by Mark Schonbeck

Farm Bill Action

As congress returns from its two week Easter Recess, the 2018 Farm Bill process may unfold quickly.  As discussed in the March issue of this e-Newsletter, NSAC and other advocates have helped advance several Marker Bills in Congress that could strengthen working lands conservation, local food systems, beginning farmer and rancher training and assistance, organic research, public cultivar development, and crop insurance reform in the new Farm Bill.  For more, see http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/2018-farm-bill-legislative-update/.

How you can help:

Call Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-6th VA) at 202-225-5431 and urge him to support the Strengthening Our Investment in Land (SOIL) Stewardship Act (HR 5188).  SOIL Stewardship strengthens and integrates the working lands programs, and provides new payments for whole-farm conservation planning and management intensive rotational grazing through the Conservation Stewardship Program.  Ask to speak with his legislative director for agriculture, Scott Bennett – leave a voice mail if he is not available to talk with you when you call.  Calls from farmers, consultants, and conservation advocates who reside in the 6th Congressional District of Virginia are especially effective – those outside Goodlatte’s district should call his office and their own Representative.

Watch for Farm Bill updates and additional new action items at: http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/.


Register Now for Free Webinar Series on Soil Health

First Webinar, Building Organic Matter for Healthy Soils: an Overview will take place Wednesday May 9, 2018 at 2:00 pm Eastern Daylight Time

Please join the Organic Farming Research Foundation and eOrganic for a series of webinars focused on the topics covered in their new Soil Health and Organic Farming educational guides. This series is recommended for farmers, extension agents, educators, agricultural professionals, and others interested in building soil health.

Author Mark Schonbeck of the Virginia Association for Biological Farming and OFRF Research Program Director Diana Jerkins will review the most recent research on soil health practices and explore how organic growers can build healthy soils on their operations. The webinars will provide practical guidelines for growers, in-depth analysis of research outcomes, and an opportunity to get your questions answered.

Additional Webinars over the coming year will cover soil-friendly weed management, conservation tillage, cover crops, plant genetics and soil health, water management, organic nutrient management, soil health and climate change, and soil biology.

Register for the Webinar series at http://www.ofrf.org/news/register-now-free-webinar-series-soil-health


USDA SARE and Local Food Programs Issue Requests for Applications (RFAs)

The Southern Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program has issued a call for proposals for research and education grants. Submissions deadline is May 4.

The Farmers Market and Local Foods Promotion Program (FMLFPP) has issued a call for proposals. Submissions deadline is May 7.

For more information on these and other RFAs, visit http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/spring-2018-rfa-roundup/.


Wins for Sustainable Agriculture in 2018 Omnibus Appropriations Bill

On Thursday and Friday March 22-23, both houses of Congress passed, and President Trump signed the 2018 Omnibus funding bill, which included the following substantial wins for family farms and sustainable / organic agriculture:

  • Funding for Working Lands Conservation Programs was protected from “CHIMPS” (changes in mandatory program spending) cuts for the first time in 15 years.
  • Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) was funded at $35 million, up from $27 million in 2017.
  • Organic Transitions Program was funded at $5 million up from $4 million.
  • Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers received an additional $3 million.
  • The President’s proposed severe cuts to USDA Rural Development and farm loan programs were largely rejected and funding levels were maintained.
  • Funding was maintained for the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (aka ATTRA), and increased for Value Added Producer Grants and Farm to School.
  • However, specific Senate language that would have protected the USDA Rural Development Mission Area from possible future elimination was deleted from the final bill, so we need to remain vigilant on this one.

For more, see http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/wins-fy2018-omnibus-appropriations/