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Weekly Harvest Newsletter

Sustainable Agriculture News Briefs - March 4, 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
* USDA To Collect Organic Census Information
* Cornell Professor Says Management Can Combine Yield and Ecosystem
* New Tillage Publication Available
* Fact Sheet Explores Challenges of Organic Transition
* South Dakota Offers Agricultural Financing
* National Agriculture Pollinator Forum Held

Funding Opportunities
* Pest Management Alternatives Grant
* Conservation Innovation Grants
* Weed Management On-Farm Research Mini-Grant

Coming Events
* Southwest Marketing Network
* Farm to Table Conference
* Virginia Agriculture & Food Entrepreneurship Program

News & Resources

USDA To Collect Organic Census Information
For the first time ever, USDA is conducting a Census of all known producers of organic crops, livestock and livestock products, as a follow-up to the 2007 Census of Agriculture. "NASS will be asking producers to respond to a survey during the May-June 2009 timeframe, with results being available in December 2009," reports Gene Danekas, Director of USDA-NASS Missouri Agricultural Statistics Service. Information will be requested that includes the amount of acreage, production and value of sales of all types of organically produced products during 2008, reports Missouri Ag Connection.

Cornell Professor Says Management Can Combine Yield and Ecosystem Services
Current research shows that with the right management practices, farmers could effectively grow crops while maintaining, and in some cases even enhancing, ecosystem services, according to coverage in the Cornell Chronicle. Cornell professor Alison Power addressed the American Association for the Advancement of Science in February on the topic "Food Security, Agricultural Systems and the Provision of Diverse Services." Power pointed to preserving habitat for beneficial insects and retaining soil nutrients as practices that both preserve yields and promote ecosystem services.
Related ATTRA Publication:   Farmscaping to Enhance Biological Control

New Tillage Publication Available
A new University of California online publication outlines strip-tillage, a management practice with potential to save farmers money in fuel, labor and equipment costs while decreasing the amount of soil disturbed and dust generated as fields are prepared for planting. The eight-page publication, Strip-Tillage in California's Central Valley, may be downloaded in pdf format free at http://ucanr.org/strip-till. Strip-tillage is a form of conservation tillage that breaks up subsoil layers while leaving the soil surface and crop residue relatively undisturbed. "Less disturbed soil allows beneficial soil food web communities to thrive, which can improve soil conditions and potentially reduce herbicide use," said Dennis Bryant, a co-author of the publication.
Related ATTRA Publication:   Conservation Tillage

Fact Sheet Explores Challenges of Organic Transition
A free fact sheet from Montana State University Extension explains that knowledge and access to appropriate technology are key factors in the conversion to organic agriculture, and provides some guidelines and references that may ease the pathway. "From conventional to organic cropping: what to expect during the transition years" is available free in hard copy in Montana or may be downloaded online.
Related ATTRA Publication:   The Organic Chronicles No. 1: Mysteries of Organic Farming Revealed

South Dakota Offers Agricultural Financing
The South Dakota Department of Agriculture (SDDA) has financial programs available for new and existing agricultural producers. In an effort to assist young people to stay in South Dakota and carry on their family's farming/ranching operations, the SDDA participates with the Value Added Finance Authority's (VAFA) Beginning Farmer Bond Program. This bonding authority enables beginning farmers to acquire agricultural property for lower interest rates on a bank or contract for deed loan. The SDDA also offers loans for buying livestock, financing value-added production, processing, and marketing business ventures.

National Agriculture Pollinator Forum Held
The Native Pollinators in Agriculture Work Group hosted the first National Agriculture Pollinator Forum this week in Virginia. National agriculture and conservation leaders gathered to explore ways to stabilize and enhance threatened native pollinator populations that contribute to a $20 billion fruit, nut, vegetable and field crop production industry in the United States. The aim of the forum was to detail steps that the agriculture community can take to capitalize on the services provided by native pollinators.
Related ATTRA Publication:   Alternative Pollinators: Native Bees

> More Breaking News

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Funding Opportunities

Pest Management Alternatives Grant
The purpose of Pest Management Alternatives Program (PMAP) is to provide support for and encourage the development and implementation of integrated pest management (IPM) practices, tactics, and systems for specific pest problems while reducing human and environmental risks. PMAP grants support the development of new pest management tools and techniques to address critical pest problems identified by pest managers and other stakeholders. Projects are two years in duration with a 3 year statutory limitation.
Proposals are due April 7, 2009.

Conservation Innovation Grants
NRCS has extended the deadline for applications for Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies. Applications are accepted from all 50 States, the Caribbean Area (Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands), and the Pacific Islands Area (Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands). NRCS anticipates that the amount available for support of this program in FY 2009 will be approximately $20 million. Funds will be awarded through a nationwide competitive grants process. There are four CIG categories available in FY 2009: Natural Resource Concerns Category, Technology Category, Chesapeake Bay Watershed Category, and Grant Leveraging Category.
Proposals are due March 20, 2009.

Weed Management On-Farm Research Mini-Grant
University of Illinois Extension is looking for organic and sustainable farmers with weed problems to participate in on-farm research. In order to participate in the program, farmers must be currently farming in Illinois or in neighboring states within close proximity of the Illinois border. The program is looking for sustainable and organic farmers working to develop methods to cope effectively with perennial weeds in their grain or vegetable systems. Selected projects will receive the latest research-based info on managing perennial weeds without chemicals; up to $500 per year of participation; one-on-one assistance in developing a viable on-farm research project; and a chance to exchange what's learned with other farmers.

> More Funding Opportunities

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Coming Events

Southwest Marketing Network
April 6-8, 2009
Durango, Colorado

This seventh annual conference offers a full schedule of workshops, networking meetings, and free time for informal networking, with a focus on good food networks. "Building a Good Food System in the Southwest" features presentations by Marty Gerencer of the National Good Food Network and a diverse panel of food system stakeholders who are building good food systems in their communities. Interactive workshops in four tracks are geared at helping participants identify and expand their roles in developing the local food system. Tracks are Scaling up to New Markets; Growing your Organization’s Capacity to Grow the Food System; Making your Farm/Ranch Business Work for YOU; Mooving More Livestock.

Farm to Table Conference
April 3-4, 2009
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

This event, "Farm to Table: Keep it Real, Keep it Local," will include a farmers' market, health expo, cooking demonstrations, presentations, speakers and exhibits about eating local, and a local food tasting event.

Virginia Agriculture & Food Entrepreneurship Program
March 30 and April 6, 2009
Charlottesville, Virginia

The Virginia Agriculture & Food Entrepreneurship Program is a series of workshops being held in Albemarle County that will provide information and training on how to start and operate a food-based business in Virginia. The program aims to increase the quality and quantity of regionally produced food and value-added food products as a means to incorporate sustainable agriculture into the local economy. This two-day workshop series will explain many of the common regulatory, business planning, and marketing issues and concerns that involve a food-based business.

> More Events

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