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A new paper from the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) addresses the risks associated with the dwindling genetic diversity of livestock and poultry. Protecting Food Animal Gene Pools for Future Generations—A paper in the series on The Need for Agricultural Innovation to Sustainably Feed the World by 2050 is available free online from CAST as a 24-page PDF. In it, authors argue for greater efforts to protect the genes of animal livestock breeds, noting that "up to 25% of global livestock breeds are either at risk of being lost, or have already been lost." The paper includes five recommendations that build on current conservation practices, including preservation of breeds with diverse properties and research on genetic and phenotypic diversity.

Organic Farming Research Foundation shared results from a project it funded to assess resistance among selected cucumber and muskmelon seedstocks to the problematic diseases Bacterial Wilt and Cucurbit Downy Mildew. The first year of the project (2018) identified cucumber seedstocks that performed well, and a second grant in 2019 supported testing those varieties more broadly with a goal of releasing the varieties with best resistance in 2020.

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association has published a white paper on the environmental footprint of beef production in the United States. Data in the report shows that only 3.7% of U.S. greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions come directly from beef cattle. This report also offers data showing that all agriculture accounts for 8.4% of U.S. GHG emissions, while the transportation sector is responsible for 28% of U.S. GHG emissions. The white paper also discusses improved efficiencies in beef cattle that are credited with reducing the environmental impact of U.S. production. A lifecycle assessment that evaluates sustainability achievements and opportunities across the entire beef lifecycle was conducted in partnership with USDA and is set to be released in the first half of 2020.

The Savanna Institue has produced a new series of free "Key Perennial Crop" information sheets in collaboration with the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems and the USDA-SARE program. The information sheets offer descriptions of twelve key Midwestern agroforestry crops: Aronia, Asian Pear, Black Currant, Black Walnut, Chinese Chestnut, Cider Apple, Elderberry, Hazelnut, Honeyberry, Northern Pecan, Pawpaw, and Serviceberry. They are available free online.

The Center for Rural Affairs has released several Conservation Innovation Grants farmer case studies. The case studies feature new, experienced, and veteran farmers who raise a variety of livestock, grow crops, and are involved in agritourism. Each PDF case study includes an overview of the farming operation, a statement from the farmer about the value of conservation, and the advice they would offer to a beginning farmer.

Iowa State University scientists published a study in Global Change Biology Bioenergy that showed cover crops stimulating microbes deep in the soil can lead to improved water quality by preventing nutrient loss. However, the study also found that because the stimulated microbes consume the carbon in the cover crop, carbon dioxide is released to the atmosphere and that carbon is not sequestered in the soil. "Greater plant growth doesn't necessarily mean gains in carbon sequestration if microbial activity also increases," explained corresponding author Steven Hall.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has released a new report of policy and practice recommendations based on the latest climate science: Agriculture and Climate Change: Policy Imperatives and Opportunities to Help Producers Meet the Challenge. The paper, developed by NSAC's Subcommittee on Climate Change, explores both the impact of climate change on U.S. agriculture, as well as the contribution of U.S. agriculture to global climate change mitigation. Several key issues are analyzed: the impact of CAFOs on climate and environment; the relationship between the climate crisis and overproduction; how the structure of the federal crop insurance system contributes to overproduction and by extension climate change; and sustainable production practices that make an impact, including perennial cropping systems, resource-conserving crop rotations, and management intensive grazing. The 78-page report is available free online in PDF.

Researchers with the Multi-Use Naked Barley for Organic Systems project funded by a 2017 Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) grant have posted results of a national survey of organic barley growers. The project surveyed 81 organic barley producers on how many acres they are growing, what varieties they grow, what markets they are growing barley for, whether they receive a price premium for organic barley, whether they are growing or would be interested in growing multi-use naked barley, what production challenges they face, and what traits they would like to see improved. A 20-page PDF report on the results is available online.

USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has awarded a five-year, $10 million grant to North Carolina State University and USDA-Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) to lead a collaborative, nationwide effort to enhance agricultural systems through the use of cover crops and precision agriculture technology. The interdisciplinary team of nearly 100 scientists at 36 institutions in 23 states will research how cover crops can impact key factors like pest and disease pressure, water use, soil nutrient levels, and overall yield of cash crops. An existing research network, called Precision Sustainable Agriculture, will expand in order to collect more types of data from more locations, with diverse climates and different soil types. The project aims to accelerate the adoption of cover crops to address challenges in agriculture and to create more sustainable and adaptable growing systems in the face of declining soil fertility, water scarcity, and climate change.

Farm Beginnings is a farmer and rancher-led training and support program offered by Dakota Rural Action (DRA) that provides participants an opportunity to learn first-hand about low-cost, sustainable methods of farming and offers the tools to successfully launch a small or large farm enterprise. This is the 10th year DRA has offered the Farm Beginnings course in South Dakota, and classes will be held every other Saturday from January until early May in Rapid City. Farm tours and skills sessions will follow during the growing season. The deadline for applications is December 22, 2019.

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has announced Cultiv@te, a global technology and innovation initiative for sustainable agriculture. Cultiv@te—an innovation initiative of UNDP supported by the Singapore Government—will curate multi-stakeholder coalitions to tackle key challenges faced by developing countries across the globe and explore opportunities in urban agriculture, climate resilience, and livestock farming. According to UNDP, "the program offers mature growth-stage startups and R&D teams from academic institutions a unique opportunity to work in a number of emerging markets with immense potential and needs. The global cohort will join local innovators, technology experts, corporate mentors, and financiers to co-design solutions with farmers and policy makers." Applications are now open via www.cultivate.technology.

A group of scientists published an opinion in Nature Sustainability, saying that debate over quantifying the potential for soil carbon to mitigate climate change is obscuring additional reasons to implement policies that build soil carbon. "The benefits of soil carbon go beyond climate mitigation," said Stephen Wood, soil scientist at The Nature Conservancy and associate research scientist at Yale. "Rebuilding soil carbon on agricultural lands is important to building sustainable and resilient agricultural systems. We need to make sure that the debate about how to mitigate climate change doesn't undermine efforts to build soil health for the many other things we care about, like agricultural productivity and water quality."

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is seeking public comments on its interim final rule for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) through January 13, 2020. Changes to the program in this rule include increasing payment rates for adoption of cover crop rotations, introducing a new supplemental payment for advanced grazing management, creating one-time payment for developing a comprehensive conservation plan, and providing specific support for organic and transitioning to organic production activities. NRCS will evaluate public comments to determine whether additional changes are needed. The agency plans on publishing a final rule following public comment review.

A 20-year study by Iowa State University researchers showed that fertilizing crops with poultry manure can benefit soil health and farm profits when compared to a commercial fertilizer. In the study's first decade, experiments compared three treatments in a corn-soybean rotation, and in the second 10 years, treatments for continuous corn cropping were compared. After 20 years, the study found particulate organic matter and several other measures of soil quality were significantly better in the manured plots. Corn yields increased from manure treatment during the continuous corn phase of the study, and were similar during the corn-soybean phase. Although the manure treatment was generally more expensive, the increased yields helped offset this cost. Additionally, nitrate-nitrogen losses were 7% to 16% lower from the cropland fertilized with manure.

A feature in Tri-State Neighbor profiles a new demonstration farm in Huron, South Dakota. Ducks Unlimited signed the 310-acre farm over to Beadle Conservation District, which will both manage it as a demonstration farm and maintain hunter access. The farm will highlight use of cover crops, grazing to promote wetland management, soil health, no-till, and improving farm income. A team including representatives from Beadle Conservation District, Ducks Unlimited, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, South Dakota State University, and other partners will make management decisions. The farm is already offering a management example for neighborhood farmers, as soil quality improves.

