Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District

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


Straus Family Creamery powered by cow gas

StausDairy_Panorama_May2012

With barely a sound, the red and white International Harvester feed truck unloaded a mix of silage, barley and rice to a dozen pregnant cows, releasing a sour, grassy aroma into the foggy morning at Straus Family Creamery in Marshall. The all-electric feed truck is entirely powered by methane gas that was released by the farm’s 280 cows, or rather, their poop.

“I like to say the cows are powering the truck that feeds them,” said owner Albert Straus, whose organic dairy is perched on the edge of Tomales Bay in Marin County.

The truck, which went into service this month, had a timely debut. On Tuesday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation extending cap-and-trade regulations, AB398, part of the state’s effort to cut greenhouse gases 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. Methane gas heats up the atmosphere as much as 20 times as quickly as carbon dioxide, and a big source is cow manure and burps.

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Source:  Tara Duggan, San Francisco Chronicle, July 25, 2017


House Budget Committee’s Spending Proposal Could Derail Farm Bill

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Late in the evening of July 17th, following over twelve hours of debate and markup, the House Budget Committee passed its budget parameters for fiscal year (FY) 2018. The budget, which was voted out of Committee along partisan lines (22 Republicans voting in favor and 14 Democrats against), includes an immediate $10 billion 10-year cut to farm bill food and agricultural programs – a move that promises to cause problems, if not wholly derail, the upcoming farm bill negotiations.

The Committee’s budget proposal sets the blueprint for both discretionary (appropriated) and mandatory spending through resolution. As expected, the budget provides “reconciliation instructions” for tax cuts as well as instructions for 11 authorizing committees to cut at least $203 billion in mandatory funding over the coming decade. The authorizing committees would be required to write legislation to achieve those cuts and report that legislation back to the Budget Committee by October 6th.

Included within the $203 billion in cuts to mandatory spending is a $10 billion cut to food and agriculture programs within the farm bill. Though theoretically the Agriculture Committee could cut any program within their jurisdiction, the explanatory materials provided by the Budget Committee make plain that the target is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), more commonly referred to as food stamps. The severity of such a cut, its potential political impact on the feasibility of passing the next farm bill, and the consequences such a funding loss would have for American low-income and rural communities cannot be understated.

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Source:  National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, July 20, 2017.


To Till or Not to Till

Source:  Eric Brennan, USDA ARS

No-till & conservation tillage agriculture is GROWING & has many BENEFITS over conventional till BUT also has challenges. Eric discusses this COMPLEXITY with COLORFUL examples & images, cutting-edge SCIENCE, and RESEARCH efforts to develop cover crop-based reduced-tillage methods for VEGETABLE production in California’s tillage-intensive Salinas Valley, (America’s Salad Bowl). Can these CARBON-FRIENDLY practices help sequester soil carbon and reduce CLIMATE CHANGE? Do no-till systems yield more? Should high-value organic & conventional vegetable farms eliminate or reduce tillage or should other LOWER HANGING fruit to increase agricultural sustainability be addressed first?

Eric Brennan’s Tillage Reading List of Scientific Literature
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B9V…
The pdf files of these 10 paper can be obtained here from this 6MB zipped file https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B9V… or use this 25MB zipped file link https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B9V… to get pdf files of all papers noted in this reading list (i.e., the 10 in mentioned in the video and many others).

This information was first presented at the Ecological Farming Association Conference in January 2017 and at the California Climate and Agriculture Summit in February 2017, organized by the California Climate and Agriculture Network (CalCAN). http://calclimateag.org/

http://www.researchgate.net/profile/Eric_Brennan/publications

 


The Numbers Behind the Farm Bill: A Little-Known Factor for the Fate of Sustainable Ag Programs

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Editor’s Note: This is the third of a four-part series explaining the background budget information that will be used to craft the upcoming 2018 Farm Bill. In this post we look in more detail at the smaller, more innovative programs that receive direct farm bill funding but will need to have their funding renewed in the next farm bill. In part four we will give more attention to the bill’s Nutrition Title. In an effort to simplify the complex subject of farm bill funding, we will present these blogs in FAQ format.

This series was inspired by the late June publication by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) of a new 10-year budget baseline projection for the farm bill. The CBO baseline provides the backdrop for farm bill spending decisions, since it establishes farm bill program costs assuming no changes are made to existing policies. As policy changes are made by Congress as part of the crafting of the farm bill, each change will be “scored” against the baseline to determine if the policy change increases or decreases farm bill spending, and by how much.

Why Do Some Farm Bill Programs Lack Permanent Funding? Why Does it Matter?

In part one and two of this series, we discussed farm bill nutrition, commodity, crop insurance, and conservation programs, all of which have “permanent” baseline. That is to say, they have a large cost and are assumed by CBO to continue on past the expiration of the current farm bill. As was mentioned, if Congress did nothing but simply extend the current farm bill, the programs, which combined make up nearly 99 percent of farm bill costs, would continue to exist and continue to spend billions of dollars.

