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Weekly Harvest Newsletter
Sustainable Agriculture News Briefs - December 22, 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 Final Environmental Impact Statement for Genetically Engineered Alfalfa
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the availability of the final environmental impact statement (EIS) that evaluates the potential environmental effects of deregulating alfalfa genetically engineered (GE) to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, which is known commercially as Roundup. USDA has thoroughly analyzed the potential environmental impacts of the proposed alternatives and has listed two preferred options: deregulation as one option and the other as deregulation accompanied by a combination of isolation distances and geographic restrictions on the production of GE alfalfa seed and, in some locations, hay. The final EIS will be available for public review for at least 30 days before USDA will publish a record of decision on how it will proceed. USDA anticipates that EPA will publish a notice that the final EIS on Roundup Ready alfalfa is available for public review in the Federal Register on December 23, 2010.

New York Governor Issues Executive Order to Promote Sustainable Local Farms
New York Governor David A. Paterson announced that he has signed Executive Order No. 39, establishing State policies for the promotion of sustainable local farms and the protection of agricultural lands. "The protection of New York's agricultural lands is a fundamental principle enshrined in our State Constitution and has been a priority of my Administration," Governor Paterson said. "Agriculture is a bedrock of New York's economy and this Executive Order will set forth provisions to aid in the protection of agricultural lands for our State's long-term economic and environmental prosperity." Maintaining agriculture helps ensure healthier soil and cleaner waterways, and aids in the absorption of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses. State agencies are directed to consider these issues when reviewing and revising policies relevant to the purchase of agricultural products. The Executive Order also designates the first week in October as "Agriculture Week."

EQIP Organic Initiative Applications Due by March 4
All applications for the National NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Organic Initiative for fiscal year 2011 need to be made by March 4, 2011. Farmers or ranchers who are currently certified organic or who are considering transitioning to organic production should make sure their applications for conservation financial support are in by the deadline. $50 million dollars is available for this special initiative nationwide. Assistance is offered for conservation practices related to organic production, limited to $20,000 per year and $80,000 during a six year period. Producers are required to develop and carry out an Organic System Plan (OSP) or carry out practices consistent with an OSP.
Related ATTRA publication: Federal Conservation Resources for Sustainable Farming and Ranching

Wind Turbines on Farmland May Benefit Crops
Wind turbines in Midwestern farm fields may be doing more than churning out electricity. The giant turbine blades that generate renewable energy might also help corn and soybean crops stay cooler and dryer, help them fend off fungal infestations and improve their ability to extract growth-enhancing carbon dioxide from the air and soil. Speaking at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, a researcher at the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory and his co-researcher from the University of Colorado announced the preliminary findings of a months-long research program aimed at studying how wind turbines on farmlands interact with surrounding crops. "Wind turbines do produce measurable effects on the microclimate near crops," said Ames Laboratory associate and agricultural meteorology expert Gene Takle. Turbine blades channel air downwards, in effect bathing the crops below via the increased airflow they create.

Updated Cover Crop Chart Released
The USDA-ARS Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory in Mandan, North Dakota, has released version 1.2 of its Cover Crop Chart. The updated version includes seeding depth information, as well as C:N ratio for aboveground biomass for listed crops. The Cover Crop Chart is designed to assist producers with decisions on the use of cover crops in crop and forage production systems. The chart, patterned after the periodic table of elements, includes information on 46 crop species that may be planted individually or in cocktail mixtures. Information on growth cycle, relative water use, plant architecture, seeding depth, forage quality, pollination characteristics, and nutrient cycling are included for most crop species. The chart's compilers are also accepting suggestions for future additions to the tool.
Related ATTRA publication: Overview of Cover Crops and Green Manures

Organic Farming Research Foundation Calls for Fairness, Strong Action
The Organic Farming Research Foundation Board of Directors is calling for strong federal policies to prevent genetically engineered (GE) crops from contaminating organic foods. The foundation said the widespread planting of GE crops increases contamination risks, which threatens the livelihood of organic and other farmers who choose not to use GE technologies. Organic regulations prohibit the use of GE material in crops and processed foods certified as organic. The foundation issued a nine-point statement of principles urging the federal government to take firm, clear, and preventative steps to ensure the viability and continued growth of organic agriculture. The nine principles include Freedom of Enterprise, Corporate Responsibility, and Consumer Right to Know.

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Funding Opportunities

Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative - Chesapeake Bay Watershed
USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is making available up to $3.5 million in financial assistance in fiscal year 2011 for single-state and multi-state partnership projects that address natural resource concerns within six Chesapeake Bay Watershed states—Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. The financial assistance is available through NRCS' Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative. State and local units of government, American Indian tribes, producer associations, farmer cooperatives, institutions of higher education and nongovernmental organizations with a history of working closely with landowners and operators may apply. Project proposals in the Susquehanna, Shenandoah, Potomac (North and South) and Patuxent watersheds will be given higher priority in the proposal ranking process. Higher priority will also be given to proposals that control erosion and reduce nutrients and sediments in designated 12-digit Hydrologic Unit Coordinate (12-digit HUC) priority watersheds.
Applications will be accepted until January 31, 2011.

2011 Woody Biomass Utilization Grants
The USDA Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory has announced that $3.7 million is available for grants that address the nationwide challenge in dealing with low-valued material to create renewable energy. Submission of an application is required for a grant up to $250,000 for wood energy projects that require engineering services. These projects will use woody biomass material removed from forest restoration activities. This program is aimed at helping applicants complete the necessary design work needed to secure public and/or private investment for construction.
Applications must be postmarked by March 1, 2011.

Missouri Value-Added Agriculture Project Grants
Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Development Authority grants are available to assist farmers with business planning expenses for projects that develop, process, or market agricultural goods. Grants are awarded on a competitive basis, and applications evaluated on their economic development potential for the agriculture industry, credibility and merit, probability of near-term commercialization and practical application of project results, source and level of matching funds and the geographic location of the project's economic impact. The maximum individual grant is $200,000, with at least 10 percent of the available funding going to grant requests of $25,000 or less. Applicants are required to provide a 10 percent cash match toward eligible expenses.
Applications must be received by January 28, 2011.

>> More Funding Opportunities

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Coming Events

Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society Winter Conference
February 4-5, 2011
Fargo, North Dakota

"Sustainability in a Changing World" is the theme for this conference that includes featured speakers, workshops and exhibitors. Workshop topics include cattle selection, organic community gardens, organic seed production, winter greenhouses, permaculture, and a youth workshop.

North American Farmers Direct Marketing Association Annual Convention
February 4-10, 2011
Baltimore, Maryland

This year's convention will explore local foods, consumer awareness, social media and the next steps for farm direct marketing and agritourism. We will help you understand what your customers want, what they perceive as value; how they express their opinions, and the power they have to lead family farming trends into the future. The event includes two different 3-day bus tours: one on agritourism and one on farm-direct marketing. Following the bus tours there are days of presentations, workshops, and other special events.

PlacerGROWN Food and Farm Conference
February 5, 2011
Lincoln, California

PlacerGROWN and UC Davis Extension present a day of workshops on farming, agriculture, and local sustainability, with keynote speaker Holly George on "The Power of Personal Stories," and many networking opportunities.

>> More Events

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