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ATTRA - National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service

Weekly Harvest Newsletter
Sustainable Agriculture News Briefs - October 27, 2010

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

News & Resources

Funding Opportunities

Coming Events


News & Resources

USDA Settles in Lawsuit with Native American Farmers
USDA has announced the settlement of a class action lawsuit filed against the agency by Native American farmers alleging discrimination. The settlement ends litigation concerning discrimination complaints from Native Americans generally covering the period 1981-1999. Under the settlement agreement announced today, $680 million will be made available to eligible class members to compensate them for their discrimination claims. Two payment "tracks" are available. Under the first track, persons who meet the class definition and provide substantial evidence of discrimination to an impartial adjudicator will receive a uniform settlement of up to $50,000. The second track is for those persons who meet the class definition and believe they have stronger evidence of economic losses caused by discrimination. The settlement also provides a broad range of programmatic relief for Native American farmers, including creation of a new Federal Advisory Council for Native American farmers and ranchers, and enhanced technical assistance services through the establishment of a network that provides intensive instruction to recipients concerning financial, business and market planning skills and supports the deployment of tribal agriculture advocates and third party outreach and education providers.

Representatives Withdraw from Sustainable Agriculture Standard Initiative
The American Soybean Association (ASA) announced this week that it is withdrawing from the Leonardo Academy's initiative to develop a sustainable agriculture standard for American National Standards Institute. Fifty-four other commodity and farm organizations representing U.S. production agriculture interests joined ASA in withdrawing from the Leonardo Academy's process. A statement issued by ASA notes that, "While ASA supports the goal of a sustainable agriculture standard, it has become clear that that the Leonardo Academy process is biased against a balanced and open analysis of modern agriculture." The ASA statement continues, "Despite the Leonardo Academy's claim that the Committee is made up of members from 'across all areas of agriculture,' in reality the Committee is dominated by environmental groups, certification consultants, agro-ecology and organic farming proponents."

Scientists Pursue New Weed Controls for Organic Systems
Weeds are a critical issue facing organic growers, according to a press release from the Weed Science Society of America, but scientists have several research projects underway that offer new alternatives in weed management. The Global Change and Photosynthesis Research Unit of USDA's Agricultural Research Service is exploring practical ways to reduce the persistence of weed seeds, as are researchers at Ohio State and Purdue universities. One particularly innovative project underway at the University of California involves a prototype cultivation device that uses "machine vision" to attack weeds growing in the crop row, as a replacement for hand weeding. In a survey conducted online by researchers at Rodale Institute, 85 percent of the organic growers responding use at least three weed management strategies -- and most use six. The new research could offer them important new management alternatives.

Renewable Energy Initiatives Announced by USDA
USDA has announced several initiatives to promote biofuels industry development in the United States. One initiative is the publication of a final rule to implement the Biomass Crop Assistance Program that makes payments to eligible producers. USDA announced jointly with FAA a five-year agreement to develop aviation fuel from forest and crop residues and other "green" feedstocks in order to decrease dependence on foreign oil and stabilize aviation fuel costs. Meanwhile, a new biofuels report prepared by USDA's Economic Research Service that says replacing more petroleum with cost-competitive domestic biofuels reduces crude oil imports, thereby lowering prices for energy and benefiting the U.S. economy. The full report, Effects of Increased Biofuels on the U.S. Economy in 2022, is available online.

PepsiCo Effort to Help Farmers Reduce Water Use and Carbon Emissions
Food and beverage business PepsiCo has announced plans to roll-out its new i-crop farming technology on a global basis. The web-based tool, which was developed by PepsiCo in conjunction with Cambridge University, United Kingdom, is a crop management system that will enable PepsiCo's farmers around the world to monitor, manage and reduce their water use and carbon emissions, while also maximizing potential yield and quality. Trials of i-crop are currently underway at 22 farms in the U.K., where PepsiCo has announced ambitious plans to reduce carbon emissions and water usage by 50 percent across the farming of its core crops in the next five years. In its first Sustainable Farming Report, available online, PepsiCo U.K. outlined how it is working in partnership with its 350 British farmers to reach its aim of '50 in 5'. With brands including Quaker, Tropicana, Gatorade, Pepsi-Cola and Frito-Lay, PepsiCo is a major investor in global farming.

