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NCAT - News 12/06/2019 19:26
USDA is opening signup for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) on December 9, 2019. The signup deadline for general CRP is February 28, 2020, although signup for continuous CRP is ongoing. A separate CRP Grasslands signup will be held after the general signup. Farmers and ranchers who enroll in CRP receive a yearly rental payment for voluntarily establishing long-term, resource-conserving plant species to control soil erosion, improve water quality, and develop wildlife habitat on marginally productive agricultural lands. CRP already has 22 million acres enrolled, but the 2018 Farm Bill lifted the cap to 27 million acres. This means farmers... .
NCAT - News 12/06/2019 19:07
USDA has announced five new members for the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). Nathaniel Powell-Palm of Cold Springs Organics in Belgrade, Montana, will serve on the Board in a farmer seat. Kimberly Huseman, the Director of Specialty Ingredients for Pilgrim’s, will serve in a handler seat, as will Gerard D’Amore of Munger Farms. Eastside Food Co-op Grocery Manager Mindee Jeffery will serve on the Board in the retailer seat. Lastly, the Senior Vice President of Sustainability for Agriculture Capital, Wood Turner, will serve in an environmental protection and resource conservation seat. These new members will serve five-year terms beginning in... .
NCAT - News 12/06/2019 17:09
A blog post from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition highlights three different farm operations that received Value Added Producer Grants (VAPG) to expand their businesses. The post explains how a dairy farm in Alabama, a hog farm in Georgia, and a farmer-led cooperative in Minnesota utilized the VAPG program, and it includes videos of the grant recipients discussing how VAPG helped them. These grant recipients have all successfully utilized VAPG more than once. The post also notes that the application period for FY2019 is expected to open soon. .
NCAT - News 12/05/2019 19:38
Colorado is considering a statewide soil health program that will support farmers and ranchers in efforts to implement regenerative agriculture practices, reports The Colorado Sun. The state’s governor has requested funding for the program from the legislature, and the Colorado Collaborative for Healthy Soils is trying to envision the program’s role and how it would work. It’s a group of farmers, ranchers, and stakeholders from across the state that is exploring ways to encourage and incentivize soil management practices. Agency employees, consultants, and farmers and ranchers themselves recognize that change isn’t easy for agricultural producers who are already struggling economically.... .
NCAT - News 12/05/2019 18:09
A paper published in Ecology Letters by Washington State University scientists shows that small farms with more plant diversity attract more visits by pollinating bees. The researchers say that having a variety of plants that flower at different times and offer beneficial traits is the best way to increase pollinator activity. Increasing bee visits to a farm in turn increases pollinator efficiency. The study showed the effect held true for both honey bees and wild pollinators. “If a farmer is thinking about buying more bees, planting more diverse crops could be an alternative,” said study co-author Elias Bloom. .
NCAT - News 12/05/2019 17:59
University of Kentucky researchers led a study published in the journal Insects that demonstrated the potential of fine-mesh netting for insect control in blackberries. The fine-mesh exclusion netting reduced the abundance of numerous insect pests and resulted in a higher yield of marketable fruit, compared to organic spinosad insecticide treatment. The researchers point out that fine-mesh netting can be substituted for netting conventionally used to keep birds out of small-fruit crops, because it excludes bird as well as insects. Therefore, using the fine-mesh netting could be particularly feasible for producers of grapes, caneberries, and blueberries who already utilize netting to... .
NCAT - News 12/05/2019 00:01
Researchers at Washington State University have developed a deicer solution made from grape skins and other agricultural waste. The new combination causes less damage to concrete and asphalt than salt-based deicer, and also poses less risk to water bodies. What’s more, its manufacture creates no waste, and it melts ice faster than other alternatives. The production process can be modified to use other agricultural wastes, as well. Professor Xianming Shi explains, “We can use this same platform technology in different regions of the country but choose a different agricultural product, depending on what source of waste is available.”.
NCAT - News 12/04/2019 23:46
Scientists at Colorado State University have determined that there are two broad categories of soil organic matter that are different in origin and makeup. “Particulate organic matter” is made up of lightweight, partly decomposed plants and fungi residues that are short-lived and not well protected, while “mineral-associated organic matter” is largely made of byproducts of the decomposition of microbes that chemically bind to minerals in the soil. Professor Francesca Cotrufo explains that particulate organic matter is like the “checking account” of soils: it turns over continuously and supports nutrient cycling but requires regular deposits to stay vital. Mineral-associated organic matter,... .
NCAT - News 12/04/2019 23:33
A program of the Pennsylvania Farm Bill has awarded $500,000 in Small Meat Processor Grants to fund 15 projects to improve the supply of locally produced meat in the commonwealth. The grants include funding for a mobile poultry processing trailer, an organic processing facility, value-added product equipment, and numerous processing facilities to serve nearby farms. At least one farm will implement on-farm meat processing through the grant program. The funded projects will create local jobs and open new markets for farmers. .
