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Weekly Harvest Newsletter
Sustainable Agriculture News Briefs - February 23, 2011

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

News & Resources

Funding Opportunities

Coming Events


News & Resources

Farmland Loss Quantified
American Farmland Trust's Farmland Information Center staff have reviewed the new Natural Resources Inventory (NRI) to understand its significance to farmland. The NRI is a survey of the nation's non-federal lands conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service in cooperation with Iowa State University since 1982. It documents natural resource conditions and trends, including the conversion of agricultural land to developed uses. One of its striking findings is that more than one out of every three acres of developed land in the United States was developed from 1982 - 2007. "Data from the National Resources Inventory show that our nation's farmland is under intense conversion pressure, but also highlight the importance of smart growth and permanent protection," says Jon Scholl, President of American Farmland Trust. The AFT analysis found that every state lost agricultural land to development, but that more efficient development slowed conversion and that purchase of agricultural conservation easement programs were effectively saving land for the future, particularly in states with active programs.

Millers Disappointed with GM Corn Deregulation
The North American Millers' Association (NAMA) has announced its disappointment with the USDA's decision February 11 to deregulate Syngenta's 3272 Amylase Corn Trait without conditions. Syngenta's own scientific data released last month shows if this corn is co-mingled with other corn, it will have significant adverse impacts on food product quality and performance. "USDA has failed to provide the public with sufficient scientific data on the economic impacts of contamination on food production, or information on how USDA will ensure Syngenta's compliance with a stewardship plan," said Mary Waters, President of NAMA. NAMA is the trade association representing 43 companies that operate 170 wheat, oat and corn mills in 38 states and Canada. Syngenta's 3272 Amylase Corn Trait contains a powerful enzyme that breaks down the starch in corn rapidly, a cost saving function for ethanol production. If it should enter the food processing stream, the same function that benefits ethanol production will damage the quality of food products like breakfast cereals, snack foods, and battered products.

Maryland State Legislature Considering Bills to Ban Arsenic in Chicken Feed
Two bills were introduced in the Maryland state legislature February 10 that would ban arsenic-based drugs commonly used in the feed of commercial poultry operations. The bills were introduced by State Senator Paul G. Pinsky (D-22) and by State Delegate Tom Hucker (D-20), who were joined at a press conference by State Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, as well as Dr. Keeve Nachman, a researcher from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "Allowing arsenic to be added to poultry feed here in Maryland when, at the same time, we're trying to reduce the harmful effects of chicken litter to our great natural resource, the Chesapeake Bay, seems ill-conceived and illogical," said State Senator Paul G. Pinsky. "It's time to say, 'No more.' " Meanwhile, Food & Water Watch announced that it is joining forces with over 120 organizations and businesses to launch the Hold the Arsenic campaign, a grassroots initiative to ignite momentum among citizens and community leaders to support these bills, and encourage Governor Martin O'Malley to sign them into law.

Livestock Breed Priority Conservation List Issued
American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) recently released its 22nd annual Conservation Priority List. The list is an assessment of endangered breed populations for domestic livestock and poultry breeds throughout the United States. The goal of the CPL is to take a snap-shot of a breed's population at a given point in time. This information helps drive conservation priorities for endangered breeds and helps raise public awareness about the need for domestic livestock conservation in the United States. For 2011, there are 188 breeds of livestock and poultry on the Conservation Priority List, with thirty-three mammalian breeds and twenty-nine poultry breeds listed as critically endangered.

USDA Requests Public Comment on the Development of Tools and Guidance for Estimating Greenhouse Gases
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is seeking public comment on a new effort to provide tools that will help farmers, ranchers and forest land owners to assess the greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint of their operations. The project will bring together scientific experts from across USDA, other Federal agencies, and U.S. research institutions in order to develop consistent metrics for estimating changes in GHG emissions and carbon sequestration for farm, ranch and forest operations. The Federal Register notice can be found online at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/fr/. Responses to the notice should be submitted by April 19, 2011.

University of Vermont Introduces Farmer Apprentice Program
The University of Vermont announces the inaugural year of its Farmer Apprentice Program. The Program is a 7-month long educational training program for aspiring farmers, from April until November. It is designed to teach the necessary skills in production, management, marketing and entrepreneurship. This will be accomplished by working alongside current Vermont farmers, management of a sustainable small-scale vegetable operation, and relevant classroom instruction and field trips. Students have the opportunity to run their own farm and meet with their local Vermont farmers to learn models for success. UVM's partner is the Vermont Intervale Center. Registration for the program is open until March 15, 2011.

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Funding Opportunities

Simply Organic 1% Fund
The Simply Organic 1% fund supports and promotes the growth of organic and sustainable agriculture. They support research into organic production methods and crop improvement; educating farmers on organic growing techniques, certification standards and documentation; educating the public on the value of organic agriculture; developing projects that help organic farmers to be more efficient, produce better products, and add value to their products. Electronic applications may be submitted.
No proposal deadline is specified.

South Dakota Farmers Market Grower Grant
Proposals will be accepted from any current farmers market or any group interested in beginning a farmers market located in the state of South Dakota. Applicants may cooperate with any public or private organization to enhance South Dakota's specialty crop industry. Proposals must demonstrate how the farmers market will utilize the funds to solely enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops and/or demonstrate how matching funding will be utilized to promote products not classified as specialty crops. Grant funds may only be used for specialty crops. The maximum cost share award will be $1,000.
Applications must be postmarked on or before March 18, 2011.

West Virginia Specialty Crop Block Grant Program
The West Virginia Department of Agriculture (WVDA) has announced publication of its Request for Proposals for the Specialty Crop Block Grant (SCBG) Program. The SCBG is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered by the WVDA. It is anticipated that funding in 2011 will award approximately $170,000 to grant recipients throughout the State. The grant program encourages cooperative efforts to integrate technology at the farm level, improve marketing and promotion of locally grown specialty crops, and increase production efficiency through research projects. Specialty crops include fruits, vegetables, herbs, horticulture goods, nursery stock and value-added products.
Deadline for application is March 14, 2011.

>> More Funding Opportunities

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Coming Events

Advance Organic Together
April 6-7, 2011
Washington, DC

Join Organic Trade Association for an intensive, two-day conference as industry leaders gather from around the country to carry the organic message to Capitol Hill. You'll hear from thought leaders, visit legislators to communicate the importance of organic agriculture, and network with other organic industry leaders.

BioCycle Global 2011
April 11-14, 2011
San Diego, California

Three tracks of concurrent Conference sessions along with a trade show featuring more than 50 exhibitors are scheduled on April 12 and 13, followed by an all day site tour on April 14. BioCycle Global 2011 will bring together facility managers, developers, public officials, investors, regulators, researchers, industry executives, equipment providers, haulers, advocates and other professionals from around the world dedicated to a common goal of successful and sustainable organic resource management. Global Conference sessions focus on that goal, discussing best management practices, infrastructure and programs to maximize diversion, conversion and utilization of organic wastes to yield compost, digester biogas, biofuels and other high-value by-products. Conference sessions will feature over 70 technical and practical presentations on: maximum resource capture and utilization via composting, recycling and anaerobic digestion; food waste management; biogas and biomethane markets; compost utilization; optimizing facility processes; green infrastructure; organics collection; local food systems and urban agriculture; and much more.

Kentucky Grazing School
April 13-14, 2011
Princeton, Kentucky

The grazing school includes sessions on forages, fencing, designing a rotational grazing program, extending the grazing season, grazing math, and more. The second day includes a producer panel and field exercise and tour of demonstration plots.

>> More Events

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