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Weekly Harvest Newsletter
Sustainable Agriculture News Briefs - December 29, 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

Conservation Reserve Program Celebrates 25 Years
USDA is marking the 25th anniversary of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), a voluntary program that encourages agricultural landowners to convert highly erodible cropland or other environmentally sensitive acreage to vegetative cover. Landowners receive annual rental payments and cost-share assistance to establish long-term conservation practices on eligible farmland. To date, the total national CRP stands at 31.3 million acres enrolled in nearly 738,000 contracts. "Although it was designed to address soil erosion, CRP has become one of the standouts in the USDA arsenal of conservation programs by continuing to provide significant economic and environmental benefits beyond its original intent," noted Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

California Appellate Court Upholds Pesticide Drift Case
This week California's 6th District Court of Appeal in San Jose upheld an organic herb farmer's right to sue a pesticide applicator over contamination of his crop, and let stand the $1 million award a jury handed the grower two years ago, reports San Jose Mercury News. The decision is significant, agriculture and law experts say, because it strengthens the case for organic farmers or anyone else harmed by pesticides to seek legal recourse, even if the pesticide is legally applied. While state law restricts pesticides from being sprayed on neighboring properties, which is known as pesticide drift, the law doesn't deal specifically with pesticides that disperse into the air after application and end up someplace else, as happened in this case. Attorneys for the pesticide applicator, Western Farm Service, argued that since the company had not run afoul of state law, Jacobs Farm did not have the right to sue. The Court of Appeals, in its 32-page ruling, dismissed that argument and contended that the jury could hold the pesticide company liable for tainting the organic crops at Jacobs Farm.

Biodiesel Tax Incentive Retroactively Extended
On December 17 President Barack Obama signed H.R. 4853, legislation that among its provisions retroactively extends the biodiesel tax incentive through 2011. According to The Biodiesel Board, the biodiesel tax incentive is structured in a manner that makes the fuel price competitive with conventional diesel fuel in the marketplace. The lapse of the tax incentive on December 31, 2009 has had a detrimental impact on the domestic biodiesel industry. Conversely, retroactive reinstatement and extension of the tax incentive through 2011, as provided for in H.R. 4853, is widely expected to increase U.S. biodiesel production.
Related ATTRA publication: Biodiesel Use, Handling, and Fuel Quality

California Ag Vision 2030 Unveiled
The California State Board of Food and Agriculture reached a milestone in the Ag Vision process on December 16th when it unveiled the California Ag Vision 2030 recommendations. "The Ag Vision recommendations reflect the combined needs of California's farmers and ranchers and those stakeholders interested in our food system," said CDFA Secretary A.G. Kawamura. "Collaboration among these groups is key to creating a sustainable future within the agricultural sector. I congratulate everyone who has participated in this process." The Ag Vision recommendations reflect a consensus among representatives from the environmental, labor, food access and nutrition communities as well as California's farmers and ranchers. The policy recommendations address such issues as environmental regulations, invasive species, agricultural workforce, conservation, and adaptation to climate change. The complete report is available online.

Consumer Survey Finds Families Buying More Organic Food
In spite of the sluggish economic recovery, U.S. families continue to buy more organic products than ever before and from a wider variety of categories, according to findings from the latest consumer study jointly sponsored by the Organic Trade Association and KIWI Magazine. In fact, 41 percent of parents report they are buying more organic foods today than a year ago, up significantly from 31 percent reporting organic purchases in 2009, according to the U.S. Families' Organic Attitudes & Beliefs 2010 tracking study. The survey, conducted between Aug. 11 and 27, 2010, also found that parents buy organic because they see organic products are generally healthier, address their concern about the effects of pesticides, hormones and antibiotics on children, or provide a means to avoid highly processed foods and/or artificial ingredients.

