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4-H member named a 'Young Hero'

Mariposa County 4-H member Sydnie Edwards, who coordinated efforts to reforest land devastated by the 2008 Telegraph Fire, was named a distinguished finalist by the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes. She will receive $500 for higher education or service work.

The Barron Prize honors outstanding young leaders who have made a significant positive difference to people and the planet. Sydnie is one of five students across the U.S. chosen for this honor from a pool of 400 applications.

For her "Emerald Tree Project," Sydnie, 15, secured donations of lodge pole pine trees from Cal Fire and private nurseries and arranged with landowners to plant the trees. Fellow 4-H members, Girl Scouts, school friends and community members joined Sydnie in planting 2,000 trees.

The project is part of the national 4-H Million Trees Project, which hopes to inspire 4-H youth to plant one million trees as a way to slow climate change.

Posted on Tuesday, October 5, 2010 at 10:05 AM

Agriculture’s Role in Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Capture

The American Society of Agronomy, the Crop Science Society of A

merica, and the Soil Science Society of America recently released a joint document entitled Agriculture’s Role in Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Capture. The full document can be downloaded at: https://www.agronomy.org/files/science-policy/ghg-report-august-2010.pdf.

The effort summarizes current knowledge of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and capture as influenced by cropping system, tillage management, and nutrient source (including manure) in six US agricultural regions. The six regions are the Northeast, Southeast, Cornbelt, Northern Great Plains, Southern Great Plains and the Pacific. The Pacific region includes California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Idaho. Additionally, topics requiring further research have been identified.

The report's interpretive summary states that: "Approximately 6% of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions originating in the United States (U.S.) come from agricultural activities. These gases are in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (N2O), and methane (CH4). However, by employing proper management techniques, agricultural lands can both sequester carbon and reduce CO2, CH4, and N2O emissions, thereby reducing their GHG footprint.

Cap-and-trade climate change legislation, currently under discussion in the legislative and executive branches, may have broad and long-term implications for the agricultural sector. In order to determine the role of agriculture in GHG emissions and capture, a full life cycle accounting of GHG sources and sinks is needed."

The report does a great job in explaining the effects of GHG on climate change and documents the rise in each of the three GHG's. It further offers methods of reducing agriculture's production of GHG or sequestering carbon including:

  • Reducing fuel consumption;
  • Enhancing soil carbon sequestration;
  • Improving nitrogen-use efficiency (NUE);
  • Increasing ruminant digestion efficiency;  and
  • Capturing gaseous emissions from manure and other wastes.

Livestock producers, rangeland managers and hay producers will value many of the specific suggestions for them in both reducing GHG’s and sequestering carbon.  A few of these include:

  • Harvesting forage by livestock grazing rather than mechanically - reducing fuel consumption;
  • Using legume-based rotations or organic agricultural systems to reduce N fertilizer applications - reducing fuel consumption;
  • Conservation tillage, winter cover crops and perennial pastures - enhancing soil carbon sequestration;
  • Leguminous green manures (like clovers) can convert nitrogen gas from the atmosphere to plant available N for crop use (like hay and pasture or between vineyards) - improving nitrogen-use efficiency (NUE);
  • Adjusting the portions of animal feed to decrease digestion time - increasing ruminant digestion efficiency;
  • Using edible oils or other feed additives to reduce metabolic activity of rumen bacteria that produce CH4 - increasing ruminant digestion efficiency;
  • Capturing CH4 emissions from livestock waste using covered lagoons and converting to electricity – capturing gaseous emissions from manure; and
  • Applying manure to the soil as a nutrient source rather than storing it as waste – capturing gaseous emissions from manure.

It's encouraging to know that grazing livestock and some of the typical practices we presently employ can have a positive impact on our environment. I hope all of you will download and read the entire report.

Posted on Wednesday, September 8, 2010 at 11:36 AM

Talking about water

At a recent public meeting held in Contra Costa County by UC Cooperative Extension, a female cattle rancher representing a family that has owned land in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta for generations dumped out a grocery bag with dozens of envelopes onto the table in front of her.

“This is the amount of mail I get in one week from agency people," she said, her voice trembling with anger. "They want to come onto my land and look at where they want to put big tubes to carry water down south. My family has been on this property for a long time. It’s my family’s land.”

For this woman and many others, UCCE directors in the five Delta counties opened the flood gates when they invited the public to share their feelings about water. Ten meetings were hosted to give ordinary citizens a chance to speak.

“There is a lot of frustration in the Delta region,” said Carole Paterson, director of UC Cooperative Extension in Solano County. “People felt their voices weren’t being heard.”

Paterson and county directors in Yolo, Sacramento, San Joaquin and Contra Costa counties held community conversations in local libraries and invited the public to have their say. The participants’ thoughts will be synthesized in a written report and some of their comments - videotaped during the sessions - will be part of an audio-visual presentation.

A few common themes emerged from a preliminary review of the 10 conversations, Paterson said.

