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Weekly Harvest Newsletter
Sustainable Agriculture News Briefs - December 15, 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 Announces New Steps to Meet the Challenge of Climate Change
Speaking at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said USDA continues to take steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions "by helping farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to be even better conservationists." Vilsack said USDA will demonstrate ways landowners can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon sequestration while improving their financial bottom line. Vilsack said USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service will provide $15 million in Conservation Innovation Grant funds and other assistance to support large-scale demonstration projects to accelerate the adoption of new approaches to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and promote carbon sequestration on private lands. The Farm Service Agency will develop a communications tool to link companies, organizations and participants in carbon storage activities and information sharing. In addition, the Secretary announced that institutions in seven States were awarded Federal funding for research on the economics of reducing agricultural GHG emissions.

National Organic Program Amends List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances
The National Organic Program (NOP) published a final rule amending the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances for crops and processing, effective December 14, 2010. The rule enacts six recommendations: 1) Adds aqueous potassium silicate for use as an insecticide and for plant disease control in organic crop production. 2) Adds sodium carbonate peroxyhydrate for use as an algaecide in organic crop production. 3) Adds gellan gum as a nonsynthetic allowed for use in organic handling. 4) Adds fortified cooking wine for use in organic handling as a nonorganic agricultural ingredient only when not commercially available in organic form. 5) Adds tragacanth gum for use in organic handling as a nonorganic agricultural ingredient only when not commercially available in organic form. 6) Removes glycerine oleate as a synthetic inert ingredient allowed in organic crop production. Use of these substances is subject to restrictive annotations.

Campaign to Collect and Employ Endangered Wild Relatives of Food Crops Receives Funding from Norway
The Global Crop Diversity Trust has announced a major global search to systematically find, gather, catalogue, use, and save the wild relatives of wheat, rice, beans, potato, barley, lentils, chickpea, and other essential food crops, in order to help protect global food supplies against the imminent threat of climate change, and strengthen future food security. The initiative, led by the Trust, working in partnership with national agricultural research institutes, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), is the largest one ever undertaken with the tough wild relatives of today's main food crops. These wild plants contain essential traits that could be bred into crops to make them more hardy and versatile in the face of dramatically different climates expected in the coming years. Norway is providing US$50 million towards this important contribution to food security. The work is scheduled to take 10 years, from determining where to collect, through having material ready for crop breeding programs.

Freshwater Sustainability Challenges Shared by Southwest and Southeast
A team of researchers studying freshwater sustainability in the U.S. have found that the Southeast, with the exception of Florida, does not have enough water capacity to meet its own needs. A paper just published in a special issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reinforces predictions of water scarcity in the Southwest, but also includes findings with important implications for the Southeast. In order for water supply to be considered sustainable, the researchers calculated that no more than 40 percent of freshwater resources can be appropriated for human use, to ensure that streamflow variability, navigation, recreation and ecosystem use are accommodated. They also determined how much water a region would need to meet all its municipal, agricultural and industrial needs—its virtual water footprint (VWF). The VWF includes the water needed if a region were to grow enough food to support its own population. The researchers found that neither the Southwest nor the Southeast have enough water capacity to meet all their own needs. "The Southeast has virtually no positive, inland VWFs," pointed out a University of Georgia participant in the study.

Retailer Pledges to Double Organic Cotton Production
Anvil Knitwear, the largest consumer of U.S. organic cotton, made a commitment in October with the Lubbock-based Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative to double the production of organic cotton in the U.S., reports the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. According to the article, Anvil Knitwear will pay a premium for all the production from the increased acreage and will encourage other producers to switch to organic cotton. The New York-based company will also purchase any of the cotton making the transition into organic production at a price close to the price of organic cotton. The current number of organic producers in the South Plains do not have the ability to increase acreage to meet the goal; conventional producers need to convert, said Jimmy Wedel, Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative president. A lot of producers with just a few hundred acres of organic cotton would help reach the demand, Wedel said, specifically High Plains producers.
Related ATTRA Publication: Organic Cotton Production

