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Sustainable Agriculture News Briefs - March 15, 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
* Report Identifies Best Labor Practices for Sustainable Agriculture
* Food Labeling Act Passes House
* Updated Twin Cities CSA Directory Released
* Florida to Offer Small Farm Conference Series
* Oklahoma Legislature Approves Farm-to-School Bills
* Organic Farm Succeeds with Diversity

Funding Opportunities
* Farm Service Agency Loans for "Socially Disadvantaged" Farmers
* Water 2025 Challenge Grant Program
* Conservation Innovation Grant Program—California

Coming Events
* Ag and Energy Workshop
* Living Green Expo
* Southern Conservation Systems Conference

News & Resources

Report Identifies Best Labor Practices for Sustainable Agriculture
As a means of promoting improved labor practices on sustainable farms, California Institute for Rural Studies, with support from the Columbia Foundation, conducted case study research on 12 California farms with a reputation for positive workplace conditions. The research consisted of in-depth interviews with growers and/or farm managers and focus group discussions with over 100 farmworkers. The grower interviews gathered information on workplace practices, and the costs and benefits of providing good farm labor conditions, while the farmworker focus groups sought to identify the practices farmworkers most value. The findings, published in Best Labor Practices on Twelve California Farms: Toward a More Sustainable Food System (PDF / 342K), reveal a broad range of positive workplace practices, which have resulted in a more satisfied and motivated workforce, and numerous benefits for growers, including increased retention, reduced training and supervision costs and increased revenues. The research also identifies the workplace conditions that farmworkers most value, including many that are no- or low-cost, yet greatly contribute to farmworker satisfaction and motivation.

Food Labeling Act Passes House
Last week the House of Representatives passed the National Uniformity for Food Act, a controversial bill that would prevent state food safety and labeling laws, according to the Modesto Bee. California, which has the toughest food labeling laws in the country, would have to apply for exemptions from the new federal law in order to continue labeling foods that cause cancer or birth defects. Opponents of the measure say some 200 state laws across the country would be preempted by the new measure, including milk safety laws in every state.

Updated Twin Cities CSA Directory Released
The Land Stewardship Project has released the 2006 version of its free guide describing Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms in the Twin Cities area. According to LSP, more than two dozen CSA farms have sprung up in the Twin Cities-western Wisconsin region within the past 17 years, providing consumers a wide variety of choices. However, since CSA shares are often sold out by early spring, would-be customers are encouraged to act quickly. The 2006 Twin Cities CSA Directory is available in both online and print versions.
Related ATTRA
Resource: Local Food Directories

Florida to Offer Small Farm Conference Series
The University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) and Florida A&M University will host a Florida Small Farms Conference series to help small farmers build more efficient operations. The Small Farms Conferences will be held at various locations around the state during the next several months. "Attendees will learn about a wide variety of alternative enterprises, marketing options, and other important financial topics that will help them improve their own small farm," said Bob Hochmuth, the UF/IFAS multi-county agent for the North Florida Research and Education Center in Suwannee Valley. "The conferences will help improve the sustainability of our small farms and maintain viable agricultural communities throughout Florida."

Oklahoma Legislature Approves Farm-to-School Bills
The Oklahoma Legislature recently passed two bills that support farm-to-school programs in the state. Senate Bill 1515, authored by Sen. Daisy Lawler, D-Comanche, passed unanimously March 2. The goal of that bill is to create a statewide farm-to-school program that would provide fresh, locally-grown fruits and vegetables to school cafeterias, as well as to educate children about agriculture and nutrition.

House Bill 2655, authored by Rep. Susan Winchester, R-Chickasha, passed 99-1 on March 6. That bill would create a task force to determine the best way to implement the program. It also includes the establishment of a grant program to assist school districts incorporate local foods into their menus. Each bill will now go to the opposite chamber for debate.

Organic Farm Succeeds with Diversity
An organic farm in New York has a ten-year history producing beef, pigs, chickens, eggs, herbs, and more, according to a feature in the Star-Gazette. Kingbird Farm has a laying flock of about 500 chickens that winter in a hoop house. The farm's owners have worked to develop year-round income streams for the farm, including a self-service store for farm products. They also share their organic farming experience with others, in publications and through tours for students. The farm also hosts two interns each year.
Related ATTRA Publication:
Sustainable Farming Internships and Apprenticeships

> More Breaking News

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Funding Opportunities

Farm Service Agency Loans for "Socially Disadvantaged" Farmers
The Farm Service Agency (FSA) has loan funding available specifically for "socially disadvantaged" applicants to buy and operate family-sized farms. Loans are available for a variety of purposes. Some loans may be used to purchase or enlarge a farm or ranch, purchase easements or rights of way, erect or improve buildings, promote soil and water conservation, and pay closing costs. Operating loans may be used to purchase livestock, equipment, feed, seed, fuel, fertilizer, and crop insurance. Funds also may be used to refinance debt. Eligible applicants may be from a group "that have been subjected to racial, ethnic, or gender prejudice... without regard to their individual qualities." Eligibility information and application materials are available online or through any local USDA Farm Service Agency.

Water 2025 Challenge Grant Program
The objective of the Water 2025 Challenge Grant Program is to invite irrigation and water districts and state governmental entities with water management authority (e.g., state agencies, departments, boards, etc.), within 17 Western States, to leverage their money and resources by cost sharing with Reclamation on projects that will result in more efficient use of existing water supplies. Eligible projects will include the creation and use of water markets, physical improvements that will conserve water and improve water management, and Western States may apply for projects to develop analytical tools that will improve water management. A total of $1 million is available for award in FY 2006. Reclamation’s share of any one proposed project may be up to 50 percent of the total project cost, and shall generally not exceed $300,000.
Proposals are due May 5, 2006.

Conservation Innovation Grant Program—California
The Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) Program for California is a voluntary program which provides grants 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 into Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) technical manuals or guides, or to the private sector. Applications are accepted from qualified applicants within the state of California. Selected applicants may receive grants of up to 50 percent of the total project cost not to exceed $75,000.
Proposals are due May 5, 2006.

> More Funding Opportunities

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Coming Events

Ag and Energy Workshop
April 3, 2006
Bath, New York

The American Corn Growers Association is joining with Farm Aid and others to present seven Ag and Energy Workshops at locations across the country in March and April. These day-long workshops are open to farmers, rural businesses and residents, the press and electronic news media, and anyone interested in energy and agriculture policy. The workshops will address biodiesel, ethanol, wind energy, biomass energy, and renewable energy as it relates to farm policy.

Living Green Expo
May 6-7, 2006
St. Paul, Minnesota

The Living Green Expo features 72 free concurrent public workshops on a variety of sustainability and "living green" topics throughout both days. Among other sustainability topics, the event addresses food and agriculture, energy, and yards and gardens.

Southern Conservation Systems Conference
June 26-28, 2006
Amarillo, Texas

"Improving Conservation Technologies to Compete for Global Resources and Markets" is the theme for this 28th annual conference. The event focuses on work to develop or adapt new technologies and farming practices that enhance farm productivity and efficiency in utilizing vital energy, soil, and water resources in an increasingly competitive global industry.

> More Events

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