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A report by the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA), Ohio Farmers Market Network (OFMN), Ohio Food Policy Network (OFPN), and Produce Perks Midwest (PPM) captures how local and regional food systems and nutrition assistance in Ohio were impacted by COVID-19. Opportunity in a Time of Crisis: Recommendations for Building a More Resilient Ohio Food System offers eight policy recommendations Ohio's decision-makers can implement to invest in the capacity of state farmers and farmers markets and build food security for vulnerable families. In addition to discussing support for farmers markets, the report also describes the need to invest in...

Related ATTRA Video: Food Safety—A Farmer's Perspective A study by Cornell University found that small-scale farmers who are educated in food safety and develop a food-safety plan have new markets opened to them. The study showed that although the relative cost burden for implementing food safety plans is higher for smaller-scale producers, they enjoy more relative benefits of increasing sales to new markets and buyers. "The study highlights the value of food safety to all farmers," said co-author Elizabeth Bihn. "It's great to know that by investing in food safety, you are actually getting a market benefit." ...

USDA announced that additional commodities have been added to the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), and that it has made several other adjustments to the program based on comments received and review of market data. The newly added commodities are alfalfa sprouts, anise, arugula, basil, bean sprouts, beets, blackberries, Brussels sprouts, celeriac, chives, cilantro, coconuts, collard greens, dandelion greens, greens (others not listed separately), guava, kale greens, lettuce, marjoram, mint, mustard, okra, oregano, parsnips, passion fruit, peas (green), pineapple, pistachios, radicchio, rosemary, sage, savory, sorrel, fresh sugarcane, Swiss chard, thyme, and turnip top greens. Additionally, funding for sales losses in...

A new video from the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) aims to help create a better understanding of the benefits of choosing organic for human health and our planet. A Path to Resilience is a five-minute video that features the voices of organic farmers. It highlights systems that emphasize soil health and can help farmers and ranchers increase resilience to the impacts of climate change....

A listening session coordinated and hosted by the National Center for Appropriate Technology, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and the Organic Seed Alliance enabled farmers and others to provide input on what the USDA should prioritize in the decades ahead, reports Agri-View. Coordinators asked, "What are the biggest challenges and opportunities in the next 10 to 30 years to optimize agricultural production and resiliency?" Attendees responded with answers ranging from food as medicine, to involving non-farmers in the issue, to research on the impact of climate change....

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) have joined forces to make forage on state lands available to Minnesota livestock farmers. Many livestock owners were unable to send animals for processing due to COVID-19-related disruptions at meat slaughtering facilities, and as a result some farmers have larger herds and are running out of feed. These changes, along with drought conditions in parts of the state, are putting additional pressure on an already-low statewide forage stockpile. The agencies are working to streamline the process of approving haying and grazing on state-owned land. Livestock farmers...

In this episode, Margo Hale, Director of NCAT’s Southeast Regional in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and Linda Coffey, Livestock Specialist with NCAT also located in Fayetteville, discuss ruminant health: how to encourage health, prevent illness, work with a veterinarian, and manage so that your flock or herd is mostly trouble-free. They discuss tools and supplies they like to have on hand. They also share the contents of the first-aid kit of Dave and Jenny Scott, owners of Montana Highland Lamb. Dave is a Livestock Specialist in NCAT’s Rocky Mountain West Regional office in Butte, Montana. For more information on this topic,...

A study led by Rutgers University compared 40 options to tackle the interrelated problems of climate change, food security, and land degradation and looked for trade-offs or co-benefits with 18 categories of services provided by ecosystems, such as clean air and clean water, and the United Nations' 17 sustainable development goals. Several interventions show potentially significant negative impacts on sustainable development goals and ecosystem services. Study authors say that some potential options that don't get as much attention globally, but are quite promising with fewer trade-offs, include integrated water management, reducing post-harvest losses in agriculture, improving fire management, agroforestry, and...

Related ATTRA Publication: Crop Insurance Options for Specialty, Diversified, and Organic Farmers USDA Risk Management Agency announced changes to several crop insurance policies improving options for producers, including introducing a new Quality Loss Option, a new unit structure assignment option for Enterprise Units (EU), and new procedures for Multi-County Enterprise Units (MCEU). Specifically, the new Quality Loss Option allows producers to replace post-quality production amounts in their Actual Production History (APH) databases with pre-quality production amounts, thereby increasing their actual yields for individual crop years. The changes regarding the Quality Loss Option and EUs are further described in a final rule available...

Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) is taking its "In Her Boots" peer learning program for women farmers virtual this year. In Her Boots events that encourage women farmers to learn from each other will be held online as webinars, and the program will build on these events through In Her Boots Podcast and Facebook group. Also, there will be an eight-week weekly "Resilience Boot Camp" enews filled with tips to help you build capacity to manage the many curveballs of farming. ...

At least 27 farmers markets in Oregon have launched online ordering systems in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Oregon Farmers Markets Association (OFMA), in partnership with the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) and the Oregon Coast Visitors Association (OCVA), launched a new statewide project this spring, aimed at helping Oregon's farmers markets establish online ordering systems. The online markets offer an opportunity for consumers to support local businesses and preserve the farmers market industry, which serves communities across the state. Online ordering offers some farms their only current means of selling products. It also offers vulnerable and at-risk populations...

Researchers at Cornell University have identified the fungal pathogen that causes bitter rot in apples. This fungus is in the genus Colletotrichum, as is a related fungus that causes rot on other fruit, which this study found for the first time on apples. Growers in New York suffer bitter rot losses as high as 25% per year, and organic growers have experienced crop loss to bitter rot. Identifying the pathogen responsible for bitter rot will help growers understand the environmental conditions that produce the disease, and they can look for ways to manage those conditions. In addition, scientists can begin...

USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has launched a new video series that tells the stories of farmers, ranchers, and others impacted by invasive feral swine. Episode 1- Mississippi is an 11-minute video that looks at the impacts feral swine have on farmers large and small, as well as the levy system, natural resources, and archaeological sites. ...

Answer: Feeding amounts for newly hatched birds are as follows: layer chicks: 9 to 10 pounds per bird in the first 10 weeks broiler chicks: 8 to 9 pounds per bird in the first six weeks turkeys: 72 pounds per bird in the first 12 weeks As laying birds mature, chickens will require 1.5 pounds per bird per week, and turkeys will require 4 to 5 pounds per bird per week. Pastured poultry can obtain anywhere from 5 to 20% of their daily dietary requirement from forage, if the forage is young, vegetative, and not too tall. Clovers seem to work best....

A team of Cornell University experts recently presented a pasture walk where they offered tips on ecological controls for pasture flies. They stressed cleaning up the farm as the first step to preventing infestations of flies that breed in undisturbed manure piles and rotting organic matter. Managing these potential breeding areas helps to prevent fly problems from developing and reduces the need to use insecticides. Additional control strategies include non-chemical traps for horn flies, parasitic wasps for confined systems, and organic chemical controls as a last resort....

The National Industrial Hemp Council and The Hemp Industries Association® announced an agreement to work together to explore the creation of a marketing checkoff program to promote hemp. USDA checkoff programs seek to promote farm commodities and expand market opportunity for farmers, importers, and industry stakeholders. Checkoff programs are funded through assessments on the produced commodity at the first point of sale. They allow producers of commodities to pool resources for research, education, and promotion efforts that can expand sales and improve production efficiencies. The two organizations say they expect to form a working group with representatives from across the...

The national action plan released by the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis includes a chapter on agriculture, reports the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC). According to NSAC, "The agriculture section of the Select Committee's report includes seven major components—increasing carbon sequestration and resilience, decreasing agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, improving technical assistance and research, supporting on-farm renewable energy and energy efficiency, supporting the next generation of farmers, preserving farmland, and reducing food waste." NSAC highlighted recommendations in the plan that pertain to sustainable agriculture in a blog post....

Related ATTRA Publication: Tipsheet: Organic Cattle, Sheep, and Goats for Meat Production The Organic Center has released The Benefits of Organic Meat, a report that gathers together scientific literature to show the differences in the way organic meat is produced and why those differences are critical to the health of the animals, the health and safety of consumers, the health of the soil, and the impacts on climate change. The report shows that organic meat provides greater nutritional benefits, including more good omega-3 fatty acids, less cholesterol, and more antioxidants; a lower risk of exposure to antibiotics, growth hormones and pesticides; and...

While we never have a problem selling what we have available, we also don’t usually have an overwhelming demand. As soon as COVID-19 hit, though, people who have never bought meat from us before began reaching out to see if we had any meat available for sale. They wanted to stock their freezers!
By Margo Hale, NCAT Southeast Regional Director and NCAT Livestock Specialist...

Research published in the Journal of Applied Ecology by agroecologists at the University of Göttingen showed that flower strips and organic farming both encourage wild bee populations. The research team selected nine landscapes in the vicinity of Göttingen, Germany, along a gradient of increasing field size and then analyzed the wild bees and hoverflies in each landscape at the edge of an organic wheat field, in a flower strip along conventional wheat, and at the edge of a conventional wheat field without flower strips. The study found the most pollinators in the flower strips, but organic fields, characterized by more...

Related ATTRA Publication: Cover Crop (340) in Organic Systems Auburn University College of Agriculture announced that it was awarded a $3 million On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials grant through NRCS' Conservation Innovation Grants program. The funded project will encourage the use of innovative conservation practices among Alabama row-crop farmers, such as cover crops and water-smart irrigation. The project also will help farmers evaluate nutrient losses and demonstrate the agronomic, economic, and environmental benefits of improved conservation practices. Three farms have been selected to serve as demonstrations for the project, and Extension offices will serve as learning sites that host project meetings with participating...

In this episode, NCAT Sustainable Agriculture Specialist Colin Mitchell interviews Chad Ellis, CEO of the Texas Agriculture Land Trust (TALT) and a board member of the Ecosystem Service Marketplace Consortium (ESMC). Colin works out of NCAT’s Southwest Regional Office in San Antonio, Texas, and among other projects works with NCAT’s ATTRA sustainable agriculture program. Colin and Chad discuss the role of TALT in the creation and monitoring of conservation easements for working farms and ranches. Chad also explains conservation and mitigation banking and how TALT helps facilitate those opportunities. Chad and Colin then move on to talk about ecosystem service markets, especially carbon...

This virtual listening session aims to help shape agricultural research priorities for the next three decades. Participants will have the opportunity to discuss the biggest challenges and opportunities for optimizing agricultural productivity and resilience, strengthening economic viability, and decreasing the environmental impact of our nation's farms and ranches. The listening session was co-hosted by the National Center for Appropriate Technology and Organic Seed Alliance in partnership with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. Input will be shared with the USDA to directly influence the department’s Agricultural Innovation Agenda, including objectives for public - and private-sector research and development. NCAT also helped...

