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Tuesday, March 23, 2021 - 11:00am

WASHINGTON, March 23, 2021 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today an $11.5 million research investment to help ensure America’s small and medium-sized farms become more profitable and improve the quality of life in American farm communities.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021 - 10:00am

Happy National Agriculture Day from all of us at the Cornell Small Farms Program!

We extend our gratefulness to all who work hard to feed, fuel, and fiber us, fill our landscapes with beauty, help our farmers with seeds and supplies, and support agriculture as a viable and meaningful vocation. Your combined efforts continue to bring bounty to our tables. Your commitment to our NYS agriculture has been critical during the trying times of this pandemic.

We are excited to do our part in supporting your agricultural work. Your interest, hunger for knowledge, and commitment to small farms is what feeds and motivates us.

We celebrate today and every day your efforts to sustain vibrant small farms that feed our communities and our local economies.

The post Happy National Agriculture Day appeared first on Cornell Small Farms.

Monday, March 22, 2021 - 1:31pm

Like countless schools across the country, the Live Oak Unified School District, about 50 miles north of Sacramento, had to shift their operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Monday, March 22, 2021 - 1:30pm

WASHINGTON, March 22, 2021 — The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced today a 15 percent increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits through September 2021, providing an estimated $3.5 billion to households experiencing food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Monday, March 22, 2021 - 10:41am

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) links U.S. agriculture to the world to enhance export opportunities and global food security. Globally, food waste is estimated at 1.6 billion tonnes and arises from many causes from farm to table. In developing countries, these causes include lack of cold-chain storage (refrigeration and freezing, for example), poor-post harvest handling techniques, and lack of access to markets. What is FAS doing to help reduce food loss and waste? This interview features insights from Paige Cowie, Resilient Agriculture Program Manager, USDA Foreign Agricultural Service.

Monday, March 22, 2021 - 10:00am

Assorted cuts of lamb meat.
Betsy Hodge / CCE St. Lawrence

For NYS farmers seeking to regain some control over butchering their animals, there is a middle option between being at the whim of slaughterhouse schedules and opening your own slaughterhouse. That middle ground involves taking control of the cutting and packaging of your meat in a commercial kitchen. If done properly, with access to USDA slaughter and your own state-issued 20-C license, you can still sell your meat directly to consumers by the cut. But there’s a lot to know to make this work.

In the latest webinar from the Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Livestock Program Work Team, experts will detail the regulatory aspects of meat-cutting in a 20-C kitchen in NYS, including requirements for building a 20-C kitchen and where farmers are allowed to sell meat processed in this way. They’ll also discuss the logistics and economics of the whole endeavor from a farmer perspective: getting slaughter-only dates at a USDA plant, transporting a carcass safely, where to get meat-cutting experience, and other factors that would influence whether this is the right decision for your farm.

Cutting Meat in a Commercial Kitchen: 20-C Licenses and Selling Cuts of Meat from Your Farm

Wednesday, March 31, from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. via Zoom

Register Now

This webinar will be an interactive discussion with Cory Skier, Supervisor in NYS Ag and Markets Food Safety Inspection Division, and Heather Sandford, founding farmer and butcher at The Piggery, now with Empire Food Consultants. The conversation will be facilitated by our own Erica Frenay, livestock specialist and online course coordinator with the Cornell Small Farms Program.

This event is part of a larger partnership between the Cornell Small Farms Program and CCE livestock educators to support livestock producers in the state by developing collaborative resources like the  on livestock management, and the .

Also, the Cornell Small Farms Program contributed a paper on the livestock industry as part of a series of nine papers on the  by experts from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) at Cornell University.

The post Learn About Cutting Meat in a Commercial Kitchen with Upcoming Livestock Webinar appeared first on Cornell Small Farms.

Thursday, March 18, 2021 - 2:30pm

WASHINGTON, March 18, 2021 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the USDA Forest Service will invest more than $218 million to fund Great American Outdoors Act projects to conserve critical forest and wetland habitat, support rural economic recovery, and increase public access to national forests and grasslands.

Thursday, March 18, 2021 - 10:56am
Monarch butterfly in South Dakota. Photo credit: Dennis Larson The Conservation Stewardship Program

As our nation’s largest working lands conservation program, the Farm Bill’s Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), can and should be a boon for wildlife. But cuts in program funding under the previous administration left limited resources that farmers can use to enhance their conservation efforts on the lands they steward. During these uncertain times, our nation’s farmers and ranchers are facing upheaval from a pandemic, a failed trade war, climate change, systemic racism and environmental injustice, and pressure to sell their land to developers. But this program helps keep working lands working and farmer livelihoods thriving while providing crucial wildlife habitat.

CSP is designed to reward farmers who apply a conservation ethic across their entire operation by offering five year payments to producers who take on highly beneficial conservation practices on their farms. CSP’s highly beneficial practices—called enhancements—can include creating monarch butterfly habitat, protecting wildlife corridors, restoring riparian forest buffers and installing wildlife friendly fencing.  In fiscal year 2019, over 450,000 acres had at least one conservation practice or enhancement that directly benefited wildlife habitat. But indirect enhancements can also help wildlife, too. For example, encouraging producers to use integrated pest management (IPM) to reduce pesticide use, creates a safer environment for birds and fish. Many CSP enhancements help farmers implement climate-friendly practices, including cover crops, no till, resource-conserving crop rotations, silvopasture and improved nutrient management. Each state NRCS office identifies the top eight resource concerns in their state out of 17 priority resource concerns.

