Latest News

Penn State Extension is offering a range of educational materials on controlling food safety risks from farm to fork—including a resource guide and an online course. Through a combination of videos and readings, the "Farmers Market Food Safety" course focuses on teaching new and established farmers market vendors the basics of food safety and sanitation. The course takes approximately four hours to complete online. The Farmers Market Food Safety Resource Guide publication available for sale from Penn State Extension provides in-depth education on food safety concepts from farm to market.

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) is teaming up with Appalachian State University's Frontline to Farm program to bring NCAT's Armed to Farm training to North Carolina for the first time. Armed to Farm will take place July 25-29, 2022, in Boone, North Carolina. This training is for veterans in the Southeast, with preference given to those in North Carolina. Participants will attend classroom sessions on the Appalachian State University campus and travel to local farms for hands-on learning experiences. Veterans who want to attend the free, week-long training can apply online until June 10, 2022. Armed to Farm gives veterans and their spouses the opportunity to experience sustainable, profitable small-scale farming enterprises and explore career opportunities in agriculture.

USDA announced that commodity and specialty crop producers impacted by natural disasters in 2020 and 2021 will soon begin receiving emergency relief payments totaling approximately $6 billion through the Farm Service Agency's new Emergency Relief Program. Payments will help to offset both crop yield and value losses. For impacted producers, existing Federal Crop Insurance or Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) data is the basis for calculating initial payments. USDA estimates that phase one ERP benefits will reach more than 220,000 producers who received indemnities for losses covered by federal crop insurance and more than 4,000 producers who obtained NAP coverage for 2020 and 2021 crop losses.

University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources published a feature on California almond farmer Rob Schuh, who with his son-in-law Andrew Carroll is practicing regenerative farming on 210 acres of almond orchards in Chowchilla, California. Schuh began incorporating compost in 2015 and cover cropping in 2016, while also reducing inputs of synthetic fertilizer and chemical pesticides. These practices were part of an ecosystem approach that produced significant economic benefits and also helped Schuh rekindle his interest in farming. A 16-species cover-crop mix helps the soil hold water and reduces irrigation needs.

The Nature Conservancy is partnering with Kansas State University, National Park Service, Kansas Grazing Lands Coalition and private producers to determine if virtual fencing can help managers improve conservation, business and soil carbon outcomes on working cattle ranches in the United States. Kansas State University reports that its work is part of a $2 million project at three sites that is also assessing how soil carbon and ranching outcomes may be improved with innovative management options made possible by virtual fencing. Additional project sites are located in Colorado and New Mexico. This project is looking specifically at how virtual fencing can protect habitat for grassland-dependent birds and riparian zones.

Maine became the first U.S. state to ban the spreading of PFAS-contaminated sludge on farmland as fertilizer, reports The Guardian. The legislation also prevents sewage sludge from being composted with other organic material. PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are industrial chemicals used to make products stain-resistant and heat-resistant. They have been linked to a range of serious diseases, and very high levels of them have been found in the ground, water, and the blood of farmers on land where sewage sludge has been spread. Maine also created a $60 million fund to help affected farmers with health monitoring, buyouts, and other assistance.

USDA has extended the public comment period to identify the impacts of concentration and competition challenges in seed, fertilizer, other agricultural inputs, and retail markets. The new deadline is June 15, 2022. USDA seeks information about competition matters as they relate to: (1) fertilizer; (2) seed and agricultural inputs, particularly as they relate to the intellectual property system; (3) food retail, including access to retail for agricultural producers and small and medium-sized food processors through wholesale and distribution markets. USDA is seeking data on competition and market access for farmers and ranchers, new and growing market competitors, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, and the context of these markets for farmers.

USDA announced that it is accepting more than two million acres in offers from agricultural producers and landowners through the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) General signup, the first of the program's multiple signups occurring in 2022. Producers submitted re-enrollment offers for just over half of expiring acres, similar to the rate in 2021. However, offers for new land under General CRP were considerably lower than last year's numbers. Through CRP, producers and landowners establish long-term, resource-conserving plant species, such as approved grasses or trees, to control soil erosion, improve soil health and water quality, and enhance wildlife habitat on agricultural land. In addition to the other well-documented benefits, lands enrolled in CRP are playing a key role in climate change mitigation efforts across the country.

AgLaunch Initiative has introduced a Small Business Technical Program to support food businesses and farmers who are black, indigenous, and people of color in the Mid-South Delta region, containing mostly rural counties in Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, and Tennessee. "This funding is supporting small BIPOC food companies and farmers to ensure that those hit hardest by COVID are able to weather the storm and recent supply chain disruptions," said Jade Clark, Director of Talent Development at AgLaunch. "We are bringing together farmers and food companies into the national AgLaunch model with the goal of building a more resilient future food system that delivers healthy food for all." The technical assistance offered includes business planning, accounting, financial management, legal, marketing, GAP certification, and more.

Farmers across Minnesota now have access to detailed financial information about the profitability of cover crops through the FINBIN farm financial database. A collaboration between The University of Minnesota's Center for Farm Financial Management, Minnesota State Farm Business Management, Southwest Minnesota Farm Business Management Association, Minnesota Office for Soil Health, and Environmental Defense Fund is making the information available. The initial findings include data from 17 farms growing cover crops and, over the coming years, the cover crop dataset will grow to include more than 85 farms across Minnesota. Preliminary data showed that farmers spent $26 per acre on cover crop seed planted before corn and $20 per acre on cover crop seed planted before soybeans.

A North Carolina livestock producer received a grant from Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SSARE) to explore the use of native warm-season grasses as forage for Katahdin Hair sheep as a way quickly bring the animals to market weight, and for better parasite control. Lee Holcomb of LeeDer Farm is establishing big blue stem, little blue stem, and Indian grass in some of his pastures to see if they can help weaned lambs put on more weight and have less exposure to barber pole worms. The native grasses have lower input requirements and better drought tolerance than conventional forages, offering producers additional benefits. Holcomb is in the first year of a two-year grant project. Research results will be available through SSARE.

An international study published in the American Geophysical Union journal Earth's Future predicts that agricultural water scarcity is expected to increase in more than 80% of the world's croplands by 2050. Researchers developed a new index to measure and predict water scarcity in agriculture's two major sources: soil water that comes from rain, called green water, and irrigation from rivers, lakes and groundwater, called blue water. The researchers found that under climate change, global agricultural water scarcity will worsen in up to 84% of croplands, with a loss of water supplies driving scarcity in about 60% of those croplands. Researchers say the new index can help assess the threat and causes of agricultural water scarcity and not that adopting farming practices that conserve water, such as mulching and no-till farming, can make a significant difference.

North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (NCR-SARE) awarded more than $676,000 to 18 projects through the 2022 Partnership Grant Program. This program is intended to foster cooperation between agriculture professionals and small groups of farmers and ranchers to catalyze on-farm research, demonstration, and education activities related to sustainable agriculture. A list of the funded projects is available online and includes projects related to agritourism, beginning women farmers, urban farming, compost tea, hemp farming, and cover crops.

The EcoFarm Conference is accepting workshop proposals for the 43rd EcoFarm Conference, set for January 18-21, 2023. The educational content that EcoFarm Conference presents is crowdsourced. Half the conference workshops are dedicated to technical farming or ranching topics and the remaining workshops are dedicated to community, nutrition, food, environmental and food justice, policy, gardening, history, and big picture topics. EcoFarm is developing content to better serve Black, California Indigenous, Latinx, Asian American, and all folks of color as well as members of the LGBTTQAI+ community and those with different abilities who are farmers, ranchers, or involved in any aspect of the food and farming ecosystem. Workshop and speaker proposals will be collected in English and Spanish through June 17, 2022 and selected by vote of EcoFarm's Planning Committee by late July 2022.

This is The FruitGuys Community Fund's tenth year of providing small grants that have big positive impacts on farms' sustainability and their communities. A volunteer grant review committee followed the Fund's farming manifesto criteria and recommended 17 farms and agricultural nonprofits in 11 states to receive a total of $71,136 in funding. A majority of the recipients are owned or led by women who are Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC). Funded projects include drip irrigation systems, rainwater catchment systems, produce coolers, raised beds, and more.

Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SSARE) is accepting applications for vacancies on its Administrative Council. The Producer and Quality of Life seats are vacant. The Administrative Council guides the vision of the SARE program, setting goals related to sustainable agriculture, overseeing the review of grant Calls for Proposals, evaluating projects, and being ambassadors for the program. Producer members are directly involved in setting the goals of the Southern SARE program. Producers serve a three-year term with opportunities for a second renewal term. Application deadline is July 1, 2022.

International Heritage Breeds Week aims to raise global awareness about endangered heritage breeds of farm animals. It's scheduled for May 15-21, 2022, with International Heritage Breeds Day being held the ending Saturday of that week. This is not an in-person event at a single location, but rather a global week of awareness. Join the fun by following #HeritageBreedsWeek on social media and learn more about rare breeds from the participating organizations. International Heritage Breeds Week is an opportunity for livestock conservation organization members, fans, and sponsors to advocate for conservation of heritage breeds in agriculture. It's a time to share with local, state, national, and international audiences what livestock conservation is all about and the impact it has on heritage breeds and agriculture every day.

Regenerative Agriculture: Farm Policy for the 21st Century is a new report released by the Natural Resources Defense Council that highlights how regenerative agriculture provides multiple environmental co-benefits while making land more resilient to climate change. The report uses interviews from more than 100 farmers and ranchers to inform policy recommendations on how lawmakers can transition the nation's agricultural system. Among the report's conclusions are that regenerative agriculture is part of the climate solution and can make our food system more resilient. Additionally, policies that created today's dominant industrial agriculture model must be reformed and resources must meet the needs of regenerative farmers and ranchers. The recommendations provided by the report include reforming the federal crop insurance system, supporting new farmers and ranchers, and providing more funding for regenerative agriculture research and development.   

Cultivating Our Communities, a partnership with the Illinois Lt. Governor's Office, the Illinois Farm Bureau, the Illinois Specialty Growers Association, and the Illinois Department of Agriculture, has launched its 2022 campaign spotlighting unique individuals, farms, and businesses. Since 2020, Cultivating Our Communities has showcased more than 85 food and farm businesses through Illinois Farm Bureau Partners and articles that demonstrate the many ways these businesses uplift rural, suburban, and urban communities across the state. This year's campaign will focus on farms and markets in different regions across the state.

USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) released data from the Local Food Marketing Practices survey. More than 147,000 U.S. farms produced and sold food locally through direct marketing practices, resulting in $9.0 billion in revenue in 2020. This figure includes more than 40,000 farms that sold food directly to institutions and intermediates ($4.1 billion); direct-to-consumer sales, such as on-farm stores and farmers markets, at $2.9 billion; and sales directly to retailers for $1.9 billion from more than 24,000 operations nationwide. The top five states by value of direct food sales were California, Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan, and Maine. Additional data on the survey is available online.

A study by USDA scientists, published in Agrosystems, Geosciences & Environment Journal, evaluated the greenhouse-gas emissions from grazed grasslands in Oklahoma. Three of the pastures studied were native prairies and one was a planted single species of grass. The team found that in this hot, subhumid area, all the sites were net emitters of carbon dioxide on a yearly basis. All sites emitted small amounts of nitrous oxide, but the non-native site, which received fertilizer, emitted the most nitrous oxide. Scientist noted that, with nitrous oxide being three hundred times stronger at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, this difference really adds up. Meanwhile, soil organisms absorbed methane from the atmosphere at all sites, with the native sites absorbing more methane than the non-native site. Researchers are interested in determining just how much of the methane emissions from grazing animals grasslands can absorb.

A new peer-reviewed research report published by the Soil Health Institute offers insight into the vital role that soil organic carbon levels can play in preventing drought, reducing flooding, and improving the health and water retention of the soils used to grow crops. The publication includes the development of new pedotransfer function equations, available for use by other researchers, that enable more precise measurement of the correlation between carbon levels, water retention and various soil types. These new equations will allow scientists to better predict how much water farmers can provide to their crops through improved soil health—specifically, by raising their soil carbon. The complete SHI study, entitled Carbon-Sensitive Pedotransfer Functions for Plant Available Water, is available online.

