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Weekly Harvest Newsletter

Sustainable Agriculture News Briefs - June 21, 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 Releases Energy Estimator for Irrigation
* Congress Briefed on Local Food Systems
* Interns Learn Organic Farming
* North Dakota Takes Testimony on Hemp Farming Rules
* Seattle-Area Market Garden Featured
* Kansas Welcomes Genetically Modified Rice Deal

Funding Opportunities
* Michigan Agricultural Innovation Fund
* USDA Small Minority Producer Grant Program
* Community-based Habitat Restoration Project Grants

Coming Events
* Soil and Water Conservation Society 2006 International Conference
* Stockman Grass Farmer's 2006 Custom Grazing Conference
* American Community Gardening Association Annual Conference

News & Resources

USDA Releases Energy Estimator for Irrigation
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has just released "Energy Estimator for Irrigation," a Web-based calculator tool designed to help producers manage their irrigation water resources more efficiently. This is the third tool USDA has developed as part of its overall energy strategy to reduce the impacts of high energy costs and develop long-term solutions for agricultural producers. The "Energy Estimator for Irrigation" evaluates opportunities to save on energy costs and improve efficiency of irrigation management. It allows producers to estimate the energy cost of pumping water for irrigation on their farm. Producers enter information about their irrigation system and crops, then receive an analysis of current water use, the reduced water use associated with various treatment options, as well as the energy costs and savings of these treatment options.
Related ATTRA Resource:   Farm Energy Calculators

Congress Briefed on Local Food Systems
Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton, Arlen Specter, Tom Harkin and Herb Kohl recently sponsored a congressional briefing on "Leveraging Local Food Systems for Healthy Farms and Healthy Communities." The briefing provided an overview of model programs, economic impacts, and policy recommendations for leveraging local community food systems to improve access to healthy foods by schools, retailers, restaurants and local communities. In addition, a "Local Foods" reception was held in the evening. The congressional briefing consisted of a diverse panel of experts including Chez Panisse founder and Executive Chef, Alice Waters; John Fisk, Director of the H.A. Wallace Center for Sustainable Food Systems at Winrock International; Marion Kalb, Director of the National Farm-to-School Program with the Community Food Security Coalition, and others.

Interns Learn Organic Farming
Organic farm fieldworkers in Marin County are frequently college graduates escaping the corporate world, says a story in the Point Reyes Light. Interns on two dozen organic farms in the area find positions through Marin Organic or Willing Workers on Organic Farms. Many of them are beyond college age, leaving a career path to explore a calling to find a connection to food production. Area farmers say that these interns are not just a source of cheap labor, but a source of inspiration themselves. They also represent the future of organic farming, as many of them will leave the internship to begin farms of their own.
Related ATTRA Publication:   Sustainable Farming Internships and Apprenticeships

North Dakota Takes Testimony on Hemp Farming Rules
North Dakota is moving ahead with plans to develop rules for licensing farmers to grow hemp, reports North Dakota Ag Connection. The state held a public hearing last week where they accepted testimony on proposed rules for hemp production, including background checks for farmers, permits from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, and registration and documentation on field location. North Dakota developed the proposed rules after meeting with DEA officials earlier this year, to find out what would be required to allow farmers to grow hemp, a versatile alternative crop that could benefit the state's farmers.

Seattle-Area Market Garden Featured
A feature in the Seattle Times describes a typical market day for workers at the Seattle-area Willie Green's Organic Farm. A former chef owns the business, which comprises 40 acres of organic crops. Workers include interns from around the world, who have come to learn more about organic farming. The workers harvest, clean and package a wide variety of organic produce for sale at five area farmers' markets. Their readily recognizable stands and organic produce are a hit with farmers' market customers. The farm also supplies a produce wholesaler and CSA, and plans to diversify into hosting events next year.
Related ATTRA Publication:   Market Gardening: A Start-up Guide