Related ATTRA Publication: Integrating Livestock and Crops: Improving Soil, Solving Problems, Increasing Income USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists have developed the concept of "manuresheds" that would link surplus manure nutrients from livestock operations with the nutrient sinks offered by crop production. Researchers noted that most animal farms have insufficient land for using all of their manure, while crop producers rely on commercial fertilizers to supply the nutrients their crops need. They classified counties nationwide as either "sources" or "sinks" and developed a system that highlights opportunities for redistributing manure within regional "manuresheds."...

Related ATTRA Video: Five Benefits of Cover Crops The Center for Rural Affairs released Guide To Cover Crop Cost Share in Iowa, a fact sheet that describes state, federal, and industry-based programs available to assist Iowa farmers and landowners with the cost of cover crops. "We know implementing cover crops can be a significant cost in your operations, especially with commodity prices where they are currently," said Kayla Bergman, policy associate for the Center for Rural Affairs. "That's why cost-share programs that offset these costs are crucial." Programs included in this guide not only provide technical assistance, they also provide financial...

The Northwest Wisconsin Hazelnut Growers Cluster is bringing growers together to support harvesting and processing infrastructure for the crop, reports Agri-View. Supporters of hazelnuts have worked for more than a decade to develop hybrids of the native crop that produce well. Now they're fostering the development of grower groups that can share the cost of specialized equipment. Hazelnuts offer growers a perennial crop that stabilizes soil, provides a windbreak for other crops, and can furnish farms with a new source of income. They can produce as soon as three years after planting. ...

Related ATTRA Publication: Farm to School Sales: Profiles of Ranches Making It Work USDA Food and Nutrition Service announced the award of $12.1 million in Farm to School Grants. These grants support projects that will help bring fresh, local foods into schools and foster economic opportunity for America's farmers. This year, the annual Farm to School Grant Program included a new track specifically for state agencies seeking to engrain the use of local foods not just in the school meals programs but also in childcare centers and at summer meals sites. A total of 27 states applied for and received this grant....

Related ATTRA Publication: Pastured Poultry Budgets: Slow Growing Broiler and Organic Comparisons A new study from the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) explores how much land and feed it takes for 10 different pastured livestock farms in Pennsylvania to produce a pound of grass-finished beef, pastured pork, or pastured chicken. The study is aimed at identifying what it would take to make pastured systems the mainstream model of animal agriculture and how that scaling up might affect land use and the environment. PASA notes that while one pastured beef cattle farm was capable of producing 71 pounds of meat per acre...

A report commissioned by a coalition of the California Farm Bureau Federation and other groups says that pandemic-related losses to California farms, ranches, and agricultural businesses will range between $5.9 billion and $8.6 billion this year. The study revealed that the state's agricultural sector has already suffered $2 billion in losses from disrupted markets and rising production costs related to the COVID-19 outbreak. Meanwhile, a commentary released by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) and the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association looks at Economic Impacts of COVID-19 on Food and Agricultural Markets. The commentary is authored by agricultural economic...

Answer: Although organic production is more costly than conventional production, the price premium for organic cherries remains significant despite fluctuations. However, studies reveal that the consumer who will pay up to 50% more for certified organic cherries also expects those cherries to be especially large and sweet (Kirby and Granatstein, 2010). Consequently, the aspiring organic cherry producer will have to pay very close attention to quality in every aspect of production if he or she expects to earn the organic premium. Most organic cherries are produced in the West, and mid- to large-scale producers often use conventional brokers to get their...

A study by the Crossroads Resource Center revealed that New Mexico residents spend $6.5 billion each year buying food sourced outside the state. The study report, titled New Mexico Farm & Food Economy, says New Mexico could gain economically by building soil health and feeding its own people. It notes that if each New Mexico resident purchased $5 of food each week directly from some farm in the state, farmers would earn $544 million, which is more than current net cash income. The 46-page report is available online....

Vermont's Working Lands Enterprise Board announced the award of $1.4 million in grants and contracts to 35 Agriculture and Forestry businesses and service providers. This year's awards emphasized large-scale market level and supply chain impacts in the dairy and forestry sectors. Funding goes to several categories of farm and forest businesses, as well as supply chain and market-level operations. The Working Lands Enterprise Initiative (WLEI) and governing board (WLEB) were created by the state legislature in 2012 to stimulate economic development in the agricultural and forestry sectors....

Farmers' Legal Action Group is reminding farmers that the application deadline for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is June 30, 2020. Recent changes to the rules may make the program more appealing to farmers. Under PPP, self-employed people, including farmers, can receive low-interest loans that may be forgiven if the farmer spends at least 60% of the loan money on payroll costs and meets other requirements. Even if the PPP loan is not forgiven, the loan terms are more favorable than the terms of many farm loans. However, to be eligible for PPP, a farmer must show a net farm...

HEAL Food Alliance and Union of Concerned Scientists released a policy brief called Leveling the Fields: Creating Farming Opportunities for Black People, Indigenous People, and Other People of Color. It notes that U.S. agriculture is rife with obstacles for Black people, Indigenous people, and other people of color (BIPOC), including immigrants, migrants, and refugees. These can include difficulty securing capital, credit, land, infrastructure, and information. This policy brief reviews opportunities for governments, the private sector, philanthropies, and others to contribute to simultaneously building socioeconomic equity and sustainability in U.S. food systems. ...

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) has created a new audio podcast series called "Rural Realities" that will initially focus on dealing with stress on the farm. "The goal of the podcast is to provide farmers, farm families and everyone in the agriculture sector with information and techniques to decrease stress in their lives and navigate the various challenges in farming," said Jayne Krull, director of DATCP's Farm Center. "While the first group of podcasts will focus on stress on the farm, the podcasts eventually will cover a wide range of topics impacting farmers and rural...

Exotic Bee ID, a free website that helps identify non-native bees in the United States, has been expanded to include more information and species. The resource was created through a collaborative effort between the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and Utah State University as a tool for screeners monitoring for non-native bees entering the country. However, the website can also be used by growers and hobbyists seeking to identify bee species. The guides can be entered at any point using the bee's color and distinctive features, to make identification...

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), the Dairy Strong Sustainability Alliance (DSSA), and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) collaborated to produce Producer-led Group Roadmap: Producer-led Group Roadmap: Finding Success in Farmer-Led Watershed Organizations. The 16-page guide is a roadmap that provides detail on steps that have been critical to the success of existing producer-led groups. Farmer-led conservation groups have been growing in popularity as a way for farmers to expand conservation practices and document their progress in water quality and soil health. ...

A new fact sheet series is available to help specialty crop growers prepare for and respond to possible dicamba and 2,4-D drift. The series provides tips for being proactive, detailed steps for documenting and responding to damage, and a brief background on why dicamba and 2,4-D have been especially problematic. A Frequently Asked Questions fact sheet highlights various concerns pertinent to specialty crop production. The new fact sheet series was co-written by specialists at The Ohio State University and Purdue University, with support from the North Central IPM Center Working Group on Herbicide-Drift Risk Management. Experts note that although recent...

Related ATTRA Publication: Crop Insurance Options for Specialty, Diversified, and Organic Farmers The Center for Rural Affairs (CFRA) has released a white paper titled Crop Insurance: Taking a Look at Access in Nebraska and Iowa that outlines CFRA outreach efforts with underserved producers. The paper explains that Whole-Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) may make diversifying easier for farmers, and that diversification is a risk-management strategy. Farmers who have avoided diversifying for fear that they can't insure their crops could utilize WFRP....

In this episode, Martin Guerena, a sustainable agriculture specialist with NCAT’s Western Regional office in Davis, California, speaks with Hope Sippola and Shane Zurilgen of Fiery Ginger Farm in West Sacramento. Among other duties, Martin works with NCAT’s ATTRA sustainable-agriculture program. Their conversation includes a description of the operation, as well as some of the challenges they’ve faced and the opportunities they’ve found due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They provide ideas to help producers adapt to the changes in their markets. For more information on this topic, contact Martin Guerena directly via email at marting@ncat.org Related ATTRA Resources: ATTRA COVID-19 Resources Local Food Systems Marketing and...

Related ATTRA Publication: Comparing Energy Use in Conventional and Organic Cropping Systems Three projects by scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory aim to quantify and reduce the carbon intensity of agriculture. Two are part of the SMARTFARM initiative that seeks to make the biofuel supply chain carbon negative. One project will monitor emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane from five commercial farms in California and Arkansas growing corn and crops for straw. Scientists will conduct atmospheric sensing of greenhouse gases, genomic analyses to characterize the soil microbiome, and life cycle analysis to determine the ratio of carbon input to output....

Minnesota Department of Agriculture announced that by June 29, 2020, all critical sector businesses, including all farms and farmers' markets, are required to develop and implement a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan that complies with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) COVID-19 guidelines and OSHA standards. The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) has created a preparedness plan template that includes all required plan components and is available in Hmong, Somali, and Spanish. Farms may use other templates, such as the produce farm-specific plan from the University of Minnesota Extension, if all components outlined...

Ohio University has released an online resource guide titled, What Is a Food Desert? Causes, Statistics, and Resources. This resource guide was created for food poverty associations, nutrition assistance organizations, and healthy living communities who are looking to share information on how food deserts impact America and ways to increase healthy food access to those in need. This guide provides detailed insights and resources on what food deserts are and common factors and causes of food deserts. It also offers resources for individuals living in food deserts and for nutritional education, as well as information on how to help those...

A study by scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Shandong University revealed that nanoplastics can accumulate in plants. The researchers state, "Plant accumulation of nanoplastics can have both direct ecological effects and implications for agricultural sustainability and food safety." UMass Amherst environmental scientist Baoshan Xing explains, "Our experiments have given us evidence of nanoplastics uptake and accumulation in plants in the laboratory at the tissue and molecular level using microscopic, molecular, and genetic approaches." Plants in this study that were exposed to nanoplastics were shorter and had less biomass than controls....

USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced the award of $90 million for nine projects through the Sustainable Agricultural Systems program. The $10 million awards will support projects at eight institutions that address topics such as improved practices in poultry production, sustainable shellfish farming, efficient water use, perennial grain, and improvements in the value chain of biofuel production. Summaries of the projects are available online....

Join NCAT, the Organic Seed Alliance, and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition for a virtual listening session on June 30, 2020, to help shape agricultural research priorities for the next three decades. At 10 am (PT), participants will have the opportunity to discuss the biggest challenges and opportunities for optimizing agricultural productivity and resilience, strengthening economic viability, and decreasing the environmental impact of our nation's farms and ranches. Your input will be shared with the USDA to directly influence the department's Agricultural Innovation Agenda, including objectives for public- and private-sector research and development. We will also help participants submit their...

Answer: Aphids overwinter as eggs and emerge in the spring, and continue to reproduce all season. They reach maturity in about 10 days, which makes for several generations each growing season. Because of their rapid life cycle, they are hard to control with insecticides. Several species of predatory insects will feed on aphids including ladybugs, green lacewings, and parasitic wasps. Using insecticides will harm the good insects along with the bad, so spraying all season is seldom beneficial or economical. However, if you have an infestation and want to spray, I recommend a least-toxic pesticide, such as insecticidal soap, horticultural oil,...