Scientists at Iowa State University examined a range of environmental impacts of vegetable production and distribution and found local production offers significant benefits. The published results of this study were selected as Editor's Choice for 2021 in the Journal of Sustainability. The study involved life-cycle analysis for 18 types of vegetables in large-scale conventional production, medium-scale direct-to-consumer production, and individual household production. Several factors were included: greenhouse gas emissions, energy requirements, and water use of plants throughout production, transportation, and consumption. Results from the LCAs show the large-scale production model had significantly greater global warming potential and higher water demand than the medium- and small-scale production models.

An international team of scientists evaluated the next generation of UN biodiversity targets, set to be adopted at the UN Biodiversity Conference in Kunming, China, this autumn, to assess whether they can also slow climate change. In a review study for Global Change Biology, the authors found that 14 out of 21 (i.e., two-thirds) of all targets are making a positive contribution to climate protection. "It turns out that conservation measures that halt, slow, or reverse the loss of biodiversity can greatly slow human-induced climate change at the same time", says lead author Dr. Yunne-Jai Shin.

The University of California, Davis, is bringing a flock of sheep back to campus for a second year as part of research into how sheep mowing compares to conventional practices in terms of soil fertility, fuel and labor costs, and pest control. Data from the first year of the project showed that sheep cut the grass as short as conventional mowing, and they increased soil fertility. This year, scientists will explore the mental health affects of sheep grazing on campus and the beneficial insect populations associated with grazing the animals. One student is compiling a senior thesis that will illustrate the ways sheep can be integrated into college campuses and provide a model plan for integrating sheep that can be used by other institutions.

A study published in Nature by University College London compared insect biodiversity in different areas depending on how intensive agriculture is in the area, as well as how much historic climate warming the local area has experienced. Researchers found that in areas with high-intensity agriculture and substantial climate warming, the number of insects was 49% lower than in the most natural habitats with no recorded climate warming, while the number of different species was 29% lower. In areas of low-intensity agriculture and substantial climate warming, having nearby natural habitat buffered the losses: where 75% of the land was covered by natural habitat, insect abundance only declined by 7%, compared to a 63% reduction in comparable areas with only 25% natural habitat cover.

Scientists at the University of Sheffield have published a study that says adding rock dust to UK agricultural soils could absorb up to 45% of the atmospheric carbon dioxide needed to reach net zero. The study found that enhanced weathering produces rock dust that can be added to agricultural soils, removing atmospheric carbon dioxide, mitigating nitrous oxide production, and substituting for imported fertilizers. Lead author Dr. Euripides Kantzas of the Leverhulme Centre for Climate Change Mitigation at the University of Sheffield said, "By quantifying the carbon removal potential and co-benefits of amending crops with crushed rock in the UK, we provide a blueprint for deploying enhanced rock weathering on a national level, adding to the toolbox of solutions for carbon-neutral economies."

Research conducted in Kansas and published in Soil Science Society of America Journal showed that using conservation practices like cover crops and reduced tillage in pumpkin production improved soil health over conventional production. The study evaluated annually tilled pumpkins with cover crops of rye, oats, and a rye mix and a biannually tilled system. Researchers noted an improvement in total soil aggregation with these systems. "We conclude that the use of less tillage and a cover crop in a conservation system is generally beneficial as compared to a conventional system. This study illustrates the potential for improving some soil health parameters in as little as two years," said researcher Peter Tomlinson.

University of Illinois researchers are involved in a multi-year project that's exploring the potential for controlling insect pests in high tunnels with predator insects, rather than chemical insecticides. Research during the first season showed that the insidious flower bug was eating aphids, thrips, whiteflies, and spider mites, while a predator mite was eating thrips, whiteflies, and spider mites. This year, research will focus on finding a predator insect to control thrips and on establishing costs for using predator insects. The research team will share its results.

Illinois Extension researchers collected data from more than 180 hemp growers over the past two years and are sharing that production information with growers through the Midwestern Hemp Database. The interactive database is a project of Michigan State, University of Illinois, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Purdue University, and it offers growers information about production practices and hemp cultivars. It's updated weekly during the growing season. In particular, the database identifies cultivars that are likely to comply with state and federal regulations limiting cannabinoid levels.

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Texas is offering financial assistance to African American forest landowners in numerous east Texas counties to implement conservation practices that can help increase the land's value and improve its forest and wildlife habitats. The goal of the program, offered through a partnership with Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU), is to restore and conserve threatened, African American-owned forestland in the southern United States and enhance family wealth by increasing forest-owner income and land asset value through forest management. The SFLR Program is a collaboration of federal, state, local, and community-based organizations to help stem the loss of land and eliminate barriers to African American forest landowners to help keep private forest land in the family. Through the SFLR-(EQIP) Environmental Quality Incentives Program, NRCS provides technical expertise as well as financial assistance to farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners to implement conservation practices.

Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems published "Annotated Bibliography on Structural Racism Present in the U.S. Food System." The ninth edition contains 510 sources, including 25 new videos and 100 new journal citations. This annotated bibliography provides current research and outreach on structural racism in the U.S. food system for the food system practitioner, researcher, educator, and advocate.

North Central Region SARE reports that Missouri grower Matt Renkoski has been testing and demonstrating grafting of large-diameter persimmon native seedlings (.5 to 4.0-inch diameter) using a bark-grafting technique. By grafting, growers can increase the production of locally grown persimmons to supply potential markets. Renkoski recorded his process for grafting in a series of videos that are available online.

The National Farm to School Network has introduced a state policy map resource tool. The interactive tool highlights states where farm to school legislation is under consideration and provides updates on the most recent action on that legislation. The tool also provides a description of each bill and an outlook on whether the legislation is likely to pass or not.

Farmers enrolled in the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP) have higher profits than non-certified farms, according to a recent study by the Minnesota State Agricultural Centers of Excellence. This marks the third year of data highlighting improved financial outcomes. The three years of data serve as an early indicator of a positive return on investment for whole-farm conservation management farmers implement to become certified. "We see that farms in the Minnesota Ag Water Quality Certification Program have major benefits on the environment, and now we see with three years of data that our certified farmers are, on average, also looking at better economic outcomes," said Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen.

A new report from the Appalachian Regional Commission uses USDA Census of Agriculture data to provide an overview of agricultural activity and local food systems throughout the Appalachian Region. Agriculture and Local Food Economies in the Appalachian Region also includes overviews and case studies related to seven emerging opportunities to strengthen the Appalachian Region's local food economies. It highlights innovative approaches for building more thriving and resilient food systems across the region.

Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems published a seventh edition of its Funding Sources for Food-Related Businesses directory. The directory provides an overview of various financing sources available to food-related businesses in Michigan and across the United States. It includes national and local finance opportunities that may be available to farmers, food producers, distributors, food hubs, and other food-related businesses. The directory is divided into four types of funding sources: crowdfunding, start-up accelerator, miscellaneous, and Michigan and federal government resources. There's also a section on writing grant and loan applications.

Farmers Market Coalition has an Anti-Racist Farmers Market Toolkit available online to help farmers market managers make progress toward becoming anti-racist managers of anti-racist markets. The Anti-Racist Farmers Market Toolkit was developed by a group of Black food systems leaders and market managers to help offer ways for managers to put the concepts of anti-racism into practice and action within farmers markets. The work is intended to improve market experiences for Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) and BIPOC communities; however, the authors' lens explicitly centers Black people and Black communities.

Pasa Sustainable Agriculture is making a webinar available online that was recorded March 9, 2022, "Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) Risks to Pastured & Organic Flocks." In this webinar, Mike Badger of American Pastured Poultry Producers Association, Hannah Smith-Brubaker, Pasa's Executive Director and a pastured poultry producer, and Chris Pierce, President of Heritage Poultry Management Services, discuss the current situation with HPAI in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Vermont Agency of Agriculture's Farm First service is launching a peer support network of farmers throughout the state, to aid farmers experiencing stress. The program offers farmers and ag service providers training on core resources available to help farmers and how to offer nonjudgmental active listening that helps others feel heard and reduces their stress. Farmers and ag service interested in becoming peers and providing support to fellow farmers can sign up for trainings online.

Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP) has published the 2022 version of its Local Food Guide. ASAP published its first annual Local Food Guide 20 years ago. The new version is available in print and in a digital online version, as well as a database that is updated year-round. The guide offers hundreds of listings for farms, farmers markets, restaurants, groceries, artisan producers, and travel destinations. There are also charts for finding farms offering u-pick, farm stands, lodging, visitor activities, and CSAs. The online database includes nearly 1,400 listings, searchable by products, locations, activities, and more.

North Central SARE announced the availability of CSA Starts Here, a series of 12 educational videos for aspiring and beginning CSA farmers, developed by five CSA farmers in the North Central Region. These free videos will help you evaluate whether or not CSA farming is a suitable model for you while also explaining the skills you need to nurture to be successful at CSA farming. The videos can be watched in order as one comprehensive training or viewed individually as needed. An accompanying workbook offers questions to reflect on during each video and key resources related to the topic.

American Farmland Trust announced recently that more than 200 farmers would be receiving grants of up to $5,000 each through the Brighter Future Fund and its regional subsidiaries. In 2022, Brighter Future Fund prioritized support for farmers identifying as BIPOC, LGBTQ+, female, or beginning. In total, more than $1 million will be awarded this year to farmers located across 44 states and the territory of Puerto Rico. The grants will be used to help improve farm viability, enable farmers to access, transfer or permanently protect farmland, or adopt regenerative agricultural practices.

In the free publication Reaching Women in Agriculture: A Guide to Virtual Engagement, American Farmland Trust (AFT) and Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) published information, tips, and tools for effective engagement for online education. The guide shares that one of the reasons to create women-focused and women-only events, virtual or otherwise, is to establish a comfortable space for women-identifying individuals to find and access resources, information, and networking they typically do not have easy access to in the agricultural services world. This guide incorporates both the characteristics of high-quality programs for women in agriculture and the emerging best practices for adapting farmer education and networking events to virtual platforms.

Organic Seed Alliance is offering two new resources for breeding sweet peppers in the Midwest: Northern Sweet Pepper Trial Report 2019-2021 and Sweet Pepper Breeding and Seed Saving Guide. The free publications are intended to be practical tools for Midwest growers interested in breeding and adapting sweet pepper varieties on their farms. The first report includes results from trials conducted to evaluate the performance of several open-pollinated (OP) varieties of sweet bell peppers bred or selected in the northern United States. Meanwhile, the guide walks growers through the breeding process from start to finish with discussion of seedborne diseases, population genetics, and seed harvest, processing, and storage.

The Braiding Seeds Fellowship, a project of Soul Fire Farm Institute in collaboration with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, provides BIPOC beginning farmers across the Northeast and Southeast with a $50,000 stipend, one-on-one mentorship, customized support, and a suite of professional development opportunities to support their livelihood on land. In addition to 10 fellowship spots, the program will be awarding $2,500 mini-grants to 12 runners up. Applications for the next 18-month program cohort are due by May 1, 2022.

USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced the investment of almost $18 million in research funds to further develop transformative agricultural solutions through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The program targets early-stage projects in the private sector poised to deliver significant public benefits and strengthens the role of federal research and development in support of small businesses, many of which are owned by women or historically underserved populations. Grants were awarded to projects developing a gene-targeted insecticide for the red imported fire ant, an on-site soil testing system, soil-biodegradable plastic mulch, and a high-value seaweed cultivation system, among others. Descriptions of all the funded projects are available online.

A diversity of bees is more important to pollination than previously realized, based on the findings of a research team published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The team found that the more plant diversity in an area, the more species of bees are needed to achieve complete pollination. Some bees specialize in pollinating specific plants and these rare species can be key to ecosystem health. This study provides support for the necessity of biological diversity. Researchers found that an entire meadow community needed twice as many to more than seven times as many bee species for pollination as a single typical plant species.

A feature from Bloomberg puts forth the idea that rapidly rising fertilizer costs may be the encouragement needed to become more efficient with fertilizer use, much the same way the oil shocks of the 1970 jump-started energy conservation and led to greater production efficiencies. Using less synthetic nitrogen fertilizer could help reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and preserve water quality. Precision application based on soil testing could provide a strategy for using less fertilizer, experts say.

