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Category: Conservation

USDA-EPA National Workshop on Water Quality Markets September 15-17

2015 USDA/EPA National Workshop on Water Quality Markets graphic

2015 USDA/EPA National Workshop on Water Quality Markets graphic. (Click for the registration link)

For most people, water quality markets are probably a new concept. They are not something you hear about on the news every day, even though reports frequently cover the need to clean up rivers and lakes. But to some—like states, utilities, and farmers—they represent an opportunity, and should be on the radar.

Water quality markets can reduce costs of cleaning up waterways by allowing sources with high costs of meeting water quality requirements to purchase credits from sources that have lower costs of making the same water quality improvement. Agricultural producers often have lower costs of improving water quality, which makes farmers and ranchers prime candidates to supply water quality credits. Read more »

New Sage Grouse Conservation Strategy Good for Cattle Ranches, Good for Birds

Sage-grouse on land

USDA today unveiled Sage Grouse Initiative 2.0, its roadmap to guide voluntary conservation efforts on private grazing lands in the West. Photo courtesy of Ken Miracle.

Today, USDA released its new long-term investment strategy for sage grouse conservation—Sage Grouse Initiative 2.0 (SGI 2.0). USDA’s planned investments will complement the great conservation work already happening throughout the West and build on the work of the Sage Grouse Initiative, a partnership between USDA, ranchers and conservation groups that began in 2010. SGI 2.0 provides our partners a roadmap to fill unmet needs by rallying around a cohesive, partnership-focused conservation strategy that is good for cattle ranches, good for the bird, good for rural economies and good for sustaining the Western way of life.

The SGI 2.0 investment strategy is intended to be a living document, shaped by the best available science and the priorities of our partners. SGI 2.0 and other strategic partnership initiatives like the Regional Conservation Partnership Program underscore the growing demand for a new conservation philosophy of putting local partners in the driver’s seat and allowing them to set priorities and develop strategies that make sense for their operations and communities while still meeting conservation goals. Read more »

Commitment to Innovation and Conservation Shapes the Littles’ Family Farm

The Littles in front of their cattle

The Littles have a diversified farming and ranching operation. Photo: Dan Zinkand for NRCS.

When you stop on a bridge that crosses the Big Sioux River in Hamlin County, South Dakota, and look south you can see how well Donnie, Barry and Eli Little manage their cows and crops to improve soil and water quality and increase productivity.

Cows graze in one of 24 paddocks that the family manages with a computer program Eli made after graduating from South Dakota State University in 2013. An electric fence along a buffer strip following the river keeps cows out, protecting the source of drinking water for the city of Sioux Falls. Read more »

Minnesota Farmer Commits a Century of Life to Agriculture, Dedicating Three Decades to Conservation

FSA Administrator Val Dolcini celebrating Art Hulberg's 100th birthday

FSA Administrator Val Dolcini celebrates Art Hulberg's 100th Birthday and his 30 year commitment to the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Photo courtesy of Deb Mercier, News Editor, Pope County Tribune

When Minnesota farmer and conservationist Arthur “Art” Hulberg celebrated his 100th birthday this month, he also marked the 30th anniversary of USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)–a program in which Hulberg has participated since its inception.  Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Val Dolcini traveled to Benson, Minnesota, to offer birthday wishes and hand deliver a personal letter from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Hulberg and his brother Clifford farmed nearly 200 acres in Pope County, Minnesota.  When CRP began, the Hulbergs eventually enrolled 188 acres in the program.  When Clifford passed away in 1989, Art took over as full owner of the property and to this day works with USDA staff to manage his CRP acres.  For example, when the Walk-In-Access (WIA) program began, Hulberg immediately enrolled to allow for hunting on his CRP acreage.  WIA is supported by a grant through the USDA’s Voluntary Public Access Program that assists with public access to CRP for wildlife-dependent recreation.  Hulberg also has helped fellow farmers and livestock producers in his community by allowing them to use his CRP acres for managed haying practices. Read more »

An NRCS Earth Team Volunteer Gives Her Perspective

Raquel MacSwain, NRCS Earth Team Volunteer

Raquel MacSwain, NRCS Earth Team Volunteer. Photo credit: Julie MacSwain.

I experience a sense of passion and pride towards something greater than myself every time I volunteer with an organization that directly benefits others, such as serving with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) as an Earth Team Volunteer.

I have been with NRCS since 2008 – volunteering nearly 100 hours over my summer breaks and a few hours a week while in school – assisting the public affairs specialist for NRCS in Minnesota. Through my familiarity with social media, I help by developing messaging for Twitter, promoting upcoming media events, as well as other clerical tasks like designing PowerPoint slides for presentations for employee meetings. Read more »

High Tunnels Helps Community Supported Agriculture Farm

Beth Rinkenberger holding a cheddar cauliflower she grew in the high tunnel

Beth Rinkenberger holds a cheddar cauliflower she grew in the high tunnel, one of the many vegetables the CSA box contains. Photo: Jody Christiansen.

Somewhat hidden in Livingston County, Illinois is a five-acre farm that is reminiscent of farms years ago. With assistance from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the farm is able to maintain a diversified operation with agritourism features and run a CSA ­– or Community Supported Agriculture.

A CSA is a way for consumers to directly invest in local farms, like Beth and Doug Rinkenberger’s Garden Gate Farms, and receive a regular delivery of fresh fruits and vegetables. Read more »