Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District

We inspire and partner with our community to protect the natural resources and agricultural future of our District.


Third Annual Vineyard Soil Health Symposium Video

This year’s focus is on vineyard tillage management. We had the honor of hosting Dr. Patty Skinkis,Professor & Viticulture Extension Specialist at Oregon State University, as our featured speaker. Her presentation covered results from a long-term vineyard floor management research trial conducted in a commercial vineyard. No till, alternate row tilling, and clean cultivated alleys were compared over a nine-year period and monitored for soil moisture, plant water stress, vine growth, and yield. Sonoma RCD also shared its findings from its 3-year vineyard tillage trial in Kenwood.

If you have any questions please contact Keith Abeles, Soil and Water Specialist at 707-569-1448 ext 112 or email at kabeles@sonomarcd.org.

Visit the North Coast Soil Health Hub for information on soil health trials and research going on in our region:http://soilhub.org/

Hosted by the Sonoma and Gold Ridge Resource Conservation Districts and Sonoma County Winegrape Commission.


Painting the World with Water

The ten currently-flying satellites in the Global Precipitation Measurement Constellation provide unprecedented information about the rain and snow across the entire Earth. This visualization shows the constellation in action, taking precipitation measurements underneath the satellite orbits. As time progresses and the Earth’s surface is covered with measurements, the structure of the Earth’s preciptation becomes clearer, from the constant rainfall patterns along the Equator to the storm fronts in the mid-latitudes. The dynamic nature of the precipitation is revealed as time speeds up and the satellite data swaths merge into a continuous visualization of changing rain and snowfall. Finally, the video fades into a visualization of IMERG, the newly available data set of global precipitation every thirty minutes that is derived from this satellite data.
Visualizers: Horace Mitchell (lead), Alex Kekesi
For more information or to download this public domain video, go to https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/4369#21849.


The President’s FY 2021 Budget Proposal and Sustainable Agriculture Priorities

Gerald-G-US-Capitol-Building

The following is a summary from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.  You can read their entire post here.  Here’s a brief roundup:  

Once again President Trump has offered a budget request to Congress that contradicts many of his public statements regarding his Administration’s support for farmers, ranchers, and rural communities. Like each of the previous budget request proposed by President Trump, the fiscal year (FY) 2021 budget includes substantial cuts to federal food and farm programs.

President Trump’s FY 2021 budget proposes to slash the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) budget by nearly $62 billion total. The President has proposed $2 billion in cuts to discretionary programs, roughly 8% of FY 2020 spending (estimated) that is set by Congressional appropriators. The President also proposes $60 billion in cuts to mandatory agriculture spending including important safety net programs like crop insurance and SNAP as well as rural development and conservation programs. Very little of USDA was spared the budget axe.

While the indiscriminate cuts to critical food and farm programs proposed in the budget would have devastating effects on farmers and ranchers, rural communities, land stewardship, and anti-hunger efforts they are only projections of the President’s priorities and do not have the force of law. Congress makes the real decisions about how and where to spend federal funding and hopefully they will reject the President’s proposed cuts for the FY 2021 just as they chosen to do since the beginning of his term. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition will be working with Congress over the next few  months to ensure that the President’s shortsighted proposals are not enacted and instead robust investments in sustainable agriculture research, conservation, and food systems that support farmers and consumers in every community are included in the FY 2021 agriculture spending bill.

Budget Overview

The release of the President’s budget proposal marks the beginning of the hectic annual budget and appropriations process. The President’s budget lays out the Executive branch’s vision for how funding should be allocated by Congress as it develops and passes appropriations bills. Congress works to develop and pass 12 appropriations bills each year, one of which includes food and agriculture spending.

When it comes to food and agriculture programs and NSAC’s priorities the president’s budget includes concerning cuts to both discretionary and mandatory funding (Changes in Mandatory Program Spending or “CHIMPS”). The most concerning of which is the dramatic CHIMPS to the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) a program NSAC worked with Congress to create in the 2008 farm bill and reauthorize in all subsequent farm bills. The President’s budget proposes to eliminate all funding for the program. In addition, the President’s budget proposes to eliminate nearly all discretionary funding for rural business development programs, including the Value-Added Producers Grants (VAPG) Program (an NSAC priority program), and funding for the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program, the other core subprogram of the Local Agriculture Market Program. The President’s budget would also see discretionary funding eliminated for the WIC Farmers Market Nutrition program (WIC FMNP), another NSAC priority program that helps support farmers markets and low income women and children.

While the President’s budget is filled with untenable cuts to food and farm spending, NSAC was pleased to see that the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program and the Food Safety Outreach Program (FSOP) were spared cuts as had been proposed in previous budgets. NSAC believes both programs deserve increases to help farmers produce safe and wholesome food while meeting the challenges of climate and environmental degradation but we are pleased to see proposed flat funding for SARE and FSOP nonetheless.

Conservation

The President’s budget proposal includes sweeping cuts to federal conservation programs, undermining the work of Congress to uphold and strengthen these programs in the 2018 Farm Bill. The most concerning is the aforementioned proposal to completely eliminate CSP. For the last three fiscal years, Congress has held fast and rejected any cuts to mandatory conservation funding through the appropriations process. It is disappointing that the Administration would continue to propose cuts to these vital conservation programs that help tens of thousands of farmers each year to enhance their soil, reduce water pollution, and protect wildlife habitat and other natural resources.

As in past years, the President’s budget also includes a proposed CHIMPS to the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) of $40 million. Finally, the President’s budget includes a proposal to cut approximately $6 million to the Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA). CTA funding supports NRCS field staff as they work one-on-one with farmers to develop and implement resource conservation plans on their farms. While the proposed $6 million cut is far less than proposed in previous President’s budgets, it is are still concerning as staff capacity at NRCS is already extremely limited and further cuts would undermine NRCS ability to provide on-the-ground conservation support to farmers.

