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Sustainable Agriculture News Briefs - November 2, 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
* Congress Votes to Weaken Organic Standards
* USDA Expands National Soybean Rust Risk Management Tool
* Sustainable Ag Network Launches New WebStore
* Urban Farms Gaining Ground
* "Going Organic" Farmer Training Program to Expand
* Butcher Carves Niche with Grass-fed and Organic Meats

Funding Opportunities
* California Organic Certification Cost Share
* Smart Equipment Choices Program
* Minnesota Organic Certification Cost Share

Coming Events
* Pennsylvania State Beekeepers Association Annual Meeting
* Lake Erie West Foodshed Congress
* Growers Marketing Forum: Farm to Fork

News & Resources

Congress Votes to Weaken Organic Standards
Earlier this week Congress voted to allow numerous synthetic substances to be used in certified organic products and to weaken organic dairy standards. The Organic Trade Association (OTA) and various food processors encouraged Congress to adopt the provision as a rider to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's annual spending budget. The amendment overrides a recent federal court decision (Harvey v. Veneman) that ruled the Organic Food Production Act does not allow synthetic substances to be used in foods labeled "organic." OTA applauded the decision, claiming the ruling will keep organic products on the shelves and organic growers and processors in business. The Organic Consumers Association, however, decried the decision, which, in addition to allowing the use of synthetic substances in organic processing: (1) allows dairy cows to be treated with antibiotics and fed genetically modified feed before being transitioned to organic production, and (2) contains loopholes under which non-organic ingredients could be substituted for organic ingredients based on "emergency decrees." The New York Times takes a closer look at the controversy and at some of the biggest corporate players in the organic food movement.

USDA Expands National Soybean Rust Risk Management Tool
Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns has announced that USDA is again funding projects to track the spread of soybean rust and create the Pest Information Platform for Extension and Education to provide producers with information about additional legume pests and diseases. The nationally coordinated network will help producers in making crop management decisions that reduce pesticide input costs, reduce environmental exposure to pesticides, and increase the efficiency and efficacy of pesticide applications. Tools for the network will include an online reporting system, workshops, extension field visits, and training modules for crop advisors and producers. The soybean rust risk management tool is available online.

Sustainable Ag Network Launches New WebStore
The Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) has developed a new WebStore featuring books, bulletins, and other resources on sustainable farming and ranching. Visit www.sare.org/WebStore to order publications featuring innovative production and marketing strategies for this winter's workshops and conferences. SAN's bulletins are available in quantity to agricultural educators at no cost. Also, SAN offers significant discounts when you order ten or more of any SAN books.

Urban Farms Gaining Ground
Farms that transform vacant city lots into vegetable patches are winning favor with both neighborhood residents and upscale city restaurants, says an article in Chicagoland Chief Engineer. Chicago's City Farm is one of three urban farms operated by The Resource Center in the city. The farms make their own compost, and City Farm features a market stall that sells produce to local residents, as well as chefs. Urban farms are also catching on in Detroit and Philadelphia, says the article.

"Going Organic" Farmer Training Program to Expand
After completing a successful pilot project, California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) is expanding its Going Organic farmer training, education, and mentoring program. Utilizing renewed funding from the California State Water Board, the Going Organic program will train 40 new organic growers through educational meetings and one-on-one mentoring with experienced organic farmers. This will result in an estimated increase in organic acreage of nearly 5 percent in the program’s regions. “Converting to organic production is an important environmental and health benefit for any farmer to undertake. Many growers want to convert to organic but need critical on-the-ground assistance. Going Organic allows farmers to support and learn from each other through the process,” said Fred Thomas, Going Organic Project Coordinator. See the CCOF Web site or contact Thomas at (530) 891-6958 or fred@ceruconsulting.com for more information.

Butcher Carves Niche with Grass-fed and Organic Meats
A feature on Chronogram profiles Fleisher's Grass-fed and Organic Meats, a specialty butcher shop in New York opened by a couple of former restaurant workers who were looking for a source of sustainable and humane meat for personal consumption. Butcher Joshua Applestone, himself a former vegan, visits the farms where he purchases animals to check on the environment and farming practices. When he finds a farm he likes, he may purchase all the livestock they have available. Applestone has developed sausage and other specialty products to ensure that less popular cuts of meat aren't wasted. The business is growing, and recently moved to a larger space, where the owners plan to offer more products.
Related ATTRA Publication:
Alternative Meat Marketing

> More Breaking News

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Funding Opportunities

California Organic Certification Cost Share
The California Department of Food and Agriculture's State Organic Program has received $400,000 from the United States Department of Agriculture to extend the Organic Certification Cost Share Program in California. $100,000 will be designated for organic certifications renewed in each quarter of the federal year. Cost share applications must be submitted after specific dates, relative to the date on which certification was renewed. A chart showing submission dates appears on the application form available online (PDF / 168 kb).

Smart Equipment Choices Program
The New York State Energy Research and Development Agency (NYSERDA) is seeking applications for the Smart Equipment Choices Program. The program is designed to accelerate the incorporation of energy-efficient equipment in small renovation and equipment replacement projects in commercial, industrial, institutional, agricultural, governmental and multifamily buildings. The goal of the program is to produce a permanent improvement in "standard" equipment specification by encouraging the purchase and installation of energy-efficient equipment resulting in reduced electrical demand and cost in New York State. NYSERDA has available up to $1,200,000 for the program under PON 912. The maximum incentive has been increased to $10,000 per applicant during this program period; equipment must be purchased and installed by December 31, 2005.
Proposals are due December 31, 2005.

Minnesota Organic Certification Cost Share
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is offering organic certification cost share funding. Certified organic farmers and handlers (processors) are eligible for up to 75 percent of costs related to organic certification billed between October 1, 2004, and September 30, 2005, with a maximum of $500. To participate, you must hold a valid certificate. Details and the program application (PDF / 100 kb) are available online.
Proposals are due November 15, 2005.

> More Funding Opportunities

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Coming Events

Pennsylvania State Beekeepers Association Annual Meeting
November 11-12, 2005
Lewisburg, Pennsylvania

The agenda for this meeting includes workshops and speakers, including a special workshop for newcomers to beekeeping, a presentation by renowned apiarist Kirk Webster on commercial beekeeping without chemicals, and workshops for experienced beekeepers that will cover topics such as small hive beetle trapping, comb honey production and an update on virus research.

Lake Erie West Foodshed Congress
November 12, 2005
Toledo, Ohio

Local Food Works will bring together all the agents of the region's food system for networking, dialogue and strategy. Partners and participants include: farmers, food processors, entrepreneurs, Bowling Green State University, Innovative Farmers of Ohio, Toledo Botanical Garden (Toledo GROWs), the University of Toledo, Lake Erie West Foodshed Network (LEWFN), public health officials and community partners. The Congress will catalyze a community-wide process for planning, goal setting and implementing food system projects on a long-term basis, eventually setting a policy agenda that can address barriers and seize opportunities related to creating a dynamic and sustainable regional food system.

Growers Marketing Forum: Farm to Fork
January 18-20, 2006
Tucson, Arizona

The University of Arizona Controlled Environment Agriculture Center (CEAC) presents the first Growers Marketing Forum for vegetable and specialty crop growers. Start this forum with a tour to a state-of-the-art greenhouse tomato production and packing facility and continue with topics ranging from branding and packaging to competitive entry into markets ranging from restaurants to wholesale to retail; and what you need to know about each.

> More Events

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