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USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has announced that Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) contract holders who first signed up in 2014 are eligible for a one-year contract extension with additional payments. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) explains that ordinarily the 2014 contracts would have been eligible for a five-year renewal last year. However, when the 2014 Farm Bill expired, producers with 2014 contracts were left without a renewal option for their expiring contracts. NRCS extended contracts to keep producers enrolled in the program, but these extensions did not involve additional payments. Now, producers who extended their contracts through that opportunity...

Related ATTRA Publication: Organic Pumpkin and Winter Squash Marketing and Production University of New Hampshire's Brent Loy leads the longest continuous squash- and pumpkin-breeding program in North America. His work has resulted in the introduction of several new cucurbit varieties that are regionally adapted, powdery-mildew resistant, and good for markets. Varieties that are newly commercially available in 2019 include the Renegade, Carbonado Gold, and Mellow Yellow pumpkins, the Smooth Criminal summer squash, and the True Love melon. Loy has also been involved in the development and licensing of hundreds of other hybrids and inbreds during his career at the University of...

In this episode, NCAT community foods outreach specialist Daniel Prial, and Andy Pressman, director of NCAT’s Northeast Region office in Keene, New Hampshire, talk to Atina Diffley, author of Turn Here Sweet Corn: Organic Farming Works, a 2013 Minnesota Book Award winner. Both Andy and Daniel work with NCAT’s ATTRA sustainable agriculture program. Atina is a Minnesota organic farmer and public speaker. Turn Here Sweet Corn: Organic Farming Works is a memoir based on Atina’s life running the Gardens of Eagan organic vegetable farm. Her advocacy has addressed the pressures of suburban development, and she successfully led a legal and citizen campaign...

Farm Aid has activated its Family Farm Disaster Fund to provide aid to help family farmers in the Midwest affected by record rainfall, flooding, and wind damage. Farm Aid's relief efforts will focus on the family farmers and ranchers who have lost their barns, livestock, crops, fields, pasture and other essential farm infrastructure. Farm Aid works with regional farm organizations to offer assistance such as emergency grants and help understanding and accessing federal programs. Farm Aid also offers an online list of resources for farmers affected by the Midwest floods, including assistance in locating and transporting feed, disaster relief funds,...

USDA announced that it is providing a variety of program flexibilities and other assistance to residents, agricultural producers, and communities impacted by recent flooding. USDA has an emergency loan program that provides eligible farmers low-interest loans to help them recover from production and physical losses. In addition, livestock owners who experienced losses may qualify for assistance under USDA's Livestock Indemnity Program or the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program. Crop producers not covered by crop insurance may be eligible for assistance under USDA's Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program. USDA also offers programs that can help with disaster...

Related ATTRA Resource: Dung Beetle Benefits in the Pasture Ecosystem Research published in the Journal of Applied Ecology indicates that dung beetles and soil bacteria can help suppress harmful pathogens on the farm before they spread to humans. In a quest to comply with food safety regulations, many farmers are removing natural habitat to discourage wildlife and livestock visits that can introduce pathogens. However, this research showed that biodiversity can contribute to pathogen reduction. The study found that activity by one species of dung beetle in particular reduced E. coli numbers by more than 90%. Field testing with pig feces found more...

Related ATTRA Resource: Directory of Organic Seed Suppliers Organic Seed Alliance has launched an online Organic Seed Producers Directory that connects organic seed producers with seed companies and wholesale seed buyers. Seed producers are invited to create a profile in the new directory so wholesale purchasers can connect with them. Creating a profile helps growers who want businesses to contact them to buy their wholesale quantities of seed, or who want seed companies to contact them to grow wholesale quantities of seed on contract. Companies looking for wholesale seed can use the new directory to find farmers who are already growing organic...

A study published by Penn State Researchers in Phytobiomes Journal showed that applying excessive phosphate fertilizer can reduce plant yield, reports the American Phytopathological Society. What's more, high levels of phosphate fertilizer changed the function of soil microorganisms, and this effect persisted in the soil even after the high levels of inorganic phosphate fertilizer were no longer applied. The research concluded that excessive phosphate fertilizer could have lasting negative effects on crop productivity by damaging the function of microorganisms important to crop health....

