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Southern SAWG Newsletter  Volume 6, #2
  February 2010
Thanks to all of you who attended the Southern SAWG conference, and to all of you who shared your knowledge and expertise, provided support, and helped make the conference a great success. Each year we strive to bring you the best of practical educational and networking opportunities, adding new activities, short courses, field trips, and sessions based on what we learn from you. Your feedback this year has given us great gratitude and pleasure to know that we are succeeding. Our goal is to make each conference even better than the one before, and we appreciate your suggestions that allow us to continue this tradition.

The conference began with a deeply moving invocation from Ben Yahola, money in lettuceco-director of the Mvskoke  Food Sovereignty Initiative, representing the Native American people who lived in the Chattanooga area before being forced to relocate in Oklahoma. Ben inspired us with the Mvskoke vision of deep respect for the earth, and respect for our relationships with all life on the earth. What a wonderful start for two days of non-stop educational and social experiences!

By the time we gathered together to savor the Taste of Tennessee Dinner, we were ready to again be deeply moved and impacted, this time by the wisdom and fire of longtime civil rights and sustainable agriculture activist Hollis Watkins. You had to be there to really absorb the history, feelings, and vision for the future, not to mention the beautiful songs that Hollis shared with us, but here is one memorable thing he had to say about our organization. "Southern SAWG has taken on the attitude of a song I heard, and here are the words. 'I need you, and you need me. I need you to survive. And I will never harm you with words from my mouth.'"
We all certainly do need each other, and our community. So whether it will be your first time or your twentieth, we look forward to seeing you in Chattanooga next January!
--Your friends at Southern SAWG

2010 Organic Initiative Funds Available for Organic Transition and Practices...Deadline to sign up is March 12
USDA to End the NAIS
Sustainable Agriculture Policy News
New Healthy Urban Food Enterprise Center to Fund Grants for Community Food Enterprises - March 8, 2010, is deadline for Letters of Interest
Cover Cropping Survey Request
Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund 27th Annual Small Farmers Conference - February 12-13, 2010
Will Allen to Present Workshops at Lynchburg Grows - March 5-6, 2010
Organic Growers School 17th Annual Spring Conference - March 6-7, 2010
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2010 Organic Initiative Funds Available for Organic Transition and Practices
Deadline to sign up is March 12, 2010
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
is again NOP logooffering financial support and technical assistance to organic farmers and farmers transitioning to organic production systems. NRCS has committed $50 million nationally for the 2010 Organic Initiative, available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). 

Each NRCS State Conservationist will develop a list of practices offered through the initiative to support organic and transitioning farmers. In certain states, transitioning farmers will have the option to apply for funds to develop a Conservation Activity Plan to support their transition to organic production. To find out which practices are available in your state, and to apply, contact your state office. (

Farmers will be paid 75 percent of the cost of implementing the organic practice, including income that may be forgone. The payment rate is set at 90 percent for beginning farmers, limited resource farmers, and applicants of historically underserved communities. 
For more information click here.

Breaking News: USDA to End the National Animal Identification System (NAIS)
The NAIS, which has met with strong opposition from small-scale sustainable farmers and ranchers, conventional large-scale farmers, and many organizations, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, is being cancelled by the Obama administration. When Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack began his stint last year he held a series of public meetings, which were attended by many in the sustainable agriculture community, during which he was "bombarded by strident opposition," according to an article in the New York Times by William Neuman, dated February 5, 2010.
Neuman reports that new federal rules will be developed, but they would apply only to animals being moved in interstate commerce. Plans for making the new rules have not yet been announced, but it is expected that USDA officials will now start over to come up with a tracing program that will be supported by the livestock industry, and would have many aspects that would be designed by the states.
Participation in the system, which aimed to give every animal, or group of certain animals, a unique identification number that could be tracked, was voluntary, but there was concern that it would be made mandatory, and that it would be prohibitively expensive and cumbersome, especially to small- and mid-scale producers.
Sustainable Agriculture Policy News
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) held its winter meeting on January 13-15, 2010, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. About 60 people, including representatives of over 30 member organizations and NSAC staff, met in smaller groups to explore four topic areas covered by issues committees.
With the 2008 Farm Bill signed into law, much of NSAC members' attention has turned to rule making, program implementation, and funding for Farm Bill programs related to organic and sustainable agriculture, rural development, and community food systems. A few legislative issues are also pending at this time, including food safety, climate and energy, and farm-to-school grant funding.
Last month at the Southern SAWG Conference in Chattanooga, participants in the pre-conference networking session for organizational representatives identified a need to work together on policy issues, with a focus on removing obstacles to small, organic, and sustainable farming, and to promote job creation in decentralized food and agricultural systems. During the conference networking session time, about 30 people attended the session on Policy. Much of the discussion focused on how to establish Food Policy Councils at the local and state level, and how to link local efforts into the national policy dialogue. For more information, and to get involved, write to Lydia Villanueva, Southern SAWG's policy coordinator, or call 806.364.4445.
Hot Issues and action items for spring 2010 from the recent NSAC meeting:

Food Safety Bill in the Senate
NSAC's Food Safety Task Force will coordinate a farmer fly-in, probably in February, to Washington, DC to lobby for changes in the legislation to reduce burdens on smaller farms and businesses, while optimizing food safety and environmental outcomes. For more information, including how to participate in this fly-in, contact Dave Runsten, write to Kate Fitzgerald, or call Kate at 202.547.5754.