Cornell Cooperative Extension is inviting nursery/greenhouse/cut-flower growers who have been impacted by COVID-19 market disruptions to complete a survey. This survey will help in providing data to USDA, which may help impacted farms qualify for CFAP farm disaster funding. These types of farms were left out of USDA's Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) disaster payment program for farmers due to lack of information on losses. USDA is seeking information to determine if these industries were affected by COVID-19 market impacts and are eligible for CFAP. While this survey is specific to the nursery, greenhouse, and cut-flower producers, Cornell Cooperative Extension...

The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF) announced its latest round of Agricultural Development Grant (ADG) program awardees. For 2020, eleven Maine agricultural producers and organizations are sharing a total of $472,736.96. "We are excited to provide grant funding for market and technology development at this critical time for Maine agriculture," says Amanda Beal, DACF Commissioner. "These grants are helping agricultural producers to expand and improve production, strengthen their ability to respond to consumer demand, and be more competitive while benefiting a broad community of partners." The full list of projects and grant awards appears on on the...

Related ATTRA Video: Livestock Integration with Crops: A Summary Practical Farmers of Iowa has issued Economic and Soil Health Impact of Grazing Cover Crops, 2018-2019. This report describes the economic and soil health impacts six Iowa cooperators experienced in grazed cover crop systems. The cooperators grazed cover crops in the fall, winter and/or spring, kept cover crop and grazing records, and had their soil sampled in May 2019. This study found that economic returns are realized from cover crop grazing within a year's time, while soil health impacts seemingly are slower to manifest....

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has launched a Conservation Agricultural Mentoring Program that matches an experienced producer who is passionate about conservation with an NRCS field employee that is new to the job or new to the area. Once matched with a producer mentor, the employee will go out on the land with them six to 12 times per year for a period of 12 to 18 months to learn about common agricultural practices, local concerns, and how producers use conservation measures. More information is available online, and interested producers can contact local coordinators to become mentors....

Farmers' Legal Action Group published an updated Farmers' Guide to Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). There have been a number of changes to the CFAP program since the first edition of this Guide was published on May 29, 2020. These include a new Handbook that USDA released that governs CFAP, and new rules in the Federal Register. In addition, this Second Edition of the Guide includes more information on the possibility of farmer appeals of USDA decisions on CFAP, as well as on USDA's discrimination complaint process. The publication is available free online....

The National Center for Appropriate Technology's (NCAT) Executive Director Steve Thompson issued a message on the organization's commitment to racial justice. Thompson writes, "We acknowledge that NCAT needs to do more to address the root causes of racial injustice. We stand with those who peacefully protest the continuing American legacy of racism and institutional violence. We pledge to do more to embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion in our offices across America."...

Farm Aid has announced that it is distributing $400,000 to launch a national COVID-19 Farmer Resilience Initiative in response to COVID-19. As part of the initiative, Farm Aid, with the help of local and regional partners, is distributing grants in $500 increments to help farmers meet household expenses. In addition to the grants, Farm Aid is providing resources from its national partners, which include Farmers' Legal Action Group (FLAG), Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA (RAFI-USA), Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative, Intertribal Agriculture Council, and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. The initiative includes a number of measures designed to support farmers....

Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) has released a new online book titled Conservation Tillage Systems in the Southeast. It explores the importance of conservation tillage and provides in-depth management guidance to help farmers control erosion and build soil quality. Its emphasis is on the use of conservation tillage in rotations of agronomic crops and cover crops typical of the Southeast. The publication addresses the core components of conservation tillage systems and provides specific strategies to help farmers in the southeastern United States incorporate conservation tillage systems into their operations. The publication is available as online text or as a...

Related ATTRA Publication: Specialty Crops for Cold Climates In research funded by Northern New York Agricultural Development Program, seven farms in northern New York are hosting commercial grower trials of juneberry, honeyberry, and aronia berry. These northern-climate-tolerant fruit crops represent significant income potential from fresh market and value-added sale. Trials of the three fruits are evaluating how well they adapt to and thrive under New York growing conditions. Evaluations from those farm trials are available in an online report, Establishing New Commercial Fruit Crops for Northern NY, that includes notes on 11 commercial varieties, four ornamental varieties, and nine wild-collected varieties of...

In this episode, NCAT agriculture specialist Felicia Bell talks with Carolyn Jones of the Mississippi Minority Farmers Alliance. Felicia works in the NCAT Gulf States Office in Jackson, Mississippi, including work with NCAT’s ATTRA sustainable agriculture program. Felicia and Carolyn talk about engaging young people in agriculture and the importance of involving the entire community in the effort to secure the future of minority farmers and land owners. For more information on this topic, contact Felicia Bell directly via email at feliciab@ncat.org. Related ATTRA Resources: Economic Development - MS Food Justice Collaborative Education - MS Food Justice Collaborative Local Food Access - MS Food Justice Collaborative Other...

Research by the University of Reading, published in the journal Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, provides the first observed evidence that agroforestry increases wild insect pollinator numbers and increases pollination. The research team found that agroforestry sites had double the number of solitary bees and hoverflies compared to monocultures, and in arable agroforestry sites there were 2.4 times more bumblebees. Solitary bee species richness also increased tenfold at some sites. These increases in wild insect pollinators resulted in more pollination. Study leader Dr. Alexa Varah noted, "Our study finally provides some proof that agroforestry is win-win for wild pollinators and for...

Western Illinois University is setting aside 32 acres of campus grass for baling rather than traditional mowing. The plan will both save on mowing labor costs and provide food for livestock at the University Farm. Administrators anticipate that the plan will produce 50 to 60 large round bales of grass/clover hay. By fall, the fields will be returned to manicured mowed condition....

Pipeline Foods is partnering with the Real Food Campaign to create the Small Grains Partner Program—a collaborative effort focused on connecting soil, plant, and human health to improve the nutritional quality of the planet's food supply. The effort begins with wheat and oats. Organic and/or conventional farmers can submit soil and grain samples for free and answer some questions about practices used in growing the crop. Participants will get a detailed report on the levels of protein, polyphenols, minerals, and antioxidants in their grains and total carbon, respiration, pH, and mineral content of their soil. Interested farmers are invited to...

National Pollinator Week is set for June 22-28, 2020. The Pollinator Partnership is urging socially distant, appropriate events that celebrate pollinators and spread the word about what you can do to protect them. An interactive map showing planned activities is available online. One possible activity is lighting of buildings in yellow and orange to show support for pollinators. The Pollinator Partnership is providing an online toolkit of resources that includes graphics, social media posts, printable pollinator fact sheets, and more....

The international sustainability nonprofit Forum for the Future has released Growing Our Future, a roadmap for scaling regenerative agriculture in the United States. With funding from the Walmart Foundation, Forum for the Future led a collaborative process with stakeholders from across the American agriculture system to identify the key opportunities to scale regenerative agriculture. These are published in a new report that identifies 16 barriers to scale, along with a seven-point plan to help overcome them and drive transformational change, and specific recommendations for how different actors can enable this transition. The 37-page report is available free online....

A study published in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution found that milkweed samples from California's Central Valley were all contaminated with pesticides. This contamination was at high enough levels to harm monarch butterflies that rely on the milkweed as a sole food source, as well as other insects. Although data on toxicity to monarchs is available for just four of the 64 pesticides identified in testing, 32% of the samples collected in this study contained pesticide levels known to be lethal to monarchs. Samples contained an average of nine different pesticides, with a high of 25 different pesticides on a...

Answer: It's frustrating for producers to be unable to sell all their product at the farmers market, CSA site, or other marketing events. Throwing perishable product away or giving it to the animals is not profitable. A value-added enterprise can be a good step toward increasing your profit and reducing your risk by taking out much of the perishability of the products. The value of farm products can be increased in endless ways: by cleaning and cooling, packaging, processing, distributing, cooking, combining, churning, culturing, grinding, hulling, extracting, drying, smoking, handcrafting, spinning, and weaving. Because of the many regulations involved with food processing,...

Related ATTRA Publication: Companion Planting & Botanical Pesticides: Concepts & Resources A meta-analysis of 226 studies, led by Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands, showed that intercropping can significantly increase yields while reducing fertilizer inputs. The study concluded that intercropping appears to give a 16-29% larger yield per unit area than monocultures in intensive agriculture under the same circumstances, while using 19-36% less fertilizer per unit product. The study results were published in Nature Plants, and researchers noted that these results applied to intensive agriculture as well as low-input agriculture....

Related ATTRA Video: NCAT's ATTRA Specialists: Potting Mix Penn State Extension has launched a 10-week video series, Agriculture: Working for You, that features home-recorded videos of extension educators engaging in agriculture-related activities in their family operations. Extension educators say they hope the videos will grow consumer awareness of agriculture's connection to food and fiber in Pennsylvania. The videos are designed for both agriculturalists and non-farmers. Topics range from vegetable production to livestock rearing. ...

Related ATTRA Video: Using Social Media to Grow Your Farm Business To help farmers adapt quickly to the market opportunity of online sales, North Central SARE, the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture, and University of Minnesota Extension are offering free one-on-one coaching for up to 50 farmers who are interested in taking online orders for their products. Farmers can spend up to two hours individually with a coach, via Zoom, and be guided through the process of setting up a Wordpress site to advertise products for sale and a Google Form to take customer orders, as well as transferring order information from...

The 2020 Organic Industry Survey released by the Organic Trade Association shows that organic sales in 2019 in the food and non-food markets totaled a record $55.1 billion, up 5% from the previous year. Organic food sales were $50.1 billion, up 4.6 percent%, while organic non-food sales totaled just over $5 billion, up a 9.2%. The survey also showed that organic produce makes up almost a third of all organic food sales, and organic fruits and vegetables have captured 15% of the U.S. fruits and vegetables market. Meanwhile, organic dairy and eggs accounted for more than 8% of the total...

Related ATTRA Publication: Cover Crop Options for Hot and Humid Areas A University of Florida study funded by a Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SSARE) On-Farm Research Grant showed the soil health benefits of cover crops as a green manure for vegetable farms. The two-year study explored the benefits of using cover crops such as cow pea and sunn hemp on eight Florida farms. The soil health benefits included increased organic matter and increased water-holding capacity, decreasing soil pH, and increasing soil protein content. The funded project included development of a six-module in-service training for Extension faculty on incorporating cover crops in...

Rattan Lal, a soil scientist at The Ohio State University and founding director of the Carbon Management and Sequestration Center, has been awarded this year's World Food Prize. Lal was recognized for his long-term work on improving agricultural soils, spanning five continents. Lal is credited with research that demonstrated how healthy soil can help solve the problems of both food insecurity and global warming. The prize includes an award of $250,000, which Lal will donate for future soil research and education. "It is a privilege and honor to be of service to the many small farmers from around the world...

USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is partnering with the University of Kentucky, Colorado State University, and Penn State University, as well as 16 trade associations, to conduct a national study on the COVID-19 pandemic's effects on local food systems. According to a University of Kentucky news story, "The study seeks to answer how sectors of local and regional food systems are responding to COVID-19, what successful adaptations have been implemented, what obstacles the various arms of local food systems have encountered and the economic and value-chain impacts." The year-long study will conduct marketplace assessments and collecting production and marketing strategies...

The National Organic Coalition is seeking feedback from organic farmers on the USDA Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) direct payment plan for farmers, to better understand how to advocate for meaningful support for organic farmers. Organic farmers who have considered applying for CFAP are invited to complete a short online survey. ...

En este episodio, Martin Guerena, un especialista en agricultura sostenible con el programa ATTRA del Centro Nacional de Tecnologia Apropiada (NCAT), habla con Brett Melone, el Director de Préstamos de California FarmLink. California FarmLink, que comenzó en 1999, ayuda a los agricultores principiantes, de recursos limitados, inmigrantes y otros desatendidos que intentan acceder tierra o financiamiento. Se enfoca particularmente en las regiones de la Costa Central, Valle Central y Costa Norte de California. Martin, quien trabaja en la Oficina Regional Occidental del NCAT en Davis, California, habló con Brett durante la reciente Conferencia EcoFarm de la Asociación de Agricultura Ecológica en Pacific...

The National Young Farmers Coalition has created a Racial Equity Toolkit designed to orient and incite members toward preliminary consciousness-raising and direct action. According to the National Young Farmers Coalition, it is an initial resource for people who are overwhelmed by the breadth and depth of the problem, and need help determining how to start dismantling racism in their communities....

Related ATTRA Resources: Pasture, Rangeland, and Grazing Management Grazing expert Dr. Allen Williams compiled 10 tips for summer grazing success that are available on Understanding Ag. This list of basic grazing tips focuses on protecting resources through good management practices. Williams concludes, "if you practice these 10 tips routinely, you will have a great grazing season and you will learn more with each day you spend in the pastures with your livestock."...

USDA announced that new features on Farmers.gov will help farmers and ranchers manage their conservation activities online and request assistance from USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Using the new features, producers can now view, download and e-sign documents; request conservation assistance; reference technical terms and submit questions; access information on current and past conservation practices; and view detailed information on all previous and ongoing contracts, including the amount of planned and received cost-share assistance. According to USDA, the new features include the most popular functionalities from NRCS's Conservation Client Gateway (CCG) while providing enhanced functionality and an improved user...

USDA Agricultural Marketing Service has published proposed changes to the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances (National List) section of USDA's organic regulations in the Federal Register. This rule proposes to add the following substances to the National List: Oxalic acid dihydrate as a pesticide for organic apiculture; pullulan for use in organic handling in products labeled, "Made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s))"; and collagen gel casing as a nonorganic agricultural substance for use in organic handling when organic forms of collagen gel casing are not commercially available. Public comments on the proposed changes will be accepted...

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has published guidance announcing flexibility in the eligibility criteria for the qualified exemption from the Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption (Produce Safety Rule), due to disruptions to the supply chain for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency. As set forth in 21 CFR 112.5(a), a farm is eligible for a qualified exemption and associated modified requirements in a calendar year if during the previous three-year period, the average annual monetary value of food the farm sold directly to qualified end-users exceeded the average annual...

Related ATTRA Resources: Organic Farming Basics of Organic Farming is a self-directed online course designed for beginning orchard and vegetable-crop farmers, existing organic farmers, and farmers in transition to organic production. This course is a joint effort of the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF), the University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (UC SAREP), and California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. The course consists of six modules: 1) soil health; 2) weed management; 3) irrigation and water management; 4) insect pest management; 5) disease management; and 6) economics and marketing. The first two modules are currently available online,...

Answer: Many new community supported agriculture (CSA) models have been created, along with CSA software programs. These programs  allow customers to sign up, modify their order, cancel their subscription, and sign up for varying weeks of deliveries. These new systems have greatly expanded the original definition of CSA, which meant that customers paid up front for an entire season’s worth of vegetables from the farm. There are pros and cons of the new ways in which the CSA marketing model is expanding. On one hand, customers do not have to pay so much money up front; thus a CSA share is...

Related ATTRA Podcast: Glyphosate Contamination The Ninth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals vacated the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's approval of three dicamba formulations for use on dicamba-tolerant soybeans and cotton, effective June 3, 2020. DTN Progressive Farmer reports that the decision's timing during the growing season is worrying farmers. Meanwhile, states are interpreting the ruling differently and taking a variety of routes to implementing it. This article provides listings of actions by numerous states, with links to the sites of state regulators. ...

Related ATTRA Publication: Specialty Crops for Cold Climates Kiwiberry is a grape-sized relative of the more familiar kiwi that can be grown in colder climates. Although the plant was first introduced to the United States in 1876, it is not widely grown commercially. One obstacle to more growers producing it commercially has been the challenge of obtaining appropriate varieties. The University of New Hampshire (UNH) Kiwiberry Research and Breeding Program has been working to standardize variety names in an effort to help growers obtain varieties that are recommended for New England. The UNH team partnered with Hartmann's Plant Company to certify the...

Related ATTRA Publication: Tips for Marketing Sheep and Goat Products: Fiber The Livestock Conservancy is offering two free courses on Teachable that can help fiber producers connect with customers. Marketing Your Fiber Products focuses on connecting and creating better communication between the people who produce wool and those who use it. This course will help both buyers and sellers of wool and fiber connect and understand the various social media outlets available. The other course, From Farm to Fiber Folk, explains the difference between wool, hair, and kemp and what breed's wools are best for which projects. This course will also help...

Since it began taking applications May 26, 2020, USDA has approved more than $545 million in payments to producers who have applied for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). USDA has already received more than 86,000 applications for the program. In the first six days of the application period, FSA made payments to more than 35,000 producers. FSA will accept applications through August 28, 2020. Through CFAP, USDA is making available $16 billion in financial assistance to producers of agricultural commodities who have suffered a five-percent-or-greater price decline due to COVID-19 and face additional significant marketing costs as a result...

The Center for Agroforestry at the University of Missouri has developed three modules on agroforestry for use as undergraduate, online curriculum. The introductory material could be integrated into undergraduate courses in environmental sciences, sustainability, landscape design, plant sciences, horticulture, agronomy, ecology, and other disciplines. The modules available in the What is Agroforestry? Practices and Pathways for Multifunctional Landscapes curriculum are as follows: 1) Understanding agroforestry as it is situated in a broader ecological and social context; 2) What is the value of integrating perennial crops in agroecological systems?; and 3) Planning, design, and management approaches for specialty crops in agroforestry....

I developed a love of plants as a young boy, helping my father in his yard-of-the-month winning front yard. I hated pruning roses, but everything else was so amazing to me. I think the thing that really hooked me was propagation, although I didn’t know the word for it back then. When I realized I could make a whole new plant from just a piece of another, it did something permanent to my little mind that is still with me today.
By Justin Duncan, NCAT Agriculture Specialist...

Related ATTRA Publication: Cover Crop Options for Hot and Humid Areas A new online Cover Crop Information Map resource is providing access to published research and cover crop trial results. The interactive map is a free service of the GO SEED company, and is searchable by region or topic. "The Cover Crop Information Map is a free resource for agricultural producers, researchers, and industry influencers wanting access to unfiltered, raw research data, and methodology to help them translate and apply findings to their own trials and practices," says Jerry Hall, director of research for GO SEED. The map collects more than 200...

A four-year study led by UC Cooperative Extension evaluated the potential for producing sorghum and garbanzos in the San Joaquin Valley, using high residue, no-till techniques. No-till production has the potential to increase agricultural water use efficiency, but little was known about how it affected yield for diverse California crops until this study. In this trial of a sorghum/garbanzo rotation, the sorghum yield was similar in no-till and standard production, while no-till garbanzos yielded an average of 3,417 pounds per acre versus 2,738 pounds per acre for standard tillage....

A new report from agricultural economists at the University of California examines the current and long-term impacts of COVID-19 on California's cattle, dairy, produce, strawberry, tomato, nut, and wine industries. Profiles in the report illustrate the different ways the pandemic has impacted dairy, beef, produce, and tree nuts. Additionally, experts assess what the future could hold for California's leading agricultural industries. The report also addresses the effect of the pandemic on farm labor, and the authors conclude that farm labor supplies are likely to be reduced due to the pandemic, hastening the trend toward mechanization. ...

In this episode, NCAT's Rex Dufour interviews organic walnut farmer and processor, Russ Lester, at Dixon Ridge Farms in Winters, California. Russ shares some very practical thoughts about why he uses cover crops and explains how multi-functional cover crops are to his orchards. Rex Dufour has been a sustainable agriculture specialist with NCAT/ATTRA since 1994, and opened NCAT's Western Regional Office in California in 2001. For more information on this topic, you can contact Rex Dufour directly at rexd@ncat.org. Related ATTRA Resources: Managing Soils for Water: How Five Principles of Soil Health Support Water Infiltration and Storage Tipsheet: Assessing the Soil Resource for Beginning Organic...

Farms Under Threat: The State of the States, a new report by American Farmland Trust, demonstrates how developing farmland puts food security, the environment and our way of life in jeopardy. The report shows the extent, location, and quality of each state's agricultural land and tracks how much of it has been converted since 2001. The report also identifies the 12 states with the most threatened agricultural land, and points to the threat that low-density residential development poses to working agricultural land. Meanwhile, the report's Agricultural Land Protection Scorecard analyzes six programs and policies that are key to securing a...

The Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Department of Labor have issued interim guidance for agriculture workers and employers as a template of action to protect agriculture workers from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). This guidance may be adapted by state and local health departments to respond to rapidly changing local circumstances, and by agricultural employers to protect workers at their particular work sites or in specific work operations. The guidance recognizes that "agriculture work sites, shared worker housing, and shared worker transportation vehicles present unique challenges for preventing and controlling the spread of COVID-19."...

Peterson and Control Union released a new regenerative agriculture platform at the Innovation Forum: The Future of Food virtual conference. Called "regenagri," the initiative focuses on continuous improvement of agriculture practice, promoting holistic farming techniques. Members gain market access and accreditation from a global certifying body....

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, and The Johns Hopkins Alliance for a Healthier World have launched the Food Systems Dashboard, an online tool that houses food systems data from more than 230 countries and territories. According to a press release, "The Food Systems Dashboard is a unique holistic resource intended for policymakers, non-governmental organisations, businesses, civil society leaders, and other actors to enable timely visualization of national food systems, understand the interconnections across multiple sectors, perform comparisons with other countries, identify key challenges, and prioritize actions." The Dashboard brings together...

The Farmer Veteran Coalition of Illinois, Illinois Farm Bureau, and Illinois AgrAbility have introduced Farm Corps, a new partnership program that will pair furloughed or unemployed veterans with agricultural producers who have an immediate need for on-farm labor. "Labor is a continual need for agriculture," said Raghela Scavuzzo, Illinois Farm Bureau associate director of food systems development. "At this time, as farms work to keep employees safe, the demand is greater than ever. The Farm Corps program serves dual roles by allowing farms to post positions and hopefully identify workers, and connect veterans and servicemen that are furloughed with agriculture....

