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Next-gen fertilizer contest begins

The Next Gen Fertilizer Challenges competition recently was launched by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The agencies are seeking to find new and existing fertilizer technologies to maintain or improve crop yields while reducing adverse environmental effects.

The competition is being coordinated with The Fertilizer Institute, the International Fertilizer Development Center, the National Corn Growers Association and The Nature Conservancy.

The first competition – “EEFs: Environmental and Agronomic Challenge" aims to identify existing enhanced efficiency fertilizers that meet or exceed certain environmental and agro-economic criteria. Enhanced efficiency fertilizers is a term for new formulations that control fertilizer release or alter reactions that reduce nutrient losses to the environment.

Winners will receive scientific evaluation of their product and recognition from the EPA, the USDA and other collaborators and participants.

The second contest – “Next Gen Fertilizer Innovations Challenge" – aims to generate new concepts for technologies that help address environmental concerns while maintaining or increasing crop yields.

Each winner will receive at least $10,000. Registrants must submit their entries by Oct. 30 for the first challenge and by Nov. 30 for the second challenge. Winners will be announced in winter 2021. An informational webinar will be held from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Central Daylight Time Sept. 24. Visit epa.gov and search for "Next Gen Fertilizer Challenges" for more information.

Help track deer population

Operation Deer Watch is an annual citizen-science survey that collects information on Wisconsin's white-tailed deer and gives residents an opportunity to assist with deer-herd management efforts.

Participants can report their deer sightings to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources through an online form. Data collected provide insights into the reproductive status of Wisconsin's deer herd. Now through Sept. 30 participants are asked to record all bucks, does and fawns seen during the day.

A printable tally sheet is available to help citizen-scientists record sightings and enter results online at a later time. Data from the survey also are used by County Deer Advisory Councils to develop deer-season framework, harvest quotas and permit-level recommendations. Visit dnr.wisconsin.gov and search for “Operation Deer Watch” and dnr.wisconsin.gov and search for “County Deer Advisory Council” for more information.

Organic-enforcement rule comments sought

The U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Program’s Strengthening Organic Enforcement proposed rule recently was published in the "Federal Register." The proposed rule significantly updates the USDA’s organic regulations to strengthen oversight and enforcement throughout the organic-supply chain. It proposes changes that implement provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill. It also addresses recommendations from the National Organic Standards Board and the USDA Office of Inspector General. The deadline for public comment is Oct. 5.

The National Organic Coalition is publishing a series of blog posts to provide information about the proposed rule. Visit ams.usda.gov and search for "strengthening organic enforcement" and nationalorganiccoalition.org for more information.

Antimicrobial resistance-monitoring meeting set

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, in cooperation with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, is releasing the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System Strategic Plan: 2021-2025. The program examines bacteria isolated from humans through Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, raw retail meats through FDA data, and animals at slaughter through Food Safety and Inspection Service data to analyze and report patterns of resistance to the most important antimicrobial agents.

Registration is open for the 2020 Public Meeting of the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System, which will be held virtually Oct. 13-14. Visit fda.gov and search for “meetings, conferences and workshops” for more information.

Conservation-partner applications accepted

Applications for federal funding through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program are being accepted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. The agency will award a total of as much as $360 million to public-private partnerships that work to improve water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat and protect agricultural viability.

Applicants may request between $250,000 and $10 million in funding. The funding is available to private industry, non-government organizations, tribes, state and local governments, water districts and universities.

Proposals are due Nov. 4. Visit nrcs-sites.secure.force.com and search for "Regional Conservation Partnership Program Partner Portal" and grants.gov and search for “Funding for NRCS’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program" for more information.

Farmworker assistance provided

United Migrant Opportunity Services recently implemented a Farmworker Protection Project to assist migrant and seasonal farmworkers and employers in Wisconsin and several other states.

Sectors within the U.S. food-supply chain such as agricultural-field work have been deemed essential. Migrant and seasonal farmworkers have been deemed as essential workers. But industry-wide worker-protective measures, safety equipment, safety standards, monitoring efforts and hazard pay haven't been uniformly implemented, according to United Migrant Opportunity Services.

The organization plans to provide as much as $623,000 through 2021 in financial and food assistance for immigrant and seasonal farmworkers impacted by COVID-19. Farmworkers and their families can receive a one-time COVID-19-related payment that can be used for loss of income due to delays in farm or food-processing plant openings or permanent or temporary closings to allow for deep cleanings in plants or farms. The payment also can be used for loss of income as a result of death in one’s family due to COVID-19, quarantining or hospitalizations, according to Lupe Martinez, president and CEO of United Migrant Opportunity Services.

