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Category: Conservation

Conservation Easements Preserve, Restore Florida Wetlands

Betsie Rothermel, restoration ecology research director at Archbold Biological Station, strolls through an easement she is restoring. NRCS photo.

Betsie Rothermel, restoration ecology research director at Archbold Biological Station, strolls through an easement she is restoring. NRCS photo.

The Archbold Biological Station located in central Florida occupies 5,200 acres of pristine Florida scrub habitat on the southern tip of the Lake Wales Ridge, which is considered an ecological wonder. Eastern indigo snakes, Florida sand skinks, Florida scrub jays, burrowing owls and crested caracaras occupy the mosaic of uplands and wetlands found within the confluence of the Kissimmee River and Fisheating Creek watershed.

This renowned research facility has hosted scientists from all over the world for almost 75 years, and its scientific publications document the status and habits of plants and animals that are found nowhere else on earth. Read more »

Conservation Program to Launch Bold Ideas, Accelerate Innovation

NRCS Chief Weller talks with partners, conservation agencies and landowners during a conservation tour in Illinois.

NRCS Chief Weller talks with partners, conservation agencies and landowners during a conservation tour in Illinois.

When USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) launched the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, (RCPP) we envisioned a program that would help local and diverse organizations to accelerate innovation, bring new partners to the table, and demonstrate the value and effectiveness of voluntary, private lands conservation to a national audience.

The response was tremendous! More than 5,000 partners submitted nearly 600 pre-proposals from all 50 states and each critical conservation area. The total amount of NRCS funding requested was more than six times what was available. About $2.7 billion in federal assistance was requested, but incredibly these partnerships offered about $2.9 billion in leveraged conservation funding and in-kind support to deliver their projects. In the end, NRCS has about $394 million in total funding to co-invest in projects during this first signup. Read more »

Fighting Drought: Irrigation Improvements Make Believers out of Nevada Dairy Owners

Angela Mushrush, NRCS Nevada soil conservationist (right), talks to Ed Moreda (left) and Henry Moreda about their new manhole structure which was installed as part of an Environmental Quality Incentives Program irrigation pipeline project on their farm. The structure is used to regulate the flow of water. NRCS photo.

Angela Mushrush, NRCS Nevada soil conservationist (right), talks to Ed Moreda (left) and Henry Moreda about their new manhole structure which was installed as part of an Environmental Quality Incentives Program irrigation pipeline project on their farm. The structure is used to regulate the flow of water. NRCS photo.

Turn on any news station or open a newspaper in Nevada, and you’ll see the effects of the severe drought, now in its third year in the Silver State. It is leaving farmers and ranchers devastated.

Luckily, before the drought’s onslaught, the Moreda Dairy in Yerington, took advantage of a conservation program offered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to improve their farm’s irrigation system, and its owners say they’re thankful they did.

Henry Moreda, his brother, Ed, and his mother, Janet, have run Moreda Dairy in Yerington, 80 miles southeast of Reno, since 1970. The Moredas no longer operate a dairy, but now focus on producing irrigated quality hay and beef cattle. Read more »

Women are the Past, Present and Future of American Agriculture

Cross posted from the White House Rural Council blog:

From historic homesteaders to contemporary cattle ranchers, women have been the cornerstone of America’s agriculture heritage. We’ve produced food to feed our families, feed our neighbors and to feed the world.

The 2012 Census of Agriculture notes that nearly one million women are working America’s lands. That’s nearly a third of our nation’s farmers.  These women are generating $12.9 billion in annual agricultural sales.

Farm work isn’t the only way women are contributing to agriculture.  We are scientists, economists, foresters, veterinarians and conservationists. We are in the boardrooms and the corner offices of international enterprises, and are the owners and operators of small businesses. We are property owners and managers. We are policy makers and standard bearers.  Women are increasingly involved in every aspect of agriculture.

On October 20, I have invited a small group of leaders from almost all corners of the ag sector to join me at the White House and discuss the future of women in agriculture.  Co-hosted by the White House Rural Council, and co-organized by AGree (a collaborative initiative of nine of the world’s leading foundations to tackle long-term food and agriculture issues), this meeting will be an opportunity to discuss the impact women have had in American agriculture and the vision we have for the next generation of agricultural leaders.

Women principal farm operators average 60 years old. This means our daughters and granddaughters hold the future of American agriculture in their hands.  As women leaders, it is our responsibility to make sure the next generation of women are educated, trained and prepared to usher agriculture into the future.

When I was a kid growing up on a Georgia peanut farm, I was inspired by my mother’s hard work on and off the farm. She taught me to carry my love of the land into all aspects of my life. As my career has developed, I have continued to be inspired by not only incredibly strong and talented women who are making a difference in agriculture, but also by men who recognize the vital role that women play in this industry. Monday’s dialogue will be just one of many parts of an important conversation on how we can better engage and empower women to continue helping agriculture succeed.

Join the conversation using #womeninag and share with the world the women who inspire you.

Wyoming Landowners Restore Riparian Areas in Big Horn Basin

While working for the city of Worland for the Wyoming Game & Fish Department, Rory Karhu, currently a NRCS district conservationist in Park County, spearheaded tamarisk removal along the Gooseberry Creek, a tributary to the Big Horn River. NRCS photo.

While working for the city of Worland for the Wyoming Game & Fish Department, Rory Karhu, currently a NRCS district conservationist in Park County, spearheaded tamarisk removal along the Gooseberry Creek, a tributary to the Big Horn River. NRCS photo.

It took Dee Hillberry six years before he could get a handle on encroaching and hardy invasive vegetation. Working on two separate properties, he removed tamarisk trees, or salt cedars, from 200 acres along Cottonwood Creek and Russian olive trees from 100 acres along the Big Horn River.

Despite Hillberry’s hard work in Hot Springs County, Wyoming, his efforts in restoring riparian areas were part of a larger endeavor that involved work done in phases over several years, over hundreds of miles, and with numerous partners in the Big Horn River basin. The basin is about 100 miles wide, and so far, more than 13,000 acres of invasive trees have been removed from the riparian area. Read more »

Field Day Supports Organic Dairy Producers

Dr. Hue Karreman demonstrates how to put your arm inside a cow’s mouth. Photo by Lisa McCrory

Dr. Hue Karreman demonstrates how to put your arm inside a cow’s mouth. Photo by Lisa McCrory

Last month, I had the pleasure of attending the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (NODPA) Field Days at Stonewall Farm in Keene, New Hampshire. The field days combine many activities for attending farmers, giving them the opportunity to learn from each other, speak with experts in the organic field, catch up with old friends and make some new friends too.

As Deputy Administrator for USDA’s National Organic Program, part of the Agricultural Marketing Service, I participated in a panel discussion on the future of organic certification with Dr. Jean Richardson, Chair of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), and Henry Perkins, President of the Maine Organic Milk Producers.  I also had the opportunity to present information about the National Organic Program, including USDA’s programs that support organic agriculture, sound and sensible certification, the National Organic Standards Board and the revised sunset process. Read more »