USDA has announced that it will make available $800 million to agricultural producers in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia affected by hurricanes Michael and Florence. The state block grants are part of a broader $3 billion package to help producers recover from 2018 and 2019 natural disasters, which includes the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program-Plus (WHIP+), as well as programs for loss of milk and stored commodities. USDA and the governor's office in Florida and the state departments of agriculture in the other two states are working out final details for the grants, which will cover qualifying losses not covered by other USDA disaster programs. Grant funding will cover losses of timber, cattle, poultry, as well as for necessary expenses related to losses of horticulture crops and present-value losses associated with pecan production.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is seeking nominees to serve on the Farm, Ranch, and Rural Communities Committee (FRRCC). Established in 2008, the FRRCC provides independent policy advice, information, and recommendations to EPA's Administrator on a range of environmental issues and policies that are of importance to agriculture and rural communities. Members may represent allied industries and stakeholders including farm groups, rural suppliers, marketers, processors, academia/researchers; state, local, and tribal government; and nongovernmental organizations. EPA will consider qualifications such as the following: whether candidates are actively engaged in farming, hold leadership positions in ag-related organizations, possess a demonstrated ability to examine and analyze complicated environmental issues with objectivity and integrity, have experience working on issues where building consensus is necessary, and are able to volunteer several hours per month to the committee's activities. EPA is specifically seeking 20 to 30 members for two- to three-year terms, and the Committee expects to meet approximately twice a year. Nominations must be received by December 31, 2019.

The Midwest Cover Crops Council has developed a series of free PDF "recipes" for growing cover crops, available on its website. The site has recipes for Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, and North Dakota that explain how and why to add cover crops into a corn-soybean rotation. The cover crop recipe guides tell how to plan for cover crops, choose corn and soybean hybrids, and purchase seed. They also explain crop sensitivity to selected hybrids and effects of residual herbicides. The simple, three-page guides tell what field work must be done in fall and spring for best results and provide details such as seeding rates and nutrient applications.

Pennsylvania State University is constructing a solar farm of more than 150,000 solar panels on 500 acres leased from local landowners that will provide 25% of the school's purchased electricity over the next 25 years. The project is designed to be reduce energy costs, lower greenhouse-gas emissions, support local communities and farmers, and be regenerative, in terms of providing wildlife habitat and improving soil. Part of that effort includes planting pollinator habitat among the panels and hedgerows around the edge to provide honeybee habitat. One site will incorporate mixed flowers and low-growing vegetation below the solar arrays to support grazing livestock.

The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis reports on a study published in the journal Nature Communications that found human impacts have greatly reduced plant-fungus symbioses, or mycorrhiza. These play a key role in sequestering carbon in soils, encompassing storage of some 350 gigatons of carbon globally. Researchers say that restoring these mycorrhizal ecosystems more broadly could help slow climate change, and they suggest restoring native vegetation to abandoned agricultural and barren land to enhance soil carbon storage.

California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) and the Organic Produce Network (OPN) will honor long-time organic rice growers Lundberg Family Farms as the recipient of the third annual Organic Grower Summit's Grower of the Year. According to a press release, Lundberg Family Farms was selected based on the company's ongoing commitment and dedication to excellence in organic production and organic industry leadership and innovation. The award will be presented at the Organic Grower Summit, December 4-5, 2019, in Monterey, California. "Not only has the Lundberg Family's decades of work to encourage water conservation, rotate crops, grow cover crops, and use natural methods for pest control made them leaders in organic rice production and wildlife-friendly farming, but they have always found ways to share information about those practices with other organic farmers. This dedication to the environment and community is what makes the organic sector special, so the Lundberg Family could not be more deserving of the title of Grower of the Year," said Kelly Damewood, CEO of CCOF.

Rabo AgriFinance is offering a new loan product designed to make it more financially viable for farmers to seek organic certification. With guidance from Pipeline Foods, a specialty grain supply-chain company, Rabo AgriFinance has developed a financial framework that gives farmers the flexibility to receive the capital needed for upfront costs associated with changing production practices. Farmers can schedule repayments when they receive the additional revenue from selling certified organic goods. "There is demand from consumers and food companies for organic food and ingredients, but farmers repeatedly run into a wall trying to pencil out how they are going to survive the transition period," said Eric Jackson, founder and chairman of Pipeline Foods.

Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientists have determined that produce can be scanned for nutrient content using a handheld Raman spectrometer. In their study, the team scanned corn kernels and were able to calculate levels of protein, carbohydrates, fiber, and carotenoids quickly and without destroying the sample. The technology could be used to assess qualities of grain in the field, and the same scan can help identify diseases in plants even before symptoms appear.

Australian research published in Weed Science shows that planting wheat at the commercially recommended density helps to reduce both weed biomass and weed seed production. Increasing the crop density further, to 400 plants per square meter, led to even greater reductions in weeds, and caused weeds to have an upright growth habit that limited seed spread.

American Farmland Trust (AFT) has released the first of 11 state fact sheets summarizing results from its Non-Operating Landowners Survey. These first results, from Ohio, demonstrate that landowners care about their land and are keenly interested in stewarding it well— keeping it in farming and altering lease terms to support conservation. AFT concludes that the survey results are good news for farmers who want to try new conservation practices on land they rent. AFT will release a full report this winter on conclusions from all surveyed states.

The National Young Farmers Coalition, Farm Aid, and Vermont Farm First received $480,000 from USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) for the establishment of a Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network in the Northeast Region. This program will improve behavioral health awareness, literacy, access, and outcomes for farmers, ranchers, and farmworkers in the Northeast. The program will convene a network of farmer service providers in the region to build connection and collaboration, gather resources, and provide feedback on regional needs; develop an online clearinghouse to share available resources and referrals with farmers and service providers; and train service providers on the network, available resources, and best practices for working with farmers under stress.

The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University has announced Paul Mugge as the 2019 winner of the Spencer Award. The annual $1,000 award recognizes farmers, researchers, and teachers who have contributed significantly to the environmental and economic stability of the Iowa farming community. Mugge raises organic corn, soybeans, small grains and alfalfa on the 300-acre farm he took over from his father, and he has been particularly active with Practical Farmers of Iowa in conducting numerous field trials and hosting field days.

Research published in HortTechnology by Montana State University's Roland Ebel examined how the ancient Aztec use of "chinampas" could inform modern urban agriculture. Chinampas are raised vegetable fields on artificial floating islands in lakes, where vegetables can be grown year-round. Similar systems are in use today in Mexico City and elsewhere in the world. Benefits include low irrigation needs, a microclimate favorable for a variety of crops, high fertility generated by surrounding canals, provision of ecosystem services, and potential for tourism revenue.

Scientists with USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have developed and released a true red spinach variety. The new variety, "USDA Red," has red leaves, not just red veins. The red color comes from betacyanin, a powerful antioxidant, and testing showed the antioxidant capacity of USDA Red was 42–53% higher than other spinach cultivars. In addition, the red leaves offer eye appeal for salad mixes. ARS has applied for a Plant Variety Protection certificate for USDA Red and the agency is seeking a partner to license production of seeds for the market.

Through the James Harrison Hill, Sr. Young Scholar Enhancement Grant program, Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SSARE) gives high school and undergraduate students the opportunity to work with researchers on SSARE-funded projects. Research and Education Grant research recipients with open and on-going SSARE funded projects are qualified to apply for the James Harrison Hill, Sr. Young Scholar Enhancement Grant Program to hire high school or college students to participate in their research programs. This year, participants in the program worked with researchers in Texas, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Georgia on projects ranging from soil health to organic pest control to farmers markets.