University of Minnesota Extension has created a web resource called "Halal-friendly Minnesota" to raise awareness about the shortage of fresh halal meat and build infrastructure elements for the domestic halal meat supply chain. One of the references available on the web page is The Halal Meat Introductory Guide, a free, in-depth guide for farmers and ranchers interested in participating in a halal meat supply chain. It discusses farming practices, Islamic slaughter, logistics, certification, and regulations.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Linder Farm Network, and the Red River Farm Network (RRFN) have joined forces to expand a radio series called "TransFARMation" throughout the state. The series profiles people in agriculture who have coped with challenging situations and highlights sources of support. Starting the week of April 18, 2022, 60-second prime-time radio stories will be heard on all 40 Linder Farm Network stations in central and southern Minnesota, as well as RRFN's 21 stations further north. In addition, 10 to 15-minute companion podcasts are available online.

Field studies at University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources' Desert Research and Extension Center revealed that drip irrigation is not only more water efficient, but it can also dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the soil. In comparison to furrow irrigation, drip irrigation in alfalfa reduced per-yield soil carbon dioxide emissions by 59%, nitrous oxide by 38%, and nitric oxide by 20%. For sudangrass, drip irrigation decreased water demand by 49% and reduced soil emissions of nitrous oxide by 59% and nitric oxide by 49%. Researchers point out that the state of California offers financial incentives to help growers offset the cost of switching to drip irrigation.

USDA announced $5 million in funding available to Alaska, Hawaii, and certain U.S. territories to support small-scale gardening, herding, and livestock operations. The Micro-Grants for Food Security Program is authorized by the Farm Bill and awards grants to eligible states and territories through a non-competitive application process. States and territories that receive funding will then competitively grant subawards. Eligible applicants include agricultural agencies or departments in Alaska, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, Hawaii, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Republic of Palau, and the United States Virgin Islands. These entities must apply by June 6, 2022. AMS encourages applications for initiatives that benefit smaller farms and ranches, new and beginning farmers and ranchers, underserved producers, veteran producers, and underserved communities.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection's Farm Center has released a free virtual course that will help agricultural service providers understand the unique stresses and challenges of farming, handle difficult conversations, and recognize signs and symptoms of stress with farm clients. This course is a part of the Farm Center's Farmer ​Wellness Program that creates and connects Wisconsin farmers to mental health resources. The course is organized into five modules: The Culture of Farming, Recognizing Farmer Stress, Financial Unpredictability in Farming, Navigating Difficult Conversations with Farmers, and Resources and Self-care for Agriculture Service Providers. Ag lenders, milk haulers, nutritionists, veterinarians, farm equipment technicians, and others that provide services to farmers regularly are encouraged to take the training.

Penn State University researchers published an analysis showing that Pennsylvania farmers markets generate an estimated $100 million in sales each year. The figures were extrapolated from 2021 data that showed 15% of the farmers markets in Pennsylvania generated gross sales of about $18 million. "Farmers markets are more than nice events in our communities," Brian Moyer, Penn State Extension education program associate in business and community vitality, said. "They are essential to our local food economy. Markets provide a common space for farms and food businesses to offer their products and incubate new businesses."

Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a multi-layer textile "Plant Armor" that creates a mechanical barrier to pests. The multiple layers create a maze-like path that can prevent even small insects such as thrips from making their way through the cover to the plant. "To exclude insects that are really small using traditional textile cover designs, the size of the openings would have to be so small that it would also prevent water, air and moisture from penetrating," said the study's senior researcher Mike Roe. Trials showed that Plant Armor was more effective than traditional plant covers at preventing insects from accessing the plant below. The researchers believe the product could be an effective non-chemical alternative for protecting high-value crops from insects.

The Livestock Conservancy published its annual update of the Conservation Priority Lists for endangered breeds of livestock, poultry, and equines. In 2022, five breeds graduated from the "Critical" category to the "Threatened" category, while four breeds moved from "Watch" to "Critical" and 17 breeds moved from "Watch" to "Threatened." Also, Soay British Sheep were added to the list for the first time, in the "Threatened" category. Find the complete lists and descriptions of all the breeds online.

For agricultural soils in the midwestern United States to continue to be productive, conservation practices must be widely implemented, according to a new report from the Center for Rural Affairs. Conservation Practice Impact on Carbon Sequestration takes a closer look at the carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emission reductions associated with conservation practices. The report highlights the benefits of soils that are high in organic matter and soil organic carbon, and describes climate-smart agriculture practices that can increase soil carbon.

Minnesota Department of Agriculture announced that it is awarding nearly $742,000 to 46 school districts across the state to increase the amount of healthy local foods in school meals. Several types of Farm to School grants were offered: First Bite Mini-Grants for districts with little to no experience with farm to school, Full Tray grants for experienced districts expanding programs, and equipment grants to support farm to school initiatives. A complete list of recipients is available online.

USDA has unveiled a new plan to help guide voluntary conservation work over the next five years across 25 states, the Northern Bobwhite, Grasslands and Savannas Framework for Conservation Action. The plan outlines how USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will work with agricultural producers and partners like Quail Forever to increase adoption of targeted conservation practices that are good for farmers, ranchers, the bobwhite, and natural resources. The plan focuses on reducing threats, improving habitat, and implementing key conservation practices, including prescribed grazing, brush management, prescribed burning, herbaceous weed treatment, forage and biomass planting, contour buffer strips, and forest stand improvement. Farmers, ranchers, and private landowners in the central and eastern regions can work with NRCS to implement conservation practices on their working lands, including those that further this new framework.

USDA is soliciting nominations for members to serve on its newly formed USDA National Pollinator Subcommittee. The subcommittee will be part of the National Agricultural Research, Extension, Education, and Economics (NAREEE) Advisory Board, which provides feedback to the Secretary of Agriculture, USDA's science agencies, and university collaborators on food and agricultural research, education, extension, and economics priorities and policies. USDA is seeking nominations for subcommittee members until May 31, 2022, from individuals with diverse expertise in pollinator health. USDA expects to appoint seven new Pollinator Subcommittee members for one- to three-year terms beginning in July 2022.

The Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) developed a new, non-destructive method for finding carbon stored in the soil by plants and microbes. According to a press release, this new method for measuring carbon pulled out of the air promises to be an important tool for fighting climate change and developing more ecologically friendly forms of agriculture. The new method uses a device that scans the soil with a beam of neutrons that react to carbon and other elements in the soil, mapping the distribution of different elements to a resolution of about five centimeters. The method can be used repeatedly over the growing season to evaluate the effectiveness of different land-management practices.

A study from the University of Córdoba in Spain found that intercropping melon and cowpea improves soil nutrients and increases melon yields. A team from the European Diverfarming project conducted this research and found a significant increase in total nitrogen levels, available phosphorus, and total organic carbon, as well as in the melon yield in the first year of intercropping, irrespective of the intercropping patterns followed.

Equitable Food Initiative (EFI) has collaborated with Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center to support the development of a worksite training and toolkit, ¡Basta! Preventing Sexual Harassment in Agriculture. The toolkit features videos in both English and Spanish, as well as educational materials that can be used in workplaces (posters, shareable graphics, and a detailed fact sheet). The PNASH team worked for six years and engaged more than 48 different stakeholders in the development—including farmworkers, grower associations, health care advocates, human rights organizations, state and federal agencies, farmworker rights groups, private businesses and nonprofits like Equitable Food Initiative. "This is the first program created by and for agricultural stakeholders to address the prevention of sexual harassment, and we tailored it to the needs of Latino/a/x farmworkers, growers and supervisors," explained Dr. Jody Early, a professor at University of Washington who worked on the project.

USDA announced its "Tribal Consultations on Barriers/Equity: Annual Progress Report & Feedback for Next Steps," a five-day consultation series. From April 11 through 18, USDA Consulting Officials will highlight progress made since last year's consultation and discuss potential solutions for ongoing issues with tribal nation representatives. Each day the consultations will focus on different themes: Economic Development; Food, Safety, and Trade; Farming, Ranching, and Conservation; Forests and Public Lands; and Education and Research. These tribal consultations are formal, government-to-government meetings between USDA officials and tribal nations. Tribal organizations, tribal citizens, and tribal nation staff are welcome to attend. Registration information is available online.

Scientists from the USDA National Agroforestry Center conducted a systematic review of 53 silvopasture adoption studies in the United States that was published in Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment. The studies identified diversification of farm income and shade for livestock as the primary benefits of implementing silvopasture systems. They also revealed that lack of information was the primary challenge to adoption cited by producers. In addition, analysis showed that 98% of producers used rotational or management intensive grazing in their silvopasture systems and that 96% combined use of silvopasture with open pastures. Of those practicing silvopasture, 88% indicated they would continue the practice into the future.

Climate-resilient agricultural practices can help small farms in North Carolina profit in a changing climate, according to new research by North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University Cooperative Extension and Environmental Defense Fund. The research summarizes the real-world financial and climate resilience benefits that practices such as reduced tillage, cover cropping, and high tunnel use are providing three small farms in diverse growing regions: the coastal plain, the Piedmont, and the mountains. A summary report and three case studies share insights for farmers and their advisers to inform their financial decision-making when considering whether to implement climate-smart farming practices.

A study led by Penn State researchers showed that cover crops can be more effective at reducing pest density and crop damage than insecticide applications. The research indicated that using biological controls such as encouraging pests' natural enemies through cover crop planting and not using broad-spectrum insecticides was the most effective pest management strategy. "We hypothesized that the increased early-season vegetative cover provided by winter- or spring-sown cover crops would benefit predator populations and increase their biological control potential," explained study lead author Elizabeth Rowen. The researchers found that where broad-spectrum insecticides were used, beneficial insect populations were decreased, yields decreased, and effects persisted more than a year after application.

USDA announced that roducers may apply for CLEAR30, a voluntary, incentive-based conservation program, through August 5, 2022. Clean Lakes, Estuaries, And Rivers initiative (CLEAR30) is a nationwide opportunity for certain landowners and agricultural producers currently implementing water quality practices through the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to enroll in 30-year contracts, extending the lifespan and strengthening the benefits of important water quality practices on their land. Annual rental payments for landowners who enroll in CLEAR30 will be equal to the current Continuous CRP annual payment rate plus a 20% water quality incentive payment and an annual rental rate adjustment of 27.5%.

USDA encourages producers and landowners to enroll in the Grassland Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) open until May 13, 2022. Grassland CRP provides a unique opportunity for farmers, ranchers, and agricultural landowners to keep land in agricultural production and supplement their income while improving their soils and permanent grass cover. Grassland CRP is a federally funded voluntary working lands program. Through the program, USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) provides annual rental payments to landowners to maintain and conserve grasslands while allowing producers to graze, hay, and produce seed on that land. The annual rental rate varies by county with a national minimum rental rate of $13 per acre for this signup. Contract duration is 10 or 15 years. 

Upper Midwest Hazelnuts has published a series of reports on trials that fed hazelnuts to pigs. A series of feeding trials were conducted in 2019 and 2021. These reports provide information on the feed characteristics and value of hazelnuts in the Upper Midwest and the growth rates and quality of pigs produced from hazelnut feed. Many growers are interested in feeding hazelnuts to pigs as a means to produce high quality, hazelnut-finished pork.

Ranchers who have approved applications through USDA's 2021 Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) for forage losses due to severe drought or wildfire in 2021 will soon begin receiving emergency relief payments for increases in supplemental feed costs in 2021 through the Farm Service Agency's (FSA) new Emergency Livestock Relief Program (ELRP). USDA will leverage LFP data to deliver immediate relief for increases in supplemental feed costs in 2021. FSA notes that it continues to evaluate and identify impacts of 2021 drought and wildfire on livestock producers to ensure equitable and inclusive distribution of much-needed emergency relief program benefits. Due to the persistent drought conditions in the Great Plains and West, FSA will be offering additional relief through the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-raised Fish Program (ELAP) to help ranchers cover above normal costs of hauling livestock to forage.

