Latest News

The California Department of Food and Agriculture's Fertilizing Materials Inspection Program and California State Organic Program announced that a penalty of $1.89 million has been issued to the Florida company Agro Research International LLC, for adulteration and mislabeling of the registered organic input material AGRO GOLD WS. The product was found to contain the synthetic herbicides diquat and glyphosate.

A feature in The Prairie Star relates Montana rancher Dale Veseth's 15-point drought-planning strategy. North Central Montana is in the second year of a drought that has challenged ranchers in stewarding resources while staying in business. Veseth presented his plan, which includes use of federal programs, careful resource management, and innovations, at a recent conference.

A feature in Farm & Ranch Guide introduces the practice of agrivoltaics, or farming under solar panels. The article discusses options for agriculture under solar arrays, including dairy and sheep grazing, beekeeping, and horticultural or forage crops. Pollinator habitat under solar panels can also be beneficial to neighboring crop fields. This feature discusses some of the considerations involved in agrivoltaics and presents the concept of low-impact solar development that can make it easier to implement agrivoltaics.

The North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NCR-SARE) Program announced that it is awarding more than $745,000 in Farmer Rancher grants to 42 projects. This competitive grants program supports farmers and ranchers who want to explore sustainable solutions to problems through on-farm research, demonstration, and education projects. A complete list of funded projects is available online. They span topics ranging from agroforestry to aquaponics, perennial grains, and local food systems.

The Farm Equity Office at the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is seeking three external reviewers for a review panel as part of the application process for a new grant program: the Beginning Farmer and Farmworker Training and Workforce Development Program (BFFTP). This program is designed to provide support to organizations to enhance or expand beginning farmer and farmworker training/apprenticeship programs. The overall goal of the program is to ensure that resources are dedicated to strengthening support for socially disadvantaged and/or beginning farmers and ranchers in the first ten years of business, and farmworkers who need job skills training to provide job sustainability. The external technical review panel will consist of members of the public who have expertise working with socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers and/or farmworker training/workforce development programs as outlined in the funding track(s) they review. Technical review panel applications will be accepted through July 15, 2022.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) announced the award of $66 million in grants from its Healthy Soils Program to a total of 940 projects. The projects aim to improve soil health, sequester carbon, and reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases. The selected projects will have an estimated impact across more than 82,000 acres of California farm and ranchland and will provide an annual projected greenhouse gas emissions reduction of more than 250,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.

University of Illinois Extension commercial agriculture educators are working with hemp producers to source field data and provide cutting-edge research through the Midwestern Hemp Database. Producers have until July 24, 2022, to apply to participate in the program for the 2022 growing season. Participating hemp producers submit information about their crop and university staff analyze and share that data with the public. In exchange for their involvement, growers receive discounted cannabinoid testing through private laboratories, ranging from $35 to $40 per sample.

USDA Food and Nutrition Service's (FNS) Farm to School Program has released a revised Procuring Local Foods for Child Nutrition Programs Guide, which provides an overview of federal procurement principles and covers topics related to sourcing and purchasing local foods for State agencies and child nutrition program operators. The guide highlights a variety of mechanisms schools can use to purchase local products while staying in accordance with federal procurement regulations. The guide features examples of how to target local foods when conducting both formal and informal procurements, use the Geographic Preference option, and use the USDA Foods and DoD Fresh Programs to enhance local purchasing.

University of Illinois Extension released a new, six-page guide for producers, gardeners, and home owners, How to Handle Pesticide Drift Complaints. The publication explains what pesticide drift is and what to do when it has occurred. It details the roles of Extension and of the Illinois Department of Agriculture in drift cases and lays out the drift complaint process in Illinois.

A study published in Urban Agriculture & Regional Food Systems Journal by Purdue University researchers found that leaf-mold compost can have particular benefits for degraded urban soil. The high-quality leaf-mold compost takes longer to develop than stirred compost, but researchers found that leaf mold compost promoted colonization by beneficial fungi and contributed disease suppression. Tomatoes grown in this study produced more and had less disease in soil amended with leaf-mold compost. Researchers suggest that these study results support the diversion of more urban leaf waste for compost production.

