and design considerations for certifiers. Finally, Certification Review Essentials guides certification reviewers through OSP requirements and critical control points, OSP assessment, inspection report review, and applying skills using case scenarios.




Match.Graze is a free online platform created by University of California Cooperative Extension that connects California landowners who want to have their property grazed with livestock owners who can provide vegetation management services. Grazing can help reduce the accumulation of fire fuels, even on steep and remote land. To find a local grazing partner, visit MatchGraze.com, set up a free account, create a pin on the map, and make a match.




Penn State University researchers conducted a study that compared six different riparian buffer scenarios featuring grass and trees and explored the potential for biomass harvest from them. The researchers suggest that farmers would be more likely to install riparian buffers on their properties if they were allowed to harvest biomass from them, which is currently not allowed under Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program regulations. This research tested how well buffers performed when switchgrass and swamp willow trees were harvested from them. The results of this Pennsylvania study showed that harvesting vegetation from the buffer only minimally impacted water quality compared with the performance of unharvested buffers. They found that the location of the buffer was a key factor in its water-quality protection performance.




Farm to Institution New England announced the fourth biennial ​Northeast Farm to Institution Summit, an event that will take place virtually on the first three Thursdays of April 2021. Organizers are inviting you to be part of creating this event by submitting a proposal for a session. Organizers are encouraging proposals from all those involved or interested in mobilizing institutions to transform our food system. This year's theme is "​Reflection, Resilience, Renewal​," and proposal guidelines and conference objectives are detailed online. The deadline for proposal submission is November 23, 2020.




The Kansas Department of Agriculture has been awarded $331,846 through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. The funds will support six projects that increase opportunities for specialty crops in Kansas. These include training for specialty crop growers; education for children, college students, and others about growing specialty crops; and programs to build markets for specialty crops by promoting them to consumers.




Practical Farmers of Iowa has released a report discussing the results of on-farm research on control of squash vine borer. Two organic farmers who have both struggled with vine borers undertook a trial comparing five methods of organic control. Julia Slocum and Mark Quee compared organic methods to control squash vine borer in susceptible varieties of winter squash. They found that row cover was the most effective control practice, keeping more plants alive and producing higher yields. The trial also showed that Bt injections were effective at Quee's but were much more labor-intensive than row cover. The full research report is available online.




The Association for Temperate Agroforestry and the Savanna Institute are co-hosting the online 2020 Perennial Farm Gathering December 6-9, 2020. The event is designed to help put research into practice by facilitating stronger connections between farmers, practitioners, scientists, and community members. All are invited to submit proposals for talks, posters, or organized sessions on any aspect of agroforestry research, education, or application. Organizers encourage presentations intended for academic as well as non-academic audiences. Abstracts can be of three types: oral presentations, poster presentations, or organized sessions. Abstracts must be submitted by November 2, 2020.




The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) announced that California has received $23.8 million in funding through the 2020 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP). The SCBGP provides grants to state departments of agriculture to fund projects that enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops. With the grant, CDFA will fund 58 projects, awarding grants ranging from $50,000 to $450,000 to non-profit and for-profit organizations, government entities, and colleges and universities. These projects focus on increasing sales of specialty crops by leveraging the unique qualities of specialty crops grown in California; increasing consumption by expanding the specialty crop consumer market, improving availability of specialty crops and providing nutritional education for consumers; training growers to equip them for current and future challenges; investing in training for growers/producers/operators to address current and future challenges; and conducting research on conservation and environmental outcomes, pest control and disease, and organic and sustainable production practices. Abstracts for the funded projects are available online.




The UN- and World Bank-led International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), published in 2009, is still viewed as perhaps the most comprehensive assessment of global agriculture. Now, after 10 years, 40 eminent food system experts, most of them authors and review editors of the initial IAASTD, have taken stock of changes to the food system during the past decade in a new book titled Transformation of Our Food Systems—The making of a paradigm shift. The publication is available online in its entirety. The book combines scientific studies, UN agreements, updates, and infographics to highlight trends in the food system and make a case for an agroecological approach to sustainable food systems.




Research published in the Vadose Zone Journal, a publication of the Soil Science Society of America, indicated that soybean-oil-coated sand has potential to be developed into an alternative to plastic film mulch. Plastics commonly used in agriculture can cause soil and water-quality problems as they degrade, so researchers at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas are seeking a more sustainable alternative that can help minimize water loss and aid in weed control. In this test, scientists mixed nearly equal volumes of sand and biobased oil, and then heated the mixture to partially polymerize the oil. The resulting product allowed water to pass through, which is important for irrigation, but slowed the process of water wicking from the soil to reduce evaporative losses by as much as 96%. The scientists warn that additional research is needed on the longevity of the material when exposed to the field environment, but preliminary research on this alternative looks promising.




Scientists from the U.S. Southwest and Mexico published an article in the journal Plants, People, Planet that presents a new model for farming in arid regions. The researchers propose selecting wild food crops already adapted to extreme conditions, in order to reduce climate disruptions to food security, human health, and rural economies. They say in "An Aridamerican model for agriculture in a hotter, water scarce world" that agriculture in arid regions should shift away from water-consumptive, heat-intolerant, annual plants to utilize no-till cropping of hardy perennials that are heat- and drought-tolerant. In the new model, production of these plants would be co-located with rainwater harvesting and renewable energy production. Furthermore, the researchers say these desert foods could benefit human health as well as land health.




The MOSES Organic Farming Conference will be a virtual event in 2021, and the Organic Research Forum is inviting researchers, academic faculty and staff, graduate/undergraduate students, and farmer researchers to submit their research in the form of four-minute speed presentation videos with a PDF research poster. Research must be conducted in a certified organic system, and acceptable topics are listed online. All accepted research presenters receive full conference admission. The deadline for submissions is January 11, 2021.




Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) announced that it has awarded new grants to farmer/researcher collaborations at the Georgia Organic Peanut Association and the University of Idaho. Donn Cooper of Cooper Agricultural Services, working in collaboration with the Georgia Organic Peanut Association, will examine the effectiveness of an integrated weed control system in organic peanut production. The system utilizes regular mechanical cultivation and Eugenol, a broad-spectrum herbicide derived from cloves and approved for certified organic production in the commercial formulation known as Weed Slayer. The second grant was awarded to Professor Arash Rashed, leader of the Idaho IPM Laboratory at the University of Idaho, to evaluate the efficacy of two biological control agents of wireworms in organic production. The research team aims to identify the most effective entomopathogenic treatment against wireworms and successfully establish the biocontrol agent in organic farm soil.




USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) announced it has awarded $27 million in grant funding through the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP) and $9.3 million in grant funding through the new Regional Food System Partnerships (RFSP) grant program. FMLFPP supports the development, coordination, and expansion of direct producer to consumer markets and local and regional food business enterprises. Through this program, awards totaling approximately $13.5 million were made to 49 Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) projects and awards totaling approximately $13.5 million were made to 44 Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP) projects that support and promote local and regional food business enterprises. Meanwhile, RFSP is supporting partnerships that connect public and private resources to plan and develop local or regional food systems, by funding 23 partnerships in 15 states. Lists of the grant recipients are available online.




New analysis from researchers at The University of Texas at Austin showed that the pesticides flupyradifurone (sold under the brand name Sivanto®) and sulfoxaflor (sold under the name Transform® WG) have harmful effects on bees, similar to neonicotinoids. This analysis reviewed 19 studies from the past five years, and it revealed that in addition to harming honeybees, the insecticides also showed signs of harming other beneficial insects, such as wild bumblebees and lacewings. In addition to increased mortality, the pesticides reduced reproductive ability and made pollinators less efficient foragers.




The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) is reminding stakeholders that the comment period for the Strengthening Organic Enforcement Proposed Rule closes at 11:59 pm Eastern on October 5, 2020. According to NOP, the proposed changes will significantly update the USDA organic regulations to increase oversight of complex organic supply chains. NOP published a six-part series in Organic Insider, detailing the proposed changes. Farmers and businesses can submit comments on how the changes will impact them.




Penn State University researchers have developed a decision-support tool that will help organic producers decide how much nitrogen to apply to corn crops. The online tool predicts corn yield based on the amount of nitrogen released from the soil and decomposing cover crops. A $500,000 grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture will allow the tool's developers to expand testing to different types of soil and different cover crops. Under this project, researchers will field test the tool and engage in outreach activities to introduce it to producers.




Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SSARE) has created the Equity and Prosperity Sustainable Agriculture Leadership Program to champion the leader­ship contributions of historically underserved farmers and ranchers and non-governmental organiza­tions that serve those audiences within the Southern region. The sponsorship funds support both giving and acquiring education and training activities for historically underserved farm­ers and ranchers in areas of sustainable agriculture. Program participants can receive sponsorship support to conduct education and training activities in areas of sustainable agriculture specifically targeted to historically underserved farmers and ranchers such as minority and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, beginning farmers and ranchers, military veterans, and women farmers. Sponsorship funds may also support program participants who want to attend a training to help em­phasize sustainable ag aspects of their overall community efforts. The funding amount requested can be up to $3,000. Activities funded must be completed by January 31, 2021.




A study led by Purdue University Extension surveyed more than 300 Indiana grain farmers to identify barriers to organic certification. The study results, published as Supporting the wider adoption of organic certification for Indiana grain farmers, are available online as a nine-page PDF. Problems that participants in the survey identified included production loss due to weed pressure, certification ineligibility caused by GMO pollen drift, and crop damage and contamination caused by pesticide drift. Conventional farmers also cited a lack of successful organic farmer mentors as an obstacle to transitioning to certified organic production. The study also identified opportunities for policy initiatives to address concerns about market competition from imported organic grains and for new Extension programs to support organic farms.




USDA announced the appointment of five new members to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). They will serve five-year terms beginning in January 2021. Nebraska organic farmer Amy Bruch will fill a Farmer Seat on the 15-member board, as will Logan Petrey, farm manager for Grimmway Farms locations in Georgia and Florida. Dr. Carolyn Dimitri of New York University will serve in a Public/Consumer Interest Seat, and so will educator, farmer, and longstanding NOFA-NY member Brian Caldwell. Meanwhile, the USDA-accredited Certifier Seat will be filled by Kyla Smith, Certification Director for Pennsylvania Certified Organic.




ProPublica is making available county-by-county maps for the United States, illustrating how changes in heat and humidity, wildfires, sea level, and farm crop yields, as well as climate impacts on economies, will impact individual counties. The information is based on data from the Rhodium Group, analyzed by ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine. An article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed how the "climate niche" most suitable for human habitation is predicted to shift either significantly or dramatically northward, depending on the level of carbon emissions during the next fifty years. Some regions will see significant declines in their suitability for habitation, while crop yields in some areas of Oklahoma and Texas could drop by as much as 70%.




