Other Ag News:

Friday, May 6, 2022 - 3:22pm

WASHINGTON, May 6, 2022 — The Secretaries of Housing and Urban Development Marcia L. Fudge, Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough, Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Treasury Janet L. Yellen are calling on servicers of federally backed mortgages to make every effort to ensure no individual or family unduly experiences unnecessary hardship or foreclosure while assistance is available under the Homeowner Assistance Fund.

Friday, May 6, 2022 - 11:50am

Organic agriculture continues to be one of the fastest growing sectors of American agriculture. In 2020, the organic food market experienced incredible growth, with sales over $56 billion, a 12% increase from 2019. The organic seed market has also grown in recent years due to the demand for organic food as well as a dramatic rise in gardening during the COVID-19 pandemic. This strong demand for organic food translates into new and growing market opportunities for farmers across the country. Behind the organic label are organic farmers – small and large – who follow strict standards to become certified, and who have needs unique to their growing practices and markets. 

The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) and Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) recently released the National Organic Research Agenda (NORA) and State of Organic Seed (SOS). These two reports are published every five years to examine organic farming challenges across the US and provide comprehensive assessments and recommendations for ensuring the ongoing growth and success of organic farming. More than 1,100 producers responded to the survey and an additional 100 producers attended 16 listening sessions across the country.

National Organic Research Agenda Highlights

NORA details organic research needs with the goal of informing future investments that support the success of organic farmers and ranchers and those transitioning to organic production.

Findings from NORA showed that organic producers lead the nation in the adoption of soil health management and climate-friendly practices. One striking outcome of the survey is that 68% of respondents, including 76% of respondents who grow field crops, use cover crops regularly, compared to just 10% of conventional field crop farmers. 31% of respondents use some form of intercropping, a practice that is relatively rare among non-organic farmers.

Organic weed management, soil health and fertility, and co-managing soil and weeds with less tillage emerged as top challenges, followed closely by pest and disease management, maintaining yields, and managing production costs.  A majority of organic farmers registered concern about climate change,which is already accentuating soil, weed, pest, and disease challenges. 

Survey respondents cited other organic farmers (82%) and non-organic farmers (61%) as their most valuable information sources, and focus group discussions elevated farmer-to-farmer mentoring and networking, farmers’ conferences, and other farmer-drived venues as most effective for learning and information exchange.  A major opportunity clearly exists to support the organic sector through farmer-to-farmer education, training, mentoring, and technical assistance.

The NORA survey also revealed an urgent need for technical assistance to help transitioning farmers address a broad range of production, marketing, and other challenges. The relatively small number of transitioning farmers in the survey (71 as compared to the more than 1,000 already certified organic farmers) illustrates the steep hurdles that farmers face when considering the transition.

Finally, the greatest concern for survey respondents was organic integrity and fraud. 77% of survey respondents indicated they were concerned or very concerned about organic integrity and fraud (on both domestic and imported products marketed as organic). The process of becoming organically certified can be expensive, but it is an essential step for farmers wanting to meet the growing demand for certified organic food in the US. 

State of Organic Seed Highlights 

SOS details trends in organic seed sourcing, challenges faced by organic seed producers, public investments in organic plant breeding, and more.

Organic farmers produce food differently, and that means they need different seed for the crops they grow. They need seed developed to thrive without synthetic chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and that is adapted to their local climate and soil conditions. Organic seed is also a regulatory requirement. The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Organic Program requires the use of organic seed when commercially available.

OSA’s recent findings show no meaningful improvement in organic producers using more organic seed compared to five years ago. The report lists a number of reasons why, including specific varieties that are unavailable in an organic form, insufficient quantities in seed, and a lack of desirable traits. OSA’s findings also show an increase in organic producers identifying process/buyer contracts as a barrier to sourcing organic seed, meaning a buyer contract dictates a specific variety be grown, and too often the variety isn’t available as organic. This lack of progress puts both the viability of the organic seed industry and the integrity of the organic label at risk. In particular, the largest organic operations still use relatively little organic seed, and data suggests that organic certifiers’ enforcement of the organic seed requirement could be strengthened.