Double-Cropping System Explored for Biomass Production
Trying to increase the amount of biomass available for ethanol production has led Iowa State University researchers to explore a double-cropping system that netted mixed results. Researchers planted triticale, a relative of wheat, in the fall and harvested it in the spring. Then they planted sorghum in early June and harvested it in mid-September. While the research didn't produce an increase in biomass, there are benefits to the double-cropping system, according to researcher Ben Goff. "The winter crop reduces soil erosion," said Goff. "And some studies have shown that having the crop in the field captures spring nitrogen early in the year so it doesn't move through the soil profile." While the research didn't net an increase in biomass, Goff doesn't declare the idea a failure. "This still has potential. If we can get an earlier maturing annual winter crop, I think we can get greater yields," said Goff.

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Funding Opportunities

NCR SARE Graduate Student Program
North Central Region (NCR) SARE funds Graduate Student grants in Sustainable Agriculture for projects that address sustainable agriculture issues in the region and are part of the student's degree program at accredited colleges or universities. NCR-SARE awards grant funds for grad student projects up to $10,000. The North Central Region includes the states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
The deadline for proposals is January 27, 2011.

WaterSMART: Water and Energy Efficiency Grants
The objective of this Funding Opportunity Announcement is to invite States, Indian Tribes, irrigation districts, water districts, and other organizations with water or power delivery authority to leverage their money and resources by cost sharing with reclamation on projects that save water, improve energy efficiency, address endangered species and other environmental issues, and facilitate transfers to new uses. Eligible applicants may be located in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, or the Virgin Islands. Grants range from $5,000 to $1 million, and there is a cost-sharing matching requirement.
Applications are due February 17, 2011.

Wisconsin Agricultural Development and Diversification Grant Program
The Agricultural Development and Diversification (ADD) Grant Program invites proposals for projects that are likely to stimulate Wisconsin's agricultural economy through the development and exploration of new value-added products, new markets, or new technologies in agriculture. Individuals, associations, agribusinesses and industry groups can submit proposals for an ADD grant of up to $50,000.
Proposals must be received by March 15, 2011.

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Coming Events

Midwest Value Added Agriculture Conference
January 27-28, 2011
Madison, Wisconsin

This conference features keynote speaker Joel Salatin, a tradeshow, and tracks on urban agriculture, marketing, value chain management, adding value through organics, food processing, and more. The conference theme is "Cultivating Farm Profitability", and participants from Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin are expected.

Texas Conference on Organic Production Systems
January 28-30, 2011
Killeen, Texas

The Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association is hosting its annual conference. This year's theme is Texas Farms Direct and the conference will focus on bringing organic and sustainably-raised products from the farm to the marketplace. A must-do event for organic growers, the conference features information for organic ranchers, farmers, commercial plant growers, retailers, wholesalers, processors, distributors, consumers, gardeners, and anyone desiring to support the organic industry in Texas. The conference features three days of lectures, discussion panels, and hands-on workshops by many well-known organic farming experts.

Farming for the Future Conference
February 2-5, 2011
State College, Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture presents the 20th annual Farming for the Future conference, with the theme "Strength from our Roots: Claiming Our Food-System Future." Widely regarded as the best of its kind in the East, this diverse event brings together an audience of over 2,000 farmers, processors, consumers, students, environmentalists, and business and community leaders annually. Nearly 80 practical training workshops will be offered during the conference. Ten day-long "Pre-Conference" tracks offer in-depth exploration of special topic areas. This year's keynote speaker is Wes Jackson of The Land Institute.

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Local Foods No. 4 -- Oregano

Question of the Week
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Submit questions to our professional staff online

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Innovative No-Till: Using Multi-Species Cover Crops to Improve Soil Health
Thursday, December 16
11:00 AM Mountain Standard Time

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