Blog posts by Jane Sooby

Written by Jane Sooby on Friday, July 17, 2015 on policy, research

Please take a few moments to respond to the Organic Farming Research Foundation’s (OFRF) National Survey of Organic Farmers. Widespread participation by organic farmers across the country will ensure that all types and scales of certified organic production are reflected in the survey’s results. Responses will be accepted through August 30.A link to the survey was distributed via email to every certified organic farmer in the United States with an email address, so follow the link you received or access the survey at http://opinion.wsu.edu/agresearch/.The 34-question survey focuses on...
Written by Jane Sooby on Monday, June 15, 2015 on grants, water


The State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP), authorized by emergency drought legislation last year, is open for applications through June 29. The program provides funding to help farmers and ranchers implement conservation measures that reduce their water use and greenhouse gas emissions.  The maximum grant award is $150,000 and can be used to improve irrigation and energy-use efficiency on California farms and ranches. Examples of fundable activities include the following:replacing flood or furrow irrigation systems with drip or micro irrigation, converting from fossil fuel-...
Written by Jane Sooby on Monday, March 30, 2015 on policy

UC Berkeley researchers need farmers for a study on diversified farming systems in California’s Central Coast. The project will look at how agricultural practices on organic farms affect the diversity of life found on those farms, with an emphasis on birds and pollinators. The study needs farmer participants who grow organic strawberries on two acres or more of land in Santa Cruz, Watsonville, Prunedale and Salinas. Benefits of cooperating on the project include:  Access to research results about your own farm and all participating farms collectively (with complete anonymity) that can inform...
Written by Jane Sooby on Monday, March 30, 2015 on genetic engineering, policy

The deadline for comment has been extended to May 11, 2015. The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) is soliciting comments on a set of proposed activities to reduce the impacts of the unintended presence of genetically modified (GM) genes in organic and other non-GM crops. One of the activities is the federal organic farmer survey currently circulating, which is gathering information on economic losses experienced by organic farmers due to the presence of GM material in their crops. The timeline for comment is quite short; they are due April 10, 2015. To submit a comment, visit regulations.gov...
Written by Jane Sooby on Monday, March 30, 2015 on certification process, cost share, policy

Certification cost share is a program that reimburses organic operations 75% of eligible certification-related costs up to a maximum of $750 per certified scope. Certification cost share is now open in the state of California and will be in other states soon. CCOF is preparing helpful instruction documents and tools to help you navigate the cost share forms. Look for them by May 1! Certification cost share helps keep organic certification accessible for all, from the smallest to largest organic operations. Cost share distributes federal funds through state departments of agriculture. Click...
Written by Jane Sooby on Monday, February 9, 2015 on biodiversity, NOP, policy

The National Organic Program (NOP) issued a draft guidance to clarify biodiversity and natural resources requirements. The Draft Guidance, “Natural Resources and Biodiversity Conservation for Certified Organic Operations,” is open for comment now through February 27, 2015. The National Organic Standards require that certified organic operations “maintain or improve the natural resources of the operation, including soil and water quality.” They define natural resources as the “physical, hydrological, and biological features of a production operation, including soil, water, wetlands, woodlands...
Written by Jane Sooby on Monday, December 15, 2014 on genetic engineering, labeling and packaging, policy

The federal agency in charge of the nation’s commercial supply of meat, poultry, and egg products recently implemented a procedure that allows labels for certified organic meat and poultry products to include a “Non-Genetically Engineered” statement. The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)—a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)—unveiled a 3-step procedure for the labels earlier this year. The first step is for a company to write a letter to FSIS on the company letterhead that includes the FSIS approval number for their current organic label, a copy of the label, and the...
Written by Jane Sooby on Monday, December 1, 2014 on policy, seeds


We need your help gathering data on organic seed use! The Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) is a non-profit organization focused on furthering on-farm breeding through education and advocacy. Their work is informed by organic farmer experience with seeds, which they collect through a survey. OSA is now gathering data from organic farmers in California. Please take the survey. For organic farmers, something as basic as buying seed can be an annual challenge. Organic farmers must use organic seed, and seed industry consolidation has resulted in a drastic reduction of seed varieties available in the...
Written by Jane Sooby on Monday, November 24, 2014 on policy, water

Farmers and ranchers statewide must submit water test results and develop nutrient management plans for their land holdings under California state law. Why these regulations exist: In 1969, California passed the Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act, which gave the State Water Resources Control Board authority over the state’s water rights and water quality policy.1 Porter-Cologne also established nine Regional Water Quality Control Boards (RWQCBs) to manage water quality on a regional basis. The regional boards are responsible for preparing and updating Basin Plans for their geographical...
Written by Jane Sooby on Monday, November 17, 2014 on policy, seeds

Public breeding programs are needed now more than ever before, according to a recently released report titled Proceedings of Summit on Seeds and Breeds for the 21st Century Agriculture, published by the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI). The publication is a collection of essays and information gathered from RAFI’s two-day summit on seed varieties and public breeding. Held earlier this year, the summit brought together over 35 researchers, plant and animal breeders, farmers, academics, and other stakeholders to discuss our nation’s seed supply and develop recommendations for...
Written by Jane Sooby on Friday, November 7, 2014 on certification process, policy

CCOF is excited to announce that 33% of its members in California have successfully applied for the organic certification cost-share rebate, which refunds 75% of certification-related expenses up to a maximum of $750 per certified scope of operation.  We encourage the remainder of CCOF-certified members to apply for certification cost share in California before the postmark deadline of November 29, 2014. We also encourage members in other states to submit applications for cost share according to their state deadlines. A few things to keep in mind about certification cost share: Growers,...
Written by Jane Sooby on Friday, November 7, 2014 on pests and pesticides

The Pest and the Damage Done The invasive stinkbug known as the Bagrada bug continues to hopscotch its way through California. First found in Los Angeles County in 2008, it is now found throughout the state as far north as Yolo County. The pest has caused damage to many organic crops this summer and fall, primarily to mustard family crops including kale, arugula, broccoli, cabbage, collards, and other mustard greens. Bagrada bug also has caused damage to peppers, melons, tomatoes, corn, snap beans, and sunflowers. Female (top), mating pair (middle), and a mature nymph (bottom) of Bagrada bug...
Written by Jane Sooby on Monday, October 20, 2014 on financial assistance, research

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently awarded the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) a grant to evaluate federal organic research programs.    USDA awarded the grant through the Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI). This year, USDA awarded $23 million in grants under OREI and the Organic Transitions program to improve the competitiveness of organic crop and livestock producers.   OFRF will use the OREI grant to conduct topical and regional evaluations of OREI-funded programs. The project will assess to what degree each project involved organic producers and...
Written by Jane Sooby on Tuesday, October 14, 2014 on financial assistance

The state of California recently opened a second round of funding to help farms reduce water usage and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Funds for the program, the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP), were included in emergency drought legislation passed earlier this year. The maximum grant award is $150,000 and can be used to fund pump improvements such as converting from fossil fuel powered engines to solar, wind, or electric power. The funds may also be used to replace flood or furrow irrigation systems with drip or micro-irrigation; and other ways to improve efficiency...
Written by Jane Sooby on Monday, September 15, 2014 on materials and inputs, NOSB, standards

Now is the time to share your story and help shape the future of organic. Two times a year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) invites all members of the public to submit comments on what the organic standards should include and exclude.   The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB)—a committee of certified organic farmers, processors, and other representatives—review the public comments. Then, the NOSB recommends changes and adjustments to the USDA.     The NOSB will meet this fall to review a number of materials and documents set forth in its meeting agenda, and members of the public...

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