The Board of Directors of the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SAWG) has announced that the organization will close after nearly 30 years. No new business will be transacted after May 31, 2020, although the organization will complete its responsibilities for existing projects. Southern SAWG has been well known and respected for its annual conference, Practical Tools and Solutions for Sustaining Family Farms, and for its Growing Farm Profits training program, as well as many other accomplishments....

Answer: First, take some time to get the field turned around and build tilth and soil structure. The best way to do this is through the biological activity of soil microorganisms. This, in turn, is accomplished with addition of carbon, or organic matter. For small-scale plots: The use of a broadfork would be advantageous, even if you use it to work over small plots at a time. After broadforking, the soil can be amended with compost and gypsum (helps loosen clay soils), followed by a cover crop. Do this twice in a growing season in spring and fall, and then the...

A Colorado State University study reveals the nutritional potential and consumer appeal of microgreens. The tender, leafy shoots of vegetables, grain, herbs, and flowers can be grown indoors, year-round, in cities and rural communities, and in settings ranging from warehouses to homes. Because they have less moisture, the microgreens pose less of a food-safety risk than sprouts, and they pack a significant beneficial punch of nutritional phytochemicals. This particular study evaluated six different types of microgreens: arugula, broccoli, bull's blood beet, red cabbage, red garnet amaranth, and tendril pea, on consumer acceptability. Researchers found that the red microgreens of beet,...

Wisconsin Public Radio reports that The Farmory, a Green Bay nonprofit providing sustainable agriculture education, is offering yellow perch fingerlings for sale for aquaculture or aquaponics. The fingerlings are raised indoors in a bio-secure facility to be free from disease. Their sale will help fund the educational efforts of the organization, as well as contribute to increased local food production. Most yellow perch sold in the area is imported from Canada. The Farmory will offer three grades of fingerlings, including one ideal for hobby farmers new to aquaculture. The Farmory is also offering an eight-part series of free webinars on...

Related ATTRA Publication: Pasture, Rangeland, and Adaptive Grazing Carbon Cowboys, a 10-part documentary of short films by director Peter Byck, was released online by environmental nonprofit Carbon Nation in collaboration with Arizona State University. The 8- to 23-minute films were shot over a period of six years, and they highlight profitable regenerative grazers across the United States and in Canada. Byck says, "The film shows farmers working with nature, rather than against it. You see them caring for their animals and for their land. You see farmers making more money and creating an alternative to industrial farming."...

Rodale Institute and The Plantrician Project released a white paper titled The Power of the Plate: The Case for Regenerative Organic Agriculture in Improving Human Health, that considers the effect of industrialized agriculture on nutrition and health. The white paper compiles historical data, as well as comprehensive health, nutrition, and agriculture research from around the world, to conduct a holistic analysis of the global food system and recommend the ways in which agriculture and lifestyle medicine can come together to improve quality of life. The white paper also makes nine specific recommendations for the integration of food and healthcare and...

Related ATTRA Publication: Tips for: Managing Internal Parasites The Northeast Small Ruminant Parasite Control Program is conducting a survey to obtain current, baseline information on sheep and goat parasite control concerns and practices. Sheep and goat producers living in the Northeast United States, or producers buying animals from or selling animals to Northeast producers, are invited to participate. This information is extremely valuable in continuing to identify needs and develop research and education programs. The survey is being conducted by the University of Rhode Island (URI), Department of Fisheries, Animal and Veterinary Science (FAVS), as part of a USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research...

North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (NCR-SARE) has announced the recipients of its Youth Educator grants and its Partnership grants for 2020. The Youth Educator Grant Program supports educators who seek to provide programming on sustainable agriculture for youth, and 12 projects will receive a total of more than $45,000. The Partnership Grant Program awarded more than $582,000 to 15 projects that catalyze on-farm research, demonstration, and education activities related to sustainable agriculture. Brief descriptions of the funded projects are available online....

We are all used to popping down to the local supermarket or garden center to buy potted plants or flowers to liven up the house, and to a certain degree, we still can. But as we are spending more time at home than we could have imagined a few months ago, why not also consider buying plant starts or seeds and growing your own food?
By Andrew Coggins, NCAT Rocky Mountain West Regional Director...

The European Commission, executive arm of the European Union, has adopted a comprehensive new Biodiversity Strategy and a Farm to Fork Strategy for a fair, healthy and environmentally friendly food system. The European Commission calls the two strategies "mutually reinforcing," and says in a press release that "they propose ambitious EU actions and commitments to halt biodiversity loss in Europe and worldwide and transform our food systems into global standards for competitive sustainability, the protection of human and planetary health, as well as the livelihoods of all actors in the food value chain." The biodiversity strategy calls for enhancing organic...

Southern SARE is seeking two producers and an NGO representative to fill vacant seats on the Administrative Council. Southern SARE's Administrative Council is the governing body for the SARE program in the Southern region. The Administrative Council's 22 members guide 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 nominations from all 13 states in the southern region, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands will be considered. Three-year terms begin in February 2021. Nominations are due by July 1,...

Pennsylvania State University has launched a new institute in its College of Agricultural Sciences that will address complex, interconnected food-energy-water-land challenges, such as food security, supply chain disruptions, bioenergy production, biodiversity, changing land uses, environmental degradation, and climate volatility. Plans for the Institute for Sustainable Agricultural, Food, and Environmental Science, referred to as SAFES, had been developing for two years, but the pandemic made the issues SAFES seeks to address emerge as critical, speeding its establishment. SAFES will foster research collaboration and coordination. It has already awarded nine seed grants to aid researchers in addressing the impacts of COVID-19 on...

In this episode, NCAT Southeast Regional Director and ATTRA Livestock Specialist, Margo Hale, talks with Rebecca Thistlethwaite. Rebecca is the director of the Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network (NMPAN) and works with livestock producers, processors, and marketers all across the country. Their discussion covers some of the opportunities and challenges livestock producers are seeing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They discuss ideas and resources to help producers adapt to the changes in their markets. For more information on this topic, contact Margo Hale directly via email at margoh@ncat.org. Related ATTRA Resources: ATTRA COVID-10 Resources Working with Your Meat Processor Working with your Meat Processor podcast Direct...

The FruitGuys Community Fund announced that 15 small farms and agricultural nonprofits have been chosen as its 2020 grantees. They will receive a total of $51,098.87 in funding for specific projects. FruitGuys Community Fund reports that the majority of funds was directed to those most vulnerable during this time, including farmers of color, women farmers, and farmers who are veterans, and that 14 of the grantees are actively increasing low-income food access in an effort to directly contribute to community food security. Descriptions of the funded projects are available online....

Researchers in the University of Georgia College of Engineering published a commentary that explained how society needs to "do less with less" to increase sustainability. They point out that improvements in efficiency or technology often just make resources available for alternative uses, rather than preventing their use. For greater sustainability, they say, people must strive toward energy balance, not merely a shifting of consumption. They cited food systems, meat, and biofuels as examples of negative energy balances, as these can take more energy to operate than they actually produce. A sustainable future without a substantial reduction in energy use isn't...

The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, or CFAP, provides vital financial assistance to producers of agricultural commodities who have suffered a 5%-or-greater price decline or who had losses due to market supply chain disruptions due to COVID-19 and face additional significant market costs. USDA is accepting applications now through August 28, 2020. Eligible commodities include non-specialty crops, wool, livestock, and dairy, as well as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and other crops such as beans and mushrooms. CFAP payments are subject to a per person and legal entity payment limitation of $250,000. Producers should apply through their local Farm Service Agency Service Center. ...

On Memorial Day, Joel Hasting, Editor & Publisher of DairyBusiness News is happy to tell you about a special program to help veterans of the armed services start farming or improve their farming operations. It's called "Armed to Farm" and has reached over 560 vets in 41 states. Telling DairyBusiness about it is Margo Hale based in Fayetteville, Ark., the southeast director for the parent organization, NCAT (National Center for Appropriate Technology). If you would like to attend one of the training sessions or support this valuable program, here's the website: www.ncat.org/armedtofarm. Margo can be contacted at margoh@ncat.org or phone 479.442.9824. Margo was...

Answer: Production practices have a tremendous effect on the quality of fruit at harvest, postharvest, and during shelf life. For example, some cultivars are known to have a longer shelf life and to ship better than others. Because of this, you should consider your market before considering which varieties to plant. In addition, environmental factors such as soil type, temperature, frost, and rainy weather also have unfavorable effects on the crop’s harvest quality. For example, some tomato varieties have a tendency to crack after a rain. Therefore, choosing varieties such as Sapho and Mountain Fresh, which are resistant to cracking,...

Related ATTRA Publication: Livestock Guardian Animals: Protecting the Flock or Herd A study led by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, found that the most effective strategies for protecting livestock from predators are based on ecological principles. Understanding how predators hunt, how prey behaves, and how both interact with the landscape around them are keys to successful prevention of livestock losses. Consequently, the best solution for one location may not be the most effective strategy for other situations. Combinations of deterrents, based on predator ecology, can provide effective protection, say researchers. Wide-ranging alternatives are available, ranging from guardian animals to fladry,...

Related ATTRA Publication: Aquaponics—Multitrophic Systems for Sustainable Food Production Researchers from the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries have published an extensive profitability analysis of Müritzfischer, an aquaponics facility in Germany that produces fish and vegetables on a large scale. The result shows that aquaponics may have both environmental and cost benefits, if produced according to good agricultural practice and under suitable conditions. The subject of analysis was a 540-square-meter facility that produces fish and vegetables in a combined recirculating system. The analysis found that aquaponics can be profitable if the system is sufficiently large and if the challenges of high...

In a blog post, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) discusses how the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed underlying issues in the meat and poultry supply chain. Steadily increasing industry consolidation has made the supply chain particularly vulnerable to disruption. Both livestock producers and processing workers are harmed by this situation. The post discusses the role that small and mid-size meat processors are playing in increasing their production to provide more meat supply and points out the costs and risks involved in that action. Finally, the post concludes with recommendations on how to support local farmers and a sustainable food system...

Montana State University’s three-year research project, Impacts of Integrating Livestock into Cropping Systems on Soil Health and Crop Production, has uncovered some interesting findings. Funded by Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (WSARE), and led by Research Associate Devon Ragen and her master's student, Trestin Benson, this research explored the benefits and challenges of incorporating sheep into a five-year dryland cropping rotation and a diverse vegetable production system. Here, Devon Ragen gives a summary of the research for a group of area producers in Hamilton, Montana. ...