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) has opened public registration for the inaugural Soil Health Innovations Conference, March 30-31, 2020, in Bozeman, Montana. The forum will bring together leading experts and innovative farmers from around the United States to share the latest in soil science, best practices in soil management, and the emerging technologies that will drive the future of sustainable and regenerative agriculture. NCAT is sponsoring the conference in cooperation with USDA Rural Development, Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE), and Montana State University. The goal of the conference, NCAT Executive Director Steve Thompson said, is to provide an opportunity for producers and educators to examine current practices as well as the concepts, techniques, and practical applications that may be available in the future.

A panel of organic farmers testifying before the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research urged strong governmental support for organic agriculture and the stringent enforcement of organic standards, reports the Organic Trade Association. The panel included Jeff Huckaby, president of Grimmway Farms/Cal-Organic vegetable farms, and Steve Pierson, organic dairy farmer from Oregon and member of the Organic Valley cooperative, as well as organic vegetable, flower, and herb grower Benjamin Whalen of Maine, organic cotton farmer Jeremy Brown of Texas, and organic fruit and vegetable grower Shelli Brin of the Virgin Islands. The organic growers, from all locations and both large and small operations, all stressed the importance of strong and consistent support from the government for organic agriculture.

Entomologists at Michigan State University have published a review of recent research, showing that beneficial insects are more abundant in an agricultural landscape with smaller fields and more diversity. "One of the take-homes from our review is that natural enemies can be more abundant when agricultural landscapes are made up of smaller farm fields," explained study co-author Nate Haan. "Some natural enemies need resources found in other habitats or in crop field edges. We think when habitat patches are small, they are more likely to find their way back and forth between these habitats and crop fields, or from one crop field into another." The results could help farmers save money on pest suppression by planning agricultural landscapes that include more diversity.

National Public Radio's The Salt reported on efforts by Practical Farmers of Iowa and Sustainable Food Lab to help corn and soy farmers diversify by growing small grains. Although farmers are interested and adding small grains in rotation can improve water quality and soil quality, farmers need markets for the crops. Some companies are interested in alternative crops for products such as an oat-based drink, but the primary market for these crops could be livestock feed. Research is underway on how small grains perform as feed for commercial livestock. In one experiment, a Montana goat dairy had to pay more for a diverse feed, but the goats produced more milk on the feed and it, in turn, produced more cheese.

Researchers from the University of Minnesota and Oxford University published a report that says foods with positive health outcomes have among the lowest environmental impacts. The report showed that almost all foods associated with positive health outcomes (e.g., whole grain cereals, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and olive oil) have the lowest environmental impacts. Meanwhile, the research found that foods with the largest increases in disease risks—primarily unprocessed and processed red meat such as pork, beef, mutton and goat—are consistently associated with the largest negative environmental impacts.

The Taste NY program, begun in 2013, promotes food, beverages, and gifts made by New York farmers, processors, and artisans. The program retails products from more than 1,100 vendors in 70 locations including retail stores at welcome centers and concessions at state parks and train stations, as well as pop-up sites. Cornell Cooperative Extension is a partner in the effort, operating a dozen retail stores that help connect growers and producers with customers that can help farms and businesses become self-sustaining. In 2018, Taste NY had $17.8 million in sales. Cornell Extension participants credit the program with helping farms and small businesses scale up, expand production, and provide jobs.

Purdue University has received a nearly $1 million USDA grant to explore organic hemp production. The project's leader, professor Kevin Gibson, says the research is especially needed because there are no pesticides currently approved for use on hemp. The project will also consider how hemp can best fit in a crop rotation and be used in conjunction with cover crops. Rodale Institute will partner on the project.

The Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture has released an updated second edition of Sweet Sorghum: Production and Processing, by George Kuepper. Updates in the second edition include a section on sugar cane aphids that details both organic and non-organic approaches to managing this new pest. The second edition also discusses early deheading and describes several sorghum varieties developed since the publication of the original report. In addition, the new edition contains new lists of sources of equipment, supplies, and seed. The new second edition is available in both print ($18) and electronic ($10) formats from the Kerr Center website.

A series of 10-to-15-minute, science-centered "PED Talks" on soil health is now available on YouTube. The PED Talks series was created by the Conservation Technology Information Center, Soil Health Institute, Soil Health Partnership, Soil Science Society of America, Soil and Water Conservation Society, and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Named for soil peds, or aggregated particles, the talks combine explanations of soil health, how we can improve it, and the progress that's being made to ensure soil health. Four talks recorded from live presentations at conferences are currently available online, along with a welcome by NRCS Chief Matt Lohr. The partners plan to continue recording and releasing additional presentations on the PED Talks channel, with a focus on the next generation of scientists and farmer/innovators.

USDA has announced the establishment of the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program, to create a consistent regulatory framework for hemp production throughout the United States, as required by the 2018 Farm Bill. An interim final rule formalizing the program will be published in the Federal Register that will allow hemp to be grown under federally-approved plans and make hemp producers eligible for a number of agricultural programs. The rule includes provisions for USDA to approve hemp-production plans developed by states and Indian tribes. These plans will include requirements for maintaining information on the land where hemp is produced; testing the levels of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol; disposing of plants not meeting necessary requirements; and licensing requirements. The program also establishes a federal plan for hemp producers in states or territories of Indian tribes that do not have their own approved hemp production plan. More information about the provisions of the interim final rule is available on the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program web page on the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) website.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has awarded Agricultural Growth, Research, and Innovation (AGRI) Sustainable Agriculture Demonstration Grants totaling $241,009 to nine farmers and researchers across Minnesota. Descriptions of these grants, along with annual and final progress reports of grantees announced during the past three years, are featured in the new Greenbook. Projects, which last two to three years, are located in all regions of the state and involve several innovative topics that include cover cropping, soil fertility, fruits and vegetables, alternative markets or specialty crops, livestock, and energy.

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is seeking public comments on 13 updated conservation practice standards, as part of a Farm Bill-mandated process gathering input on 94 standards for conservation practices. These standards provide guidelines for planning, designing, installing, operating, and maintaining conservation practices relating to irrigation, deep tillage, contour buffer strips, waste treatment, and other topics. Planning and implementing conservation practices on-farm is supported by Farm Bill-funded programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. Comments on these updated standards are due November 21, 2019.

As part of a four-year field demonstration, scientists at Iowa State University have produced a four-page publication titled Establishing and Managing Pollinator Habitat on Saturated Riparian Buffers. It helps landowners identify the best sites for buffers, guides them through the steps to establish a buffer with pollinator habitat, and provides information on various programs available to help with funding and technical information. The publication also outlines the anticipated costs for establishing pollinator habitat, comparing different types of site locations, seed costs, and labor costs. The publication is available free online.

Recent research at South Dakota State University explored how switchgrass, a native prairie plant used as biofuel and feed, can improve properties of marginal soil. Switchgrass was found to improve both physical and chemical properties of marginal soil, as shown by improvement in soil organic carbon levels, infiltration rates, saturated hydraulic conductivity, soil water retention, and pore size distribution, as well as reduced soil bulk density. Researchers also found that switchgrass fields have improved microbe and enzymatic populations in their soil.

The nonprofit group Food and Water Watch has introduced a new website, "Farm vs. Factory," designed to highlight the differences between industrial and sustainable agriculture. The website features photo and video comparisons of animal agriculture, crop agriculture, and how food from each type of production affects humans. The website also includes a resources page with links to further information.

