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The Sustainable Food Center and a project team that includes the National Center for Appropriate Technology have released Feasibility Study for a Central Texas Food Hub. The 63-page report centered on two key questions: 1) Does Central Texas need something new or additional to bring more local, sustainably-grown fresh produce into the marketplace? 2) If yes, then what does that something new or additional look like? The team employed a three-pronged study design made up of a supply analysis, a demand analysis, and a landscape analysis to answer the two key questions. The project team concluded that, in Central Texas, multiple assets need to be built and/or strengthened in order to bring more local, sustainably-grown fresh produce into the marketplace. The report recommends specific immediate and near-term actions to strengthen existing aggregation and distribution of local, sustainably-grown produce.

The Savanna Institute has launched an Agroforestry Farmer Apprenticeship Program in the Upper Midwest that begins in Summer 2019. Each apprentice will spend 10 weeks on the farm of a mentor agroforestry farmer, with part- to full-time employment throughout the period. On the farm, apprentices will learn about perennial crop establishment, management, and harvest; farm planning and decision-making; equipment maintenance; product marketing; farm/tree finance, and more. The program is free; compensation, room, and board depend on the host farm. Limited spots exist for the 2019 season. Apply by March 1, 2019.

USDA Agricultural Marketing Service has published a proposed rule in the Federal Register that would amend the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances section of USDA's organic regulations. The proposal would implement recommendations submitted to the Secretary of Agriculture by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). This rule proposes to add elemental sulfur for use as a molluscicide in organic crop production, add polyoxin D zinc salt to control fungal diseases in organic crop production, and reclassify magnesium chloride from an allowed synthetic to an allowed nonsynthetic ingredient in organic handling. Interested persons may comment on the proposed rule online or by mail before April 16, 2019.

The Wallace Center's Food Systems Leadership Network and Food Solutions New England are holding a retreat for food systems network leaders in Durham, New Hampshire, May 7-10, 2019. The retreat will help participants connect with fellow network leaders, learn new skills to foster collective action, and challenge old ways of thinking. Applications for the 25 slots will be accepted until March 1, 2019, and scholarships are available.

Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems has released the sixth edition of its publication, An Annotated Bibliography on Structural Racism Present in the U.S. Food System. The publication provides current research and outreach on structural racism in the U.S. food system for the food system practitioner, researcher, and educator. The sixth edition contains 18 videos and 41 new citations. It is available online in PDF. Additionally, the Racial Equity in the Food System Workgroup has launched a national Racial Equity ListServ, EQUITYFOOD, that is open to join.

The Agricultural Retailers Association, the American Society of Agronomy, Environmental Defense Fund, and Field to Market have launched Sustainability Programming for Ag Retailers and CCAs (SPARC). SPARC's resources help train agricultural retailers and certified crop advisers to aid producers in meeting supply-chain sustainability commitments. Six training modules available through the American Society of Agronomy's online classroom introduce the concept of sustainability, explain how sustainability metrics are used, and explore the financial benefits of improved environmental performance and operational efficiency.

An in-depth editorial series from Agri-Pulse looks ahead at "Farm & Food 2040." The second installment of the series explores some historic changes in cropping patterns and predicts that "as the amount of U.S. cropland continues to decline due to urbanization, there will be a focus on growing more on less acreage and doing so in a sustainable fashion." Based on interviews with six leading farmers in locations across the country, the feature also predicts "larger-scale conventional farming by 2040 along with more diversification into new geographic areas along with organic production and more nonconventional approaches like soil-less urban farming." The organic producers see more farmers shifting to organic production in coming years as a way to increase profits, reduce input costs, and attain greater sustainability. Urban growers envision more local sites producing fresh food in urban locations.

The Organic Center has published Combatting Citrus Greening in Organic Systems: A Grower's Guide, a 24-page reference available online in PDF. Authors distilled information of particular relevance to organic growers, to aid them in their fight against Huanglongbing, also known as Citrus greening disease. The publication presents findings from the scientific research community as well as grower experience and opinion related to both successful and unsuccessful practices.