Scientists from Colorado State University and the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory published the results of their study on optimizing land-management tactics to produce more corn and soy while also reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and increasing carbon storage in the soil. Life cycle analysis showed that farmers could repurpose 30% of corn stover for biofuel, plant cover crops, and reduce tillage after the growing season to attain sustainable intensification.

A new, free, online tool is available to help agricultural producers assess the effects of different management practices on soil health. The Soil Health Matrix Decision Tool was developed by the Soil Health Nexus. Producers who are considering implementing a new soil health practice on their operation can use this comparative tool to learn which practices benefit soil health and are the best fit for their operation. The tool includes four practices: tillage, manure, cover crops, and crop rotation, as well as two complementary practices: controlled traffic and managed grazing, evaluated by means of eight soil health indicators. Users can select their current practices and then select any practices that they are considering implementing on their operation to compare the soil health scores. The tool also includes a future considerations table that breaks down the equipment, time and labor, skill level, and cost for implementing new practices.

The University of Minnesota published a feature on Tiffany LaShae, a graduate student in its Land and Atmospheric Science program who is also a vegetable farmer and food justice activist. LaShae is empowering farmers of color and activating white allies throughout the Midwest and the country, through her involvement leading a Farmers Against Racism workshop and other educational activities. She also focuses on growing crops that are culturally important to the Black community. According to the feature, she "plans to explore the connections between farmer knowledge, practice, and soil health, with a focus on Black farmers across the United States."

The UC Davis Food Systems Lab has launched a new project to connect farmers and ranchers, slaughter and processing facilities, and meat purchasers in new local and regional meat supply chains in California. The project will focus on building supply chains in the Sacramento Valley, Sierra Foothills, and North Coast regions of California. Connect with the project by completing one of three online surveys for producers, processors, or purchasers.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced USDA efforts to ensure that Federal investments benefit communities that are marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution and underinvestment. The efforts are part of President Biden's Justice40 Initiative, which aims to deliver at least 40% of the overall benefits of climate, clean energy, affordable and sustainable housing, clean water, and other investments to disadvantaged communities. The programs that USDA identified as covered by the Justice40 Initiative are housed in four of USDA's eight mission areas: Farm Production and Conservation; Research, Education and Economics; Rural Development; and Natural Resources and Environment.

NCAT is teaming up with the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union to bring our Armed to Farm training to Boulder, Colorado, from August 29-September 2, 2022. Veterans who want to attend the week-long training in Boulder should apply by July 15, 2022. This training is for veterans in the West, with selection priority given to those in Colorado. The free Armed to Farm training gives veterans and their spouses the opportunity to experience sustainable, profitable small-scale farming enterprises and explore career opportunities in agriculture. Armed to Farm trainings include an engaging blend of farm tours, hands-on activities, and interactive classroom instruction.

The National Audubon Society certified 21 family ranches in the Panorama Organic Grass-Fed Meats® network—spanning 690,902 acres of grassland habitat—as bird-friendly. The collective of ranches initiated large-scale habitat improvements for birds and other wildlife by enrolling in Audubon's Conservation Ranching initiative. With the certification, beef products from Panorama Organic will carry the Audubon Certified seal. In addition to meeting standards in the areas of habitat management and environmental sustainability, Audubon Conservation Ranching requires animal health and welfare criteria to be met in order for ranches to receive bird-friendly certification. "I made a commitment to raising grass-fed, organic beef that would protect the land and keep the ranch viable for generations to come," said founding Panorama Organic rancher Darrell Wood. "Grass-fed beef is important for this ecosystem to survive and improve. It is important to the environment because cattle keep the landscapes healthy, sequestering carbon in the soil and removing greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. "

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) announced that it will meet in Sacramento, California, October 25-27, 2022. The in-person meeting will be webcast live. Public comment webinars are scheduled for October 18 and 20, 2022. The NOSB invites public comment, both written and oral, on its agenda topics. Written comments must be received by September 29, 2022. Oral comment registration will open in late August when the agenda and proposals are posted.

The Farmers Market Coalition is teaming up with Farm Aid to bring back the National Farmers Market Poster Contest. Entries will be accepted until July 15, 2022. FMC will award a cash prize to five winning farmers markets whose posters depict a combination of engaging graphics, informative messaging, and regional or market identity across the following categories: overall, EBT/nutrition incentive, metrics collected at the market, and fan favorite (determined through online voting).