California FarmLink and TomKat Ranch Educational Foundation teamed up to create a new guide to land leases that support regenerative grazing practices, Guide to Regenerative Grazing Leases: Opportunities for Resilience. This guidebook aims to empower private, nonprofit, and public landholders, as well as easement-holders and grazing tenants, to create leases that incentivize management that fosters and restores diverse and healthy ecosystems, just and thriving communities, and profitable farm and ranch businesses. The guide provides a framework for grazing agreements that articulate shared agricultural, ecological, and social values of each party; foster effective communication to support adaptation and innovation; and align incentives so that the productivity and resilience of the lands are improved.

A new publication is available online for high tunnel growers from Purdue University Extension, Scheduling Fall and Winter Vegetable Production. Cool-season production in high tunnels is a growing trend that offers increased income potential. The hardiest cool season crops can survive all winter. This publication discusses types of crops and provides information on scheduling planting and harvest for optimized and continuing yield

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service is investing $21 million as part of a collaboration with the Department of Interior's (DOI) WaterSMART Initiative to help farmers and ranchers conserve water and build drought resilience in their communities. In fiscal year 2022, NRCS will invest in 15 new priority areas and 25 existing priority areas with continued need, assisting producers and communities in 13 states across the West. NRCS is providing the funding through Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Learn more about active projects from the NRCS website.

USDA has published the Origin of Livestock (OOL) final rule for organic dairy, a change to the USDA organic regulations to ensure that organic dairy products are produced according to consistent standards. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, "The Origin of Livestock final rule provides clear and uniform standards about how and when livestock may be transitioned to organic dairy production, and how transitioned animals are managed within the organic dairy system." Specifically, the rule allows a dairy livestock operation transitioning to organic, or starting a new organic farm, to transition non-organic animals one time. It also prohibits organic dairies from sourcing any transitioned animals. Once a dairy is certified organic, animals must be managed as organic from the last third of gestation. Variances may be requested by small businesses for specific scenarios.

USDA Food and Nutrition Service Farm to School Program has updated and released four fact sheets that provide updated guidance and resources, examples from Farm to School grantees and more. Titles include USDA DoD Fresh Program: A Source for Locally Grown Produce, USDA Foods: A Resource for Maximizing Food Budgets To Buy Local, Local Meat in Schools, and Selling Local Food to Schools: A Resource for Producers.

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) is bringing its Armed to Farm training back to the Lone Star State May 16-20, 2022. Veterans who want to attend the week-long training in Fredericksburg, Texas, can apply online until April 8, 2022. Armed to Farm gives veterans and their spouses the opportunity to experience sustainable, profitable, small-scale farming enterprises and explore career opportunities in agriculture. At Armed to Farm, participants learn about business planning, budgeting, recordkeeping, marketing, USDA programs, livestock production, fruit and vegetable production, and more. The event is free for those chosen to attend. Veterans from Southwestern states will receive selection priority for this training.

Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT) announced 60 recipients of its 2022 Fund-a-Farmer Grants. These farms, located in 27 states, received up to $3,000 each to improve pastures and support improvements on farms that hold animal welfare certifications. A list of recipients and brief summaries of the funded projects are available online.

Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) released 2021–2022 Report from the Field, a publication that highlights innovations by recipients of SARE grants across the country. The publication includes stories on projects related to tribal food security, bale grazing, market access, climate-change adaptation, seed production, and more. It is available free online.

USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has established cooperative agreements with three non-profit organizations to coordinate and provide technical assistance through the Meat and Poultry Processing Capacity Technical Assistance Program (MPPTA). These organizations will also establish a national network of support for meat and poultry grant applicants to navigate the application process, and to assist grant recipients throughout their project. The Flower Hill Institute, a native owned nonprofit based out of the Jemez Pueblo in New Mexico, will serve as the MPPTA Technical Assistance Coordinator for this multi-year program. They are joined by Oregon State University's Niche Meat Processors Assistance Network and the Intertribal Agricultural Council. USDA is also pursuing agreements with the American Association of Meat Processors, the American Meat Science Association, and the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute to expand assistance and provide the depth and capacity needed for meat and poultry projects nationwide.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has updated Growing Opportunity: A Guide to USDA Sustainable Farming Programs. This free, comprehensive, practical guide is for farmers and ranchers who want to better understand which key federal programs offered by USDA can help them meet their needs and support their diversified, sustainable farming operations. The guide includes detailed and concise program summaries, reference links, and key resources related to dozens of USDA programs that are designed to help farmers and ranchers start, maintain, and grow successful operations. It's a resource for current or would-be farmers seeking to access capital, land, infrastructure, or technical assistance; pursue new markets; and/or consider diversification options. The guide includes a matrix to help farmers easily match up their interests, such as value-added programs or cover crops, to programs that might help them, as well as a matrix highlighting programs with prioritized funding for beginning farmers, socially disadvantaged farmers, and military veterans.

The Cornell Program on Agribusiness and Rural Development announces that a new, improved version of the Cornell Meat Price Calculator (MPC) is available online for free use. The MPC, originally launched in May 2018, is a user-friendly online tool that allows farmers to set prices that ensure they reach farm financial goals. The new version, launched in March 2022, allows New York farmers to create a free account and save their data. This way, as their costs change over time, they can revisit the site and make adjustments to their pricing to maintain profitability goals. The MPC offers a user-friendly approach to account for production, processing, and marketing costs and then set prices to reach a profit goal. Cornell will offer workshops across New York on how to use the tool.

University of Illinois Extension and Western Illinois University are collaborating on research into growing ginger as a specialty crop in Illinois. Researchers believe ginger could be a high-value crop that offers high tunnel tomato growers a viable crop rotation. Local demand seems to be strong, with ginger produced in a trial selling out at $24 per pound. High tunnels can get too hot for ginger, however, so researchers are trying caterpillar tunnels replaced with shade cloth as the season progresses. They plan demonstrations and field days to share production best practices, and hope to compile a grower guide.

The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program (NNYADP) has posted the results of 18 high-priority research projects aimed at advancing agricultural environmental conservation and the local foods, dairy, crops, maple, and livestock sectors. The projects were conducted in 2021 with $300,000 in funding from the New York State Legislature, which established the program to develop the potential of the northern New York region to be a farm-based economic powerhouse. The projects included a regional food hub feasibility study; horticultural research on season extension for fruits, vegetables, and berries; investigations into climate adaptability for livestock; and evaluations of European-bred forage crops.

Value Meal: The Benefits of Organic Beef is a new report from The Cornucopia Institute that highlights the latest research on certified organic beef production. It explains the difference between organic and grass-fed beef, describes beef finishing, and showcases the health benefits of organic beef. An accompanying Organic Beef Scorecard that ranks more than 175 brands is designed to help consumers understand and compare beef production practices.

USDA published a final rule in the Federal Register to amend the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances for crops and handling based on public input and October 2019 NOSB recommendations. This final rule provides additional options for organic farms by adding two substances to the list of substances allowed for organic crop production: fatty alcohols as sucker control in organic tobacco production and potassium hypochlorite to treat irrigation water used in organic crop production.

Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association and the Agricultural Justice Project are offering help for farmers in the North Central SARE Region in enacting clear, fair labor policies and practices that improve employee quality of life and retention. The Fair Farms Program allows farmers in the region to complete a confidential 30-minute self-assessment for labor and pricing practices and submit written employment policies. They will then receive an individualized report with resources for strengthening the farm operation. The program is also offering educational events on topics such as creating a health and safety plan on your farm, establishing fair pricing, negotiating and contracting for your price, and establishing best practices for working with employees.

Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) is collaborating with partners to create the Ag Solidarity Network, a platform of knowledge exchange, advancement, and sharing of practices that work for farmers to succeed. The platform will be free for farmers to use and offers an easy and familiar navigational style where users can post pictures, ask questions, and receive notifications. Participating affinity groups and organizations can maintain their own identities and information, but the platform will centralize conversation threads between the various groups and facilitate networking.

California Rangeland Trust has released a short film, "From the Ground Up: Healing Our Planet, Healing Ourselves," that explores how stewarded rangelands restore ecosystems and communities. The seven-minute film features a rancher conservationist who sponsors a PTSD recovery program for veterans on his land, as well as a rancher who recently conserved her family ranch. The film highlights a UC Berkeley scientist whose new study demonstrates the return on investment of protecting ranchland. In addition, Michael Delbar, CEO of the Rangeland Trust, brings home this timely message by sharing what he learned following a devastating wildfire on his family's land in 2018.

Pasa Sustainable Agriculture is beginning a Dairy Grazing Project to help dairy farmers improve, expand, or begin grazing, with the goal of improving water quality in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The project is engaging a team of farmers, service providers, and food businesses in transitioning 10,000 southeastern Pennsylvania acres on 54 dairy farms to a grazing model, with financial support from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The project focuses on lowering purchased inputs, increasing soil health through diversity and managed grazing, and linking farms with premium dairy markets. It will also offer participating farmers financial and business planning services, as well as peer-to-peer mentoring and educational opportunities.

The Administrative Council of the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program recently approved $5.8 million in funding to support 62 projects to conduct applied research, farmer education, and farm advisor training to strengthen sustainable agriculture throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. Projects were awarded through the Research and Education, Research for Novel Approaches in Sustainable Agriculture, Professional Development, and Farmer Grant programs. Highlights of funded projects are available online.

USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service and the State of Montana have finalized a Cooperative Interstate Shipment (CIS) agreement, which provides an opportunity for selected state-inspected meat and poultry processors to ship their products across state lines. Under the CIS agreement, the State of Montana may inspect meat products produced in selected establishments for shipment throughout the United States. With the addition of Montana, 10 states now participate in the program to promote the expansion of business opportunities for state-inspected meat and poultry establishments. The CIS program is limited to states that have established a Meat and Poultry Inspection (MPI) program for products to be shipped solely within the state.

A new study in the journal Earth's Future, led by the University of Massachusetts Amherst, shows that, since Euro-American settlement, agricultural fields in the midwestern U.S. have lost, on average, two millimeters of soil per year. This means the Midwest has lost approximately 57.6 billion metric tons of topsoil since farmers began tilling the soil, 160 years ago. This is nearly double the rate of erosion that the USDA considers sustainable. Furthermore, USDA estimates of erosion are between three and eight times lower than the figures reported in the study. Finally, the study's authors conclude that plowing, rather than the work of wind and water, is the major culprit.

In partnership with the Soil Health Institute, the Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation Center has released a four-video series on soil health in California cotton production systems. The videos relate results from long-term research and grower innovations that revealed the soil-health advantages of no-till production with cover crops. The video series includes an episode on the history of soil health management systems for California cotton, an episode on grower innovations, a report on a 22-year soil research study, and a video that focuses on soil aggregate stability.

USDA Agricultural Marketing Service is establishing the Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program to help states deal with the challenges of supply chain disruptions brought on by the pandemic. Through the LFS program, USDA will award up to $200 million to states for food assistance purchases of domestic local foods for distribution to schools. This program will strengthen the food system for schools by helping to build a fair, competitive, and resilient local food chain, and expand local and regional markets with an emphasis on purchasing from historically underserved producers and processors. Local and regional farmers and ranchers are those within the state or 400 miles of delivery destination. State governments can apply for this funding until June 17, 2022. State governments may also partner with local organizations, including nonprofits, through these non-competitive cooperative agreements.

Midwest GRIT (Grains Resource & Immersive Training) is a program focused on strengthening diverse small and mid-size Midwest food-grade grain farmers. It's a program of Michael Fields Agricultural Institute (MFAI), in partnership with the Artisan Grain Collaborative (AGC) and The Organic Grain Resource and Information Network (OGRAIN). Midwest GRIT supports farmers through three key areas: education, peer-to-peer learning and relationship development, and resource sharing. The program will offer a year-long paid training and peer-to-peer learning exchange to current and aspiring grain farmers in 2022 and 2023. One-third of the farmers selected to participate will be women farmers, and the curriculum will include specific programming designed to support farmers facing gender-specific agricultural and entrepreneurial barriers. Applications for 2022 will be accepted through March 31, 2022.

New York Audubon announced that six New York maple producers have become the first to receive bird-friendly recognition for managing their sugarbushes in ways that provide more resilient bird habitat. These sugarbushes feature young trees and bushes that provide cover, snags that provide nesting sites, and downed trees and woody material on the forest floor. "We believe the Bird-Friendly Maple recognition can be effective in differentiating what we make here in a crowded marketplace of maple syrup. Our hope is to spark interest with customers who understand the values of healthy habitats for birds and other wildlife, and who understand that managing the forest to be more resilient leads to a more premium product," said Mary Jeanne Packer, national sales manager at Mapleland Farms, one of the maple producers recognized.

