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Sustainable Agriculture News Briefs - May 6, 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
* EQIP Funds Available for Organic Production
* USDA Releases 100 Day Progress Report
* New Crop Payment Decision Tool Available
* USDA Holding Animal Identification System Hearing Sessions
* Food Supplements May Keep Poultry Parasites at Bay
* New SPIN Resources Available

Funding Opportunities
* EQIP Organic Initiative
* Conservation Effects Assessment Program
* Illinois Conservation Innovation Grant
* Clean Ohio Agricultural Easement Purchase Program

Coming Events
* Southwest Center Grazing School
* Organic Beekeeping Workshop
* Northeast Farm to School Conference

News & Resources

EQIP Funds Available for Organic Production
USDA today announced a special three-week sign-up for farmers in the process of converting to organic farming to receive technical and financial assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Today’s announcement sets aside $50 million out of the $1 billion EQIP program for a special three-week sign-up for farms converting to organic production, farms expanding their organic production, or existing organic farms who desire conservation support to reach even higher levels of environmental performance. The sign-up period begins Monday, May 11 and goes through Friday, May 29. Six core conservation practices (conservation crop rotation, cover cropping, integrated pest management, nutrient management, rotational grazing, and forage harvest management) are being made available to transitioning organic farmers on a nationwide basis. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has prepared a memo with more details. NCAT will also offer additional information through our ATTRA hot-line at 1-800-346-9140 (English), 1-800-411-322 (Spanish) and website.

USDA Releases 100 Day Progress Report
On the 100th day of the Obama administration, USDA reflected on the new course it has set to promote a sustainable, safe, sufficient and nutritious food supply, to ensure that America leads the global fight against climate change, and to revitalize rural communities by expanding economic opportunities. USDA released a progress report on its actions during the first 100 days and also launched a new web tool to allow Americans to learn where and how USDA is spending funds provided in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

New Crop Payment Decision Tool Available
The Agricultural and Food Policy Center at Texas A&M University has released new decision aid software that will help crop producers assess the risk of receiving farm program payments. The tool will help producers decide whether to continue receiving counter-cyclical payments (CCP) triggered during times of low prices, or opt for a revenue-based payment known as Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) triggered by low prices and/or yields.

USDA Holding Animal Identification System Hearing Sessions
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) will hold a series of listening sessions on the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). The meetings will take place next month in Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington state. "USDA needs to hear directly from our stakeholders as we work together to create an animal disease traceability program we can all support," said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. "I encourage individuals and organizations to voice their concerns, ideas and potential solutions about animal identification, by either attending these listening sessions or submitting comments online." If you are unable to attend a listening session, you can also submit feedback online.

Food Supplements May Keep Poultry Parasites at Bay
Poultry infected with the parasite Eimeria maxima usually develop avian coccidiosis, a disease estimated to cost producers globally more than $1.2 billion every year. So Agricultural Research Service (ARS) immunologist Hyun Lillehoj has been working with colleagues in ARS and around the world to find dietary supplements that strengthen the poultry immune system. The researchers found that chickens that consumed ground green tea for two weeks prior to parasitic infection produced significantly fewer fecal E. maxima oocysts than the control group.
Related ATTRA Publication:   Parasite Management for Natural and Organic Poultry: Coccidiosis

New SPIN Resources Available
A new guide that details three initiatives farmers can use to grow their businesses has been added to the SPIN-Farming online learning series on sub-acre farming. "The Small Plot INtensive (SPIN) 4 Season Marketing guide helps farmers get beyond the typical three season thinking to achieve higher levels of income," says co-author Wally Satzewich. Expansion initiatives detailed in the guide include selling throughout the winter at an indoor market, micro greens and shoot production and developing a craft product line.

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Funding Opportunities

EQIP Organic Initiative
USDA has announced $50 Million for a new initiative to meet the Obama Administration's promise to encourage more organic agriculture production. Funding for the initiative is being made available as part of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Organic producers may also apply for assistance under general EQIP. Under the Organic Initiative required minimum core conservation practices will be determined by specific resource concerns. The practices are: Conservation Crop Rotation; Cover Crop; Nutrient Management; Pest Management; Prescribed Grazing; and Forage Harvest Management. States must consider using any appropriate practice that meets the resource concern on a particular operation. Applications received from organic producers or producers in transition to organic farming will be accepted under this initiative between May 11 and May 29. The 2009 Organic Initiative will be administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Interested producers should visit their nearest USDA Service Center to determine eligibility.
Proposals are due May 29, 2009.

Conservation Effects Assessment Program
CSREES requests applications for the Integrated Research, Education, and Extension Competitive Grants Program—Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) for fiscal year (FY) 2009 to develop research and extension projects aimed at improving the watershed health of grazing land watersheds across the Nation. CEAP seeks to fund projects that evaluate the effects of grazing land conservation practices, especially with respect to understanding how the suite of conservation practices, the timing of these activities, and the spatial distribution of these practices throughout a watershed influence their effectiveness for achieving locally defined watershed health goals.
Proposals are due July 1, 2009.

Illinois Conservation Innovation Grant
Illinois’ USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will offer a new state component under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) called the Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) program. The CIG program is designed as a competitive grant option to stimulate creation and adoption of new conservation approaches and technologies that protect and enhance natural resources. As a sub-set of EQIP, CIG strives to speed the transfer and use of the type of technologies and methods that show promise in solving Illinois’ top natural resource problems.
Proposals are due May 15, 2009.

Clean Ohio Agricultural Easement Purchase Program
The Clean Ohio Agricultural Easement Purchase Program (AEPP) provides funding to assist landowners and communities in preserving Ohio's farmland, our most vital resource. The funds will be used to purchase agricultural easements from Ohio farmland owners. Farmland protection activities not only ensure that the scenic views and heritage of Ohio's countryside are maintained for future generations, but they also benefit our environment and provide critical habitat for local wildlife populations. The Clean Ohio program also helps family farms transition to the next generation and protects the economic foundation of Ohio's largest industry.
Proposals are due May 11, 2009.

> More Funding Opportunities

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Coming Events

Southwest Center Grazing School
May 12-14, 2009
Mt. Vernon, Missouri

This three-day seminar on management-intensive grazing for economic and environmental sustainability is the “basic” grazing school that is applicable to all types of livestock. Completion of this school may help qualify you for cost-share programs.

Organic Beekeeping Workshop
May 15-16, 2009
Lincoln, Vermont

This workshop covers topics suitable for commercial and hobby beekeepers, with a primary focus on intermediate and advanced methods. For beginners, a special Friday afternoon session that covers hive construction and layout, the basics of bee biology, and handling bees is strongly recommended. The rest of the workshop, Friday afternoon/evening and all day Saturday, presents a balanced view of natural and organic beekeeping topics and practices not ordinarily covered in lectures and articles.

Northeast Farm to School Conference
May 17-18, 2009
Burlington, Vermont

Join Vermont FEED, the National Farm to School Network, and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture for a celebration of Farm to School. From May 17th to the 18th learn new ways to expand your Farm to School Program through network building, fundraising, innovative techniques and so much more. Meet some of the Northeast leaders in this movement, hear their stories, and share your own experiences.

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