A survey by Penn State researchers revealed that wineries in the Mid-Atlantic region could distinguish themselves for environmentally conscious younger consumers by implementing sustainable practices. Researchers say that recycling or refilling bottles would draw customers back to tasting rooms, as well as creating a sustainability-linked image. The study also surveyed consumers about their attitudes toward packaging alternatives besides glass and cork.

USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced that four regional centers will receive $1.92 million to help launch the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network. Funding comes from the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN) program, authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill, and will help provide stress-assistance programs to support individuals who are engaged in farming, ranching, and other agriculture-related occupations. NIFA is providing funding to four regional entities to help launch the network in North Central, Northeast, Southern, and Western regions. The long-term expectation is that agriculture producers and their families will now have greater opportunities to find help in their communities and states.

Texas A&M AgriLife Research Center in San Angelo is the site of a study on what types of bonding pen experiences produce a better livestock guardian dog. Six puppies in the study will spend approximately three months in bonding pens of an acre each, with both sheep and goats. Once the bonding process is complete, the dogs will graduate to much larger pastures where they will guard flocks or herds. They will continue to have their behavior monitored until they are approximately 18 months old. Bill Costanzo, Texas A&M AgriLife Research livestock guardian dog specialist, believes bonding from birth to 16 weeks of age is probably the single most important thing to do to establish a strong foundation for future success as a livestock guardian dog. This study is exploring whether dogs become better livestock guardian dogs when raised in bonding pens with a sibling or solo, and is testing how much human interaction is optimal for an effective livestock guardian dog.

USDA has published a final rule amending the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances based on public input and the April 2018 recommendations from the National Organic Standards Board. The changes allow elemental sulfur to be used as a slug or snail bait in organic production, to reduce crop losses. The final rule also allows use of polyoxin D zinc salt for organic plant disease control, and it reclassifies magnesium chloride from a synthetic to a non-synthetic substance. The final rule is effective November 22, 2019.

USDA and the U.S. Department of Energy have signed a Memorandum of Understanding that will enhance collaboration and coordination to promote rural energy and the development of technologies that will support and advance rural and agricultural communities and domestic manufacturing. The areas covered by the MOU include facilitating energy-related investments in America's rural communities; streamlining, leveraging and optimizing program resources; encouraging innovation; offering technical assistance to rural communities; strengthening energy-related infrastructure; ensuring affordable and reliable power; and helping rural businesses export energy products and manufactured goods around the world. USDA and DOE have convened interagency working groups to focus on five major issue areas.

The new Farming Basics app from Alabama Extension is a science- and research-based information gateway for small and beginning farmers. The app will serve as a pocket guide to help growers answer everyday questions in the field. The Farming Basics app includes information about major insect pests and diseases, horticultural crop descriptions, and general management tactics. The app also features a fertilizer and irrigation calculator to help beginning farmers save money on inputs.

USDA is extending the deadline for eligible agriculture producers to enroll in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) Grassland Conservation Initiative from October 25, 2019, to November 8, 2019. This program is available to producers with base acreage that has been in grass or grasslands over a nine-year period, rather than planted with commodity crops. Producers must meet or exceed the stewardship threshold for one priority resource concern by the end of their five-year contract. Producers receive $18 per acre per year for the next five years. This initiative has different rules than the rest of CSP and is administered separately.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture's (MDA) Emerging Farmers Working Group plans to meet in five locations around the state from November until mid-December to better identify the barriers farmers are facing and work toward solutions to remove those barriers. The group's goal is to advance the success and sustainability of immigrant farmers, farmers of color, and beginning farmers, who traditionally cannot access the resources necessary to build a profitable agricultural business. Five listening sessions have been scheduled and are open to the public with an online RSVP.

USDA has announced the launch of the Centers of Community Prosperity (CCP), designed to increase the capacity of rural and underserved communities across the country. The Centers of Community Prosperity will convene stakeholders including local, state, federal, and tribal partners, land-grant universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, tribal colleges and universities, historically black colleges and universities, national development organizations, nonprofit organizations, faith leaders, veterans, and youth organizations. Local Centers around the country include Sitting Bull College in Fort Yates, North Dakota; Alcorn State University in Lorman, Mississippi; and University of Maryland Eastern Shore in Salisbury, Maryland. The Centers will host Community Prosperity Training Summits and capacity-building workshops to assist communities that are engaging in a bottom-up, locally driven process to address challenges in their region, and foster hope, opportunity, wealth creation, and asset building.

According to a study by researchers at NOAA's Northeast Fisheries Science Center, the Northeast has several suitable locations for offshore blue mussel farms. The most promising locations for mussel aquaculture among the six oceanic sites studied are off New York's Long Island, north of Cape Ann in Massachusetts, and off New Hampshire. The authors acknowledge that these waters are busy and already subject to numerous competing and overlapping uses. They argue that finding the optimum locations for farms, where the conditions can support the kind of production that will be profitable, is an essential first step in development.

Hemp acreage in the United States tripled from 2017 to 2018. However, CoBank's Knowledge Exchange division warns in a new report, Industrial Hemp: Overview of Opportunities and Risks, that false, outdated, biased or even contradictory information can make the industrial hemp industry difficult to navigate. The report identifies and assesses nine risks or uncertainties that face the hemp industry for each of hemp's three crops and markets: fiber, grain/seed, and CBD production. Among the report's conclusions are that regulatory and legal hurdles compound the risks for the hemp industry. In addition, lack of processing capacity is a significant barrier for the hemp fiber industry. The report also notes USDA plans to release hemp regulations and guidance in the fall of 2019, in time for the 2020 growing season, and says that USDA and the FDA regulations will not only be crucial in determining risk and defining the outlook of the hemp industry, but also in setting a path forward for leaders to finance hemp.

USDA has issued a proclamation declaring the United States free of plum pox virus. Plum pox is a serious disease impacting stone fruit such as plums, almonds, and peaches. It was first detected in Pennsylvania in 1999 and found in Michigan and New York in 2006. APHIS and its cooperators eradicated the disease from Pennsylvania and Michigan in 2009 and western New York in 2012. By the end of 2018, they completed three consecutive years of stone fruit field surveys in eastern New York with no further detections, putting eradication in reach. To ensure the United States remains free of plum pox virus, APHIS has put in place a strong safeguarding program that includes ongoing monitoring for the disease in stone fruit producing states, science-based import regulations to prevent the disease's reentry via imported nursery stock and propagative material, and continued cooperation with Canada to help prevent plum pox virus incursions from that country.

The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and collaborators have published a study in the Annual Review of Environment and Resources that evaluates the benefits and risks of six different land-based greenhouse gas removal options. The options included afforestation (establishing new forests) or reforestation (replanting previously forested areas with trees), wetland restoration, soil carbon sequestration, biochar (charcoal used as a soil amendment), terrestrial enhanced weathering (dissolution of minerals to remove CO2 from the atmosphere), and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). The study concluded that wetland restoration and soil carbon sequestration deliver almost exclusively positive impacts and could thus be taken up immediately. The other four options involve social and/or environmental risks that could be managed by excluding them from certain regions, areas, or environments.

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) has released a major new report, Is Organic Farming Risky? Improving Crop Insurance for Organic Farms. Based on the latest USDA statistics, surveys, and interviews with hundreds of producers, organic farming advocates, and insurance professionals, the 132-page report describes the status of crop insurance for USDA-certified organic farms, identifies problems, and makes recommendations for solving those problems. Despite recent improvements in their access to crop insurance, many organic growers still report difficulty finding policies that meet their needs, insuring the full value of their crops, locating agents who understand organic farming, and filing successful claims. The report is optimistic that the major insurance-related problems of organic farmers can be solved. The authors are especially enthusiastic about Whole-Farm Revenue Protection, an innovative new type of insurance that is well-suited to organic farms and all diversified operations.

