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New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station has released Growing Kiwiberries in New England: An Online Guide for Regional Producers. The resource includes a statewide market assessment, a detailed production manual, and an enterprise analysis for regional growers. The Experiment Station has been conducting kiwiberry research since 2013 and is providing information to help Northeast growers decide whether or not to plant this increasingly popular crop. Researchers say there is great potential for kiwiberry, citing consumer interest, the Northeast's established valuation of local produce and direct-market horticultural crops, and the extremely low level of regional production to date.

Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) has introduced a new video series on organic weed control in field-crop production. In the 12-minute first video of the series, several PFI farmers share their knowledge on early-season tillage, seedbed preparation, and timing of planting. Additional episodes in the series will explore crop rotations; early-season light tillage implements like rotary hoes, tine weeders, and harrows; an in-depth look at row crop cultivators; and more.

Organizers of the 2019 Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group's It Takes a Region conference are requesting session proposals. The conference is set for November 7-9, 2019, in Jersey City, New Jersey. Organizers are looking for sessions that tackle systemic issues with engaging activities and presentations that prioritize the leadership and voices of those most impacted by the issue discussed. Priority will be given to sessions presented by traditionally underrepresented groups that directly address some aspect of inequity in the food system. Five conference tracks will be offered this year. Submissions will be accepted through June 8, 2019.

North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (NCR-SARE) has announced grant awards for 2019 in three programs. The Partnership Grant Program fosters cooperation between agriculture professionals and small groups of farmers and ranchers to catalyze on-farm research, demonstration, and education activities related to sustainable agriculture. NCR-SARE awarded almost $566,000 to 15 projects. Under the Farmer Rancher Grant Program, 48 grant projects were selected to receive a total of more than $663,000 to explore sustainable solutions to problems through on-farm research, demonstration, and education projects. For the 2019 Youth Educator Grant Program, NCR-SARE awarded $42,000 to 11 projects. Summaries of the funded projects are available online.

A study led by Michigan State University shows that populations of half the bumble bee species found in the state have declined by more than 50%. Study results, published in Ecology, compared the distribution of 12 different bumble bee species across the state before and after the year 2000. The species that have declined the most are the rusty patched bumble bee, American bumble bee, yellow banded bumble bee, and yellow bumble bee. Species that depend on fewer species of plants were the most likely to decline, particularly as habitat for those plants is lost. Bumble bees are important pollinators not only for wild seeds and berries that wildlife depend upon, but also for many human food crops including blueberries.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) have anounced the launch of a public-private initiative to advance climate smart agriculture and reduce greenhouse gas emissions on agricultural lands. This partnership will create a mechanism for leading businesses in the food and fiber supply chain to directly fund climate projects on California farms and ranches. CARB and CDFA will convene a working group composed of subject matter experts to design an approach to invest private dollars in climate smart agricultural projects. In developing this new effort, CARB and CDFA will work with a California nonprofit, the Perennial Farming Initiative, and its Zero Foodprint Program to launch Restore California Renewable Restaurants. Through this voluntary initiative, diners can choose zero-carbon restaurants that are funding real on-farm emissions reductions.

Massachusetts state government has awarded $1 million in grants to 40 agricultural operations in the state to install practices that help mitigate their impacts on climate change and adapt to changing climate conditions. The grants were awarded through the Agricultural Climate Resiliency & Efficiencies (ACRE) Program, which funds materials and labor for the implementation of practices that work to improve soil health and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. The program also offers incentives for agricultural operations to proactively address risks and strengthen their economic and environmental resiliency as they adapt to the changing climate. Proposals that address both mitigation and adaptation in their proposals are prioritized for funding. A list of funded projects is available online.

PASA Sustainable Agriculture announced that the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry has approved its Diversified Vegetable Apprenticeship as the first formal apprenticeship program for farmers in the state. The Diversified Vegetable Apprenticeship provides a guided pathway for training aspiring vegetable farmers to manage or start a farm, while also meeting the employment needs of established farms. The curriculum trains apprentices in core competencies from soil fertility and irrigation to marketing and business administration. Apprentices receive more than 2,700 hours of on-the-job training at an established farm and complete more than 200 hours of related technical instruction over the course of two seasons. Under the terms of the program, the apprentices are paid an hourly wage that increases as they advance their skills.

