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The American Society of Horticultural Science (ASHS) has announced that open access will become effective January 1, 2020, for its journals Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science and HortScience. This action follows the successful transition of HortTechnology to full open access on January 1, 2019. The move will help to increase the impact of authors' work, and it will reduce limitations on page length and inclusion of images. In addition, the step will reduce publishing delays, because articles can be made available as soon as they are completed. A pricing structure for publishing fees will be announced soon.

The 2019 Organic Industry Survey released by the Organic Trade Association (OTA) shows that organic sales in the United States rose 6.3% in 2018 to reach $52.5 billion. Approximately 5.7% of the food sold in the United States is now organic. OTA notes that the growth rate for organic continued to easily outpace the general market. Fruits and vegetables are a particularly strong organic performer, accounting for 36.3% of all organic food sales and comprising nearly 15% of all the produce sold in the United States. In 2018, the organic non-food category also grew strongly, at a rate of more than 10%, to reach $4.6 billion in sales.

Michigan State University Extension offers online organic grain crop enterprise budgets updated for 2019. Microsoft Excel budgets are available for organic yellow corn, food-grade soybeans, oats, soft white winter wheat, and barley. They provide estimates of returns and selected costs for each crop. Enterprise budgets help farmers with budgeting and planning, record-keeping, and benchmarking.

Maine's Mid Coast Farmers Alliance is conducting an online survey of regional food buyers, to help connect local food buyers to the products they need and inform marketing decisions for local growers. All commercial food buyers, including general stores, restaurants, grocers, schools, and hospitals, are encouraged to participate in the online survey, which is available until June 1, 2019. Mid Coast Farmers Alliance has already completed a preliminary growers survey, which indicated that respondents were interested in expanding their operations and collaborating with other growers to reach a wider range of markets.

Come & Get It: What you need to know to serve food on your farm. The updated five-part Come & Get It publication offers an industry overview, including how to determine if an on-farm food service business is right for your farm. Case studies of nine successful farm businesses in Minnesota and Wisconsin offer behind-the-scenes tips and first-hand experiences from farmers already running successful pizza nights and other on-farm food service events. The five downloadable sections include the manual, case studies, specific sections on laws and regulations for Minnesota and Wisconsin, and a customer assessment.

A study by the University of Helsinki found more birds in agricultural environments in proximity to organic livestock farms. The study showed that organic animal farms were particularly beneficial to insectivore birds. The European Union aims to improve biodiversity in agricultural environments, and researchers concluded that increasing support for organic agriculture is an effective environmental subsidy because of its positive impact. The study was published in PLOS One.

The Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development voted to approve Food and Agriculture Investment Fund grants for five food and agriculture projects that will accelerate growth and create jobs by increasing capacity, implementing new technology, and improving efficiency. True Blue Processing Inc. of Grand Junction, Michigan, will receive a $50,000 performance-based grant for the purchase of new machinery and equipment that will enhance their processing capacity of fresh blueberries at their facility. In another project, Berrybrook Enterprises will receive a $75,000 performance-based grant for the construction of a new controlled-atmosphere apple storage facility in Hartford, Michigan. Projects are selected based on their impact to the overall agriculture industry and their impact to food and agriculture growth and investment in Michigan.

The National Farm Viability Conference is seeking proposals for workshop sessions that fit the goals of the conference and provide relevant professional development to the target audience. The peer-to-peer professional development event is set for October 22-24, 2019, in Red Wing, Minnesota. The majority of the workshops will fall into one of the following categories: facilitated discussion with attendees, lecture, or panel presentation. Each time slot will be around 75 minutes long. Conference themes are listed online. Proposals are due June 12, 2019.

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is accepting proposals through July 15, 2019, for On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials, a new sub-program created by the 2018 Farm Bill for the Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program. On-Farm Trials include a Soil Health Demo Trial, also created by the 2018 Farm Bill. Through On-Farm Trials, NRCS and partners will collaborate to encourage the adoption of innovative practices and systems on agricultural lands. On-Farm Trials funding goes directly to partners, which in turn provide technical assistance and incentive payments to EQIP-eligible producers to implement innovative approaches on their lands. On-Farm Trials awards will range from $250,000 to $5 million. Private entities whose primary business is related to agriculture, non-governmental organizations with experience working with agricultural producers, and non-federal government agencies are eligible to apply.