American Farmland Trust (AFT) and the Farmers Market Coalition (FMC) announced the start of the 14th annual America's Farmers Market Celebration. The event is an annual ranking of the top farmers markets in the United States as voted on by the public between June 20 and September 19, 2022. The summer-long event is a fun competition that helps farmers markets across the country earn national recognition and local prestige, as well as an opportunity to compete for $10,000 in prizes divided among the five most popular markets. Visit the website to locate markets and to vote.

A study released by the University of Sydney revealed that 19% of the global food system's greenhouse-gas emissions result from food transport. "Food transport emissions add up to nearly half of direct emissions from road vehicles," notes the study's lead author. The study showed that fruit and vegetables together constitute over a third of food transport emissions, and the emissions of transportation exceed those of production. The study's authors conclude that eating local, seasonal foods would have a dramatic effect in reducing emissions.

A study by University of Nevada, Reno found that the fire danger posed by invasive cheat grass across the Intermountain West could be reduced through targeted grazing. Researchers found that placing supplemental feeding stations in areas dominated by cheat grass led to cattle reducing the fine-fuel biomass by more than 50%, as well as encouraging growth of native grasses. They suggest that strategic placement of protein supplements could be used to reduce fuel loads in areas of particular concern, such as where fuel loads are particularly high or adjacent to biological or cultural resources.

A study led by University of New Hampshire researchers and published in Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment explored the environmental benefits of silvopasture compared to clearing forests to create open pastures. Trials in New Hampshire and New York compared a reference forest to a silvopasture with about half the trees removed and cows grazing on planted forage and to an open pasture. The silvopasture system had less climate consequences than the open pasture, releasing lower levels of carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide. Soil carbon storage was the same on the test plots, as was air temperature.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack proclaimed June 20 – 26, 2022, as National Pollinator Week, dedicated to recognizing the role that pollinator species, such as bees, other insects, birds, and bats play in producing agricultural crops. USDA also released its "Annual Strategic Pollinator Priorities Report” that outlines USDA pollinator research and programmatic priorities for the coming year. Research priorities focus both on managed and wild pollinators.

"To build resilience within our food and farm systems, we must transition to agroecology," says the Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy (IATP). IATP has introduced a new Agroecological Transistions web hub to answer questions like these: What does agroecology look like in practice? How, as a systems approach, can agroecology address the multitude of problems within our food system from field to plate? And, what must we do to usher in agroecological transitions around the globe? The web hub also features agroecology case studies.

University of Minnesota Extension has a new online course, Growing Cold Climate Grapes, available for grape growers, vineyard managers, gardeners, and prospective vineyard owners. The free course is not scheduled, so students can utilize the course materials at their own pace. The course contains 11 modules. Each module covers a different topic about vineyard management, from planting to harvesting and everything in between. The modules include a variety of videos, interactive images, and written content. At the end of each module, a quiz invites participants to test their knowledge of the topic.

USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced an outreach and education campaign to help prevent the introduction and spread of African swine fever in the United States. African swine fever is a deadly, highly contagious viral disease that affects both domestic and wild pigs. It does not impact human health but quickly spreads between swine populations. The new Protect Our Pigs website will house materials such as downloadable fact sheets and posters, instructional videos, shareable social media graphics, a new interactive biosecurity guide, and offer the latest disease updates. APHIS will host African Swine Fever: What You Need to Know, a Facebook event on June 29, 2022, which will feature a panel of experts representing the pork industry, pig owners, and veterinarians who will discuss the latest on the disease and protective actions and respond to questions.

USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) is accepting nominations for county committee members. County committee members make important decisions about how Federal farm programs are administered locally. Agricultural producers who participate or cooperate in a USDA program and reside in the Local Administrative Area that is up for election this year may be nominated for candidacy for the county committee. A cooperating producer is someone who has provided information about their farming or ranching operation to FSA, even if they have not applied or received program benefits. Individuals may nominate themselves or others and qualifying organizations may also nominate candidates. USDA encourages minority producers, women, and beginning farmers or ranchers to nominate, vote and hold office. Nomination forms for the 2022 election must be postmarked or received in the local FSA office by August 1, 2022. 