The recently released Census of Agriculture showed that dairy goats have been the fastest-growing group of livestock over the past decade, reports The Washington Post. The number of dairy goats grew 61% between 2007 and 2017, even as cattle, sheep, and chicken numbers held steady and numbers of llamas, emus, and ostriches plummeted. The number of meat and fiber goats also declined by double digits. The feature notes that American appetite for goat milk, cheese, yogurt and kefir is growing. It also points to declines in the number of goat dairies, even as the number of dairy goats has risen, indicating the prevalence of larger operations in today's market. One industry leader comments that it takes at least 1,000 goats to have a viable business, and that the economics of making a price-competitive value-added product are tricky.

The global banana industry is facing devastation by Panama disease, a Fusarium wilt to which nearly all of the commercial banana plants grown worldwide are susceptible, writes University of Westminster's Stuart Thompson in The Conversation. The deadly disease is devastating banana plantations that it infects, because Cavendish banana plants are so genetically similar and planted in wide swaths. Options for dealing with the situation range from quarantines--which are only temporarily successful--to genetic engineering and conventional plant breeding, both of which are expensive and would still leave bananas vulnerable to a new strain of disease. Thompson argues that an agricultural system with more diversity, crop rotation, and companion plants that combat the disease is a better long-term solution, not just for bananas, but for food production in general.

Stevens Institute of Technology is spearheading an international project to map the global flow of phosphorus, as the first step in an effort to recapture and recycle this valuable nutrient whose supply from rock is limited. The map, published in Earth’s Future, locates regions where there is both a significant demand for fertilizer and potential for recapturing the nutrient from animal and human waste. The map reveals potential for phosphorus recapture for 72% of croplands that have manure production nearby and for 68% of croplands with significant human populations nearby. "Ideally, the 45 million metric tons of phosphorus fertilizers used each year would be completely reused, and we'd harvest their maximum potential to support food production," said Stevens' David Vaccari. "This work is a step toward understanding how to get to that point."

Scientists at the University of California have found a red algae seaweed that reduces bovine methane production by as much as 50% when small amounts of the seaweed are added to their feed. Now scientists are exploring how they might be able to cultivate Asparagopsis taxiformis on a large scale, and how they might increase its concentration of bromoform, the chemical responsible for halting methane production in cattle. Researchers say there is much work to be done to understand the complete life cycle of the seaweed and the best way to cultivate large quantities of it that would be needed to use it effectively as a cattle feed additive.

The 2019 N.C. AgVentures cost-share grants will help 34 North Carolina farmers grow or diversify their operations. Grants ranging from $2,000 to $10,000 will help with a wide variety of projects, including expanding a honey-processing operation, increasing mushroom production, and converting tobacco greenhouses into hemp houses. Other projects include pastured-pork and pastured-poultry processing, high tunnels, purchase of seed-processing equipment, and installation of equipment for value-added food products. Funding is provided by the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, and the program is administered by NC State Extension. A list of funded projects is available online.

A study published by the University of Guelph in Canada shows that exposure to neonicotinoid pesticides reduces honey bees' ability to groom and rid themselves of deadly varroa mites. The researchers experimented with three sublethal doses of clothianidin, all similar to what the bees would experience while feeding on flower nectar of neonic-treated crop fields. The bees were also introduced to varroa mites. The study found a complex and non-additive interaction between the two stressors, even at the lowest level.

The Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) program is awarding more than $79,500 in grants to farmers around the Southern Region to further sustainable agriculture production and marketing practices. Projects funded by Producer Grants will include bee pollen identification, season extension, essential oils, walnut syrup production, and agroforestry. Grant recipients will share their results with fellow farmers in an education and outreach capacity. Southern SARE will also award $116,154 for eight on-farm research grants on topics including sheep parasites, bale grazing, regenerative grazing, technology for organic no-till vegetable production, and more. A complete list of funded projects is available online.