However, significant public investments have been made in organic plant breeding and other organic seed research initiatives. More than $39 billion has been invested in these types of projects in the last five years alone. This represents the largest public investment in organic seed systems that the Organic Seed Alliance has ever recorded. Some of the largest sources of funding include USDA’s Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) and Sustainable Agriculture and Research Education (SARE), and other federal funding programs.

Racial Equity in Organics 

This year in the NORA report, OFRF analyzed production and non-production challenges by region, farming experience, and race/ethnicity. Researchers then went on to compare the experiences of both Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and white farmers, which revealed BIPOC producers are experiencing many organic production challenges at a higher rate than their white counterparts.

However, a low percentage of survey respondents (4%) identified as BIPOC. This number closely aligns with the 3.6% of organic producers in the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) who identify as non-white. This disproportionately low percentage of BIPOC organic farmers shows an urgent need to better engage and assist current and  aspiring BIPOC organic farmers in the organic sector.

BIPOC organic farmers reported challenges related to a range of production and non-production issues, especially costs of production and of organic certification, accessing labor, capital and financing, and meeting NOP certification and record keeping requirements. For example 31% of NORA survey respondents cited certification costs as a substantial challenge, and that figure jumped to 58% for BIPOC respondents. In order to improve racial equity in the organic sector, the NORA survey made many recommendations including: 

  • Adopting a higher organic certification cost share percentage and funding limit for BIPOC and other historically underserved producers;
  • Providing more funding to 1890 historically Black land-grant institutions, 1994 Tribal land-grant universities, and Hispanic-serving colleges and universities (HSCU) to increase their technical assistance capacity and ensure their personnel are included as equal partners in the development of organic education strategies across agencies; and 
  • Ensuring that members of the BIPOC farming and food system community take leadership roles in the development, evaluation, implementation, and enforcement of policies and programs to address these needs and objectives.

Organics in the Farm Bill

As we approach the 2023 Farm Bill, there will be many opportunities to strengthen the organic sector and address the concerns of organic farmers highlighted in the NORA and SOS reports. 

  • Increased funding and support for organic research is central to increasing the production and adoption of organic crops. Programs like the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), which received permanent mandatory funding in the 2018 Farm Bill, are vital to the future of organic farming.
  • One of the unique costs faced by organic farmers is the fee associated with the annual organic certification. Programs like the Organic Certification Cost Share Program (OCCSP) help alleviate some of the costs of certification for small and mid-sized organic farm businesses and need to be greatly expanded in order to better serve already existing organic farmers and farmers looking to transition to organic.
  • Organic integrity was the top concern listed by farmers in the NORA survey. All organic products, whether produced within the US or imported, are required to meet US organic standards for production and handling.  However, mechanisms for ensuring compliance and inspection do not appear adequate to protect organic producers from competition with fraudulent products. The 2023 Farm Bill should include additional resources and authorities for the USDA National Organic Program to track both domestic and imported organic products and ensure that they fully comply with US organic standards.

The post Recent Reports Highlight Barriers and Opportunities for Organic Farming appeared first on National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

Thursday, May 5, 2022 - 12:18pm

According to rangeland experts, wildfires in the western Great Basin region scorched more than 14,600 square miles in just 10 years—nearly the land mass of Maryland and Delaware combined.

Thursday, May 5, 2022 - 10:00am

WASHINGTON, May 5, 2022 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) announced today that it will interpret the prohibition on discrimination based on sex found in Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and in the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008, as amended, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly the Food Stamp Program (7 USC § 2011 et seq.), to include discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022 - 10:40am

Did you know that worms can recycle your food scraps? Vermicomposting, or worm composting, turns food scraps into a beneficial soil amendment that can be used in home gardens, landscaping, turfgrass, farms and more. Over one-third of all available food goes uneaten through loss or waste. Composting keeps food waste out of landfills where it decomposes and releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022 - 10:00am

Bosques Comestibles, también conocidos por la comunidad de productores como la producción de plantas perennes comestibles, tales como árboles frutales y  nueces, bayas, raíces y flores, etc. en un arreglo que es funcional, productivo y, a menudo, estéticamente agradable. Se considera parte del  sistema agroforestal, en el cual, hablando en términos generales, es un enfoque de gestión de la tierra que integra árboles o plantas perennes leñosas (piense en árboles de nueces, madera, arces azucareros) con otros cultivos como plantas anuales, hongos comestibles o incluso pastizales para pastoreo de ganado.

