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Comparing the Baltic Sea and Chesapeake Bay Provides Lessons for More Cost-Effective Policies

Ducks on a lake with sunset

USDA's Economic Research Service, and other researchers, analyzed the similarities and differences of the Chesapeake Bay and the Baltic Sea to help preserve the water quality of each.

Situated on two different continents and separated by thousands of miles, the Chesapeake Bay on the East Coast of the United States and the Baltic Sea in northern Europe face remarkably similar problems. Both are relatively shallow basins of brackish water. Both marine areas suffer from eutrophication–pollution caused by introduction of chemical nutrients. For both water bodies, agriculture is the single most important source of those nutrients, and governments have implemented policies to reduce nutrient loads and improve marine ecosystems.

Researchers at the Natural Resources Institute Finland, USDA’s Economic Research Service, and the University of Helsinki have analyzed the similarities and differences between the institutional settings and protection policies of the Chesapeake Bay and the Baltic Sea. The aim was to identify avenues for reducing the cost of meeting water quality objectives. The very different political and institutional histories of the jurisdictions within the respective watersheds provide both contrasts and similarities. The six U.S. States in the Chesapeake watershed have a common political history and operate under Federal environmental law. The Baltic watershed is made up of 14 nations whose intergovernmental relations are strongly influenced by Cold War legacies. Yet current policies in both watersheds rely heavily on voluntary approaches to control agricultural runoff. Read more »

Going Wild about Water at the World Water Forum

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research profile.

Water is a precious resource and will become scarcer as the human population continues to grow.  In many areas, climate change is expected to affect weather patterns. In general, the wetter areas are expected to get wetter and the drier areas are expected to get drier. This year, California’s drought has highlighted how important it is for land managers and producers to exercise best practices to increase water quality and quantity so there is enough to go around.

This year, USDA participated in the 7th Annual World Water Forum in Daegu, Republic of Korea. Every three years, the World Water Council hosts the Forum and develops the program in cooperation with the private sector, governments, industry, international governmental organizations, nongovernmental organizations and academic groups. Read more »

Is the Foothill Yellow-Legged Frog in Hot Water – Because of Cold Water?

Foothill yellow-legged frog

The foothill yellow-legged frog breeds exclusively in streams and prefers warm stream edges. Photo by Amy Lind, U.S. Forest Service.

For the foothill yellow-legged frog, breeding can be a challenging matter.

It is the only true frog in western North America that breeds exclusively in streams, preferring warm stream edges. Its eggs can be swept away with spring rains and rapid currents, so a relatively long breeding season allows mates to wait until weather and water conditions offer the best chance for eggs to develop and hatch in this dynamic environment.

But yellow-legged frogs face a new challenge in a Northern California river managed for agriculture, energy, and habitat for steelhead, Chinook salmon and coho salmon. Read more »

Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, Other Species Benefit from Riparian Restoration Work in Utah

Southwestern willow flycatcher

The Southwestern willow flycatcher is an endangered bird that lives in the riparian areas of the Southwest. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo.

Jim Hook, owner of the Recapture Lodge and volunteer firefighter in Bluff, Utah, has been working for years to manage and restore the riparian habitat on his property along the San Juan River in southeast Utah.

Where the Cottonwood Creek and the San Juan River meet, Hook is working with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to establish healthy riparian habitat. His hard work over the years has begun to yield results as the invasive plants have begun to die and native plants are taking their place. An endangered bird species, the Southwestern willow flycatcher, is one of the species that will benefit from his restoration work. Read more »

Weaving Up New Uses for Cotton

Glandless cottonseed machine

Glandless cottonseed is being used to demonstrate that the elimination of gossypol provides an opportunity to produce high value foods for humans as well as animals. The oil will be used to fry food in a college cafeteria. The used oil will be taken back to the experiment station where it will be converted into biodiesel and used to run the station’s irrigation pumps. The protein, which was also squeezed out during the crushing process, will be used to feed shrimp in an aquaculture experiment and ultimately sold. Photo courtesy of the Cotton Board.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

In the agriculture industry, having a green thumb can help businesses improve their yield and their bottom line. As good stewards, our nation’s farmers, ranchers, and agricultural business are also committed to another type of green. Through sustainable and conservation practices, ag businesses are finding multiple uses for products, which reduces land and water usage.

The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) witnesses these efforts first-hand while overseeing industry Research and Promotion Programs. These self-help programs that are requested for and completely funded by the industry are charged with developing cutting-edge marketing campaigns and supporting nutrition research that benefits all of the industry’s members. Many of their research projects focus on sustainable practices and conservation. While we know that the list of these types of projects is endless, we would like to highlight a few of the things that the cotton industry is doing. Read more »

On “Bring Your Daughter to Work Day,” a Local Student Learns about Climate Change

Ellie Hohenstein in Michigan with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. (USDA photo)

Ellie Hohenstein in Michigan with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. (USDA photo)

Last week, Secretary Vilsack went to Michigan State University to deliver a major climate address.  Among those in attendance was 15 year old Ellie Hohenstein, a freshman at Annandale High School in Fairfax County, VA.  She provides this blog concerning her experiences as she accompanied her father to Lansing for the event.  Wayne Maloney, Office of Communications

Submitted by Ellie Hohenstein

My father is the Director of the USDA Climate Change Program Office in Washington, D.C. April 23 was “bring your daughter or son to work day” at USDA. I had no idea what to expect when my Dad told me I could accompany him on his business trip to Michigan. I knew I would get to watch a speech from the Secretary of Agriculture, but this was a much bigger event than I expected. Read more »