In this Issue
Happy New Year!
With a rocky start to the new year, we are now coming into a time of healing and a brighter future.
Our lead article from WFA’s President Dan Imhoff proposes transitioning the Corn Belt to a carbon belt. We honor the passing of Amigo Bob Cantisano, a leader in the organic farming movement. You’ll also find an article on co-existing with Sparrows, and another on how native plants are so important to declining insects which birds eat.
As you’ll see we are sharing concerns about questionable carbon markets, hopeful wish lists for better organic and wild nature policies and resources for farmers. We hope these topics help you further your understanding and support of bringing nature back to the farm.
Making the Corn Belt a Carbon Belt
"The billions we spend on crop insurance for marginally productive acreage could be put to better use with permanent carbon sequestering plantings of grasses, trees and other native species." Dan Imhoff
In a recent op-ed, Make the Corn Belt a Carbon Belt, WFA Board Member Dan Imhoff proposes redirecting the billions of farm subsidies currently spent on crop insurance for marginally productive farmland to planting habitat that sequester carbon. He advocates for a modern-day agricultural moon shot to transition the Corn Belt to a carbon belt.
More than twenty years ago Wild Farm Alliance came together as a group of conservationists and sustainable agriculture advocates and practitioners. Our unique perspective promotes habitat connectivity and stewardship on agricultural lands.
WFA’s work is more important than ever and gaining traction with landowners, agencies, funders and others through numerous campaigns which will take shape over the next 30 years.
Last month we released an inspiring video about our 20-year legacy. Click here to watch and join us with your interest and support as we look ahead to launching a bold new 2050 Vision this year to Bring Nature Back to the Farm.
See all that we accomplished together in WFA's 2020 Annual Impact Report - it is impressive!
Tribute to Amigo Cantisano
Amigo Bob Cantisano, pioneer in bringing organic farming to agriculture in California, the US and the world, passed away in December, after a long fight with cancer. Many of us knew him over the years from the EcoFarm conference, one of the largest and earliest organic farm conferences, where Amigo was a co-founder and major presence, with his encyclopedic knowledge of farming techniques and practices to build soil health and stimulate biodiversity on the farm. He inspired us to learn how to farm without the use of toxic poisons, always bringing forth alternatives to the use of chemicals that have been so accepted in so-called “conventional” agriculture.
Amigo was active in many areas, starting a farm supply company for organic materials, operating a small farm and olive oil business, consulting with large and small farmers all over the state and the world, and founding the Felix Gillet Institute for the research and preservation of heritage fruit and nut trees, berries and grapes, among many other things. He had a personality that was open and fun-loving, and had many friends and admirers, all of whom will miss him greatly.
Sparrow Preferences for Winter Cover Crops in California's Central Coast
New research published by Dr. Eric Brennan explores how cover crop variety and planting density influences Sparrows’ presence and feeding. Three types of cover crops were used (rye, a mixture of rye and legumes and a mixture of mustard varieties), and three Sparrow species were present (White-crowned, Savannah and Song Sparrows).
The study found that White-crowned Sparrows fed on mustard leaves and apparently on weed foliage under mustard, whereas the other Sparrows consumed arthropods. The White-crowned Sparrows’ clear preference for mustard cover crops is likely due in part to their high dietary needs for sulfur-rich amino acids during the prenuptial molt. As a result, this paper suggests ways that farmers might use mustard cover crops as trap crops to reduce White-crowned Sparrow feeding damage on winter and spring vegetable crops.
In the Face of Climate Change, Organic is More Important than Ever
As one of the stalwart leaders of the environmental and good food movement, Barry Flamm, PhD has an urgent message: “The enormous effects of climate change, loss of biodiversity, and farm-source pollution require the organic community to join forces with Wild Farm Alliance and other organizations to provide special expertise in how organic can and must be a part of solving the complex problems.”
Organic matters more than ever! The simple truth is the sustainable future is absolutely vital for the survival of all living things and our planet. So why is the “organic way” more sustainable? As an organic advocate and environmental steward, I would like to humbly share my views on this matter.
Our partners at California Climate and Agriculture Network (CalCAN) recently released a progress report on the first three years of California’s groundbreaking Healthy Soils Program (HSP). The report aims to both inspire and inform those working to scale up and sustain the use of healthy farming practices in California and beyond. For the past two years of HSP, WFA served as a technical assistance provider, helping growers prepare and submit applications and more recently, assisting with design and installation of hedgerows and riparian habitat.
Recognizing the benefits of improved soils management for agriculture and society at large, the state of California established the Healthy Soils Program in 2016. Since its launch, the program has invested nearly $42 million in 640 projects on farms and ranches, including 67 demonstration projects.
Conservation Stewardship Program Now Accepting Applications
Farmers and ranchers - Get rewarded for implementing comprehensive conservation systems that protect the natural resources of your working lands. When you enroll your land with the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), you can be compensated for incorporating conservation practices that address resource concerns relevant to your environment, creating ecosystems that promote both agricultural resilience and climate change mitigation!
Rewilding Institute: Healing Wounds Campaign
While the Biden Administration is addressing some of assaults to wild nature mentioned in this campaign, more is needed.
The Rewilding Institute and partner conservation organizations propose a “first 100 days” challenge to the incoming administration to reverse egregious assaults on Nature. These reversals can all be accomplished by administrative actions similar to those used to implement them, such as presidential executive orders or proclamations, administrative policy changes, and regulatory changes. No legislation or judicial review will be required.
History will certainly show that those currently in power have inflicted more wounds on wildlife, biological diversity, ecosystems, and wild landscapes in the United States than any prior federal administration. These assaults on Nature must be quickly reversed by the new administration.
Two concepts have recently been presented by wise and visionary thinkers to save Nature: Half-Earth and Rewilding.
How Non-Native Plants Are Contributing to a Global Insect Decline
By Janet Marinelli
The impact of introduced plants on native biodiversity has emerged as a hot-button issue in ecology. But recent research provides new evidence that the displacement of native plant communities is a key cause of a collapse in insect populations and is affecting birds as well.
For years, Doug Tallamy sounded the alarm about the grave threat that plants introduced from abroad pose to native insects. By transforming native plant communities into so-called novel landscapes increasingly dominated by exotic species on which many insects cannot feed, the University of Delaware entomologist speculated, they imperil not only insects but also the birds and other animals that depend on insects for survival.
Helping Farmers Meet the Climate Crisis
Our partners at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) penned an op-ed, Why we need a broader perspective to help farmers meet the Climate Crisis. The article discusses the issue of growing support by legislators, corporations and farm groups to pay farmers to sequester carbon through soil and conservation practices.
Co-authors Mark Schonbeck and Cristel Zoebisch caution against a rush to using carbon markets. They support a more holistic approach that emphasizes soil and agroecosystem health and payments to farmers that reflect all the ecosystem services provided including soil conservation, watershed ecology and agricultural resilience.