The Sand County Foundation, in partnership with the New York Department of Agriculture and Markets, presented the inaugural Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM)-Leopold Conservation Award to Sang Lee Farms. The 97-acre certified organic farm, owned and operated by father and son, Fred and William Lee, grows more than 100 varieties of specialty fruit and vegetables. An early adopter of the AEM program, Sang Lee Farms uses modern technology and environmental best practices, including annual crop rotation to aid pest management, and inter-seeding of cover crops to suppress weeds, increase soil fertility, and to protect and conserve water resources. Their creative use of cover crops has helped them meet their goal to achieve a regenerative form of agriculture—one that increases soil fertility, builds organic matter, suppresses weeds, and eliminates erosion.




The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has announced the award of more than $53 million in grants across three programs. The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) awarded more than $16.7 million in 48 projects to deliver the support new farmers and ranchers need. NIFA also awarded grants totaling $28.7 million to four regional entities contributing to the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network: University of Illinois, National Young Farmers Coalition, University of Tennessee, and Washington State University. NIFA also announced $9.6 million awarded to 17 projects through Enhancing Agricultural Opportunities for Military Veterans Program (AgVets). These projects will equip military veterans with skills, training, and experience for careers in food and agricultural and may also offer workforce readiness and employment prospects.




University of California Cooperative Extension organic production specialist Joji Muramoto received a $411,395 grant from USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture to explore disease controls for strawberries that offer an alternative to pesticide fumigants. This project will test both a variety of alliums and wheat as suppressive crops for controlling disease in strawberries. Muramoto warns that there's likely not a single alternative to pesticide fumigation but says that a combination of biological approaches could create a soilborne disease-management strategy.




A $2 million grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative is supporting a three-year, multi-institution project to develop value-added grain infrastructure for ancient and heritage grains. A Cornell University scientist is leading the project, which aims to establish an organic industry for wheat, naked barley, hulless oats, rye, emmer, spelt, and einkorn in the Northeast and Midwest. It will breed regionally suited varieties and identify best organic management practices, as well as increasing consumer demand and building supply chains. In addition to having market value of their own, these crops can also serve as rotational crops for organic vegetable growers.




The Managing Soil Carbon working group of the Science for Nature and People Partnership announced the launch of AgEvidence, a visualization dashboard of data from nearly 300 peer-reviewed research papers about the environmental impacts of agriculture practices. The 40 years of research compiled in AgEvidence focuses on the environmental and agronomic impacts of cover crops, tillage management, pest management, and nutrient management practices used in growing corn and/or soybean crops in the Midwest. Visualization analytics enable users to easily navigate and interpret the data based on areas of interest, including climate mitigation, crop yields, pest management, soil nutrients, and water quality.




A new online resource called FarmRaise serves as a one-stop shop for farm funding that matches farmers with grants, cost-share programs, and loans, and then helps them apply by simplifying and de-jargoning the paperwork. FarmRaise is free for farmers to use to access more than 40 federal funding opportunities. Participating farmers fill out a brief eligibility quiz that determines which opportunities they match.




Future Harvest Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture is accepting applications for three levels of its free Beginning Farmer Training Program until October 16, 2020. The year-long immersive training experience combines a comprehensive classroom curriculum with hands-on learning at some of the region's leading sustainable farms. The region-wide program is open to beginning farmers in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Washington, DC, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania, and offers training in diverse operation types, including vegetables, fruit, cut flowers, herbs, and livestock at urban, peri-urban, and rural farm settings. Level 1 is for those who are relatively new to farming and offers attendance at a number of field days, as well as a winter workshop series. Level 2 provides intensive, hands-on experience for those with a year or more of farming experience. Level 3 is for intermediate level farmers with three to five years of experience, who are paired one-on-one with a farming mentor.




USDA Risk Management Agency is seeking public comments on recommended improvements to the Pasture, Rangeland, Forage (PRF) Rainfall Index Crop Insurance Program by November 5, 2020. Improvements that have been recommended include the following: Adjusting the County Base Value (CBV) productivity range; Better targeting of indemnities; Focusing PRF on viable forage production areas; Focusing coverage on risk-reducing intervals; Taking an alternative approach to reducing frequent shallow losses; and Modifying the CBV. Details on the recommendations are available in a report published on the RMA website for public review and comment.




The Wisconsin Farm Support Program, a joint program between the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) and the Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR), distributed $8.4 million to more than 3,300 Wisconsin farmers in the second round. The second round of funding was open to farmers whose gross income from farming in 2019 was between $10,000 and $5 million. "In this round, almost 60% of funding recipients reported a gross income from farming of less than $40,000," said DATCP Secretary-designee Randy Romanski. "Clearly, there was a need for additional support among Wisconsin's smaller farm operations." In total, the Wisconsin Farm Support Program utilized $50 million of the state's CARES Act funding to quickly provide direct support to help cover economic losses during the pandemic.




USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) announced modifications to the Whole-Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) program to decrease paperwork and recordkeeping burdens for direct marketers beginning with the 2021 crop year. Participants in stakeholder meetings recommended RMA decrease the requirements for reporting yield and revenues for each commodity, which is especially difficult for direct marketers who may sell several commodities through a roadside stand. The newly implemented modifications allow growers to report two or more direct-marketed commodities as a combined single commodity code with a combined expected revenue for all commodities. Additionally, the combined direct-marketed commodities will count as two commodities in calculating the diversification premium discount. Revenue history will be based on reported revenue from the combined direct-marketed commodities and total acres planted to those commodities.




Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides has posted a five-minute video titled Successes in Organic Hazelnut Production: Biodiversity and Management of Filbert Moth. The video features grower Taylor Larson of My Brothers' Farm in Creswell, Oregon, demonstrating how to manage hazelnut orchards for increased biodiversity and healthy soil. This video was created with support from Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, and in cooperation with the Oregon Organic Hazelnut Cooperative.




Walmart Foundation, Cargill, and McDonald's are investing over $6 million in an initiative led by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) that aims to make lasting improvements to the grasslands of the Northern Great Plains. The new program, known as the Ranch Systems and Viability Planning network, will support ranchers across the ecoregion—focusing primarily on Montana, Nebraska, and South Dakota—with technical expertise, training, and tools to help advance grazing practices that improve the health of the land. Organizers say that by improving management of one million acres over five years and avoiding conversion, this effort will result in increased carbon storage and sequestration, improved water infiltration, and better outcomes for biodiversity. WWF will work with ranchers on private and tribal lands to provide extension services in one-on-one and group workshops, offer ongoing technical expertise, and provide cost share and monitoring to help ranchers design, document, and implement ranch plans.




The Cornell Maple Program has a new notebook for producers available free online. The 202-page Sugarbush Management Notebook addresses topics such as maintaining a healthy sugarbush, sugarbush improvement, pest and disease monitoring, regeneration, ecosystem health, and more. The publication joins the Cornell Maple Program's notebook series, which includes publications on beginning syrup production, marketing, production, and value-added products.




A project funded by North Central SARE explored the potential for quinoa to be grown organically in North Dakota. The hardy and versatile crop is experiencing increased market demand, and North Dakota farmers Glendon Philbrick and Steve Eid were awarded a grant that supported their investigation of planting methods, harvesting and processing systems, weed control, crop rotation, organic fertilization, and marketing for quinoa. Although they found that the crop could be grown under proper conditions, they found that it could not be marketed due to a lack of accessible processing equipment for removing the quinoa's bitter saponin coating.




Wild Farm Alliance (WFA) has announced plans to create the first Songbird Farm Trail, with the goal of one million nest boxes being installed on farms from Baja to British Columbia along North America's Pacific Coast. A description of the project, outlining the important role beneficial birds play on farms and the critical role farmers play in protecting declining bird populations, is located on WFA's Multimedia Story Platform, "Benefits of Birds on the Farm." WFA, with the help of farmers, will be tracking occupancy of bird boxes over time to collect data about the changes in local bird populations. This citizen science data will also help farmers realize the benefits they are receiving from providing bird habitat. WFA hopes that the Songbird Farm Trail will serve as a model that can be replicated on farmland throughout the country.




Scientists at the University of Turku, in Finland, found that when poultry manure with glyphosate residue is applied to plants, their growth is decreased. In testing, both meadow fescue and strawberries showed less growth, and strawberries put out fewer runners, when fertilized with manure from quails that were fed with feed containing glyphosate. The researchers suggest that higher levels of glyphosate are applied to glyphosate-tolerant crops, which can lead to higher levels of glyphosate residue in animal feeds made from those crops. This, in turn, leads to higher glyphosate levels in the animal manure, which has an effect on plants in fields where this manure is used as fertilizer. The researchers also identified indirect effects stemming from field application of glyphosate-contaminated manure.




USDA will accept applications for an additional $14 billion in aid to agricultural producers who continue to face market disruptions and associated costs because of COVID-19. Signup for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP 2) will begin September 21, 2020, and extend through December 11, 2020. USDA announced that it has incorporated improvements in CFAP 2 based from stakeholder engagement and public feedback to better meet the needs of impacted farmers and ranchers. CFAP 2 payments will be made for three categories of commodities: Price Trigger Commodities, Flat-rate Crops, and Sales Commodities. Sales commodities include specialty crops, aquaculture, nursery crops and floriculture, and other commodities not included in the price trigger and flat-rate categories. Payment calculations will use a sales-based approach, where producers are paid based on five payment gradations associated with their 2019 sales. Additional commodities are eligible in CFAP 2 that weren't eligible in the first iteration of the program.




USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service announced that it will invest $50 million through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) Alternative Funding Arrangements (AFA) in 10 conservation projects across 16 states. Regional partners will contribute more than $65 million to the selected projects. Through the AFA provision, NRCS has the authority to pursue innovative conservation approaches, such as pay-for-performance. Brief descriptions of the funded projects are available online. They include efforts aimed at preserving water quality, improving soil health, and protecting forests.




National Farmers Union (NFU) and Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) announced that they are working together to foster diversity and inclusion in agriculture professions. The organizations signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) summarizing the ways in which they will collaborate to provide educational and leadership opportunities for young people of all racial and ethnic identities, develop federal policy priorities, and extend each other's reach within agricultural communities.