Kansas Welcomes Genetically Modified Rice Deal
A genetically modified rice developed by a California biotechnology company has finally found a place to grow in the unlikely soils of Kansas. The Sacramento Bee reported earlier this week in its online edition that Ventria Bioscience, a Sacramento start-up company, and a Topeka-area economic development agency have proposed a $10 million rice processing facility. Over the past two years, protests by rice farmers and anti-biotech groups twice prompted Ventria to abandon plans to plant its genetically modified rice in farm fields -- first in California, then Missouri. The rice contains human-derived proteins found in breast milk and the product has been developed to help children recover from diarrhea. The proteins can speed recovery from diarrheal illnesses, which annually kill two million children, most in developing countries, reports the Bee. The company would later extract the proteins and sell them for use in oral rehydration solutions. Ventria is awaiting approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for that application. Meanwhile, officials in Topeka hope that a Ventria processing plant would eventually provide a market for as much as 30,000 acres worth of Ventria's special rice, which would be grown by Kansas farmers. Unlike California and Missouri, Kansas has no rice industry. Consequently, the state has no organized opposition from rice farmers to the plans. Ventria was founded by a University of California, Davis, biologist in 1993 and began growing its rice in greenhouses and small outdoor plots in California and North Carolina several years ago. It has a permit from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to grow 335 acres of rice in North Carolina. The company triggered controversy in 20004, particularly among California rice farmers, when it issued plans to expand field plantings.

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Funding Opportunities

Michigan Agricultural Innovation Fund
The Michigan Department of Agriculture is offering a grant opportunity under the "Agricultural Innovation Fund" (also known as the "Julian-Stille Value-Added Agricultural Development Fund"). The program is designed to aid in the development of value-added agriculture through Technical Assistance, Facility Improvements, Market Research, Business Plan development and Facility/Land purchase or construction. Eligible applicants for the Agricultural Innovation Fund include individuals, farmer-owned cooperatives, partnerships, limited liability companies, private or public corporations, and local units of government for projects designed to establish, retain, expand, attract, or develop value-added agricultural processing and related agricultural production operations in the state.
Due date: July 13, 2006

USDA Small Minority Producer Grant Program
The Rural Business-Cooperative Service announces the availability of approximately $1.473 million in competitive grant funds for fiscal year 2006 for cooperatives and associations of cooperatives to assist small minority producers. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Cooperative Programs requests proposals from eligible cooperatives and associations of cooperatives interested in a competitively awarded grant. The cooperatives and associations of cooperatives will use the grants to fund technical assistance to rural businesses. The maximum award per grant is $200,000.
Due date: July 28, 2006

Community-based Habitat Restoration Project Grants
National Marine Fisheries Service is inviting the public to submit proposals for available funding to implement grass-roots habitat restoration projects that will benefit living marine resources, including anadromous fish, under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Community-based Restoration Program. Projects funded through the Community-based Restoration Program will be expected to have strong on-the-ground habitat restoration components that provide long-term ecological habitat improvements for NOAA trust resources as well as educational and social benefits for people and their communities. Eligible applicants are institutions of higher education, hospitals, other non-profits, commercial (for profit) organizations, organizations under the jurisdiction of foreign governments, international organizations, state, local and Indian tribal governments whose projects have the potential to benefit NOAA trust resources. Up to 25 awards of up to $250,000 are expected.
Due date: September 28, 2006

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Coming Events

Soil and Water Conservation Society 2006 International Conference
July 22-26, 2006
Keystone, Colorado

This environmental management conference includes symposiums, oral and poster presentations. The SWCS annual conference brings together researchers, practitioners, and policymakers at all levels of government, along with a broad cross-section of other interest groups, to explore current issues in natural resource management and planning, such as water conservation, the 2007 Farm Bill, wind erosion, and NRCS tools.

Stockman Grass Farmer's 2006 Custom Grazing Conference
August 3-5, 2006
Wichita, Kansas

Custom grazing, either on a per pound basis or per head per day rate, offers a way for graziers to harvest their grass without the capital cost and market risk of livestock ownership. It also allows graziers to skip difficult seasons and concentrate on maximizing green season returns. Included in this extensive program are segments on paid landscape grazing and the excellent economics of buying winter stalk-field grazing for your cowherd. Also included are discussions on the current inequities in custom grazing pay rates due to increased cow size, per head versus per pound gain rates, why buying custom grazing should be a part of every grazier's portfolio and an evening networking session where you can meet and talk with your fellow graziers.

American Community Gardening Association Annual Conference
August 10-13, 2006
Los Angeles, California

"Rooting for the Future" is the theme of this conference that includes hands-on workshops, keynote speakers, a film festival, and visits to parks, school gardens, community gardens, and other green spaces in the Los Angeles area. The ACGA Annual Conference brings together hundreds of individuals from across the United States, Canada, and abroad, who are engaged in all aspects of gardening and greening.

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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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