Related ATTRA Resources: NCAT Marketing Tip Sheet Series ASAP's Local Food Research Center has released the 2018 results of its annual survey of producers participating in the Appalachian Grown (AG) program. Appalachian Grown is a branding program for farms, farmers tailgate markets, retailers, and wholesalers that annually certifies food and agricultural products grown or raised on farms in Western North Carolina and the Southern Appalachian Mountains. The 11-page report summarizes the survey responses of 193 producers. It shows that 45% of the respondents are women, and 31% are new farmers. The survey showed that 90% of the farmers direct-market their products, with...

USDA is accepting nominations of qualified individuals for five open seats on the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). The 15-member advisory board considers and makes recommendations on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances and other issues involving the production, handling, and processing of USDA certified organic products. Each member serves a five-year term and represents specific sectors of the organic community. Current openings include one seat each for an environmental protection and resource conservation representative, organic farmer, and organic retailer, and two seats for organic handlers. USDA is also accepting nominations of qualified candidates to fill future unexpected...

Quivira Coalition, Holistic Management International, and American Grassfed Association--partners in producing the 2019 Regenerate Conference--are inviting suggestions for speakers and proposals for plenary presentations and roundtable sessions. The conference will be held November 19-22, 2019 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and has the theme "Health from the Soil Up." Conference subjects and details on submitting a proposal are available online. Proposals are due by April 8, 2019....

The Iowa Beef Center at Iowa State University has posted a web page of flood-related online resources to help agricultural producers impacted by recent flooding. These include resources on production, such as managing flooded crops and feeds, as well as a range of financial-assistance resources. There are also links to manure-management resources and information on alternative feeds for livestock....

In this podcast, Robert Maggiani, a sustainable agriculture specialist with NCAT’s ATTRA sustainable agriculture program, talks with Juan Raygoza about his farm in South Texas. Juan moved to the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas in 2007 with little money. His goal was to farm vegetables for his family. At first he borrowed land to farm, and then was able to purchase seven acres with the help of a USDA loan and is now owner of Terra Preta Farm in Edinburg, Texas. NCAT has worked with him on several projects over the past five years and helped...

USDA is investing $91 million to build or improve community facilities and essential services for nearly 300,000 rural residents in 12 states through the Community Facilities Direct Loan Program. The 16 funded projects will help rural small towns, cities, and communities make infrastructure improvements and provide essential facilities such as public schools, libraries, courthouses, public safety facilities, hospitals, colleges, and day-care centers. More than 100 types of projects are eligible for Community Facilities funding. Eligible applicants include municipalities, public bodies, nonprofit organizations, and federally recognized Native American tribes. A list of projects selected for funding is available online....

Related ATTRA Tutorial: Soil Health The Soil Health Institute has released a report summarizing the Conference on Connections Between Soil Health and Human Health that was held in October 2018. The conference was designed to bring the soil health and human health communities together, establish the current state of collective knowledge, identify gaps and associated priorities, and scope a collaborative path forward. The conference's top 10 priorities for investigating soil health and human health connections are presented in the report, along with summaries and links to each presentation. ...

Related ATTRA Publication: Agroforestry: An Overview The University of Missouri Center for Agroforestry is accepting applications for its Agroforestry Academy, set for July 21-26, 2019, in Columbia, Missouri. The week-long training includes integrated classroom workshops, multiple on-farm visits, hands-on demonstrations, and content integration into practical on-farm agroforestry planning and design to advance adoption of agroforestry as a cornerstone of productive land use. Scholarships are available for veteran farmers. Registration is due by May 24, 2019....

