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Sustainable Agriculture News Briefs - April 5, 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
* USDA Releases Farmers Market Resource Guide
* Report Considers Small-farm Meat Goat Industry in California
* Wal-Mart Plans to Double Its Organic Offerings
* WSU Launches Biologically Intensive Agriculture and Organic Farming Program
* Vermont Dairies Weigh Economics of Going Organic
* U.C. Berkeley Serves Up Organic Salad Bar


Funding Opportunities
* Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program
* Northeast SARE Research and Education Grant Program
* Renewable Energy, Sustainable Food and Agriculture Grants


Coming Events
* Florida Small Farms Conference
* Natural Resource Extension Professionals Conference
* National Value-Added Agriculture Conference



News & Resources

USDA Releases Farmers Market Resource Guide
USDA recently released a Farmers Market Resource Guide, which includes a list of grants, programs, and other financial and information resources available from public and private organizations. Developed by the newly formed Farmers Market Consortium (FMC), which includes the USDA as a major partner, the Guide contains information about each participating agency or foundation and gives details about more than 100 projects and grants available to help start or improve farmers' markets. The Guide is divided into four types of projects: market development, producer training and support, consumer education and access, and market promotion. The Guide is available online and will be updated periodically.

Report Considers Small-farm Meat Goat Industry in California
The University of California Small Farm Center issued a revised research report in February 2006, titled Outlook for a Small Farm Meat Goat Industry in California (PDF / 730K). The report considers the potential market for a meat goat industry in California. It includes discussion of factors that may affect goat meat consumption, an assessment of the potential for goat meat production and demand for that meat in California, and recognition of factors that both promote and challenge meat goat production in the state.
Related ATTRA Publication: Sustainable Goat Production: Meat Goats


Wal-Mart Plans to Double Its Organic Offerings
Wal-Mart announced recently that it intends to double its offering of organic produce, dairy, and dry good products, Business Week reports in its online edition. Some U.S. organic producers are not happy with the news, fearing that the retail giant will pressure prices downward while increasing foreign imports. "Wal-Mart already sources a majority of its products from China," says Ronnie Cummins, director of the Organic Consumers Association. "Why not foods?" Cummins estimates that 10 percent of organic foods such as meat and citrus are imported into the U.S. Silk brand soy milk, for instance, is made from organic soybeans brought in from China and Brazil, where prices tend to be substantially lower than in the U.S. The Silk label is owned by Dean Foods, another major food retailer that has recently invested in the organic market. Nonetheless, organic producers everywhere are struggling to meet demand, Business Week reports. The demand for organic dairy products exceeds current supply by 10 percent.

WSU Launches Biologically Intensive Agriculture and Organic Farming Program
Washington State University has named soil scientist Lynne Carpenter-Boggs to the position of coordinator of its new Biologically Intensive Agriculture and Organic Farming program, or BIOAg. The program was recently funded by the state Legislature with a one-year appropriation of $400,000. BIOAg is a program of WSU's Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, which has spent several years developing the innovative program with a vision of establishing a grants program for research, demonstration farms, more educational offerings, and more research into links between food production and nutrition. Biologically intensive agriculture refers to farming practices and systems that emphasize natural biological processes that can reduce the use of costly chemical fertilizers, pest controls, and other synthetic farm inputs. Organic farming is one example of the application of BIOAg systems.

Vermont Dairies Weigh Economics of Going Organic
Writing in The County Courier, Lisa Halvorsen of UVM Extension discusses some of the economic considerations for dairy farmers who decide to adopt organic production methods. She reports on an ongoing two-year study in which the University of Vermont and partners are looking at the economics of organic dairy production. First year results from the study showed that profit from organic dairying wasn't as high in 2004 as it had been previously, due in part to rising production costs per cow and comparatively strong prices for conventionally produced milk. The article notes, however, that economics don't tell the whole story, and that organic production is what has made it possible for some small farms to stay in business at their current scale, as well as providing farmers with an improved quality of life.
Related ATTRA Publication:
The Economics of Grass Based Dairying

U.C. Berkeley Serves Up Organic Salad Bar
April 3 marked the launch of a new dining feature for students at the University of California-Berkeley: an organic salad bar. As this article in Grist Magazine points out, organic foods are nothing new on college campuses, but U.C. Berkeley is reportedly the first to have an officially certified organic salad bar, complete with separate facilities for preparation.

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Funding Opportunities

Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program
The Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program (FRPP) provides matching funds to help purchase development rights to keep productive farm and ranchland in agricultural uses. Working through existing programs, USDA partners with State, tribal, or local governments and non-governmental organizations to acquire conservation easements or other interests in land from landowners. USDA provides up to 50 percent of the fair market easement value of the conservation easement. To qualify, farmland must: be part of a pending offer from a State, tribe, or local farmland protection program; be privately owned; have a conservation plan for highly erodible land; be large enough to sustain agricultural production; be accessible to markets for what the land produces; have adequate infrastructure and agricultural support services; and have surrounding parcels of land that can support long-term agricultural production. Depending on funding availability, proposals must be submitted by the eligible entities to the appropriate Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Office during the application window. The NRCS announces the availability of over $70 million for FRPP in Fiscal Year 2006.
Proposals are due May 11, 2006.

Northeast SARE Research and Education Grant Program
The Northeast Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program seeks proposals for research, education and on-farm demonstration projects. The program emphasis is on projects that lead directly to improved farming practices and an enhanced quality of life for farmers and rural communities. Anyone can apply, but a pre-proposal is required. Project activities and project impact must occur within the Northeast SARE region, which is made up of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C.
Proposals are due May 31, 2006.

Renewable Energy, Sustainable Food and Agriculture Grants
Montana's Alternative Energy Resources Organization (AERO) is offering grants of up to $800 for groups to work together on projects ranging from sustainable on-farm research and demonstration to renewable energy or food security issues. The Community Grants applicants must be a group of at least four participants who work together on a project in Montana.
Proposals are due April 21, 2006.

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Coming Events

Florida Small Farms Conference
May 2, 2006
Deland, Florida

University of Florida IFAS Extension is presenting a series of small farm conferences around the state. This one takes place in Volusia County. For information, call the Volusia County Extension Office at 386-822-5778.


Natural Resource Extension Professionals Conference
May 14-17, 2006
Park City, Utah

The conference theme is Finding the "Ability" in Sustainability. Natural resource extension professionals are encouraged to attend, along with those who work with or would like to partner with these educators. The purpose of this conference is to help Extension professionals and those who work with them share their programming successes and challenges and learn from others to facilitate communication, cooperation, and networking among natural resource Extension educators.


National Value-Added Agriculture Conference
June 12-13, 2006
Nashville, Tennessee

This is the 8th annual conference for value-added agriculture educators and service providers. The agenda includes presentations on business and USDA programs, as well as concurrent sessions and a trade show.


> More Events

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