Participantes en el evento de Bosques Comestibles, reunidos en Hilltop Community Farm, CCE Tioga. Ashley M. Helmholdt / Cornell Garden-Based Learning

 

La organización Cornell Garden-Based Learning (Aprendizaje Basado en el Jardín de Cornell) busca introducir los paisajes perennes comestibles a nuevas audiencias a través de su proyecto piloto de Bosques Comestibles. La iniciativa apoya la colaboración entre educadores de la Extensión Cooperativa de Cornell (CCE), Voluntarios de Master Gardener (Graduados del programa de Master Gardener de CCE) y jardineros locales, y ofrece microbecas a las comunidades para implementar y administrar sus propios jardines con plantas perennes. Como parte de este enfoque, invitaron a los voluntarios del programa de Master Gardener y otras partes interesadas de CCE de todo el estado a participar en una ronda de talleres prácticos que se llevaron a cabo en Hilltop Community Farm de Tioga County CCE, para perfeccionar algunas de las habilidades necesarias para atender a un bosque comestible comunitario. 

Los temas incluyeron la creación de un hábitat para insectos benéficos, el reconocimiento de prácticas agroforestales indígenas para la producción de nueces, técnicas de labranza mínima, mejores prácticas de suelo y agua y demostraciones de propagación y el evento culminó con la plantación del primer Bosque Comestible de Hilltop Community Farm. El diseño del jardín, que fue desarrollado por Sarah Neal, arquitecta paisajista basada en Danby, NY,  toma en cuenta una serie de funciones y necesidades diferentes en su elaboración. Acomodará un área de asientos para reuniones, incluye exclusivamente las plantas que son comestibles cuando están crudas para la seguridad de los niños visitantes y aprovecha un espacio pequeño con plantaciones de alta densidad que permiten suficiente luz solar para todas las plantas.

Los participantes aprenden como sembrar un árbol de nueces en el Bosque Comestible.
Craig Cramer/ Cornell SIPS

Después de la siembra inaugural del evento en Candor, Nueva York, se diseñarán y plantarán otros cuatro sitios de jardines forestales a través de un programa de mini-subvenciones de Food Forest Trial Garden con Cornell Garden-Based Learning, con la esperanza de llevar el programa de talleres piloto a otros sitios alrededor el estado, involucrando a audiencias locales y personas de diversos orígenes y tradiciones agroforestales indígenas para que determinan la dirección de la iniciativa. Estos bosques comestibles pueden tener distintas formas y varían mucho en sus cultivos perennes y diseño. Los participantes discutieron cómo las diferentes necesidades de la comunidad afectarán el diseño y la disposición del jardín en sus comunidades. Por ejemplo, en algunos paisajes urbanos, los jardineros pueden necesitar presión para resaltar la belleza estética y la naturaleza “ordenada” de su jardín (usando líneas rectas, cercado prolijo, cubriendo con mantillo y mostrar que es un espacio manejado, no abandonado) mientras que aquellos en las áreas rurales pueden enfrentar diferentes desafíos, como el cercado de venados y otras presiones de plagas. Independientemente de la ubicación, todos los bosques comestibles necesitarán un plan para quién los administra, y debe diseñarse teniendo en cuenta los impactos futuros del cambio climático.

Si está interesado en participar en estos temas con el aprendizaje basado en el jardín de Cornell, los días de campo del jardín de prueba del bosque de alimentos tienen un próximo evento, “Recorrido por los sitios de jardinería ecológica” el 13 de mayo de 2022, en los jardines botánicos de Cornell. Para explorar oportunidades para productores principantes en el programa de incubadora de negocios agrícolas y los próximos eventos en Hilltop Community Farm, visite su sitio web.

 

 

 

Cornell Garden-Based Learning Sets Sights on Food Forests

Food Forests, also known as Edible Forests, sees community growers cultivating edible perennial plants, such as fruit and nut trees, berries, roots and flowers etc. in an arrangement that is functional, productive, and often aesthetically pleasing. This is a subset of agroforestry, which broadly speaking, is a land management approach that integrates trees or woody perennials (think nut trees, timber, sugar maple) with other crops such as annuals, mushrooms, or even pasture for grazing. 