Related ATTRA Publication: Knowing the Real Value of Food: Blockchain in a New Sustainable Food Economy NCAT's Jeff Schahzenski is co-author of a viewpoint published in Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development that says blockchain technology could change the way food is distributed and consumed. "Blockchain and Regaining Consumer Sovereignty in Sustainable Food Systems" notes that most consumers are separated from food production and may appreciate knowing more about the farmer or rancher who produced their food. The article suggests that whether local and regional food systems can utilize blockchain to choose to support producers will be a function of...

USDA is making available up to $1 billion in loan guarantees to help rural businesses meet their working capital needs during the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, agricultural producers that are not eligible for USDA Farm Service Agency loans may receive funding under USDA Business & Industry (B&I) CARES Act Program provisions included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. B&I CARES Act Program loans must be used as working capital to prevent, prepare for, or respond to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The loans may be used only to support rural businesses, including agricultural producers. Eligible applicants...

USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) will broaden the use of the Disaster Set-Aside loan provision, normally used in the wake of natural disasters, to allow farmers with USDA farm loans who are affected by COVID-19, and are determined eligible, to have their next payment set aside. In some cases, FSA may also set aside a second payment for farmers who have already had one payment set aside because of a prior designated disaster. FSA direct loan borrowers will receive a letter with the details of the expanded Disaster Set-Aside authorities, which includes the possible set-aside of annual operating loans, as...

To help the IPM community stay connected and informed about new research and extension activities, the Western IPM Center, in coordination with Western state IPM programs, is organizing a new seminar series, The IPM Hour. The aim is to highlight the diversity of IPM research and connect IPM researchers, extension educators, and practitioners across disciplines and borders. The series will be held online, using Zoom, and give people an opportunity to present their research and learn about others' projects. Organizers are asking for audience input on what they'd like to see, via a one-minute online survey....

The National Center for Appropriate Technology's ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture program has a new six-part online tutorial called Taking Your Farm to the Next Level. This tutorial is ideal for beginning farmers or ranchers who have been farming a few years. It was created for producers who have a strong grasp on sustainable production techniques, but need to develop more advanced business management skills. The tutorial is divided into modules: whole-farm planning; farm finances; recordkeeping; legal issues; branding and marketing; and accessing markets. For each module users should watch the video presentations, then complete the accompanying worksheets and read the related...

State chapters of the Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC) have launched in Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee. They join state chapters in nine other states that help the national organization have increased impact at the local level. FVC is a nonprofit that helps veterans pursue careers in agriculture, serving a network of more than 20,000 veteran members nationwide. State chapters help bridge the gap between a nationally driven movement and resources at the state/county level, to help members achieve success in agriculture. The state chapters are essential for ensuring members are aware of regional opportunities. FVC has announced a goal of...

Today’s episode is the first in an occasional series from Rockiell Woods, Director of NCAT’s Gulf States Regional Office in Jackson, Mississippi, and Bill Evans, Director of Horticulture at Up in Farms Food Hub in Jackson. This series is all about starting a farm. Today’s conversation is focused on how many acres are needed and what crops to choose. For more information on this topic, you can contact Rockiell Woods directly at rockw@ncat.org. Related ATTRA Resources: Evaluating a Farm Enterprise Financing Your Farm: Guidance for Beginning Farmers Planning for Profit in Sustainable Farming Basic Accounting: Guidance for Beginning Farmers Other Resources: Farm Answers Up in Farms Food Hub Please call ATTRA...

Related ATTRA Publication: Food Safety Considerations for Integrating Livestock into Produce Cropping Systems University, government, and nonprofit partners led by a Cooperative Extension specialist in the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine have received a Specialty Crop Multistate Program grant through USDA to explore benefits of livestock grazing in organic farming systems. The nearly $1 million project will study the impacts of livestock grazing of cover crops on food safety, soil building, and environmental health. It will focus on how livestock grazing can help with challenges, such as nutrient immobilization, that have limited the use of cover crops in organic...

Related ATTRA Publication: Tips for Selling through CSAs—Community Supported Agriculture Farm Commons is offering two free online tutorials to help farm businesses that are adjusting to new markets because of the COVID-19 pandemic. "Adding Home Delivery of Your Farm Goods Without Adding Legal Risks" covers the additional legal concerns that arise with home delivery, whether you are delivering your own farm products or working with your peers to create a whole-diet delivery service. Topics include liability, licensing, employment law complications, and zoning. Meanwhile, "Launching a CSA During COVID-19 with the Law on Your Side" addresses issues like insurance and liability, zoning, and...

USDA has announced details of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which will provide up to $16 billion in direct payments to farmers and ranchers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Beginning May 26, 2020, USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) will be accepting applications from agricultural producers who have suffered losses. CFAP provides vital financial assistance to producers of agricultural commodities who have suffered a five-percent-or-greater price decline due to COVID-19 and face additional significant marketing costs as a result of lower demand, surplus production, and disruptions to shipping patterns and the orderly marketing of commodities. Specialty crops, non-specialty crops, wool,...

No, the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) is not food for the nation’s hungry, but rather assistance for the nation’s food producers. Details of how U.S. farmers can apply for this assistance are still scarce, but the most important message is to begin the process ASAP if you are a farmer who has experienced a loss due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
By Jeff Schahczenski, NCAT Agricultural and Natural Resource Economist...

Related ATTRA Resource: ATTRA COVID-19 Response Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) announced the first round emergency assistance grants to California farmers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The California Family Farmer Emergency Fund awarded 24 micro-grants totaling $60,000 and will award more in subsequent weeks. Most of the growers awarded grants are falling through the cracks of state and federal stimulus efforts and unlikely to receive assistance from them. The grants are helping growers impacted by the loss of markets and by hardships created by the pandemic. The fund has received nearly 300 applications to date from farmers across California and has...

Research by University of California Cooperative Extension shows that drip irrigation may help prevent downy mildew in spinach, in addition to saving water and energy. The finding could be especially important to organic spinach growers, who have no approved fungicide option to combat the disease. Field trials showed a four- to five-times reduction in downy mildew in plots grown with drip irrigation compared to sprinkler-irrigated plots, likely due to less moisture left in the plant canopy....

Related ATTRA Publication: Community Supported Agriculture Surging interest in fresh, local food has led to a boom in business for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), reports National Public Radio. Farms that lost restaurant customers have ramped up CSA memberships, and many are offering more add-on options, such as flour and oils. Local CSAs offer consumers a short supply chain that involves fewer people handling the food and less chance of disruption. CSAs that are seeing their businesses double in size are now concerned about finding enough labor. Also, they're hoping they can turn the sudden consumer interest into long-term customer relationships....

Answer: USDA's new Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) provides assistance to farmers, ranchers, and consumers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some $19 billion will be "to provide critical support to our farmers and ranchers, maintain the integrity of our food supply chain, and ensure every American continues to receive and have access to the food they need." CFAP will provide $16 billion in direct support to agricultural producers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This support will include: Direct support based on actual losses for agricultural producers where prices and market supply chains have been impacted. Assistance to producers with additional...

The Mississippi Small Farm and Agribusiness Center is currently recruiting new applicants for its Farm Management Educational Program (FMEP) for New, Beginning Farmers and Ranchers (NBFRs) in Mississippi. The overall goal of the program, which is in its second year, is to recruit, train, and provide 300 NBFRs with the necessary resources to generate and implement a feasible farm plan, thereby equipping them to become sustainable in vegetable and meat goat production. The free program will be offered online....

A Pennsylvania dairy farm with an on-farm store turned to bottling as much of its milk as possible after its buyer instructed it to dump milk, reports Mother Nature Network. Whoa Nellie Dairy was already bottling a quarter of its milk for on-farm sale, but when their processor stopped taking milk from their 70 cows, the dairy owners and workers started bottling round the clock and promoting on social media that they are selling directly to customers. The result has been lines of cars waiting to pick up milk, and the dairy sells out every day. The owners are gratified...

Related ATTRA Publication: Plums, Apricots, and Their Crosses: Organic and Low-Spray Production A short video from the Savanna Institute features farmer and fruit explorer Eliza Greenman explaining how she has been experimenting with livestock as a pest control for plum curculio in her orchard. Greenman says in the three-minute video that grazing livestock under apple trees and moving pigs at the right time have drastically reduced pest pressure in her orchards....

USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Agricultural Research Service (ARS) collaborated with universities and other agencies and organizations to complete water-quality studies that were published in the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. Fifteen peer-reviewed research papers and two feature articles in this journal issue focus on water-quality studies that examine the impact of conservation practices. The impacts measured include reduction of sediment and nutrients lost in runoff, improvement in soil quality, and improved understanding of conservation practices to mitigate contaminant losses. Practices that were assessed for their effectiveness included drainage management, conservation tillage, cover crops, buffers, irrigation, nutrient...

Earlier this spring, my wife and I got a 12x16 foot greenhouse for our small farm to use for starting vegetable and flower transplants for our garden. The greenhouse arrived just in time, before COVID-19 restrictions went into place in our state. We have been able to start our tomatoes, peppers, basil, zinnias, cosmos, and other garden transplants in the greenhouse and I wanted to share some of our techniques for growing quality plants at home or on a small farm.
By Luke Freeman, NCAT Horticulture Specialist...

Related ATTRA Publication: Federal Conservation Resources for Sustainable Farming and Ranching USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service announced that the next deadline for Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) applications to be considered for funding this year is June 12, 2020. CSP helps farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners earn payments for expanding conservation activities while maintaining agricultural production on their land. CSP also encourages adoption of new technologies and management techniques. The 2018 Farm Bill authorized NRCS to accept new CSP enrollments until 2023 and makes some improvements to the program: NRCS now enrolls eligible, high-ranking applications based on dollars rather than acres; higher payment...

USDA has posted a recording of the May 14, 2020, webinar for farmers, ranchers, and other producers interested in applying for direct payments through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). This webinar hosted by USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) provides basic information on how producers can prepare for the upcoming signup for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). It includes information on how to apply once signup opens and how to initiate contact with FSA. ...

Related ATTRA Webinar: Practices Supporting Sustainable and Economic Cotton Production Some designers and companies in the fashion industry are putting their support behind regenerative agriculture, reports Vogue. For example, the Christy Dawn business has invested in regenerative farms growing cotton and botanical dyes in India. The article provides several examples of companies supporting farming practices that build soil health and sequester carbon. Rebecca Burgess, the founder of Fibershed, a non-profit that develops regenerative textile systems, explains the fashion industry's potential to further regenerative agriculture this way: "I do believe fashion is where we can mainstream regenerative ag. I think in some ways,...

The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service is now offering the Texas A&M AgriLife Organic Workshop free online. Videos in the nine-part series range from 10 to 90 minutes each and can be viewed at any time. Videos are tailored toward producers in the High Plains and Rolling Plains but provide great insights for producers across Texas, according to AgriLife Extension. Topics include organic production, marketing, pest control, and crop insurance. ...

Please join NCAT's Soil for Water initiative, in collaboration with The City of San Antonio and The Edwards Aquifer Authority, for a webinar on the five soil health principles. Application of these principles can lay the foundation for improved ecosystem health and aquifer recharge. In this webinar, NCAT Sustainable Agriculture Specialists, Kara Kroeger and Colin Mitchell, will present to the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program easement landowners how to practically apply the five soil health principles. You will learn relevant approaches you can put in place to start improving soil health, including how to take soil samples and monitor how your progress over time. We will also...