A study in California's Imperial County showed that using drip irrigation on sweet corn crops conserves water, reduces fertilizer use, and boosts crop yield. About 8,000 acres of sweet corn are planted in the county each year. In this study of 11 sweet corn fields, the six fields that were drip irrigated used an average of 37% less water than the fields that were furrow irrigated. They also showed a 5% increase in yield. The study also showed that the drip irrigation helped farmers save 25% in fertilizer costs, compared corn fields that were furrow irrigated.

An international study led by Penn State University researchers found that maintaining large areas of natural habitat with flowering plants around apiaries can help offset the impacts honey bees experience from changing climate. Researchers believe that declines in bee health and populations are driven by climate change and habitat loss. "There was a positive correlation between the proportion of grassy–herbaceous natural land around the colonies and greater colony weight gain, indicating that this type of land cover can help moderate the detrimental effects of warm and wet climates," said study co-author Christina Grozinger.

The U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards program recognized a class of seven exceptional farms, businesses, and partnerships for their socially responsible, economically viable, and environmentally sound practices and technologies that have a broad and positive impact. Farms in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Minnesota, and California were recognized for Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability. Other companies received recognition for dairy processing sustainability, supply chain sustainability, and community impact.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released four drinking water health advisories for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and is inviting states and territories to apply for $1 billion to address PFAS and other emerging contaminants in drinking water, specifically in small or disadvantaged communities. The funding can be used to reduce PFAS in drinking water in communities facing disproportionate impacts. Meanwhile, the agency's new health advisories provide technical information that federal, state, and local agencies can use to inform actions to address PFAS in drinking water, including water quality monitoring, optimization of existing technologies that reduce PFAS, and strategies to reduce exposure to these substances.

Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) and partners Agraria Center for Regenerative Practice, Central State University, and Common Greens have announced the 2022 OEFFA Sustainable Farm Tour and Workshop Series. The series features 18 farms, businesses, and workshops in Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana, providing unique opportunities for farmers, educators, and conscientious eaters to learn about sustainable agriculture and local foods on the farm. The tour schedule runs from June through November.

Writing for The Conversation, former Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan says that the United States should support not just increased production, but also nature-based solutions in response to rapidly rising synthetic fertilizer prices. She provides examples of farming practices that help farmers reduce or forgo synthetic fertilizers, such as crop rotation, composting, and raising crops and livestock together. Merrigan also discusses biological products such as biofertilizers and bionutrients that can substitute for harsher chemical inputs.

An analysis by North Carolina State University researchers predicts that the invasive spotted lanternfly could reach the wine-growing region of California in five years, and could be established throughout much of the United States by 2037 if all efforts to control it are stopped. The invasive insect can damage or destroy commercially valuable crops such as grapes, apples, almonds, walnuts, cherries, hops, and peaches, as well as certain trees. It kills plants by directly feeding on them, and can also damage them by leaving behind a residue known as "honeydew" that helps mold grow. Both Washington and California have been identified as areas with climates that are highly suitable for the spotted lanternfly.

USDA and Reinvestment Fund are partnering to invest $22.6 million through the Healthy Food Financing Initiative to improve access to healthy foods in underserved communities across the country. The investments that were announced will support 134 projects in rural, urban, and Tribal communities in 46 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington D.C. For example, the funding will help San Carlos Apache communities develop a general store on a tribally owned 90-acre farm. The local food store will serve as the main retail outlet for locally grown fresh produce, value-added products, and other foods, staple goods, and crafts from the community.

A new report from Council of Development Finance Agencies (CDFA) shows that food-system loans perform and that revolving loan funds can successfully support local food system borrowers in their communities. Debunking Risk in Food System Lending reports on data from over a thousand loans made to food-focused enterprises, showing low default rates in line with the performance of traditional revolving loan fund portfolios. CDFA concludes that food-related enterprises are strong borrowers that can be well-suited for traditional lending approaches like those offered through revolving loan funds.

