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Weekly Harvest Newsletter
Sustainable Agriculture News Briefs - August 19, 2020

Weekly sustainable agriculture news and resources gleaned from the Internet by NCAT staff for the ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture website. The Weekly Harvest Newsletter is also available online.

News & Resources

  • USDA Creating Farm Service Agency County Committees for Urban Agriculture
  • Report Documents Premium Value of Organic-Certified Farmland
  • Fall Meeting of National Organic Standards Board Moves to Virtual Format
  • Roots Key to Delivering Cover Crop Benefits
  • Study Tests Cover Crops as Biodegradable Mulch
  • Research Points to Neonicotinoids as Major Factor in Bird Biodiversity Decline

Funding Opportunities

  • Sheep Production & Marketing Grant Program
  • Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops Program
  • Wisconsin Producer-Led Watershed Protection Grants

Coming Events

  • Introduction to the Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production
  • NRCS Conservation Practices that Support Monarchs
  • Building Connections Across the Chestnut Supply Chain

News & Resources

USDA Creating Farm Service Agency County Committees for Urban Agriculture
USDA has announced the creation of new Farm Service Agency (FSA) county committees focused exclusively on urban agriculture. The first five will be in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Cleveland, Ohio; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Portland, Oregon; and Richmond, Virginia. USDA plans to announce locations for five more in the fall. The urban and suburban county committees will work to encourage and promote urban, indoor, and other emerging agricultural production practices. FSA will begin accepting nominations on September 8, 2020.

Report Documents Premium Value of Organic-Certified Farmland
A new report from Mercaris' Mercoterra Project looked at the monetary value of certified organic field crop farms to assess whether these farm values are significantly different from comparable conventional field crop farmland. The findings demonstrate that there is a premium of 25% being paid for organic rental land in the United States. Both the project report and an on-demand webinar are available online.

Fall Meeting of National Organic Standards Board Moves to Virtual Format
The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) announced that its Fall 2020 Meeting will be held live online. The meeting will take place over the course of five afternoons from October 20 through October 30, 2020. Meeting materials, including the agenda, public comment registration links, and other resources, will be available at the NOSB Fall 2020 Meeting webpage. All speakers making public comments must sign up in advance.

Roots Key to Delivering Cover Crop Benefits
Penn State researchers assessing the benefits of cover crops found that root traits that impact soil carbon storage levels vary widely among cover crop species. Researchers compared root and shoot production of triticale, canola, and crimson clover, as well as a five-species mixture. The mix had simultaneously high root and shoot outputs that enabled it to increase total carbon inputs to soil. Among monocultures, triticale had the highest root-to-shoot ratio and produced between-row roots.
Related ATTRA Video: Mixed Cover Crops—Dr. Clain Jones

Study Tests Cover Crops as Biodegradable Mulch
Auburn University researchers tested cover crop residue as a biodegradable mulch for weed control in bell pepper and watermelon production. Biodegradable mulch from cover crops offered an alternative to chemical weed control and to use of plasticulture. Weed densities for all cover crops tested were significantly lower than the non-treated control. Additionally, rolling the green cover crop mixes down did not adversely affect vegetable crop yield or quality.
Related ATTRA Publication: Cover Crop Options for Hot and Humid Areas

Research Points to Neonicotinoids as Major Factor in Bird Biodiversity Decline
A new study from the University of Illinois points to increased use of neonicotinoid insecticides as a major factor in the decline of bird biodiversity in the United States. The study tracked the pesticide's impact on birds at a national scale over seven years. The greatest negative impact was on grassland birds, although insectivorous birds also experienced a negative impact.

>>More Breaking News

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Funding Opportunities

Sheep Production & Marketing Grant Program
The National Sheep Industry Improvement Center Board of Directors is accepting grant proposals for $300,000 available through the Sheep Production and Marketing Grant Program. Financial assistance must accomplish one or more of the following objectives: Strengthen and enhance the production and marketing of sheep and sheep products; Provide leadership training and education to industry stakeholders; Assist the industry in addressing sustainable production and marketing; Promote marketing of sheep and sheep products; and/or Enhance the sheep industry by coordinating information exchange and seeking mutual understanding and marketing within the industry community.
Proposals are due by September 15, 2020.

Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops Program
The Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops (TASC) program is designed to assist U.S. organizations by providing funding for projects that seek to remove, resolve, or mitigate existing or potential sanitary, phytosanitary, or technical barriers that prohibit or threaten the export of U.S. specialty crops. The TASC program is administered by the Foreign Agricultural Service. Any U.S. organization with a demonstrated role or interest in exporting U.S. agricultural specialty crops may apply.
Applications are due by September 30, 2020.

Wisconsin Producer-Led Watershed Protection Grants
Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection provides funding to producer-led groups that focus on nonpoint source pollution abatement activities through the Producer-Led Watershed Protection Grant Program. Each application must come from a group of at least five farmers in the same watershed, collaborating with conservation agencies, institutions, or nonprofit organizations. The maximum award is $40,000, with a total of $750,000 available.
Applications are due September 21, 2020.

>>More Funding Opportunities

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Coming Events

Introduction to the Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production
August 27, 2020
Online
This free, 45-minute webinar will provide an overview of the new Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production. It will cover the office's mission and vision, along with structure and technical and financial assistance opportunities.

NRCS Conservation Practices that Support Monarchs
August 26, 2020
Online

Join Jessa Kay-Cruz, Senior Pollinator Ecologist for the Xerces Society and NRCS Partner Biologist, as she reviews the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) conservation practice standards that can be adapted to support the conservation of monarch butterflies and other pollinators.

Building Connections Across the Chestnut Supply Chain
September 1, 2020
Online
This free online discussion and networking session is an opportunity to have conversations with others involved in increasing the production of chestnuts. This is intended as an advanced discussion of lessons learned and next steps.

>>More Events

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Farming Medicinal Plants

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August 27, 2020
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