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Sustainable Agriculture News Briefs - February 14, 2007

Weekly sustainable agriculture news and resources gleaned from the Internet by NCAT staff for the ATTRA - National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service Web site. The Weekly Harvest Newsletter is also available online.

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News & Resources
* Cost Can Be Barrier to Organic Foods in Schools
* Article Describes Economic Benefits of Locally Grown Foods
* Texas, New Mexico Growers Finding Success with Organic Peanuts
* Fuel or Food Debate Continues
* Montana's Organic Certification System Meets International Standards
* Federal Court Halts New Field Trials of Genetically Engineered Crops

Funding Opportunities
* Missouri Value-Added Grant Program
* Clean Water Farm-River Friendly Farms Project
* Yuma Area Water Conservation Program

Coming Events
* National Grassfed Beef Conference
* 2007 Agricultural Outlook Forum
* Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association Conference

News & Resources

Cost Can Be Barrier to Organic Foods in Schools
Students at Dartmouth College want more sustainably produced foods in their cafeterias. And while college officials embrace the idea of a more socially-responsible menu, the increased cost of such foods has the college taking small steps toward that goal. Last year the college began purchasing eggs only from cage-free chickens. The college also offers fair trade coffee, and is holding talks with a local producer regarding locally raised beef that is hormone-free, antibiotic-free and grass-fed. Still, according to this report in The Dartmouth, the bulk of the meat used in the college's dining facilities comes from large-scale producers, which have often been criticized for inhumane conditions for both workers and animals. Dartmouth students believe the college could more effectively reduce its "ecological footprint" by increasing vegan and vegetarian options.

Article Describes Economic Benefits of Locally Grown Foods
In Minnesota, more and more local growers are selling their products locally, which keeps dollars in the local economy, reports the Fergus Daily Journal. And those dollars produce a multiplier effect, being spent several times over, further strengthening the economy. Farmers benefit through a local market for their products. Consumers benefit, too, through confidence in the quality of products they are buying. As well, says Congressman Collin Peterson, there are a bounty of opportunities for rural entrepreneurs and main street businesses interested in processing and distribution of food.

Texas, New Mexico Growers Finding Success with Organic Peanuts
Organic peanut production in eastern New Mexico and west Texas is booming. Thanks to the short growing season, low humidity and sandy soil—which together create perfect conditions for growing organic peanuts—growers are reaping healthy products and healthy profits. According to this report in the Clovis News Journal, growers are yielding some 2,500 pounds of organic peanuts per acre, with some reaching 3,000 to 4,000 pounds per acre—some growers are even surpassing conventional producers. Net profits average $600 to $700 per ton. Only three states—New Mexico, Texas and Georgia—grow organic peanuts on a commercial scale. New Mexico ranks first, producing 25 million pounds on about 10,000 acres.

Fuel or Food Debate Continues
The U.S. and other western countries may face significantly higher food prices as corn, sugar, and other food staples are increasingly devoted to making fuel here and abroad, according to the projections by University of Minnesota economists C. Ford Runge and Benjamin Senauer. The higher prices may result in millions of people starving throughout the world. Corn and ethanol producers dispute the claims. A recent McClatchy Newspaper story notes that only four years ago the economists issued a contrasting view, which shows how quickly the mathematics of food production are being changed by the worldwide push for biofuels. In 2003, Runge and Senauer forecast a rise in both agricultural output and Third World incomes, which would ease world hunger. They expected the number of hungry people in the world to fall from 830 million at the end of the 20th century to about 625 million in 2025. They now believe the ranks of the world's hungry will rise to 1.27 billion people by 2020. By the two economists' reckoning, every 1 percent rise in the price of staple foods translates into another 16 million people worldwide going hungry. The economists predict that corn commodity prices will rise by 20 percent by the year 2010, and that oilseed prices will rise by 26 percent over the same period.

Montana's Organic Certification System Meets International Standards
USDA has announced that Montana's organic certification program meets international standards, reports the Independent Record. The accreditation under International Standards Organization Guide 65 will make it easier for Montana’s organic producers to export their products. Prior to the USDA approval, organic producers could only export by working with a private, out-of-state organizations that achieved the ISO Grade 65 certification. Montana is the second state to receive the accreditation; Washington was first.

Federal Court Halts New Field Trials of Genetically Engineered Crops
A federal district judge has ordered USDA to halt approval of all new field trials until more rigorous environmental reviews are conducted. Citing potential threats to the environment, Judge Harold Kennedy found in favor of the Center for Food Safety that USDA's past approvals of field trials of herbicide tolerant, genetically engineered bentgrass were illegal. The federal lawsuit was filed by the Center for Food Safety, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, and others in 2003. The focus of the lawsuit are novel varieties of creeping bentgrass and Kentucky bluegrass manufactured by Scotts and Monsanto that have been genetically engineered to resist Roundup, Monsanto's popular herbicide.

> More Breaking News

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Funding Opportunities

Missouri Value-Added Grant Program
The Missouri Value-Added Grant Program provides grants for projects that add value to Missouri agricultural products and aid the economy of a rural community. The grant can be used to fund value-added agricultural business activities, such as feasibility studies, creating a business plan, or developing a cooperative. The maximum award level is $200,000.

Clean Water Farm-River Friendly Farms Project
The Kansas Rural Center (KRC) announces an application deadline for cost-share through its Clean Water Farm-River Friendly Farms Project (CWF-RFFP). Applications for up to $5,000 in cost-share will be accepted until March 31, 2007. Farmers and ranchers in high-priority and identified Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy (WRAPS) watersheds across Kansas are eligible to apply for technical and financial assistance to address water quality issues and assess environmental strengths and weaknesses. To be eligible to apply for cost-share funds, farmers and ranchers must complete the River Friendly Farm Plan (RFFP), which is an environmental self-assessment.
Proposals are due March 31, 2007.

Yuma Area Water Conservation Program
The Bureau of Reclamation, Lower Colorado Region, is requesting proposals for soil and moisture conservation activities in the Yuma Area Office geographic area of service. This funding opportunity will provide cooperative agreement assistance for water districts, local governments, and nonprofits in developing effective water management and conservation plans; encourage and promote implementation of water efficiency measures; demonstrate conservation technologies; and promote and support water education in the Yuma area. Cost sharing is required.
Proposals are due March 23, 2007.

> More Funding Opportunities

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Coming Events

National Grass-fed Beef Conference
February 28 - March 2, 2007
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

"The Art and Science of Grass-Fed Production and Marketing" is the conference theme. Learn the latest in technology for grass-fed beef production from producers and experts around the world. Exchange ideas with producers and interact with scientists.

2007 Agricultural Outlook Forum
March 1-2, 2007
Arlington, Virginia

This forum is an annual USDA event. The theme for 2007 is "Agriculture at the Crossroads — Energy, Farm & Rural Policy." Topics covered by keynote and plenary speakers will include energy, policy & trade, food trends, and rural development.

Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association Conference
March 3-4, 2007
Granville, Ohio

"Landscapes of Well-Being: Renewing People, Place, and Spirit" is the theme for this conference that offers keynote speakers Sally Fallon and Mark Shepard, over 40 individual workshops focused on growing and eating sustainably produced food, kids' conference, and networking opportunities.

> More Events

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Digital versions of recent Weekly Harvest and ATTRAnews newsletters are available online. ATTRAnews is the bi-monthly newsletter of ATTRA - National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service.

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