The Soil Health Partnership (SHP) is accepting proposals for partnerships and collaboration for 2019. SHP encourages any organization or individuals who have an interest in working together to submit ideas. The Soil Health Partnership is a farmer-led initiative administered by the National Corn Growers Association that brings together broad and diverse partners to work towards common goals. Applicants are required to complete the Request for Partnership form on the SHP website. The deadline for submissions is Friday, March 15, 2019.

National Farmers Union's Beginning Farmer Institute (BFI) is a free training program that prepares beginning farmers of all ages and operation types for a successful future in agriculture. Applications for the 2019-2020 BFI cohort are open through April 15, 2019. Participants will attend three in-person learning sessions over the course of the year, one each in Washington, D.C., Northern California, and Savannah, Georgia. The sessions include farm tours as well as seminars on a variety of beginning farmers issues, such as business planning, USDA programs, and acquiring land. Each year's curriculum will be tailored to the participants' needs as determined by a pre-attendance survey.

USDA is hosting a listening session for initial input on the 2018 Farm Bill on February 26, 2019. USDA is seeking public input on the changes to existing programs implemented by the Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Risk Management Agency. USDA announced that each agency will take into account stakeholder input when making discretionary decisions on program implementation. The listening session is open to the public. Participants must register at by February 22, 2019, to attend the listening session and are encouraged to provide written comments prior to the listening session. Additional written comments will be accepted through March 1, 2019.

A feature in the "Michigan Good Food Stories" series looks at the role that food hubs are coming to play in local communities. For example, ValleyHUB, part of Kalamazoo Valley Community College, is not only selling produce from local farms, but also growing food indoors in an urban setting. ValleyHUB is supplying food to local grocery stores, restaurants, and Bronson Healthcare, a health-care provider committed to helping members of the community access healthier local food. Together, ValleyHUB and Bronson are exploring how to make local food more affordable and accessible to a broad section of the community. Meanwhile, Bronson Battle Creek is working with food hub Sprout BC to make healthy local food more accessible in that community, through hospital food service and food distribution arrangements.

Writing in The Conversation, author Stephanie Anderson explains the concept of regenerative agriculture, which restores resources. Anderson explores some of the circumstances that have shaped current conventional agricultural practices, and she also discusses how regenerative agriculture can help farmers deal with climate change by making their operations more resilient and sequestering carbon. Anderson cites examples of some farmers who are already practicing regenerative agriculture, and notes that researchers with Project Drawdown estimate that 1 billion acres worldwide will be devoted to regenerative agriculture by 2050.

Yale Climate Connections has posted a four-minute documentary video on evolutionary plant breeding, a technique that can help farmers develop plant varieties that thrive in local conditions. In the video, Italian plant geneticist Salvatore Ceccarelli explains how the technique could help farmers around the world respond to problems posed by climate change and gain autonomy. Over time, individual farmers can develop crops that are tailored to produce well on their own land.

Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) has posted Soil Redemption Song, the keynote address by Michael Phillips at PFI's 2019 Annual Conference, on its website. PFI says the 55-minute keynote "takes you on a deep dive into the microscopic communities beneath our feet and our crops." Phillips talks about the fungal network as a pathway to bringing resilience to ecosystems.

American Vegetable Grower has released the results of its 2019 State of the Vegetable Industry survey. The survey showed that although the number of organic growers hasn't grown significantly, many growers are planning to add organic produce to their crop mix in the next few years. In addition, growers who raise organic crops are devoting increasingly more of their acreage to organic production. The survey also showed that although the number of growers using biocontrols is holding steady at around 50% of survey respondents, those who are using them report using significantly more biochemicals and biostimulants. Additionally, it revealed that more than half of vegetable operations grow in a greenhouse, high tunnel, or low tunnel.

