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Sustainable Agriculture News Briefs - March 1, 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
* Further Information on Special EQIP Funds for Limited Resource and Beginning Farmers and Ranchers
* Avian Flu Prevention Measures Hit Free-Range Poultry
* New Booklet Helps Minnesota Consumers Find Local Food Markets
* USDA Introduces Energy Estimator for Nitrogen
* Pyrethroid Pesticides Reconsidered
* Organic Demand Outpacing Supply

Funding Opportunities
* Farm Business Management for Organic Producers in Minnesota
* Conservation Innovation Grants

Coming Events
* Organic Beekeeping Workshop
* Symposium on Sustainable Agriculture, Communities and Environments in the Pacific Northwest
* Place, Taste, and Sustenance: The Social Spaces of Food and Agriculture

News & Resources

Further Information on Special EQIP Funds for Limited Resource and Beginning Farmers and Ranchers
On December 12, 2005, NRCS announced that more than $10 million in Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funds will be used to assist limited resource and beginning farmers and ranchers nationwide to implement conservation practices on their land. This funding has since been allocated among individual states. NRCS will offer cost-share rates of up to 90 percent for all conservation practices and a $10,000 limit on each contract for eligible farmers and ranchers. A beginning farmer or rancher is defined as an individual or entity who: (a) Has not operated a farm or ranch, or who has operated a farm or ranch for not more than 10 consecutive years. (This requirement applies to all members of an entity.); and (b) Will materially and substantially participate in the operation of the farm or ranch. A limited resource farmer or rancher is defined as (a) A person with direct or indirect gross farm sales of not more than $100,000 in each of the previous two years (to be increased beginning in fiscal year 2004 to adjust for inflation using Prices Paid by Farmer Index as compiled by NASS), and (b) Has a total household income at or below the national poverty level for a family of four, OR less than 50 percent of county median household income in each of the previous two years (to be determined annually using Commerce Dept. data). USDA offers an online Limited Resource Farmer/Rancher Self-Determination Tool that you can use to see if you meet the definition. Farmers or ranchers interested in applying for these special EQIP funds should contact their state or local NRCS office. NRCS offices that need more information on this special program should contact Robert Molleur, the National Small, Limited Resource, and Beginning Farmers Program Manager for USDA-NRCS, at 202-720-6521.

Avian Flu Prevention Measures Hit Free-Range Poultry
In an effort to curb the spread of avian influenza, the Swiss government has placed free-range poultry under house arrest, reports swissinfo. Free-range poultry producers are being forced to find alternative means of caring for birds used to foraging outdoors each day. Both individual poultry producers and Kagfreiland, an organization that issues an organic label, worry that since the free-range designation will become meaningless under the ban, product quality and consumer trust will suffer. Meanwhile GRAIN, an international non-governmental organization which promotes the sustainable management and use of agricultural biodiversity based on people's control over genetic resources and local knowledge, has issued a report that says small-scale poultry farming and wild birds are being unfairly blamed for the bird flu crisis. The report Fowl play: The poultry industry's central role in the bird flu crisis says the transnational poultry industry is the root of the problem and must be the focus of efforts to control the virus. In the United States, USDA has posted an Avian Influenza page on its Web site, offering news and fact sheets with further information.

New Booklet Helps Minnesota Consumers Find Local Food Markets
The Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (MISA) has produced a new 30-page booklet that helps consumers interested in purchasing locally grown food. “Local Food: Where to Find It, How to Buy It” includes a host of useful information, such as how to find a local farmers’ market and how to purchase through farmer networks. The booklet also features recipes and freezing tips for fresh foods. The booklet can be downloaded online or ordered from MISA .

