Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District

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


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.

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Source:  National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, July 13, 2017


Dirt has a microbiome, and it may double as an antidepressant

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No one would blame you for not wanting your body to be infested with creatures from your garden. But maybe you should rethink your position.

Your garden has its own microbiome, and research suggests it’s good for you. Our health depends on the flourishing microbiome in our guts—and on how much of the natural world’s microbiome we let infiltrate.

Lately, thanks to modern life, we don’t let in a lot. But in a string of pioneering studies, scientists are beginning to look at what would happen if we literally inject microbes from the soil into our bodies, reintroducing us to the ancient relationship between bacteria and human. So far, the results have been uplifting—to both the scientists and the subjects they study.

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Source:  Zoe Schlanger, Quartz, May 30, 2017


Manure and Bedding Composting for Energy and Fertilizer

University of New Hampshire researcher John Aber has been using a Northeast SARE Agroecosystems award to explore the waste streams and energy cycles on an organic dairy farm. The purpose of his research is to help dairy farmers take advantage of manure, bedding, and waste hay by turning it into energy and fertilizer for the farm or for sale. This 3 minute video describes how the on farm composting system works. The heat generated by the composting process is captured and used for farm hot-water demand, accounting for about 20% of the value of the system.

“Composting is a growth industry and this is a very cost effective way to compost and to capture energy created in the process,” says Aber.  Farms can use the compost as a fertilizer and soil amendment or bag it and sell it. For more information on this kind of composting system, you can contact John Aber or Matt Aber, research scientist at UNH’s Organic Dairy Research Farm.

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Source:  Kathy Voth, On Pasture, May 1, 2017


What Do Different Plants Tell Us About Our Soils and How to Improve Them?

Greg Brann, Natural Resources Conservation Service Grazing Specialist in Tennessee, recently sent some information out to his local farmers about “indicator plants” along with some tips for how to use that information to improve soil health and pasture quality.  It’s good information for everyone to consider.

What Are Indicator Plants?

Indicator Plants are plants that, by their presence or abundance, can help us assess the quality of the site and what’s occurring below the surface. The chart below describes what the plants you see are telling you about what’s happening below the surface.

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Source:  Greg Brann, On Pasture, May 1, 2017