The Quivira Coalition, Holistic Management International, and American Grassfed Association are accepting applications for the 2020 REGENERATE HERD Fellowship, which provides scholarships for beginning agrarians, land stewards, and students in related fields to attend the virtual 2020 REGENERATE Conference. The conference is scheduled for October 26 through November 20, 2020. The Fellowship will award a minimum of 30 full scholarships (covering the conference registration fee), prioritized to support individuals who come from historically underrepresented or economically low-resource communities and other marginalized identities in agriculture. Sponsors specifically encourage applications by Tribal, Latinx, Chicanx, Hispanic, Black/African American, Asian, Pacific Islander, and/or LGBTQ+ beginning ranchers, farmers, land stewards, and college students. However, qualified applicants from any background with a strong application will also be considered. Interested individuals can apply by submitting an online application or completing an interview by phone by September 30, 2020.




USDA Agricultural Marketing Service has published its final decision on withdrawal of the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Rule (OLPP) in the Federal Register. After reviewing the Economic Analysis Report related to the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices final rule and the public comments on it, AMS issued its Final Decision concluding that no additional rulemaking action with respect to the OLPP Rule is necessary.




North Central SARE reports that one of its grants supported Women's Environmental Institute (WEI) in creating an online farmers market to support the regional food system in east central Minnesota. WEI received a two-year grant that helped it coordinate the effort to recruit participating farmers using sustainable practices, build the website, and develop a customer base. North Central SARE says that North Circle Online Farmers Market offers products from 22 farmers and producers, delivered at seven drop sites from June-October. Farmers post their offerings online, and customers place orders from Saturday to Wednesday. On Wednesday, sales close and WEI notifies the farmers about what they have sold, collects the produce at the WEI packing barn, and arranges deliveries of customized boxes to drop sites.




A study published in Scientific Reports by FAI Farms, the University of Bristol and The Norwegian University of Life Sciences shows that slower growing broiler chickens are healthier and have more fun than conventional commercial breeds. The study tested how varying stocking density and breed affected animal welfare in four production systems. The authors concluded in their study of commercial production settings that, while there are benefits of providing chickens with more space by slightly lowering the animal density, changing to a slower growing breed results in much better health and more positive experiences for these birds.




USDA is letting residents and agricultural producers affected by recent wildfires know about assistance programs available through the department. These include USDA's emergency loan program, the Livestock Indemnity Program, the Livestock Forage Disaster Program, and the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program. In addition, USDA can also provide financial resources through its Environmental Quality Incentives Program to help with immediate needs and long-term support to help recover from natural disasters and conserve water resources. Farmers and ranchers needing to rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters can apply for assistance through USDA's Emergency Conservation Program. There are also programs to help restore forestland and orchards. USDA also has resources available for rebuilding rural and tribal communities.




A global study led by Lancaster University in the UK examined soil erosion data from 38 countries on six continents for insight on how erosion impacts soil longevity. The study revealed that more than 90% of the conventionally farmed soils in the study were thinning, and 16% had lifespans of less than a century. The study's lead author noted, "This study provides the first evidence-backed, globally relevant estimates of soil lifespans." He added, "Our study shows that soil erosion is a critical threat to global soil sustainability, and we need urgent action to prevent further rapid loss of soils and their delivery of vital ecosystem services." The study also showed that only 7% of soil under conservation management had lifespans shorter than a century, and nearly half exceeded 5,000 years, while some soils under conservation management were actually thickening.




The National Agricultural Law Center published a 12-page fact sheet that can help those considering adding a farm stay enterprise to their operation, Ten Legal Issues for Farm Stay Operators. The free, online resource reviews the top 10 potential legal issues farm or ranch operators may face when considering adding a farm stay business. It also illustrates the connection between different types of farm stay and the resulting legal risks and requirements. The PDF publication includes a checklist to assist operators with the process of considering and managing farm stay legal issues.




University of Tennessee Extension has published Considerations for Producing and Marketing Hops in Tennessee, a new manual to assist farmers and landowners who are considering growing hops. The 30-page guide addresses costs associated with establishing a hops plot, the annual costs associated with hops production, and marketing concerns like the craft brewing industry and agritourism. It also includes information on harvest, processing, and marketing hops to buyers.




A modeling study by Tufts University, published in Environmental Science & Technology, found that some but not all U.S. metro areas could grow all the food they need within 155 miles. The study considered 378 metropolitan areas across the country, and found that metro centers in the Northwest and interior of the country have the greatest potential for localization. Although large portions of the population along the Eastern Seaboard and the southwest corner of the U.S. could not meet demand locally, other cities are surrounded by ample land to support local and regional food systems, researchers say.




A feature in The Prairie Star describes how North Dakota rancher Lacey Block is direct-marketing beef through Rancher's Rebellion Beef Company, LLC, in North and South Dakota convenience stores and gas stations. Block describes navigating the regulations and paperwork for starting the business that supplies steaks, roasts, ribs, brisket, and ground beef from her own family's ranch as well as neighboring ranchers. She located narrow coolers in local stores to avoid the markup that chain stores would charge. The business launched in February, just when demand for local beef increased.




The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture is seeking stakeholder input in the the development of its 2021 Request for Applications (RFA) for its Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP). NIFA will be collecting this input via a webinar scheduled for September 16, 2020, from 1:00 – 2:30 Central Time, and by written comments submitted through e-mail by September 30, 2020. Join the ZoomGov Meeting with the Meeting ID: 160 595 0572 and Passcode: 299337. Send written comments via email to: Denis Ebodaghe at Denis.Ebodaghe@usda.gov or Desiree Rucker at desiree.rucker@usda.gov.




Organic farming training for specialty crop growers is now available free online from the University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF), and California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. The training program contains six learning modules: soil health, weed management, irrigation and water management, insect and mite pest management, disease management, and business management and marketing. The program provides a combination of written content, videos, and exercises that allow students to follow along at their own pace and test their grasp of the knowledge. "While it was developed for California specialty crop farmers, the content is based on foundational principles that are relevant to all organic farmers and our hope is that growers across the U.S. find it to be a useful resource," said OFRF Education and Research Program Manager Lauren Snyder.




New Entry Sustainable Farming Project and Tufts Food Lab are conducting a Grain Flash Poll to collect information on Northeast farmers' interest and experience in growing grains. This information will inform the design of a research and education project to help grow a local grain economy in the Northeast. If you grow grains or cover crops in rotation with veggies or fruit, grow grains for seed or straw, grow forage or feed for livestock, or if you are already growing grains for human consumption, please complete a three- to five-minute online poll before September 18, 2020.




Purdue University has announced the inaugural AgrAbility Virtual State Fair, set for October. The online event will provide resources and information for farmers, ranchers and other agricultural workers who are working in production agriculture with a disability, functional limitation, or health condition. "Cultivating Accessible Agriculture" will be the recurring theme as each day during the month, one of the 19 states participating in AgrAbility will highlight how it supports and serves this critically important population. The National AgrAbility Project (NAP) housed at Purdue University supports all the state AgrAbility projects and provides limited services to farmers and ranchers in states without AgrAbility projects.




The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has released the 2020 edition of its Greenbook publication, featuring Agricultural Growth, Research, and Innovation (AGRI) Sustainable Agriculture Demonstration Grant projects from the last three years. Projects, which last two to three years, are located on Minnesota farms in all regions of the state and involve innovative topics including cover cropping, soil fertility, fruits and vegetables, alternative markets or specialty crops, livestock, and energy. The annual Greenbook summarizes the completed projects and offers an overview of eight new projects that will be reported in future editions.




A new report from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy says that payments to compensate for damages from climate change cost taxpayers more than subsidizing good agricultural practices that would make farms more resilient. Agricultural Finance for Climate Resilience surveys policies and instruments in five segments of U.S. agricultural and agribusiness finance: taxpayer subsidized private crop and livestock insurance; federally regulated public and private agricultural loans; bond issuance to finance those loans; commodity futures markets whose prices should serve as reliable benchmarks for farmers' pre-harvest forwarding contracts of grains and oilseed crops; and the disclosure of corporate climate financial risks, particularly of agribusiness, to investors, lenders, credit rating agencies and other interested parties. The report concludes that each of these segments of agricultural finance must modify their policies and instruments, e.g., insurance premiums and indemnification rates, to internalize climate-related financial risks into pricing.




The Midwest Cover Crops Council has revised its Cover Crop Selector Tools that assist farmers in choosing cover crops to include in field crop and vegetable rotations. Users from 12 Midwest states can select their location and then select the goals they have for cover crops, such as erosion control, nitrogen scavenger, fighting weeds, and providing forage. They also can provide information about the cash crops they are planting and drainage data for their fields. The tool offers the best cover crop options for the specified conditions. Clicking on a particular cover crop brings up data sheets that offer more information about each crop, seeding rates, and more.




The Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program (SSARE) announced 16 funded projects for its 2020 Graduate Student Grants program. Grants totaling $236,875 will support sustainable agriculture research by master's and PhD students enrolled at accredited institutions in the southern region. This year's projects will address integrated grazing systems, soil moisture sensing, anaerobic soil disinfestation, intercropping for pest control, insect management, ramps production, food hubs, and more.




The U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) awarded $4.5 million through its SMARTFARM project to an effort led by the University of Illinois to develop technology to calculate carbon credits at the farm scale. The project, named "SYMFONI," combines satellite observations, mobile soil sensing, and supercomputers to provide field-level quantification of carbon intensity. It will be developing commercial products to calculate the value of various ecosystem services related to crop and land management decisions.




Agricultural, development, environmental, financial, and consumer economists at the University of Illinois have launched a new Center for the Economics of Sustainability (CEOS). The research center is exploring how best to manage natural resources and how to design policies and markets to achieve sustainability at the lowest possible cost. CEOS has a website with a library of articles, working papers, and public data sets for people collecting information on a certain research topic, and also offers opportunities to collaborate with CEOS researchers.




USDA announced that it is reopening the comment period for the interim final rule that was published on October 31, 2019, establishing the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program. The reopening will provide an additional 30 days for interested persons to comment on the interim final rule. Stakeholders, especially those who were subject to the regulatory requirements of the IFR during the 2020 production cycle, are invited to provide comments. Comment topics of particular interest are listed online. Comments must be received by October 8, 2020.




Researchers at the University of Georgia tested using the food additives levulinic acid and sodium dodecyl sulfate as a pre-harvest spray on tomatoes. In on-farm tests, the spray treatment was found to significantly reduce the levels of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, salmonella, and L. monocytogenes on the surface of the tomatoes. This study found the pre-harvest spray to be an environmentally preferable and labor-saving way to control foodborne pathogens on produce, compared to post-harvest washing using chlorine. In addition, the spray can be applied using equipment that is already common on many farms.