Seeds for Bees encourages the use of cover crops to increase the density, diversity, and duration of bee forage in California orchards, farms, and vineyards, while improving soil health. Enrollment is open from June 1 through August 31, 2022, to California farmers growing honey bee pollinated crops, nuts, and fruits. The seed mixes available through Seeds for Bees are designed to bloom at critical times of the year when natural forage is scarce but managed and native bees are active. Seed availability is limited, and growers are encouraged to apply early. First-year Seeds for Bees enrollees are eligible for a $2,500 discount off their total seed purchase, and second-year enrollees are eligible for a $1,500 discount off their total seed purchase.

Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has awarded a total of $551,000 in grants to 14 statewide projects under the Agricultural Growth, Research, and Innovation (AGRI) Urban Agriculture Grant Program. This is the fifth year of the program. Its purpose is to encourage urban youth agricultural education and urban agriculture community development by assisting organizations and communities in obtaining the materials and services necessary for the successful promotion of urban agriculture. A list of funded grants is available online. It includes development and improvement of community garden spaces and urban agriculture sites, as well as urban farmer training for youth.

USDA, in coordination with other federal agencies, announced that it will develop a pilot program utilizing up to $65 million in American Rescue Plan funding to provide support for agricultural employers in implementing robust health and safety standards to promote a safe, healthy work environment. The program will address labor shortages in agriculture, expand legal pathways for migration, and improve working conditions for farmworkers.

Soil microbiome studies led by Nakian Kim at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign showed the effects of continuous corn cropping and long-term nitrogen fertilization. Kim found that two years' use of cover crops can't undo decades of soil microbial dynamics in response to continuous corn and heavy nitrogen fertilizer use. "In the Midwest, our soils are healthy and resilient, but we shouldn't overestimate them. A soil under unsustainable practices for too long might reach an irreversible threshold," Kim says.

A Washington State University study published in the journal Computer and Electronics in Agriculture showed the potential for automated drones to scare away pest birds that damage fruit crops. Over several years, the research team developed a camera system to detect birds in a field and customized very small drones that can be deployed to scare birds with their whirring noise. This study followed work that showed that drones flown manually could scare away pest birds to reduce crop losses. "Growers don't really have a good tool they can rely on for deterring pest birds at an affordable price," said the study’s corresponding author, Manoj Karkee. "With further refinement and industry partnerships, this system could work."

The agricultural production certification organization A Greener World (AGW) is offering virtual summer road trip around the world, stopping at AGW-certified farms and ranches along the way. Follow along on social media to visit farms and ranches in California, Wyoming, and Colorado, then on to the Midwest, Northeast, and Atlantic coast of the United States, followed by visits to South Africa and the United Kingdom. Meet the farmers (and the animals!), get a glimpse of daily farm life, and hear why their certifications matter. AGW offers certifications such as Animal Welfare Approved, Certified Grassfed, and Certified Regenerative.

The Land Stewardship Project's Farm Beginnings is a year-long training program that focuses on the goal-setting, marketing, and financial skills needed to establish a successful farm business. The Farm Beginnings course creates a space for participants to name their vision, acquire the tools and skills needed to make it happen, and become part of a community of support to help them succeed. The virtual and in-person hybrid course in the Twin Cities area will run from November 2022 through March 2023, and applications are due by September 1, 2022. Early-bird applications submitted by August 1, 2022, will receive a $100 discount if you are accepted into the class.

As part of its efforts to strengthen the food supply chain and transform the food system to be fairer, more competitive, and more resilient, USDA announced an investment of $43.1 million for grants and cooperative agreements for urban agriculture. Specifically, USDA is investing $10.2 million in new cooperative agreements to expand compost and food waste reduction efforts and $14.2 million in new grants to support the development of urban agriculture and innovative production projects. Additionally, $18.7 million will fund 75 worthy grant proposals from the 2021 application cycle. USDA also announced six new urban county committees to help deliver key USDA programs to urban producers. The new locations are Chicago, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, and Oakland. These join 11 previously announced urban county committees that make important decisions about how FSA programs are administered locally. Each urban and suburban county committee will be composed of three elected members who will serve a term of up to three years. Urban farmers who participate in USDA programs in the areas selected are encouraged to participate by nominating and voting for themselves or others.