CSP Under Attack

Unfortunately, CSP is under attack by some members of Congress, and the program suffered setbacks in the 2018 Farm Bill. In their attempts to do away with the program, those members tilted funding toward the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, stripping CSP of more than half of its funding, thereby lowering the baseline for legislators to work from for the 2023 Farm Bill. 

But organizations such as the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) and Defenders of Wildlife worked hard to protect the program, and it maintained its core components and some policy improvements. Looking ahead, we have reason to be optimistic. During his campaign, President Biden’s Rural Plan stated that his administration will push to “dramatically expand and fortify the pioneering CSP” and secure full federal funding for the program. President Biden sees CSP as a critical program to support farmer and rancher climate adaptation, mitigation and resilience efforts, which complement his recent Executive Order (EO) to conserve at least 30% of our nation’s lands and waters by 2030. The EO calls for an interagency, whole-of-government process, mirrored in the House resolution (H.Res.69) introduced in January 2021 by Reps. Neguse (D-CO), Lowenthal (D-CA) and Huffman (D-CA) to draft a National Biodiversity Strategy. By establishing a National Biodiversity Strategy, we can focus our commitment to addressing wildlife and habitat loss and tackling species extinctions.

With two-thirds of land in the Lower 48 under private ownership, many federally listed species and other species of conservation concern depend on private lands. A recent study published in the journal of the Society for Conservation Biology concluded that working lands need at least 20% native habitat to sustain biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people. To help reach this target, we recommend that Congress improve the wildlife conservation outcomes of CSP by establishing climate change mitigation, adaptation and resilience practices, enhancements and bundles to address the effects of climate change on wildlife. 

Agricultural production, wildlife and natural ecosystems are threatened by the effects of climate change. Climate change reduces the ability of working lands to provide ecosystem services, such as water storage, pollination and pest control. We recommend adding climate adaptation, mitigation, and resilience as a resource concern to further build the adaptive capacity of wildlife and working lands as the climate continues to change. Furthermore, we recommend adding soil health improvement, carbon sequestration, greenhouse gas emissions reduction and habitat improvement and connectivity to the criteria for ranking proposals for entry into the program to enhance the program’s ability to address wildlife and climate change concerns. 

To address historical inequities in access to Farm Bill programs, we also recommend reversing the shortcomings of the 2020 CSP Final Rule to ensure that farmers can renew their contracts without penalty; making sure the ranking tool gives equal weight to ongoing and new conservation practices to protect the best stewards from being at a disadvantage in securing contracts; protect the minimum payment option that supports small-scale, diversified and organic producers; and, maintain separate ranking tools for beginning farmers and farmers of color. 

Defenders and NSAC Uphold Commitment to CSP

In the short term, we will work with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) at the national level to ensure that the program is administered in a way that benefits wildlife, supports farmers in addressing climate change and is accessible to all. We will also work at the state level to ensure that local wildlife priorities drive the implementation of the program on the ground. Over the longer term, we will work with Congress during the 2023 Farm Bill reauthorization to increase the program’s funding, make policy changes to improve the program’s accessibility and emphasize climate adaptation, mitigation, and resilience, and maximize its benefits to wildlife and rural communities. 

We look forward to working with the Biden-Harris administration, the new Congress and producers to enhance the rules, law and funding that the program needs to continue combating our planet’s biodiversity and climate crises.


Mary Pfaffko

Senior Policy Analyst, Private Lands

Mary Pfaffko joined Defenders of Wildlife in 2017 where she conducts policy research and analysis, and develops information, partnerships, and programs to further science-based wildlife conservation on private lands nationwide.

Cristel Zoebisch

Policy Specialist

Cristel holds an M.A. in Food Studies from New York University, where she focused on food and agricultural economics and policy. She staffs NSAC’s Conservation, Energy and Environment Committee and helps coordinate its Climate Change Subcommittee.

The post Farm Bill Program Addresses the Nation’s Biodiversity and Climate Crises appeared first on National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

Thursday, March 18, 2021 - 9:28am

The spirit of The International Year of Plant Health (IYPH) was in full force this St. Patrick’s Day when President Joe Biden was presented with a shamrock bowl by the Irish Taoiseach (Irish for “chief or leader” – pronounced “tee-shuhk”), Micheál Martin, on March 17, 2021 at the White House. The shamrock bowl was delivered to the White House earlier in the week and presented to President Biden virtually. The tradition of this annual gift from the people of Ireland started in the early 1950s when Ireland’s first Ambassador, John J. Hearne, sent a small box of shamrocks to President Harry Truman.

Thursday, March 18, 2021 - 9:16am

Nutrition security has taken center stage during the pandemic. While many families struggle to put healthy food on the table, it’s important for communities to have resources to help feed and nurture families. That’s why the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) helps people develop the skills needed to prepare foods and learn how to store food in limited spaces.


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