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Sustainable Agriculture News Briefs - October 19, 2005

Weekly sustainable agriculture news and resources gleaned from the Internet by NCAT staff for the ATTRA - National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service Web site.

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News & Resources
* Research Investigates Cover Crops for No-till Organic Soybeans
* USDA Continues Farm Bill Listening Tour
* Report Considers Ramifications of Global Factory Farming
* Sustainable Agriculture's Class Issue
* Farm School Introduces Chefs to Source of Food
* Opportunities Abound in Organic Dairy Market

Funding Opportunities
* Diversifying Public Markets and Farmers Markets RFP
* Tribal Colleges Research Grants Program
* Strategic Agricultural Initiative Grant Program, EPA Region 3

Coming Events
* New England Farmers Market Coalition Meeting and Workshop
* Oregon Tilth's 31st Annual Fall Conference
* Permaculture Design Course

News & Resources

Research Investigates Cover Crops for No-till Organic Soybeans
The Rodale Institute has been conducting research on how organic soybeans perform in organic no-till trials, and The New Farm provides a research update. Soybeans are the most weed-sensitive crop Rodale grows, and the most difficult crop to keep weed-free. For the trials, they planted wheat, rye, and barley as cover crops for no-till soybeans and then measured aboveground biomass and the carbon to nitrogen ratio, the two primary factors related to the weed suppressive effect of rolled down cover crops. The biggest challenge of the trials so far has been getting a good soybean stand planted through the cover crop residue.
Related ATTRA Publication: Organic Soybean Production

USDA Continues Farm Bill Listening Tour
USDA has announced more Farm Bill Forums in its national listening tour. The public is invited to attend and offer comments on farm bill policy. Forums hosted by Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns and other top USDA officials are set for Georgia, Colorado, Arkansas, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Delaware, West Virginia, Maine, New Hampshire, Maryland, Michigan, Florida, Oregon, Massachusetts and Vermont during October. Forums are scheduled for Hawaii, New Jersey, Texas and Georgia in November. The public is also invited to submit comments online at any time.

Report Considers Ramifications of Global Factory Farming
The latest release from the Worldwatch Institute describes how factory farms are breaking the cycle between small farmers, their animals, and the environment, with collateral damage to human health and local communities. Happier Meals: Rethinking the Global Meat Industry notes that the greatest rise in industrial animal operations is occurring near the urban centers of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, where high population densities and weak public health, occupational, and environmental standards are exacerbating the impacts of these farms. Addressing the ill-effects of factory farming will require a different approach to the way we raise animals, says the report. Positive initiatives include educating consumers about the benefits of organic and grass-fed livestock and of vegan and vegetarian diets; supporting small-scale livestock production; encouraging producers to adopt alternative production methods; and improving occupational and welfare standards for both animals and industry workers.

Sustainable Agriculture's Class Issue
Writing for Grist's blog, Tom Philpot argues the sustainable agriculture movement suffers from a class problem, noting that products from small sustainable farms are often available only to the economic elite rather than the mid- to low-income masses. Philpot cites his own enterprise, Maverick Farms, as an example. The farm asks $40 a head for farm dinner fundraisers and charges $20 a pound for restaurant-ready salad greens - hardly prices that the average American consumer can afford. Small farms are labor-intensive, points out Philpott, and can't compete with the economies of scale afforded by industrial agriculture. There has been a backlash against industrial agriculture, but the high cost of land near population centers is a limiting factor for sustainable agriculture's future, argues Philpott. Read the article and access reader comments on Gristmill.

Farm School Introduces Chefs to Source of Food
In Eastern Washington a small farm is introducing chefs to the sources of food in a five-day hands-on course, according to a Seattle Times feature. Groups of 10 chefs and culinary instructors participate in harvesting fruit and vegetables, butchering lamb and poultry, milking goats and making cheese at Quillisascut Farm School for the Domestic Arts. Course participants prepare their own meals from fresh and local ingredients, working together. The school stresses respect for food, avoiding waste and emphasizing the use of local foods. Founders Lora Lea and Rick Misterly believe that educating chefs about more sustainable food is a first step to educating consumers to help them make better food choices.

Opportunities Abound in Organic Dairy Market
In an interview posted on Brownfield, a representative from Organic Valley Coop says the company has had to turn business away due to lack of supply. Joe Pedretti speaks about the growing organic market, and the price premiums and other benefits dairy farmers enjoy from going organic. He also discusses some of the challenges and costs involved in organic certification and production. Meanwhile, Cadillac News reports on one dairy farmer in Michigan who has had his operation certified organic for the past year, and is now expanding his operation to pasteurize and bottle his own milk.

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Funding Opportunities

Diversifying Public Markets and Farmers Markets RFP
Project for Public Spaces, Inc. has released a Request for Pre-proposals with approximately $1 million in collaborative funding from the Ford Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The 2006 public markets grant program aims to strategically support markets, especially in low- to moderate-income communities, to become more economically sustainable and community-centered. Grants will be awarded in three categories: Public Market/Farmers Market Networks; Individual Markets; State/Regional Farmers Market Associations.
Proposals are due November 14, 2005.

Tribal Colleges Research Grants Program
The Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service requests applications for the Tribal Colleges Research Grants Program (TCRGP) for fiscal year (FY) 2006 to assist the 1994 Land-Grant Institutions in conducting agricultural research that addresses high priority concerns of tribal, national, or multi-state significance. The program funds investigative and analytical studies and experimentation in the food and agricultural sciences. TCRGP seeks to advance the body of knowledge in the basic and applied natural and social sciences within the food and agricultural sciences. Estimated total program funding is $998,000.
Proposals are due December 12, 2005.

Strategic Agricultural Initiative Grant Program, EPA Region 3
EPA Region 3 is soliciting proposals to help implement the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) and to support efforts by the agricultural community to "transition" away from high risk pesticides to the use of less and reduced risk pesticides, alternative methods of pest control and sustainable practices in food production. The program supports grants for education, extension, demonstration, and implementation projects for FQPA transition and reduced risk practices for pest management in agriculture. Grant funds are available to public and private nonprofit organizations, including commodity groups/associations, individuals, State agencies, Tribes, local governments, Cooperative Extensions, universities, colleges and institutes of higher learning. Region 3 comprises Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Proposals are due November 30, 2005.

> More Funding Opportunities

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Coming Events

New England Farmer's Market Coalition Meeting and Workshop
November 4-5, 2005
Durham, New Hampshire

Friday afternoon will be devoted to skills building workshops for farmers' market professionals and supporters, with plenty of time for networking. Saturday will be a full day of workshops on topics ranging from liability insurance, EBT, board development, fundraising, marketing, zoning, education of policy makers and other issues pertinent to New England.

Oregon Tilth's 31st Annual Fall Conference
November 19, 2005
Salem, Oregon

This conference will celebrate and highlight sustainable practices for farmers, producers, consumers and gardeners. The schedule includes Oregon Tilth's annual meeting, seminars and workshops, exhibits, a poster session on sustainable agriculture research, and local, organic and seasonal food. A full day of seminars and workshops will intrigue and educate everyone from the small scale gardener to the full scale farmer.

Permaculture Design Course
December 2-16, 2005
Puna District, Big Island, Hawaii

The Wilder Foundation and others present a two-week certification program in Permaculture design with instructors Lonnie Gamble and Douglas Bullock and guests. Topics include principles of design, plant propagation, site establishment strategies, renewable energy, natural building, water systems, human waste management, soil fertility, design for disaster, aquaculture, nursery establishment, patterns in nature and their application to design,economics, and many others.

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