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Weekly Harvest Newsletter

Sustainable Agriculture News Briefs - May 31, 2006

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
* Ag Spending Bill Approved; Organic Research Funding Increases
* Report Reviews Regional Agricultural Marketing Programs
* SAN Publication Focuses on Water Conservation
* Cellulosic Ethanol and Energy Crop Projects Announced in New York
* Natural Pest Controls Succeed on Sweet Corn
* Shiitake Mushroom Market Study Planned

Funding Opportunities
* U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Source Reduction Assistance Grants
* New York Farmland Protection Implementation Projects
* Missouri Organic Certification Cost-Share Funding

Coming Events
* Energy in Agriculture: Managing the Risk
* California Conference on Biological Control V
* Organic Dairy Field Day

News & Resources

Ag Spending Bill Approved; Organic Research Funding Increases
The U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of the Farm Bill Tuesday evening and funding for organic farming research has inched upward to $5 million dollars per year from the $1.8 million contained in last year's appropriation. According to the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) Web site, organics represent 2.5 percent of all grocery sales. The appropriation supports the Organic Transitions Program that funds the development and implementation of research, extension, and higher education programs to improve the competitiveness of organic producers. After the Senate votes on its agriculture appropriations bill, a conference committee of House and Senate members will reconcile differences and a final bill will be sent to the President for approval. The Farm Bill is an omnibus measure that includes funding across federal departments. This year's House measure is at $93 billion with $18.4 billion in total discretionary spending. A summary of the bill is available from the Committee on Appropriations Web site.

Report Reviews Regional Agricultural Marketing Programs
The University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Program released a new report this month, Regional Agricultural Marketing: A Review of Programs in California (PDF/572K). Contacts for 12 active regional marketing programs and two that no longer exist were interviewed, and the report summarizes the motivations for starting a campaign, organizational structures, implementation strategies, financial information and success and challenges of the various programs. In-depth case studies of three programs are included.

SAN Publication Focuses on Water Conservation
Producers and agricultural educators have a new, free resource highlighting new approaches to water use, including promising conservation measures. Smart Water Use on Your Farm or Ranch, a 16-page bulletin by the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), features ways to manage soil to improve infiltration, select drought-tolerant crops and native forages, and design innovative runoff collection systems. The publication showcases innovative research, much of it funded by the USDA's Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, such as Texas Tech University's alternative cotton rotation that pairs cotton with cattle and drought-tolerant forages-and reduced water use by 23 percent in university trials. The bulletin also features farmers and ranchers who work hard to conserve water. The bulletin is available online or in print.
Related ATTRA Publication:   Measuring and Conserving Irrigation Water

Cellulosic Ethanol and Energy Crop Projects Announced in New York
Governor George Pataki recently announced a new $20 million program that will result in a cellulosic ethanol pilot facility, says DOE's EERE Network News. The facility will produce ethanol from cellulosic biomass sources such as willow, switchgrass, paper mill wastes, and agricultural and forestry residues. The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets will administer the program. Read the governor's press release. The governor also announced support for the development of dedicated crops for the biomass energy industry. The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets awarded grants of $22,385 for Dutchess County Cornell Cooperative Extension and Cornell University to try growing a 15-acre crop of switchgrass, and $60,000 for the State University of New York - College of Environmental Science and Forestry to develop its first commercial willow plantation. The willow plantation could provide fuel for the power plant or for a cellulosic ethanol facility. In addition, the state awarded a grant of $60,000 to Northern Biodiesel in Ontario, about 10 miles east of Rochester, to develop a rapeseed market for the biodiesel industry. See the Department of Agriculture and Markets press release.

Natural Pest Controls Succeed on Sweet Corn
Five New York farm families working with Cornell University scientists in a project funded by the New York Farm Viability Institute have succeeded in producing "clean" sweet corn using natural pest controls. Organic and low-spray growers have been challenged by producing worm-free corn for customers. In this project, three organic and two no-spray growers provided a total of 36 acres of sweet corn for field trials. They tested the use of tiny Trichogramma wasps as natural predators, using pheromone traps to monitor moth activity as a gauge for timing three releases of the wasps. The growers evaluated spraying an insecticide approved for organic production and applications of a Bt microbial insecticide mixed with soybean oil put directly on the corn silks as control methods for a late season pest, the corn earworm. Ninety-one percent of surveyed customers were satisfied with the quality of the corn.
Related ATTRA Publication:   Organic Sweet Corn Production