Environmental Defense Fund has released Financing Resilient Agriculture. This 49-page report provides a path forward for lenders to mitigate climate risks and finance resilient agriculture. It's for agricultural lenders and lending institutions, as well as others interested in understanding the climate risks faced by the agricultural lending sector and the role of agricultural lenders in financing resilient agriculture. The report is available free online in PDF. The report's foreword notes, "This report makes a clear and compelling case that long-term farm profitability is not undermined by near-term investments in conservation and climate resilience—it depends on it."




Research published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution set a value of $14.6 to $19.5 billion annually on non-chemical crop protection in 23 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, reports CABI. This international study "unveils the magnitude and macro-economic relevance of biodiversity-based contributions to productivity growth in non-rice crops over a 100-year period between 1918 and 2018." The study shows how 75 biological control agents mitigated 43 pests over the study period, and demonstrates the economic value of biological control in comparison to other agricultural strategies.




Writing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from North Carolina State University and Pennsylvania State University argued for curbing the use of neonicotinoid insecticides by discontinuing the practice of applying them preventively on crop seeds. Although the practice is widespread in the United States, at least one study has cast doubt on its efficacy. Furthermore, evidence shows that these pesticides spread through the environment to pollinators, predators, and other insects they are not intended to kill. These scientists say that using less neonicotinoid insecticide could help reduce cascading effects on the environment from insecticides whose risks have not been fully characterized.




Research conducted by Cornell University and Cooperative Extension vegetable specialists and funded by Northern New York Agricultural Development Program evaluated production and harvest of ground cherries and goldenberries. Ground cherry (Physalis pruinosa) and goldenberry (Physalis peruviana) are warm-season annual crops that yield a yellow fruit popular as a healthy snack food. Golden cherry is currently grown and sold by farms in northern New York. It grows close to the ground and drops its fruit when ripe, making harvest labor-intensive. Goldenberry grows upright, is harvested by picking, and is being evaluated as a new crop for growers in northern New York. In this project, a harvesting frame built to collect ground cherries efficiently worked well. However, three methods of trellising for the upright-growing goldenberry proved too costly. The complete project report, with production and harvesting data, and costs and a video are posted online.




Nonprofit certifier A Greener World (AGW) has launched a plan-based regenerative certification, Certified Regenerative by A Greener World. The new certification will provide a whole-farm assurance of sustainability, measuring benefits for soil, water, air, biodiversity, infrastructure, animal welfare, and social responsibility. The program will be backed by A Greener World's ISO/IEC Guide 17065 accreditation. The core feature of this program is a farmer-led Regenerative Plan whereby farms assess risk, set goals, and track progress toward their own meaningful milestones.




The 2021 MOSES Organic Farming Conference will be a virtual event, tentatively scheduled for the last week of February. The planning team is inviting video submissions from farmers of Farmer Speed Presentations. Through a four-minute video, you can show others an insightful tip you've developed to make a farm chore easier, demonstrate a cool tool you're using or hack you've created, or simply give a virtual tour of your farm. Farmer speed presentation videos must be submitted by October 31, 2020.




The Soil Health Institute is releasing Cotton & Covers, a Healthy Soils for Sustainable Cotton video series that follows three Southeastern cotton producers as they discuss their individual journeys to build profitable soil health management systems on their farms. The series features Sonny Price from Dillon, South Carolina; Zeb Winslow from Scotland Neck, North Carolina; and Burton Heatwole from Millen, Georgia. These cotton producers discuss why they decided to explore practices that promote soil health and the benefits they've discovered as they experimented with reduced tillage, increased cover crop species diversity, and livestock grazing. New videos in the series will be made available weekly through September.




Farmer's Business Network has launched GRO Network™, a grain supply chain that creates value for environmental stewardship. According to GRO Network, buyers are looking for environmentally responsible agriculture products, while farmers want to expand conservation efforts and earn compensation for regenerative practices. GRO Network advocates for a near-term focus on emissions abatement to create immediate improvements for farmers and the environment, that can be tracked with existing farm technology. For buyers, GRO Network provides the technology, service, and tools to source and score Low-Carbon Grain. Bringing Low-Carbon Grain to the Agriculture Supply Chain, a white paper that explains the concept, is available online.




A new study from researchers at the University of Minnesota and Iowa State University found in a large-scale, long-term field experiment at Iowa State University's Marsden Farm that diversifying crop rotations can greatly reduce negative environmental and health impacts, while maintaining profitability for farmers. The experiment, initiated in 2001, compares the performance characteristics of a two-year corn-soy rotation with those of a three-year corn-soybean-oat rotation and a four-year corn-soybean-oat-alfalfa rotation. Adding small grains and forages to the conventional corn-soybean rotation resulted in less fertilizer use, less fossil fuel use, and lower greenhouse-gas emissions.




USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture announced the award of grants through the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) and Organic Transitions Program (ORG). A list of 20 recipients of OREI grants totaling $17 million is available online. This program helps fund research, education, and extension projects to improve yields, quality, and profitability for producers and processors who have adopted organic standards. Additionally, 12 ORG grants totaling $5.6 million were awarded to support research, education, and extension efforts to help existing and transitioning organic livestock and crop producers adopt organic practices and improve their market competitiveness.




A new study led by Colorado State University predicted significant climate benefits stemming from the use of current and future advanced biofuel technologies. Accounting for all of the carbon flows in biofuel systems and comparing them to those in grasslands and forests, the team found that there are clear strategies for biofuels to have a net carbon benefit. In one model in particular, switchgrass can be processed by cellulosic biofuel refinery, and the remaining byproduct, representing half the carbon, is available for carbon capture and storage. "This analysis shows a quantitatively reasoned case as to why the biofuel industry should advance, not simply as a means to provide a truly renewable source of biofuel but—when combined with carbon capture and storage—a means to actually remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere at scale and in a viable manner," said co-author Stephen Long, at the University of Illinois.




Kiss the Ground, an 85-minute movie that explores key soil health and regenerative agricultural principles, will stream September 22, 2020, on Netflix. Directed by Josh and Rebecca Tickell, the film features soil-health practitioners Gabe Brown and Ray Archuleta, along with Woody Harrelson, Gisele Bundchen, Jason Mraz, and Ian Somerhalder, and interviews with a wide range of authors, researchers, and scientists. The movie's thesis proposes that by regenerating the world's soils, humans can rapidly stabilize Earth's climate, restore lost ecosystems, and create abundant food supplies. The film uses creative graphics and visuals, along with NASA and NOAA footage, to illustrate how, by drawing down atmospheric carbon, many of humankind's most pressing climate and environmental problems can be solved. A preview of the movie is offered online.




University of Texas Rio Grande Valley graduate student Stephanie Kasper conducted research under a Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SSARE) grant on how moisture and nutrient availability affect the ability of the cover crop Iron and Clay Cowpea to fix nitrogen. Although soil moisture and micronutrients have an impact on a plant's ability to produce nodules, this research showed that timing of moisture has an even larger impact on nodulation. "During the course of the plant's lifetime, it is most important that it has moisture during the beginning of the season, when it's first starting to grow and it has the opportunity to form the relationship with the bacteria. If it is dry during the beginning of the season, and the relationship between the plant and bacteria doesn't form because there isn't enough moisture in the soil, then you probably won't see nitrogen fixation even if you get water later," explained Kasper.




Farm Aid 2020 will be a virtual festival available online at farmaid.org and on AXS TV on Saturday, September 26 from 8-11 p.m. EDT. The 35th anniversary festival will showcase the diversity and strength of family farmers with stories from across the country, as well as performances by Willie Nelson and The Boys, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews, and many other artists. "This pandemic and so many other challenges have revealed how essential family farmers and ranchers are to the future of our planet. Farm Aid 2020 is going to give the whole country a chance to learn about the important work of farmers and how they're contributing to our well-being, beyond bringing us good food," said Farm Aid president Willie Nelson.




Minnesotans interested in making it easier for new and emerging farmers to create or sustain an agricultural business are encouraged to apply to join a legislatively created Emerging Farmers' Working Group through the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Interested people can apply by October 2, 2020, to serve on the working group, which will have 15 to 20 members and meet on a regular basis. Anyone is eligible to apply, and application materials are available online.




Research from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory shows that increasingly hot and dry conditions will change where and when crops can be grown by 2045. Although a third of the vegetables and two-thirds of the fruits and nuts consumed by Americans are currently grown in California, the regions where they are grown may become too hot and dry for continued production in 20 years. The paper "Projected temperature increases may require shifts in the growing season of cool-season crops and the growing locations of warm-season crops" was published in Science of the Total Environment. "If crops can no longer be grown in their current locations, then the farmer has to either move to a new area or grow a different crop, which presents a practical and economic burden on the farmer," notes the study's lead author.




New York berry growers collaborating with Cornell University researchers are reporting success in using exclusion netting to prevent spotted wing drosophila (SWD) infestations. A paper published in Crop Protection documents that in testing over the past few years, early-season placement of exclusion netting was effective in protecting raspberries from SWD. One grower has avoided pesticide use for six years, with less than 1% incidence of SWD. She notes that the cost of the exclusion netting is lower than the cost of pesticides. The netting is attached to a frame that surrounds the berry crop. Producers must be prepared to deal with infestations that can occur from workers moving in and out of the exclusion.




A research brief posted by the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems at the University of Wisconsin says that composting dairy manure and bedding pack before spreading it on fields reduces runoff losses. Composting Manure and Bedding Reduces Potential Soil and Phosphorus Loss shows that composting is a viable way to reduce phosphorus runoff losses from livestock operations with bedded pack manure. A composting step eliminates the need to spread manure on frozen ground, and it both reduces the water solubility of phosphorus and adds stable organic matter that results in reduced erosion. The PDF brief is available online.




USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) is reminding farmers and ranchers that the deadline to apply for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) is September 11, 2020. This program provides direct relief to producers who faced price declines and additional marketing costs due to COVID-19. More than 160 commodities are eligible for CFAP, including certain non-specialty crops, livestock, dairy, wool, specialty crops, eggs, aquaculture, nursery crops, and cut flowers. A complete list of eligible commodities, payment rates, and calculations can be found on farmers.gov/cfap. FSA operates a call center where employees can answer producers' questions and help you get started on your application. Customers seeking one-on-one support with the CFAP application process can call 877-508-8364 to speak directly with a USDA employee ready to offer general assistance.




USDA is extending the signup deadline for the Soil Health and Income Protection Program (SHIPP) pilot program to November 20, 2020. SHIPP, part of the Conservation Reserve Program, enables producers in Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota to receive payments for planting perennial cover for conservation use for three to five years. This pilot supports producers in planting perennial cover that, among other benefits, will improve soil health and water quality while offering the option to harvest, hay, and graze outside the primary nesting season. Producers can enroll up to 50,000 acres in the program.




