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Weekly Harvest Newsletter
Sustainable Agriculture News Briefs - November 17, 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

"A Sustainable Agriculture Perspective on Food Safety" Released
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has released a new paper, "A Sustainable Agriculture Perspective on Food Safety," in anticipation of upcoming debate and vote on the Food Safety Modernization Act. The paper offers sixteen guiding principles for achieving sustainable, safe, and healthy food systems, which emphasize that while risk can never be entirely eliminated, minimizing risk begins on the farm and must continue through every step until it reaches the fork. "All farms, farmers, and farm staff, from the owners to the most transient farm helpers, have a role in producing safe food," the authors assert, but "public health requires awareness and effort from each of us, even in our own kitchens." The full text of the paper is available online.

Heritage Cattle Defined
The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) has just introduced a formal definition of Heritage Cattle and their products. The definition joins earlier ALBC definitions for Heritage Turkey and Heritage Chicken that have proven to be very successful for farmers looking to market their breeds and products as "Heritage". The definition of Heritage Cattle requires that they must come from a true genetic breed, an endangered breed with a long history in the United States, and be purebred. The definition also includes specifications for heritage beef and milk products, as well as products made from heritage milk.

Pennycress Could Go from Nuisance Weed to New Source of Biofuel
A common roadside plant could have the right stuff to become a new source of biofuel, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture studies. Scientists with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency, have found that field pennycress yields impressive quantities of seeds whose oil could be used in biodiesel production. Field pennycress belongs to the Brassicaceae family, along with canola, camelina and mustard -- other prolific producers of oil-rich seeds. Test results suggested that, with some work, the previously problematic pennycress could become a commercial commodity. Additionally, field pennycress biodiesel is better suited for use in cold climates than many other biodiesel fuels, such as soybean oil-based biodiesel. Another plus is that pennycress can be grown during the winter and harvested in late spring, so farmers who cultivate pennycress can also maintain their usual summer soybean production without reducing crop yields.

Midwest Study Highlights Viability of Organic Certified Potato Seed Production
The Organic Farming Research Foundation is making available the results of a Wisconsin study on organic certified potato seed production. The project goal was to assess the feasibility of certified seed potato production on organic farms in Wisconsin. The project evaluated strategies to limit the spread of Potato Virus Y (PVY), which causes the majority of rejections from potato seed certification in Wisconsin. While field trials confirmed that certified seed potato production is feasible for Wisconsin organic potato growers, the two strategies for limiting the spread of PVY -- use of border crops and intercrops -- did not affect PVY incidence.
Related ATTRA Publication: Potatoes: Organic Production and Marketing

Activists Mobilize to Ban Arsenic in Maryland Poultry Production
As part of a movement to ban the use of arsenic in poultry production in Maryland, the consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch is seeking to educate the public about environmental and public health problems associated with the chemical. Food & Water Watch also issued a new report on the poultry industry's use of arsenic, Poison-Free Poultry: Why Arsenic Doesn't Belong in Chicken Feed, that calls on Congress and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take action to update antiquated rules and protect consumers. According to Food and Water Watch, arsenic was approved for use in the chicken industry by the FDA over six decades ago. Since then, the average American's annual chicken consumption has tripled, from less than 20 pounds in the 1940s to nearly 60 pounds in 2008. Yet the FDA hasn't revised its allowed levels for arsenic residues in poultry since 1951.
Related ATTRA Publication: Arsenic in Poultry Litter: Organic Regulations

University of Wisconsin Finds Challenge and Opportunity in Local Food
The University of Wisconsin (UW)-- Madison has been increasing local food purchases over the past several years, yet they still rank at just 11 percent of the University's food budget. UW hopes to increase this percentage to 15, yet challenges abound, particularly the time needed to source large enough supplies of local food, the time and space to process it, and the higher cost of some local items. At this school, local produce has been most successful as a salad-bar item, rather than a fixed-menu ingredient, because unreliable supplies are less of a problem there. However, food service purchasers note that it's hard to achieve an overall impact on the percentage of local food purchased for just such niche applications. Another consideration for the University's food providers has been how to preserve the story of the local food, so that diners recognize which foods are locally produced.
Related ATTRA Publication: Bringing Local Food to Local Institutions

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Funding Opportunities

California Specialty Crop Block Grant
The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has announced a competitive solicitation process to award 2011 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) funds for proposals that solely enhance the competitiveness of California specialty crops. CDFA expects the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Agricultural Marketing Service to make up to $17 million available for SCBGP grant awards. Specialty crops are defined by USDA as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops (including floriculture). CDFA is seeking Concept Proposals from eligible non-profit organizations, for-profit organizations, local, state and federal government entities, including tribal governments, and public and private colleges and universities for proposals that solely benefit the production of and access to California specialty crops.
Proposals are due December 20, 2010.

2011 National Urban and Community Forestry Challenge Cost Share Grant Program
The National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council is offering Innovation Grants for program development, research, and collaboration to address the following three strategic priority issues widely seen as confronting the urban and community forestry community at a national or multi-state level: Climate Change, Public Health, and Economic Development. The U.S. Forest Service anticipates approximately $855,000 in grant funds to be awarded through the 2011 National Urban and Community Forestry Challenge Cost-Share Grant Program. Funds are to support urban and community forestry projects that have a national or widespread impact and application. Any U.S. non-Federal organization, operating within the United States or its territories, may apply for the Challenge Cost-Share grant.
Proposals are due November 29, 2010.

Regional Integrated Pest Management Competitive Grants Program - Southern Region
The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) requests applications for the Regional Integrated Pest Management Competitive Grants Program - Western Region (W-RIPM) for fiscal year 2011 to help achieve national integrated pest management (IPM) goals by increasing the supply and dissemination of IPM knowledge and by enhancing collaboration among stakeholders. The amount anticipated to be available for support of this program in FY 2011 is approximately $650,000. The Western Region (which includes: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming and Pacific Islands. Colleges and universities and their research foundations may apply for research awards; extension awards are limited to land-grant colleges and universities.
Applications are due by November 22, 2010.

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Coming Events

Professional Agricultural Workers Conference
December 5-7, 2010
Tuskegee, Alabama

Anyone who is associated with the agricultural industry, whether a farmer, government representative, land-grant college faculty or staff will want to attend to engage with others in the field and explore the latest developments in agriculture and outreach. The 2010 conference theme is "Empowering Underserved Farmers and Rural Communities by Changing Legislation, USDA Eligibility Requirements and Program Delivery."

Organic Marketing Conference
December 7-8, 2010
Twin Falls, Idaho

This conference presents the newest tools and techniques for marketing organic farm products. The program includes: presentations by representatives from national and regional organic food businesses; testimonials from Idaho farmers on marketing organic livestock, vegetables, alfalfa, and feed grains; workshops on how to create an effective marketing plan with an inventory of market opportunities, segmenting markets, building competitive advantages and increasing profits, and more.

Illinois Specialty Crops, Agritourism, and Organic Conference
January 5-7, 2011
Springfield, Illinois

Four pre-conference workshops (concurrent) will be offered during the daytime on Wednesday, January 5, which will include "Pumpkin Production and Pest Management," "High Tunnels: Tomatoes and More," "Good Ag Practices: Making a Farm Plan and Becoming GAP Certified," and "Expanding Farmers Market Opportunities." The conference will include concurrent breakout sessions on fruits, vegetables, herbs, irrigation, agritourism/marketing, organics, and business management.

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