Researchers reporting in ACS Agricultural Science & Technology have developed a simple, biodegradable ground cover — wax-coated sand — that keeps soil wet and increases crop yields in arid environments. It could offer an alternative to plastic sheeting ground covers that are expensive and create a waste challenge. A thin layer of paraffin wax-coated sand applied on an open field in Saudi Arabia decreased the loss of soil moisture by as much as 50 to 80%. Field trials revealed that tomato, barley, and wheat plants mulched with the new material produced substantially more fruit and grain than those grown in uncovered soil. In addition, the microbial community around the plants' roots and in the soil wasn't negatively impacted by the waxy mulch, according to study results.

A team of researchers from six universities, led by UC Santa Barbara's Samantha Stevenson, found that many regions of the world will enter permanent dry or wet conditions in the coming decades, under modern definitions of drought. "Essentially, we need to stop thinking about returning to normal as a thing that is possible," said Stevenson. This study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests instead measuring drought against a changing background state. "When we talk about being in a drought, the presumption is that eventually the drought will end, and conditions will return to normal," Stevenson said. "But if we're never returning to normal, then we need to adapt all of the ways that we manage water with the expectation that normal will continually be drier and drier every year."

Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) and Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) released the 2022 edition of reports they publish every five years: National Organic Research Agenda (NORA) and State of Organic Seed (SOS). The reports provide comprehensive assessments and recommendations for ensuring the ongoing growth and success of organic farming in the United States. Specifically, NORA details organic research needs with the goal of informing future investments that support the success of organic farmers and ranchers and those transitioning to organic production. SOS details trends in organic seed sourcing, challenges faced by organic seed producers, public investments in organic plant breeding, and more.

USDA has extended the deadlines to apply for the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities funding opportunity after requests from many stakeholders. The deadline for the first funding pool, which encompasses requests from $5 million to $100 million, has been extended until May 6, 2022. The application deadline for the second funding pool, for proposals greater than $250,000 and under $5 million, has been extended to June 10, 2022.

The Massachusetts Coordinated Soil Health Program, a collaborative project spearheaded by American Farmland Trust, announced its first cohort of farmer consultants as part of the Massachusetts Healthy Soils Farmer Consultant Program. The program provides farmers who are newly adopting regenerative agriculture and healthy soils practices with access to farmers who are experts in soil health management systems across scales, areas of ability, and farm products. By identifying early-adopter farmers who are excited to talk to other farmers about soil health (and by compensating them fairly for their time) the program is designed to break down barriers between farmer networks and accelerate the peer-to-peer knowledge exchange. This program is less formal than a traditional farmer mentorship program. Advice-seeking farmers are welcome to reach out with just a few quick questions about a piece of equipment, or they can set up longer appointments to get more in-depth support. The first cohort of farmer consultants includes farmers with vastly different farms, scales, and practices: organic and non-organic, size range from three to 150 acres in cultivation, and a dairy farmer.

Pasa Sustainable Agriculture partnered with Chatham University to study the impact of the pandemic on Pennsylvania farmers across the entire 2020 growing season. Results of their research survey of 300 farmers and interviews with a subset of these farmers were published in the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development. Just under half the farmers (42%) reported a loss of revenue, while over half (58%) reported either no change or an increase in revenue in 2020.

Delaware Farm Bureau reports that its 24-week digital campaign to market the state's specialty crops not only increased consumers' awareness of the benefits of locally grown specialty crops but compelled them to put more Delaware-raised fruits and vegetables in their shopping carts. The campaign spanned two years, running 12 weeks at a time, and was funded through a specialty crop block grant from USDA. Delaware Farm Bureau worked with iHeartMedia, which helped them create eye-catching images that were used on social media platforms, web banners, and on the app. Ads were designed to make consumers more aware of where their food comes from and where they could buy fresh produce near them. A total of 22 edible crops were featured for one week each, and locally grown Christmas trees were featured for two weeks. Survey results indicated 97% of consumers learned more about the crops Delaware Farm Bureau promoted, while 95% percent of the survey participants intended to eat more of the crops and 91% percent said they had eaten more of the particular crop that week after hearing or seeing an ad.

The American Farm Bureau Federation, in partnership with Farm Credit, is seeking entrepreneurs to apply online for the 2023 Farm Bureau Ag Innovation Challenge. This national business competition showcases U.S. startup companies developing innovative solutions to challenges faced by America's farmers, ranchers and rural communities. Farm Bureau is offering $165,000 in startup funds throughout the course of the competition. Applications are open through April 29, 2022. Ten semi-finalist teams will each be awarded $10,000 and a chance to compete to advance to the final round, where four teams will receive an additional $5,000 each. The winning team receives a total of $50,000 and the runner-up at total of $20,000. Entrepreneurs must be members of a county or parish Farm Bureau within their state of residence to qualify as top-10 semi-finalists.

The Organic Center has published a report authored by Jayson Maurice Porter, "Agrochemicals, Environmental Racism, and Environmental Justice in the U.S." The report shows that agrochemicals have shaped these themes in U.S. history through a brief overview of pesticides, people, and places. It's available online, along with a companion lesson plan. Together the lesson and the summary invite readers to investigate the past, present, and future of agrochemical in their own home towns.

USDA announced that it will support additional fertilizer production for American farmers to address rising costs, including the impact of Putin's price hike on farmers, and spur competition. USDA will make available $250 million through a new grant program this summer to support independent, innovative, and sustainable American fertilizer production to supply American farmers. Additionally, to address growing competition concerns in the agricultural supply chain, USDA will launch a public inquiry seeking information regarding seeds and agricultural inputs, fertilizer, and retail markets. Details on the application process will be announced in the summer of 2022, with the first awards expected before the end of 2022.

University of Wisconsin-River Falls agricultural engineering and agricultural engineering technology students are researching ways to make older combines more efficient and improve profitability for smaller farmers. In a project funded by USDA, students developed two methods to potentially make a 1960s Oliver combine more efficient in harvesting with a new header configuration: a series of small brushes bolted to the head auger to help push the wheat grains toward the middle of the auger, and plastic sheeting to help fill the space underneath the auger and prevent loss of grains. "The students are redesigning old equipment to improve the productivity, efficiency, profitability and sustainability of small farms in support of local farming movement toward low carbon footprint circular food production systems," assistant professor Bob Zeng explained.

University of Illinois researchers showed in a published study that new machine-learning methods based on laboratory soil hyperspectral data could provide accurate estimates of soil organic carbon. A press release explains that the study "provides a foundation to use airborne and satellite hyperspectral sensing to monitor surface soil organic carbon across large areas." This would be faster and easier than performing chemical analyses to measure soil organic carbon content, and it works at a large scale.

The University of Kentucky, in cooperation with Iowa State University, Current Cucurbit, Cornell AgriTech, and USDA-NIFA, is conducting a survey to learn about grower experiences using row covers and their willingness to adopt a new row cover approach known as mesotunnels. The study involves evaluating the use of mesotunnels in the eastern portion of the United States for control of the full range of pests and diseases in organic production of cucurbit crops. Cucurbit growers in the eastern United States are invited to participate in the anonymous online survey, whether they have previously used row tunnels or not.

Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) reports that 11 Maine organic dairy farms were offered letters of intent from Organic Valley on March 7, 2022, to supply the cooperative with organic milk. These farms, and 69 others throughout the region, learned in August 2021 that their current buyer, Horizon Organic, would be terminating their contracts, along with the contracts of a total of 89 farms throughout the Northeast. Since then, the farms have received modest concessions from Horizon, but no long-term contract, and some of Maine's 14 farms who did not receive contracts ceased dairy operations or are determining the next steps in their businesses. MOFGA, as part of a coalition of groups in the Northeast, is seeking significant investment in infrastructure, specifically processing infrastructure, in the region to reduce the miles fluid milk travels for processing and packaging.

Ecological Farming Association is honoring this year's Sustie and Justie award winners at the EcoFarm Conference on March 16, 2022. The Steward of Sustainable Agriculture, or "Sustie," honors people who have been actively and critically involved in ecologically sustainable agriculture and have demonstrated their long-term, significant contributions to the well-being of agriculture and the planet. This year's Sustie winners are the Agriculture & Land-Based Training Association (ALBA), David Katz and Karen Van Epen, and Richard Smith. The Advocate of Social Justice or "Justie" award honors outstanding individuals who have been active advocates for social justice as a critical aspect of ecologically-sustainable agriculture and food systems. This year's Justie is awarded to Dr. Isao Fujimoto, who received his award just before his passing earlier this month.

USDA seeks qualified individuals to serve as peer reviewers to evaluate 2501 program (Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program) proposals for fiscal year 2022. The peer review approach brings together diverse individuals who can provide fair, expert, and unbiased evaluation of proposals. The process ensures that grant projects are properly planned, competition is open and fair, proposed budgets are carefully examined, and grant awards are structured to protect the interests of the government. The entire review process will be conducted virtually for approximately three to four weeks. Selected reviewers will receive compensation. If you are interested in serving on the peer review panel, and your affiliated organization is not applying for a 2501 grant, please send your resume and summary of qualifications to no later than April 15, 2022 for consideration.

The latest episode of the Quivira Coalition's Down to Earth podcast series interviews Soil4Climate co-founder Karl Thidemann. In "The Sequestration Solution: Soil," Karl mentions two people who will be keynote speakers in NCAT's upcoming Soil Health Innovations Conference, Alejandro Carillo and David R. Montgomery. To learn more from these cutting-edge experts, you can register for the virtual conference, which takes place March 15-16.

The Soil Carbon Initiative has announced a new Go-To-Market pilot program for 2022, inviting farmers to apply for 100 new spots to benefit from information, market access, networking opportunities, and SCI labeling to verify progress to companies and consumers. The initiative is a commitment and verification program that empowers and incentivizes farmers and the food supply chain to transition acreage to regenerative management. The deadline to apply is April 5, 2022. As part of this program, pilot costs are covered for soil health tests and there is a cost-share for expert regenerative consultants.

USDA will host the first public meeting of the Federal Advisory Committee for Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production on March 23-24, 2022. The public—including urban producers—is encouraged to attend. The new federal advisory committee is part of USDA's efforts to support urban agriculture, creating a network for feedback. Members were announced last month, and include agricultural producers, and representatives from the areas of higher education or extension programs, non-profits, business and economic development, supply chains and financing. To attend the meeting, register by March 18, 2022. Comments and questions should also be submitted by this date. At the meeting, committee members will discuss administrative matters and consult on the National Institute of Food and Agriculture's Notice of Funding Opportunity for the Urban, Indoor and Emerging Agriculture grants.

Maple research from the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program (NNYADP) may suggest a possible advantage of using quarter-inch tubing for sap collection. Pilot testing of the use of quarter-inch tubing to prevent clogging in sap collection lines in 2020 and 2021 produced promising results, though researchers warn that more seasons of testing are needed before they can be confident in the results. Quarter-inch tubing is not currently available in the maple industry, and researchers had to adapt tubing from other industries. "Over time, we would expect quarter-inch tubing would produce higher sap yields than three-sixteenths tubing and would be an alternative tubing option for producers using gravity-driven sap collection systems. The data from these Northern New York trials will tell us if that can be the case," Uihlein Maple Research Forest Director Adam D. Wild said.

The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) awarded funding for a four-year, $1 million project that will explore the connections between soil health, the nutritional value of grains, and human health. Specifically, the research will investigate how soil management practices affect the amino acid content of crops. The collaborative project involves several institutions that have long-term research trials comparing organic and conventional management.

Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education has produced a series of two- to four-page Quick Guides that distill information from SARE and state Extension service how-to publications, bulletins, and project reports. The Quick Guides are designed to be a supplement to the full publications that provides the information in a short, easy-to-digest format. Topics available include hydroponic vegetable beds, mobile chicken housing, preventing soil acidification, barn owls, and cattle selection for grazing.

USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in flocks in several more states: Michigan, Maine, Delaware, New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland, Missouri, and South Dakota. APHIS advises that anyone involved with poultry production from the small backyard to the large commercial producer should review their biosecurity activities to assure the health of their birds. APHIS has materials about biosecurity, including videos, checklists, and a toolkit available online. In addition to practicing good biosecurity, all bird owners should prevent contact between their birds and wild birds and report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to State/Federal officials.

U.S. Agricultural Safety and Health Centers will join Farm Bureau in promoting ag safety during Agricultural Safety Awareness Program (ASAP) Week, March 7-11, 2022. The theme for the event is "Prepare. Prevent. Protect." Different safety topics are the focus of each day: Livestock, Cost of Safety, Disaster Preparedness, Youth Safety, and Equipment Safety. A range of safety resources are available online.

A review of studies on cover crops in dry regions, published in the Soil Science Society of America Journal, showed that benefits of cover crops extend into semi-arid areas. Lead researcher Humberto Blanco, at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and colleagues focused on studies from the semi-arid Great Plains. They looked at ecosystem services including amount of organic carbon in soils, soil microbial properties, weed management, and food crop yields and found that in dry areas, cover crops increased soil organic carbon levels close to 60% of the time. The cover crops also helped suppress weeds and provide feed for livestock. Researchers did note that cover crops can reduce food crops' yields during drought conditions, and they suggested that farmers may decide to plant cover crops only in wetter years, because success with cover crops requires accommodating weather conditions.

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) is bringing its Armed to Farm training back to the Lone Star State. Veterans who want to attend the week-long training in Fredericksburg, Texas, May 16-20, 2022, can apply online until April 8, 2022. Armed to Farm gives veterans and their spouses the opportunity to experience sustainable, profitable small-scale farming enterprises and explore career opportunities in agriculture. At Armed to Farm, participants learn about business planning, budgeting, recordkeeping, marketing, USDA programs, livestock production, fruit and vegetable production, and more. Veterans from Southwestern states will receive selection priority for this training. The event is free for those chosen to attend; lodging, transportation to local farms, and most meals will be provided.

USDA announced its 2022 Notice of Solicitation of Applications (NOSA) for the Value-Added Producer Grant Program (VAPG). Electronic applications will be accepted until April 25, 2022; paper applications must be postmarked by May 2, 2022. VAPG provides competitive grants to individual independent agricultural producers, groups of independent producers, producer-controlled entities, organizations representing agricultural producers, and farmer or rancher cooperatives, to create or expand value-added producer-owned businesses. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has updated its publication Farmers' Guide to Applying for the Value-Added Producer Grant Program. This free, online guide includes all of the information that farmers and ranchers need to know about VAPG to determine if the program is a fit for their operation, including changes made to the program this year.

Farmer Campus and Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) are offering an online course, Farmers Build Fire Resilience. The interactive self-led course provides a toolkit for reducing the human, production, financial, and legal risks from wildfires. The online curriculum is combined with hands-on activities and a live network of fellow producers. Participants garner actionable solutions, deepen understanding, and leave the course with a practical Wildfire Resilience plan.

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) will hold its spring meeting virtually, April 26-28, 2022. The NOSB invites public comment, both written and oral, on its agenda topics. To be considered during the Spring 2022 Meeting, written comments must be received by April 1, 2022. Oral comment speaking slots are limited to the number that can be heard during the two webinar days, which are April 19 and 21, 2022. Registration for these slots is first-come, first-served until comment slots are full. The comment webinar and meeting are open to the public.

Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Services (MOSES) presented Dave Campbell with its Organic Farmer of the Year award at the 33rd annual Organic Farming Conference held during the last week of February. Campbell and his wife, Mary, are the owners and operators of Lily Lake Organic Farm in Maple Park, Illinois. MOSES notes that Campbell is known and admired throughout the Midwest farming community for his work as an exceptional mentor and a vocal advocate for integrity in organic movement. Campbell has been growing small grains, row crops, and forages organically in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin for the past 40 years, and his 224-acre Lily Lake Farm is entirely certified organic.

RAFI-USA's Farmers of Color Network hosted the first episode in a five-part webinar series called Market Readiness, designed for farmers. The first webinar focused on Wholesale Readiness and what farmers can expect as they explore engaging in wholesale markets. The event was recorded and is available to watch online. The Market Readiness series is designed to explore some of the fundamental considerations for farmers seeking to expand their market reach, particularly with wholesale, restaurant, food market, and institutional buyers. The remaining webinars in the series are set for April, June, August, and October.

As part of a larger research study being conducted by Rue Genger and Claire Strader of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, researchers are inviting organic vegetable producers to take a survey on reduced tillage. The online survey takes 10 to 15 minutes to complete and asks about use of reduced tillage methods in organic vegetable production, benefits and obstacles to adopting reduced tillage methods, and grower interest in learning more about reduced tillage.

USDA announced $130 million in supplemental American Rescue Plan Act funding for the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP) for fiscal years 2022 and 2023. In fiscal year 2022, LAMP will receive a total of $97 million in competitive grant funding to help local and regional food entities develop, coordinate and expand producer-to-consumer marketing, local and regional food markets and local food enterprises. The total includes the first $65 million of supplemental ARP funding and $32 million in funds provided through the 2018 Farm Bill. Of the $97 million, LAMP's Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP) will receive $57 million and the Regional Food System Partnerships (RFSP) will receive $40 million. Applications are due May 16, 2022.

NCAT has extended the application deadline for its week-long Armed to Farm training in San Diego, California, until March 11, 2022. Armed to Farm gives veterans and their spouses the opportunity to experience sustainable, profitable small-scale farming enterprises and explore career opportunities in agriculture. At Armed to Farm, participants learn about business planning, budgeting, recordkeeping, marketing, USDA programs, livestock production, fruit and vegetable production, and more. This Armed to Farm training session will take place April 18-22, 2022. The event is free for those chosen to attend. Veterans from Western states will receive selection priority for this training.

NCAT is a project partner in the Montana Farm to School Institute, a year-long program intended to ignite, grow, and sustain farm to school action within Montana schools and communities by providing training and support, and facilitating team building and action planning. The goal of the Institute is for farm to school teams representing Montana schools or school districts to develop one-year farm to school action plans which will be implemented during the 2022-2023 school year. Three school districts will be selected from across the state to participate in this first year. Each team, ranging from four to eight members of the school community, will be assigned a trained Farm to School Coach who will help facilitate the process of developing an action plan. The Institute kicks off with a three-day Summer Retreat from August 16-18, 2022, at Chico Hot Springs. Applications to participate in the program are due by March 25, 2022.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking the next step to discontinue use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos on food by denying objections to EPA's rule revoking all chlorpyrifos tolerances. Previously, chlorpyrifos was used for a large variety of agricultural uses, including soybeans, fruit and nut trees, broccoli, cauliflower, and other row crops. It has been found to inhibit an enzyme, which leads to neurotoxicity, and has also been associated with potential neurodevelopmental effects in children. A final rule revoking all chlorpyrifos tolerances on food was issued in August 2021, and after a period to file objections, EPA is denying all objections, hearing requests, and requests to stay the final rule. After considering public comments, EPA will proceed with registration review for the remaining non-food uses, which may propose additional measures to reduce human health and ecological risks.

The current episode of California Rangeland Trust's monthly podcast, Tuned in to the Land, addresses conservation easements. In this episode, Rangeland Trust CEO and host Michael Delbar is joined by Rangeland Trust Conservation Director, Jackie Flatt, as they explore what conservation easements are, what they are not, and some of the most common reasons why ranchers may be inspired to permanently protect their working lands.

USDA Economic Research Service has published Cover Practice Definitions and Incentives in the Conservation Reserve Program. The report explores the tradeoff between quality and cost for Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) participants and USDA. This study examines recently developed data on the costs of cover practices to demonstrate how CRP's use of ranking points in the Environmental Benefits Index ranking tool and cost-share payments combine to incentivize some participants to adopt higher public-benefit practices. Based on the observed relationship between practices choices and costs, the study predicts how changes to the program costs and point system could influence the cover practices chosen by program participants.

Equitable Food Initiative (EFI) is celebrating National Farmworker Awareness Week March 25-31, 2022, by encouraging growers, agricultural associations, state agriculture agencies, food companies, retailers, and consumers to share messages honoring the farmworkers who give Americans access to high-quality, fresh, and safe food every day of the year. Farmworker Awareness Week is a designated opportunity for communities to bring attention to the millions of essential workers who grow, care for, harvest, pack, and ship agricultural products. It highlights the important contributions they make to the food supply chain. Everyone in the supply chain can participate by sharing the key messages and graphics provided in EFI's free communications toolkit.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published a feature on Deep Grass Graziers, a southeast Georgia cattle farm where Dan Glenn practices regenerative agriculture. Glenn described how he altered his focus from cattle to forages to soil health in order to foster a healthy production system. Having the right cattle is also important, however. Glenn explained how he selected cattle suited to grass finishing. He also incorporated a pivot system for irrigation into his grazing plan.

A study published in Soil Science Society of America Journal explored whether best management practices for increasing soil organic matter increased crop yields when they were applied on-farm. Although many studies have shown that increases in organic matter can increase crop yield, results from greenhouses and test plots don't always apply at the farm scale. However, this study in the Midwest compiled data from 170 corn fields from 49 different farms to show that there is a positive relationship between the amount of soil organic matter and crop yields. The study also revealed that continuously corn-cropped fields were higher in organic matter, but fields that had more crop rotation delivered higher yields.

Researchers at North Carolina State University have found that soybean crops planted near pollinator habitat produce larger soybeans than soybean crops that are not planted near pollinator habitat, according to a press release. The study compared soybean fields with wildflower seed mixes planted adjacent to them to fields with habitat at least a kilometer distant from them. Fields with habitat nearby had more species of bees. The researchers also found that bees in the soybean fields located far from pollinator habitats were often leaving the soybean fields to visit flowers completely outside of the study area. Bees in soybean fields that were adjacent to the pollinator habitat were less likely to leave the study area.

A study published in the Journal of Applied Ecology by University of California, Davis, scientists shows that farms with surrounding natural habitat experience the most benefits from wild birds. According to study results, when farms are surrounded by natural habitat, wild birds are less likely to carry foodborne pathogens and eat crops. Although the study ranked birds on whether they were likely to provide costs or benefits to farms, it also revealed that most species could bring either costs or benefits, depending on how the farm landscape was managed. The presence of natural habitat was the single most important factor in determining birds to be a net benefit.

Texas A&M AgriLife scientists are involved in a project that is exploring the performance of guar as a rotation crop with wheat. The study's long-term goal is to increase and stabilize guar production in the United States and increase the sustainability of wheat cropping systems in the Southern Great Plains region. Guar is a legume, which means its roots can associate with Rhizobium bacteria in the soil to convert atmospheric nitrogen into fertilizer for the plant and soil. It's adapted to the semi-arid conditions of Texas and is among the most drought-tolerant crop plants, with relatively low water use. This project is focused on quantifying the performance of guar, developing improved varieties that can reduce the need for fertilizer on other crops in rotation and shorten the season, and identifying the best inoculant to use with guar.

USDA is making available up to $215 million in grants and other support to expand meat and poultry processing options, strengthen the food supply chain, and create jobs and economic opportunities in rural areas. USDA Rural Development will make $150 million available in grants to fund startup and expansion activities in the meat and poultry processing sector. USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) will provide another $40 million for workforce development and training, and the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will provide $25 million to offer technical assistance to grant applicants and others seeking resources related to meat and poultry processing.

Wall Meat Processing in Wall, South Dakota, took the initiative to begin a farm to school program that brings local beef to South Dakota schools, reports Tri-State Neighbor. South Dakota Beef to Schools officially launched in 2019, and now 14 South Dakota school districts participate the program. Although the pilot program ran on producer donations, now producers have the option of donating or selling at market rate. School food service buyers appreciate the opportunity to purchase nutritious, local meat and are sometimes able to adjust budgets to prioritize local purchasing even when it's more expensive.