The President’s budget also proposes several changes to the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). One change would  target CRP funding towards environmentally sensitive areas and limit the enrollment of whole farm fields, which is something NSAC generally supports. However, the budget also proposes to eliminate all funding for incentive payments, which are critical to support the continuous CRP (CCRP) enrollment option and reduces all rental payments to 80 percent of the average county rental rate or 10 percent lower than the rate authorized by the farm bill. These changes would limit CRP program participation and negate any positive impacts of addition focus on environmentally sensitive areas.

More info here.

Source:  National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Feb 21, 2020.


Can Mushrooms Save the Bees?

Mycologist Paul Stamets shares the importance of his groundbreaking discovery about the importance of mushrooms for immune health in individual bees and entire colonies.

Old-growth forests are libraries of ancestral knowledge, with fungi being the biological network that connects it all. Visionary researcher Paul Stamets has spent more than 40 years studying mycelium, its ability to recycle nutrients, and its role in sustaining life from the ground up. He’s now using those restorative properties to save the bees from extinction.

Bee populations are declining as they face viruses precipitated by climate change. But Stamets’ groundbreaking invention of MycoHoney, made by bees that sip mycelium droplets, provides nutrients to safeguard bee survival. MycoHoney is the first step to saving the world’s most important pollinators from the growing threat of extinction, and ensuring the survival of humanity in the process. It doesn’t get much sweeter than this.


Healthy Soils Program Application Streamlined, Max Award Amount Increases Ahead of Record Round

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) recently proposed a number of improvements to the Healthy Soils Program (HSP), which should ease the application process for farmers. This is good news that comes ahead of the next round of funding for the program, which will make available a record $28 million in grants to farmers and ranchers (nearly twice as much as the last round).

The proposed improvements, summarized below, were included in CDFA’s recent draft Request for Grant Applications (RGA). The final Request for Grant Applications is expected to be released in February, which will officially kick off a 4-month rolling application period. If you have ever considered applying to the program, this will be a good year to do so!

We are excited about the proposed improvements because they align with our recommendations to address a number of barriers to scaling up the program identified in a survey we conducted of technical assistance providers in May of 2019. We are very grateful to CDFA for hosting listening sessions with more than 100 stakeholders in the summer and fall of 2019 and so clearly responding to much of the feedback with these proposed changes.

Summary of CDFA’s proposed improvements to the Healthy Soils Program:

  1. Increases the maximum grant award from $75,000 to $100,000.
  2. Allows previously implemented healthy soils practices to be implemented on a new, different field within the same (previously funded) Assessor Parcel Number (APN).
  3. Reduces the essay-type questions in the application.
  4. Integrates the budget worksheet’s payment rates into Comet-Planner and uses a map-based, integrated application input tool to reduce the number of attachments and external websites required in the application.
  5. Institutes a rolling application submission period of up to 4 months (or until funds expended).
  6. Instates a 25% set-aside of the total available funds for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers (SDFRs) and projects benefitting low-income and disadvantaged communities.*
  7. Includes Whole Orchard Recycling (WOR) as an eligible practice.
  8. Promises to provide applicants notifications and feedback within 6 weeks of submitting their application.

We believe the above changes will greatly improve farmers’ and ranchers’ experience with the program and respond to many of the concerns and recommendations we have heard over the years from stakeholders implementing this program on the ground.

We will continue to seek some remaining changes based on stakeholder feedback, which you can read about in our recent comment letter on the draft RGA. But the big takeaway is the application process for this next round should be noticeably improved.

If you are considering applying, we strongly encourage you to find a local technical assistance provider who can help you understand the program rules, design a project, successfully fill out the application, and even help out with implementation and reporting – all free-of-charge.

There are over 40 technical assistance providers funded by the state to provide this free assistance. Find one in your region by going to these two links below:

  1. CDFA-Funded Technical Assistance Providers
  2. UCANR Climate Smart Agriculture Team’s Technical Assistance Providers

Stay tuned: We will post another blog when the final Request for Applications is released and the application period officially opens.

Source:  Brian Shobe, CalCAN, January 14, 2020


Funding Available for Dairy/Livestock Alternative Manure Management Projects

Applications Due March 27th

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) recently announced a new round of available funding for the Alternative Manure Management Program (AMMP).  Between $6.1 million and $10.7 million will be available for grants to dairy and livestock producers interested in projects that reduce methane emissions on their operations by shifting away from wet manure handling and storage to dry manure management, including pasture-based practices. In our recent analysis of AMMP projects, about two-thirds of awardees turn their manure into compost. For a complete list of eligible practices, see the recent Request for Grant Applications.

CDFA is also making available $450,000 for AMMP Demonstration Projects to support outreach and education efforts to highlight the multiple benefits of AMMP projects for producers. Eligible applicants include California universities, UCCE, RCDs and nonprofits with agriculture outreach expertise, working in collaboration with dairy or livestock operators who have received AMMP funding.

Farmer demand for the AMMP program funding has exceeded available funding in the past.  We encourage producers to work with available technical assistance providers who can help with the application.  You can find a list of those TA providers here.

CDFA will host three upcoming workshops on the AMMP program in Modesto (Feb. 18th), Petaluma (Feb. 19th) and Fresno (Feb. 20th).  You can find location and webinar information (if you prefer to join online instead of in-person) on the CDFA website.

Source:  Jeanne Merrill, CalCAN, February 12, 2020