Organic News

USDA Expands Farm Safety Net, Offers Greater Flexibility for Organic and other Farmers

September 17, 2015 - One of the challenges facing U.S. organic farmers is the lack of coverage, or limited risk protection, available through the federal crop insurance program. The standard practices of organic farmers have not fit well into an insurance framework created to serve conventional agriculture.

But thanks to provisions of the 2014 Farm Bill, organic growers could soon see much-improved options for crop insurance; such as coverage for diversified farm operations and reimbursement rates that cover organic’s higher costs.

The farm bill required the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to establish organic price elections for all organic crops by the 2015 crop insurance year, which began in July 2014. Risk protection options have also improved in recent years through the efforts of USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA).

A recent announcement by Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden revealed several changes that will benefit organic farmers.

U.S. Survey of Organic Farmers open until Sept. 14

August 27, 2015 – Hundreds of organic farmers across the U.S. have participated in the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) 2015 National Survey of Organic Farmers. The survey asks farmers and ranchers to share their experiences, and let the scientific and policy communities know what areas of research are most important to advance organic farming.

The survey will remain available online until September 14, 2015. With only two weeks left to take the survey, we ask all organic farmers who have not yet completed the survey to join the effort and participate at this link: http://opinion.wsu.edu/agresearch/

“Second Day of Life” Rule for organic poultry challenged

August 27, 2015 - The ongoing effort to tighten federal “origin of livestock” rules for organic dairy producers has inspired one industry watchdog to demand similar requirements for organic chicken producers, who overwhelmingly rely on conventionally-raised chicks to stock organic flocks.

The Center for Food Safety (CFS), in recent comments on the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service’s (AMS) proposed new rules for transitioning conventionally-raised dairy cows to organic management, asked the agency to reconsider “second day of life” rules for poultry, which requires organic management only from the birds’ second day of life forward.

Healthy Soil, Organic Methods Transfer Carbon from Atmosphere to Soil

August 20, 2015 - Agricultural soils could absorb enough atmospheric carbon to reduce the threat of catastrophic climate change, but only if farmers and ranchers worldwide abandon damaging practices and work to restore soil health, researchers say.

A recent report by the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Massachusetts, (NOFA-MASS), citing dozens of scientific studies, calculates that global grasslands and croplands contain ample capacity to absorb and store enough carbon to drop atmospheric levels from the current 400 ppm to 350 ppm. In theory, that change could take place within five years - if farmers worldwide immediately altered their practices.

NOSB Drops Fortified Wine, Antibiotics from National List

August 20, 2015 - Conventionally-produced Marsala and Sherry wine will be formally dropped from the USDA’s National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances (National List) this year, along with two antibiotics formerly used to treat bacterial infections in organic fruit trees.

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) voted last year to remove non-organic fortified wines from the National List, and also to uphold the expiration of exemptions allowing use of the antibiotics streptomycin and tetracycline in organic production.

OFRF Projects Make Impact in Southern U.S.

August 20, 2015 - The number of organic producers and organic acres varies greatly by region, and USDA data show that the southern U.S. has the fewest organic operators as well as the fewest organic acres.

OFRF funding is creating a more prominent organic presence in the southern U.S. by increasing research and outreach that encourages growth in the southern organic sector. Our research partners are tackling the challenges facing organic farmers in the South, and creating innovative projects that address their needs.

Big Food Piles on as Congress Considers GMO Label Ban

August 20, 2015 - This summer the so-called “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act,” passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a one-sided vote of 275-150. Opponents of the legislation prefer the name Deny Americans the Right to Know Act (DARK) because it denies states the right to require labeling of GMO foods, and consumers the right to know what their food contains.

If approved, the DARK Act would nullify laws in three states that require labeling of food products containing GMO ingredients. Vermont law mandates labeling of food products with GMO ingredients beginning July 1, 2016; while labeling laws in Connecticut and Maine are scheduled to go into effect when other northeastern states pass similar legislation.  Another 17 states are considering similar legislation.

The DARK Act would bar states from enacting laws requiring GMO labeling, block state laws prohibiting the term “natural” on advertising and labels of GMO foods, and make it virtually impossible for U.S. Food and Drug Administration to set up a mandatory national GMO labeling system.  

OFRF Research Partner Releases New Varieties of Open-Pollinated Sweet Corn

July 24, 2015 - Two new varieties of open-pollinated, sweet corn will be available in limited quantities for the 2016 planting season, thanks to ongoing research by Oregon farmer and OFRF research partner Jonathan Spero.

The commercial release of Top Hat and Tuxana sweet corn seed is a welcome milestone in the movement to revive traditional crop breeding, and increase the selection of organic-friendly varieties whose seed can be saved by farmers. Spero’s sweet corn breeding project was supported by a four-year research grant from OFRF.

Spero expects his new varieties of white and yellow sweet corn to see additional improvements in coming years, as they are planted in new regions and the seed is saved and replanted by numerous farmers and gardeners.

“I have shown how these crop improvements can be made, and new varieties created, without advanced technology or large amounts of money,” Spero said in his report. “Others may see that they too can step up from gardening or farming to plant breeding and crop improvement. It may help return crop improvement and varietal ownership to the farmer.”

Organic Farming Research Foundation Seeks Research Abstracts for 2016 Organic Agriculture Research Symposium

July 24, 2015 - Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) and the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension (KARE) Center invite the submission of research papers for presentation at the 2016 Organic Agriculture Research Symposium (OARS), taking place Jan. 20, in Pacific Grove, CA, immediately before the Ecological Farming Association’s annual EcoFarm Conference.

Research Shows Effect of Compost on Weed, Seed Germination

July 24, 2015 - Can compost supply crops with nutrients and fight weeds?

Weeds are one of the top challenges for organic crop producers. Researcher Dr. Gladis Zinati set out in her OFRF project to look for a new practical solution for organic weed management: compost extracts. Zinati just completed her project at the Rodale Institute in Kutztown, PA looking at whether compost extracts could reduce weed seed germination.

The study found that different types of compost vary in their ability to suppress weeds, and also in the undesirable effect of suppressing crop seed germination. “The funding I received from OFRF was integral to test the concept of compost extract as a tool for weed suppression,” Zinati said.

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