Clemson Cooperative Extension agents say that industrial hemp could be a viable crop alternative for South Carolina farmers. Last year's pilot program permitted 20 farmers to grow industrial hemp in the state. One of the challenges growers encountered was that fungicides, herbicides, and pesticides aren't labeled for the crop. Biological controls have offered an option for some growers. Meanwhile, economists say there is a strong market for hemp, with hemp-based product sales predicted to reach $1.9 billion by 2022. They are working to create an enterprise budget; preliminary figures show operating costs ranging from $8,000 to $13,000, not counting labor and machinery. There are also costs associated with production and processing infrastructure, some of which are borne by growers.

Long-term research on agricultural use of flue-gas desulfurization gypsum, a byproduct of electricity generation from coal, shows its benefits as a soil amendment, reports the American Society of Agronomy. The recovered gypsum has a small and uniform particle size. Gypsum is calcium sulfate and provides both calcium and sulfur in plant-available forms. Additionally, it can counteract the effect of soluble aluminum in acidic soils. Researchers also say that adding gypsum improves soil structure and water percolation, and can reduce phosphorus movement out of the field. Using the recovered gypsum in agriculture reduces the need to mine gypsum, and also keeps a potential waste product out of landfills.

The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) is accepting nominations for the 2019 New Innovator in Food and Agriculture Research Award. This award supports early-career scientists pursuing research that sustainably enhances agricultural production or improves health through food. FFAR will grant as many as 10 awards, and each awardee may receive up to $600,000 (including matching funds), over three years. Institutions of higher education, nonprofit research institutions, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are encouraged to nominate up to two candidates for the Award who hold tenure-track or equivalent positions and meet the eligibility criteria. The deadline for submitting nominations is February 28, 2019.

The Washington Winegrowers Association has announced that it will relaunch its "Vinewise" program, reports Good Fruit Grower. The program was first introduced 20 years ago, and it has now been updated to address more aspects of viticulture and fill some gaps in the program. Vinewise could be developed into a certification program, similar to California sustainability programs. The program focuses on continually improving to minimize a farm's environmental and social footprint, important to consumers concerned about sustainability.

Organic research and education organization Rodale Institute has announced that it will open the Midwest Organic Center at Etzel Sugar Grove Farm near Cedar Rapids, Iowa, this year. Rodale Institute announced that the Midwest Organic Center will provide resources and support for Iowa's organic farmers and enhance the growth of more organic farms throughout the region. The site will also be home to grain production, vegetable production, and a long-term systems trial similar in design to Rodale Institute's flagship Farming Systems Trial, America's longest-running trial comparing organic and conventional growing methods. "We're looking forward to having boots on the ground in the Midwest to address some of the greatest challenges for farmers in the region, and to provide training, demonstration plots, field days and more. We invite additional partners to join us in this initiative, and expect it to be a real collaborative effort," said Jeff Moyer, Rodale Institute executive director.

USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) seeks public comment on a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) that analyzes the impact of efforts to suppress populations of grasshoppers and Mormon crickets from 17 western states. APHIS last published an EIS for the grasshopper and Mormon cricket suppression program in 2002. APHIS announced that because there have been scientific and technological advances since then, the agency is seeking comments on a new EIS that addresses environmental effects of suppression alternatives. The current draft EIS updates the science and adds a chemical treatment option. APHIS will consider all comments received on or before March 18, 2019. Comments can be submitted online or by mail.

An international study led by the University of Toronto found that global crop diversity is declining, with more of the same kinds of crops being grown on large-scale industrial farmland worldwide. The study found that soybeans, wheat, rice, and corn together occupy just less than 50% of the world's agricultural land. Furthermore, there is a lack of genetic diversity within individual crops, with six individual genotypes comprising 50% of all corn crops. Lead author Adam Martin comments that this lack of diversity reduces food sovereignty and makes the global agricultural system increasingly susceptible to pests or diseases.