USDA Agricultural Marketing Service National Organic Program (NOP) has posted meeting materials for the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) Fall 2020 Meeting, to be held virtually on October 20 and 22 and October 28-30, 2020. Available materials include the tentative agenda, proposals, and discussion documents. Proposal documents are available in a single combined PDF, as well as in individual proposals on each corresponding Subcommittee web page.




USDA published a final rule updating the determination of whether land is considered highly erodible or wetland. To be eligible for most USDA programs, producers must be conservation compliant with the highly erodible land and wetland provisions. These provisions aim to reduce soil loss on erosion-prone lands and to protect wetlands for the multiple benefits they provide. This final rule confirms most of the changes made by the December 2018 interim final rule and includes additional clarification on hydrology. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has recently updated its conservation compliance webpages, adding highly erodible land and wetland determination resources for agricultural producers by state.




The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) and farmers and ranchers from across the country have delivered a letter to the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, urging Congress to support and invest in farming and rural communities to address the climate crisis. The letter underscores the fundamental threat that the climate crisis poses to the livelihoods of farmers and ranchers and the viability of agriculture. It was signed by 2,130 farmers and ranchers, and it highlights both the impacts of the climate crisis on agriculture and the opportunities for farmers to lead on climate solutions.




A survey of producers in South Dakota, North Dakota, and Nebraska examined why some agricultural producers prioritize soil health and how to encourage more producers to adopt conservation practices, reports South Dakota State University. The project is part of a four-year, NIFA-funded project evaluating integrated crop and livestock management systems. Almost 38% of the 672 farmers who responded to this survey reported using diversified crop rotation plans, while 71% were grazing livestock on croplands. However, only 28% of the respondents indicated that they used both methods to improve soil health. The survey also assessed what might motivate farmers to begin integrating livestock grazing on cropland. They found that cash incentives would encourage farmers to adopt an integrated system, and that farmers would chose an integrated system over a third or fourth crop in rotation.




Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds allocated approximately $100 million of federal CARES Act relief funds for a range of agricultural programs to offset the impact of COVID-19 on farmers, producers and agricultural industries. The allocations include $60 million for the Iowa Livestock Producer Relief Fund, which will provide grants of up to $10,000 to eligible producers of pork, beef, chicken, turkeys, dairy, fish, or sheep to serve as working capital to stabilize livestock producers. Meanwhile, the Iowa Beginning Farmer Debt Relief Fund received $6 million to provide eligible beginning farmers with a long-term debt service payment of up to $10,000. Two million in funding for the Meat Processing Development and Expansion Program will aid small meat processors in expanding processing capacity across the state to meet protein demand. Additionally, the Farm Produce and Protein Program provides grants to schools that buy produce and other local crops and protein sources from Iowa specialty crop producers. The programs are beginning to accept applications.




USDA announced the availability of assistance to help eligible farmers and ranchers reestablish their operations, for agricultural producers affected by recent wildfires that have burned more than two million acres, mostly in the western states. USDA partnered with FEMA and other disaster-focused organizations to create the Disaster Resource Center, a searchable knowledge base of disaster-related resources. This website and web tool provide an easy access point to find USDA disaster information and assistance. USDA also developed a disaster assistance discovery tool that walks producers through five questions to generate personalized results identifying which USDA disaster assistance programs can help them recover from a natural disaster.




Researchers at Australia's Southern Cross University demonstrated that the neonicotinoid insecticide imidacloprid can impact the feeding behavior of prawns in a laboratory environment, leading to nutritional deficiency and reduced flesh quality. Earlier work with shrimp showed similar risks from neonicotinoid exposure, which is a particular concern given increased detection of the water-soluble pesticide in coastal waters worldwide. "This means prawns and shrimp are highly vulnerable if they become exposed to high levels of neonicotinoids, either through contaminated water or feed, which often contains plant-based material," noted the study's co-author, adding, "Our research identifies the need for effective management of pesticide use and run-off from intensive agriculture in coastal areas with productive seafood industries."




USDA's new Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production announced the recipients of its first grants and cooperative agreements. USDA is awarding approximately $1.14 million for three Planning Projects and approximately $1.88 million for seven Implementation Projects. Activities include operating community gardens and nonprofit farms, increasing food production and access in economically distressed communities, providing job training and education, and developing business plans and zoning. Additionally, USDA is investing approximately $1.09 million through Community Compost and Food Waste Reduction (CCFWR) Projects in 13 pilot projects that will develop and test strategies for planning and implementing municipal compost plans and food waste reduction. A complete list of recipients, with project summaries, is available online.




Penn State research on eight organic dairy farms in Pennsylvania and New York and on research plots at Penn State's Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center showed that cover crop mixes perform very differently in different locations. Participating farmers seeded a standard pre-formulated commercial cover crop mixture of canola, Austrian winter pea, triticale, red clover, and crimson clover, as well as a "farm-tuned" mixture of the same five species that adjusted seeding rates to achieve that farmer's particular goals. Researchers found that cover crop mixture expression varied greatly across farms, depending significantly on soil inorganic nitrogen content and planting dates that influenced the number of growing days.




Researchers from the University of Minnesota and the University of Vermont worked together on a project in California's Central Valley that revealed the value of pollination benefits that neighboring farmers share when some farmers provide bee habitat. "Bees don't pay attention to land boundaries," said the study's lead author Eric Lonsdorf. "In the current system, farmers who choose to conserve habitat for bees on their lands are rarely recognized for the pollination benefits that they're also providing to their neighbors." This study proposes that farmers providing bee habitat be compensated for the pollination benefits they're providing for others. The researchers also note that the more farmers group together to provide habitat, the greater the resulting benefits. Ideally, the researchers say they would like to see their work help inform policies that encourage cooperation and resource sharing amongst farmers.




The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, the New York Dairy Promotion Order (DPO) Advisory Board, and VentureFuel have announced MilkLaunch, a new startup competition focused on accelerating product innovation for dairy products in New York State. MilkLaunch will encourage entrepreneurs to introduce exciting new dairy products with the ultimate goal of boosting dairy sales in New York State. The competition includes more than $200,000 in awards, including providing $15,000 to support four finalists in perfecting their product via lab time, customer insights, research, and elite mentorship from global experts across the consumer products, retail and dairy industries. The grand prize of $150,000 will be used to accelerate the winner(s) of the competition to get to market and drive dairy sales. Entries are open to all including dairy farms, processors, producers, entrepreneurs, academics, and ideators. The entry deadline is September 15, 2020.




A new four-page publication available free online in PDF from Iowa Beef Center explains positive aspects of low stress cattle handling systems as a way to improve performance, animal welfare, and handling efficiency. The publication offers an overview of the natural behavior of cattle and describes general principles of handling cattle. It explains how low stress handling can be properly utilized in an operation. A section on facilities includes two simple designs used most commonly for low stress cattle handing. The information and awareness are helpful for all ages of cattle and types of operation.




The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is seeking public comments on the program priorities for the state's 2021 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP). The SCBGP program priorities are intended to address the current needs of California's specialty crop industry and help guide prospective applicants to submit projects that address the most significant issues affecting the industry. For 2021, CDFA is proposing changes to the priorities to respond to challenges related to COVID-19 and address issues of farmer equity Interested parties should review the Proposed Program Priorities and may attend a web based public listening session or submit emailed comments. Comments from specialty crop stakeholders are strongly encouraged.




Montana Organic Association (MOA) held its annual farm tour in 2020 with just 11 participants, including a video crew that documented the event for posting online. Mark and Jane Smith hosted the 2020 MOA farm tour at their Aspen Island Ranch, a small-scale operation with 65 certified organic grass-fed cow-calf pairs and long yearlings awaiting harvest. The tour is posted on YouTube as a series of nine 3-minute to 39-minute videos dealing with specific management topics.




The California Department of Food and Agriculture has awarded $1 million in Biologically Integrated Farming Systems (BIFS) grant funding for a project led by Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) that will expand the use of low-risk pest control practices in California's walnut industry. "Promoting Biologically Integrated Orchard Systems in Walnuts in Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys" will establish six 40-acre demonstration sites over the next three years, where pheromone mating disruption and biological control programs will be used to manage a suite of major walnut pests.




The Organic Trade Association released Advancing Organic to Mitigate Climate Change, a major report on organic and its ability to mitigate climate change. The white paper identifies policy opportunities to elevate the role of organic in the climate change discussion, support organic farmers, and encourage transition to organic farming. The 33-page PDF is available free online. The trade association also recently announced the launch of a Climate Task Force, open to all Organic Trade Association members.




Farm Aid is creating a montage of farmer faces and voices to be part of its annual festival, showcasing how essential family farmers are. Farmers are invited to submit audio or video clips by August 24, 2020, responding to prompts that encourage you to speak about your life on the farm; COVID-19's impacts on your farm, farmers, and our food system; the connection between food and racial and social justice; and more.




Florida Rural Legal Services (FLRS) is offering free legal assistance to farmworkers across the state through a toll-free hotline, 1-844-443-2769. Callers to the Farmworkers Hotline can access Spanish-, English-, or Creole-speaking migrant unit response team members in person between 8:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. The line specifically caters to the legal needs of Florida farmworkers. Additionally, FLRS offers legal aid designed to support grassroots organizations and promote community-based neighborhood transformations such as revitalization, economic development, and small business growth.




USDA announced the launch of the Local Food System Response to COVID Resource Hub, developed through a cooperative agreement with the University of Kentucky, Colorado State University, and Pennsylvania State University. The online resource is designed to document and disseminate COVID-19 response innovations and best practices developed by local and regional food systems. It contains insights and educational material from 16 partner organizations to help local and regional food producers and businesses adapt their market strategies in the current environment.




Results of the sixth National Cover Crop Survey have been released by the Conservation Technology Innovation Center (CTIC), USDA's Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, and the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA). More than 90% of farmers participating in the survey reported that cover crops allowed them to plant earlier or at the same time as non-cover-cropped fields. Among those who had "planted green," seeding cash crops into growing cover crops, 54% said the practice helped them plant earlier than on other fields. Of these farmers who planted green, 71% reported better weed control and 68% said soil moisture management improved. And despite the record-setting wet spring, yields after cover crops increased 5% in soybeans, 2% in corn, and 2.6% in spring wheat. The 2019-2020 survey included perspectives from 1,172 farmers, representing every state. The full report of survey results is available online




The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has released A Roadmap to a Sustainable Beef System for U.S. companies. According to TNC, "The Roadmap distills scientific evidence related to beef production practices and can help companies identify opportunities and make supply chain improvements, while tracking progress toward their environmental and other sustainability goals." The 37-page publication serves as a roadmap for corporate action to protect and regenerate nature and climate and to support economic well-being and healthy communities. It's designed for "downstream companies in the beef supply chain who have set GHG emissions reduction goals, have customer and investor demands to reduce emissions, and are interested in tackling climate change and the impacts of agriculture."




