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Sustainable Agriculture News Briefs - September 3, 2008

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
* National Declaration for Healthy Food and Agriculture Unveiled
* Slow Food Nation Draws Crowds, Coverage
* Organic Certification Cost Assistance Available
* USDA Awards Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Grants
* Report Summarizes Profitability of Organic Farming
* Guide Compares New Farm Bill With Previous Legislation


Funding Opportunities
* North Central SARE Farmer Rancher Grant
* Kansas Specialty Crop Block Grant
* Florida Ag in the Classroom Teacher Grants


Coming Events
* North American Lavender Conference
* Ohio Farmland Preservation Summit
* Mid-Atlantic Dairy Grazing Conference & Organic Field Day



News & Resources

National Declaration for Healthy Food and Agriculture Unveiled
Roots of Change, an organizing force behind the statewide food system transformation in California, has announced the release of a national Declaration for Healthy Food and Agriculture, which will provide the good food movement a clear and commonly held framework for future action to educate citizens and policy makers. According to a press release, the Declaration provides a clear statement of current policy needs, and is endorsed by a broad base of organizations and individuals with a long-established commitment to improving food and agriculture. It is an invitation to all Americans to join in the reform effort by taking action in their own communities, and to call on policy makers nationwide to support comprehensive change. The drafting team for the declaration included Fred Kirschenmann, Michael Pollan, Alice Waters, Bill McKibben, Marion Nestle, Wendell Berry and Winona LaDuke. The Declaration will be posted online for 90 days of public comment and/or endorsement. Following the 90-day period, Roots of Change and other collaborating organizations will launch a nationwide campaign to collect hundreds of thousands of endorsements of the Declaration.

Slow Food Nation Draws Crowds, Coverage
Slow Food Nation, a celebration of American food, drew 60,000 people over Labor Day weekend in San Francisco. Organizers called the event "the birth of a broad and inclusive food movement to build an American food system that is sustainable, just, and delicious." Critics labeled the tasting fairs for artisan products elitist. If nothing else, the event catapulted slow food into the national consciousness, generating extensive coverage by the Wall Street Journal and other media ranging from Gourmet Retailer to the Detroit Free Press.

Organic Certification Cost Assistance Available
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that $1.5 million in federal funds are available for organic certification cost assistance in the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming. These funds will reimburse each eligible producer for up to 75 percent of its organic certification costs, not to exceed $750. To be eligible for reimbursement, an organic production operation must be located within one of the designated states, comply with the USDA National Organic Program regulation for organic production, and have received certification or update of certification by a USDA-accredited certifying agent during the period of Oct. 1, 2008, through Sept. 30, 2009.

USDA Awards Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Grants
Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer announced that 639 individuals and businesses in 43 states and the Virgin Islands have been selected to receive $35 million in grants and loan guarantees for renewable energy systems or to improve energy efficiency in farm and business operations. The grants and loan guarantees are being awarded through USDA Rural Development's Section 9006 Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements program. The program provides financial assistance to agricultural producers and rural small businesses to support renewable energy projects across a wide range of technologies encompassing biomass (including anaerobic digesters), geothermal, hydrogen, solar and wind energy. It also provides support for energy efficiency improvements, helping recipients reduce energy consumption and improve operations.

Report Summarizes Profitability of Organic Farming
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has released a new report about the financial performance of organic operations in the state. The report, entitled 2007 Organic Farm Performance in Minnesota (PDF/790KB), contains data provided by 65 organic farmers enrolled in farm business management courses. MDA Organic and Diversification Specialist Meg Moynihan says the report offers detailed information about the cost of production and the profitability of organic agriculture in Minnesota. It contains financial summaries, crop and livestock enterprise analyses, and financial standards measures. Moynihan says the net returns of different organic crops and livestock species are highly variable, so the report will also help farmers who may be contemplating switching to organic farming.

Guide Compares New Farm Bill With Previous Legislation
The USDA's Economic Research Service has a side-by-side comparison of the new farm bill with previous legislation. Summarized but substantive, it offers a time-saving reference to farm bill provisions. In addition to key provisions and details by Title, the side-by-side includes links to related ERS publications and to analyses of previous farm acts. The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (Farm Bill), enacted into law in June 2008, will govern the bulk of Federal agriculture and related programs for the next 5 years.

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Funding Opportunities

North Central SARE Farmer Rancher Grant
The North Central Region (NCR) SARE program of the USDA has allocated about $400,000 for the 2008 Farmer/Rancher Grant Program. Competitive grants of up to $6,000 are available for individual farmers and ranchers, and grants up to $18,000 are available for groups of three or more farmers from separate operations who are interested in exploring sustainable agriculture. Farmers/Ranchers are invited to submit proposals that test, evaluate, and adapt sustainable agriculture practices for their operations; conduct learning circles, educational events, field days or demonstrations to further disseminate information to farmers/ranchers; develop new technologies; or create or modify equipment.
Proposals are due December 1, 2008.

Kansas Specialty Crop Block Grant
These grants to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops are open to commissions, public entities, and associations and/or nonprofit organizations that represent Kansas specialty agriculture and food producers. Specialty crops are defined as fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and nursery crops, including floriculture. Some examples of enhancing the competitiveness of specialty crops are research, promotion, marketing, nutrition, food safety and security, plant health, education, "buy local" programs, addressing environmental concerns and developing cooperatives.
Proposals are due December 5, 2008.

Florida Ag in the Classroom Teacher Grants
Florida teachers in kindergarten through 12th grade who integrate agricultural concepts into non-agricultural curricula are encouraged to apply for Florida Ag in the Classroom's 2008-09 Teacher Grant program. At least one local farmer or agriculture industry representative must be involved in the project in some way as a classroom speaker, project helper or sponsor.
Proposals are due October 1, 2008.

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Coming Events

North American Lavender Conference
October 18-20, 2008
Sequim, Washington

This 4th conference features speakers, presentations, workshops, and a trade show, addressing topics such as suitable varieties, propagation, distillation, and hydrosols.


Ohio Farmland Preservation Summit
October 2, 2008
Columbus, Ohio

The theme of this yearís summit, Bonding Ohio Together, and the Clean Ohio Fundís renewal will be the focal issues of the gathering. The Summit keynote speaker is David Kline. Other highlighted speakers include leaders from successful township, county and nonprofit programs, who will provide examples of creative collaboration strategies. The day will feature breakout sessions on topics ranging from landowner basics, statewide land-use policies, and creative local funding sources, to agriculture in the local economy. There will also be exhibition space and a lunch prepared with local foods.


Mid-Atlantic Dairy Grazing Conference & Organic Field Day
October 8-9, 2008
Shenandoah Valley, Virginia

The conference will include visits to pasture-based organic dairy farms, grazier panel discussion & other workshops on grazing. For information contact Steven Washburn, steve.washburn@ncsu.edu or 919-515-7726.


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