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Weekly Harvest Newsletter
Sustainable Agriculture News Briefs - January 20, 2016

Weekly sustainable agriculture news and resources gleaned from the Internet by NCAT staff for the ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture website. The Weekly Harvest Newsletter is also available online.

News & Resources

  • USDA to Offer Farm Ownership Microloans
  • Handbook Helps Reduce Farm Pathogens Using GAPs and Conservation Practices
  • USDA Withdraws Grass-Fed Livestock and Meat Marketing Claims
  • Biodiversity Critical to Maintaining Healthy Ecosystems
  • Final Guidance Published on Natural Resources and Biodiversity Conservation for Organic Operations
  • Interest in Ancient Grains Revives

Funding Opportunities

  • Seeds of Native Health Grants
  • Oregon Specialty Crop Block Grant Program
  • Minnesota Value Added Grant Program

Coming Events

  • Midwest Cover Crops Council Meetings
  • Oregon Small Farms Conference
  • Fort Bend Regional Vegetable Conference

News & Resources

USDA to Offer Farm Ownership Microloans
USDA will begin offering farm ownership microloans to help with farm land and building purchases and soil- and water-conservation improvements. These microloans will be especially helpful to beginning or underserved farmers, U.S. veterans looking for a career in farming, and those who have small and mid-sized farming operations. To learn more, visit www.fsa.usda.gov/microloans or contact your local FSA office.

Handbook Helps Reduce Farm Pathogens Using GAPs and Conservation Practices
Wild Farm Alliance has released Co-Managing Farm Stewardship with Food Safety GAPs and Conservation Practices: A Grower's and Conservationists' Handbook. This resource describes opportunities for making farms safer by reducing pathogen presence with conservation practices and food-safety Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs).

USDA Withdraws Grass-Fed Livestock and Meat Marketing Claims
USDA Agricultural Marketing Service is withdrawing the Grass (Forage) Fed Claim for Ruminant Livestock and the Meat Products Derived from Such Livestock (Grass [Forage] Fed Marketing Claim Standard); and the Naturally Raised Claim for Livestock and the Meat and Meat Products Derived From Such Livestock, effective as of January 12, 2016.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has issued a press release responding to this action.

Biodiversity Critical to Maintaining Healthy Ecosystems
A group of international scientists, including USGS researchers, has found clear evidence that biological communities rich in species are substantially healthier and more productive than those depleted of species. Scientists detected the clear signals of numerous underlying mechanisms linking the health and productivity of ecosystems with species richness. The research was published in the journal Nature.

Final Guidance Published on Natural Resources and Biodiversity Conservation for Organic Operations
USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has published final guidance on Natural Resources and Biodiversity Conservation for Certified Organic Operations. This final guidance provides organic certifiers and farms with examples of production practices that support conservation principles and comply with the USDA organic regulations. The final guidance also clarifies the roles of certified operations, certifiers, and inspectors in the implementation and verification of these production practices.

Interest in Ancient Grains Revives
As consumer interest in Old World grain alternatives rises, researchers are evaluating the potential of several ancient crops for modern agriculture. The University of Hohenheim, in Germany, compared spelt, emmer, and einkorn with modern wheat varieties. Researchers point to the benefits that these crops offer in increased biodiversity, reduced pesticide and fertilizer use, and noteworthy taste and nutrition.

>> More Breaking News

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Funding Opportunities

Seeds of Native Health Grants
First Nations Development Institute is accepting proposals for its Seeds of Native Health grant program. The program supports Native tribes and organizations working to eliminate food insecurity, promote access to fresh and healthy foods, and provide increased access to nutritional programs aimed at improving the overall nutrition and health of Native people and communities. First Nations plans to distribute up to 12 grant awards ranging from $30,000 to $35,000 each.
Grant proposals are due February 11, 2016.

Oregon Specialty Crop Block Grant Program
The Oregon Department of Agriculture accepts competitive applications for specialty crop grant funds annually. Non-profit organizations, local government entities, for-profit organizations, industry trade associations, producer groups, commodity commissions, and public and private colleges/universities are eligible to apply for projects that enhance the competitiveness of Oregon's specialty crops.
Concept proposals are due February 23, 2016.

Minnesota Value Added Grant Program
Minnesota Department of Agriculture is accepting applications for funding through the state's Value Added Grant program. Farmers, businesses, agricultural cooperatives, or local government entities operating farmers markets or food hubs are eligible. The grant reimburses up to 25% of the total project cost, with a maximum award of $150,000. Equipment purchases and facility improvements are eligible.
Applications must be received by March 8, 2016.

>> More Funding Opportunities

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Coming Events

Midwest Cover Crops Council Meetings
February 23-24, 2016
Madison, Wisconsin
February 23 is the MCCC Working Group Meeting. February 24 is "The Science of Cover Crops," a one-day conference geared toward farmer, consultant, industry, government, extension, and research audiences to discuss what is truly known about cover crop benefits. The agenda includes university speakers, a speed poster session, and a farmer, consultant, and industry panel.

Oregon Small Farms Conference
February 20, 2016
Corvallis, Oregon

This conference from Oregon State University is a day-long event geared toward farmers, agricultural professionals, food-policy advocates, students, and managers of farmers markets. Thirty educational sessions are offered, including a track in Spanish.

Fort Bend Regional Vegetable Conference
February 4, 2016
Rosenberg, Texas

This conference is a celebration of vegetable production along the upper Gulf Coast region. Several Texas counties join to put on this event focused on teaching sustainable practices to help producers maximize efficiencies and profitability.

>> More Events

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