Financial assistance, personal protective equipment supplies, and COVID-19 resources have been made possible through a $1-million contribution from an anonymous donor-advised fund at the Chicago Community Foundation. The Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation and Justice for Migrant Women also have provided support.

There are more than 4,000 migrant and seasonal farmworkers in addition to H2A workers who contribute to Wisconsin’s agricultural industry, according to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. Visit umos.org for more information.

Farm-family fund expands

Harvest of Hope provides financial help and hope to Wisconsin farm families to address common farm-financial problems. That may involve power cut-offs or impending power cut-offs, medical or veterinary bills, house or barn fires, feed for cattle, machinery repair, farm accidents, severe weather events, or troubles affording food or fuel.

The Harvest of Hope fund previously provided gifts of as much as $1,500 to help address such situations. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic Harvest of Hope has temporarily increased funding to $2,000 per family.

Harvest of Hope since 1986 has distributed more than $1.14 million to Wisconsin farm families through a total of 1,705 grants. The fund uses five guiding principles when making grant decisions to farm families.

  • Keep Wisconsin family farms in the hands of family farmers.
  • Respond to farm families in difficult situations that could lead to disaster.
  • Respond as quickly as possible, usually in two to five days.
  • Especially sensitive to needs of farm families with small children.
  • Link farm families with local resources for financial or management assistance.

The fifth guiding principle requires the farm family to work with one of three advisers – either a University of Wisconsin-Division of Extension educator, a technical college farm-business management instructor or a farm adviser with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection’s Farm Center. 

The fund was created by and remains supported by the Madison Christian Community, an ecumenical Christian community. No religious or church-community affiliation is asked or required to receive a grant. Visit madisonchristiancommunity.org and click on the "serving" header or call 608-836-1455 and press 8 for more information.

Local Farmer Act introduced

U.S. Rep. Alma Adams, D-12-North Carolina, recently introduced The Local and Regional Farmer and Market Support Act – Local Farmer Act – H.R. 8096 to provide aid to farmers, ranchers, and local and regional food systems businesses. Highlights of the legislation are listed.

Create an alternative coronavirus-relief payment program for farmers who sell in local and regional markets based on their historic revenue rather than price loss.

Provide emergency-response grants for farmers markets and local-food enterprises to implement public-health protections and coronavirus-smart marketing practices. The Local Farmer Act includes $25 million for emergency grants through the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program for farmers market operators and local-food enterprises.

Provide emergency response grants to direct-marketing farmers to help them respond to shifting markets and adopt new socially-distant practices and sales models. The Local Farmer Act includes $25 million for emergency grants through the Value Added Producer Grant Program to assist producers’ efforts to adapt to new market environments.

Advance equity by prioritizing assistance funding to Black, Indigenous and People of Color farmers and low-income communities of color through set-asides and requiring data reporting from U.S. Department of Agriculture for accountability.

Provide expanded outreach and technical assistance to Black, Indigenous and People of Color farmers and ranchers and resources for organizations serving them. The Local Farmer Act includes $50 million to support outreach and technical assistance through the Sec. 2501 program. Visit congress.gov and search for "H.R. 8096" for more information.

Food, farm support fund grows

The Wisconsin Beef Council recently joined Rural Mutual Insurance and the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation as a partner in raising awareness for the Wisconsin Food and Farm Support Fund. The fund recently matched the American Food Group’s donation of 5,000 pounds of ground beef to Feeding Wisconsin with an additional 5,000 pounds of beef.

The beef will be distributed to food banks across the state. The donation will help neighbors in need during challenging times as well as support Wisconsin's cattle producers, said Mark Winter, vice-president, fresh meat at the American Foods Group.

The donations of employees, the public, corporate sponsors and Rural Mutual Insurance agents have totaled more than $45,000 to help support Feeding Wisconsin and Harvest of Hope. Rural Mutual Insurance is focused on collecting funds for Feeding Wisconsin, the statewide association of the Feeding America food banks. The Wisconsin organization provides food to more than 1,000 local food programs in all 72 counties of the state.

The Wisconsin Farm Bureau is focused on collecting funds for Harvest of Hope, a farm-family crisis relief fund supported by the Madison Christian Community. Wisconsin farm families experiencing financial stress can complete an application requesting as much as $1,500. Visit ruralmutual.com and search for "donations" or wfbf.com and search for "food and farm support" for more information.

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