Shiitake Mushroom Market Study Planned
The University of Missouri Center for Agroforestry (UMCA) is launching a nationwide survey including all individuals and businesses that are active participants in the shiitake mushroom market, in order to obtain information about the market to aid businesses. Producers who participate in the survey will receive copies of the resulting report, which will provide an industry snapshot and predict trends for the next five years. The information in the report will help producers better identify market opportunities and problems, generate, refine and evaluate marketing actions, and monitor marketing performance. If you are a shiitake mushroom producer and have not received a survey, please contact UMCA at goldm@missouri.edu, cernuscam@missouri.edu or 573-884-1448.
Related ATTRA Publication:   Mushroom Cultivation and Marketing

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Funding Opportunities

EPA Source Reduction Assistance Grants
Seven of EPA's Regional Pollution Prevention (P2) Program offices anticipate having up to $163,000 available, per region, in fiscal year 2006, to fund projects supporting source reduction/pollution prevention and/or resource conservation activities. (Three of the ten EPA Regions-1, 8 and 9-have developed grant announcements independent of this one.) Each region has developed a list of projects it will consider under this program, and several include pesticide and fertilizer exposure reductions. Eligible applicants are States, the District of Columbia, the United States Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, any territory or possession of the United States, local governments, city or township governments, independent school districts, Federally-recognized tribal governments, incorporated non-profit organizations (other than institutions of higher education), public or private institutions of higher education, and community-based grassroots organizations. A 5 percent funding match is required.
Due date: June 19, 2006

New York Farmland Protection Implementation Projects
The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets invites proposals for funding to implement certain farmland protection implementation activities described in agricultural and farmland protection plans that have been developed by counties and municipalities. Proposals for funding will be accepted from only: (1) county agricultural and farmland protection boards in counties with an approved county plan; or (2) any municipality which has in place a local farmland protection plan. While local land trusts and other non-profit organizations concerned with protecting agricultural land are not eligible by law to apply directly for farmland protection implementation funds, they may work cooperatively with county or municipal governments in support of a project for which funding is requested.
Due date: June 30, 2006

Missouri Organic Certification Cost-Share Funding
The Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA) has announced the availability of federal and state funds for cost-share assistance for certified organic producers and handlers. Under an agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Program, MDA will administer cost-share assistance funds for national organic certification costs to qualified organic producers and handlers of agricultural products. This year state funds have also been appropriated for the organic certification cost-share program. To receive information regarding cost-share assistance, applicants must complete a signed application, supply a copy of their organic certificates and provide an invoice documenting their certification costs. Applications are available from the MDA Web site. Applications for cost-share funds will be reimbursed up until September 30, 2006 in the order they are received and until funds are exhausted or the eligibility period ends.
Due date: September 30, 2006

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Coming Events

Energy in Agriculture: Managing the Risk
June 27-28, 2006
Kansas City, Missouri

Energy-related risk management tools and the role of energy production/use strategies in risk management for production agriculture and the food system will be examined at this conference sponsored by USDA's Risk Management Agency, USDA's Office of Energy Policy and New Uses and Farm Foundation. Identification of new non-insurance risk management tools related to energy production and use is another goal of the conference.

California Conference on Biological Control V
July 25-27, 2006
Riverside, California

To help kick-off the celebration the 100th Anniversary of the University of California Citrus Research Center and Agricultural Experiment Station, the opening session will focus on the importance of biological control to the citrus industry in California and will include a special presentation on the history of the Agricultural Experiment Station. Two other areas of critical need for biological control programs will be highlighted: risk assessment for weed biological control agents, and on-going biological control research for the urban environment. A poster session will complement the invited speakers.

Organic Dairy Field Day
July 19, 2006
Mifflin County, Pennsylvania

This field day will combine individual farmer experience, organic certification, and marketing expertise to present a roadmap for organic dairies. Tour a certified organic crop and dairy farm and hear its transition success story. Organic Valley CROPP Cooperative will discuss organic dairying opportunities in an expanding market. For the new and transitioning farmer, there will be a review of organic crops and livestock certification by a Pennsylvania Certified Organic (PCO) Transition Specialist. Anyone interested in organic dairy farming or crop farming to meet the growing needs of dairy producers is invited to join us for this day co-sponsored by PASA, Organic Valley CROPP Cooperative and PCO.

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