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Category: Conservation

Missouri Gardener Enjoys Fresh High Tunnel Produce

David Backus enjoys a tomato that he grew in his high tunnel. NRCS photo by Charlie Rahm.

David Backus enjoys a tomato that he grew in his high tunnel. NRCS photo by Charlie Rahm.

David Backus is reminded of the benefits of the seasonal high tunnel on his property in southeastern Missouri at nearly every meal – and sometimes between meals. 

“The food that I grow in my own garden is healthier than the food I can buy at the store, and it tastes so much better,” said Backus between bites of a just picked tomato.  Read more »

A Year of Promise for American Agriculture

It’s not hard to list our accomplishments here at USDA: After all, our progress on the much anticipated 2014 Farm Bill has been lauded as “the most successful Farm Bill implementation.” We also launched a website for New Farmers and started a conversation with women in agriculture that will continue to grow for many years to come.

What is sometimes less obvious is the people whose lives these programs and initiatives impact. So, to wrap up the year, I wanted to share a few of my most cherished memories from my first year as Deputy Secretary. Read more »

USDA Leaders Participate in Ecosystem Services Conference – Discuss New Markets for Producers

At the ACES conference last week, NRCS Chief Jason Weller (standing) outlined USDA’s approach to incorporating ecosystem services and environmental markets into its conservation mission. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.

At the ACES conference last week, NRCS Chief Jason Weller (standing) outlined USDA’s approach to incorporating ecosystem services and environmental markets into its conservation mission. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Jason Weller was one of several government leaders to present last week at the A Community on Ecosystem Services (ACES) Conference to discuss how USDA incorporates ecosystem services and market-based approaches into its conservation mission.

Every two years, leaders in the study and practice of ecosystem services and environmental markets meet at a large conference. The conference, held in Arlington, Virginia this year, aims to link science, practice and sustainable decision-making by bringing together stakeholders from across the nation and world. Read more »

The Poinsettia, in the Shadow of the Christmas Tree

The beautiful poinsettia stands as a decoration on its own. NRCS photo by Analia Bertucci.

The beautiful poinsettia stands as a decoration on its own. NRCS photo by Analia Bertucci.

The poinsettia – academic types may call it by its binomial name, and biologists might refer to its species. But how many of us are guilty of calling it that red flower with the pointy leaves used to decorate during the holidays?

In the world of holiday shrubbery, the poinsettia has always taken a backseat to the Christmas tree. With its lights and ornaments, the tree has become the icon of the holiday in contrast to the poinsettia, which is usually placed in a nearby corner. Read more »

A New Revenue Source for Virginia Farmers Reduces Erosion and Improves Water Quality in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack speaking at a press conference in Fairfax, VA. USDA photo by David Kosling.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack speaking at a press conference in Fairfax, VA. USDA photo by David Kosling.

USDA has a long history of helping farmers, ranchers and forest landowners maintain their bottom line while improving soil health and reducing runoff into streams and rivers.  For nearly 80 years, USDA has offered funding and technical assistance for farmers to implement conservation practices through the conservation title of the Farm Bill. In recent years, however, USDA has also supported new, innovative approaches to voluntary, private lands conservation.

An announcement today by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, and Administrator Gina McCarthy of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in northern Virginia highlights an innovative approach called water quality trading. Farmers like John Harrison of Appomattox County are taking advantage of private investments to implement conservation practices on their land. These practices help reduce erosion and nutrient runoff into local bodies of water, generating nutrient credits that can then be sold to regulated entities looking to offset nutrient losses for compliance purposes. Read more »

Strategic Conversations, a Crisis Response at the Grass Roots Level

From left to right, Hardin County farmer Jerry McBride, AgCredit CEO Brian Ricker and Ohio State Conservationist Terry Cosby place the first cover crop sign in McBride’s cover crop field which contains a mix of oilseed radish, hairy vetch, and cereal rye. NRCS photo by Dianne Johnson.

From left to right, Hardin County farmer Jerry McBride, AgCredit CEO Brian Ricker and Ohio State Conservationist Terry Cosby place the first cover crop sign in McBride’s cover crop field which contains a mix of oilseed radish, hairy vetch, and cereal rye. NRCS photo by Dianne Johnson.

As Mark Twain once said, “Let us make a special effort to stop communicating with each other, so we can have some conversation.” Recently, in Ohio, the staff of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), put that advice to work: rather than trying to communicate broadly, they took their message on the road, visiting with farmers face-to-face to talk about the importance of cover crops on improving water quality.

For two days this past summer, 400,000 Toledo, Ohio residents dependent on safe drinking water from Lake Erie could not use their water for drinking, bathing or washing. Toxins from algae contaminated their water, exceeding the city’s water treatment facilities capacity to remove it.  Boiling the water only concentrated the toxin. No one knew how long this would last. Read more »