Study Says Rotation, No-till Can Limit Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Using no-till and corn-soybean rotation practices in farm fields can significantly reduce field emissions of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide, according to a Purdue University study. Tony Vyn, a professor of agronomy, found that no-till reduces nitrous oxide emissions by 57 percent over chisel tilling, which mixes crop residue into surface soil, and 40 percent over moldboard tilling, which completely inverts soil as well as the majority of surface residue. Using a corn-soybean rotation instead of continuous corn decreased nitrous oxide emissions by 20 percent in the three-year study. Vyn said the reduction could be even greater, though, because for the long-term experiment, both continuous corn and rotation crops were fertilized based on the needs of continuous corn. "There is more nitrous oxide emission coming from agriculture than the tailpipes of cars and trucks," Vyn said. "And there is likely to be more nitrous oxide emission if we increase nitrogen application rates to increase cereal yields."
Related ATTRA publication: Sustainable Corn and Soybean Production

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Funding Opportunities

Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative
U.S. Department of Agriculture is seeking proposals for new conservation projects that support comprehensive efforts already underway to improve the water quality and overall health of the Mississippi River from North-Central Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. As part of its Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative, USDA is providing up to $40 million in financial assistance for new partnership projects in 43 priority watersheds in 13 states. USDA will use a competitive process to distribute the available funding through existing conservation programs such as the Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative and the Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program. USDA published its Request for Proposals in the Federal Register, with a list of the eligible watersheds as well as information about where project proposals should be submitted. Federally recognized Indian tribes, state and local units of governments, farmer cooperatives, producer associations, institutions of higher education and other nongovernmental organizations can download the RFP.
Project proposals are due on or before January 28, 2011.

Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture Sustainable Food and Agriculture Grant
Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture's 2011 Sustainable Food and Agriculture Grant seeks to strengthen our local food system by supporting female farmers, ranchers, and processors who plan to create innovative, sustainable solutions to producing or marketing obstacles in the High Country. Applicants may apply for funding for projects or educational opportunities in sustainable food and agriculture.
Proposals must be postmarked no later than March 1, 2011.

Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area Internship Grant
Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area partner sites may apply for grants of up to $3,000 to pay up to 70 percent of the wages of a summer intern. Interns may be hired to complete a specific project such as educational programs, interpretation, marketing, graphic design, preservation, conservation and/or agricultural related. Intern projects proposed must stem from and support development of at least one of the six key interpretive themes as outlined in the SSNHA Interpretive Plan. The six key interpretive themes include The Fertile Land, Farmers and Families, The Changing Farm, Higher Yields: The Science and Technology of Agriculture, Farm to Factory: Agribusiness in Iowa and Organizing for Agriculture: Policies and Politics.
Applications are due February 1, 2011.

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Coming Events

Organicology
February 10-12, 2011
Portland, Oregon

Organicology is an interactive educational format created by four organic trade organizations, and offering curriculum designed to advance trade knowledge across a broad front. Seed producers, farmers, distributors and retailers, researchers and educators, chefs, food policy activists, and eaters of great food: all find topics of interest and sources of inspiration at Organicology. The 2011 conference will continue focus on sustainability, farming and seed issues as well as an addition of education and interchange around the impacts of climate change on agriculture and the farm bill.

NOFA Vermont Winter Conference
February 12-14, 2011
Burlington, Vermont

The NOFA-VT Winter Conference is the pre-eminent gathering of Vermont's local food community, and the highlight of the season for those who are interested in all things organic, local and sustainable. Join over 1500 farmers, homesteaders, gardeners, localvores, educators, and citizens in re-localizing Vermont's food system and leading the nation.

Beginning Farmer & Rancher Conference
February 6-7, 2011
Orlando, Florida

This meeting for beginning farmers and ranchers is held in conjunction with the annual American Farm Bureau Young Farmers & Ranchers Conference. Attendees at both conferences will have the opportunity to attend the sessions at each other's conferences. The event includes tours, general and breakout sessions.

>> More Events

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