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ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture

Weekly Harvest Newsletter
Sustainable Agriculture News Briefs - December 17, 2014

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

News & Resources

  • Study Shows Organic Agriculture Closing Yield Gap
  • Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program Providing More Help for Specialty Growers and New Farmers
  • USDA Announces Proposed Expansion of the Organic Assessment Exemption
  • Study Explores Mulch Impact on Pollination in Squash
  • Researchers Develop Organic Strawberry Disease Control
  • USDA Seeks Public Comment on New Environmental Quality Incentives Program Rule

Funding Opportunities

  • Water Resources Research National Competitive Grants Program
  • Michigan Value Added-Regional Food Hub Grant Program
  • New York State Craft Beverage Marketing and Promotion Grant Program

Coming Events

  • North American Farm Direct Marketing Association Annual Convention
  • Society for Range Management Annual Meeting: Managing Diversity
  • NOFA New Hampshire Winter Conference

News & Resources

Study Shows Organic Agriculture Closing Yield Gap
A systematic overview of 115 studies comparing organic and conventional farming found crop yields of organic agriculture are about 19.2% lower than conventional ones, a smaller difference than in previous estimates. The study, conducted by UC Berkeley researchers, also found that certain practices could further shrink the productivity gap. The study was published online in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program Providing More Help for Specialty Growers and New Farmers
USDA has announced that greater protection is now available from the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program for crops that traditionally have been ineligible for federal crop insurance. New options provide greater coverage when natural disasters affect vegetables, fruits, mushrooms, floriculture, ornamental nursery, aquaculture, turf grass, ginseng, honey, syrup, and energy crops. Producers can now choose higher levels of coverage, up to 65% of their expected production at 100% of the average market price. To help producers learn more about the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program, an online resource is available at www.fsa.usda.gov/nap.

USDA Announces Proposed Expansion of the Organic Assessment Exemption
USDA is proposing expanding the organic exemption from assessments under commodity promotion programs administered by the Agricultural Marketing Service. This action would apply the exemption to producers, handlers, marketers, or importers of "organic" and "100% organic" products. The exemption would apply regardless of whether the person requesting the exemption also deals with non-organic products. Interested parties will have 30 days to review the proposal and submit comments.

Study Explores Mulch Impact on Pollination in Squash
Research by The Ohio State University, published in HortTechnology, examined the effect that different mulches can have on field-nesting squash bees. Using mulch for weed control can help protect the bees from insecticide applications and tillage, but some mulches themselves prevented bee nesting. Analyses revealed that shredded newspaper combined with grass clippings is an effective mulch with no apparent negative impacts on squash bee nesting or on squash floral resources and pollination.
Related ATTRA Publication: Organic Pumpkin and Winter Squash Marketing and Production

Researchers Develop Organic Strawberry Disease Control
The Organic Farming Research Foundation reports that its research partners at the University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC) have developed an effective, organic system for fighting verticillium wilt in strawberries. Researchers at UCSC studied anaerobic soil disinfestation, in which a carbon source is added to the soil to stimulate microorganism growth. The soil is irrigated to saturation and tarped to hold it in an anaerobic state, which kills the microorganisms.

USDA Seeks Public Comment on New Environmental Quality Incentives Program Rule
USDA has published a rule that outlines how it will improve the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Highlights of program changes include the following: it requires at least 5% of available EQIP funds be targeted for conservation practices that promote wildlife habitat; it increases the advanced payment to 50% for eligible historically underserved producers; it targets assistance to veteran farmers and ranchers; and it increases the payment limitation to $450,000 for benefits received 2014-2018. Comments are due by February 10, 2015.

>> More Breaking News

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Funding Opportunities

Water Resources Research National Competitive Grants Program
The U.S. Geological Survey and the National Institutes for Water Resources request proposals for matching grants of up to $250,000 to support research on improving and enhancing the nation's water supply. Investigators at U.S. institutions of higher learning are eligible to apply through a Water Research Institute or Center.
Applications are due by March 12, 2015.

Michigan Value Added-Regional Food Hub Grant Program
The Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development (MDARD) is offering matching grants up to $75,000 to promote and enhance Michigan's food and agriculture industry. MDARD will accept proposals to establish, retain, expand, attract, and/or develop value added agricultural processing and/or develop regional food systems.
Applications are due by January 12, 2015.

New York State Craft Beverage Marketing and Promotion Grant Program
Empire State Development has up to $ 2 million of funding available for New York's Craft Beverage Marketing and Promotion Grant Program. The program will increase the profile, awareness, and sales of New York State-produced wine, beer, spirits, and hard cider by providing matching funds for marketing and promotion. Not-for-profit corporations can apply for up to $5,000.
Applications will be reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis.

>> More Funding Opportunities

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Coming Events

North American Farm Direct Marketing Association Annual Convention
February 1-6, 2015
Nashville and Knoxville, Tennessee

This five-day event includes bus tours, educational sessions, workshops, and a business exchange. The convention brings farm direct marketers and agritourism operators from all over the continent together for learning and networking.

Society for Range Management Annual Meeting: Managing Diversity
January 31 - February 6, 2015
Sacramento, California

This conference will include full-day and half-day symposia, workshops, and field tours, as well as guest speaker Temple Grandin. Topics will include urban open-space grazing management, low-stress livestock handling, and sustainable grazing.

NOFA New Hampshire Winter Conference
January 31, 2015
Concord, New Hampshire

This event offers professionally presented and highly engaging content on organic certification, keeping bees, balancing farming and family, school gardens, 'greening your machines,' gleaning, launching your value-added product, and more.

>> More Events

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New ATTRA Resource
Foodbank Location Database

Question of the Week
Without a spreader, could one adequately make compost by turning windrows of straw/manure, provided the C:N ratio and moisture levels are correct?

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