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Conservation and Biological Diversity in Organic Production

Rows of crops

Organic practices foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity.

The National Organic Program (NOP) – part of the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) – protects the integrity of certified organic products by developing clear standards, overseeing the certification of organic farms and businesses, and ensuring compliance with the USDA organic regulations.

Organic is a labeling term that means the food or other agricultural product has been produced through approved methods that integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices. These practices foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Certified organic crop and livestock producers manage their farms according to the USDA organic regulations. This means using materials that are approved for use in organic production, and maintaining or improving the natural resources of their operation, including soil and water quality. Read more »

Tribal Conservation Partnership Provides Aquaculture Ponds for Walleye

Chris Borden, NRCS soil conservationist; Celie Borndal, NRCS soil conservationist; Larry Wawronowicz, Lac du Flambeau Tribe natural resources director; and Tom Melnarik, NRCS soil conservation technician

(Left to right) Chris Borden, NRCS soil conservationist; Celie Borndal, NRCS soil conservationist; Larry Wawronowicz, Lac du Flambeau Tribe natural resources director; and Tom Melnarik, NRCS soil conservation technician; view the new aquaculture pond site.

“The Tribe wants to provide a sustainable supply of walleye for tribal and non-tribal fishing in reservation waters,” said Lac du Flambeau Tribe Natural Resources Director Larry Wawronowicz. “Raising the fish larger is necessary now due to shoreline development, increased competition from in aquatic invasives like zebra mussels, and climate change.”

Sustainable conservation and protection of natural resources has always been a goal of the Lac du Flambeau Tribe since inhabiting parts of Wisconsin in 1745. The Tribe acquired the name from its gathering practices of harvesting fish by torchlight at night. Their focus is to protect pristine areas, restore degraded natural and wildlife resources, and help build strong communities. Read more »

Bioreactors Form a Last Line of Defense against Nitrate Runoff

Illustration of how a denitrifying bioreactor fits in with drainage water management (DWM). Image by John Peterson.

Illustration of how a denitrifying bioreactor fits in with drainage water management

NOTE: This year, we’ll be highlighting some of 2015’s conservation practice innovations in a monthly series. NRCS supports science-based conservation by offering technical and financial assistance for nearly 170 conservation practice standards. As conservation science and technology advances, NRCS reevaluates each standard every five years and incorporates new advancements into conservation practice standards.

Walk to the edge of certain crop fields in Iowa and look down. You might not notice anything unusual, but just beneath the surface hordes of woodchip-dwelling microorganisms are busy removing excess nitrates from water before it leaves the field. By filtering nitrates, this organic gauntlet safeguards local streams and, eventually, the Gulf of Mexico. Read more »

USDA’s Commitment to Develop Food and Agricultural Workforce of the Future

Dr. Ann Bartuska, Deputy Under Secretary for the USDA Research, Education, and Economics (REE) Mission Area, speaking at a Workshop at the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

Dr. Ann Bartuska, Deputy Under Secretary for the USDA Research, Education, and Economics (REE) Mission Area, speaking at a Workshop at the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine on February 10, 2016. The Workshop brought together stakeholders from universities, government, non-government organizations, and the private sector to discuss growing needs in the agricultural workforce.

Nearly 99% of farms in the United States are family operated, and they account for roughly 90% of agricultural production. With statistics like these, it’s not surprising that many people associate jobs in agriculture with small-town America, farmers and tractors, and corn fields and cattle.

While the importance of farmers cannot be overstated, the diversity of careers available in the agricultural sector is staggering and often underappreciated. According to a 2013 study funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), an average of 57,900 jobs will open every year from 2015 to 2020 and require a bachelor’s degree or higher in food, agriculture, natural resources, or environmental studies. These jobs will include a range of sectors, including management and business; science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); food and biomaterials production; and education, communication, and government services.  Strikingly, it is also expected that 39% of positions will go unfilled. Read more »

Oregon Conservation Groups Partner with USDA for Results

Ralph Duyck on the Tualatin River Watershed

Ralph Duyck is one of 42 landowners who used the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) to protect the Tualatin River Watershed. With the initial goal of restoring fish habitat and cooling the stream, Duyck also noticed an increase in wildlife on his property.

A small group of conservation enthusiasts gathered at Ralph Duyck’s farm near Forest Grove, Oregon with a shared goal. They wanted to protect water quality and fish and wildlife habitat in and around the Tualatin River, an 83-mile tributary of the Willamette River that runs through Portland.

The group didn’t know how much interest they could attract or how much they could achieve—but that was 2005. Today, the Tualatin Basin Partners for Clean Water’s membership includes more than a dozen cities, counties, conservation districts, and environmental groups. Read more »

Silvopasture: Adding a Little Forest to the Farm

Hezekiah Gibson

Hezekiah and Francis Gibson’s non-profit organization, United Farmers USA works with NRCS staff to help other small farmers succeed through a wide range of outreach and technical assistance, educational programs and resources.

Lifelong farmer Hezekiah Gibson, and his wife Frances, farm 1,200 acres in Manning, South Carolina. They have been working with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for years to improve conservation on their farm.

In 2013, the couple’s non-profit organization, United Farmers USA―dedicated to helping small farmers succeed through a wide range of outreach and technical assistance, educational programs and resources―received an NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG). These grants help NRCS support public and private entities to accelerate technology transfer and adoption of promising technologies and approaches to address some of the Nation’s most pressing natural resource concerns. Read more »