California Farmer Receives International Pollinator Conservation Award
Paul Kaiser of Singing Frogs Farms in Sebastopol, California is the 2010 recipient of the NACD-NAPPC Farmer Rancher Pollinator Conservation Award, sponsored by North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC) and the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD). The award was given as part of an international effort to promote public awareness about pollinators--birds, bees, bats, butterflies, beetles, and other animals that enable the reproduction of over 75 percent of flowering plants, accounting for as much as one-third of the nation’s food supply. Singing Frogs Farm is a certified Bee Friendly Farmingtm (BFF) operation, signifying that the operation meets or exceeds minimum criteria for providing adequate habitat for bees and other pollinators and using bee-beneficial practices.

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Funding Opportunities

Northeast SARE Farmer Grants
Farmer Grants are for commercial producers who have an innovative idea they want to test using a field trial, on-farm demonstration, or other technique. A technical advisor--often an extension agent, crop consultant, or other service professional--is required as a project participant. Projects should seek results other farmers can use, and all projects must have the potential to add to our knowledge about effective sustainable practices. The Northeast region is made up of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Vermont, and Washington, D.C.
Proposals are due December 7, 2010.

Pennsylvania Direct Farm Sales Grant Program
Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Food Distribution is now accepting applications for the Direct Farm Sales Grant Program project year 2011. The Program provides funds to Pennsylvania-based businesses that manage or operate a farm stand or farmers' markets, non-profit organizations, farmers and local governments for projects intended to promote new or existing farmers' markets. Projects must pertain to specialty crops. The maximum Grant amount per farm stand or farmers' market location shall be $7,500 and applicants shall be expected to provide 25% of the approved Grant amount in matching funds or in-kinds goods or services.
Proposals are due November 23, 2010.

Ohio Agriculture Revolving Loan Fund
Business owners can now apply for their share of $2 million in low-interest loans funded by the Ohio Department of Agriculture through a newly created Agriculture Revolving Loan Fund. The Agriculture Revolving Loan Fund will make loans available for the creation and expansion of businesses and industries that support agriculture and rural Ohio that focus on aquaculture, food processing and biofuels in Ohio. Loans will range from $10,000 - $100,000, and the revolving loan fund will finance up to 90 percent of the total project cost.
No application deadline is specified.

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Coming Events

Young Farmers Conference
December 2-3, 2010
Tarrytown, New York

Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture presents its third annual Young Farmers Conference (YFC): Reviving the Culture of Agriculture, a program especially for young and new farmers. This year's event will be a forum for over 200 participants to learn from agricultural luminaries, peers, and advocacy organizations through workshops, keynotes, and panel discussions. Keynote speakers for the 2010 Young Farmers Conference are Kathleen Merrigan, and Bill and Nicolette Hahn Niman. Over the two days, participants will have more than 50 workshops to choose from, ranging from technical and hands-on to policy, business, and marketing-related sessions. The YFC is a unique opportunity for new and aspiring producers to learn from leading thinkers in the field and to connect with their peers from across the country.

Connecting Cows, Carbon and Carrots: Making Sense of Our Food Future
November 20, 2010
Emporia, Kansas

The 2010 Kansas Sustainable Agriculture Conference is sponsored by the Kansas Rural Center and the Kansas Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Alternative Crops. The conference offers workshops for people interested in learning more about climate change and its challenges for agriculture, the budding "food movement" of local and regional production and business opportunities, how to approach the transfer of land to the next generation, plus many more ways of "connecting cows, carbon, and carrots".

Community Wind across America Conference
November 15-16, 2010
St. Paul, Minnesota

Community Wind across America conferences showcase ordinary people who are doing extraordinary work for residential and commercial development on a local level. This conference is designed for anyone interested in wind energy: rural landowners, farmers, ranchers, municipal utilities, rural electric cooperatives, elected officials, town planners, tribal representatives, economic development professionals, business leaders, investors, bankers, and community leaders. This is the second of three different regional conferences that will cover the full range of what's needed to advance opportunities for locally owned wind energy production.

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National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) logo and link to home page The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service - ATTRA - was developed and is managed by the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT). The project is funded through a cooperative agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture's Rural Business-Cooperative Service.

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ATTRA Webinar
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