Weekly Harvest Newsletter
Sustainable Agriculture News Briefs - November 15, 2006
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.
News & Resources
* Grant Supports Organic Apple Production in New England
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* Group Letter Calls for Full Funding of Conservation Programs
* Organic Farmer Elected to US Senate
* Commodity Corn Prices Pushed Upward by Ethanol Demand
* Unity College Connects Food and Farm on Campus
* Heritage Turkeys Showcased for Thanksgiving
* Specialty Crop Block Grant Program
* Extension Risk Management Education Grants Program
* Bird Habitat Small Grants Program
* Southern SAWG Conference
* Minnesota Organic Conference and Trade Show
* Growers Marketing Forum: Farm to Fork
News & Resources
Grant Supports Organic Apple Production in New England
To produce organic tree fruits in New England is extremely difficult and prohibitively expensive. And apples seem the worst of the lot. "It's the holy grail of organics," says Lorraine Berkett, a University of Vermont professor of plant and soil science. "If we can produce marketable organic apples in New England, we'll be doing something that many growers say is impossible." The problem, according to a University of Vermont online communication, is a preponderance of tree fruit pests: the plum curculio, a type of weevil; a bestiary of apple maggots, Oriental fruit moths, tarnished plant bugs, thrips, leaf miners and mites. If that's not enough, mildew, fireblight, bitter rot and other diseases attack many varieties of apples, including the regional favorite, the Macintosh. With a $657,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Berkett and her colleagues are studying organic apple farming in New England. Berkett's study focuses on resistant varieties of apples and organic applications such as oils and kaolin clay. Berkett and her colleagues do not expect to find a single horticultural sword to strike down curculio and other attackers. Rather, they are starting a nearly decade-long effort to test and combine numerous approaches that may lead to success in the marketplace. "Let's see if we can do it," Berkett says. "We're...studying the whole system, which includes, of course, the costs and trade-offs of these approaches."
Group Letter Calls for Full Funding of Conservation Programs
American Farmland Trust and 20 other organizations have sent a letter to President Bush, urging full funding of conservation provisions of the 2002 Farm Bill. The organizations noted that application backlogs at the end of FY 2005 totaled more than $2.5 billion for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, the Wetlands Reserve Program, the Grassland Reserve Program, the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program and the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program. In addition, farmers and ranchers in 88 percent of the nation's watersheds have not yet had even their first chance to enroll in the Conservation Security Program. The letter calls on the President to fund conservation programs in his 2008 budget at no less than current full authorized levels. AFT President Ralph Grossi notes that "[W]hile farmers and ranchers want to protect the land, three out of every four who apply for conservation funding are turned down due to a lack of funds."
Organic Farmer Elected to US Senate
Jon Tester, an organic farmer and leader in the organic movement since 1987, has been elected as a US Senator from the state of Montana, according to a press release from IFOAM, the international umbrella organization of organic agriculture movements worldwide. Tester's T-Bone Farms is a diversified organic operation with 1400 acres, on which he grew hard red wheat, hard white wheat, kamut, lentils, and purple barley this year. Members of the organic agriculture community, including IFOAM officers, expressed their pleasure at having an organic farmer join the Senate.
Commodity Corn Prices Pushed Upward by Ethanol Demand
The ethanol industry's continuing expansion and its appetite for corn is helping ignite the biggest bull market for grain in 30 years, according to a recent story in the Wall Street Journal, distributed through the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. The price for corn - the nation's number one crop and one of the most ubiquitous ingredients in the American food supply - has jumped nearly 55 percent since mid-September, when U. S. corn farmers began harvesting the third-biggest crop ever. Grain prices usually slump to their lowest levels of the year during the harvest, writes Journal reporter Scott Kilman. Yet the price of corn in recent weeks has shot through the rarely breached $3 per-bushel mark and appears headed higher. According to the ethanol trade group Renewable Fuels Association, 106 ethanol plants are already in operation, an additional 48 plants are under construction, and seven more are undergoing expansion. The U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) predicts the ethanol industry will consume more than two billion bushels of this year's corn crop, now under harvest across the Midwest. That amount represents 20 percent of the total U. S. corn harvest and 63 percent more corn than the industry used just two years ago.
Unity College Connects Food and Farm on Campus
Many colleges and universities across the U.S. are purchasing more local foods, and some even grow vegetables on campus farms, but Unity College in Maine is going an additional step, reports Bangor Daily News. A student initiative has brought a herd of cows and a flock of sheep to a little-used part of campus. The animals will provide students with opportunities to learn about grazing management, and animal health and care. Ultimately some of them are destined for the campus cafeteria, in a plan that connects students very closely with their food.
