September Policy Updates: Farmer Letter, Soil Biology Guide, USDA Program Opps, Climate Change Action

By September 22, 2019Policy, VABF News

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Farmer Letter on Climate Change Solutions in Agriculture

On-line Signature Form Opens Monday September 23


Ever more extreme weather events, from last year’s record rainfall across Virginia and the current drought, to historic floods, wildfires, and hurricanes across the US and abroad, have brought home the urgent need to address the climate crisis and its impacts on agriculture.


As sustainable and organic farmers we can do much to build the resilience of our farms and rural communities to climate disruption, store excess carbon in our soils and trees, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  But we cannot do it alone. Now is the time to join thousands of other producers across the nation to ask lawmakers and federal program administrators to help us meet the challenges of a changing climate and become part of the solution.


On the occasion of this week’s worldwide campaign for climate awareness, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) is launching a nationwide effort to gather farmer and rancher signatures on a Farmer Letter on Climate Change Solutions in Agriculture (see box below and link to full text).  Beginning in the spring of 2020, we will use this letter in meetings with members of Congress, USDA program leaders, and other decision-makers to urge effective policy action to combat climate change, and especially to help farmers and ranchers weather the storm and lead the way towards a more sustainable future.


We, the undersigned farmers and ranchers, write to express our deep concerns about climate change impacts on agriculture in the United States and to call for solutions that invest in our rural and agricultural communities.

Agriculture is on the front lines of a changing climate.  For full text of the letter see [link]


As a member group of NSAC, the Virginia Association for Biological Farming invites all of its farmer members to sign onto this letter.  Note that, at this time, we are specifically seeking signatures from farmers, as defined by USDA:  producers who sell at least $1,000 in farm products annually.  Sign on at the following links, which open on Monday September 23, and will remain open through the fall and winter.




If you are not a farmer by the USDA definition, feel free to share this sign-on opportunity with farmers in your networks or at farmers’ markets or farmstands where you shop. As this campaign grows, there will be more opportunities for folks to get involved soon.  Stay tuned!


For more info on this campaign, check out this FAQ developed by NSAC.



Organic Farming Research Foundation Publishes Soil Biology Guide

Understanding and Optimizing the Community of Soil Life

The Organic Farming Research Foundation has published the ninth and final Guide in its Soil Health and Organic Farming series.  The new Guide, Understanding and Optimizing the Community of Soil Life provides science-based practical information on how soil life benefits crop nutrition, vigor, disease resistance, and yield; how to feed and manage your soil for best biological function; and whether and how to use purchased microbial inoculants.

For electronic copies (free) or hard copies ($25 each) of any of the Guides, visit, and click on “Download the Guides” on the home page.


Current USDA and State (VA) Program Opportunities

Virginia Agricultural Best Management Practices Cost-Share Program. $73 million to help farmers implement cover crops, nutrient management, IPM, riparian buffers, fencing to keep livestock out of streams, and more.  Available through June, 2020 or until funds exhausted. Details in July, 2019 e-newsletter and at To apply, visit your Soil and Water Conservation District office. 


Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) offers funding for on-farm renewable energy (solar, wind, biomass, other) or energy efficiency improvement, including small grants (up to $20K) for producers.  Two application periods close on Oct 31 and March 31.  For more info, visit


NRCS Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) is open for applications through December 3.  RCPP supports farmer organizations and coops, universities, and state/local governments in collaborative, innovative endeavors to address regional conservation issues.

More info at:  For more on state RCPP in Virginia, contact Stacey Bradshaw or Julie Hawkins at Virginia NRCS office, 804-287-1692.  Webinar for potential RCPP applicants September 26, 3:00 – 4:30 pm.


The conference begins at 3:00 PM Eastern Time on September 26, 2019; you may join the conference 10 minutes prior.

Step 1: Dial into the conference.

Dial-in: 1-877-369-5243 or 1-617-668-3633

Access Code: 0213915##


Step 2: Join the conference on your computer.

Entry Link:


When you access the entry link above, you will be provided a choice – to install the WebEx plug-in for your preferred browser or to join the web conference using a temporary path. Either option is acceptable.


Need urgent assistance? Call 1-301-250-7202.

Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) RFA for 2020 open through Feb 13, 2020.


Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Foundational grants.  RFA for 2020 open through March 19.


Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI). RFA for 2020 open through January 23.


National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) is Hiring


National Sustainable Agriculture coalition is hiring a Policy Director (applications open until positon is filled) and a Conservation Policy Specialist (applications close September 30).  Information at (click on links for job description).




Presidential Candidates Propose Action on Climate Change in Agriculture


A number of candidates for the 2020 Presidential campaign have proposed sweeping legislation and policy efforts to address the climate crisis. Several include fairly detailed proposals related to climate in agriculture, conservation initiatives, etc.  For more information, see NSAC blog post



Join the VABF Policy Team E-mail List Serve


The VABF policy team has established an e-mail list serve for any VABF members who would like to stay up to date on policy developments for family farms and sustainable/ organic agriculture, and engage in dialogue on policy advocacy issues.  If you would like to join, contact Jill Auburn at