Participants at the Food Forest event at Hilltop Community Farm, CCE Tioga. Ashley M. Helmholdt / Cornell Garden-Based Learning

Cornell Garden-Based Learning is looking to support the development of edible perennial landscapes for new audiences though their Food Forest Trial Garden Project. The project supports collaboration between CCE educators, Master Gardener volunteers and local gardeners, and has offered microgrants to communities to implement and steward their own food forests. As part of this focus, they invited Master Gardener volunteers and other CCE stakeholders from across the state to participate in a round of hands-on workshops held in CCE Tioga’s Hilltop Community Farm, to hone some of the skills needed to tend to a Community Food Forest. 

Topics included creating habitat for beneficial insects, honoring the history and ingenuity of indigenous agroforesty, low-till gardening techniques, soil and water best practices and propagation demonstrations,, and also culminated in the planting of Hilltop Community Farm’s first ever Food Forest. The garden design, which was developed by landscape architect Sarah Neal of Danby NY, takes into consideration a number of different functions and needs in its design. The garden will accommodate a seating area for gathering, it features plants that are all edible when raw for the safety of visiting children, and takes advantage of a small space with high density plantings that permit sufficient sunlight for all plants. 

Participants learn how to plant a hickory tree in the new Food Forest.
Craig Cramer/ Cornell SIPS

Following the event’s inaugural planting in Candor, NY, four other forest garden sites will be designed and planted through a Food Forest Trial Garden mini-grant program with Cornell Garden-Based Learning, with the hope of bringing the pilot workshop program to other sites around the state, engaging local audiences and people from diverse backgrounds and indigenous agroforestry traditions to take the lead. These Food Forests may have distinct forms and vary greatly in their perennial crops and design. Participants discussed how different community needs will impact the design and layout of the garden in their communities.  For example, in some urban landscapes, gardeners may need face pressure to highlight the aesthetic beauty, and “tidy” nature of their garden (using straight lines, neat fences, mulching and to show it is a managed, not abandoned space) whereas those in rural areas may face different challenges, such as such as deer fencing and other pest pressures. Regardless of location, all Food Forests will need a plan for who will steward them, and should be designed in consideration of future climate change impacts.  

If you are interested in engaging with these topics with Cornell Garden Based Learning, the Food Forest Trial Garden Field Days has an upcoming event, “Ecological Gardening Sites Tour” on May 13, 2022, at the Cornell Botanic Gardens.  To explore opportunities for beginning farmers in the farm incubator program and view upcoming events at Hilltop Community Farm, visit their website

The post Cornell Garden-Based Learning Presenta Su Proyecto de Bosques Comestibles appeared first on Cornell Small Farms.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022 - 7:15am

WASHINGTON, May 4, 2022 - Today, the White House announced its commitment to end hunger, improve nutrition and physical activity, reduce diet-related diseases, and close disparity gaps by 2030. As part of this commitment, the White House will hold a conference this fall to catalyze the public and private sectors around a coordinated, whole-of-government strategy to accelerate progress and drive significant change.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack released the following statement:

Wednesday, May 4, 2022 - 12:00am
Interns at agricultural companies are invited to attend a Field Scout Intern Training event hosted by the Purdue Crop Diagnostic Training and Research Center. The instructors will teach the basics of agronomic scouting and relevant practices in agriculture.
Tuesday, May 3, 2022 - 10:30am

WASHINGTON, May 3, 2022 – Today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack planted a tree to announce the reopening of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) People’s Garden Initiative. People’s Gardens across the country will grow fresh, healthy food and support resilient, local food systems; teach people how to garden using conservation practices; nurture habitat for pollinators and wildlife and create greenspace for neighbors. The garden at USDA headquarters in Washington, D.C. will be joined by 17 flagship gardens located in urban communities nationwide.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022 - 9:30am

WASHINGTON, May 3, 2022 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is accepting more than 2 million acres in offers from agricultural producers and landowners through the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) General signup, the first of the program’s multiple signups occurring in 2022. With about 3.4 million acres expiring this year, Vilsack encourages producers and landowners to consider the Grassland and Continuous signups, both of which are currently open.

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