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Southern SAWG Newsletter  Volume 5, #9
September 2009

Dear Friends,

Whether it is a blessing or a curse, we are indeed living in interesting times. Challenges in the economy, the weather, and a myriad of other forces continue to spell tough times for many. Yet there are monumental positive changes in the agricultural landscape that demand attention and excitement from sustainable producers and workers for sustainable, just, and healthy food systems. Consider...

Imagine a business is formed, using USDA loan money, to aggregate local farm products so that the volume is sufficient to serve a large school system...Imagine USDA financing a mobile slaughterhouse that supports local free-range poultry grower...Imagine a food processor adding a second line of equipment and storage facilities to handle certified organic food products to meet local demand...Imagine...

These words were spoken not at a Southern SAWG conference (although they have been many times), nor at the recent National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition meeting. These words are from Kathleen Merrigan, the USDA Deputy Secretary of Agriculture. She was introducing one of three Rural Development programs recently highlighted in a memo: the Community Facilities Program; the Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program; and the Value-Added Producer Grant Program. (To read the full memo, including information about the programs and links, click here.)

Merrigan and the Obama Administration are committed to having the USDA serve the work of building local and regional food systems, and she stated that she wants to "play the role of matchmaker." Here's to many fruitful relationships!

Read on for more news about policy and funding, including an important deadline for the Conservation Security Program sign-up, as well as a Southern SAWG Board opportunity, and event announcements.

And, again in the words of Deputy Secretary Merrigan, "Thank you for all you do to help people eat fresh, healthy, and delicious local food."

--Your friends at Southern SAWG

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Update
NRCS Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) Sign-Up--September 30, 2009 is the Deadline
Deadline to Submit Comments on NRCS Standards Extended to September 14, 2009
Southern SAWG Board of Directors Opportunity
Market Growers Symposium September 17 & 18, 2009 Brenham, TX
First Annual Southeast Dairy Goat Conference October 24, 2009 Spring Hill, TN
Tenth Annual Healthy Food, Local Farms Conference November 6 & 7, 2009 Louisville, KY
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National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Update

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), an organization that has worked long and hard to help bring government policy and business practices into alignment with sustainable agriculture and food systems, held its summer meeting in Lawrence, Kansas in August.

Participants included Southern SAWG Executive Director Jim Lukens, and Board member Mark Schonbeck (representing Virginia Association for Biological Farming).

A number of major federal policy developments with direct impacts on family farms and sustainable agriculture made for three full days of discussion and planning. Top priorities for NSAC advocacy efforts in 2009-10 include:

  • The new nationwide Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)
  • The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Organic Initiative
  • Revisions of Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Practice Standards
  • Food safety legislation and administrative/regulatory action
  • Farm to School program funding
  • Beginning and Socially Disadvantaged Producer Grant Programs
  • Funding for SARE and the new Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI)

For more information about the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and up-to-date news about issues, policies, and programs, click here.

Conservation buffer strip

NRCS Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) Sign-Up

September 30, 2009 is the Deadline

The program is open for sign-up for Fiscal Year 2009; you have until September 30 to complete the initial application. This USDA Natural Resources and Conservation Service (NRCS) program rewards farmers and ranchers for their existing conservation practices and for putting in place additional new conservation practices and enhancements over a 5 year contract period. Successful applicants could receive up to $200,000 in benefits over the five year contract period. The NRCS hopes to enroll over 12 million acres in the program this year. With its emphasis on rewarding high levels of soil, water, and other resource stewardship, the CSP is a "natural" for organic and sustainable farmers who already conserve and protect resources in many ways.

You do not need to complete the entire application and contract process in order to be considered for Fiscal Year 2009 funding. You only need to complete an initial application form (which is fairly simple) and submit it at your local NRCS field office by September 30. The subsequent steps, including a site visit, and working out contract details with your NRCS field office, can take place in October. Farmers who have never participated in NRCS programs before will have some additional paperwork to fill out, but it is not overwhelming. 

Organic and sustainable practices are among more than 70 activities the CSP targets, including organic cropping and livestock systems, establishing pollinator habitat, conservation tillage, resource-conserving crop rotations, rotational grazing, and continuous cover cropping. Practices that sequester carbon and reduce greenhouse gases are also rewarded. In addition, the 2008 Farm Bill requires NRCS to provide technical assistance specific to organic producers.

The NRCS has a self-assessment checklist to help potential applicants determine whether they qualify and could benefit from the CSP. ATTRA (The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service) provides a step-by-step outline for enrolling in the CSP, including a link to the NRCS self-assessment checklist. Information on the CSP has also been posted by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF), and the Land Stewardship Project.