NCAT - News 12/03/2019 19:16
Good Food 100 Restaurants has announced its 2019 Good Food Farmer and Purveyor of the Year Award recipients. The awards honor producers and purveyors from seven regions of the country who are committed to sustainability and transparency. This year’s recipients: Carne Locale (New England); PrairiErth Farm (Great Lakes); Good Shepherd Poultry (Plains); White Oak Pastures (Southeast); Niman Ranch (Southwest); Croft Family Farm (Rocky Mountain); and Produce Express-Distributor (West). The awards honor and celebrate up to one farmer, rancher, fisherman or one purveyor/distributor nominated by the participating 2019 Good Food 100 chefs in each region. Winners are selected by the Good... .
NCAT - News 12/02/2019 18:58
Alabama farmer Annie Dee is one of the early participants in an incentive program for carbon sequestration, reports Dee enrolled in Indigo Agriculture’s Terraton Initiative, which pays $15 per ton of carbon sequestered in the soil she farms. Dee is already a no-till farmer who uses cover crops and crop rotations, so she will collect payment for practices already in place. Indigo Ag predicts that farmers who implement its full suite of regenerative growing practices, including cover crops, no-till, reducing fertilizer and chemical inputs, crop rotation, and integrating livestock, could sequester two to three tons of carbon per acre,... .
NCAT - News 12/02/2019 18:34
The USDA National Organic Program announced that it has updated NOP 2040: Instruction on Organic Certification of Industrial Hemp. The updated instruction applies to all USDA-accredited certifying agents and replaces the August 2016 version of NOP 2040. The revised policy allows hemp produced in the United States under the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program to be certified as organic under the USDA organic regulations. .
NCAT - News 12/02/2019 18:17
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a silk coating for seeds that both protects the seeds and helps them to germinate even in saline soil conditions. The silk coatings are also treated with rhizobacteria that convert nitrogen from the air to a form that plants can uptake, providing fertilizer that helps get the plants off to a good start. Researchers say the seed coating could be applied as a dip or spray, and could make it possible to grow food crops in marginal soil. Next, the team intends to explore coatings that could help seeds germinate... .
NCAT - News 11/30/2019 22:51
The popularity of hemp farming has exploded in the United States this past year, reports National Public Radio, but the young industry is experiencing struggles. About 90% of hemp is grown for cannabidiol, but growers are challenged with production of a crop that can turn from being high quality to having illegal concentrations of THC overnight. If THC goes over the legal limit, crops must be destroyed, resulting in losses for the grower. Also, a glut of hemp on the market has overwhelmed processors and caused prices paid to farmers to drop. Some farmers have opted for the long-term fiber... .
NCAT - News 11/30/2019 22:17
Some Massachusetts dairy farmers are combining manure with food waste to produce renewable energy, report PBS and NPR. Dairy farmers are diversifying their operations, working with a renewable energy company that builds anaerobic digesters on their farms. The digesters not only help farmers manage manure, but also take in food waste from the surrounding area. Unsold produce, spent distillers grains, and food-processing waste are trucked to the farms, ground, and used to produce energy for the farms and surrounding communities. The feature notes that a state ban on food waste in landfills and renewable energy incentives helped launch the operations... .
NCAT - News 11/30/2019 21:57
University of California researchers found that hedgerows bordering farmland support beneficial, bug-eating birds that help with pest control. A study published in Ecosphere tested how access to habitat improved the predation success of birds on codling moth cocoons. Not only hedgerows, but also the presence of mature walnut trees, helped birds reduce codling moth populations. The study authors also point out that, in addition to birds, hedgerows can attract beneficial insects to a farm, including pollinators. .
NCAT - News 11/29/2019 16:36
The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) has developed a global map that illustrates the sustainability of food systems on a country-by-country basis. The assessment was based on 20 indicators in four dimensions: environment, economic, social, and food and nutrition. According to CIAT, the tool can be used to track changes in sustainability over time and has the potential to guide policy and action as climate change, rising populations, and increased demand for food place unprecedented pressure on global food systems. Christophe Béné, the study’s lead author, commented, “Our research highlights how little is currently known about food systems. [N]ational... .
NCAT - News 11/27/2019 23:39
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced the award of more than $24 million in grants through On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials, a new component of the Conservation Innovation Grants program. NRCS announced that 16 projects are receiving these funding awards, including nine awards under the Soil Health Demonstration Trial. These nine projects focus on the adoption and evaluation of soil health management systems and practices. The remaining seven projects focus on irrigation water management, precision agriculture, and a variety of management technologies. A complete list of recipients is available online. .

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