Penn State Extension is offering a new, self-paced online course, "Starting a Farm: Is Farming Right for You?" In the 90-minute course available for 60 days, learn to build a successful agricultural business using market research methods to define and refine your business goals. The course uses educational videos, short readings, and a workbook to help students begin to lay the groundwork for a successful agricultural business.




Through a Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SSARE) On-Farm Research Grant, Auburn University researchers tested cover crop residue as a biodegradable mulch for weed control in bell pepper and watermelon production. Using the biodegradable mulch from cover crops offered an alternative to chemical weed control and to use of plasticulture. This study involved two years of field testing white clover as a living mulch, and cereal rye and a mixture of cereal rye and crimson clover used as biodegradable mulches once terminated. Researchers found that weed densities for all cover crops tested were significantly lower than the non-treated control. Additionally, rolling the cover crop mixes down green did not adversely affect vegetable crop yield or quality.




Research published by the British Ecological Society in Journal of Applied Ecology showed that the number of beneficial insects in agricultural land is increased by crop diversity and proximity to semi-natural habitats such as forests and grassland. Research in Sweden showed more pollinating insects and more natural predators among diverse crops adjacent to semi-natural habitats. Ground beetles, hoverflies, and bees were all more plentiful in these settings than in areas with a single crop, even when that crop was a flowering crop known to attract pollinators.




A new study from Oregon State University explored ranchers' motivations for practicing regenerative agriculture. The study, published in The Royal Society Interface Focus, found that ranchers commonly adopt regenerative practices because they enhance adaptability and resilience, and also because they reduce costly inputs. "What we found is that ranchers manage regeneratively for all these other benefits, and if there's some measureable soil carbon sequestration and it contributes to climate change mitigation, then that's icing on the cake," said lead author Hannah Gosnell. The study also revealed that because regenerative practices require a fundamental paradigm shift, incentive payments alone are not likely to motivate ranchers to adopt them.




USDA Agricultural Marketing Service's Organic Insider has begun a six-part series that highlights changes outlined in the Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) proposed rule and explains how they apply to members of the organic community. The first installment of the series explains how SOE will limit exemptions to organic certification, meaning that currently exempt businesses like brokers, traders, importers, and exporters may need to be certified organic if they handle organic products. The Strengthening Organic Enforcement Proposed Rule was published in the Federal Register on August 5, 2020, and is open for public comment until October 5, 2020.




Penn State researchers working on assessing the benefits of cover crops found that root traits that impact soil carbon storage levels vary widely among cover crop species. In a study published in Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, researchers compared root and shoot production of three monoculture cover crops: triticale, canola, and crimson clover, as well as a five-species mixture including all three of those species. Researcher Jason Kaye explained that the cover crop mix had simultaneously high root and shoot outputs that enabled it to increase total carbon inputs to soil. Among monocultures, triticale had the highest root-to-shoot ratio, as well as significant production of between-row roots. This research showed that an understanding of root traits could help in designing more effective cover crop mixes.




Cornell University researchers have completed a report titled New York Agriculture and Climate Change: Key Opportunities for Mitigation, Resilience, and Adaptation that provides a scientific assessment of opportunities and barriers supporting climate adaptation and mitigation practices on New York's farms. The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets commissioned the 65-page report. The report includes a table with 13 mitigation opportunities, ranked by the scale at which they could be implemented. The top five actions include management of manure, nitrogen, livestock feed, and woodlands, as well as utilization of former farmland and underutilized land for renewable energy production and forestry.




A new study from the University of Illinois points to increased use of neonicotinoid insecticides as a major factor in the decline of bird biodiversity in the United States. The study, published in Nature Sustainability, tracked the pesticide's impact on birds at a national scale over seven years, using data from hundreds of bird species classified as grassland birds, non-grassland birds, insectivores, and non-insectivores. "We found robust evidence of the negative impact of neonicotinoids, in particular on grassland birds, and to some extent on insectivore birds after controlling for the effects of changes in land use," said study co-author Madhu Khanna. Specifically, the authors found that an increase of 100 kilograms in neonicotinoid usage per county—a 12% increase on average—contributed to a 2.2% decline in populations of grassland birds and 1.6% in insectivorous birds.




USDA has announced the creation of new Farm Service Agency (FSA) county committees focused exclusively on urban agriculture. County committees represent farmers and set priorities at the local level. The committees are organized through USDA's Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production, and the first five will be located in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Cleveland, Ohio; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Portland, Oregon; and Richmond, Virginia. USDA plans to announce locations for five additional county committees in the fall. The urban and suburban county committees will work to encourage and promote urban, indoor, and other emerging agricultural production practices. Additionally, the new county committees may address areas such as food access, community engagement, support of local activities to promote and encourage community compost, and food waste reduction. FSA will begin accepting nominations for urban and suburban county committee members on September 8, 2020. Urban farmers who participate or cooperate in an FSA program in the county selected may either be nominated or may nominate themselves or others as a candidate. Organizations, including those representing beginning, women, and minority producers, also may nominate candidates.




The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has awarded $208,213 to 46 Minnesota livestock processing plants and producers to help them increase capacity for slaughter, processing and storage in the wake of supply chain disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The MDA Agricultural Growth, Research, and Innovation (AGRI) Program's Rapid Response Mini-Grant for Livestock Processing offered up to $5,000 to applicants to offset the cost of expenses such as adding coolers, refrigeration units, slaughter and processing equipment. The grant funding required a 1:1 match and expenses must make immediate impact on the state's capacity to process or store Minnesota-raised livestock, poultry, milk, and eggs. The MDA awarded grants to 21 licensed, custom-exempt processing plants, 11 state equal-to processing plants, six USDA-inspected processing plants and eight livestock producers with storage needs.




The University of Florida and the University of California, Riverside, and The Organic Center have partnered with several citrus growers and industry members to conduct a national review of how citrus greening disease is impacting organic growers and other industry members. An online survey of organic citrus growers and industry members is open until October 20, 2020. The information collected will be used to develop a large-scale holistic research project proposal targeted toward protecting organic citrus growers from citrus greening, slowing the spread, and reducing damage to currently infected groves.




The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) announced that its Fall 2020 Meeting will be held live online, instead of in-person. This decision will allow the Board to safely deliberate in an open and public setting. The meeting will be held over the course of five afternoons from October 20 through October 30, 2020. Meeting materials including the agenda, public comment registration links, and other resources will be available at the NOSB Fall 2020 Meeting webpage. All speakers making public comments must sign up in advance. Members of the public will be able to hear the live comments, Board deliberations, and see all the slides used.




A new report from Mercaris' Mercoterra Project looked at the monetary value of certified organic field crop farms to assess whether these farm values are significantly different from comparable conventional field crop farmland in several areas of the Corn Belt and East Coast. The Mercoterra Project findings demonstrate that there is a premium of 25% being paid for organic rental land in the United States. Furthermore, for those whose rent both organic and conventional land, in some cases organic land commands a higher cash rental rate than comparable conventionally farmed land. Both the project report and an on-demand webinar are available online.




The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) and Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) are conducting a USDA-funded national survey of certified organic producers and producers transitioning to organic production to identify their top challenges and research/Extension needs. As part of this project, they are seeking applications from organizations that support certified organic and transitioning agricultural producers, to facilitate and coordinate a virtual focus group. Focus group data will be used to inform the 2021 National Organic Research Agenda (NORA) and State of Organic Seed (SOS) reports. OFRF will provide organizations a $1,000 stipend for their help coordinating and facilitating one virtual focus group. Applications must be submitted by September 15, 2020.




The Regenerative Organic Alliance (ROA) announced that the Regenerative Organic Certified™ (ROC™) certification standard for food, fiber, and personal care products has completed its pilot phase and is now open for general certification. Before being eligible for ROC, farms must first hold USDA organic certification. ROC then adds further criteria to ensure soil health, animal welfare, and social fairness. The new certification also has three levels—bronze, silver, and gold. The levels require farms and businesses to phase in more rigorous regenerative organic practices over time. Following completion of a pilot program, ROA will now increase the number of approved certifiers and begin certifying new brands, effective immediately in partnership with their program manager, NSF International.




The USDA National Agroforestry Center (NAC) has recently updated its library of archived webinars related to agroforestry practices and related issues, including webinars presented by NAC staff. The expanded library now contains more than 160 archived webinars and can be filtered by agroforestry practice or by year. Additionally, NAC's index of SARE grants related to agroforestry has also been updated to include reports on 15 new projects related to alley cropping, forest farming, windbreaks, and silvopasture.




USDA announced additional commodities that will be covered by the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). Also, the deadline to apply for the program has been extended to September 11, 2020. The newly added products include nursery crops and cut flowers, several aquaculture species, liquid and frozen eggs, sheep, and a number of specialty crops including microgreens and pumpkins. The full list is available online. Furthermore, USDA announced that producers who already had approved applications and received 80% payments will automatically receive the remaining 20% of their payments.




A $3 million state investment will help bring a new urban farming campus to Chicago's south side. The $32 million project will transform a vacant brownfield parcel into a new Green Era Urban Farming Campus that will provide access to fresh food, renewable energy, and resilient growth for a community that has historically suffered from disinvestment and a lack of employment opportunities. Green Era's farming campus leverages cutting edge technology for sustainable outcomes to increase local food supply, while transforming waste bound for landfills into reusable sustainable energy for local businesses. The new Campus seeks to resolve the prevalence of food deserts on Chicago's South Side by increasing access to fresh, locally grown food, as well as by increasing capacity for residents to grow their own food. The new Campus will include 13,000 square feet of greenhouse space, expected to grow over 26,000 pounds of food per year. An anaerobic digester will break down organic food waste, producing nutrient rich compost on site to help meet the demand of urban farmers and community gardeners, and to produce renewable energy that will power its facilities. All on-site programming will be operated by the Urban Growers Collective, which will support youth and adult education and engagement, community growing and the Farmers for Chicago program. Construction on the vacant, 9-acre site is slated for completion in March 2022 and will create hundreds of permanent and construction jobs for members of the community.




USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) has announced policy changes that streamline the process for emergency haying and grazing of acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Previously, emergency haying and grazing requests originated with FSA at the county level and required state and national level approval. Now approval will be based on drought severity as determined by the U.S. Drought Monitor. Producers located in a county that is designated as severe drought (D2) or greater on or after the last day of the primary nesting season are eligible for emergency haying and grazing on all eligible acres. Additionally, producers located in counties that were in a severe drought (D2) status any single week during the last eight weeks of the primary nesting season may also be eligible. To date in 2020, 500 counties nationwide have triggered eligibility for emergency haying and grazing on CRP acres. A list by state and map of eligible counties are available on FSA's website and updated weekly.




