Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

Category: Conservation

Celebrate National Farmers Market Week by Supporting Local Producers

Gene Thornton with his produce at Ag Heritage Park

Gene Thornton is a sixth-generation farmer who sells fresh, organic produce at The Market at Ag Heritage Park each week during market season.

It’s a simple sign that has a pretty easy request, “Buy Fresh. Buy Local.”

It’s one that Gene Thornton hangs at his market stand each week at The Market at Ag Heritage Park on the Auburn University campus in Alabama. During market season, the sixth-generation farmer travels more than 40 miles from his small, organic farm in Roanoke to Auburn each week of market season. But he says the drive from Sneaky Crow Farm is worth it. Read more »

Report: Maintaining Sagebrush-Covered Landscapes Keeps Water on the Land for Ranchers and Wildlife

Sage grouse

Sage grouse are the iconic species of the West’s sagebrush sea. Photo by Tim Griffiths, NRCS.

Removing invading conifer trees improves the health of sagebrush ecosystems, providing better habitat for wildlife and better forage for livestock. And now, new science shows these efforts may also help improve late-season water availability, which is crucial for ecosystems in the arid West.

According to the Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI)’s newest Science to Solutions report – which summarized research from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) – a sagebrush-dominated watershed holds water in snow drifts an average of nine days longer than one dominated by juniper trees. Read more »

EPA and USDA Pledge Actions to Support America’s Growing Water Quality Trading Markets

Cross-posted from the EPA Connect blog:

In September of 2015, EPA and USDA sponsored a three-day national workshop at the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute in Lincoln, Nebraska that brought together more than 200 experts and leaders representing the agricultural community, utilities, environmental NGOs, private investors, states, cities, and tribes to discuss how to expand the country’s small but growing water quality trading markets. Recently we released a report that summarizes the workshop’s key discussions and outlines new actions that we and others will take to further promote the use of market-based tools to advance water quality improvements.

Over the last decade, states and others have discovered that they can meet their water quality improvement goals through lower costs and greater flexibility by using a voluntary water quality trading program. Trading is based on the fact that sources in a watershed can face very different costs to control the same pollutant. Trading programs allow facilities facing higher pollution control costs (like a wastewater treatment plant or a municipality with a stormwater permit) to meet their regulatory obligations by purchasing lower cost environmentally equivalent (or superior) pollution reductions (or credits) from another source, including farms that use conservation practices to efficiently reduce the movement of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment from their fields into local waterways. For example, Virginia’s nutrient trading program to offset stormwater phosphorous loads from new development has saved the Commonwealth more than $1 million in meeting state water quality goals while providing economic incentives to local agricultural producers to reduce soil erosion and runoff. Read more »

NRCS Helps Young Iowa Farmer Plan New Grazing System

Ryan Collins (center) with NRCS District Conservationist LuAnn Rolling (right) and Iowa NRCS State Public Affairs Specialist Laura Crowell

Ryan Collins (center) stopped to meet with NRCS District Conservationist LuAnn Rolling (right) and Iowa NRCS State Public Affairs Specialist Laura Crowell June 1 at his farm near Harpers Ferry. Photo: Jason Johnson.

When Iowa livestock producer Ryan Collins bought his 170-acre farm near Harpers Ferry, he knew from experience with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) that the agency could help him plan a rotational grazing system.

A rotational grazing system—also known as prescribed grazing—divides pastures into four or more small paddocks with fencing. The animals move from paddock to paddock on a schedule based on the availability of forage and the livestock’s nutritional needs.

Collins says he has a lot more grass available than before. “I attribute it to the rotational grazing,” he said. “I like to have plenty of grass. The cows and calves both do, as well.” Read more »

Citizen Scientists Help Monitor Nation’s Watershed Health

Citizen scientist volunteer Kenny Moore

Citizen scientist volunteer Kenny Moore collects a water sample from one of over 60 project sites. All volunteers are trained to follow the collection requirements that ensure their samples can be accurately analyzed in the lab. They also visit the same site four times a year even in winter. Photo credit: Leanne Veldhuis

What do adventurers, microplastics, and your national forests have in common?

Water.

Our national forests and the glaciers, lakes, and rivers running through them form the headwaters for the majority of America’s drinking water. This includes many of our big cities and growing urban centers, even those that are far away from national forests. Because of its importance, protecting clean, abundant water is a priority for the U.S. Forest Service, and thankfully, it’s a priority of a growing number of our partners. Read more »

Cleaner Air through Cleaner Burning

Cindy Collins in Oregon's Hood River Valley

Cindy Collins (pictured) and about 20 other growers in Oregon’s Hood River Valley use an environmentally-friendly ‘burn box’ to eliminate pruned and diseased wood from their orchards.

“The burn box lets us burn during the summer months, when normally there’s a ban. It’s a useful tool. It burns really clean.” — Cindy Collins

See more photos from the Hood River Air Quality Project on Flickr.

When Cindy Collins wakes up in Oregon and looks out at her 46-acre orchard—with Mt. Adams towering in the background—she feels like she’s at summer camp. Read more »