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Hog Wild Over Broadband

A group of hogs

A group of hogs. Photo courtesy: USDA, Lance Cheung, Photographer

Bringing broadband to rural areas is helping transform business operations, including family-owned hog farms.

Ralls County Electric Cooperative in Missouri received Recovery Act funding to provide fiber-to-the-premises in a very rural area of Missouri. One of the locations in the Ralls County Electric service territory is a local hog farm, Spring Lake Pork, just 20 miles west of the Mississippi River. This family-owned business was well experienced in hog management, but to stay in business, they needed to upgrade to a smarter and much more efficient operation with state-of-the-art equipment. They also needed robust broadband service to manage a wealth of data. Read more »

USDA Builds Conservation Partnerships to Restore Forests, Clean Water and Reduce Wildfire Risk

Green Bank Middle School students

The constructed wetlands on restored coal mine benches on the Greenbrier Ranger District of the Monongahela National Forest, not only provide habitat, but also serve as outdoor classrooms for groups that want to learn more about wetland ecology. These students are from the Green Bank Middle School (Pocahontas County, West Virginia). Photo credit: C. Barton (Green Forests Work).

Protecting our National Forests and surrounding lands against a myriad of threats is not an easy feat. That’s why joining forces with the right ally is a powerful strategy.

In 2014, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell and Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Jason Weller formed a strategic alliance to establish the Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership.

“We face a multitude of challenges in combating forest threats and the Forest Service can’t prevail alone,” said Tidwell. “The Joint Chiefs’ partnership provides a better way for us to work with local communities to reduce the risk of wildfires, ensure dependable local drinking water and improve wildlife habitat across the country.” Read more »

Innovative Irrigation Saves Water, Boosts Yields in Ogallala Aquifer Region

Project Manager Leon New discussing the progress of the 3, 4, 5 demonstration project

Project Manager Leon New discusses the progress of the 3, 4, 5 demonstration project at a 2015 district producer field day.

In the Ogallala Aquifer region, each drop of water counts. A group of forward-thinking farmers in Texas are finding innovative ways to irrigate their crops to use water more efficiently.

These farmers are working with the North Plains Groundwater Conservation District in the panhandle to study use of water from the aquifer. The Ogallala is the nation’s largest aquifer and is being depreciated by water withdrawals at an unsustainable rate. Read more »

Woodland Buffers Protect Amphibians, Ecosystems

Red-backed salamander

Red-backed salamanders and other amphibians are key players in ecosystem health. (iStock photo)

Forested areas that border wetlands help protect wildlife, but until recently their efficacy has been untested for most amphibian species.  Now, recently published results of a six-year study explore how the loss or reduction of amphibians could affect the ecosystem.

At the University of New Hampshire, Dr. Kimberly Babbitt and a team of graduate students conducted landscape-scale experiments that tested the impacts of forest buffer width vernal pools on population size and structure, body size and condition and population genetics of two amphibian species in the northeastern United States. A grant from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) supported the project. Read more »

See How Clean Rural Energy is Growing North Carolina, and the Nation

Joel Olson (left), President of O2 Energies, Inc. of North Carolina speaking with USDA staff

Joel Olson (left), President of O2 Energies, Inc. of North Carolina speaks with USDA staff in front of one of O2's solar projects. O2 worked with local North Carolina lender Surrey Bank & Trust and USDA Rural Development to finance the project.

In the last fiscal year, USDA Rural Development invested over $240 million in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects across the nation. Through our Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) we have changed the face of clean energy in our rural communities by promoting energy efficiency in rural small businesses and agricultural operations and the development of renewable energy sources in and around these small communities.

The renewable energy component has expanded both small and large-scale clean energy development in a number of sectors including geothermal, solar, wind, hydropower, and biofuels. Utilizing resources already available in our rural areas whether it’s sun and wind, or water and agricultural waste, USDA in partnership with local lenders has been able to provide the financial underpinnings to grow hundreds of renewable energy projects. Read more »

How Do You Manage Collaborative Conservation Planning across 100 Million Acres? From a Bird’s Eye View, of Course!

SGI Interactive Web Application screenshot

The SGI Interactive Web Application enables conservationists to help plan the best conservation efforts to restore sage grouse habitat. (Click to enlarge)

The saying “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” is often attributed to the Greek philosopher Aristotle, and that couldn’t be more true when it comes to doing conservation planning across 11 states, multiple federal agencies and millions of acres of public and private land.

The Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI), led by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), introduces the SGI Interactive Web Application, a tool that will take habitat restoration efforts for sage grouse to new heights — both visually and on the ground. The tool graphically layers vital pieces of information to paint a more cohesive picture of connected landscapes, so state and federal agencies and their partners can make more effective and targeted decisions. Read more »