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Weekly Harvest Newsletter
Sustainable Agriculture News Briefs - February 22, 2012

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

News & Resources

  • Start2farm.gov Online Portal Introduced
  • USDA Announces CRP Highly Erodible Cropland Initiative
  • Integrated Farms Can Be Greener Than Organic, Says Oxford Study
  • United States and European Union Announce Organic Trade Agreement
  • Swedish Study Shows Organic Farming Improves Pollination Success in Strawberries
  • Farm to Cafeteria Conference Accepting Proposals

Funding Opportunities

  • EQIP Organic Initiative Application Period 2
  • Conservation Partners
  • Virginia Farm and Ranchland Protection Program

Coming Events

  • Beginning Women Farmer Conference: Exploring Whole Farm Planning
  • Growing Diversity: Small Farm Resource National Conference
  • Dig In! Food & Garden Conference

News & Resources

Start2farm.gov Online Portal Introduced
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and American Farm Bureau Federation have introduced Start2farm.gov, a new online portal that provides assistance to beginning farmers and ranchers. The portal includes links to training, financing, technical assistance, and other support services, as well as case studies.

USDA Announces CRP Highly Erodible Cropland Initiative
USDA has announced a new conservation initiative that will enable producers to plant wildlife-friendly, long-term cover on as much as 750,000 acres of the nation's most highly erodible cropland through the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Beginning this summer, producers will be able to enroll land with an erodibility index of 20 or greater in CRP on a continuous basis at their local Farm Service Agency county offices.

Integrated Farms Can Be Greener Than Organic, Says Oxford Study
A study led by Oxford University scientists and published in the journal Agricultural Systems compared the environmental impact of different farming systems. The researchers found that "integrated" farms that maximized crop yields while using environmentally friendly techniques—such as crop rotation, organic fertilizers, over-winter cover crops, and minimal use of pesticideswould use less energy and generate lower greenhouse-gas emissions per unit of production than either organic or conventional farms.

United States and European Union Announce Organic Trade Agreement
Beginning June 1, 2012, organic products certified in Europe or in the United States may be sold as organic in either region. Previously, growers and companies wanting to trade products on both sides of the Atlantic had to obtain separate certifications to two standards, which meant a double set of fees, inspections, and paperwork.

Swedish Study Shows Organic Farming Improves Pollination Success in Strawberries
Organic farms produce strawberries with fewer malformations and a higher proportion of fully pollinated berries, according to a study reported in the open-access journal PLoS ONE. The study, led by Georg Andersson of Lund University in Sweden, found that pollination success increased greatly with organic farming. Andersson speculates that this effect may be due to an increase in insect pollinator abundance and/or diversity.
Related ATTRA Publication: Strawberries: Organic Production

Farm to Cafeteria Conference Accepting Proposals
The 6th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference is accepting proposals for workshop and poster sessions until March 7, 2012. The conference will be hosted by National Farm to School Network in Burlington, Vermont, from August 2-5, 2012.

>> More Breaking News

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Funding Opportunities

EQIP Organic Initiative Application Period 2
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) 2012 Organic Initiative provides financial assistance to implement conservation practices, assisting organic producers in meeting their resource concerns and fulfilling requirements of an Organic System Plan. Applications for the EQIP Organic Initiative are accepted on a continuous basis throughout the fiscal year; however, USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has established specific dates when eligible applications will be evaluated, ranked, and approved for funding.
The Application Period 2 submission deadline is March 30, 2012.

Conservation Partners
Conservation Partners provides grants to support habitat conservation professionals providing technical assistance to farmers, ranchers, foresters, and other private landowners to optimize wildlife habitat conservation on private lands. The program is a partnership between NRCS, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and others. Eligible applicants include non-profit organizations, educational institutions, tribal governments, and state or local units of governments.
Pre-proposals are due by March 13, 2012.

Virginia Farm and Ranchland Protection Program
Virginia NRCS Farm and Ranchland Protection Program can provide matching funds to entities acquiring easements on prime farmland or land containing significant cultural or historic resources. Eligible partners include private land trusts, local governments, state agencies, or any combination of these.
Application deadlines are March 30 and June 1, 2012.

>> More Funding Opportunities

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Coming Events

Beginning Women Farmer Conference: Exploring Whole Farm Planning
March 22-23, 2012
Amherst, Massachusetts

Learn how Whole Farm Planning can help you achieve improved quality of life, profitability, and land health at this conference sponsored by Holistic Management International, the USDA National Institute of Food & Agriculture, and the University of Massachusetts.

Growing Diversity: Small Farm Resource National Conference
March 22, 2012
Fresno, California

Farmers, activists, and community organizations working with agriculture, health, farmers, and the farming community can learn what resources and information are available to assist small farmers.

Dig In! Food & Garden Conference
March 19, 2012
Potsdam, New York

The conference will offer information, inspiration, and resources to develop and strengthen food-based projects at the organizational level.

>> More Events

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Cole Crops and Other Brassicas: Organic Production

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What effect does sodium chloride from a water softener have on plants?

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