Answer: Both of these varieties are primocane-fruiting varieties so they will bear fruit on both first year (primocane) and second year canes (floricanes). The only canes you will want to remove at this point are the canes that are entering their third season. These canes will not bear fruit for you this year so they’re useless. It may be difficult to identify these canes because at this point your primocanes and floricanes will look pretty similar. But you are looking for the canes that were floricanes last year. You’ll want to prune them as close to the ground as possible...

Research from McGill University shows that the herbicide glyphosate is contributing to environmental phosphorus levels in soil and waterways. The study was published in Ecological Society of America's Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. As global use of glyphosate has increased 15-fold over the past 20 years, the small amount of phosphorus in glyphosate has begun to add up, researchers report. "Our study argues that the recent and rapid rise in glyphosate use has magnified its relative importance as a source of anthropogenic phosphorus, especially in areas of intensive corn, soybean, and cotton cultivation," lead study author Marie-Pier Hébert says....

Related ATTRA Resource: Sustainable Farming Internships and Apprenticeships Practical Farmers of Iowa's Labor4Learning program is offering 16 on-farm job opportunities in 2019, working with farmers across Iowa who are willing to provide additional training on what it takes to run a farm business. The Labor4Learning program provides someone thinking about a career in farming with a paid on-farm job, as well as training on record-keeping, marketing, and other skills. Each participating trainer farm in the program was approved by a committee of Practical Farmers of Iowa members to serve as qualified teachers. The farms represent a diversity of enterprises including row crops,...

Related ATTRA Publication: Local Foods No. 5 -- Hot Peppers (Chili Peppers) Michigan State University Extension's Saginaw Valley Research and Extension Center conducted a trial of 12 commercially available varieties and one experimental variety of chile peppers in 2018. They found that using earlier maturing varieties was key to ripening chile peppers to maturity in Michigan's climate. Production results and notes for these varieties are available online. The project also trialed low-cost methods of drying the fruit, which are important because peppers grown in Michigan have more water in them than peppers grown in arid regions and require more time and energy...

The National Center for Appropriate Technology's (NCAT) Armed to Farm (ATF) program is accepting applications from military veterans to participate in a week-long sustainable agriculture training May 13-17, 2019, in the Crawfordsville, Indiana area. ATF allows veterans and their spouses to experience sustainable, profitable small-scale farming enterprises and explore agriculture as a viable career. ATF's engaging blend of farm tours, hands-on experience, and interactive classroom instruction gives participants a strong foundation in the basic principles of operating a sustainable farm. The training is free for those chosen to participate. All military veterans, as well as their spouses or farm partners,...

In celebration of National Ag Day, USDA has launched a website to connect young people and youth-serving organizations with resources offered by the Department.The USDA Youth and Agriculture website features three key components of agriculture-focused youth engagement: classroom studies, experiential learning, and leadership training. At the website, educators can find ways to include agriculture in the classroom and beyond. Young people can learn about USDA summer outreach programs, youth loans for business projects, and outdoor volunteering. Community leaders can get tips on starting leadership development clubs and education programs....

Related ATTRA Video: Urban Farms: Commercial Farms or Socially Minded Operations? A multi-year research project by universities in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, is delving into the potential of urban gardening to enhance human and environmental health, reports the American Society of Agronomy. In addition to growing food, urban agriculture can fulfill other purposes. Growers in this study are striving for goals including education, culturally relevant food, and community reconciliation. The research team is helping urban growers overcome challenges such as land tenure and soil contamination, and they are collecting information on how urban agriculture benefits soil health and community health. ...

Related ATTRA Publication: Soil Moisture Monitoring: Low-Cost Tools and Methods Researchers at the University of Iowa, partnering with others at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of Illinois-Champaign-Urbana, have been awarded a four-year, $1.6 million grant from USDA to design and build smart sensors for irrigation scheduling. The sensors would measure soil moisture and temperature, air temperature, and humidity and transmit that information to the cloud, where farmers could access it via an app. The information could then inform efficient irrigation scheduling....

