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University launches program to increase number of Nevada organic producers | University of Nevada, Reno

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University launches program to increase number of Nevada organic producers | University of Nevada, Reno


Consumers are increasingly seeking organic food, whether it’s at their local grocery store, corner café or favorite restaurant. As the demand for organic produce by consumers, grocery outlets and restaurants continue to rise, a new program will help guide Nevada producers through the process to become certified organic producers. The University of Nevada, Reno’s Desert Farming Initiative has launched the “Grow Organic Nevada” Program that will enlist the help of producers who are already certified organic to help mentor other producers seeking to become certified organic.

“You get a plan written and use it. It’s not as hard as people want to make it,” said Rob Holley, who owns and operates his own certified organic farm in Dayton, Nevada, and will coordinate the program. “The organic system plan requires recordkeeping, but it’s just a documented extension of what that farmer or rancher is already doing. They are farther along than they think. There’s a lot of resources out there, and then the mentors can help streamline that process for those who are interested.”

Holley’s family has been farming in Dayton for more than 50 years. When Holley decided to seek organic certification for Holley Family Farms in 2011, he said he worked very closely with a couple of other producers and the Nevada Department of Agriculture who helped them through the process. He says it’s been worth it.

“Since becoming organic in 2011, we’ve seen a continued increase in sales and demand for our product,” he said.

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Indeed, organic has gone mainstream. According to the USDA, conventional grocery retailers have overtaken natural food stores as the most popular outlet for organic food, with 55.6% of sales in 2021. And, certified organic U.S. land for growing crops or livestock increased from 1.8 million acres in 2000 to 4.9 million acres in 2021. But, in Nevada, there are only 37 certified organic producers, and only 12 of those grow what we typically consider to be produce (vegetables, fruit, nuts, etc.), while 22 grow hay/grain/forage for livestock, and three raise livestock for meat production.

To encourage producers to take the plunge into organic, the new program is providing $500 to producers seeking to become certified organic and accepted into the program. Those seeking a mentor can request a mentor online.

To encourage producers who are already certified organic to serve as mentors, mentors receive $3,000 for 40 hours of service, providing one-on-one guidance through the process and sharing their organic farming expertise, as well as participating in regional organic-focused community events. Mentors can earn more for mentoring multiple transitioning producers and are also provided with supplemental training in interpersonal skills and organic practices. Those interested in becoming a mentor should have at least three years of direct experience managing organic production and certification, as well as a strong understanding of the process to become certified organic. Producers interested in mentoring, also apply to become a mentor online.

The funding stipends for producers and other program costs is being provided through grant funds of over $500,000 through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Transition to Organic Partnership Program, a network assembled by the USDA’s National Organic Program to support transitioning and organic producers with mentorship and resources. There are six designated regions for the program, and Nevada falls under the West/Southwest Region, which is led by the nonprofit California Certified Organic Farmers. The nonprofit organization has contracted the University to run the program in Nevada.

Jill Moe, director of the Desert Farming Initiative, which is a program of the University’s Experiment Station unit in the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources, said that when she learned of the Transition to Organic Partnership Program, she immediately saw it as a perfect fit for the Initiative and its goals to support local producers, advance climate-smart farming practices and promote food security in the state. She said that Holley, with his longtime farming experience and other professional experience, is also an excellent fit to lead the program.

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“Rob is graduate of the University and has worked with us on projects as a successful producer for decades,” she said. “But, besides that, he has more than 30 years of management experience and professional positions working for state and local partner agencies with goals that align with the goals of our College.”

Holley has served as district manager at the Dayton Valley Conservation District, park ranger at the Nevada Division of State Parks, and forester in Elko at the Nevada Division of Forestry. He says he’s excited to get the new program off the ground.

“I’m already receiving requests to get involved, from both mentors and mentees,” he said. “But, I really want to reach out to those producers who are underserved or not necessarily already in the loop, and to the tribal communities as well,” he said. “There’s a pretty broad net to cast across our state, and I intend to reach both small and large producers, in every corner of our state.”

For more information on the Grow Organic Nevada Program, contact Holley at 775-784-6556.

Grow Organic Nevada is supported through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Transition to Organic Partnership Program, which is a program of the USDA Organic Transition Initiative and is administered by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service National Organic Program.