The Center for Food and Farm Systems Entrepreneurship at the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture is partnering with successful farms in Northwest Arkansas to offer a new apprenticeship program. The program begins in January 2020 with 12 educational classes, and on-farm placement begins in March. The classes focus on foundational topics important to regenerative farming practices and sustainable farm business management, while the on-farm experience allows apprentices to learn while working alongside experienced farmers. The program also exposes apprentices to farm service providers and resources, offers mentorship with experienced diversified farmers, and provides networking opportunities with other beginning farmers. Applications are being accepted for 2020.

The American Lamb Board newsletter reported on a presentation at the 2019 American Lamb Summit that highlighted recordkeeping as a means of improving sheep profitability. A presentation by Laurie Johnson, Pipestone Lamb & Wool Program instructor, explained how keeping records can inform management decisions. She offered suggestions on how to access several different online options for recordkeeping systems. Presentations and videos from this year's Lamb Summit are available online.

USDA Agricultural Marketing Service has published a proposed rule to amend the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances, according to recommendations by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). This rule proposes to add blood meal, made with sodium citrate, to the National List as a soil fertilizer in organic crop production; add natamycin to the National List to prohibit its use in organic crop production; and add tamarind seed gum as a non-organic agricultural substance for use in organic handling when organic forms of tamarind seed gum are not commercially available. Public comments on the proposed rule must be received by December 17, 2019.

OCIA International announced that Jake Geiger of Alba Ranch in Robinson, Kansas, has been recognized as the 2019 OCIA Research & Education Outstanding Organic Farmer of the Year. The award honors talented producers who excel in thoughtful cropping and livestock practices that build soil and reduce pests and weeds. They maintain and enhance the environment and are innovative in farming practices. Outstanding organic farmers are also involved in their organic community, promoting and supporting organic agriculture. Jake Geiger has been OCIA certified since 1989 and raises diverse crops including clover, alfalfa, oats, rye, wheat, sorghum, soybeans, and corn, as well as American British White Park beef cattle.

Ever-Growing Family Farm, New York's only commercial rice farm, is working with a Cornell agronomist to identify the most climate-appropriate methods for growing rice, with funding from a Northeast SARE grant. This season, farmers Nfamara Badjie and Moustapha Diedhou are testing the African Jola people's traditional method of starting rice plants in the field, rather than in greenhouses, to reduce transplant shock. They're also experimenting with different rice varieties and transplant timing. Erika Styger, rice scientist, agronomist, and associate director of Cornell University's Climate-Resilient Farming Systems program, says that with trends of increased rainfall and warmer temperatures in New York, rice could offer a valuable crop for diversifying organic farmers in the area.

A feature in Forbes describes how a Northern California ranch has adapted Vineyard Infrared Growth Optical Recognition to track pasture quality for its cattle. Genesee Valley Ranch uses aerial imaging to provide data on grass growth and water distribution on pasture land that helps managers decide how to adjust the cattle's grazing schedule. The ranch produces Black Wagyu Beef that is sold through a subscription program.

A study published in Science Advances by Eurac Research showed that landscapes with a variety of plants were provided more ecosystem services. The biodiverse landscapes experienced more pollination and greater pest control by beneficial insects. These areas also had higher crop yields than areas with crop monocultures. "Our study shows that biodiversity is essential to ensure the provision of ecosystem services and to maintain a high and stable agricultural production," explains lead study author Matteo Dainese. "For example, a farmer can depend less on pesticides to get rid of harmful insects if natural biological controls are increased through higher agricultural biodiversity."

In honor of World Food Day, national nonprofit Green America recognized its Soil SuperHeroes, farmers and food companies the group identifies as working to provide major solutions to the climate crisis by employing regenerative soil stewardship practices that build soil health and resiliency. The list of individual farmers, farms, and food companies includes Leah Penniman, Will Harris, Shiloh Valley Family Farm, and Tree Folk Farm, among others.

The PA Veteran Farming Project and Pennsylvania Friends of Agriculture Foundation are partnering on a three-year project designed to promote agriculture enterprise development, expansion, and sustainability for military veterans and their families, reports Pennsylvania Ag Connection. The project received funding under USDA's Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program. The program will raise awareness and understanding of USDA and other federal, state, and local resources and programming; improve access to technical assistance available locally and regionally; and empower participants to use financial resources such as grants, loans, and cost-share programs. Additionally, the project will host annual statewide Veteran Farming Summits, hold five workshops in each of the three years of the program, and create a veteran-to-veteran mentoring program.

American Farmland Trust (AFT) and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) have announced a two-year, $900,000 cooperative agreement to provide conservation planning assistance to farmers and other landowners across Massachusetts. AFT staff will help farmers and landowners evaluate their land and operations with conservation in mind, plan for and implement practices that improve soil health and water quality, protect wildlife habitat, and advance long-term sustainability. NRCS will provide financial support and day-to-day oversight. Farmers and landowners interested in participating should contact their NRCS Service Centers.

The Savanna Institute announced that it has received a grant of nearly $200,000 from the USDA SARE program in Illinois to establish a network of large-scale agroforestry R&D farms across Illinois over the next two years. In partnership with public and private landowners, these farms will enable a broad range of education, demonstration, and research functions. The Savanna Institute already has funding for an initial group of R&D farms in Wisconsin, which are being established this year.

USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is inviting public comment on a petition from the Monsanto Company seeking deregulation of a cotton variety genetically engineered (GE) for resistance to certain insects, primarily those of the Lygus genus. APHIS is interested in receiving comments regarding potential environmental and interrelated economic impacts to assist in assessment of the petition. Members of the public will be able to submit comments through November 25, 2019.

As the young hemp industry harvests its first crop, some growers are organizing into cooperatives to help them get better prices and grow the crop more successfully, reports Morehead State Public Radio. A young Kentucky cooperative of 15 small, organic hemp growers experienced problems with seed and thieves in the field, but is hopeful for the future as they head into harvest this year. The feature story says "many Ohio Valley hemp growers are choosing to join cooperatives to share supplies and give small growers a better shot in an increasingly competitive marketplace." Growers want to have more control over prices as the industry develops, and cooperatives can help small growers have more market clout.

Ohio State University Extension has launched Marketing and Orchard Resource Efficiency (MORE) Ohio Pawpaw, a statewide, grant-funded initiative to help growers produce and market high-quality pawpaw fruit. MORE Ohio Pawpaw will help farmers and nurseries learn to establish productive pawpaw orchards and find markets for their fruit, which could offer a way for farmers to boost income. A pawpaw orchard can produce $15,000 per acre annually for fresh fruit, $30,000 per acre for frozen pulp, and $5,000 an acre for seed, according to the Ohio Pawpaw Growers Association. A second grant will help researchers identify best management practices for pawpaw orchards, including best varieties and how to make wild pawpaw patches more productive. They will also explore the qualities that make pawpaw saleable.

North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (NCR-SARE) is seeking nominees for its grant review committees. Review committee members must live and work in one of the 12 states that comprise the North Central SARE region. Generally, review committee members are required to review proposals, discuss the proposals on a conference call or in-person, and provide recommendations to the Administrative Council. Potential nominees should complete an online form and provide a resume.

USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS), in partnership with the University of Vermont, has established its first food systems research station designed specifically to study diversified food systems and the small farms that contribute to those systems. The cooperative agreement, funded at $3 million for the first year, provides for UVM faculty to collaborate with ARS researchers imbedded on the UVM campus. The ARS Food Systems Research Station agreement will be renewed annually for at least five years. The research station will identify factors that affect economic and environmental sustainability, with the goal of better understanding how small farms survive and thrive, and how consumers can best access local sustainably-grown food.

A new crowdfunding platform called Steward is helping individual investors support regenerative agriculture with investments of as little as $100, reports Fast Company. To date, Steward has invested $2.2 million in 16 different farms, mostly in the United States. Investors are to receive dividends from the interest farmers pay on those loans. Participating farms must be "sustainable and regenerative." Steward CEO Dan Miller says investors will soon be able to choose to invest directly in a single farm.

Researchers at Louisiana State University found that when a warm-season grass pasture was over-seeded with cool-season annual cover crops, soil organic matter improved, nitrate concentrations decreased, carbon concentrations stabilized, and soil microbial enzyme activity increased, suggesting a healthy soil environment. The research was funded by a Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SSARE) Graduate Student Grant. Researchers tested the results of overseeding a winter annual mix of grasses (annual ryegrass, triticale, oats), legumes (hairy vetch), clover (crimson clover), and crucifers (radish and turnips), grazed rotationally. At one site, the study found that soil organic matter increased 6% with the treatment during the two-year study.

California is banning the pesticide chlorpyrifos, reports National Public Radio. California Environmental Protection Agency announced an agreement between the Department of Pesticide Regulation and pesticide manufacturers to withdraw their products. Beginning February 6, 2020, the pesticide will no longer be sold in the state, and agricultural growers will not be allowed to possess or use it after December 31, 2020. The pesticide, used on alfalfa, almonds, citrus, cotton, grapes, and walnuts, has been linked to brain damage and other health defects in children. The California Environmental Protection Agency notes, "The development of safe, more sustainable alternatives to chlorpyrifos is being supported through the current state budget, which appropriates more than $5 million in grant funding for the purpose."

At the Pennsylvania Hemp Summit co-hosted by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and Team Pennsylvania Foundation, Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding announced the availability of $460,000 in new state funding through Specialty Crop Block Grants. The summit offered resources for farmers, investors, processing, manufacturing, and other businesses interested in pursuing industrial hemp opportunities from seed to sales. The new state Specialty Crop Block Grants created under the Pennsylvlania Farm Bill will be available to fund specialty crops not eligible under the federal specialty crop grant program, and those designated as high priority crops in the state: hemp, hops, hardwoods, honey; and barley, rye, and wheat for distilling, brewing, and malting. Guidelines for the new grants will be published on October 19, 2019.

A meta-analysis conducted by the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and the Union of Concerned Scientists found that continuous roots are an effective agricultural practice for helping soil hold water. Researchers analyzed 89 studies across six continents to compare the effects of no-till farming, cover crops, crop rotations, perennial plantings, and cropland grazing on soil's ability to capture water. They found that practices that put roots in the soil and kept them there continuously—such as planting perennials and cover crops— were most successful at soaking up precipitation. This helped those soils better withstand heavy rainfall and alleviated the most severe effects of flooding and drought. This analysis found that no-till agriculture and crop rotation did not increase water infiltration, and it found that livestock grazing reduced water infiltration, although there were few studies on that practice.

The ASPCA, in partnership with Vermont Law School's Center for Agriculture and Food Systems, has created the Farm Animal Welfare Certification Guide. This online publication will help farmers understand the value of certification programs and determine which certification might be right for their farms. The Guide covers three meaningful certification programs that represent a spectrum of higher-welfare ways to raise farm animals: Animal Welfare Approved, Certified Humane®, and Global Animal Partnership. It includes evidence that the market for welfare-certified products is growing, a comparison of key differences between the three programs, case studies from each certification program, and an explanation of funding options available to farmers interested in certification. The guide is available free online in PDF.

A study led by Colorado State University and the University of Idaho found multiple effects on soils caused by applying manure from cows that were administered antibiotics, including alteration of the soil microbiome and ecosystem functions, soil respiration, and elemental cycling. Addition of antibiotics in manure caused a decrease in carbon-use efficiency, resulting in less carbon stored in the soil. The study's lead author, Carl Wepking, noted that given the study's findings, people may want to consider the effects of antibiotics in the soil when using manure as fertilizer.

Michigan's governor, Gretchen Whitmer, has proclaimed October as Michigan Agritourism Month. According to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), agriculture and tourism are leading economic drivers in Michigan, and agritourism provides ways for farmers to diversify their operations by offering value-added products and activities to protect their businesses against challenging weather conditions and market fluctuations. "Agritourism opportunities are available in every county in our state, and Michigan Agritourism Month is a special time to acknowledge and experience the vast, integrated network of family farmers, processors, wholesalers, and retailers who produce a safe and nutritious food supply, as well as so many fun and unique farm experiences," said MDARD Director Gary McDowell.

Iowa State University researchers are teaming with scientists at Cornell University and the University of Kentucky to research physical barriers that can protect organic cucurbits from pests. The project received a $2 million grant from USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Specifically, the research team will study the effectiveness of mesotunnels composed of nylon mesh fabric suspended on hoops placed about 42 inches above the ground, to prevent harmful insects from attacking the crops. Unlike low tunnels, the mesotunnels are designed to let insects pollinate the crops within them, and each mesotunnel will house boxes of bumblebees for pollination. The grant will also allow researchers to explore biocontrol methods for cucurbit disease control in organic production.

The Center for Rural Affairs has published a white paper titled Saluting Service: A Guide to Lending and Farm Program Resources for Veterans. Author Cora Fox writes, "The intent of this publication is to highlight the needs of America's next generation of producers, which includes individuals who served their country and who are now pursuing a second career in agriculture. Additionally, this publication will function as a guide to farm programs that specifically target beginning and veteran farmers and ranchers." The 14-page publication is available free online.

The new nonprofit organization Four Corners Slow Money has made its first $3,000 loan to support the agricultural economy. Through a peer-to-peer lending system, Four Corners Slow Money offers zero-interest micro-loans up to $3,000 to farmers, growers, and food enterprises in the Four Corners region. Loans are repaid over the course of a year, with the payments going into a revolving loan fund. The first loan, to Adobe House Farm in Durango, Colorado, will help fund construction of a climate-controlled greenhouse to grow tomatoes. The group plans to approve five more loans in February, with applications due January 30, 2020.

USDA has announced the award of $16.2 million in grants to provide training, outreach, and technical assistance to underserved and veteran farmers and ranchers through the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (also known as the 2501 Program). Grants are awarded to higher education institutions and nonprofit and community-based organizations to extend USDA's engagement efforts with socially disadvantaged farmers, ranchers, and foresters. A list of grant recipients and project summaries is available online.

The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) and Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) announced that they have received a grant through USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture's Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) to conduct national surveys of organic producers enabling them to create an updated and comprehensive roadmap for future research investments. OFRF's 2016 National Organic Research Agenda (NORA) report is a frequently cited resource that has helped ensure research funding is relevant and responsive to the needs of organic producers, while also identifying gaps where additional investment is necessary. The newly funded proposal, A National Agenda for Organic and Transitioning Research, will combine the considerable expertise of OFRF and OSA.

Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture is accepting applications for its second annual Entrepreneurship Intensive for Farmers, in collaboration with Ideagarden and Blue Hill. This immersive, experiential program from January 12-17, 2020 in Pocantico Hills, New York, gives farmers the opportunity to learn from and collaborate with William Rosenzweig, Co-Chair of the Sustainable Food Initiative at Berkeley Haas School of Business, other experts, and one another as they develop their entrepreneurial skills and explore how to integrate community and food culture into the ecological potential of their farms. Farm leaders with five to 10 years of management experience as well as a demonstrated commitment to forming collaborations with culinary partners are encouraged to apply by October 13, 2019.

Minnesota Department of Agriculture and Minnesota Department of Health are offering six free, half-day training sessions around the state to help people build the skills they need to offer help to neighbors, clients, family, and friends having thoughts of suicide. The safeTALK training teaches participants how to recognize someone having thoughts of suicide, how to engage them, and how to make sure they get help. This evidence-based training is effective for people as young as 15 years old. Farmers, lenders, mediators, agency staff, clergy, educators, veterinarians, health care and social service providers, agricultural advisors, and business people are all invited to attend. A schedule for six different training sessions offered from October through December is available online.

A group of researchers led by Arizona State University found that if Phoenix used just 5% of its urban spaces for agriculture, the city could meet its sustainability goal concerning local food systems. The study estimated that nearly 28 square miles are available for urban agriculture in Phoenix, including vacant lots, rooftops, and building facades. Nearly 71% of the available space comes from existing buildings, rather than vacant land. However, use of vacant land would have the additional benefit of adding greenspace to the city. Researchers found that, utilizing the available space, the city could produce nearly 183,000 tons of fresh produce per year, or almost 90% of the current annual fresh produce consumed by city residents. The study also noted that rooftop agriculture could reduce energy use in buildings by 3% per building per year and potentially displace more than 50,000 metric tons of CO2 annually.

A team of Extension educators, farmers, and researchers is exploring piloting a new climate-adaptation curriculum for vegetable and fruit growers in the Northeast region. It's called the Climate Adaptation Fellowship, and it is targeted towards both farmers and agricultural advisors. To gauge interest in a proposed one-year pilot program of the fellowship, the team invites regional stakeholders to participate in a 5- to 10-minute online survey.

USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has invested $11 million in research that will support specialty crop farmers through the Minor Crop Pest Management Program (known as the Interregional Research Project, IR-4). Four universities across different U.S. growing regions will lead regional IR-4 programs that will generate additional data for registration of conventional and bio-based crop protection technology for specialty and minor crops in the United States. The funding was awarded to the University of California, Davis; University of Florida; Michigan State University, and Rutgers University.

USDA Agricultural Research Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers teamed up to investigate the use of waste paper in revitalizing soil to revegetate damaged training grounds. U.S. Army classified papers must be pulverized to a fine consistency, which leaves the material unsuitable for recycling. This research focused on evaluating the use of pulverized or finely ground paper as a soil amendment to improve soil health and the ability to establish desirable native grasses on degraded Army training lands. Trials in Kentucky, Georgia, and Louisiana demonstrated that adding this type of paper waste to Army training grounds improves soil health, increases growth of native grasses, and provides a solution for disposing of classified paper waste. Plant cover was 45% higher on sites that received the recommended application rate of paper, compared to controls.

USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) has released An Overview of Beginning Farms and Farmers. This 23-page Economic Brief reveals that beginning farms (those on which all operators have no more than 10 years of farming experience) operate at a smaller scale, earn less farm income, and have more debt relative to their assets than more established farms. Additionally, beginning farm households work more off-farm and have less wealth than established farm households.

USDA has announced the appointment of 20 members to serve two-year terms on the Advisory Committee on Beginning Farmers and Ranchers. Their names are listed online. The Committee includes representatives for state beginning farming programs; commercial lenders; private nonprofit organizations with active beginning farmer or rancher programs; the National Institute of Food and Agriculture; the Farm Service Agency; community colleges or other educational institutions with demonstrated experience in training beginning farmers and ranchers; and other entities or persons providing lending or technical assistance for qualified beginning farmers and ranchers. This Committee is an important part of the USDA strategy to engage, support, and service new and beginning farmers.

NCAT and its Mississippi Food Justice Collaborative partners have announced the launch of the Mississippi Food Systems Fellowship to nurture a cohort of food systems leaders. We are seeking young to mid-career leaders from Native, Black, Latinx, Asian, and other minority communities (ages 18-49) working at the intersections of a variety of sectors, including Food, Health, Agriculture, Labor, Economic Democracy, Environment, and Community-Centered Development and Production. First preference will be given to native Mississippians and those who have been committed to Mississippi for at least seven years. Fellows must be committed to living and working in one of the following regions of Mississippi: Gulf Coast, Jackson, Delta, or Choctaw Reservation. The fellowship is a one-year commitment, from January through December 2020. It involves four in-person meetings, each lasting two to three days, plus ongoing group communication and assignments between meetings. Applications are due October 20, 2019.

The National Organic Program (NOP) has reopened the public comment period for the Origin of Livestock proposed rule originally published in 2015. The comment period is open for 60 days: October 1 - December 2, 2019. The proposed rule would change the requirements related to origin of dairy livestock under the USDA organic regulations. It would add requirements about transitioning dairy animals to organic production. Comments provided on the 2015 proposed rule do not need to be resubmitted, but new or updated comments are welcome.

Organizers of the National Farm to Cafeteria Conference are seeking workshop and poster proposals from individuals and organizations working to improve our food system, strengthen community health, empower youth, advance equity and increase opportunities for farmers. The conference is set for April 21-23, 2020, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This biennial event will convene hundreds of movement leaders working to source local food for institutional cafeterias and foster a culture of healthy food and agricultural literacy across America. Proposals are due by October 4, 2019.

A feature in The Washington Post reports on soil-health research that is uncovering the important roles of the microbiome, not only in producing healthy plants but also in determining the nutrient levels in human food. Daphne Miller writes that numerous research projects are exploring the beneficial potential of soil bacteria, discovering how soil microbes can influence human health and moods, testing how healthy soil relates to the antioxidant content of food, and looking at the systemic interaction of microbes.

USDA Food and Nutrition Service has launched its third Farm to School Census, a survey that captures information about the level to which farm to school efforts are underway or increasing. The Farm to School Census measures the scope, reach, and overall impact of farm to school efforts across the nation. The 2015 Farm to School Census revealed that School Food Authorities purchased almost $800 million in local food from farmers, ranchers, fishers, food processors, and manufacturers in the 2013-2014 school year. The current survey of 18,000 School Food Authorities will update that figure and look at the most common products purchased locally, sources of local products, and benefits and challenges of participating in farm to school.

A study from Cranfield University in the United Kingdom showed that using cover crops not only protects the soil and adds organic matter, but it also resulted in increased numbers of earthworms and financial savings for farmers due to reduced tillage. In this study of a three-year wheat-maize-lettuce rotation, treatment with a mustard, oilseed radish, and black oat cover crop resulted in an earthworm population three times larger than on the treatment with no cover crop. In addition, the researchers found that the frost-sensitive cover crops improved nitrogen levels in the spring and increased soil microbial biomass.

The summer-long 11th annual Farmers Market Celebration presented by American Farmland Trust has concluded with Troy Waterfront Farmers Market in Troy, New York, being selected as the winner of the 2019 People's Choice award. The event promotes the importance of local food and the farmers behind it, as the markets that received the most endorsements from their communities and shared stories of their impact on their local food system are recognized. The celebration honored the top-voted markets in five U.S. regions. The celebration is a national effort to promote the importance of local food and the role that agriculture plays in our communities while also raising awareness about the challenges facing America's farmland and farmers.