A Purdue University professor who developed a biofortified orange corn using traditional breeding techniques is now making it commercially available in the United States through the startup NutraMaize LLC. Torbert Rocheford worked to increase the amount of antioxidant carotenoids in corn, making the corn more nutritious and orange in color. The resulting corn is designed to be milled for use as a food ingredient, and NutraMaize is developing varieties with a focus on taste and nutrition. The orange corn is licensed through the Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization.

Wild Farm Alliance has released Supporting Beneficial Birds and Managing Pest Birds. The PDF publication is available online for free download. This resource discusses the pest-control role of beneficial birds and how they can help farmers reduce pest-control costs when habitat is provided for them. It also explores how to manage and co-exist with pest birds. Co-author Jo Ann Baumgartner explains that “by providing habitat for beneficial birds, farmers are improving the biodiversity of their operations, which increases the resiliency of the farm. This new resource gives farmers practical and research-based information on the importance of specific birds to crops."

Non-profit organization Farm Commons, known for its legal education services to farmers, is introducing the CommonsCall. This open, monthly call will offer a way for the farm community to come together to engage in farm-law problem solving. Calls will be held the third Wednesday of every month, beginning February 20, 2019. The topic for the first call will be food safety, and registration is available online.

USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture has announced that it is reopening requests for applications (RFAs) that were open during the lapse in government funding. The Enhancing Agricultural Opportunities for Military Veterans Competitive Grants has been reposted, and the deadline extended until February 11, 2019. In addition, the Biotechnology Risk Assessment Grants Program (BRAG) RFA deadline is being extended until February 27, 2019.

Bee expert Reed Johnson of The Ohio State University investigated bee deaths among hives taken to pollinate almonds in California and found that a mix of pesticides was responsible. Some growers who were applying fungicide during pollination were also adding an insecticide that was considered bee safe to the mix, and the resulting cocktail was leading to larval death and deformity. In tests, Johnson found that exposure to the mix decreased the survival of larvae by more than 60% in the most extreme cases. "Our research shows that some combinations are deadly to the bees, and the simplest thing is to just take the insecticide out of the equation during almond bloom," concludes Johnson, and the Almond Board of California has included this recommendation in its Honey Bee Best Management Practices for California Almonds.

The Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst is surveying experienced beef-cattle producers in the Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont region. The survey is designed to identify and prioritize the specific knowledge and skill sets needed by entry-level beef cattle farmers, to help UMass and other regional universities and technical schools make sure that students are well-prepared for a solid and realistic entry into the beef industry. The voluntary, confidential, online survey takes about 20 minutes.

North Dakota Department of Agriculture announced that the Hunger Free ND Garden Project has recorded volunteer donations of more than 2.8 million pounds of fresh produce to food pantries, soup kitchens, and other charitable community programs since the program started in 2010. The project was started by the North Dakota Department of Agriculture in partnership with the Great Plains Food Bank, and it now operates statewide. The project encourages home gardeners and commercial growers to plant extra produce each year for donation to charitable organizations across the state. "The 2018 growing year alone brought in more than 500,000 pounds of produce," said Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring. "It is a vital partnership between those who have produce to share and those who receive it," he added.

Farm & Ranch Guide reported from a recent Conservation Tillage Conference in North Dakota that practitioners of conservation tillage can find ways to incorporate the soil-health benefits of livestock in their systems even if they don't own animals. One option is contract grazing of cover crops. The livestock owner may pay for seeding of the cover crop, and could take care of fencing, water, and mineral for the animals, depending on the contract arrangement. Another option for crop growers is to spread manure on their fields. This approach requires calibrating the manure spreader and communicating with the manure supplier about potential herbicide residue the manure could contain.

An international group of scientists have published a commentary in Nature Sustainability that suggests a global plan for implementation of soil carbon sequestration. One of the authors, Cornell University professor Johannes Lehmann, commented, "The window of opportunity to sequester atmospheric carbon into the soil is rapidly closing. Scientists are breaking out of the academic box, and we are translating science into action." The commentary outlines the need to develop an overarching case and vision for action, led by political champions; create a strong business case for sequestration; and establish a track record of sequestration success among public and private entities over the long term. The scientists also wrote that farmers and land managers must incorporate building soil organic carbon within their day-to-day management activities.