Related ATTRA Publication: Blueberries: Organic Production A study published in Frontiers in Plant Science showed that growing grasses with blueberry plants could correct signs of iron deficiency at less cost and risk than chemical treatment. The grass intercropping also increased yield and antioxidant content of the berries. Senior study author Dr. José Covarrubias explained that "Grasses -- which are well-adapted to poor soils -- can provide a sustainable, natural source of iron chelators via their roots when grown alongside fruiting plants. Intercropping with grass species has been shown to improve plant growth and fruit yield in olives, grapes, citrus varieties -- and...

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) has launched the Organic Fraud Prevention Solutions program, based on its Organic Fraud Prevention Guide that provides businesses engaged in organic trade with a risk-based process for developing and implementing organic fraud mitigation measures. OTA explains that the program is not a certification or verification program, nor is it a product label. Organic Fraud Prevention Solutions establishes a framework and formal process for businesses to create continuously improving internal programs for achieving organic integrity throughout their associated supply chains. The program requires training, an organic fraud vulnerability assessment, and the development of an organic fraud...

Idea Foundry, a Pittsburgh-based economic development organization, has created a pilot revolving loan fund designed to support local entrepreneurs innovating around connecting consumers with local foods, reducing regional food insecurity, increasing on-farm sustainability, and increasing jobs in local farming. The revolving loan fund pilot program is being supported with a grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation and will provide funds to as many as six businesses in year one. The loans will directly address the financial needs of food and agriculture startups and innovative regional farms required to generate profits that contribute back into both the loan fund and...

Related ATTRA Publication: Organic and Grass-finished Beef Cattle Production USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) has published the first results from a five-year beef life-cycle analysis study. The study included seven cattle-producing regions and used data from 2,270 survey responses and site visits. The study revealed that beef cattle production across all seven regions accounted for 3.3% of all U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions. Beef operations in the Northwest and Southern Plains had the highest total water use, but, across all the regions, irrigating crops to produce feed for cattle accounted for 96% of total water use. The study concluded that water use and reactive...

In this episode, Sue Beckwith and Mike Morris, co-authors of the new book Beyond Fresh: a Food Processing Guide for Texas Farmers, discuss the book and the issues it addresses. The book, a workbook, is focused mostly on Texas farmers, helping them decide whether they should move beyond just selling fresh and whole fruits and vegetables by trying to create and sell value-added food products. Beyond Fresh isn’t a how-to book for creating particular products. Rather, it looks at product development, storage and distribution, regulations, labeling, market trends and more – as part of determining whether a product will be profitable for...

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced that it is seeking public input on its 150-plus existing national conservation practice standards as part of implementing the 2018 Farm Bill. These standards provide guidelines for planning, designing, installing, operating, and maintaining conservation practices. NRCS is requesting public comments on how to improve conservation practice standards that support programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and Conservation Stewardship Program. The comment period ends April 25, 2019. Comments may be submitted online or by mail....

Researchers at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center are exploring the potential for growing organic artichokes in the state. A number of past studies have evaluated artichoke varieties and management practices; two other studies were recently completed. The first assessed how organic and conventional fertilizing systems affected growth, marketable yield, head quality, and soil chemical properties of globe artichoke. It found significant variation by variety and soil type but noted that organic growing appeared to improve head quality and soil health. The second study assessed the performance of four different organic fertilizers on artichokes. Although an alfalfa-meal fertilizer...

A new scholarship program for students interested in agroecology, sustainable food systems, and food justice is now available at University of California Santa Cruz through funding from USDA's Multicultural Scholars Program. To qualify, students must be accepted to start at UC Santa Cruz in Fall 2019 as a transfer or first-year student, and intend to declare a major in Environmental Studies or a related field. Students must have an interest in agroecology, food systems, or food justice, be a member of a historically under-represented group in academia, and be a U.S. citizen. Support includes $6,500 in funding a year for...