Frustration. People believe the public policy process is flawed.

Education. People do not understand what is happening to their water. The issues are extremely complex and over the years, layer upon layer of legislation, lawsuits, court decisions and media reports have muddied the water.

Science. People are concerned that science is being manipulated by various stakeholders to support a particular point of view.

The reports on the water conversations will be shared with county boards of supervisors, farm bureaus, legislators, agencies and individuals involved in the state’s water policy.

The Delta faces a host of problems, including invasive species, water degradation due to urban and agricultural runoff, aging infrastructure and the threat of flooding should the sea level rise due to climate change.

“We weren’t looking for solutions,” Paterson said. “We just wanted to give citizens a chance to share their experiences."

Farmland in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. (Photo by Roy Tennant, freelargephotos.com)
Farmland in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. (Photo by Roy Tennant, freelargephotos.com)

Posted on Tuesday, September 7, 2010 at 1:32 PM

New Organic Handbook from USDA

The following is a press release from USDA announcing the publication of the new National Organic Program Handbook.

WASHINGTON, Sept. 2, 2010—The U.S. Department of Agriculture today published the first edition of a program handbook designed for those who own, manage, or certify organic operations. Prepared by the National Organic Program (NOP), the handbook provides guidance about the national organic standards and instructions that outline best program practices. It is intended to serve as a resource for the organic industry that will help participants comply with federal regulations. 

“The handbook will provide guidance to the organic agricultural community to enable them to carry out production and handling processes in a consistent manner,” said Miles McEvoy, NOP deputy administrator. “It will also reduce the burden on industry participants as they work to comply or verify compliance with the NOP regulations.”
 
First proposed as a “program manual” a decade ago and more recently addressed in the March 2010 USDA Office of Inspector General audit report of the NOP, the publication of the program handbook marks an important step in NOP’s efforts to ensure consistency in the application of NOP regulations.
The inaugural edition of the handbook provides guidance on the allowance of green waste in organic production systems, approval of liquid fertilizers in organic production, certification of organic yeast, processed animal manures in organic crop production, reassessed inert ingredients, and the calculation of dry matter intake for NOP’s access to pasture requirements.
 
It also includes instructions concerning organic certification, such as recordkeeping, steps to certification, and organic certificates; accreditation procedures, such as how to apply to become an accredited certifying agent; international procedures, such as how USDA determines equivalence of foreign organic standards to those of the NOP; compliance and enforcement measures, such as how to handle complaints; and appeals procedures for certified operations or accredited agents.
 
Additionally, the handbook explains the difference between NOP guidance and instruction documents and outlines their purpose, legal effect, and the process by which the NOP authorizes, reviews, revises and disseminates them to the public. Future guidance documents will be issued through the notice and comment process outlined in the handbook.
 
The handbook is accessible at http://www.ams.usda.gov/NOPProgramHandbook. Printed copies can be made available upon request to Standards Division, National Organic Program, 1400 Independence Ave., SW., Room 2646-S, Ag Stop 0268, Washington, D.C. 20250-0268; telephone: (202) 720-3252; fax: (202) 205-7808. Copies can also be downloaded from the Internet.
 
For more information, contact Melissa Bailey, Director, Standards Division of NOP, at (202) 720-3252.
Posted on Tuesday, September 7, 2010 at 10:48 AM

Beef Checkoff - Study: Americans' Perception of Factory Farming

The Beef Checkoff program has released in August the results of a study on Americans' knowledge of the term "factory farming". The study's goal was to determine if knowledge of the term adversely affected consumers preferences for beef.

The findings of the study showed that "the number of Americans who are familiar with the term factory farming has increased since 2008, rising by 15 percentage points." In addition, it found that "the percentage of consumers who associate factory farming with chickens has risen significantly since 2008 but those who associate it with cattle has remained stable. Beef cattle are much more associated with factory farming than are dairy cattle."

"Consumers overwhelmingly associate factory farming with big agriculture and large scale farming. They describe factory farming as being industrialized, using machinery and technology, owned by big corporations and producing large numbers of animals. A small percentage seem to have bought into the activist argument that factory farms are driving small family farms out of business."

Beef producers need to be especially proactive about responding to the following from the survey results. "Of some concern is the finding that well over half (58%) of consumers who are familiar with factory farming believe the beef they buy at the supermarket comes from cattle raised in a factory farm setting. This percentage has not changed since 2008. In addition, of those who think their beef is from factory farms, more than half (56%) are concerned (with 41% saying they have a great deal of concern) about the safety of the beef they buy. This percentage, as well, has not changed significantly since 2008."

Education of consumers is extremely important no matter how your market your cattle. Take the time to share what you know about your industry with your non-producing friends, family and neighbors.

I've attached the full Check-off article, but you may also read it on-line at: http://www.beefresearch.org/CMDocs/BeefResearch/Market%20Research/Project%20Snapshot%20Factory%20Farming%20081810.pdf.


Posted on Wednesday, August 25, 2010 at 1:49 PM

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