Under contract to USDA's Risk Management Agency (RMA), Agralytica is holding a series of virtual listening sessions to collect feedback from farmers and ranchers who sell to local food markets, and their representatives in the federal crop insurance industry. As part of the 2018 Farm Bill, Congress required RMA to solicit feedback about improved crop insurance coverage options for farmers and ranchers selling to local food markets, including but not limited to farmers markets, Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs), roadside stands, restaurants, retailers, schools, and institutions. This includes discussing how existing crop insurance programs can be improved, as well as exploring the possibility of a new crop insurance program. The sessions, which will be held from mid-August through early September, are divided by region, commodity, and market channel. Additionally, there will be sessions specifically for approved insurance providers (AIPs). The schedule of 16 different sessions is available online.




University of Kentucky doctoral student Karina Garcia is studying the many ways birds positively and negatively affect crops and whether farmers could incorporate some bird species into their integrated pest management (IPM) strategies. She published a review of research on birds in agriculture, highlighting examples of agricultural benefits from birds, as well as discussing technologies that could help birds be integrated successfully into IPM programs. Garcia notes that much more research is needed to determine the impacts that different bird species have upon crops. One example would be DNA-based analysis of bird fecal samples to determine a bird's diet. Garcia concludes that the bird species, crop, and region would all play a role in utilizing birds in IPM.




Pasa Sustainable Agriculture has published a new report, Water Farming: Managing Agricultural Lands for Clean & Safe Water. This booklet examines both the challenges and opportunities agriculture offers for improving water quality and, in turn, human and environmental health. It also explores why implementing sustainable farming practices—like planting cover crops, rotationally grazing livestock, and maintaining riparian buffers—is one of the most straightforward and cost-effective solutions available for alleviating water pollution. Although the geographic focus for this booklet is Pennsylvania, the core issues discussed—water, farming, and a sustainable future—are global.




USDA has launched a new annual customer experience survey to evaluate USDA customer service and help identify areas for improvement. The survey specifically covers the Farm Service Agency (FSA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and Risk Management Agency (RMA). A selection of 28,000 producers will receive the survey over the next few weeks, but all farmers are encouraged to take the survey online. The survey consists of 20 questions and takes approximately 10 minutes to complete. Responses are confidential, and individual responses will be aggregated. The survey will be open for at least six weeks and will be closed once USDA receives a 30% response rate.




USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) announced that it will authorize Approved Insurance Providers (AIPs) to extend deadlines for premium and administrative fee payments, and that it will defer the resulting interest accrual and allow other flexibilities to help farmers, ranchers, and insurance providers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, USDA is authorizing AIPs to provide policyholders additional time to pay premium and administrative fees and to waive accrual of interest to the earlier of 60 days after their scheduled payment due date or the termination date on policies with premium billing dates between August 1, 2020, and September 30, 2020. In addition, USDA is authorizing AIPs to provide up to 60 additional days for policyholders to make payment and waive additional interest for Written Payment Agreements due between August 1, 2020, and September 30, 2020.




Local Food is Essential is a movement founded by Minnesota and Wisconsin non-profits, businesses, and farming organizations in response to the unexpected challenges facing producers and makers in the MN/WI food system as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Local Food is Essential website is offering an online campaign toolkit for local food, including web banners, sample posters, and logos formatted for social media. The toolkit also contains a variety of recipes and a branded blank recipe card. Access to the toolkit is free for individuals and organizations.




Extension programs from Illinois, Michigan State, Nebraska, Penn State, Rutgers, and Virginia Tech have introduced a YouTube channel called Energy Answers for the Beginning Farmer & Rancher. USDA sponsored the development of a series of extension materials that utilize farm energy experts from university extension programs across the country to answer hot-topic energy questions for beginning farmers and ranchers. Topics for the short videos include energy audits, biodiesel, livestock ventilation, sizing produce coolers, solar on a farm, and many more.




The Land Stewardship Project is moving its beginning farmer training course, Farm Beginnings, online this year. The year-long course helps beginning farmers clarify their goals and strengths, establish a strong enterprise plan, and start building their operation. This year, sessions will take place online from November through March, with on-farm educational events to follow later in 2021. Applications are due September 15, 2020, but applications that are received and accepted before August 15, 2020, will receive a $100 discount. Applicants from Minnesota, western Wisconsin, and northern Iowa will be given priority. The course is farmer-led and focused on sustainable agriculture.




A study led by the Centre for Sustainable Aquaculture Futures in the United Kingdom analyzed the interaction of human, environmental, and animal health (so-called 'One Health') parameters in aquaculture. The results, published in the journal Nature Food, recognize that societal buy-in, equity of access to the food produced, and environmental protection must be adequately addressed as the aquaculture industry expands over coming decades. The analysis identified a set of success metrics that are proposed for inclusion into national aquaculture strategies across the globe to improve sustainability as the industry expands.




A new nine-minute video from Montana State University Extension shows the impact and causes of soil acidification and offers Montana farmers management options to prevent, adapt to, or correct acidic soil, which can lead to heavy yield losses. When pH drops below 6, legumes have trouble fixing nitrogen, and when pH goes below 5, aluminum that exists naturally in soil is released and can be taken up by plants, damaging crops. Research shows that ammonium fertilizers, including urea, are the major cause of soil acidification in agricultural soils. Liming and manure applications are the primary long-term fixes for acidic soil, although some crops that are more tolerant of low pH will gradually help raise the pH of the soil.




A study conducted by the University of California, Berkeley, concluded that California Rangeland Trust's conservation easements across the state provide $900 million to $1.44 billion in environmental benefits annually—including habitat, carbon sequestration, food, and watersheds. The study explored both the environmental and monetary value of 306,718 acres of conservation easements. The study also found that under current zoning requirements, conservation easements return up to $3.47 for every dollar invested. The study's findings estimate that conservation efforts by California Rangeland Trust provide ecosystem services valued at more than $236 million in food and $13.9 million in water annually. Similarly, California Rangeland Trust's conservation supports $250.6 million in the maintenance of biodiversity, nearly $100 million in habitat lifecycle production, and $28.5 million in recreation opportunities annually to the state.




A team from Oregon State University published the results of its work on interactions between ground-nesting bees and soils in Soil Science Society of America Journal. Ground-nesting bees can be important crop pollinators, but little is known about the best soil habitats for them. This study explored the physical and chemical properties of soils collected from active bee and sand nest wasp sites in the Willamette Valley of western Oregon. This study found that active nesting sites were present in locations with little to no rock cover and low vegetation. Nesting sites were found in areas with low organic matter coverage, independent of land slope and aspect. The emergence holes remained open throughout the year. Study leader Rebecca Lybrand explained, "Soil scientists and entomologists can partner with growers to identify soil habitats that support and attract more of these pollinators to agricultural lands. Improving our understanding of the connections between agriculture and the soils that bees, crops, and living organisms rely on to survive is important. Our research also provided a framework for studying ground-nesting organisms—an area of soil science that is underrepresented."




Forty-six farmers markets across New York are participating in the Give Back NY initiative in honor of National Farmers Market Week, August 2-8, 2020. Coordinated by the Farmers Market Federation of New York, Give Back NY invites farmers markets to connect with the emergency food programs and pantries serving their region to host food drives. Consumers and farmers are encouraged to offer donations to their neighborhood food programs during their visit to the farmers market during National Farmers Market Week. The Farmers Market Federation of New York put together a toolkit to help both food pantries and farmers markets prepare for and implement Give Back NY. A full list of participating markets and how to get involved is available online.




USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is proposing to amend the USDA organic regulations to strengthen oversight and enforcement of the production, handling, and sale of organic agricultural products. The proposed amendments are intended to protect integrity in the organic supply chain and build consumer and industry trust in the USDA organic label by strengthening organic control systems, improving farm to market traceability, and providing robust enforcement of the USDA organic regulations. Topics addressed by the proposed rule include unannounced on-site inspections of certified operations, annual update requirements for certified operations, certifying agent personnel qualifications and training, and others. A 60-day public comment period will begin when the rule is published in the Federal Register, a date not yet announced.




USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) has posted a topic page that highlights ERS research and data specifically produced to help interpret and understand the emerging vulnerabilities and impacts for agriculture, food, and rural America resulting from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. ERS' research program considers links in the farm-to-consumer supply chain that may be affected by the pandemic, including farms, processers, handlers, retail outlets, and trade. ERS also examines the economic impacts of the pandemic on consumers, food assistance program participants, residents of rural America, and farmers. The page will be updated as more information becomes available.




The Pilot Agricultural Microloan Program from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture's (MDA) Rural Finance Authority (RFA) is doubling the maximum amount that emerging farmers can borrow, to $20,000. Loan funds can be used for working capital (annual costs such as seed, feed, fertilizer, land rent) or equipment and other farm asset purchases with a common useful life of 10 years or less. Applicants must meet the following criteria to be eligible: be a resident of Minnesota, be a member of a Protected Group or a qualified non-citizen as defined under Minnesota statutes, use the funds toward production and marketing of specialty crops or eligible livestock, and demonstrate an ability to repay the loan.




Eat Local First Collaborative, a group of food system organizations from Washington state, has created the Eat Local First WA Directory, an online resource that merges a number of online farm-finding tools. Eat Local First collects food finder resources for the state and regions within it. An interactive food and farm map helps connect consumers with food producers. Users can also find features like Community Supported Agriculture shares, farmers markets, online ordering and home delivery, and various other ways to connect with local farmers and food businesses.




National Farmers Market Week is set for August 2-8, 2020. Farmers Market Coalition (FMC) points out that this is a great opportunity to show the nation how much value markets bring to their communities. FMC offers resources, tools, and fun activities for market managers, vendors, and attendees to use for planning and participating in National Farmers Week, as well as examples of how some markets have observed National Farmers Market Week in the past. FMC has more than 30 downloadable templates, tools, graphics, and resources available online for farmers market operators to use to plan and celebrate National Farmers Market Week.




A new free online course called "Rural Resilience: Farm Stress Training" is available to teach participants stress management, suicide awareness, and how to communicate with farmers suffering from stress. USDA's Cooperative Extension System, Farm Credit, American Farm Bureau Federation, and National Farmers Union worked together to bring this course online for the public. The content was created by Extension professionals at Michigan State University, University of Illinois, University of Wisconsin, Montana State University, and South Dakota State University. In this course, you will learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of stress and suicide, ways to effectively communicate with people under stress, and how to reduce stigma related to mental health concerns. The self-paced course takes approximately two hours and 45 minutes to complete.




