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Sustainable Agriculture News Briefs - February 25, 2009

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
* Merrigan Nominated Deputy Secretary of Agriculture
* New Guide Helps Students Bring Organic Dining to Campus
* New Edition of Farmers' Guide to GMOs Released
* Purdue Launches Renewable Energy Website
* Study Shows Iowa's Soil Quality is Declining
* COOL to Take Effect as Scheduled


Funding Opportunities
* New York Community Garden Organization Capacity Building Grant
    Program
* Slow Food St. Louis Biodiversity Grant
* Wyoming Farmers' Market Fuel Reimbursement Grant


Coming Events
* Minority and Immigrant Farming Conference
* Kansas Agritourism Conference
* Local Grower Local Buyer Gathering



News & Resources

Merrigan Nominated Deputy Secretary of Agriculture
President Barack Obama has announced his intention to nominate Kathleen A. Merrigan to be Deputy Secretary of Agriculture. Merrigan currently is an assistant professor and Director of the Agriculture, Food and Environment M.S. and Ph.D. Program at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. In 1999, she was appointed administrator of USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service by then-President Clinton. According to Reuters coverage of the appointment, Merrigan worked to develop U.S. regulations regarding organic food. Ferd Hoefner of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition was quoted, "Sustainable and organic farmers are excited ... that someone who has been associated with these issues her whole career is going to be at that level in the department."

New Guide Helps Students Bring Organic Dining to Campus
The Organic Agriculture and Products Education Institute, a non-profit organization founded by and affiliated with the Organic Trade Association, is making a guide available online for students who want to bring organic dining to campus. Taste the Change: How to Go Organic on Campus is described by its author as "an activist’s guide for students who want to join the growing national movement to bring organic food into college dining halls." The guide begins with an introduction to organic, and presents an overview of the organizational tools needed for getting started on campus. Tips for working with food service and for building relations with organic vendors are covered in detail. The guide also offers tips on how to raise awareness and support for organic on campus, as well as ways to showcase organic through special events and interactions with the media.

New Edition of Farmers' Guide to GMOs Released
Farmers' Legal Action Group (FLAG) has released a second edition of Farmers' Guide to GMOs. This guide is a tool to assist farmers in understanding the complex framework of laws surrounding the planting of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The guide explains farmers’ legal obligations under GMO contracts and the very real possibility that farmers may be held legally liable to pay tens of thousands of dollars to biotech companies for violations of those contracts or to neighboring farmers whose fields become contaminated with GMOs. The complete book may be downloaded online in PDF format.
Related ATTRA Publication:   Transgenic Crops


Purdue Launches Renewable Energy Website
The Renewable Energy site offers an array of resources on environmentally friendly energy sources and conservation. "The Web site provides information on various sustainable energy technologies and energy efficiency, based on research conducted at Purdue and other universities and government agencies," said Klein Ileleji, a Purdue Extension agricultural engineer. When you go to the Web site you'll find pages devoted to wind and solar energy, biofuels, and corn ethanol co-products, as well as on-farm energy efficiency systems. There also are topical pages that include Purdue Extension publications, tools and spreadsheets that are used for analysis of various renewable energy systems, and links to other Web sites.

Study Shows Iowa's Soil Quality is Declining
In the past half century, topsoil in Iowa has lost much of what made it special, says a researcher at Iowa State University. Topsoil depth, referred to by researchers as A Horizon soil, has remained the same over 50 years, but the quality of the A Horizon soil has decreased. That's according to Jessica Veenstra, a researcher in ISU's Agronomy Department, who looked at soil studies from 50 years ago and compared them to her current readings. Veenstra looked at 89 different locations from all around the state that were described in soil studies done by National Resource Conservation Service in the 1950s and 1960s. USAgNet reports she located the same sites and took the same readings using the same protocols as the earlier studies. Due to years of tillage, the soil is now much denser and water and roots don't move through it as easily, her research shows.

COOL to Take Effect as Scheduled
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that the final rule for the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) program will go into effect as scheduled on March 16th. The rule, published in the Federal Register on Jan.15, 2009, has been under regulatory review by USDA. Secretary Vilsack determined that allowing the rule to go into effect and carefully monitoring implementation and compliance by retailers and their suppliers would provide the best avenue to evaluate the program. This evaluation period will inform the Secretary's consideration of whether additional rulemaking may be necessary to provide consumers with adequate information. The COOL regulation requires country of origin labeling for muscle cuts and ground beef, pork, lamb, goat, and chicken; wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish; fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables; peanuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, and ginseng sold by designated retailers.

> More Breaking News

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Funding Opportunities

New York Community Garden Organization Capacity Building Grant Program
The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets invites applications for financial assistance to strengthen existing community garden organizations and support local garden coalitions. Each applicant may apply for and receive up to $5,000. These small, flexible grants can be used for capacity building efforts such as leadership development and organizational planning, membership recruitment activities, and strengthening a community garden’s role within its neighborhood. There is a total of $50,000 available state-wide for the program.
Proposals are due May 4, 2009.

Slow Food St. Louis Biodiversity Grant
Slow Food St. Louis is offering grant money to support biodiversity in the St. Louis food system. The grants will be made available to farmers and producers for growing heirloom varieties and/or raising heritage breeds. Multiple grants are available up to the amount of $500, however, the grant committee reserves the right to offer funding above this amount. For more information and an application, contact Slow Food St. Louis.
Proposals are due March 1, 2009.

Wyoming Farmers' Market Fuel Reimbursement Grant
The farmers' market fuel reimbursement grant will pay growers to take their products to a farmers' market that is more than 60 miles away. A producer traveling over 60 miles one way from their Wyoming farm/ranch/garden to a Wyoming Farmers’ Market may be reimbursed up to $1,000 per year to assist with costs associated with transportation over the farmers’ market season.
Applications that meet the criteria will be approved on a first come first served basis for the season.

> More Funding Opportunities

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Coming Events

Minority and Immigrant Farming Conference
March 20-21, 2009
St. Paul, Minnesota

The Association for the Advancement of Hmong Women in Minnesota, Minnesota Food Association, and USDA-Farm Service Agency will jointly co-host the 4th Minority and Immigrant Farming Conference, "Helping To Grow Profits On Your Small Farm”. The two-day conference will focus on important topics for the farmers that include knowing your production costs, composting, transitioning to organic farming, managing agricultural risks, food safety, marketing, Farm Bill and policy, and applying for grants and loans.


Kansas Agritourism Conference
March 25-26, 2009
Great Bend, Kansas

Build connections with fellow agritourism operators, tourism experts and economic development professionals while enjoying great speakers, Kansas-made products and a fun, educational conference agenda. New and experienced agritourism participants will learn about insurance, direct marketing, customer service, staffing, retail sales, pricing, business planning and more.


Local Grower Local Buyer Gathering
March 16, 2009
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

This sixth annual industry-only event brings together local farmers/food producers with Philadelphia chefs, store owners and institutional buyers. The Gathering is a chance for farmers and wholesale buyers to meet and to make business connections face-to-face just before the growing season gets started.


> More Events

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