Heritage Turkeys Showcased for Thanksgiving
It's turkey season in the United States, and heritage turkey breeds are making a comeback from coast to coast, at least in the media. Burlington Free Press in Vermont reports on Applecheeck Farm, which is raising heritage White Hollands on pasture for the first time this year. In California, the Santa Cruz Sentinel reports on a visit to Thomas Farm, where 40 Bourbon Reds are in residence, as well as other area heritage breed producers. The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy and others are promoting survival or rare heritage breeds by encouraging people to consume them at holidays. Market demand is necessary to keep population numbers growing, say heritage turkey advocates. Heritage turkeys are known for being slower-growing, having more dark meat, and being juicy and flavorful. They are also known for commanding premium prices, typically topping $100 per bird.
> More Breaking News
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Specialty Crop Block Grant Program
The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) announces the availability of approximately $7 million in block grant funds to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops. State departments of agriculture interested in obtaining grant program funds are invited to submit applications to USDA. The SCBGP assists State departments of agriculture in enhancing the competitiveness of U.S. specialty crops. Specialty crops are defined as fruits and vegetables, dried fruit, tree nuts, and nursery crops (including floriculture). Examples of enhancing the competitiveness of specialty crops include, but are not limited to: Research, promotion, marketing, nutrition, trade enhancement, food safety, food security, plant health programs, education, "buy local" programs, increased consumption, increased innovation, improved efficiency and reduced costs of distribution systems, environmental concerns and conservation, product development, and developing cooperatives.
Proposals are due October 11, 2007.
Extension Risk Management Education Grants Program
The regional Risk Management Education Centers announce a funding opportunity for projects that help farm and ranch families succeed through targeted risk management strategies. In addition to crop insurance, effective risk management involves selecting tools and approaches that reduce the financial effects of the uncertainties of weather, yields, prices, government policies, global markets and other factors that can cause wide swings in farm income or threaten economic viability. Grant awards are generally between $5,000 and $50,000; however, there is no absolute upper or lower limit on the funds provided to a single project. Organizations eligible and encouraged to apply for grants are private and public groups, organizations and institutions including land grant colleges and universities, extension, other colleges and universities, and other qualified public and private entities in the region with a demonstrated capacity to develop and deliver educational programs for agricultural producers and their families. Multi-state and collaborative proposals are welcomed.
Proposals are due December 14, 2006.
Bird Habitat Small Grants Program
North American Wetlands Conservation Act Grants Program provides matching funds for on-the-ground projects. Proposed projects must involve long-term protection, restoration, and/or enhancement of wetlands and associated uplands habitats for the benefit of all wetlands-associated migratory birds. A total of $2 million has been approved to support projects in FY 2007. Contact the Joint Venture Coordinator in your project area for assistance with developing a project proposal, for information about how proposals are ranked, and/or for guidance on Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and National Historic Preservation Act compliance requirements.For general program information, contact the Small Grants Program Coordinator: Keith Morehouse (firstname.lastname@example.org), (703) 358-1888.
Proposals are due December 1, 2006.
> More Funding Opportunities
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Southern SAWG Conference
January 25-28, 2007
The 16th annual Practical Tools and Solutions for Sustaining Family Farms conference will offer 50 outstanding practical sessions on a range of topics, plus sustainable farming field trips, intensive farm enterprise short courses, community food systems mini-courses, and an on-farm experienced organic vegetable farmer exchange. The Conference also features a trade show, sustainable agriculture exhibits, and a Taste of Kentucky banquet.
Minnesota Organic Conference and Trade Show
January 19-20, 2007
St. Cloud, Minnesota
The agenda for this annual event includes keynote speakers, workshops, and a trade show. The event is sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Minnesota USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Organic Crop Improvement Association - Minnesota Chapter #1, and other partners.
Growers Marketing Forum: Farm to Fork
January 17-19, 2007
The University of Arizona Controlled Environment Agriculture Center (CEAC) and The University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences present this 3-day professional education short course and commercial tour. This course is organized by the CEAC and is directed to all greenhouse growers, and the supporting industry. The educational program focuses on marketing and product sales strategies for the grower. The program utilizes instructional computer technology, and is supplemented with traditional notebook handouts, and a tour to EuroFresh Farms greenhouse company in Willcox, Arizona.
> More Events
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