A study by researchers at the University of Göttingen in Germany concluded in favor of coordinated approaches that combine nature conservation and agricultural production in sustainably managed landscapes. "Many researchers argue that agricultural production on existing land should be intensified to increase yields while reducing agricultural pressure on the last areas of wilderness," explains study author Dr. Ingo Grass. "However, biodiversity and agriculture are often closely intertwined and many species are also beneficial to the farmer." Study authors recommend that protected areas and high-yield food-production areas should be connected by hedges or strips of land in order to create maximum biodiversity and benefits to people.

University of California Cooperative Extension has hired the state's first Extension specialist dedicated to organic agriculture. Long-time UC Santa Cruz researcher Joji Muramoto will lead a statewide program to support organic growers, focused on production of strawberries and vegetables. Muramoto says he plans to address soil fertility and the organic management of soil-borne diseases, coordinating short courses and statewide outreach on these subjects. In the new position, Muramoto will have a joint affiliation with UC's Cooperative Extension and the Environmental Studies Department and the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems at UCSC.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, and the Northern Border Regional Commission have announced assistance through the 2019 Local Foods, Local Places (LFLP) program to help 15 communities with revitalization strategies that boost the local economy, improve health, and protect the environment. LFLP partner communities in 11 states will work with a team of agricultural, environmental, public health, and regional economic-development experts to set goals and identify local assets that can support the local food economy. Communities also develop an action plan and identify potential resources from the participating federal agencies to support implementation. Brief descriptions of the community projects selected are available online.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences (MANRRS), and Southeastern African American Farmers' Organic Network (SAAFON) recently presented scholarship awards to three students committed to working on issues that affect black farmers. Vanessa Garcia Polanco, Tyneshia Griffin, and Najma Muhammad each received a Cynthia Hayes Memorial Scholarship in the amount of $1,000 to help further their work in sustainable agriculture and with communities of color. The scholarship program, named for SAAFON's former director, a founder of the first network for African American organic farmers in the United States, aims to support students of color within MANRRS who are interested in doing work within sustainable agriculture and are committed to working on issues that impact black farmers.

The National Farm to School Network has released State Farm to School Policy Handbook: 2002-2018, a tool for those working to advance the farm to school movement. The Handbook summarizes and analyzes bills and resolutions introduced in state government. It enables users to search bills by both jurisdiction and topic. The publication also includes case studies on successful farm to school advocacy efforts in Hawai'i, Michigan, New Mexico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Vermont, and provides additional resources for advocates and policymakers to support state farm to school policies. The publication is online in PDF.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has notified consumers that laboratory testing has shown that "Triple Action Neem Oil Broad Spectrum Fungicide, Insecticide, and Miticide" contains synthetic pesticide active ingredients not listed on the product label. During testing, the presence of malathion, chlorpyrifos, and permethrin were confirmed. The product is manufactured by Southern Agricultural Insecticides Inc. in Palmetto, Florida, lists its only active ingredient as "neem oil," and is approved by the Organic Material Review Institute for use on organically grown commodities. The Department advises consumers, distributors, and pesticide applicators to cease the sale and use of Triple Action Neem Oil.

Farmers Legal Action Group and Minnesota Farmers Union have posted a new, 32-page guide titled Farmers' Guide to Solar and Wind Energy in Minnesota. The resource is intended as a starting point for farmers who are considering large-scale solar or wind projects, and it can be downloaded or viewed free online by farmers, farm advocates, farm attorneys, and others.

University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) will offer a new, weekly, 26-episode video series beginning May 13, 2019, on its YouTube channel. A team of professors from California's public universities with agricultural programs – UC Davis, Chico State, Fresno State, and CalPoly San Luis Obispo - has created a series of 7-minute to 47-minute videos designed to spark interest and begin training future farmers and ag workers in sound agronomic, economic, and environmental stewardship skills. According to a blog post from UC ANR, the "videos depict state-of-the-art technologies and techniques that are in use in many production regions of California today, vegetable farming systems used in other parts of the world, and increasingly popular cottage farming systems that are popping up in urban areas for easy access to healthful foods."

The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University is accepting nominations for the 2019 Spencer Award for Sustainable Agriculture. The Spencer Award honors the beliefs, innovations, and stewardship of Norman and Margaretha Spencer, who farmed near Sioux City for 40 years. It serves as a lasting memorial to the Spencers, who believed that it is the obligation of each generation to leave the world a better and healthier place for the next generation. The winners have shared a desire to improve Iowa’s landscape, albeit in very different ways. Nominations are due June 30, 2019.

The Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University has added video for two new livestock operations to its collection of case studies focusing on increasing resilience among farmers and ranchers in the Pacific Northwest. The case studies address livestock, irrigated, and dryland farming. The two new livestock videos are Grazing for Multiple Use Goals: Russ Stingley and Resilience Through Engagement: Brenda & Tony Richards. Printed case studies on these same livestock operations are forthcoming.

