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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture
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Seedstock Digest: Sustainable Ag and Tech News

April 27, 2011 |

ATTRA Funding CutDespite losing its federal funding and suffering staff cuts across all of its offices, the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (ATTRA) remains committed to its goal of providing sustainable agriculture services. To make up for this budgetary shortfall, ATTRA, a 501(c)3, is exploring funding options that range from charging a small access fee for its publications to bolstering its efforts to procure donations from foundations, corporations and individuals.  Kathleen Hadley, Executive Director of National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), which oversees ATTRA, says that it “cannot just abandon those individuals who have come to rely on our expertise and research-based solutions to agricultural challenges.”  Last year, almost 177,000 people representing 45 states attended presentations given by ATTRA staff, while approximately 3,300,000 unique visitors made use of the ATTRA website and its technical publications (6 million downloads were served).  According to Hadley, “This volume indicates how critical our service is to people.”  Source: NCAT Seeks to Maintain Sustainable Agriculture Service.  If you are interested in making a donation to support ATTRA, click on the following link:

USDA National Program for Genetic Improvement of Feed Efficiency in Beef CattleMany beef cattle do not digest and process feed efficiently, which contributes to both an increase in greenhouse gas emissions from excess methane production and the need for additional cropland to be dedicated to feed production.  To develop methods and solutions to increase feed efficiency in beef cattle, the USDA has awarded a $5 million grant that will provide five years of funding to a group of universities and research institutions that will collaborate on what is being called the National Program for Genetic Improvement of Feed Efficiency in Beef Cattle.  The grant awardees will utilize the funds to perform DNA-based modeling to predict the genetic merit of cattle for feed efficiently. Researchers plan to map the genes of nearly 8,000 cattle representing eight different breeds to identify how differences in genetic makeup impact feed efficiency and intake. Jerry Taylor, Professor and Wurdach Chair of Animal Genomics at the University of Missouri says that “If we can identify and selectively breed the animals that have the best combination of genes for producing high-quality beef with the least amount of grain, their offspring could reduce environmental impacts and save producers millions of dollars.” The National Program for Genetic Improvement of Feed Efficiency in Beef Cattle is composed of the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center and the following universities: the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the University of Illinois, Iowa State University, the University of Minnesota, University of Missouri, Texas A&M University, and Washington State University.  Sources: “$5 million USDA grant targets feed efficiency in beef cattle” and “USDA grant to fund feed research.”

Organic Valley hands out Gen-O awardsOrganic Valley, the largest independent and farmer-owned cooperative of organic farmers in the US, recently presented awards to three of its youngest members.  The awards, known as the Generation Organic, or Gen-O, awards were presented to the following recipients: James Frantzen, age 23, of  Frantzen Farm in Elma, Iowa who practices responsible hog farming and recently helped to design and develop an innovative gestational hoop building for sows; T. Garin and Sarah Smith of Grassland Farm in Skowhegan, Maine who utilize rotational grazing practices, raise cows and chickens, run a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, and grow vegetables and cut flowers; and Ross Bansen, age 22, of Double J Jerseys in Monmouth, Oregon who has enabled his family to conserve energy and water through the implementation of sustainable farming practices.  The Gen-O awards were created to showcase those young Organic Valley Farmers, ages 16 – 35, who have elected to pursue careers in organic farming. Award recipients receive $1000 to be put toward further development of their farms and an additional $500 to be donated to the winners’ charities of choice.  Source: Organic Valley Recognizes the Next Generation of Organic Farmers.

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