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Category: Conservation

One Farm at a Time, USDA Helps Landowners Conserve Water in Ogallala Region

The Gruhlkey brothers – Brittan, 24, Braden 25, and Cameron 20 – worked with NRCS through the Ogallala Aquifer Initiative to adopt better equipment and techniques to manage their water use. USDA photo.

The Gruhlkey brothers – Brittan, 24, Braden 25, and Cameron 20 – worked with NRCS through the Ogallala Aquifer Initiative to adopt better equipment and techniques to manage their water use. USDA photo.

James Pike has tackled an important and thorny issue in Laramie County, Wyoming – water conservation. More specifically, this district conservationist with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has diligently worked to encourage farmers and ranchers in the region that is fed by the Ogallala Aquifer to use water wisely.

Stretching from western Texas to South Dakota, the Ogallala Aquifer supports nearly one-fifth of the wheat, corn, cotton and cattle produced in the United States. Underlying about 225,000 square miles of the Great Plains, water from the aquifer is vital to agricultural, cities and industry, making up 30 percent of all groundwater used for irrigation in America. Read more »

Restoration Improves Aquatic Community in Mississippi Watershed

Ryan Witt, NRCS soil conservationist, Kelvin Burge, Hancock County Soil and Water Conservation District conservation technician, and Johnny Williams, Hancock County rancher, discuss the benefits of the solar powered well. NRCS photo.

Ryan Witt, NRCS soil conservationist, Kelvin Burge, Hancock County Soil and Water Conservation District conservation technician, and Johnny Williams, Hancock County rancher, discuss the benefits of the solar powered well. NRCS photo.

A creek in coastal Mississippi was once listed as an impaired waterway, void of a healthy aquatic ecosystem. But with the help of environmental agencies and conservation-minded farmers, the creek was removed from the “bad” list.

Orphan Creek in Hancock County, Mississippi was listed in 1998 as a Clean Water Act impaired waterway. The creek and its tributaries, including Dead Tiger Creek, form a watershed of about 25,000 acres and push their waters to the Jourdan River and eventually the Gulf of Mexico.

The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality monitors water quality on Orphan Creek. Using data retrieved from 2001 and 2003 in the Mississippi Index of Stream Quality, or MISQ, Orphan Creek scored 53.2 and 51.5, respectively and failed to support its designated aquatic life use. Read more »

USDA Initiative Helps Farmers Keep Water Clean in Chesapeake Bay

A district conservationist with NRCS (right) works with a Maryland farmer to discuss conservation options for his farm that include improving water quality in the Chesapeake watershed. NRCS photo.

A district conservationist with NRCS (right) works with a Maryland farmer to discuss conservation options for his farm that include improving water quality in the Chesapeake watershed. NRCS photo.

You don’t have to dig too deep to understand the connection of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to clean water in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. For nearly 80 years, conservationists with this USDA agency have built a stellar reputation of helping producers save their soil and improve water quality nationwide with the use of technical expertise and financial assistance.

Conservationists have used this expertise to help farmers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed achieve similar goals.  Wise land management is one significant way to prevent the erosion and nutrient runoff that threatens the Bay. Read more »

Conservation Groups, Farmers Protect & Restore Precious Puget Sound Estuary

NRCS Assistant Chief Kirk Hanlin and Kate Kuhlman from Great Peninsula Conservancy discuss the progress of the Klingel Wetlands Restoration, while getting a first-hand look at the area.

NRCS Assistant Chief Kirk Hanlin and Kate Kuhlman from Great Peninsula Conservancy discuss the progress of the Klingel Wetlands Restoration, while getting a first-hand look at the area.

When many people think of Washington State, they imagine rain, coffee and apples. My view is much more complex and nuanced, thanks to our team at NRCS who showed me diverse agricultural landscapes, including the state’s major estuary – Puget Sound.

During my visit, I was greeted by an idyllic landscape steeped in history. Early settlers to the Puget Sound area converted marshlands into pastures and hayfields. We visited one such area now known as Klingel Wetlands, where levee systems were installed in the 1890s and 1950s to prevent flooding. Read more »

The Sun Shines on an Illinois Farm as Secretary Vilsack Highlights Conservation Efforts

Farmer Wayne Erickson, now 83, and his current tractor. (NRCS photo)

Farmer Wayne Erickson, now 83, and his current tractor. (NRCS photo)

Our trip to the Erickson farm in Milan, Illinois involved a three hour drive through pouring rain. But once we arrived, the rain stopped and the sun made a partial appearance. Because we had about 40 partners, guests, and several media reps invited, I called it divine intervention.

Secretary Vilsack was here to announce the national Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) awardees, using a multi-generation Illinois farm as a fitting and picturesque backdrop. The family took the Secretary on a short driving tour to show all they’ve done to protect their 100 year-old farm. Read more »

USDA Pledges Support to Restore Water Quality in Vermont’s Lake Champlain

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA will commit $45 million for on-the-ground conservation activities to protect and improve soil and water quality in the Lake Champlain Basin in Vermont over the next five years.  Senator Patrick Leahy (right) and Rep. Peter Welch look on.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA will commit $45 million for on-the-ground conservation activities to protect and improve soil and water quality in the Lake Champlain Basin in Vermont over the next five years. Senator Patrick Leahy (right) and Rep. Peter Welch look on.

Lake Champlain has been plagued by blue-green algae blooms caused by a large amount of phosphorous and other nutrients in the New England lake. Recently, USDA launched a special initiative in the Lake Champlain basin, which is composed of New York and Vermont, to invest $45 million in protecting and improving soil and water quality over the next five years.

“Our work helps farmers prevent phosphorus laden runoff which leads to the blue green algae blooms,” said Vicky Drew, the state conservationist for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Vermont. “NRCS conservationists work with farmers to ensure that manure is properly stored, and we provide assistance in the application of manure to their fields according to a nutrient management plan.”  Read more »