The Council of Development Finance Agencies has released the second white paper in its Food Finance series, Food Systems and Access to Capital. This series aims to define the food system as an asset class worthy of utilizing traditional development finance tools that will support economic growth and community development. This second paper focuses on small businesses, micro-enterprises, and entrepreneurs, arguing that food-related businesses are no different than other small businesses. It shows how small businesses can access and utilize different types of financing tools.

In Wisconsin, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and Waupaca County Land & Water Conservation Department have partnered with eight Wisconsin counties to launch the Upper Fox-Wolf Demonstration Farm Network. This partnership will support the fourth network of farms in the state that will demonstrate the best conservation practices to reduce phosphorus entering the Great Lakes basin. Participating farms will test the effectiveness of conservation systems, foster technology transfer, host research, and conduct outreach to share lessons learned. Ten demonstration farms have joined the network.

The UMass Stockbridge School of Agriculture is offering a range of online summer classes in sustainable food and farming. Two summer terms are scheduled: from May 20 through June 28, 2019, and from July 8 through August 16, 2019. Two full-summer courses are also offered, spanning both terms. Courses available include urban agriculture, community food systems, organic vegetable production, and more. Courses may be taken individually, or toward completion of an online 15-credit Certificate, 60-credit Associate of Science, and/or 120-credit Bachelor of Science degree.

A new website has been launched by Water for Agriculture, an interdisciplinary research project led by Penn State University. The Water for Agriculture project brings together social and biophysical researchers and practitioners to work with communities in Nebraska, Pennsylvania, and Arizona to address the water and agriculture issues that matter most to them through effective stakeholder engagement. In addition to providing background on the project, the website houses a library of webinars, a news and update section, and a community engagement toolbox, which provides a practical guide to the major concepts, tools, and strategies for implementing effective community engagement processes.

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach announced a new program, Farm, Food and Enterprise Development. The program's 20 staff members come from the former Local Foods and Value Added Agriculture programs, as well as from the current Community and Economic Development program. The team will provide resources and technical assistance on topics such as small-farm profitability, agritourism, community food systems planning and development, farm to school and farm to early childhood education, and business feasibility and financing. The program is divided into the areas of small farms, food systems, and enterprise development.

A study led by researchers at Tufts University, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, revealed that adequate intake of nutrients from food is associated with a reduction in mortality, but there is no association between use of dietary supplements and a lower risk of death. The study evaluated the association between dietary supplement use and death from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer in 27,000 U.S. adults. Researchers found that adequate intakes of Vitamin A and Vitamin K, as well as magnesium and zinc, from food were associated with lower risk of death, but the same did not hold true when these nutrients were sourced from supplements. Furthermore, excess calcium intake from supplements was associated with higher risk of death from cancer, although there was no association for calcium intake from foods.

The Natural Capital Finance Alliance has released Natural Capital Credit Risk Assessment in Agricultural Lending, a new template that enables financial institutions to conduct natural capital credit risk assessment across different agricultural sectors and geographies. Although most banks still lend to farmers almost solely on the basis of their most recent profit and loss accounts, lenders should recognize that performance can be improved over the short-term in an unsustainable way, but this can create medium-term risks such as degradation of land and water. The new approach outlined in this guide provides a global template for natural capital credit risk assessment that takes into account factors such as water availability, use and quality; soil health; biodiversity; energy use and greenhouse-gas emissions. The approach is designed to be consistent with the leading international standard for including natural capital in business decision-making, the Natural Capital Protocol.

Prairie strips on cropland can help farmers conserve soil and protect water quality, but it can be challenging to establish prairie affordably. Research led by the University of Northern Iowa has developed a Tallgrass Prairie Seed Calculator that can help landowners develop seed mixes that meet their goals and budgets. The Tallgrass Prairie Center has also investigated strategies that can help farmers succeed with prairie establishment, such as selling prairie biomass for energy or other uses to help offset seed costs.

Southeast Massachusetts Agricultural Partnership (SEMAP) has posted Four Acre Farms' report on a year-long study of an insulated Langsroth hive that was funded by a SEMAP Technology, Innovation, and Excellence (TIE) grant. The 21-page PDF report details results of a project that added foam insulation board to a bee hive in an attempt to moderate weather-sourced stressors. In this study, the insulated hive thrived, producing honey in its first year, in contrast to the uninsulated control hive. The beekeepers deemed the insulated hive a success, though they note that the cost and effort required for insulating the hive are considerations in its effectiveness.

