Ann Johnson grows wine grapes in El Dorado County, Calif., where she carefully uses each drop of water. Water is imperative to her operation, and using it wisely and keeping it clean are important to private landowners like her.
Conservation practices, like a drip irrigation system, help her care for this natural resource. A public television series, “This American Land,” will showcase Johnson and other California farmers and ranchers who are working with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to put conservation on the ground.
The segment, “Precious Sierra Water,” is included in the season’s sixth episode, being released this month to public TV stations across the country. Read more »
All of us rely on nature’s benefits during our daily routines, but few stop to think about how we can sustain those benefits over time. Luckily, there are economists, resource managers, and policymakers working on tools to help manage resources—and environmental markets are one of those tools. Environmental markets allow people who use ecosystem services to pay those who provide environmental benefits. In some cases, the environmental stewards who can provide benefits (like clean water, air and habitats) are farmers. While there is promise in environmental markets, there are a lot of kinks to work out.
Two new issue papers by the World Resources Institute, take a deep dive into the mechanics of water quality trading and other environmental markets by exploring options for market development. The papers were produced with support from the USDA Office of Environmental Markets, and were released earlier this month. Read more »
Larry Romanelli, with the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians Ogema (left) and NRCS Michigan State Conservationist Garry Lee (right) pose with artist Shirley M. Brauker, the winner of the agency’s Native American Heritage Month poster contest. NRCS photo.
When the Anishinaabe people migrated from the Atlantic Ocean coast to Michigan centuries ago, they were in search of a place where “food grows on the water,” according to their tribe’s legend. Their quest ended when they found wild rice, thriving in shallow waters in the Great Lakes region.
The wild rice, or manoomin, served as a staple of the Anishinaabe diet is still culturally and spiritually important to them. And, today, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is helping keep this tradition alive.
NRCS has worked with two Anishinaabe tribes to increase the number of wild rice beds using financial assistance from Farm Bill conservation programs. The Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula was the first tribe to use NRCS assistance for planting rice. Tribal members planted about 12 acres of wild rice at six locations in 2006. Read more »
Mildred Griggs of Marianna, Ark., installed a seasonal high tunnel through the USDA StrikeForce Initiative for Rural Growth and Opportunity.
Mildred Griggs, of Marianna, Ark., wasn’t looking for bragging rights when she installed her new seasonal high tunnel, last year, but that’s what she earned this spring after harvesting her first winter vegetable crop.
“We had the best salad green mix in the region,” says Griggs.
With the high tunnel, Griggs was able to extend her fall growing season of fresh produce into the winter months. Her harvest included lettuce, spinach, beets, carrots and greens. Read more »
USDA employees across the country and around the world do critical work that impacts millions of lives. I am proud of our employees for many reasons, and I want to share just a few of their great accomplishments under the Obama Administration.
- Since 2009 the Rural Housing Service has financed 743,309 home loans.
- Since 2009 the Rural Housing Service supported improvements to 276 hospital and medical clinics, 166 schools and 401 libraries in rural America.
- Since 2009 the Rural Utilities Service completed 176 broadband projects providing new or improved service to 104,471 subscribers, including 5,858 businesses and 647 critical community facilities.
- Since 2009 the Rural Utilities Service financed 3,785 water projects providing clean water to thousands of rural residents.
- Since 2009 the Rural Business Service awarded 15,727 grants and loans to aid 65,636 businesses expand opportunity and create jobs.
- Since 2009 the Rural Business Service authorized 7,586 awards under the Rural Energy for America Program, saving or generating 8,549,590 megawatt hours of energy.
- Since 2009 the Food, Nutrition and Consumer Service expanded summer feeding programs to an additional 9,546 sites, bringing the total number of sites to 42,266.
- Since 2009 the Food, Nutrition and Consumer Service instituted Electronic Benefit Transfer systems in an additional 3,087 Farmers Markets to allow SNAP beneficiaries greater access to fresh fruits and vegetables while supporting more local and regional food systems.
- Since 2009 the Farm Service Agency processed 159,475 loans to farmers and ranchers, with a majority of the loans going to beginning farmers and ranchers, and socially disadvantaged producers.
- Since 2009 the Natural Resources Conservation Service entered into 190,822 contracts under Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), providing conservation benefits for more than 108 million acres.
- Since 2009 the Farm Service Agency enrolled 286,635 Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts, bringing into this conservation effort or retaining 14,131,055 acres.
- Since 2009 the Forest Service partnered with state and local interests in 23 projects under the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program to improve over 500,000 acres of forests, producing 1.2 million tons of biomass for renewable energy production.
- Since 2009 the Forest Service and the brave men and women of the Service have helped fight more than 285,000 forest fires, risking their lives to protect lives and property.
- Since 2009 the National Institute of Food and Agriculture supported research projects resulting in 392 patent applications.
- Since 2009 the Agricultural Research Service in the area of Genetics, Genomes and Biotechnology alone generated over 3,500 publications, 830 Material Transfer Agreements, and 70 patent applications filed.
- Since 2009, the Foreign Agricultural Service helped challenge 751 sanitary and phytosanitary barriers to the export of American agricultural products, helping to spur record exports of American agricultural products.
- Since 2009 the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service reduced processing time for non-regulated status petitions involving biotechnology by 332 days.
- Since 2009 the Agricultural Marketing Service assisted in purchasing $6.8 billion of product, helping to stabilize producer income.
- Since 2009 the Food Safety and Inspection Service adopted new Performance Standards for poultry and turkey inspections that will prevent 25,000 illnesses a year due to Salmonella and Campylobacter.
- The Food Safety and Inspection Service partnered with the Ad Council to launch the “Food Safe Families” ad campaign. Since then, USDA consumer food safety messages have reached an estimated 291 million people, helping families and caregivers of young children prepare safe food.
- The National Agricultural Statistics Service worked on the 2012 Agricultural Census and obtained a response rate of over 80 percent to the survey sent to more than 3 million producers.
- Since 2009 the Economic Research Service has published, on a yearly basis, a fact sheet on the condition of the rural economy that highlights persistent poverty and employment challenges that rural America faces, reminding policymakers of the importance of addressing those challenges.
- Since 2009, the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration has identified more than 460 instances of underfunded market accounts of funds held in trust for livestock sellers, and 110 instances of market weighing violations, returning to producers over $14,000,000.
- Since 2009, USDA’s Departmental Management has spearheaded the Blueprint for Stronger Service that has saved USDA more than $920 million – an effort which to date has allowed USDA to avoid furloughs and layoffs as a result of the sequester.
These are just 24 of the hundreds of examples of extraordinary work going on around the country by USDA employees. Our nation is truly fortunate that so many dedicated people serving the American public are back to work, so that these accomplishments can continue to grow.
Emma and Percy Brown of Vicksburg, Miss., are beginning farmers whose lives have benefited from funding through the USDA StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity initiative.
For over a year, Mississippi retirees Percy and Emma Brown traveled 50 miles roundtrip three times a week from their home in Vicksburg, Miss. to their farm in Port Gibson in order to water their cattle. It was a time consuming process that involved filling up eight barrels with many gallons of water for the growing cattle herd.
That all changed when the Browns, who were new to farming, heard about USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, an agency that helps private landowners implement conservation. They visited the Port Gibson field office and learned that they could receive funding from NRCS for livestock water troughs through the USDA StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity initiative. Read more »