USDA Rural Development and partners have launched a new Rural America Placemaking Toolkit, a resource guide to showcase a variety of placemaking activities, projects, and success stories. Placemaking is a comprehensive, intentional, wrap-around approach to community development by exploring what it means for a community to have an identity. The website highlights the importance of placemaking in rural communities and provides a comprehensive resource that will be regularly updated to feature new projects, activities, and successes from rural America.

USDA National Organic Program (NOP) is seeking nominations of qualified individuals for an open seat on the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), for an individual with expertise in areas of environmental protection and resource conservation. NOSB is a 15-member volunteer advisory board appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture that considers public comments and makes recommendations on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances and other topics involved in organic agriculture. The selected candidate will be appointed to serve a five-year term beginning January 2023. NOP encourages applications from traditionally underrepresented individuals, organizations, and businesses to reflect the diversity of the industry. Nominations are due by August 5, 2022.

Considerations for Establishing Silvopastures on Wooded Sites is a new publication from the USDA Forest Service. The 10-page Technical Note is available free online. It addresses key considerations when evaluating an existing woodland for silvopasture management, including soils, slopes, tree management, legal aspects, and more. The publication explains that silvopasture management is distinct from just grazing a wooded pasture because it focuses on managing trees, forage, and livestock together.

A study published by Penn State University researchers in Agronomy Journal focused on identifying the best practices for cover crops to optimize cash-crop yields. Specifically, the study looked at the impact of cereal rye seeding rate, termination time, and nitrogen rate on both the soil and a soybean crop. The researchers found that rye seeding rate had no impact on rye biomass or soil moisture. They also discovered that planting green combined with the lowest rye seeding rate and lowest nitrogen rate kept soybeans yields stable, which they say could help producers save money on both cover crop seed and nitrogen supplements.

Research results published by Michigan State University say that an integrated approach to land management practices in the U.S. can reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere far more than earlier estimates based on separate approaches. A multi-institute team explored how combining bioenergy with land-management practices known to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions for cropland, grazing land, and forests would affect atmospheric carbon dioxide. "We're excited to explore this approach further and fine tune our understanding," study author Phil Robertson said. "But for now, we're confident that an integrated approach that combines bioenergy and advanced management of crop, forest and grazing lands can provide climate benefits far greater than previously realized."

Through its Network Leadership Institute, Food Solutions New England (FSNE) supports food system leaders with skill-building and networking. FSNE will be selecting a diverse group of values-motivated food system leaders who demonstrate deep engagement with and commitment to the New England food system for an immersive, experiential program designed to maximize learning and growth, reflection and connection, and inspiration and renewal. The institute offers more than 35 hours of direct contact hours, facilitation, and networking activities for a cohort of 18 participants between September 2022 and June 2023. This opportunity is open to people working on food system issues in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, or Connecticut. Applications to participate are due by June 20, 2022.

USDA National Agroforestry Center has developed an interactive plant selection tool entitled Tree Advisor that rates woody species for a wide range of different purposes, based on plant attributes. This prototype decision support tool rates 90 species of trees and shrubs for 14 different purposes in 12 sub-regions of the northern and central Great Plains region of the United States. The tool can be used to select woody plantings by purpose rating or individual species attributes, or to compare attributes.

A year after its establishment, the Drought Resilience Interagency Working Group (IWG) released a Summary Report outlining the actions taken to date to improve drought-stricken communities' longer-term resilience to drought through financial and technical assistance. The U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) co-chair the Drought Resilience IWG, which was created under the White House's National Climate Task Force. The Drought Resilience IWG agencies are working cooperatively in a whole-of-government manner, to address drought issues through existing programs and resources. The Drought Resilience IWG will facilitate interagency coordination to effectivity deploy $13 billion in water-related investments, including $12.4 billion at DOI and $918 million at USDA. The report is available online.

USDA has announced details of a framework to transform the food system to benefit consumers, producers, and rural communities by providing more options, increasing access, and creating new, more, and better markets for small and mid-size producers. The new framework focuses on building a more resilient food supply chain, creating a fairer food system, making nutritious food more accessible and affordable for all consumers, and emphasizing equity. Specifically, USDA will invest up to $300 million in a new Organic Transition Initiative and up to $75 million to support urban agriculture. It will also provide financing and technical assistance for food processing development, particularly meat and poultry processing plant projects. Other aspects of the framework are investment in regional food enterprise centers and in farm to school purchasing, as well as healthy food financing and incentive programs.