The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) has announced that a team of researchers at Montana State University will receive a $20,000 soil health grant to evaluate the effects of seeding rates on lentil yields and competition. Lentils are an important crop for diversifying wheat-based cropping systems and are one of several pulse crops used by farmers in the Northern Great Plains to promote biodiversity, improve soil health, and generate income. Dr. Jed Eberly will lead research to select the optimum varieties to improve lentil yields, nutritional quality, and economic returns. Dr. Eberly is collaborating with organic farmers from three different locations in a series of multi-site replicated trials.

Montana organic farmer Nate Powell-Palm testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture about what the USDA organic standards mean for organic farmers, reports the Organic Trade Association. Powell-Palm said that "when farmers can receive a premium in the market for sustainable practices, it's a win-win." He is a diversified organic farmer growing organic wheat, field peas, straw, cattle, and hay, who says that organic price premiums have helped him expand his operation. He notes that the organic certification process is a way to ensure that farmers can be fairly compensated for the sustainable practices they use.

Practical Farmers of Iowa has announced meetings for six grazing groups located in different regions of the state of Iowa. Groups will meet in Lamoni, Lockridge, Remsen, Maxwell, Oxford, and Charles City during May and early June. They will go on pasture walks, discuss spring grazing management on lush pastures, first-cut hay, planting summer annuals, and more. Each meeting includes dinner and the opportunity to learn from fellow livestock producers.

The new edition of the Minnesota Grown Directory features products and services offered by more than 1,000 farms, ranches, and farmers markets across Minnesota. The updated directory is searchable by region, farm name, or product. It includes locally grown fruits and vegetables, meats, dairy items, wineries, nurseries, Christmas trees, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) operations, and more. Readers can search by new product categories, including On-farm Dinners/Tastings, Hemp, Microgreens, and Pick-your-own farm opportunities. In addition to searching for certified organic entries, readers can now also search by Minnesota Ag Water Quality Certified farms. The directory is available free online or in print.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has released an Information Alert on the 2019 Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) sign-up opportunity. The 17-page publication explains updates to the CSP program this year and provides producers with detailed instructions on completing the sign-up process. NSAC is notifying farmers that they must file an initial application for the program before May 10, 2019, for enrollment in the program during Fiscal Year 2019.

Livestock producers in southwest Wisconsin received a North Central SARE grant to help them achieve four objectives related to opportunities in local meat processing, reports Agri-View. Among these was a feasibility study for a cooperatively owned, federally licensed, and women-farmer-led mobile-slaughtering unit and/or retail butcher establishment in south-central Wisconsin. A survey of 80 livestock producers in a three-county area revealed that producers would be likely to increase their business if local slaughtering capacity increased. Respondents indicated that wait times and lack of custom-cutting services limited their meat sales. The project organizers plan to continue working on local meat processing and develop outreach materials to help others become involved.

The 2018 Farm Bill increased the amount that producers can borrow as direct and guaranteed loans available through USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) and made changes to other loans, such as microloans and emergency loans, that are financed and serviced by FSA. The Direct Operating Loan limit increased from $300,000 to $400,000, and the Guaranteed Operating Loan limit increased from $ 1.429 million to $1.75 million. In addition, the Farm Ownership Loan limit increased from $300,000 to $600,000, and the Guaranteed Farm Ownership Loan limit increased from $1.429 million to $1.75 million. Farm ownership loans help producers become owner-operators of family farms as well as improve and expand current operations. In another change, producers can now receive both a $50,000 Farm Ownership Microloan and a $50,000 Operating Microloan. Previously, microloans were limited to a combined $50,000. Microloans provide flexible access to credit for small, beginning, niche, and non-traditional farm operations. Additionally, beginning and socially disadvantaged producers can now receive up to a 95% guarantee against the loss of principal and interest on a loan, up from 90%.

USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) has announced the results of the 2017 Census of Agriculture. Among key findings were that both farm numbers and land in farms have continued to decline since the last Census in 2012. At the same time, there continue to be more of the largest and smallest operations and fewer middle-sized farms. The 273,000 smallest (1 to 9 acres) farms make up 0.1% of all farmland while the 85,127 largest (2,000 or more acres) farms make up 58% of farmland. In addition, the average age of farmers and ranchers continues to rise. Average farm income is $43,053, but a total of just 43.6% of farms had positive net cash farm income in 2017. Other interesting statistics are that a total of 133,176 farms and ranches use renewable energy producing systems, and that in 2017, a total of 130,056 farms sold directly to consumers, with sales of $2.8 billion.

Kentucky Department of Agriculture's Direct Farm Marketing Division is sponsoring a contest for Kentucky FFA members actively involved in the production, growth, and marketing of farm commodities or value-added products. To be eligible, participants must produce and market fruits, vegetables, flowers, eggs, meat, fish, poultry, dairy, or value-added products that have direct Kentucky farmgate impact. The products must be marketed and sold directly to the consumer through farmers markets, roadside markets, or on-farm markets. Participants must turn in a written marketing plan, in which they answer 10 questions regarding market research, display skills, and direct-marketing abilities. Applicants also must submit a portfolio that should include photos of the farm operation, products in the field, promotional materials, and market displays. Applications are due May 15, 2019.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has posted an update on the Innovative Site Preparation and Impact Reductions on the Environment (InSPIRE) project that is exploring benefits and barriers of low-impact solar development. Rather than devoting solar energy sites solely to energy production, low-impact solar incorporates other land uses, such as providing pollinator habitat and allowing agricultural uses ranging from grazing to vegetable production. Low-impact solar development leaves topsoil in place beneath solar arrays and often plants native vegetation. The project has found that having vegetation in place to cool the ground can make solar panels perform better. Conversely, in hot climates, shade from solar panels can improve the water efficiency of vegetable production beneath the shade of the panels, a practice called "agrivoltaics."

In California, Novato Unified School District has lifted a 10-year-old ban on beef in school meals and begun serving grass-fed beef from a local rancher, reports Marin Independent Journal. Stemple Creek Ranch in Tomales, whose owners Loren and Lisa Poncia have children in the school district, is supplying meat for lunches in the district every other week. Using the raw meat has meant some new food-safety protocols for the district. Miguel Villareal, director of food and nutritional services for the Novato Unified School District, has worked to bring a variety of healthy, local foods to district meals.

University of New Hampshire researchers found dramatic declines in populations of 14 wild bee species that are important pollinators of fruit crops in the Northeast. This study used museum records to compare wild bee communities in New Hampshire between 1891 and 2016. The researchers found that 13 species of New England-native ground-nesting bee and one species of cavity-nesting bee are in decline. The declining species also experienced shifts in the elevation and latitude where they are found, with half becoming more abundant in the northern end of their range.

USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) has published a notice in the Federal Register regarding its intent to reinstate the 2019 Organic Survey as a follow-on survey to the 2017 Census of Agriculture with mandatory reporting. NASS is accepting public comment until April 29, 2019, on (a) Whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, including whether the information will have practical utility; (b) the accuracy of the agency's estimate of the burden of the proposed collection of information including the validity of the methodology and assumptions used; (c) ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and (d) ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on those who are to respond, including through the use of appropriate automated, electronic, mechanical, technological or other forms of information technology collection methods.

The Society of Organic Seed Professionals (SOSP) is launching a membership recruitment campaign. SOSP, formed in 2017, is a new membership organization of researchers and practitioners committed to the advancement of organic seed systems. SOSP fosters learning and collaboration among diverse people working in organic seed systems within and beyond the United States. SOSP invites scientists, educators, farmers, entrepreneurs, policy advocates, seed company professionals, and students to gather, share their work, and generate interpersonal connections that amplify each individual's passion and ensure a robust future for organic agriculture. SOSP offers a sliding scale of membership dues, with benefits including a member listserv, resources on the SOSP website, and mentorship opportunities for early career and experienced organic seed professionals.

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