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Nevada

NSHE highlights bolstered security in wake of UNLV shooting

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NSHE highlights bolstered security in wake of UNLV shooting


LAS VEGAS, Nev. (KOLO) – The Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents is highlighting security improvements made in the wake of the deadly 2023 shooting at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

They received a report on the progress of the Chancellor’s ad hoc Committee on Public Safety during its recent meeting.

NSHE says the committee’s most notable achievement has been the securing of $2.6 million from the Legislative Interim Finance Committee to bolster security across southern Nevada institutions of higher education.

“We are incredibly grateful to the legislature for prioritizing campus safety within the NSHE system by dedicating $2.6 million in funding,” said Interim Chancellor Patricia Charlton. “Ensuring that every student, staff, and faculty member feels safe and secure on our campuses is of utmost importance. Additional funding and the diligent work of the committee are instrumental in accomplishing this goal. Thank you to everyone involved.”

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The committee was created to assess and prioritize opportunities for enhancing campus security and emergency preparedness in the wake of the Dec. 6 shooting.

The committee says it has also made $4.4 million in budget and grant requests. Those requests were for:

  • 911 enhancements
  • Full-scale exercises
  • Procedures for active assailant events
  • Additional cameras installation
  • Funding requests to restore the learning environment at UNLV

Furthermore, the committee will present 15 preliminary recommendations, including:

  • Standardizing locking mechanisms for all NSHE buildings
  • Implementing a system-wide emergency notification system
  • Mandating active assailant and all-hazards training for all stakeholders
  • Standardizing Emergency Response Plans (ERPs) and Emergency Operations Plans (EOPs) across NSHE campuses

“The work of the Chancellor’s ad hoc Committee for Public Safety is vitally important at this moment. We were all rocked by the tragic events that took place on December 6 and I am extremely appreciative for the committee’s comprehensive approach to addressing safety concerns and implementing proactive measures at our institutions,” said Board of Regents Chair Amy J. Carvalho.



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Summer EBT won’t go out until September • Nevada Current

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Summer EBT won’t go out until September • Nevada Current


Parents in Nevada will have to wait until September to receive benefits from a popular free food program designed to cover kids during summer vacation.

Earlier this year, Nevada signed up for the first new federally funded nutrition program in decades, which established a permanent summer nutrition assistance program for children out of school for the summer.

The new federal nutrition program, known as Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer (SEBT), will provide families with $40 in food benefits per eligible child, per month, for the three month summer period. 

But those summer benefits won’t make it to Nevada households until September, according to the Nevada Division of Welfare and Supportive Services, which runs the program.

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State health officials said the program was delayed until September, because the agency has not yet secured the state funding needed to run the program. However, the Nevada Division of Welfare and Supportive Services said they are confident the $6 million needed to cover the program’s administrative costs will be approved by lawmakers during the Interim Finance Committee in June. 

“We just need to get our funding approved first,” said Kristle Muessle, a public information officer for the Nevada Division of Welfare and Support Services. “Once we have that, we’ll be able to get the system updates going, and get those contracts going.”

Although the program is largely funded by the federal government, states need to pay half the cost of administering the program.

Payments will be distributed in one lump sum to eligible households with children from Pre-K through the 12th grade. State health officials estimate that 350,000 children in Nevada will be eligible for the summer food benefits program.

The first round of summer benefits starting in September will automatically be distributed to children living in households already participating in other income-based federal assistance programs, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), or Nevada Medicaid.

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Households with children identified by the Nevada Department of Education (NDE) as eligible for the free and reduced lunch program will also automatically receive benefits in the first round of payments in September.

Those benefits will be deposited on existing SNAP or TANF cards as part of a household’s monthly benefits. State officials noted that not all children will receive their benefits at the same time.

For families who do not receive SNAP or TANF benefits, pre-loaded SEBT cards will be sent by mail starting in mid-September. SEBT cards will be mailed to the last known address the parent or guardian provided when enrolling their child in school. 

Parents who have recently moved will need to contact the school their child is currently enrolled in, prior to June 10, 2024, and provide them with a current address or mailing address to ensure they receive the summer food benefits when they are finally available in September, warned the Nevada Division of Welfare and Supportive Services.

Children in households that are not already participating in other income-based federal assistance programs will receive their summer benefits at a later date. However, that later date has not been determined yet, according to the Nevada Division of Welfare and Supportive Services.