USDA-Department of Justice workshops on corporate agriculture and antitrust issues
Farmers are needed to attend a workshop to be held March 12 by the USDA and the Department of Justice, which is the first of a series of workshops to explore competition and regulatory issues in the agriculture industry. The March workshop will address issues of concern to crop farmers, including seed technology, and may be an opportunity for farmers to draw government and public attention to Monsanto's monopoly control of the seed supply. Subsequent workshops will address issues of concentration in poultry, dairy, and livestock, and price discrepancies between farmgate and consumer. To learn more and participate, contact Aimee Witteman at NSAC; 202.547.5754.

EQIP Organic Initiative and other NRCS conservation programs for organic agriculture
The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has recently issued guidance to states for the 2010 Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Organic Initiative, and will soon issue the final rule for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). Signups for Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 funding for both programs will close on March 12. NSAC and member organizations will assist farmers to apply for and participate in these programs. For the latest on EQIP Organic Initiative, click here.

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative: New and greatly expanded       
The USDA will soon release Requests for Applications (RFA) for a greatly expanded Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), with as much as $800 million in research funding over the next few years. It is important that a significant portion of these funds goes toward truly sustainable systems. NSAC will review the RFA and submit comments; encourage organic/sustainable programs and projects to apply for AFRI funding, and seek to get farmers and sustainable ag nonprofit organization personnel on proposal review panels.  For more information contact Brise Tenser.

New Healthy Urban Food Enterprise Development Center to Fund Grants for Underserved Community Food Enterprises
Deadline for Letters of Interest is March 8, 2010
Wallace Healthy Urban Food Enterprise Development Center (HUFED) at Winrock International, supported by a grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, has been launched to help reorganize and transform our agriculture and food systems to better meet the needs of historically underserved communities. The HUFED Center will focus on ways to make more healthy and affordable food available in low-income areas; to increase market access for small and mid-sized agricultural producers; and to promote positive economic activities generated by attracting healthy food enterprises into underserved communities.

Through grants, technical assistance and other activities, the Wallace HUFED Center will be working to build local capacity to serve food needs in urban and rural low-income, historically excluded, and underserved communities and communities of color.
The HUFED is now opening a grant program and issuing a call for Letters of Interest (LOI). Grants will range from one year $10,000-$25,000 grants to three year grants up to $100,000. Technical assistance will also be available to successful grantees. HUFED expects to support approximately 30 projects over the next three years, funding a range of strategies and organizations ranging from for-profits to not-for profits. LOIs should be brief but carefully thought out concept papers that provide sufficient information for their technical review panel. After review, a subset of applicants will be invited to submit full proposals. LOIs are due March 8, 2010 and should be submitted through their online submission form after reviewing the complete Grant Guidelines.

To review or download the full set of Grant Guidelines, which contain instructions for writing and submitting an LOI, further information about the purpose and goals of the Center, and greater detail on grant types, click here. You may also call the Wallace HUFED Center Help Line: 703.531.8810 or write.

Cover Cropping Survey Request for Sustainable Southeastern Farmers
Are you a sustainable Southeastern farmer? If so, the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) would like you to fill out their survey to help focus future research efforts at North Carolina State University. This survey is part of an effort to understand farmers' opinions on the benefits and challenges of cover crop use, and to estimate current levels of cover cropping on Southeast farms. CEFS would like your opinion, whether or not you currently use cover crops, so that their studies can provide the most sought after information, and their research can be focused on areas that are the most challenging to farmers. The results of the survey will be made available in a variety of publications, and will be posted online at the CEFS website.
To participate, click here and look for the heading Online Survey to share your experiences. (Note: Farmers that attended the CFSA or Southern SAWG conferences this year may have already filled out a paper-based version of this survey; please complete the survey only one time.)

Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund
27th Annual Small Farmers Conference and Trade Show

February 12-13, 2010
Albany, Georgia
Hosting more than 300 farmers, landowners, and supporters from across the South, the conference will provide information on USDA programs, marketing, technical assistance, legal risk management issues, insurance, conservation, and a variety of agriculture issues that impact the survival of small farmers. There will also be an update on the Pigford Lawsuit negotiations. Pearlie Reed, the USDA Assistant Secretary for Administration, will deliver the keynote address, speaking about the USDA's Office of Civil Rights and its program delivery to ensure fair treatment to farmers.
Other speakers will include the Federation's former Georgia Director Shirley Sherrod, who now heads the USDA's Georgia Rural Development Office, and Georgia Representative Sanford Bishop (D-GA), who will speak about rural legislation in Congress.
Click here for more information and to register.
The Federation/LAF, now in its 43rd year, assists Black family farmers across the South with farm management, debt restructuring, alternative crop suggestions, marketing expertise, and other services to ensure family farm survivability.

Will Allen to Present Workshops at Lynchburg Grows
March 5-6, 2010
Lynchburg, Virginia
Urban farm guru Will Allen, a 2008 MacArthur fellowship recipient and co-founder of Milwaukee-based Growing Power, Inc., will conduct two days of workshops at Lynchburg Grows, a Regional Outreach Training Center for Growing Power. For more information contact Michael G. Van Ness.

Organic Growers School 17th Annual Spring Conference
March 6-7, 2010  
Asheville, North Carolina
OGS will offer 70+ classes and hands-on workshops each day on a variety of topics, from starting your first vegetable garden, baking bread, and saving on home energy costs, to raising goats and fine-tuning aspects of your commercial farm operation. Early-bird registration open through February 12. For more information and to register click here.

SSAWG Welcomes You 2010
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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.