This graphic shows past records and predictions based on the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI). Provided the by U.S. Forest Service.
Weather…. We all care about it. In many communities, local TV and radio weather forecasters are celebrities, and for good reason. While we can’t do much about the weather, it affects us all every day.
During last week’s Agricultural Outlook Forum two sessions drew exceptionally large crowds. One was the Friday afternoon “Weather and Agriculture” segment and another was the morning “Markets and Weather” presentation. While no one can say for sure what the weather outlook will be for the 2014 summer growing season, Brad Rippey, agricultural meteorologist with USDA’s Office of the Chief Economist (OCE), Eric Luebehusen, OCE ag. meteorologist and Anthony Artusa, meteorologist with the Climate Protection Section of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration made some observations and predictions in the afternoon session. The snowpack in the West’s Sierra Nevada is far below normal. The Western winter wet season has been a bust, with winter precipitation less than 10 percent of average in some areas. California, the Great Basin and southern Great Plains are in drought. The meteorologists said California, the lower gulf coast and much of New Mexico, Arizona and Texas could see above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation in March, April and May. According to Rippey, “We need a miracle March in 2014 to avoid major problems in California.” The most current information is available through NOAA’s Seasonal Drought Outlook map and the USDA drought monitor. Read more »
Pete Berscheit uses rotational grazing on his Minnesota farm to improve production while helping the environment. NRCS photo.
Pete Berscheit has wanted to farm since he was five. But with three brothers interested in farming, he didn’t think the fourth-generation family farm in Todd County, Minn. would be large enough to support everyone.
So instead of farming, Berscheit joined the Army at 17, where he served for 20 years. Toward the end of his Army career, repeated deployments were starting to take a toll on his young family, and in 2008, he and his wife, Rosemary, decided to return to their roots.
Berscheit and his family bought a place to support a small herd of 40 Black Angus cow and calf pairs, fulfilling his nearly lifelong dream of becoming a farmer. The farm is about three miles from where he grew up in central Minnesota. The farm was a good location and was a good fit for raising a family and starting his ranch. Read more »
Young soybean plants thrive in the residue of a wheat crop. This form of no till farming provides good protection for the soil from erosion and helps retain moisture for the new crop. NRCS photo.
How can farmers reduce their fertilizer costs, maintain yields, reduce their environmental impacts, and take advantage of a new and emerging source of income? A project funded by a USDA Conservation Innovation Grant is showing how.
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service awarded a CIG grant in 2011 to the Delta Institute to develop an innovative opportunity for farmers to receive greenhouse gas emissions reductions payments from the voluntary implementation of more efficient nitrogen fertilizer management techniques.
The Delta Institute engaged a variety of partners in the project, including American Farmland Trust, Conservation Technology Information Center, Environmental Defense Fund and agricultural retailers. Read more »
NRCS Maryland leadership joined the midshipmen for the service project. NRCS photo.
In the middle of the Broadneck Peninsula in Cape St. Claire sits a part of Maryland history that was neglected until a few years ago. The empty house resting on 30 acres was once part of Goshen Farm, a working farm that nearly covered the entire peninsula. Corn, wheat, beets, buckwheat and cabbage, as well as food for oxen, cows, pig, sheep, horses and mules grew abundantly, nourished by the rich and healthy soil.
Now, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is working with the Goshen Farm Preservation Society, Inc. to protect this farm – and put it back to work. NRCS and the society want to raise awareness of the importance of healthy soils for long-term, sustainable agricultural production, and Goshen Farm is the perfect place. Read more »
Malik Yakini, Executive Director of the Detroit Black Community Security Network and Manager of D-Town Farms; U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow; NRCS State Conservationist Garry Lee; Southeast Michigan Resource Conservation & Development Council Board President Morse Brown and Ashley Akinson, Executive Director of Keep Growing Detroit (l-r) were together at Detroit’s Eastern Market to announce new funding for city high-tunnels. Photo by Brian Buehler, Public Affairs Specialist, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Michigan
On a cold winter day last week, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Garry Lee, Michigan State Conservationist from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), visited Detroit’s Eastern Market. They were joined by Malik Yakini, Executive Director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, Ashley Atkinson, Co-Director of Keep Growing Detroit and Morse Brown, Board President of the Southeast Michigan Resource Conservation and Development Council. Despite the freezing temperatures that will make growing food a challenge for another few months, Garry and the Senator were there to discuss new support for the Detroit-Wayne County Seasonal High Tunnel Education Initiative (SHEI) which will bring new high tunnels – greenhouse-like structures also known as hoop houses – to Detroit’s urban farmers.
Funded by USDA and managed by local organizations, SHEI will train Detroit’s urban growers to install, operate and manage seasonal high tunnels that will conserve natural resources, improve productivity and help them be profitable year round. Easy to build and use, high tunnels were first supported by USDA as a conservation practice in 2010. Since that time, USDA has funded nearly 10,000 across the country. Along with other benefits, high tunnels are providing farmers from Alaska to Baltimore with tools to extend their growing season and provide their communities with fresh, locally-grown produce later into the year. Read more »
HistoriCorps, a member of the 21st Century Conservation Corps, began in 2009 to help save and sustain historic places for public benefit through partnerships that foster public involvement, engage volunteers, and provide training and education. HistoriCorps has partnered with 40 organizations and property owners on the preservation of more than 100 historic structures in 13 states. More than 500 volunteers, veterans, youth corps, and students have participated in these projects. (Courtesy of HistoriCorps.org)
To date, 100 organizations have joined the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps, a bold partnership of key federal – including the U.S. Forest Service – state, local and nonprofit leaders and stakeholders that provide young people, veterans and other under-represented communities an opportunity to engage in public land and water restoration and conservation.
These organizations represent a broad spectrum of diversity, representing all regions in the country. Among the organizations that recently joined are the Earth Conservation Corps, Washington, D.C.; Milwaukee Community Service Corps, Milwaukee, Wis.; Environment for the Americas, Boulder, Colo.; and Siskiyou Mountain Club, Ashland, Ore. Read more »