A five-year study led by Penn State is exploring how food systems in urbanized landscapes can remain economically and environmentally sustainable. Researchers say 97% of net farm income in Pennsylvania is from metropolitan regions and adjacent, nonmetro counties. However, the sustainability of agriculture in these areas is threatened by competition for land and water and by complaints about the "disamenities" of agriculture, such as dust, odors, and pollution. The team is evaluating how on-farm practices, such as nutrient management, and policy tools, such as zoning, could impact a shared future with agriculture. The project is in its first year, and it will include workshops, courses, and extension programs in its stakeholder outreach.




Researchers with the Texas A&M University System received a grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture for research, education and outreach relating to grassland revitalization in Texas. The $364,854 grant provided funding to create the Restore Texas Grasslands Revitalization Partnership, which will foster education, research, and outreach programs relating to the sustainable management of grassland ecosystems in Texas. Among other objectives, the project will provide high-impact learning experiences and research opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students. The team has chosen three research priority areas to guide future studies: woody plant expansion, water resources, and soil health.




USDA posted a blog on the Subtropical Soil Health Initiative, a Conservation Innovation Grant project in the Lower Rio Grande Valley that is led by the National Center for Appropriate Technology. The project is a collaboration with a University of Texas Rio Grande Valley team that is testing different cover crops in the field to determine the best species for farmers in the hot, humid Lower Rio Grande Valley. Sunn Hemp appears to be the best option to date. Local farmers have been very involved in the project, and the project team envisions their work benefiting the community by helping it reach local food production potential.




The Organization for Competitive Markets has posted a video on Meat Processing and Inspection with Dr. James Dillon, Director of the Texas Meat and Poultry Inspection Program. The video discusses the difference between federal, state, and custom-exempt inspection, as well as the implications of different legislation relative to each type of inspection. The one-hour video and a PDF file of the slides from the presentation are both available online.




North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) announce that Donn Teske and Fred Madison have been named the 2020 NCR-SARE Heroes. The NCR-SARE Hero Recognition highlights, recognizes, and pays tribute to those who have made significant contributions to NCR-SARE and/or National SARE. Farmer Donn Teske worked for the Kansas Rural Center and the Kansas State University Agricultural Economics Department and served as National Farmers Union Vice President from 2014-2018. Teske served on NCR-SARE's Administrative Council from 2011 until 2018. Fred Madison, "Dr. Dirt," is receiving his recognition posthumously. He served on the Administrative Council for 15 years and as a SARE State Coordinator in Wisconsin.




Research led by Rutgers and published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences shows that crop yields for apples, cherries, and blueberries across the United States are being reduced by a lack of pollinators. Scientists collected data on insect pollination of crop flowers and yield at 131 farms across the United States and in Canada. Apples, sweet cherries, tart cherries, and blueberries showed evidence of being limited by pollination, indicating that yields are currently lower than they would be with full pollination. The findings suggest that adopting practices that conserve or augment wild bees, such as enhancing wildflowers and using managed pollinators other than honey bees, is likely to boost yields.




Scientists from the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig say the biomass of small animals that decompose plants in the soil is declining both as a result of climate change and over-intensive cultivation. They explain that while the changing climate reduces the body size of the organisms, cultivation reduces their frequency. The researchers warn in the trade journal eLife that even by farming organically, it is not possible to counteract all the negative consequences of climate change, which challenges soil animals with high temperatures and unusual precipitation conditions with more frequent droughts. Reduced biomass of these animals reduces their decomposition performance, and this means that nutrient recycling is slowed down. Although organically farmed ecosystems are generally deemed less susceptible to climatic disturbances, "not everything that threatens to break down as a result of warming can be saved by environmentally friendly land use," note the scientists.




A new direct-marketing short course for meat producers and processors will be offered in November and December. The Western Meat School is a collaborative effort of Oregon State University, Montana State University, University of Wyoming, Colorado State University, and Mesalands Community College. This six-week-long course for farmers, ranchers, butchers, and others will cover key topics in production, processing, and marketing to produce high-quality meat and sell to diverse market channels. Learn new ways to manage risk in your meat business and improve your profitability. Expert speakers, both practitioners and academics, will be beaming in via Zoom for six Wednesday evenings in a row in November and December. The course will be offered once each week in person in 12 locations across five states if COVID restrictions allow, and it will also be available for anyone to participate in at home via computer and a decent Internet connection. The organizers are making this short course as flexible as possible for those who want to meet and network in person or those who want to learn from home.




USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced that it is investigating suspicious, unsolicited packages of seed that appear to be coming from China. USDA urges anyone who receives an unsolicited package of seeds to immediately contact their State plant regulatory official or APHIS State plant health director. USDA advises recipients to hold onto the seeds and packaging, including the mailing label, until someone from the State department of agriculture or APHIS contacts them with further instructions. Do not plant seeds from unknown origins. USDA is currently collecting seed packages from recipients and will test their contents and determine if they contain anything that could be of concern to U.S. agriculture or the environment.




Good News Network reported on Growing Change, a nonprofit that turned a decommissioned prison in North Carolina into a sustainable agriculture operation staffed by jobless veterans and at-risk youth. The youth learn life skills and sustainable farming practices with leadership from wounded veterans who are earning university degrees in sustainable agriculture. The entire operation also benefits local communities by providing a local source of healthy and nutritious food and rehabilitating a brownfield site.




A University of Maryland research professor has published a detailed history of the consolidation of agriculture in the United States, based on analysis of USDA data from 1982 through 2017. This study characterizes the steady shift to fewer and larger farming operations across the country in 60 of the 62 crop and livestock commodities analyzed over the 35-year period. Professor James MacDonald credits technology with being a driving force in the trend, as labor-saving equipment, materials, and organizational changes allow one farmer to manage more acres. He predicts continued technological change through application of precision agriculture.




USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) published an Economic Research Report titled Consolidation in U.S. Dairy Farming. According to the report, the number of licensed U.S. dairy herds fell by more than half between 2002 and 2019, with an accelerating rate of decline in 2018 and 2019. These declines took place even as milk production continued to grow, because production has been shifting to much larger but fewer farms, and that shift shows no sign of slowing. The report credits the decline to larger operations' persistently lower costs of production. The 61-page report and a summary are available online.




NRDC posted an interview with Temra Costa, one of six current co-owners of Green Valley Farm + Mill in Sebastopol, California. This 172-acre operation combines four individual businesses on one parcel of land. Each owner contributes a unique skill set to the operation. Green Valley is exploring transitioning from an LLC to a cooperative model with farms that are leasing its land. The cooperative arrangement helps prevent some of the challenges of running a farm as a sole proprietorship, although Costa notes that an arrangement that provides housing for all owners and educational facilities presents a zoning challenge of its own.




Minnesota Department of Agriculture had recorded 84 written dicamba complaints by July 17, 2020, reports Minnesota Farm Guide. That's nearly four times the number of complaints received in 2019, and the most since Minnesota instituted a June 20 cutoff date for dicamba application. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California ruled June 3, 2020, that growers couldn't apply three dicamba products. After June 8, 2020, Minnesota allowed growers to apply dicamba that they had already purchased, but weather conditions were challenging. Minnesota Department of Agriculture noted that this year there is a particularly high number of complaints involving fencerow-to-fencerow damage.




For the month of August, Northern Plains Resource Council is challenging Montanans to eat more local foods, to ask for more local foods in their communities, and to help support Montana agriculture. Participants sign up online and agree to eat local food every day in August and participate in weekly challenges. Participants report their successes online and are entered to win prizes. Categories for adults and kids are offered. Online resources offer guidance on where you can dine out on local food, where to source your local ingredients, and why buying local food matters. The event helps people learn about and experience local food and support the local food system and economy.




Southern SARE reports on a grant-funded project that demonstrated how renewable energy and biomass-based greenhouse heating systems can cut farmers' energy bills in half when integrated with a root zone heating system. Systems built for greenhouses on two farms in North Carolina utilized solar collectors to heat water for root zone heating, combined with biochar kiln backup systems. These systems cut propane heating costs for one greenhouse by half or more, while creating conditions for the other, passively heated, greenhouse to be used year-round.




Researchers in Spain propose mitigating methane production by dairy cattle through breeding, according to work published in the Journal of Dairy Science. Scientists are targeting reduction of enteric methane in the breeding objectives for dairy cattle to select for animals that use feed more efficiently and thus produce less methane. This study concludes that "if annual methane production per cow is included in breeding goals and ad hoc weights are placed on methane production, GHG emission from cattle could be reduced by 20% in 10 years." This study shows the potential for selecting for environmental traits as well as producer profitability.




USDA announced a third round of Farmers to Families Food Box Program purchases with distributions to occur beginning by September 1, 2020, with completion by October 31, 2020. The purchases will spend the balance of $3 billion authorized for the program. In this third round of purchases, USDA plans to purchase combination boxes to ensure all recipient organizations have access to fresh produce, dairy products, fluid milk, and meat products. Eligibility in the third round will be open to entities who can meet the government's requirements and specifications. Proposals will be expected to illustrate how coverage will be provided to areas identified as opportunity zones, detail subcontracting agreements, and address the "last mile" delivery of product into the hands of the food insecure population.




The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is offering two new ways that farmers and others involved in agriculture can contact the Minnesota Farm and Rural Helpline: text and email. The confidential service, available 24/7, connects Minnesota farmers and others in the agricultural community to counselors who can serve as a sounding board, provide emotional support, link callers with a rural mental health specialist, or help them find information about financial and legal resources. Users are welcome to remain anonymous. Contact options now include toll free phone (833-600-2670), text (FARMSTRESS to 898211), and e-mail (farmstress@state.mn.us).




The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Argonne National Laboratory released results of a study that sought to quantify how much farmers could reduce their carbon footprint by adopting sustainable practices and novel technologies. The study considered how practices such as conservation tillage, reducing nitrogen fertilizer use, and implementing cover crops impacted the carbon intensity of farming in the corn belt of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, Michigan, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. The study was aimed at exploring how different farming practices could impact the carbon intensity of production for corn destined for ethanol. It found significant differences in corn's carbon intensity, depending on the practices used to produce it.




An international team of more than 360 scientists from 42 countries published a correspondence article in Nature Ecology & Evolution, calling for a global transition to agroecological production. The authors argue that agroecological principles should be integrated in the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, which will be decided at the 15th Convention of the Parties (COP15) meeting in China. According to the University of Göttingen, the authors "argue that farming landscapes can provide habitats for biodiversity, promote connectivity between protected areas and increase species' ability to respond to environmental threats."