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Weekly Harvest Newsletter

Sustainable Agriculture News Briefs - June 7, 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
* USDA Announces Grant Awards
* TIME Covers 'Grass-Fed Revolution'
* Bird Flu Data Remains Perplexing to Experts
* OMRI Proposes to Limit Heavy Metals in Allowed Products
* USDA Outreach Program to Improve Food Safety at Small Plants
* Wisconsin Company Uses Organic Poultry Feed Made from Coconut Pulp

Funding Opportunities
* Illinois Renewable Energy Development Fund
* Southeast Diesel Collaborative
* California Cattlemen's Association Scholarships

Coming Events
* Growing a Better Crop-Organic Farm Tour
* North American Lavender Conference
* Eat In, Act Out Week

News & Resources

USDA Announces Grant Awards
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has recently named the recipients of grants under several different programs. Program details and names of recipients are available online. Thirty-eight entities in 24 states received grants totaling nearly $4 million through the Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI), a voluntary program that provides competitive grants for state and local governments, tribes and non-governmental organizations to foster conservation partnerships. Meanwhile the AgrAbility program awarded $3.7 million in grants to 21 states to assist farmers with disabilities. Finally, USDA announced 67 loans and grants totaling over $17 million to fund targeted rural economic development projects in 23 states.

TIME Covers 'Grass-Fed Revolution'
TIME magazine has published a story on growing interest in grass-fed beef. According to the article, more than 1,000 U.S. ranchers have switched herds to an all-grass diet during the past five years. Although this is still only a small part of the total U.S. beef market, it represents an important trend. Producers are finding that direct-marketing their grass-fed beef makes economic sense, while laboratory testing is demonstrating health benefits of meat from grass-fed cows.
Related ATTRA Publication:   Sustainable Beef Production

Bird Flu Data Remains Perplexing to Experts
Experts on Avian Flu from more than 100 countries remain perplexed on the avenues that spread the H5N1 virus. A two-day meeting in Rome earlier this week was held by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Animal Health Organization. The summit yielded a need for better cooperation and data-sharing among countries affected by Avian Flu outbreaks, reports the online news service Yahoo News. The FAO's chief veterinary officer Joseph Domenech said that no one knows for sure whether wild birds can act as long-term reservoirs for highly pathogenic viruses such as H5N1. Meanwhile, American expert Robert Webster, a professor at St Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis told a Reuters reporter at the same conference that strong evidence points to legal and illegal international trade in birds, including wild exotic birds. There is no doubt that wild migratory birds play a role in spreading the virus, he said. "But so do humans." The experts were unable to quantify the economic cost of bird flu. "More than 200 million chickens have died or been culled, causing huge losses to exporting countries like Thailand and China," Domenech said. "There have been big losses because of falling consumption in Europe. In Italy at the height of the crisis in February and March the decrease in consumption was 50 percent, in France 20 percent. It's a huge, huge economic impact." France is the European Union's biggest poultry producer at $7.72 billion annual turnover, Reuters reports.

OMRI Proposes to Limit Heavy Metals in Allowed Products
The Organic Materials Review Institute proposes that steps be taken to avoid the use of fertilizers that contain levels of heavy metals that can contaminate soil, water, and crops. OMRI has prepared and posted a proposal to establish limits on the amount of arsenic, cadmium, and lead that OMRI-listed products may contain. The proposal is open for public comments until July 16, 2006. The OMRI Board will decide whether to accept the pending proposal after the public comment period closes and staff has made any adjustments based on the comments received.

USDA Outreach Program to Improve Food Safety at Small Plants
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced a groundbreaking initiative May 31 to provide the assistance necessary for small and very small meat, poultry and egg product plant owners to further improve their establishments' food safety programs. The program will feature a toll free number and Web page to assist small plants, and better access to technical resources, including scientific validation materials and education and training information, delivered in new and innovative ways. Additional aspects of the program will include utilizing FSIS employees to meet proactively with small and very small plants to get more details about their specific needs and provide joint training sessions for small and very small plants and FSIS employees.