However, there is another category of programs, that are very important, though significantly smaller. These programs are scattered throughout the farm bill, including the research, rural development, energy, horticulture, and miscellaneous titles of the bill. A few of the programs for fruits and vegetables (Specialty Crop Block Grants; Specialty Crop Research Initiative) and renewable energy (Rural Energy for America Program) gained permanent baseline in the 2014 Farm Bill, so now, like the bigger farm bill programs, they will continue to exist and provide funding on into the distant future even if Congress were to simply extend the current farm bill.

But most of the programs that make up the one percent do not have permanent baseline. They were provided mandatory funding in the 2014 Farm Bill (and in many cases, earlier farm bills as well), but will need to be provided with new funding in the 2018 bill to continue on into the future. These programs include, for example, the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (Section 2501), Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), Value-Added Producer Grants, Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program, and Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research. (See our blog from March for a full list.)

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Source:  National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, July 14, 2017


Why nature restoration takes time: fungi grow ‘relationships’

Why nature restoration takes time

How strong are the ‘relationships’ in soil communities? From left to right the interaction strength between groups in seminatural grasslands are visualized on recently, mid-term and long-term abandoned agricultural fields. Credit: Elly Morriën et al. / Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW)

‘Relationships’ in the soil become stronger during the process of nature restoration. Although all major groups of soil life are already present in former agricultural soils, they are not really ‘connected’ at first. These connections need time to (literally) grow, and fungi are the star performers here. A European research team led by the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) has shown the complete network of soil life for the first time. This Wednesday, the results of the extensive study are published in Nature Communications.

Earthworms, , nematodes, mites, springtails, bacteria: it’s very busy underground! All soil life together forms one giant society. Under natural circumstances, that is. A large European research team discovered that when you try to restore nature on grasslands formerly used as agricultural fields, there is something missing. Lead author Elly Morriën from the Netherlands Institute of Ecology explains: “All the overarching, known groups of soil organisms are present from the start, but the links between them are missing. Because they don’t ‘socialise’, the community isn’t ready to support a diverse plant community yet.”

When nature restoration progresses, you’ll see new species appearing. But those major groups of soil life remain the same and their links grow stronger. “Just like the development of human communities”, says Morriën. “People start to take care of each other. In the soil, you can see that organisms use each other’s by-products as food.” In this way, nature can store and use nutrients such as carbon far more efficiently.

Source:  Phys, February 8, 2017

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-02-nature-fungi-relationships.html#jCp


Call your State Legislators: Support Climate Action & Sustainable Agriculture Solutions!

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California’s legislature will vote on Monday, July 17th on a much-debated pair of bills that address both climate change and air pollution. The bills extend California’s cap-and-trade program and improve air pollution monitoring and enforcement. The bills also reaffirm the importance of sustainable agricultural solutions to climate change. Please find more background on the bills below.

This is a critical time to call your state representatives and urge their support in continuing California’s global role as a leader on climate change. The future of the state’s Climate Smart Agriculture programs is at stake.

Phone calls are much more impactful than email and it takes only less than a minute leave a message. Find your Senator and Assemblymember by clicking here.

The message is simple: “I’m calling to support AB 398 and AB 617, which reaffirm our commitment to climate change action in California, including funding for the Climate Smart Agriculture programs. The programs provide crucial resources for farmers and ranchers to address climate change and improve our environment overall.” Give your name and town/city. 
Make those calls! Let us know what you hear from your state Senator and Assemblymember.  Drop us a line: info@calclimateag.org.

Source:  CalCAN


The Numbers Behind the Farm Bill: the Commodity and Conservation Titles

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Editor’s Note: This is the second of a four-part series explaining the background budget information that will be used to craft the upcoming 2018 Farm Bill. In this post we look in more detail at the commodity and conservation titles of the farm bill. In part three will focus on programs that will need to have their funding renewed in the next farm bill, and in part four we will give more attention to the bill’s Nutrition Title. In an effort to simplify the complex subject of farm bill funding, we will present these blogs in FAQ format.

This series was inspired by the late June publication by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) of a new 10-year budget baseline projection for the farm bill. The CBO baseline provides the backdrop for farm bill spending decisions, since it establishes farm bill program costs assuming no changes are made to existing policies. As policy changes are made by Congress as part of the crafting of the farm bill, each change will be “scored” against the baseline to determine if the policy change increases or decreases farm bill spending, and by how much.

What Influences the Cost of Farm Bill Commodity Programs?

The cost of the Commodity Title is driven by changes in commodity prices. In particular, the cost of the Title is currently being driven by one of the primary commodity programs – Price Loss Coverage (PLC), which fluctuates counter to changes in commodity prices; i.e., when commodity prices are down, PLC subsidy payments are up, and vice versa. When the 2014 Farm Bill was passed, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) assumed that commodity prices would be higher than they are today. However, following several years of low commodity prices, we are now experiencing higher than average commodity program payments rates. Overall, CBO’s 10-year projection for commodity program subsidies in the 2018 Farm Bill is $13 billion higher than the projections from the 2014 bill.

Continue here.

Source:  National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, July 13, 2017