The Center for Rural Affairs has a Farm Bill Helpline to answer questions and provide assistance on the CSP: 402.687.2100. The National Center for Appropriate Technology also offers phone assistance: 800.346.9140 (English) or 800.411.3222 (Spanish). And you can click here to find your local NRCS office.

Note: The CSP is a nationwide, continuous enrollment program. If you are not able to get an initial application in by September 30 for Fiscal Year 2009, you can submit an application any time for Fiscal Year 2010.

However...As of August 28, only 445 applications had been submitted by farmers, covering 335,000 acres. With nearly 13 million acres available for enrollment each year, and with 2009 being the only year for which there will be this short sign-up period rather than an entire year, this initial 2009 sign-up is likely to be the least competitive, so if the program looks good to you, now is the time to enroll.

Deadline to Submit Comments on NRCS Standards Extended to September 14, 2009

The extension of the deadline to September 14 will allow more of us to submit comments and recommendations on the NRCS Practice Standards. Individuals and groups interested in commenting, click here.

For more information on Practice Standards, comments submitted by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) and the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF), and on the EQIP Organic Initiative, contact Ariane Lotti, or call 202.547.5754.

Southern SAWG Board of Directors Opportunity

The Southern SAWG Board of Directors is accepting applications for consideration of Board appointment. We would like to appoint one or two additional Board members to help strengthen, grow, guide, and support the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group in achieving our mission. The term for this appointment will be from March 2010 to March 2013.

Southern SAWG is a highly respected primary force in the creation of a sustainable food and agriculture system in the South and nationally. Members of the Southern SAWG Board of Directors hold an influential position in this movement. The honor and privilege of serving on the board are accompanied by appropriate responsibilities that enable Southern SAWG to continue to mature and contribute powerfully to a more sustainable society.

Responsibilities include long-range and strategic planning, goal setting, prioritizing and evaluating activities, financial oversight, funding development, and setting Southern SAWG policy and program direction. Each year the Southern SAWG targets specific needs for incoming Board members. This year SSAWG has many target areas, including: states in our region not currently represented (SC, GA, AL, KY, TX), persons of color, persons with funding development skills, persons working with community food security issues, youth representatives, women, and those involved with the work of Southern SAWG.

To apply, submit a letter of interest, resume, and two professional references to Julia Sampson by October 15, 2009. The letter should include what you are interested in contributing to the Board, a summary of your skills and experience as relevant to a Southern SAWG Board appointment, and your history and current involvement with SSAWG. Southern SAWG is interested in a full-range of diverse applicants and will not discriminate.

For more information, please contact Cathy Jones or Stephan Walker.  

Market Growers Symposium: The Fall Session
September 17 & 18, 2009    
Brenham, Texas

Homesweetfarm market daysThis event is designed to help new and experienced growers get the job done. Network and meet with experts in the field for technical discussions and then experience hands-on farm tours and training to deepen your understanding. Lunch includes seasonal surprises prepared by some of the leading Texas chefs promoting local food.

Classroom sessions will include specific technical discussions on diversified cool-season vegetable production, disease and pest controls, grafting, marketing, variety selection, greenhouse production, the Soil Food Web, the Food Safety Enhancement Act, and more information to help you grow for the cool season.

Outdoor sessions will be in the field at HOMEsweetFARM, a 22 acre diversified CSA vegetable farm serving the Houston area. Hands-on applications will cover horse power on the farm, greenhouse production, bed preparation, soil amendments, cover crops, rotational grazing, irrigation, equipment, planting techniques, distribution, customer care, and much more.

For more information and to register, visit, call 979.251.9922, or write.

First Annual Southeast Dairy Goat Conference
October 24, 2009
Spring Hill, Tennessee

Dairy goatsIf you are interested in goat dairies, dairy goats, and value-added products, you won't want to miss this event featuring presentations and hands-on demonstrations. Topics will include forages and nutrition for dairy goats; dairy goat selection criteria; dairy goat facility and processing regulations; 4-H goat programs (dairy and meat), value-added products; equipment sanitization and care; dairy goat business and facilities start-up; and an internal parasite management discussion, including a FAMACHA training.

This is a collaborative effort with experts from the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Middle Tennessee State University, Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Tennessee State University, and the University of Tennessee. 
Pre-registration is required. Write to An Peischel or call 615.963.5539. For directions and map...
Tenth Annual Healthy Food, Local Farms Conference:
Growing Community Through Food

November 6 & 7, 2009
Louisville, Kentucky

The conference will feature prominent leaders in the sustainable food and farming movement, including Wendell Berry, Sam Levin, Josh Viertel, Nicolette Hahn Niman, and Augusta Brown Holland.

For information click here, write to Aloma Dew, or call 270.685.2034.
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Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group, Inc. (Southern SAWG) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded in 1991 to promote sustainable agriculture in the Southern United States.