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Sustainable Agriculture News Briefs - February 15, 2006

Weekly sustainable agriculture news and resources gleaned from the Internet by NCAT staff for the ATTRA - National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service Web site.

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News & Resources
* Farmers Urged to Consider Costs and Benefits of Organic Certification
* New Manuals Address Feeding Distillers Grains to Livestock
* Urban Chickens Gaining Popularity
* Animal Industry Report Posted
* Reports Link Dietary Changes to Rise in Mental Illness
* Market Incentives could Promote Better Nutrition among Food Stamp Recipients


Funding Opportunities
* National Integrated Water Quality Program Grants
* Kansas Conservation Innovation Grants
* Watershed Improvement Grant, EPA Region 7


Coming Events
* Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association Annual Conference
* BioCycle West Coast Conference 2006
* National Extension Women in Agriculture Education Conference



News & Resources

Farmers Urged to Consider Costs and Benefits of Organic Certification
Farmers who are considering obtaining organic certification should carefully consider both the costs and benefits, according to participants in a teleconference on organic farming held recently. The Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne, Indiana, reported on the teleconference, which included agricultural experts from Purdue, food processors, and producers. Farmers who pursue organic certification face certification costs, increased recordkeeping, and a potentially difficult transition period, warned conference participants. However, there are strategies for making the transition period less challenging, and once certification is achieved, price premiums may offset costs.
Related ATTRA Publication: Organic Certification Process


New Manuals Address Feeding Distillers Grains to Livestock
The Nebraska Corn Board, working with University of Nebraska-Lincoln animal scientists, has compiled two manuals on the feeding of distillers grains and corn gluten to livestock. The first manual, called the Corn Processing Co-Products Manual (PDF / 1 MB), is a review of current co-products feeding research involving beef, hogs, poultry and dairy. The second, entitled Utilization of Corn Co-Products in the Beef Industry (PDF / 620 KB), contains even more detailed information for beef producers.

Urban Chickens Gaining Popularity
People who want to know where their food comes from may turn to raising it in their own backyards, says an Associated Press article that appeared in The Boston Globe. For an increasing number of people, this means raising a few backyard chickens. Cities such as Portland and Boise are among those that allow residents to keep up to three hens in a backyard coop. Backyard chickens may be as much pets as egg producers. At least one company is specializing in producing specialized, stylish backyard coops, says the article.

Animal Industry Report Posted
Iowa State University has released and posted its 2006 Animal Industry Report. The report combines research reports from faculty associated with various departments, each posted online in PDF. Titles include Organic Beef Cattle Grazing Demonstration, Effects of Grazing Management on Pasture Characteristics Affecting Sediment and Phosphorus Pollution of Pasture Streams, Comparison of Alternative Winter Farrowing Techniques on Four Niman Ranch Cooperating Farms in Southern Minnesota, and various publications on meat processing and packaging.

Reports Link Dietary Changes to Rise in Mental Illness
Evidence released in January by the Mental Health Foundation in the United Kingdom and the UK group Sustain reveals that changes to the human diet in the last fifty years or so could be an important factor behind the major rise of mental illness in the country. According to the organizations, significant changes in the way food is produced and manufactured have not only reduced the amounts of essential fats, vitamins and minerals consumed, but have also disturbed the balance of nutrients in the foods eaten. The two studies are available for free download online. Feeding Minds: the impact of food on mental health has been written for stakeholders within the mental health sector. Changing Diets, Changing Minds: how food affects mental well-being and behavior has been written for stakeholders in the food and farming sectors.

Market Incentives could Promote Better Nutrition among Food Stamp Recipients
At a time when obesity, diabetes and other diet-related diseases are epidemic, the U.S. government should retool subsidy programs to encourage healthy diets, says policy expert Josh Miner in the January-March 2006 issue of the University of California's California Agriculture research journal. In a peer-reviewed research perspective, Miner proposes policy changes for two agencies within the U.S. Department of Agriculture the Food Stamp Program and the Farm Services Agency.

Miner lays out a proposal to reduce payments for large-scale commodities such as corn, soybeans and rice, and replace them with a compensation system for retailers who sell fruits, vegetables and other nutritious products to low-income consumers at reduced prices. "By linking incentives directly to products that have health benefits, there is a high likelihood that these redirected subsidies would result in additional future cost savings, in the form of improved health, increased productivity, and other economic and social benefits," Miner writes.

> More Breaking News

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Funding Opportunities

National Integrated Water Quality Program Grants
The Cooperative State Research, Extension, and Education Service (CSREES) is requesting applications for the Integrated Research, Education, and Extension Competitive Grants Program - National Integrated Water Quality Program (NIWQP) for fiscal year (FY) 2006 to develop research, education, and extension projects aimed at improving the quality of water resources in agricultural watersheds across the nation. Approximately $10.2 million in funding will be available. Funded projects should lead to science-based decision-making and management practices that improve the quality of the nation's surface water and groundwater resources in agricultural and rural watersheds. NIWQP applications are being solicited in the following program areas: (1) National Facilitation Projects; (2) Regional Water Quality Coordination Projects; and (3) Integrated Research, Education, and Extension Projects.
Proposals are due April 11, 2006.

Kansas Conservation Innovation Grants
The purpose of Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) is to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies while leveraging Federal investment in environmental enhancement and protection, in conjunction with agricultural production. CIG projects are expected to lead to the transfer of conservation technologies, management systems, and innovative approaches (such as market-based systems) into Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) technical manuals or guides, or to the private sector. CIG funds projects targeting innovative on-the-ground conservation, including pilot projects and field demonstrations.
Proposals are due April 28, 2006.

Watershed Improvement Grant, EPA Region 7
EPA Region 7 (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and 9 Tribal Nations) will award projects under this announcement that result in chemical, physical and/or biological improvements in water quality in a watershed. In order to accomplish this, the Watershed Improvement Grant Program will give priority consideration to projects that: have an active watershed group ready to complete management techniques to restore watersheds; have strong partnerships financially and with their communities; include environmental results; have explicit and environmentally-based performance measures; and are innovative and exhibit the inherent connection of improved water quality and integrated pesticide management with the three EPA Region 7 priorities: critical ecosystems, sensitive populations, and agriculture.
Proposals are due May 11, 2006.

> More Funding Opportunities

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Coming Events

Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association Annual Conference
March 4-5, 2006
Granville, Ohio

"Health from the Ground Up" is the theme of this 27th annual conference. Keynote speakers on human health and soil science are on the agenda, as well as 40 workshops on sustainable agriculture, a kids' conference, and more.


BioCycle West Coast Conference 2006
March 20-22, 2006
Portland, Oregon

This conference looks at
composting, organics reuse and renewable energy, with a focus on building sustainable cities and communities. A field trip, 50 technical sessions, and exhibits are offered as part of the conference agenda.

National Extension Women in Agriculture Education Conference
April 6-7, 2006
St. Louis, Missouri

The goal of this conference is to broaden educational programming to women in agriculture, to encourage new programming efforts, and to strengthen existing programs. The conference will bring together private and public sector educators, crop insurance agents, lenders, and other agricultural professionals who are involved in outreach education, to share ongoing and emerging successful risk management education efforts directed toward women and their families who are involved in production agriculture.


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