How a climate-friendly flour company built a flourishing market

Read the full story in Grist.

Shepherd’s Grain sells not only high-quality flour made from wheat grown with no-till practices. It also sells the story of no-till, a farming method that eliminates the significant climate-warming carbon releases caused by plowing.

USDA Announces $252 Million Available for Regional Conservation Partnership Program

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today invited potential conservation partners, including private industry, non-government organizations, Indian tribes, state and local governments, water districts, and universities to submit project applications for federal funding through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).

Through this fourth RCPP Announcement for Program Funding (APF), USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will award up to $252 million dollars to locally driven, public-private partnerships that improve the nation’s water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat, and protect agricultural viability. Applicants must match or exceed the federal award with private or local funds.

“Through unprecedented collaboration, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program has established a new paradigm for working lands conservation that yields unparalleled results,” Vilsack said. “Working together, RCPP projects in every state are demonstrating the ways in which locally-led initiatives can meet some of our most pressing natural resource concerns.”

Created by the 2014 Farm Bill, RCPP connects partners with producers and private landowners to design and implement voluntary conservation solutions that benefit natural resources, agriculture, and the economy. By 2018, NRCS and its more than 2,000 conservation partners will have invested at least $2.4 billion in high-impact RCPP projects nationwide.

For example, three existing RCPP projects bring together more than 40 partners, including USA Rice, Ducks Unlimited, California Rice Commission, the Walmart Foundation and The Mosaic Company, to accelerate conservation on rice lands in six states facing water quality and quantity challenges. These projects, collectively called the USA Rice-Ducks Unlimited Rice Stewardship Partnership, aim to conserve water and wildlife habitat while sustaining the future of rice farming in the United States. With unique technical expertise and needs, each state is leading a partner-driven, local approach to conservation in rice agriculture.

In its most recent RCPP awards, NRCS last month announced that 88 high-impact projects across the country will receive $225 million in federal funding, with more than double that investment from partners. The new Gulf of Mexico – Forest to Sea RCPP project will conserve Florida’s pristine “Big Bend” area along the northeastern Gulf by implementing innovative conservation solutions with private working forest owners. Using an impact investment approach, The Conservation Fund and 12 partners will implement an easement and restoration plan on large forested tracts to address the natural resource concerns while allowing sustainable timber harvesting and maintaining local jobs. The project will serve as a model for further conservation and impact investing in the region and beyond.

NRCS Chief Jason Weller encourages partners to consider conservation finance and environmental markets as they develop RCPP project applications. “The growing field of conservation finance provides opportunities to inject significant investment capital into projects that protect, restore and maintain our natural ecosystems,” says Weller.

USDA is now accepting proposals for Fiscal Year 2018 RCPP funding. Pre-proposals are due April 21. For more information on applying, visit the RCPP website.

Since 2009, USDA has invested more than $29 billion to help producers make conservation improvements, working with as many as 500,000 farmers, ranchers and landowners to protect over 400 million acres nationwide, boosting soil and air quality, cleaning and conserving water and enhancing wildlife habitat. For an interactive look at USDA’s work in conservation and forestry over the course of this Administration, visit http://medium.com/usda-resultsThis is an external link or third-party site outside of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website..

USDA Announces $27 Million in Grants Available to Support the Local Food Sector

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) today announced the availability of $27 million in grants to fund innovative projects designed to strengthen market opportunities for local and regional food producers and businesses.

“These grants will continue USDA’s support for the local food sector as an important strategy for keeping wealth in rural communities,” said AMS Administrator Elanor Starmer.  “Entrepreneurs around the country are creating jobs and new economic opportunities in response to growing consumer demand for local food.  AMS is excited to partner with local food stakeholders to strengthen local economies and improve access to fresh, healthy food for their communities.”

AMS today announced the request for applications for the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program, which includes Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) and Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP) grants, and the Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP).  These programs and other resources across USDA are helping to revitalize rural America by supporting local and regional food stakeholders.

The FMPP provides funds for direct farmer-to-consumer marketing projects such as farmers markets, community-supported agriculture programs, roadside stands, and agritourism.  Over the past 10 years, the FMPP has awarded more than 870 grants totaling over $58 million.  The successful results of these investments are summarized in the Farmers Market Promotion Program 2016 Report. The LFPP supports projects focused on intermediary supply chain activities for local food businesses. LFPP was established in the 2014 Farm Bill to increase funding for marketing activities such as aggregation, processing, storage, and distribution of local foods.

The FSMIP provides about $1 million in matching funds to state departments of agriculture, state colleges and universities, and other appropriate state agencies. Funds will support research projects to address challenges and opportunities in marketing, transporting, and distributing U.S. agricultural products domestically and internationally.

For more information about FSMIP, FMPP and LFPP, visit: www.ams.usda.gov/AMSgrants.  The website also contains a link to a grants decision tree, “What AMS Grant is Right for ME?”, to help applicants determine which AMS grant fits their project best.

The grant applications for FSMIP, FMPP and LFPP must be submitted electronically through www.grants.gov/  by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on Monday, March 27, 2017.

Applicants are urged to start the Grants.gov registration process as soon as possible to ensure that they meet the deadline and encouraged to submit their applications well in advance of the posted due date.  Any grant application submitted after the due date will not be considered unless the applicant provides documentation of an extenuating circumstance that prevented their timely submission of the grant application, read more on AMS Late and Non-Responsive Application Policy.

Beyond the backyard: urban farming helps city folk get back to their roots

Read the full story in The Guardian.

Along with fresh fruit and vegetables, city farms are providing communities with jobs, start-up programs, knowledge and social connections.

To Save The Planet, Give Cows Better Pasture

Read the full story from NPR.

The other day, in Puerto Rico, I stumbled across one small piece of an agricultural revolution. It didn’t look all that revolutionary — just an abandoned sugar plantation where workers are clearing away a mass of grass, bushes and trees in order to create better pasture for cattle.

Mike McCloskey, the dairy magnate who’s behind this particular venture, says that the tropical grasses that he’s removing are terrible food for cattle; they’re full of cellulose and lignin, and not very nutritious. “The problem with tropical pastures, in the past, is that they’re very low in their digestibility,” he says.

McCloskey should know. He grew up in Puerto Rico, worked as a veterinarian with dairy farmers in Mexico and California, then got into dairy farming himself and became one of the biggest milk producers in the United States.

He’s planning to grow varieties of grass called Mulato and Cayman on this pasture. The grasses grow quickly, they’re far more nutritious and cattle love them.

Don’t Call It Wheat: An Environmentally Friendly Grain Takes Root

Read the full story from NPR.

Colin Curwen-McAdams opens the door to his greenhouse in Mt. Vernon, Wash., and a rush of warm air pours out.

“Basically, it’s summer all year long here,” he jokes.

Curwen-McAdams, a PhD student at Washington State University, and WSU professor Steven Jones have developed a new species: a cross between wheat and its wild cousin, wheat grass. They call it Salish Blue. Their goal was to make something that’s like wheat but grows back year after year.

Increasing the water table in agricultural peatland could hold key to reducing UK’s greenhouse gas emissions

Read the full story from the University of Sheffield.

Increasing the water table could help to slow down global warming, boost crop yields, and preserve peat soils according to a new study.

The research, led by scientists from the University of Sheffield, found increasing the level below which the ground is saturated with water – known as the water table – in radish fields by 20cm not only reduced soil CO2 emissions, but also improved the growth of crops.