Larry Smart, leader of Cornell University's Hemp Team, recently recorded a three-part series on the state of industrial hemp production in New York for Cornell Cooperative Extension's "Extension Out Loud" podcast. In the series, "Smart talks about the latest crop management tools, cultivar evaluation, breeding research, challenges in the marketplace, and what he's learned working with new growers. He also shares his insight on how trends and innovation could affect the hemp industry's future."

The Northeast Specialty Crop Water Symposium, hosted by the University of Vermont and the USDA Northeast Climate Hub, is inviting proposals for panel sessions, 15-minute presentations, and graduate student posters. Submissions are due by October 15, 2019. The Symposium is set for December 18-19, 2019, in Burlington, Vermont. The symposium has three overarching goals: Increase shared understanding and knowledge about how climate change will affect irrigated/rain fed specialty crops in the Northeast, and how water use efficiency practices can be improved; create opportunities for researchers, Extension, and technical service providers working in different specialty crop sectors to learn from one another; and create opportunities for participants in the Northeast to learn from practitioners from other parts of the country.

The Agricultural Marketing Resource Center (AgMRC) has posted a case study of a USDA Value Added Producer Grant recipient, Goodson Pecans. The third-generation family pecan business in Georgia has been developing its retail line of value-added products over the past ten years. Developing products such as pecan butter and gourmet flavored nuts has helped the business expand. The Value Added Producer Grant that they received has helped the Goodsons promote their products at trade shows, use better ingredients, and try out new products.

The Board and staff of the National Young Farmers Coalition are calling for climate action to protect the future of young farmers. "Getting young farmers and ranchers on U.S. farmland is a necessary first step in the fight to mitigate climate change," says a National Young Farmers Coalition statement. The statement continues, "Farmers need policies and programs that provide financial incentives and make mitigation strategies desirable and practical." The statement concludes with examples of some of the climate-smart strategies that young farmers are already using on their farms and ranches; strategies it contends should be supported by government policy.

Western Illinois University School of Agriculture is the lead for a project that will investigate Pennycress as a new cash cover crop for use by the biofuel industry. USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture provided a $10 million grant for a project that will also involve researchers at Illinois State University, the Ohio State University, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, and the University of Minnesota. According to a press release, the integrated Pennycress crop program will work toward commercializing the crop within five years. Research will focus on improving Pennycress genetics (germplasm) for plant breeding and preservation, agronomic management, ecosystems, and supply-chain management for post-harvest seed control.

The Niman Ranch Next Generation Foundation has awarded 39 scholarships totaling more than $140,000 to students from Niman Ranch's network of independent farm and ranch families through its annual scholarship program. The scholarships are designed to support the next generation of sustainable farmers and agriculture leaders and to help rural communities thrive. In addition to other awards, the Next Generation Foundation awarded a Women in Food scholarship, in partnership with leading culinary organizations Women Chefs and Restaurateurs and the James Beard Foundation's Women Leadership Program, to support future women chefs and culinary leaders who will champion food produced sustainably and responsibly.

Organizers of the National Good Food Network Conference, set for March 10 – 13, 2020, in New Orleans, Louisiana, have extended the deadline to submit session proposals until October 1, 2019, at midnight Eastern Time. The 2020 NGFN Conference is a chance to reflect on the gains and missteps of past decades of food systems work, examine models and practices that are working now, and co-create new strategies for food systems change, inviting and amplifying the voices of frontline communities who have previously been excluded from the conversation.

Mercaris is surveying organic landowners and operators to build out an original data set of cash rent values for organic land, as part of the data-collection process for Mercoterra, an initiative to compare the value of certified organic row-crop farmland with conventional farmland. The survey takes about 20 minutes to fill out and is open to anyone who owns or operates certified organic farmland in the United States. The first 50 people to complete the survey earn $50.

A new agricultural cooperative, the Georgia Organic Peanut Association, has formed to help organic peanut farmers in south Georgia diversify their farms and reach new markets, reports the Albany Herald. "We believe that this is a historical moment for Georgia agriculture," said Ronny Shingler, the cooperative's president. "Not only is this the first concerted effort by a group of farmers in this state to grow and market Certified Organic products, but it's also a significant step to creating more market opportunities for all Georgia farms."

Georgia Organics and University of Georgia Extension presented the Fayette County Public Schools' farm-to-school program with the second annual Outstanding Extension Farm-to-School Program Award. The award honors teaching that brings agriculture into the classroom and recognizes an exemplary partnership between Extension and the farm-to-school program staff. Fayette County's program was honored for tying farm-to-school program to the larger community. For example, students help make jam from strawberries grown in school gardens and distribute the jars of jam to local firefighters.

A coalition including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, the European Commission, Switzerland, Sweden, and Germany has promised more than US $650 million for the CGIAR System Organization, to help 300 million smallholder farmers in developing countries adapt to the impacts of climate change. The funding will support a variety of activities designed to make food production in the developing world more productive, resilient, and sustainable, including research, efforts to help women farmers, variety development, market and value chain development, and micro-insurance.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison and its Organic Grain Research and Information Network (OGRAIN) initiative have released Turning Grain into Dough: Farm Financial Management for Organic Grain and Crop Rotation. This 26-page publication, prepared by Paul Dietmann, Senior Lending Officer, Compeer Financial, helps farmers estimate the financial implications of a decision to take on organic crop transition. The publication explains the organic transition process and outlines considerations in switching to organic production. It describes how to develop an in-depth feasibility plan for transition, and it discusses the decision of whether organic transition is a wise investment or not.

Five Hen Farm owners Andrew Banks and Sarah Newman gained knowledge to start their own farm from several sources, reports Illinois Farmer Today. After completing an agricultural education degree in college, Banks and his wife gained on-the-ground training working on farms in Ireland through WOOF — Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms. Later, they completed a Farm Beginnings training program offered by the regional organization Food Works, that helped them learn the business side of farming. Banks is raising poultry and feeding hogs on his 6.5-acre farm, and marketing his products at farmers markets and to restaurants. Next season, he'll be selling to three more restaurants and expanding the amount of land he farms.

The Organic Trade Association presented its annual Leadership Awards to "three visionaries, leaders, and heroes who are working to make our world a better place." Israel Morales Sr., Executive Director of Sustainability and Organic Growing for JV Farms Organic, was recognized as the Organic Trade Association's Farmer of the Year. The Growing the Organic Community Award was presented to organic consultant Lynn Coody, a crucial voice for organic since the 1970s. Montana organic farmer Nate Powell-Palm was honored with the Rising Star Award.

A Dartmouth College study published in Forest Ecology and Management suggests that by 2100, maple sap may flow a month earlier in some parts of the United States. Over a 6-year period, the study tested how monthly and season-long average temperatures during the tapping season, and temperature and precipitation from the preceding year, affected sap flow in six locations from Virginia to Quebec. Based on the results, the researchers predict that, by 2100, Virginia and Indiana locations will produce hardly any sap and production in other parts of the United States will decline, while Canadian production will improve. "Maple syrup producers may want to consider adapting their technologies and collection logistics in advance, so that they are prepared for how climate change is going to affect production," said co-author David Lutz.

The National Young Farmers Coalition announced that two leaders from within the coalition, Sophie Ackoff and Martin Lemos, have been selected to serve as Co-Executive Directors of the organization. They take over from founding executive director Lindsey Lusher Shute. Ackoff has been with the Coalition almost since its inception and is largely responsible for the strength of its grassroots network, advocacy campaigns, and corporate partnerships. Lemos has been serving as interim director of the organization. Both have been farmers themselves.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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