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Nevada also has several nutrition food programs for families who need assistance over the summer.  The Clark County School District (CCSD) announced it will serve breakfast and lunch meals to all students through the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) at several locations throughout southern Nevada. A list of locations can be found here.

Summer meals served by CCSD schools will be available from May 21 to June 14, before returning from June 17 to July 17. Due to the terms of the CCSD Summer Food Service Program, all meals provided by CCSD must be consumed on-site. 

The Food Bank of Northern Nevada’s also offers free breakfast and lunch meals  to children 2-18 years old throughout summer break. A list of locations can be found here. 

The Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer (SEBT) is a much needed boost for states that have seen food insecurity rise in recent years. 

Earlier this month, data released by Three Square Food Bank revealed that food insecurity in Clark, Nye, Esmerelda and Lincoln counties rose from 12% in 2022 to 14.7% in 2023. An estimated 14.6% of Clark County residents were food insecure, up from 12% the previous year. 

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The highest rates are among Esmeralda and Nye counties, at 18.4% and 17.3% respectively. Both counties had a 13.9% rate the previous year.

The report also found that rates among children spiked from 17.8% in 2023 to 22%. Roughly one in five children, about 115,000 children, live in food-insecure households.

While Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo vetoed a bill in 2023 that would have provided universal free lunch for K-12 students, the SEBT program will provide much needed additional funding for childhood nutrition programs.

Last month, Democratic lawmakers also criticized Lombardo for pressuring the legislature to fund the states administrative costs related to the SEBT program from an emergency contingency account, rather than reallocating unspent American Rescue Plan Act money.

Using the emergency contingency fund for the EBT programs’ $6 million administrative needs would leave the fund with an $11 million balance–considered too low by lawmakers.

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During the legislative session, $9 million in ARPA funding was set aside for the universal free lunch program, which was ultimately left unspent after Lombardo vetoed the free school lunch bill. 

Lawmakers said they intended to use part of the $9 million in unspent ARPA funds to cover the $6 million needed for administrative costs related to the SEBT program.



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150-acre wildfire burning southwest of Las Vegas

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150-acre wildfire burning southwest of Las Vegas


LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Crews are working on putting out a wildfire that is burning southwest of Las Vegas.

According to the Bureau of Land Management, the fire started at 11:40 a.m. near the Late Night Trailhead, which is seven miles east of Mountain Springs along State Route 160.

It was originally 25 acres. At 4:15 p.m., BLM officials estimated the fire was 50 acres and was now burning in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

Wildfire officials gave an update at 5:15 p.m. and said the fire had grown to 150 acres. However, they added the fire perimeter has not been mapped by GPS so an exact size of the fire is not yet available. As of 7 p.m., the BLM said the fire is 15% contained.

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Approximately 30 firefighters have been assigned to the fire, including four engines, and two Single Engine Air Tankers. During the most recent update, BLM officials said they anticipate additional firefighters to arrive on Tuesday to help and the goal is to contain the entire fire by 6 p.m.

No structures are threatened and no roads have been closed. No injuries have been reported.

BLM officials have named it the Bird Springs Fire and state the fire was caused by humans and is under investigation.

Wildfire season in Nevada runs from May through October. Channel 13 previously spoke to wildland firefighters who said they are ready for this season.

WATCH: Here’s how local wildland firefighters are preparing

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‘We’re ready’: Las Vegas valley wildland firefighters are preparing for fire season

They also laid out some tips for preventing wildfires.

  • Clear dead vegetation (trees, grass, leaves, etc.) from around your home to limit the potential fire fuel.
  • Properly soak and dispose of cigarette butts, charcoal briquettes, and any other material that can start fires.
  • Equip all-terrain vehicles with spark arrestors.

Clark County officials are also reminding everyone that only “safe and sane” fireworks are allowed in Clark County and local cities and that is only from June 28 through July 4.
No fireworks of any kind are allowed at Clark County Wetlands Park and other local parks, or on public lands in the region, including Mount Charleston, Lake Mead, and Red Rock Canyon.

Offenders caught using illegal fireworks in unincorporated County areas and the city of Las Vegas face a minimum fine of $500. Legislation approved in 2021 by the Nevada State Legislature allows for fines of up to $10,000 for large amounts of illegal fireworks found within the community.

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Residents are urged not to call 911 to report illegal fireworks to keep 911 free for life-threatening emergencies. Instead, the public is asked to report location complaints about illegal fireworks over the holiday online by clicking here.





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