Answer: Corn gluten meal is a byproduct of the process of milling corn and has been used successfully on lawns and high-value crops as a pre-emergent herbicide that inhibits growth and root development. It is non-selective and must be applied carefully to ensure crop safety. It must be applied just prior to weed-seed germination to be effective. A common rate is 40 pounds per 1,000 square feet, which suppresses many common grasses and herbaceous weeds. Corn gluten meal cannot be derived from genetically modified (GM) corn if being used in an organic operation (Dufour et al., 2013; Quarles, 1999). Herbicidal soaps...

Related ATTRA Resource: Podcasts A new podcast series called Thriving Farmer will feature interviews with farmers from around the world by host Michael Kilpatrick. Learn the latest tricks and strategies of successful farmers, strategize with in-depth interviews with leaders in the industry, and connect with stories of farmers just like you. The first four episodes include an introduction to the series and interviews with Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm, Jenny Quiner of Dogpatch Urban Gardens, and Ben Beichler of Creambrook Farm. A new episode will be added each week. ...

Related ATTRA Publication: Brambles: Organic Production University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources' Agricultural Issues Center and UC Cooperative Extension have published the first cost study of primocane-bearing blackberries in California. With primocane-bearing blackberries, growers can extend the blackberry production season because the plants bear fruit in their first year. The study presents sample costs to establish, produce, and harvest primocane-bearing blackberries in the Central Coast Region of Santa Cruz, Monterey, and San Benito counties. The analysis is based on a hypothetical well-managed farming operation using practices common to the region. The authors describe assumptions in detail and present a table of...

A documentary series from the grassroots regenerative agriculture movement Farmer's Footprint, powered by Seraphic Group, has launched with a 20-minute film that was named a Vimeo "Staff Pick." Each short film in the series visits a farming family that is transitioning into a future of renewed food independence and economic viability through regenerative agriculture. The inaugural film in the series, Farmer's Footprint: The Beginning, showcases the trials, lessons learned, and gratifying victories of the four-generation Breitkreutz family of Stoney Creek Farm in Redwood Falls, Minnesota, as they navigate away from conventional practices to regenerative agriculture. Over decades of using conventional...

In this episode, we hear a conversation between Rockiell Woods, director of NCAT’s Gulf States Regional Office in Jackson, Mississippi, and Sam Humphrey, director of the NCAT Demonstration Farm at Piney Woods School near Jackson. The purpose of the farm is to give hands-on training to farmers and producers in the region, as well as to the students of Piney Woods. This Demonstration Farm is part of Mississippi Food Justice Collaborative, NCAT’s multifaceted food-justice project, which is working to improve access to healthy, culturally appropriate food for historically disadvantaged communities throughout Mississippi. It’s funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Rockiell, a sustainable agriculture...

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has released a report showing that the biodiversity that underpins our food systems is disappearing--putting the future of our food, livelihoods, health, and environment under severe threat. State of the World's Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture warns that when agricultural biodiversity is lost, it cannot be recovered. The report points to decreasing plant diversity in farmers' fields, rising numbers of livestock breeds at risk of extinction, and increases in the proportion of overfished fish stocks. Of some 6,000 plant species cultivated for food, fewer than 200 contribute substantially to global food...

A team from Cornell University has unveiled a framework for economic impact analysis that uses locally sourced data to accurately capture spending related to the agriculture industry. Traditional economic analyses using state and local data can distort the impact of agriculture in a local economy. The Cornell researchers used New York's apple industry as a case study for the new framework and found that this industry has a 21% larger economic impact than traditional models suggest. The team found that every $1 of New York apples or apple products sold generates an additional 58 cents of spending, such as for...

Related ATTRA Resource: Biochar and Sustainable Agriculture A study led by Cornell University shows that biochar has the ability to soak up nitrogen from the air pollutant ammonia through a chemical reaction. Research in Ethiopia proposed to capture the nitrogen that would otherwise be lost from compost by adding biochar, and successfully documented this capture. Professor Johannes Lehmann notes that biochar compost has several potential benefits for farmers: it can conserve nitrogen for use as fertilizer, reduce odors from manure, and protect local water quality. In addition, the study revealed to scientists a process by which nitrogen emitted through mineralization and fires...