Wisconsin Company Uses Organic Poultry Feed Made from Coconut Pulp
Tropical Traditions, a Wisconsin company, is marketing pastured poultry that has been fed an organic chicken-feed ration that contains coconut pulp, the residue left from coconut oil extraction. Cocofeed™, developed by Tropical Traditions and poultry nutritionists, contains no soybeans-the most common ingredient in other organic chicken feeds in the US. According to Tropical Traditions, chickens raised on the coconut-pulp feed were shown in laboratory tests to contain lauric acid in their meat, a medium chain fatty acid found in coconut oil and human breast milk, and known to have many health benefits.

> More Breaking News

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Funding Opportunities

Illinois Renewable Energy Development Fund
Governor Rod R. Blagojevich has announced the launch of a $4 million Renewable Energy Development (RED) Fund that will support community-scale wind energy projects throughout Illinois. The Illinois Finance Authority (IFA) will work with community banks and lenders to provide loans and loan guarantees to qualified farmers and farmer co-operatives who construct wind turbines for use as alternative energy. The program begins immediately, with a goal to launch community-scale projects by the end of 2006. Within the next six months, the IFA will host at least three informational seminars across Illinois to educate farmers, landowners, developers and agricultural lenders about the RED Fund and its requirements.

Southeast Diesel Collaborative
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is accepting proposals to fund projects within the Region 4 states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and/or Tennessee that will demonstrate effective emission control technologies and strategies, methods or approaches to reducing diesel emissions as part of the Southeast Diesel Collaborative. The Southeast Diesel Collaborative is a collaboration of federal, state and local agencies, along with communities, non-profit organizations and private companies working together to reduce emissions from diesel engines in the Southeast. Total program funding is $100,000.
Due date: July 7, 2006

California Cattlemen's Association Scholarships
The California Cattlemen's Association (CCA) will award more than $10,000 to deserving college students in 2006. Applicants must be planning a career associated with the beef cattle industry. Applicants must be currently attending or enrolled in a junior college, four-year college or university in California. Two letters of recommendation required. Due to the outstanding support of the California Beef Cattle Improvement Association (CBCIA), scholarship assistance is available to students interested in beef cattle genetics and/or breeding. Students applying should have a demonstrated and continuing interest in beef cattle. Contact elacy@calcattlemen.org for application information.
Due date: July 28, 2006

> More Funding Opportunities

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Coming Events

Growing a Better Crop-Organic Farm Tour
June 25, 2006
Abingdon, VA

Anthony Flaccavento is one of the founding farmers of the Appalachian Harvest network of farmers and his farm, Abingdon Organics, is a showcase of innovative ideas and techniques for organic farmers. See how high tunnel production of vegetables adds to their productivity and marketability, how different cover crops can help build healthier soils, how delicious, beautiful cantaloupes can be raised in southwest Virginia with organic methods and how beneficial insects can help you in your struggle against pests.

North American Lavender Conference
July 17-18, 2006
Sequim, WA

Join lavender growers and enthusiasts from across the country and around the world at this third annual conference. If you're interested in growing lavender, distilling lavender oil, making lavender products, marketing lavender, or simply utilizing this amazing, fragrant herb in your home, garden, or otherwise, you don't want to miss this conference. In addition to featured speakers, the conference will feature numerous workshops on practical aspects of growing, utilizing, marketing and appreciating lavender. Conference co-sponsored by the Sequim Lavender Growers Association and Washington State University Extension.

Eat In, Act Out Week
July 31-August 6, 2006
National and International

Eat In, Act Out Week is an annual event to encourage communities to eat locally and think critically about their food choices. "Eat In" refers to using local food, cooking food yourself instead of eating fast food or take out, and "Act Out" means speaking up and taking action to change our food system and promote local food. Groups across the U.S. and in Canada have scheduled activities centered on local food education. Events are listed online, and resources for planning an event in your area are offered.

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Digital versions of recent Weekly Harvest and ATTRAnews newsletters are available online. ATTRAnews is the bi-monthly newsletter of ATTRA - National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service.

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