Scientists with USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have identified five Romaine lettuce varieties that both brown less quickly after fresh-cut processing and are slower to deteriorate postharvest. Considering browning and deterioration ratings together, the best breeding lines for commercial production, and also for use as parents to develop new varieties, are Darkland, Green Towers, Hearts Delight, Parris Island Cos, and SM13-R2. In addition, researchers found the chromosome region that contains the genes for slow deterioration also contains four genes and one DNA region that code for resistance to downy mildew....

Equitable Food Initiative (EFI), the workforce development and training organization that partners with growers, farmworkers, retailers, and consumer advocacy groups to improve both compliance and business performance, is celebrating its fifth anniversary. Since its launch, EFI has trained leadership teams on nearly 60 farming operations in North and Central America, improving working conditions for more than 36,000 farmworkers. Participating retailers have paid more than $8.5 million in worker bonuses through premiums generated on EFI-certified products. EFI is the only certification that covers three key areas in a single audit: labor practices, food safety, and pest management....

In today’s episode, we hear from Kara Kroeger, Sustainable Agriculture specialist at NCAT’s Southwest Regional Office in San Antonio, Texas. She interviews Mollie Walton, Land and Water Program Director for the Quivira Coalition in New Mexico. The Quivira Coalition works on biodiversity, building soil and resilience on western working landscapes. Mollie has a Texas ranching background and holds a PhD in biology from the University of Dayton in Ohio. She has been working in northern New Mexico since 2006. Kara and Mollie discuss methods of slowing and sinking water on hillsides, slowing erosion, building soil, mitigating floods, enhancing groundwater replenishment, and...

USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) is reminding producers about Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program – Plus (WHIP+) payments to agricultural producers who suffered eligible losses because of drought or excess moisture in 2018 and 2019. Signup for these causes of loss opened March 23, 2020, and producers who suffered losses from drought (in counties designated D3 or above), excess moisture, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, typhoons, volcanic activity, snowstorms, or wildfires can still apply for assistance through WHIP+. To be eligible, producers must have suffered losses of certain crops, trees, bushes, or vines in counties with a Presidential Emergency Disaster Declaration...

Each year, The Livestock Conservancy compiles a Conservation Priority List to organize and target conservation efforts for endangered livestock and poultry breeds at risk in the United States. The ranked list of heritage livestock and poultry breeds is based upon the annual number of registrations in the United States and the breed's estimated global population size. Endangered breeds are classified as "Watch," "Threatened," "Critical," or "Recovering." This year, the organization added eight more breeds to the list of 150 endangered breeds: the Puerto Rican Paso Fino and Brabant horses, the Teeswater sheep, and Silver Marten, Argent Brun, Checkered Giant, Standard...

Future Harvest CASA has posted collections of resources for both farmers and consumers, on how to start a buying club for grassfed meat. The resource collections include links to references on the nutritional benefits of grassfed meat, the cuts that a carcass furnishes, pricing information for farmers, and cooking information for customers. Future Harvest is offering these resources help foster the direct relationship between farmers and customers and continue to build a resilient regional food system....

As supply-chain disruptions are emptying supermarket meat shelves, WGBH explored the potential for local meat producers to fill the void. Just 1% of the meat consumed New England is grown there, the story reports. Local producers face challenges such as high land prices, production costs that price their products considerably above market costs, and lack of processing capacity. However, with the selection of conventional retail products limited, this may be an opportunity for local producers to compete successfully in the market. Some stakeholders predict that food system disruptions will create a new consumer base willing to pay a premium for...

USDA's Economic Research Service (ERS) reported in Amber Waves on how adopting a healthier American diet would change natural resource use in the U.S. food system. A study by ERS looked at how all Americans adopting a diet in keeping with the Federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans would affect use of five natural resources: agricultural land, fresh ground and surface water, fossil fuels, forest products, and air (in terms of greenhouse gases). The study found that adoption of this healthier diet would decrease use of agricultural land, fossil fuels, and forest products by the food system. Meanwhile, greenhouse gas...

USDA is inviting the public to join in following the progress of the 2020 planting season through the #Plant2020 campaign. Farmers can submit photos or short videos of their planting for an interactive story map on Farmers.gov. Farmers who want to participate can send a landscape-format photo or video of less than 15 seconds to sharingoursuccesses@usda.gov. Participants should provide a photo descriptions, your city and state, and your Twitter handle (if you have one)....

Using seed and planting stock that is well adapted to cold climates is important for successful gardening. For warm-season crops such as melons, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, look for seed that has "short days to maturity." A typical seed package will include the “days to maturity” on the back. If you are ordering from a catalog, look for warm-season crop seeds that mature in less than 75 to 80 days. A good rule of thumb is to use seed that is adapted to your region, which may be available from small, regional seed companies. Judy Fisher, the owner/operator of Fisher Garden*...

Western SARE conducted a survey of the region's state coordinators and grantees about the impact of, and responses to, COVID-19. The survey addressed three main questions: 1) How is the pandemic affecting food systems in your community? 2) What is your community doing to mitigate these effects? and 3) What can WSARE do to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in your community? Respondents indicated that COVID-19 had negatively impacted food production, distribution, and access, as well as having a negative impact on producers economically. A report on the survey results is available online in PDF....

People's attitudes toward honey bees have become more positive as their importance in pollination comes to light, say University of Missouri researchers. This could be an important factor in passing legislation and implementing programs to conserve bees, researchers note. However, they warn that disproportionate attention for the honey bee could imperil native bees by introducing more competition for these even-more-effective pollinators. Study leader Damon Hall says the best thing people can do for native insect pollinators is let the weedy flowers in the yard grow and plant flowers....

Under the federal Food Safety Modernization Act, states are able to enter into a cooperative agreement with the federal government to implement the rules. Earlier this year, Kentucky passed legislation that allows the Kentucky Department of Agriculture to serve as the primary agency for implementing these rules, instead of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The new rules require fruit and vegetable growers averaging $25,000 or above in annual sales during the previous three years (adjusted for inflation) to complete a farm survey with the KDA and a seven-hour Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) Grower Training course. ...

A blog post from CGIAR's Research Program on Policies, Institutions and Markets discusses why farmers' varieties of crops face challenges in entering commercial markets. Crop varieties developed by farmers over generations can offer desirable traits such as adaptation to harsh growing conditions or particularly high mineral contents. Yet these farmers' varieties usually don't enter the commercial seed market because they're not uniform and stable enough to qualify for seed registration requirements. The post notes that governments and non-governmental organizations around the world are addressing this situation by modifying seed laws to create special type of registration for farmers' varieties or...

Related ATTRA Publication: Vertical Farming The Vertical Farming Podcast is hosted by podcast veteran and vertical farming supporter Harry Duran. This new weekly podcast features conversations with CEOs, Founders, and luminaries from the exciting and fast-growing world of vertical farming. The first episode is an interview with serial entrepreneur and CEO of Intelligent Growth Solutions, David Farquhar, in which he breaks down the emergence of vertical farming technologies, opportunities that have been created due to the current global pandemic, and ongoing projects....

Scientists at the Universities of Bath and Sheffield studied how the Campylobacter jejuni bacterium spread from cattle to humans. Their study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, concluded that increased movement of animals globally and intensive farming practices provide the perfect environment for spread of pathogens to humans. Environmental change and increased contact with farm animals are also contributing factors in bacterial infections of animals crossing over to humans. Researcher Dave Kelly noted, "Human pathogens carried in animals are an increasing threat and our findings highlight how their adaptability can allow them to switch hosts and...

Related ATTRA Publication: Cover Crop Options for Hot and Humid Areas A study led by a New Mexico State University researcher showed that cover crops can increase the biological health of soils on hot and dry semiarid lands. The five-year study was a collaboration between weed scientists, agronomists, agri-economists, and soil scientists from the NMSU Agricultural Experiment Station centers, USDA Agricultural Research Service, and Colorado State University. The cover crop treatments tested were combinations of grasses, legumes, and brassicas. By the third and fourth years of the study, cover crops increased the biological health of soils. Legumes and their mixture with other...

Related ATTRA Publication: Climate Change and Perennial Fruit and Nut Production: Investing in Resilience in Uncertain Times A study by Pennsylvania State University researchers evaluated more than three decades of crop yield and weather data to predict that warming in the Midwest will cause the best corn and soybean growing area to move north. The study concluded that if warming conditions continue, within 50 years the best conditions for corn and soybean production will shift from Iowa and Illinois to Minnesota and the Dakotas. Researcher Armen Kemanian explains, "It doesn’t mean that Iowa will stop producing crops, but it might mean that...

Related ATTRA Resource: On-Farm Food Safety and FSMA Cornell University has begun offering the Produce Safety Alliance Grower Training course in an online format. The training course helps produce growers comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act Produce Safety Rule by developing and implementing a farm food safety plan. The online course includes six modules: Introduction to Produce Safety; Worker Health, Hygiene and Training; Soil Amendments; Agricultural Water Part I: Production Water; Agricultural Water Part II: Postharvest Water; and How to Develop a Farm Food Safety Plan. Participants who complete the course will earn a certificate from the Association of Food and...

In this episode, Jeff Schahczenski, an agricultural and natural resource economist with NCAT’s ATTRA sustainable-agriculture program, discusses recent shipments of organic wheat and durum from Montana that were determined to be contaminated with glyphosate. That caused European Union buyers to reject the shipments. The situation has created a significant economic hardship for producers in Montana and elsewhere. Joining Jeff in the discussion are Dr. William E. Dyer, a professor in the Department of Plant Sciences and Plant Pathology at Montana State University; Lilianna Bento, an undergraduate researcher at Montana State University; and Bob Quinn, Montana Organic farmer, founder of Kamut International, and...

USDA's Risk Management Agency (RMA) announced flexibility regarding organic certification status to help those impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Approved Insurance Providers may allow organic producers to report acreage as certified organic, or transitioning to organic, for the 2020 crop year if they can show they have requested a written certification from a certifying agent by their policy's acreage reporting date. Policyholders who have requested but not received an organic certificate, organic plan, or other written documentation must notify their insurance agent within 30 days after the certifying agent informs them of their organic plan or certificate status. RMA has...

Scientists at Northern Arizona University (NAU) and Purdue University are studying bacterial and fungal communities in soil to understand how microbiomes impact agricultural crops. Specifically, researchers have been exploring how crop rotations affect the microbiome and how that, in turn, affects crop yield. Study results showed that rotating to a closely related crop did not adversely affect yield, and they also revealed that the microbiome legacy of a crop extends into the second crop year. Professor Greg Caporaso at NAU explains his long-term goal of collaborating with organic farmers who are practicing regenerative agriculture techniques. "We can learn how they...