According to the National Hemp Report released by USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the value of hemp production nationally was $834 million in 2021. Data gathered through the 2021 Hemp Acreage and Production Survey indicated that planted area for industrial hemp grown in the open for all utilizations in the United States totaled 54,152 acres. Area harvested for all utilizations totaled 33,480 acres. The value of U.S. hemp production in the open totaled $712 million. Meanwhile, the value of production for hemp that was grown under protection in the United States totaled $112 million, grown in an area that totaled 15.6 million square feet. Floral hemp production was estimated at 19.7 million pounds, hemp grown for grain totaled 4.37 million pounds, hemp grown for fiber was estimated at 33.2 million pounds, and hemp grown for seed was estimated at 1.86 million pounds.

University of Michigan Extension has released Bulletin E-3423: Farm Management Experience Resource Guide, a publication intended to assist beginning farmers in better understanding and demonstrating management experience. The publication explores what sets management experience apart from knowledge gained as a farm laborer and reviews how you can gain experience regardless of whether you currently work on a farm or are starting a new business. Management experience can be required to access services and to gain eligibility for some USDA programs. This bulletin is part of Michigan State University's Beginning Farmers DEMaND (Developing and Educating Managers and New Decision-makers) series. This series of publications is designed to help beginning farmers learn about financial and business management strategies that will assist them in developing into the next managers and decision-makers on the farm.

A new Land Stewardship Project (LSP) billboard campaign promoting the power of building healthy soil on southern Minnesota farms utilizes striking photos, inspiring quotes, and humor to get across the benefits of utilizing cover cropping, managed rotational grazing, no-till, and diverse rotations to build resilient, biologically healthy soil. The campaign was inspired by the eight farmers who sit on the group's Soil Builders' Network steering committee. "Part of the message we're trying to get across is that building healthy soil is not only good for the land and a farmer's bottom line, but is a fun way to take control and build resiliency when it comes to raising crops and livestock," said Shona Snater, who directs LSP's soil health program. One eye-catching and humorous sign, which was posted in collaboration with Practical Farmers of Iowa, features a farmer's bare legs and the phrase, "Don't Farm Naked: Plant Cover Crops."

USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has confirmed highly pathogenic avian influenza in more states during the past week. It was confirmed in a flock of commercial broiler chickens in Kentucky, a mixed backyard flock in Virginia, and in non-poultry flocks in New York and Maine. Anyone involved with poultry production from the small backyard to the large commercial producer should review their biosecurity activities to assure the health of their birds. APHIS has materials about biosecurity, including videos, checklists, and a toolkit, available online.

Compostable molded pulp packaging products are becoming increasingly popular, but the recycled newspaper that has traditionally been used to make them is becoming less available. Oregon State University researchers explored whether apple pomace, the waste left when juice is extracted, could be used as the basis of a packaging material. The research also explored using other fruit and vegetable processing byproducts. The researchers concluded that fruit pomace could be a feasible source of fiber for packaging, and they also explored additives that would make the packaging more water-resistant while still being compostable.

Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC) and the Native American Agriculture Fund (NAAF) are working together to gather critical input from Native American U.S. military veterans working in the agricultural industry. They have an online survey open through March 7, 2022. The questionnaire aims to understand how Native veterans are involved in food production and agriculture; the financial, business, and technical needs of Native veterans and Native food entrepreneurs; and how to connect Native veteran farmers, ranchers, fishers, and growers more seamlessly with NAAF grantees to realize the vision and mission of NAAF. American Indian or Alaska Natives who are veterans or currently serving members of the U.S. Armed Forces are eligible to complete the survey. The first 200 Native farmer veterans to complete the survey will receive a limited edition co-branded FVC/NAAF challenge coin.

Practical Farmers of Iowa's new Farm Business Coaching Assistance program aims to help farmers strengthen their businesses through in-depth consultations with experts. The program includes an assessment of your current marketing and business practices between June and September 2022, followed by five months of growth opportunity coaching and interaction with a peer network. Applications are being accepted through March 28, from current farmers in Iowa and surrounding states who have five years of experience farming on their own and are members of the organization.

National Young Farmers Coalition is joining other agricultural justice organizations to conduct the most inclusive survey of young and BIPOC farmers to date. The National Young Farmer Survey is conducted every five years to present an up-to-date picture of the challenges and promises of the next generation in agriculture. Current or former farmers or farmworkers nationwide are invited to complete the online survey.

New Entry Sustainable Farming Project, Farm Commons, and Land-Grant Extension programs in New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Vermont are collaborating to develop innovative farm labor models. They're seeking input from mid-scale diversified fruit and vegetable farmers, farm employees, and farm workers in New England and New York who practice sustainable growing methods and who market products directly to consumers or engage in wholesale/institutional markets. Complete an online survey for farm owners or farm workers.

A study published in the journal Peer J offers results of a preliminary comparison of soil health and nutrient density between conventional and regenerative farms. The study, reported by lead author David R. Montgomery, paired farms across the United States that had been conventionally or regeneratively farmed for five to 10 years. Regenerative farms that combined no-till, cover crops, and diverse rotations produced crops with higher soil organic matter levels, soil health scores, and levels of certain vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Also, a comparison of wheat from adjacent regenerative and conventional no-till fields in northern Oregon found a higher density of mineral micronutrients in the regenerative crop. Additionally, regenerative grazing practices produced meat with a better fatty acid profile than conventional and regional health-promoting brands.

A study led by the University of Washington found that adding trees to pastureland in the tropics, or silvopasture, can cool local temperatures by up to 4.3° F for every four tons of woody material added per acre, depending on the density of tree plantings. The finding could help farmers in tropical climates adapt to rising temperatures by providing natural cooling for pastures. Researchers found that the effect holds true at all scales. The study also identified areas worldwide that could gain the most by practicing silvopasture.

Farm Journal's Trust In Food and Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture released the 2022 edition of their State of Sustainable Ag report, highlighting perspectives of 500 U.S. row-crop producers on pathways and barriers to accelerating conservation adoption. Research conducted by Field to Market in December 2021 showed that progress across five key environmental indicators has largely plateaued in the last decade. The report provides actionable insights and underscores the importance of blended solutions that give equal consideration to financial incentives, technical assistance, and tailored Human Dimensions cultural support to accelerate on-farm climate impact.

The nonprofit Sustainable Northwest has received a grant of nearly $489,000 from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust for a new regenerative ranching program, reports Oregon Capital Chronicle. More than 100 ranching members of the Country Natural Beef marketing cooperative, representing 6.5 million acres, have signed up for the program. The regenerative ranching program will offer planning assistance and provide verification that participants are using regenerative practices such as rotational grazing and forage management to capture carbon. Sustainable Northwest anticipates that participants will be able to receive a price premium for products that are certified as produced using regenerative practices.

Research by Oregon State University is shedding light on the diversity and habits of native bees, reports the Capital Press. Understanding where bees occur and what plants they interact with can provide farmers with insight about how to support native bee populations, which can lead to improved pollination for farmers, as well as greater biodiversity on farms. Trained volunteers have helped compile the Oregon Bee Atlas, to provide a better understanding of the bee species in the state which flowers they visit.

A new University of Maine Cooperative Extension publication, Tarping in the Northeast: A Guide for Small Farms, provides the most up-to-date information on an emerging practice of tarping—applying reusable tarps to the soil surface between crops and then removing them prior to planting—for weed and soil management. Intended for beginning and experienced farmers, and based on research and farmer experience, the guide highlights successful tarping practices, as well as situations to avoid. Topics include basic information on how and why tarps work in the field; a range of management practices, from weed seed depletion to tillage reduction; and case studies of six farmers currently using tarps.

Research led by UCLA and published in the journal Nature Climate Change reveals that the 22-year megadrought gripping the American Southwest is the driest since at least the year 800. Models show that climate change is adding to the severity of the drought with higher temperatures that increase evaporation. This effect turns a dry period into the most extreme dry period in more than 1,200 years. Scientists say that one wet year will not be enough to turn around drought conditions, and they advise long-term conservation strategies to ensure that water will be available in the future, as climate change continues to exacerbate droughts.

Purdue University's Center for Food Demand Analysis and Sustainability has introduced a new, monthly Consumer Food Insights Report. It includes a new Sustainable Food Purchasing Index that offers insight into how sustainability and health relate to consumer behaviors. It is a self-reported assessment of how consumer shopping habits correspond with healthy diets from sustainable food systems. The Sustainable Food Purchasing Index value for January is 67/100. The score reflects consumer food purchasing that aligns with a set of key recommendations for healthy diets from sustainable food systems. The index includes six components correlating with different strategies for achieving food system transformation: nutrition, environment, social, economic, security, and taste.

SARE's newest book, Manage Weeds on Your Farm: A Guide to Ecological Strategies, examines the biology and behavior of common weeds and provides an integrated set of non-chemical control strategies that exploits their weaknesses. The publication will help organic and conventional farmers alike better understand and manage weeds efficiently, effectively, and ecologically. It profiles five farmers who use the physical, ecological, and biological factors of common weeds to develop science-based management strategies appropriate for their operations. Manage Weeds on Your Farm: A Guide to Ecological Strategies is free to read online or to download as a PDF.

USDA Economic Research Service released Organic Feed Grains and Livestock: Factors That Influence Outcomes in Thinly Traded Markets, a report that assesses the competition in the organic dairy, beef, and feed inputs markets. The report reveals that even as organic products have become more widely available, most organic growers in the United States still participate in niche markets. Despite an increase in organic production and market information, growers continue to face challenges related to thin markets. The full report is available online.

In Minnesota, a Statewide Cooperative Partnership for Local and Regional Markets led by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) and University of Minnesota is surveying small-, mid-sized- and emerging farmers on direct sales. Producers are asked to share their experiences operating farms and selling in direct-to-consumer and direct-to-institution markets such as farmers markets, U-Pick, CSAs, and schools. Results will help identify market trends and opportunities, support the development of programs and services such as the MDA's Minnesota Grown program, and strengthen recommendations to the Minnesota Legislature to support historically underrepresented and under-supported farmers.

Sand County Foundation and national sponsor American Farmland Trust present the Leopold Conservation Award to private landowners in 23 states for extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation. Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the award recognizes those who inspire others with their dedication to land, water, and wildlife habitat management on private, working land. Sponsors and application requirements vary by state, but the award is typically $10,000 in each participating state. Nominations may be submitted on behalf of a landowner, or landowners may nominate themselves. Nominations have recently opened in New Mexico, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Missouri, Utah, and California.

Agricultural producers who have coverage under most crop insurance policies are eligible for a premium benefit from USDA if they planted cover crops during the 2022 crop year, says USDA Risk Management Agency. To receive the benefit from this year's Pandemic Cover Crop Program (PCCP), producers must report cover crop acreage by March 15, 2022. PCCP helps farmers maintain their cover crop systems, despite the financial challenges posed by the pandemic. It's part of USDA's Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative, a bundle of programs to bring financial assistance to farmers, ranchers and producers who felt the impact of COVID-19 market disruptions. The premium support is $5 per acre, but no more than the full premium amount owed. All cover crops reportable to FSA are eligible, including cereals and other grasses, legumes, brassicas and other non-legume broadleaves, and mixtures of two or more cover crop species planted at the same time.

USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) confirmed highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in wild birds in several states in the Atlantic Flyway in January as well as in a commercial turkey flock in Indiana on February 8, 2022. APHIS is expanding wild bird surveillance for avian influenza to include the Mississippi and Central Flyways. APHIS advises that anyone involved with poultry should review their biosecurity plan and enhance their biosecurity practices to ensure the health of their birds. In addition to practicing good biosecurity, all bird owners should prevent contact between their birds and wild birds and report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to state/federal officials, either through their state veterinarian or through USDA's toll-free number at 866-536-7593.

A study by Penn State University is one of the first to link soil disturbance with negative human health effects. Researchers found that soil tillage may reduce the availability in crops of ergothioneine (ERGO), an amino acid produced by certain types of soil-borne fungi and bacteria that is known as a "longevity vitamin" due to its potent antioxidant properties. "Research suggests that a lack of ergothioneine in the diet may result in increased incidences of chronic diseases of aging, such as Parkinson's Disease and Alzheimer's Disease, and reduced life expectancy," notes Robert Beelman, professor emeritus of food science. This research found that ERGO concentrations in grain crops declined as tillage intensity increased.

Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection announced the award of a total of $1 million in Producer-Led Watershed Protection Grants to 36 farmer groups. The grants range from $3,250 to $40,000 for conservation practice incentives, education and outreach, on-farm demonstrations, and water quality testing and monitoring efforts. Producer-Led Watershed Protection Grants give financial support to farmers willing to lead conservation efforts in their own watersheds. The emphasis is on innovation and practices not already covered by other state and federal programs, and the intent is that participating farmers will help other farmers adopt conservation practices by offering incentives and through peer-to-peer education and outreach activities. Groups must partner with a county land conservation department, UW-Extension, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, or another nonprofit conservation organization on their projects.

Corteva Agriscience announced an expansion of the Corteva Carbon Initiative to 17 new states and two new qualifying crop types. Newly approved states include Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and Virginia. The Initiative has also expanded its list of eligible crops to include peanuts and sugar beets. Participating farmers use Corteva's Granular Insights tool to log their practices and measure their impact, generating carbon credits with Carbon by Indigo.

USDA has announced the members of its newly established Equity Commission. The 15-member commission and its Subcommittee on Agriculture will provide recommendations to the Secretary on policies, programs, and actions needed to address equity issues, including racial equity issues, within the Department and its programs, including strengthening accountability and providing recommendations to the Secretary on broader and more systemic equity issues at USDA. USDA plans to launch an additional Subcommittee focused on rural community and economic development. Lists of the Equity Commission members and Subcommittee members are available online.

In Portland, Oregon, farmers of color are organizing a network to build support amongst themselves as well as in the broader community, reports the Portland Tribune. One of the group's efforts was a two-day networking fair to connect local Black and brown farmers to potential buyers. Attendees included food buyers from restaurants and community organizations, as well as individuals. Participants in the fair say that it offered an opportunity to meet new buyers and to connect with other farmers of color and benefit from their knowledge.

Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture released a report titled Financial Innovations to Accelerate Sustainable Agriculture: Blueprints for the Value Chain, highlighting the need for innovative financial mechanisms and incentive strategies to accelerate the transition to sustainable agriculture. The report provides 12 tangible blueprints and case studies for value chain actors to follow for overcoming key barriers to farmer adoption of conservation practices, moving beyond early adopters, and addressing the agronomic and financial risk farmers face. The report's recommendations for financial innovations include blended finance, sustainable finance, transition risk sharing, pay for performance, and leasing incentives.

USDA is seeking stakeholder feedback on regulatory priorities for the development of clear organic standards that support a level playing field and market development. A listening session to gather input virtually is scheduled for March 21, 2022, from 1:00-3:00 pm Eastern Time. The deadline to sign up to make oral comments during the virtual meeting is February 28, 2022. The deadline to submit written comments is March 30, 2022. USDA believes including a variety of perspectives in developing NOP priorities will lead to a regulatory agenda that best supports all those it serves.

USDA is soliciting nominations for membership to its National Agricultural Research, Extension, Education, and Economics (NAREEE) Advisory Board and its committees. The NAREEE Board is comprised of 15 members representing a specific category of U.S. agricultural stakeholders, and the Board's three committees include the Specialty Crop Committee (SCC), Citrus Disease Subcommittee (CDS), and National Genetic Resources Advisory Council (NGRAC). USDA expects to appoint or reappoint approximately 15 new Board and committee members in October 2022. Self-nominations are welcomed. Nominations are due by September 30, 2022.

The CSA Innovation Network, a national network for local CSA farms, announced that CSA Week will take place February 20-26, 2022. The national event provides an opportunity to promote CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Farmers, farmer support organizations, and CSA enthusiasts across the country will be working together to raise awareness of CSA and promote CSA signups. The CSA Innovation Network is providing a free packet of digital tools to help farmers promote their CSAs during this special week, which is available to people who sign up on the Network's website. The CSA Week Participant map on the Network's website will provide a visual of all the participating farmers and farm support organizations across the country.

Vermont's governor has released the report of the Commission on the Future of Vermont Agriculture, a 12-member citizen committee appointed to explore ways to grow the state's food economy. The Commission’s report provides recommendations to stimulate rural Vermont farm and food production and provide better access to local food. In creating the report, the Commissioners shared their ideas, and tapped the expertise of young farmers, members of the public, and organizations working on environmentally sound farming practices, climate adaptation and resilience, and diversity. Among the report's conclusions: agriculture is a principal engine for Vermont's rural economy and Vermont food and agriculture needs to grow, attract new and diverse farmers and workers, and adapt.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) unveiled a new website that serves agricultural producers and small to mid-sized food and beverage companies in Oregon who want to grow and become more successful. The site includes the Oregon Harvests for Schools Program website, which offers a toolkit of resources to help producers get started selling Oregon products in the ODE Farm to Child Nutrition Program, as well as other resources to help agricultural producers market to schools.

USDA's Food and Nutrition Service is hiring additional Farm to School Regional Leads in seven different locations across the country. Farm to School Regional Leads help deepen and broaden farm to school across their respective regions. They manage USDA Farm to School grants, build capacity and connectivity among state agency and extension partners, support networks, provide training and technical assistance to a variety of stakeholders, and help disseminate research and best practices. Applications will be accepted until February 15, 2022.

USDA announced a new Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities program that will finance pilot projects that create market opportunities for U.S. agricultural and forestry products that use climate-smart practices and include innovative, cost-effective ways to measure and verify greenhouse gas benefits. USDA defines a climate-smart commodity as an agricultural commodity that is produced using agricultural (farming, ranching, or forestry) practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions or sequester carbon. Funding will be provided to partners through the USDA's Commodity Credit Corporation for pilot projects to provide incentives to producers and landowners. Applications will be due April 8, 2022, for proposals from $5 million to $100 million.

USDA announced the appointment of four new members to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). The new members will serve 5-year terms on the 15 member board. New appointees are Liz Graznak of Missouri in an an environmental protection and resource conservation seat, Allison Johnson of California in a public interest or consumer interest group seat, Dr. Dilip Nandwani of Tennessee in the scientist seat, and Javier Zamora of California in a farmer seat.

A study by University of Georgia researchers showed that a greenhouse lighting system that optimized lighting based on a predictive model saved farmers 33% on electric lighting costs during the spring. The system generates the most savings while the sun is shining. Researchers say it could save even more money when variable energy costs are considered, as well. "The electricity used for the lights is anywhere from 10% to 30% of the cost of running a greenhouse," professor Marc Van Iersel said. "Our research began with the idea that, if we can reduce this cost, we can very quickly have an impact on the efficiency and sustainability of greenhouses."

The University at Buffalo's Veggie Van team has received $750,000 from USDA to support the expansion of the Veggie Van Training Center and the Mobile Market Coalition, resources that are used by mobile markets across the country. The USDA funding will allow the Veggie Van team to work with mobile market leaders across the country to develop and implement a strategic plan and charter for the Mobile Market Coalition to connect and support mobile market operators, while establishing standards of operation and promoting best practices. In addition, it will support the Mobile Market Summit for the next three years. The grant will also go toward expanding the Veggie Van Training Center to provide training and technical assistance for new and established mobile markets through the Veggie Van Toolkit, which offers step-by-step instructions for starting and running a mobile produce market.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists have developed a custom microscope to image microbes in soil and plants at the micrometer scale. Live imaging of microbes in soil would help scientists understand how soil microbial processes occur on the scale of micrometers, where microbial cells interact with minerals, organic matter, plant roots, and other microorganisms. The approach the LLNL team developed enables a strong signal for general microbe, plant and mineral imaging; high contrast, label-free chemical imaging that can target diagnostic biomolecules and minerals; very strong signals from specific minerals and some biomolecules; and higher information content, deeper penetration, less scattering, and less photodamage compared to confocal microscopy. Using this instrument, the team imaged symbiotic arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi structures within unstained plant roots in 3D to 60 μm depth. The research appears in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

Purdue University assistant professor Laura Ingwell is leading a $3.7 million USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture project on high tunnel growing. The four-year project involves researchers from multiple institutions, who will work with farmers across the Midwest to collect data from different types of high tunnels in a variety of locations and growing different crops. The project will lead to integrated pest management and crop management recommendations, as well as an online tool to help farmers decide whether an investment in an integrated pest management strategy or crop diversification will be profitable.

USDA and the U.S. Department of Justice have launched a new online tool,, to let farmers and ranchers anonymously report potentially unfair and anticompetitive practices in the livestock and poultry sectors. The agencies are signing an interagency Memorandum of Understanding to further foster cooperation and communication between the agencies and effectively process the complaints received through the portal. "This new online tool will help USDA and the Justice Department address anticompetitive actions and create livestock and poultry markets that are fairer to our nation’s producers," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "I encourage producers who are aware of potential violations of competition laws to submit information to the portal so we can take appropriate action to create more competitive markets in the agricultural sector."

USDA announced the 12 members selected to serve on the inaugural Secretary's Advisory Committee for Urban Agriculture to provide input on policy development and to help identify barriers to urban agriculture. The Committee is made up of agricultural producers, and representatives from the areas of higher education or extension programs, non-profits, business and economic development, supply chains and financing. The new members will serve terms of one to three years. The first meeting of the committee will be open to the public and will take place in late February. More details will be available in the Federal Register and at and the new Federal Advisory Committee for Urban Agriculture website at

USDA published a proposed rule in the Federal Register to amend the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances, which identifies the synthetic substances allowed and the natural substances prohibited in organic farming. The proposed changes are based on October 2020 and April 2021 recommendations from the National Organic Standards Board. This proposed rule would allow paper pots for use as a planting aid in organic crop production; allow low-acyl gellan gum for use as a thickener, gelling agent, or stabilizer in organic food processing; and correct a spelling error on the National List to change "wood resin" to "wood rosin." USDA welcomes comments on the proposed amendments. The 62-day comment period will close on April 4, 2022.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) awarded nearly $2.9 million in 2021 USDA Specialty Crop Block Grants to 24 recipients across the state. The grant program aims to boost the competitiveness of specialty crops grown in Minnesota through marketing and promotion, research, and development, expanding availability and access, and addressing challenges confronting producers. Funded projects address disease-resistant hops, specialty crop marketing, hybrid hazelnut rooting, and consumption of microgreens and enriched sprouts in Native American Communities, among other topics. A list of funded projects is available online.

SunCommon is offering a new program to Organic Valley farmers in Vermont, to help them go solar with zero upfront costs. According to a press release, the program provides Organic Valley farmer-members with financing for renewable energy projects, including solar. Farmers benefit from a fully-funded solar installation with no upfront costs. They then reap the rewards of their solar energy system, including an offset of almost all of their electricity usage and credits on their utility bills.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will be holding two virtual public meetings on the recently released proposed rule "Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption Relating to Agricultural Water." The purpose of the public meetings is to discuss the proposed rule, which was issued under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. These public meetings are intended to facilitate and support the public's evaluation and commenting process on the proposed rule. The meetings are set for February 14, 2022, 11:45 am - 7:45 pm EST and for February 25, 2022, 8:45 am - 4:45 pm EST. Registration is required to attend.

A team of researchers led by scientists at Lancaster University explored the food production potential of urban green spaces throughout Britain. The research team used Ordnance Survey master maps to identify outdoor urban green spaces and calculated the productive potential of these areas using figures from existing domestic agriculture. The researchers considered all urban green spaces as potentially suitable for agriculture, as a means of defining the outer limits of urban food production. The study found if all urban green spaces were converted to food production, and used efficiently, they would collectively have the capacity to support food output eight times that of the current UK fruit and vegetable production. "We found that urban green spaces are significantly under-used for food growing and that there is huge untapped capacity in our towns and cities for people to grow more given support through targeted national policies. This could prove to be beneficial for improving access to healthier foods as well as boosting wellbeing through better connectedness to nature," commented the study's lead author.

USDA is making $72.9 million available through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) to fund innovative projects designed to support the expanding specialty crop sector and explore new market opportunities for U.S. food and agricultural products. The SCBGP funds are allocated to U.S. states and territories based on a formula that considers both specialty crop acreage and production value. Applications from the states and territories must be submitted by May 3, 2022. Individual specialty crop producers should apply directly through their state departments of agriculture. ATTRA posts notices of open state-level Specialty Crop Block Grant Programs on the Funding Opportunities page.