USDA Introduces Energy Estimator for Nitrogen
Last week USDA introduced a Web-based awareness tool that farmers and ranchers can use to identify potential nitrogen cost savings associated with major crops and commercial nitrogen fertilizer applications. Nitrogen fertilizer is one of the largest indirect uses of energy on an agricultural operation. Fertilizer accounts for 29 percent of agriculture's energy use, according to USDA research data. Using manure instead of petroleum-based fertilizers could reduce costs up to $55 per acre, based on February 2006 prices, while adopting management intensive grazing practices can save up to $6.50 per acre in energy costs and another $38.00 in reduced harvest costs. In addition, converting from conventional tillage to no-till can save up to 3.5 gallons of fuel per acre with a current value of $6.83 per acre. The Energy Estimator for Nitrogen estimates savings in nitrogen fertilizer use to help farmers and ranchers make practical and sound decisions regarding nitrogen fertilizer use on their farm or ranch.

Pyrethroid Pesticides Reconsidered
Pyrethroid-containing pesticides were brought onto the market as an alternative to pesticides deemed more dangerous to humans, but they pose health and environmental risks of their own, says an article in The Record from California's Central Valley. Pyrethroid appears in both agricultural and household pesticides, and testing in California has found pyrethroid contaminating surface waters in levels high enough to kill small aquatic animals that are an important base of the food chain. Experts say that farmers can scale back pyrethroid use by employing environmentally friendly alternatives such as beneficial insect releases and compost tea applications.

Organic Demand Outpacing Supply
Domestic supply of organic products can’t keep up with the steady increase in consumer demand, says the Chesapeake Bay Journal. As a result, the United States spends about $1 billion each year to import organic food, according to the USDA. The primary source of the imported organics is the European Union, whose organic farms outnumber the United States 14 to 1. Fewer U.S. farmers have made the transition to organic production for several reasons, says the article, including strict organic standards, the perception of reduced production and income, and increased costs.

> More Breaking News

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Funding Opportunities

Farm Business Management for Organic Producers in Minnesota
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is offering tuition cost sharing to Minnesota organic producers enrolling in the statewide Farm Business Management program offered through the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system. During the next three years, the MDA will pay 80 percent of organic producers’ tuition cost, with each enrolling producer paying the remaining 20 percent. The program offers farmers an opportunity to work one-on-one with a farm business management instructor to learn the principles of business management. They also learn to use specific tools like FINPACK, a farm financial management software program, and FINBIN, a benchmarking database that helps them measure their own performance against thousands of other operations. The project is funded by a research partnership agreement between MDA and USDA's Risk Management Agency.

Conservation Innovation Grants
The purpose of 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 NRCS technical manuals or guides, or to the private sector. The Texas State NRCS office will offer grants up to $75,000 for projects targeting innovative on-the-ground conservation, including pilot projects and field demonstrations.
Proposals are due March 31, 2006.
Also see:
New Jersey Conservation Innovation Grants
Pacific Islands Area Conservation Innovation Grant

> More Funding Opportunities

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Coming Events

Organic Beekeeping Workshop
April 28-29, 2006
Chestnut Ridge, New York

Gunther Hauk, Director of the Pfeiffer Center, leads this workshop for active beekeepers, as well as for beginners, including a hands-on session. Lots of practical advice and demonstrations will give novices enough information to get started with their own hive, and encourage experienced beekeepers to adopt organic procedure.

Symposium on Sustainable Agriculture, Communities and Environments in the Pacific Northwest
May 18-20, 2006
Richland, Washington

Washington State University Department of Community
and Rural Sociology presents this event. Continuing global changes, including rising petroleum prices and shifting weather patterns, have important implications for agriculture, communities and environments in the Pacific Northwest, where agriculture has been a major source of economic vitality for over a century. Some changes present opportunities for new products, markets, and community development. This symposium will look at how growers, agriculture-related businesses, communities and social institutions, and others have responded to these threats and opportunities.

Place, Taste, and Sustenance: The Social Spaces of Food and Agriculture
June 7-11, 2006
Boston, Massachusetts

The Joint 2006 Annual Meetings of the Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society (AFHVS) and the Association for the Study of Food and Society (ASFS) include tours, workshops, opportunities to listen to and present papers, panels, chances to participate in roundtable discussions, and times to meet formally and informally with colleagues.

> More Events

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