With shortages of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) making it difficult for agricultural workers to obtain the equipment needed to apply some pesticides, Oregon IPM Center has published a list of low-risk pesticides. These pesticides can be applied with only basic protective equipment such as a long-sleeved shirt and pants and chemically resistant gloves. In addition to requiring less equipment for application, these low-risk pesticides have the added benefit of reducing human and environmental health risks. Agricultural workers applying these pesticides will need to follow label directions and understand relevant local regulations....

A European project is developing a robot with artificial intelligence to assist small, organic farmers and greenhouse growers, reports Horizon, The EU Research & Innovation Magazine. The robot can assist farmers by taking on mechanically demanding tasks, such as weeding, or help save time by monitoring plants for disease and insect outbreaks. The ROMI project is specifically designed to serve the needs of small farmers who have typically been overlooked by large agricultural equipment manufacturers. The robot was designed to be lightweight and inexpensive, so it's built with off-the-shelf electric motors and open source hardware and software. "This robot is...

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is looking to engage interested parties to provide early feedback on the development of a soil organic carbon map for California. The map will serve as an indicator of soil health as California takes multiple actions to sequester carbon in agricultural soils to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The California Biodiversity Initiative: A Roadmap for Protecting the State's Natural Heritage calls for the state to undertake a series of actions to secure the future of its biodiversity, including the development of the organic carbon map. CDFA is collecting input from stakeholders through webinar...

The Small Business Administration opened its Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) portal on May 4, 2020, to agricultural enterprises only. This opening is due to the Paycheck Protection Program and Healthcare Enhancement Act, which provided additional critical funding for farmers and ranchers affected by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. An Economic Injury Disaster Loan advance of up to $10,000 is designed to provide economic relief to businesses that are currently experiencing a temporary loss of revenue. This loan advance will not have to be repaid. Agricultural producers who submitted an EIDL loan application prior to the legislative change will not need...

Answer: Organic apple production has many challenges, and controlling trunk borers is one of the most serious. Left unchallenged, borers can kill young apple trees before they ever get started bearing fruit. And older trees are not immune from the ravages of these pests either. The first line of defense is maintaining tree health, especially providing adequate water.  A tree in good health and growing vigorously can literally drown or cast out a young borer before it really gets started. But this is an imperfect, though important, management technique. A surer control is to wrap the trunks with window screen from the...

The Asian giant hornet, Vespa mandarinia, has been seen in Washington state, say scientists from Washington State University. The 2-inch-long hornet is a significant predator of honey bees, and its sting can pose a health risk for humans. The insect is native to the forests and low mountains of eastern and southeast Asia, where it feeds on large insects. The hornets attack honey bee hives, killing adult bees and devouring bee larvae and pupae. Washington state fruit growers are concerned that beekeepers will be reluctant to provide bee pollination services in areas where the hornet has been seen. Scientists with...

Researchers from the Food and Health Lab at Montana State University are conducting a survey to understand the role of diversified farming for resilience and vulnerability in the food system. This 15- to 20-minute anonymous, online survey will help the researchers better understand barriers and opportunities for diversified farming, as well as how diversified farming systems respond to stressors such as climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey is open to all producers in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming who have grown crops for at least one growing season....

Rockville, Maryland, restaurants Silver Diner and Silver are offering weekly farm takeout boxes with products from regional farms that were supplying ingredients to restaurants before COVID-19 closures. This week was the first week for the Farm Boxes and they were a huge success, with 400 boxes costing $35 each pre-ordered online in just two hours. The first week's box contained a half gallon of milk, one dozen eggs, 8 ounces of mushrooms, four sweet potatoes, hydro bibb lettuce, two tomatoes, a Vidalia onion, radishes, and asparagus. A press release notes that future boxes will also contain meat. Three different weekly...

Adaptive grazing improves forage availability and ecosystem functioning, and strengthens grazing landscapes with diversity and resilience. ATTRA has brought together a suite of resources for farmers and ranchers, of all scales and for all species of grazing animals, who are interested in transitioning to an adaptive grazing system.
By Lee Rinehart, Sustainable Agriculture Specialist...

Farmers' Legal Action Group published an update of its Farmers' Guide to COVID-19 Relief, dated April 27, 2020. This update reflects program changes and additions signed into law on April 24, 2020, to provide further economic relief from the COVID-19 pandemic. The guide includes programs found in the the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). It is available free online....

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has assembled a listing of websites, guides, and directories to help people find local food. National resources are listed, as well as state resources sorted by state. The listing supports the current big uptick of interest in buying direct from local farmers, ranchers, and fisherman as a way to support struggling small and mid-sized farmers and ensure family food security. ...

USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) has announced a pilot program that offers farmers and landowners in the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay regions an opportunity to enroll in a 30-year Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contract. The CLEAR30 program is available in Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. The program signup period will run from July 6 to August 21, 2020. Eligible producers must have expiring Clean Lakes, Estuaries and Rivers (CLEAR) initiative contracts, including continuous CRP Cropland contracts with water-quality practices or marginal pasturelands CRP contracts devoted to riparian buffers, wildlife...

Organic Farming Research Foundation has introduced a digital toolkit titled Organic Agriculture in the Face of a Changing Climate—a Toolkit for Consumers, Advocates and Policymakers. It's part of a virtual campaign to inspire, educate, and inform people on how best organic practices help mitigate climate change and build resilience, leading to healthy people, ecosystems, and economies. The toolkit includes farmer stories, details on how organic agriculture increases resilience to climate change, and advocacy materials. It's available free online....

An international study published in Advances in Agronomy showed that a uniform seeding pattern resulted in higher yields in 76% of trials, and fewer weeds in 73% of trials. Researchers found that plants equidistant from neighbors both within the row and between rows were able to more quickly establish root systems and produce greater yield. Though this study focused on wheat, maize, and soybean, researchers say the benefits would extend to other crops, as well. They found that the grid pattern also helps plants absorb nutrients, which reduces the environmental impact of nutrient loss and inputs. New precision seeders could...

Changing food demand is rocking the U.S. food system, revealing areas of strength and weakness, according to a New Hope Network feature. Diversified small farmers are weathering the challenge better than most, as increased demand for CSA subscriptions is helping to offset decreased restaurant business. Farmers who have a diversity of crops and a range of market outlets are maintaining sales, notes the article, while farms that grow just one crop or have only one customer are struggling. Small farmers are quickly adapting their businesses to meet customer demand, in a way that large operations can't. At least one farmer...

In today's episode, we will learn about Carbon Sponge, an interdisciplinary collaboration in New York City that explores the potential for urban soils to sequester carbon as a means to reduce greenhouse gases and build healthy soil. Justin Duncan, Sustainable Agriculture Specialist at NCAT’s Southwestern Regional Office in San Antonio, Texas, interviews Katharhy G., a plant and soil science researcher with Carbon Sponge. Katharhy talks about how they are engineering their own soil and researching the use of cover crops in urban areas for carbon sequestration. Originally from South America, Katharhy's background is in agroecosystem health, ethnobiology, regenerative food production...

University of California, Davis, released six new varieties of beans for organic growing. The varieties were selectively developed from traditional and heirloom varieties, to give them excellent flavor and aesthetic characteristics, as well as improved yield and disease resistance. The new varieties are UC Tiger's Eye, similar to Tiger's Eye; UC Southwest Gold, similar to Zuni Gold; UC Sunrise, similar to Zuni Gold; UC Southwest Red, similar to Anasazi; UC Four Corners Red, similar to Anasazi; and UC Rio Zape, similar to Rio Zape. Seeds of the new bean varieties are available through the UC Davis Foundation Seed...

Related ATTRA Publication: Climate Change and Perennial Fruit and Nut Production: Investing in Resilience in Uncertain Times Erratic weather, including excessive rain and changing growing seasons, is posing a challenge for New Jersey's farmers, according to a feature on Community News. Farmers' fields are too wet to plant, produce quality is low due to water damage and disease, and pest outbreaks are damaging plants. Even experienced farmers are worried about their futures as growing conditions change markedly. Although technologies such as high-tunnel growing offer some hope of mitigating the weather, farmers are still worried about how to cope with unpredictable weather, and...

American Farmland Trust released Understanding and Activating Non-Operator Landowners: Non-Operator Landowner Survey. The survey focused on lands that are individually or partnership owned, clearing up misconceptions and identifying opportunities to advance conservation on agricultural lands owned by those who do not farm it. The survey found a clear communications gap between renters and landowners. It found that landowners do care about conservation, though they often lack information and access to resources that could help them put values into practice. The survey also revealed that many respondents do not have a succession plan for their land. ...

USDA Agricultural Marketing Service posted a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) that provides details of how the Farmers to Families Food Box Program will work. The post explains recipient eligibility, box offerings, the ordering process, product specifications, food safety, and how the program will interact with USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) Food Distribution Programs....

Best Management Practices for the Monarch Butterfly in Oklahoma Rangelands is available free online from the Lands Working Group of the Oklahoma Monarch and Pollinator Collaborative. The PDF publication compiles best practices for monarch habitat, addressing grazing, prescribed burning, brush management, forage harvest, weed control, and habitat establishment and maintenance....

Related ATTRA Resources: ATTRA COVID-19 Response Fiber Artist Market announced that due to the to the cancellations of festivals and fairs because of COVID-19, its online markeplace will be free to vendors until further notice. This site supports producers of fiber from animals or plants, farm-related products, independent fiber artists, and related products. Vendors can set up their own stores and sell direct trade to their customers. Fiber Artist Market manages the SEO, advertising, secure payment pathway, and stable bandwidth. Voluntary donations of from sales of 1% to 10% to help with upkeep of the site are appreciated....

Answer: Instead of creating a custom potting mix from scratch, you may choose to purchase a basic commercial mix and boost it with additional organic amendments. This allows you to save time mixing bulk ingredients, but still end up with a premium potting mix. A basic "peat-lite" mix, composed primarily of peat moss and perlite and/or vermiculite, makes a good foundation for a custom mix. These commercial mixes already have a balanced pH and contain an organic wetting agent to help the peat moss absorb water. A starter fertilizer is usually included in commercial peat-lite mixes, but you may choose to...

A four-year Organic Research and Extension Initiative grant will support a multi-institution team in exploring dual uses for perennial grain, Cornell University announced. Low yields for perennial grain has limited its appeal for farmers, and this current project will develop best-practice growing guidelines for the crop and look at using it as an animal forage to increase profitability. The researchers will test grazing the leaves early in the season, then letting the grain grow to harvest, followed by grazing animals again on the straw. The work is part of a larger effort to build a Northeast niche market for...

University of Massachusetts Amherst food scientists are investigating the food safety of using retrofitted washing machines to spin water off of leafy greens after washing them. Although the practice is common among small growers in the Northeast, scientists say that the method has not yet been well tested regarding food safety. The UMass team is working with the University of Vermont, which has provided information for farmers on how to convert washing machines to work as leafy-greens spinners. A grant-funded project now underway will allow researchers to assess microbial contamination potential and communicate the results of that work to farmers....