USDA Webinar for Small-Scale Livestock Producers

Coming up next week: the USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) will hold a webinar to discuss the Grass-Fed Program for Small and Very Small (SVS) Producers–a program that aims to create more opportunities for small-scale livestock produces.

The webinar will go over eligibility and how to market products as USDA Certified Grass Fed Beef in a way that is less costly and more in tune with the needs of small-scale producers. In order to get this certification, weaned animals must be fed only grass and forage and no grain or grain byproducts. Ruminants must also have access to pasture throughout the growing season.

AMS announced this new program for small grass-fed producers this past spring. Read more on the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s blog and on the USDA’s blog.

 

Who: Small-scale and niche market livestock producers (those marketing less than 49 head of cattle each year).

What: AMS webinar about the Grass-Fed Program for Small and Very Small Producers.

Where: Listen in via phone or computer: Phone: 866.740.1260, access code 72020000; Computerhttp://www.readytalk.com On the left side of the screen enter participant access code: 72020000.

When: Tuesday August 5th; 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM Eastern Time

**Send questions for the presenters to Jennifer.Turpin@ams.usda.gov

USDA Announces Funding for Organic Certification Costs

Getting certified by the USDA National Organic Program is expensive. That’s why the USDA recently shelled out nearly $13 million to help bring costs down. This is a win for small producers and handlers, many of whom have been growing organic products but haven’t been able to afford certification.

The money, which is made possible through the Farm Bill, covers up to 75 percent of certification costs, up to 750 dollars. These funds may be used for certification-related expenses spent between this past October and September 30, 2014.

Visit the NOP Cost Share Website for information on how to apply for these funds. Questions should be directed to Dana Stahl the USDA’s Organic Certification Cost Share Program Manager at Dana.Stahl@ams.usda.gov, (540) 361-1126.

All About Soil Health

As stewards of the land, farmers are responsible for maintaining fertile land for future generations. A big part of this is preserving rich, healthy soil, which is important not only for a sustainable future but also for the crops these farmers grow. Soil health is a science and can be tricky to master, but there are plenty of resources available to farmers to help.

Not sure how the quality of soil impacts you? The Rodale Institute created a Soil Biology webinar to explain why healthy soil is important to individuals and the ecosystem as a whole. “The soil is not, as many suppose, a dead, inert substance,” J.I. Rodale wrote in Pay Dirt: Farming and Gardening with Composts. “It is very much alive and dynamic. It teems with bacteria, actinomycetes, fungi, molds, yeasts, protozoa, algae and other minute organisms.” The webinar goes on to explain what elements should be abundant in soil and how to maintain those levels.

A crucial aspect to preserving healthy soil is testing. Cooperative Extension offers soil testing resources and guides to help with this process. Click here to find an Extension agent near you. Many Cooperative Extensions provide online educational resources. University of Maine Extension offers this publication with a step-by-step guide to soil testing. Cornell University Cooperative Extension has an entire webpage for soil health, including the “Cornell Soil Health Assessment Training Manual,” a soil health management plan and informative videos dedicated to proper soil testing. The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension also offers a soil health webpage with various publications, updated news on soil health science and a list of websites that can provide further help.

While these organizations provide an overview of how to sustain soil health, there are many outlets that offer information on the nitty-gritty of related topics. The Rodale Institute compiled reports and publications related to soil health research discussing specific issues the organization is working on. Many of these can be viewed online here. Rodale also provides an informative, focused webinar, “Impacts of Plastic and Cover Crop Mulches on Weeds, Soil Quality, Yields and Season Length for Tomatoes.”

ATTRA also compiled a list of publications the organization created that discuss specific topics surrounding soil health, ranging from “A Brief Overview of Nutrient Cycling in Pastures” to “Rye as a Cover Crop” to “Alternative Soil Amendments.” ATTRA also offers two educational webinars discussing soil health: “Organic Research and Needs: Cover Crops, Crop Rotation and Soil Health” and “Innovative No-Till: Using Multi-Species Cover Crops to Improve Soil Health.”