Scientists at South Dakota State University recently completed a two-year research project into the relationship between pollinators and the oilseed crop Brassica carinata. The researchers found that the more pollinators--including native pollinators--visited the field, the higher the yield of the plants. They noted that a high number of pollinator visits could double seed set, and that the greater the landscape diversity around the test plots, the higher the seed yield and the higher the insect visitation. In turn, the carinata's pollen production ability can play a role in honeybee hive health. The researchers also found that neonictinoid seed treatments modified plant-pollinator interactions with pollinators not preferring plants from treated seed, and potential for contamination of nectar and pollen by the chemical.

The 2019 Good Food Awards were presented in January to 220 American food and drink crafters who demonstrate a commitment to creating tasty, authentic, and responsible products and in doing so, bettering our nation's food system. The Good Food Awards is an annual recognition program now in its ninth year, which recognizes 16 categories of maker. The 2019 winners demonstrate both a mastery of their respective crafts and a commitment to maintaining exceptionally high social and environmental standards in their work. A complete list of winners is available online.

Researchers at the University of Missouri have catalogued every pollinator protection policy enacted by state governments from 2000-2017. The resulting database of information provides an opportunity to study how lawmakers in 36 states have addressed the issue with 109 pieces of legislation that take varying approaches to the problem of pollinator decline. "We are seeing encouraging policy innovations, but there is no momentum in state legislatures to adequately monitor this crisis," Assistant Professor Damon Hall said. "Wild pollinating insects, like native bees, are wildlife to be managed like any other kinds of wildlife, and that means we need data to track population declines and to start experimenting with different types of land-use programs."

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has released a series of blog posts that examines how the 2018 Farm Bill affects sustainable agriculture policies and programs. Posts detail how the new farm bill is likely to impact working lands conservation (CSP and EQIP), local/regional food programs, nutrition incentive and anti-hunger programs, and beginning/socially disadvantaged farmers.

The American Society of Agronomy reported on research from Iowa, showing that prairie strips of diverse native vegetation planted on unprofitable farm ground deliver a range of benefits. In studies from STRIPS: Science-based Trials of Rowcrops Integrated with Prairie Strips, converting just 10% of a row-cropped field to prairie strips reduced soil loss by 95% and also reduced overland water flow and nutrient loss. The addition of prairie strips also increased the number and diversity of beneficial insects and pollinators. New research is looking at developing marketable products such as renewable energy from prairie strips.

University of Illinois researchers have published their research on Miscanthus genotypes that are more cold-hardy than the 'Illinois' genotype most commonly grown for biomass in the United States. Miscanthus is a perennial grass that can yield tremendous amounts of biomass over the course of a decade or more, but it is challenging to establish in northern climates, due to the cold sensitivity of the vegetative starts during the first year. This research showed that the 'Nagara' hybrid is much more cold-resistant as a first-year plant. In another study, the researchers also identified hybrid crosses that survived cold weather well as mature plants.

Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) has released Innovations in Agriculture, its 2018 Annual Report. The report takes a closer look at six of the 76 projects completed within the past year and provides a listing of projects funded in 2018. Profiled projects include exploration of cover crops as livestock feeds, development of a laser scarecrow, formation of a cheesemaker's guild, and study of the potential for marketing amaranth.

Land for Good has created Build-A-Lease, an online tool to help landowners, tenants, and advisors learn about and craft farm leases. The tool includes definitions, FAQs, sample language, and fill-in spaces for the most common sections of a farm lease.​ The Tool and its supporting content are organized around common lease content: terms of lease, rent, rights, liability and insurance, subleases, taxes, termination and default, dispute resolution, and other standard contract provisions. The Tool is designed to educate all parties and support the development of sound lease agreements.