The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy has announced the winners of the eighth annual U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards. The program recognizes dairy farms, businesses and partnerships whose practices improve the well-being of people, animals, and the planet. Winners in the category of Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability were Cinnamon Ridge Farms in Iowa, Majestic Crossing Dairy in Wisconsin, and Philip Verwey Farms in California. The Outstanding Dairy Supply Chain Collaboration award went to General Mills and Foremost Farms, a network that is using an on-farm assessment tool to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Gleaners Community Food Bank in Detroit won the Outstanding Community Impact award.

Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network (ASAN) is requesting proposals for sessions at its 2019 Food & Farm Forum. At this event, approximately 200 diverse participants from across the state convene to swap stories, ideas, and wisdom, in order to together build a more robust local food system in Alabama. The Forum will address a variety of topics related to cultivating a resilient agricultural system in Alabama. Priority will be given to those with ties to the Alabama food system, and to sessions that reflect ASAN priorities as listed online. Proposals are due by June 17, 2019.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is seeking public comment on the draft Request for Proposals and application materials developed for the 2019 Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) Technical Assistance Grant Program. The program provides funds for technical assistance providers from Resource Conservation Districts, the University of California Cooperative Extension, and nonprofit organizations to aid applicants of the Alternative Manure Management Program (AMMP), the Healthy Soils Program (HSP), and the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP). Listening sessions for public comment are scheduled for May 15, 2019, in Sacramento and May 20, 2019, in Salinas. Comments may also be submitted via e-mail until May 24, 2019.

Recently approved regulations will allow the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to open registration with county agricultural commissioners for industrial hemp cultivation. Registration applications are now available on the CDFA Industrial Hemp webpage. CDFA plans to propose additional regulations for industrial hemp cultivation later this year, including sampling and testing procedures, and the establishment of an agricultural pilot program.

USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) has announced 2018 Farm Bill updates to Annual Forage insurance for the 2020 Crop Year. The Annual Forage pilot program now offers a Dual Use Option in select counties of six Great Plains states. Producers who select this option can insure their small-grains crops with both an Annual Forage Policy for grazing and a multi-peril Small Grains Policy for grain. The Dual Use Option is ideal for producers who plant a small grain by October 15, 2019, to use as a grazing crop over the winter and to harvest for grain the next summer. The option is available in counties where RMA considers "grain/graze" a good farming practice in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. In addition to the Dual Use Option, RMA announced additional Annual Forage program updates, including offering Catastrophic Risk Protect (CAT) for grazing, restoring the 1.5 productivity factor program-wide, and updating the county base values to account for the varying yield potential within a state.

Dane County, Wisconsin, is providing $750,000 in incentives for farmers to convert land that is currently in an annual crop into perennial cool-season grass mix, native prairie mix, or grazing mix, for a 15-year contract period. Funding is available for approximately 300 acres for the 2019 pilot year, with approximately 100 acres devoted to each of the following goals: wildlife, buffers, and grazing. The total upfront payment is between $1,650 and $2,500 per acre, depending on the type of cover selected. The initiative is designed to help curb agricultural runoff into lakes and streams, and it allows for harvesting and grazing of the cover. Applications for acreage from .5 to 40 acres are being accepted until May 31, 2019.

Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) has published an enterprise budget for cherry tomato production based on the experiences of Buffalo Ridge Orchard and Echollective Farm in 2018. Each farm reported on yield, revenue, net income, expenses, and labor. Both farms showed that cherry tomatoes were a profitable crop, but the enterprise budget reveals the high labor cost of this crop. It also shows how differences in production methods affect yields per square foot, and how yield and price factors together determine income.

Researchers from the University of Bristol have published study findings that reveal seasonal gaps in the nectar supply on farmland that limit pollinator success. They found that on farmland in the United Kingdom, there are gaps in the nectar supply in early spring (March) and late summer (August to September). Plantings designed for pollinators often make nectar available during the peak summer season, when supplies are already plentiful. Lead study author Tom Timberlake commented, "Early-flowering plants like willows and dandelions, or late-flowering red clover and ivy could all help to fill the hungry gaps, if we allow them to survive and flower on farmland."

USDA National Organic Program has launched an online Organic Integrity Learning Center that provides free training for organic professionals. Initial course offerings include the following: Introduction to the USDA Organic System; Sound and Sensible Organic Certification; Fundamentals of Inspection; Compliance and Enforcement: Adverse Actions, Appeals, and Reinstatements; and Import Oversight Essentials. Future courses will include Dairy Compliance, Traceability Techniques, Advanced Inspections, Materials Reviews, Certification Administration, and Sampling and Testing. Each training lesson includes assessments to track learning progress.

Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection has announced nine local food projects as recipients of the latest round of Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin grants. The competitive grant program is designed to strengthen Wisconsin's food industries by reducing marketing, distribution, and processing hurdles that impede the access of Wisconsin food products to local purchasers. Projects selected to receive FY2019 grants include season extension for local herb production, development of single-serve packages for organic maple syrup, aronia promotion, and a farm-to-freezer project that will extend the seasonal availability of local produce.

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has published an interim final rule in the Federal Register to make regulations consistent with the changes made by the 2018 Farm Bill. These changes include expanding the membership of State Technical Committees, enabling representatives from the State Cooperative Extension Service and land grant universities to serve on the state committee that assists NRCS in guiding locally led conservation. Additional changes include authorizing that certification of technical service providers be through a qualified non-federal entity and requiring that $3 million of the funds to implement the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program be used to encourage public access for hunting and other recreational activities on wetlands enrolled in the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program. NRCS is accepting comments on this interim final rule through July 5, 2019.

New York has announced a new Grape-to-School program in which 10 school districts will serve NYS Grown & Certified Concord grape juice through the end of the school year. In addition, the participating districts will provide educational activities and taste tests to promote New York agriculture and expand locally sourced products on school menus. The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets is working in partnership with American Farmland Trust, through New York State's collaborative Farm-to-Institution initiative, on the pilot program. More than 65 additional districts across the state will also be serving the local grape juice to help achieve local food purchasing goals.

USDA is seeking nominees to fill five National Organic Standards Board vacancies. The Secretary of Agriculture will appoint new members for five-year terms to begin in January 2020. Current vacancies are as follows: One individual with expertise in areas of environmental protection and resource conservation; One individual who owns or operates an organic farming operation or employees of such individuals; One individual who owns or operates a retail establishment with significant trade in organic products or an employee of such individuals; Two individuals who own or operate an organic handling operation or employees of such individuals. Nominations are due by May 20, 2019.

The Sage Grouse Initiative has released a free manual for riparian restoration, Low-Tech, Process-Based Restoration of Riverscapes Design Manual. This resource outlines restoration strategies using low-tech tools—simple hand-built structures made from natural materials that have short-term lifespans—to initiate processes that allow Mother Nature to heal itself. It gives practitioners step-by-step instructions for how to plan, design, and build low-tech structures and also lays out 10 principles that guide the whole approach. This restoration is widely applicable for wadeable rural streams and, due to its low cost, large areas.

More and more farmers are using bio-fertilizers, inoculants, and microbe additives for their soil in an attempt to improve soil quality. However, a multi-year study at the University of British Columbia Okanagan campus found that added microbes often didn't establish in the soil, although in some cases they became invasive and took over the soil. In either case, the added microbes seemed to have no effect on the crops grown in the field. Study leader Miranda Hart noted, "If the farmer invested thousands on the inoculate, it may have been a waste of money.” Furthermore, Hart says she is concerned about a lack of knowledge about the environmental effect of microbe introductions. "What we're doing is releasing invasive species into the environment and we don't know the long-term effect of what's happening to the soil."

A Life Cycle Analysis conducted by Quantis at White Oak Pastures in south Georgia showed that the farm is storing more carbon in the soil than its cows emit during their lives. General Mills funded the study, which compared soil in fields that had been holistically managed for 0 to 20 years. The results showed that farmer Will Harris' grazing methods are adding soil organic matter and sequestering more carbon than the cows produce. A press release reports that data indicates that White Oak Pastures is offsetting at least 100% of the farm's grassfed beef carbon emissions and as much as 85% of the farm’s total carbon emissions.

Purdue Extension-Marion County is offering a series of two-hour urban agriculture workshops from May through September. The evening workshops offer site tours and instruction on topics from seed starting to extending the growing season. The workshop series is part of an overall effort to support urban agriculture that includes an Urban Agriculture Certificate Program and a comprehensive urban agriculture map.

USDA published a final rule in the Federal Register, amending the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances for organic livestock production and handling. This amendment allows elemental sulfur to be used in organic livestock production as a topical treatment to repel mites, fleas, and ticks from livestock and their living spaces. It also reclassifies potassium acid tartrate from a nonagricultural substance to an agricultural substance, requiring handlers to use the organic form when it is commercially available. The amendments take effect May 30, 2019.