Pennsylvania's Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding joined the Center for Dairy Excellence, the Penn State Farm Stress team, and the AgriSafe Network for a farm stress podcast discussion in honor of Mental Health Month. The conversation highlighted the unique stressors farmers, agricultural workers, and their families face and resources available to Pennsylvania farm families seeking mental health support.

Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) has published a new California Organic Research Agenda (CORA), a comprehensive report that examines current needs and challenges of organic farmers and ranchers across California and provides policy and research recommendations to address producer-identified issues. The 114-page CORA report is a companion to OFRF's 2022 National Organic Research Agenda. The national organic survey data boasts responses from more than 1,100 producers and 16 listening sessions held across the United States. Using the California subset of the national survey data, the CORA report highlights the top production and non-production challenges cited by California's organic farmers and ranchers.

Grassland 2.0 and UW-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems released The Heifer Grazing Compass, an Excel-based planning tool for anyone considering raising heifers on pasture. The tool is designed to help users predict and understand the cash flow and long-term financial outcomes associated with raising dairy heifers on pasture. It can be used by dairy farmers or other farmers who might want to start raising heifers on pasture as an enterprise. The tool is free to access and use.

USDA announced support, resources, and new rules that will strengthen the American food supply chain, promote fair and competitive agricultural markets, prevent abuse of farmers by poultry processors, and make prices fairer for farmers and American consumers. First, USDA announced a proposed rule under the Packers and Stockyards Act to protect poultry growers from abuse. USDA is also making available $200 million under the new Meat and Poultry Intermediary Lending Program (MPILP) to strengthen the food supply chain and create opportunities for small businesses and entrepreneurs in rural communities. USDA also released a report on Promoting Competition in Agricultural Markets that details the Department's strategy for promoting competition in agricultural markets—including not only actions and initiatives to promote competition in meat and poultry markets, but also other key agricultural sectors like fertilizer and seeds. Additionally, USDA announced plans to complete a top-to-bottom review of its programs to ensure they promote competition and announced that it will update guidance to strengthen the verification requirements for the most widely used "animal-raising claims" to ensure consumers are getting what they are paying for.

North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NCR-SARE) created its annual Hero Recognition to highlight, recognize, and pay tribute to those who have made significant contributions to NCR-SARE and/or National SARE. The 2022 NCR-SARE Heroes are Roy Ballard and Tom Coudron. A press release notes, "Roy Ballard's 40-year career exemplifies his commitment to education, horticulture, and community food systems." Ballard served as Indiana's SARE State Coordinator from 2009 to 2019. Tom Coudron served on the NCR-SARE Administrative Council from 2001 to 2011 and continues to volunteer as a grant reviewer.

A new research project led by Michigan State University assistant professor Emily Huff will examine land management decisions made by people who own of both agricultural land and woodland. A multi-institutional research team will survey Michigan farmers to gauge interest and measure current participation in programs linked to emerging carbon and ecosystem service markets, agroforestry practices and tree planting, non-timber forest products, and woodland management. The project will compile case studies with an emphasis on beginner, female, and minority farmers.

An Emory University study projects that climate change will make the U.S. Corn Belt unsuitable for cultivating corn by 2100, necessitating significant agricultural adaptation. It is critical that this adaptation includes diversification beyond the major commodity crops that now make up the bulk of U.S. agriculture, according to study leader Emily Burchfield. "Climate change is happening, and it will continue to shift U.S. cultivation geographies strongly north," Burchfield says. "It's not enough to simply depend on technological innovations to save the day. Now is the time to envision big shifts in what and how we grow our food to create more sustainable and resilient forms of agriculture."

North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NCR-SARE) announced that 18 projects will be awarded more than $100,000 through the Youth Educator competitive grant program. This program supports educators who teach youth about sustainable agriculture practices and careers. The funded projects include training for teen urban growers, a sustainable agriculture youth camp, apprenticeship and garden leadership programs, herbal tea marketing, and more.

Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture announced more than $2.45 million in federal specialty crop grants awarded to 23 projects that will grow markets and increase the quality, safety and sustainability of the state's vegetable, fruit, nut and nursery specialty crops. Funded projects will grow the state's agriculture industry by improving food safety; battling disease, pest and climate threats; expanding farm markets in urban areas; assessing economics of growing hops to meet demands of the state's booming craft brew industry; protecting pollinators the state's agriculture industry relies on; harnessing the talents of youth and recruiting and retaining a culturally and ethnically diverse workforce. Brief descriptions of the projects are available online.

The Ecosystem Services Market Consortium (ESMC) and the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) announced the launch of ESMC's ecosystem services market program, Eco-Harvest. The program rewards agricultural producers for beneficial environmental outcomes from regenerative agriculture by generating and selling credits for increased soil carbon, reduced greenhouse gases, and improved water quality from agricultural production systems. Partners invested $20.6 million in developing the digitized and advanced technology program and platform to generate high quality, third-party verified credits for soil carbon removals, avoided and reduced greenhouse gases, and water impacts from U.S. farms. ESMC is targeting up to 500,000 acres enrollment. Current Eco-Harvest market program regions include the Midwest Corn and Soy Belt, the Northern Great Plains, the Southern Great Plains, and the Great Lakes regions. Production systems included in the launch include corn, soy, wheat, and alfalfa cropping systems.

The SARE grant project "Match Made In Heaven: Livestock + Crops" has released a new infographic depicting integration of livestock and crops. It's available online, with space for customization. Project organizers say they hope it will be shared widely. "Match Made In Heaven: Livestock + Crops" is a three-year, six-state collaboration led by Green Lands Blue Waters that currently includes more than 50 participating organizations across six Upper Midwestern states.

The Periodic Table of Food Initiative (PTFI) plans to characterize and quantify the biochemical components in food to catalyze major breakthroughs in nutrition and agriculture. The Initiative is supported by The Rockefeller Foundation and its public charity RF Catalytic Capital Inc., the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research and the Seerave Foundation, and facilitated by the American Heart Association® and the Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT (International Center for Tropical Agriculture). According to a press release, the Initiative "will use technology to help develop a food system that more efficiently uses land resources, provides improved nutrition and respects the diversity of foods consumed all over the world, by convening global collaborative efforts across government, academic, and industry laboratories to develop standardized protocols to comprehensively measure and evaluate food composition."

A new program at Kansas State University Extension, the Office of Farm and Ranch Transition, is helping to link retiring farmers and ranchers with people entering the profession, reports Midwest Messenger. A USDA Beginning Farmer/Rancher Development Program grant lets the office work with retiring farmers and ranchers without heirs, to set up lease agreements or lease-to-own plans with beginning farmers and ranchers who are looking for a place to get established. The office offers one-on-one facilitation to help people through the transition process, and also provides education about record-keeping. Ashlee Westerhold, the office's director, explains that they work to link people with shared expectations and values, to facilitate a smooth transition.

Carolina Farm Stewardship Association is inviting session proposals for the 2022 Sustainable Agriculture Conference, to be held in Durham, North Carolina, November 5-7, 2022. Organizers are planning an in-person conference and seeking enthusiastic and engaging presenters to deliver practical and innovative information to farmers, ranchers, urban growers, educators and students, homesteaders, and local food advocates. Most sessions are 75 minutes, and submissions that include networking components, group discussion, breakouts, interactive learning, or hands-on activities are encouraged. Proposals must be submitted by June 17, 2022.

Pasa Sustainable Agriculture is accepting proposals for both virtual and in-person sessions for the 2023 Sustainable Agriculture Conference. The virtual conference is set for January 17–19, 2023, and an in-person conference will take place in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, on February 8–11, 2023. Organizers are looking for one-hour session proposals in either format or half-day in-person sessions. Submit proposals online by June 30, 2022.

A new app from Penn State Extension provides detailed information on grape cultivars grown in the state, to help grape growers and wine makers choose the best varieties and to inform industry stakeholders. "Cultivars in the Commonwealth" is searchable by growing location, planting properties, crop yield, fruit composition and maturity, disease resilience, wine quality, consumer demand, sales trends, and more. Commercial growers in Pennsylvania can help expand the database by providing information on the varieties they grow.

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.