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Category: Conservation

Event at USDA Ushers in 2015 as the International Year of Soils

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) celebration of the International Year of Soils event at USDA headquarters in Washington, D.C. USDA photo by Bob Nichols.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) celebration of the International Year of Soils event at USDA headquarters in Washington, D.C. USDA photo by Bob Nichols.

Yesterday, we officially launched the International Year of Soils here at USDA.

Most people don’t realize that just beneath their feet lies a diverse, complex, life-giving ecosystem that sustains our entire existence. I’m talking about soil. There are more living organisms in a single teaspoon of healthy soil than there are people on the earth.

Our soils are alive. We talk about soil health – not soil quality — on purpose. It’s an important distinction. Anything can have a “quality,” but only living things can have health. Read more »

Florida Family Farm Adopts Conservation Practices, Helps Gulf of Mexico

A center-pivot irrigation system uses low pressure-high uniformity to water a cover crop mix that includes Daikon Radish on Mitch Holtzclaw’s farm in O’Brien, Fla. NRCS photo by Doug Ulmer.

A center-pivot irrigation system uses low pressure-high uniformity to water a cover crop mix that includes Daikon Radish on Mitch Holtzclaw’s farm in O’Brien, Fla. NRCS photo by Doug Ulmer.

For three generations members of Mitch Holtzclaw’s family has farmed land in Suwanee County, Florida. Today, Holtzclaw grows more than 1,000 acres of peanuts, corn and small grains.

His farm is about three miles from the historic Suwannee River, which flows directly into the Gulf of Mexico. The sandy soil types and karst limestone topography on Holtzclaw’s farm are characteristic of the watersheds in the middle Suwannee River Basin and cause for concern over increased nutrient concentrations that can be found in the area’s ground and surface water. Read more »

USDA Helps a Texas Rancher Reach His Dream of Operating a Successful Ranch

 Rickie Roddy (left) of McLennan County Texas has worked closely with the Natural Resources Conservation Service on a conservation plan on conservation practices ranging from pasture planting to establishing water sources for his cattle herd. NRCS photo by Clete Vanderburg.

Rickie Roddy (left) of McLennan County Texas has worked closely with the Natural Resources Conservation Service on a conservation plan on conservation practices ranging from pasture planting to establishing water sources for his cattle herd. NRCS photo by Clete Vanderburg.

One central Texas rancher is fulfilling a childhood dream. Rickie Roddy bought his first cow when he was 14 years old. By the time he was 19, he had grown his herd to 13 head of cattle.

“I have always been fascinated by cattle,” Roddy said. “I didn’t know if I was ever going to be able to have any land, but I wanted to be a rancher since I was a little kid.” Read more »

New International Wildlife Disease Training Course

Course participants practice swabbing wild ducks for diagnostic sampling

Course participants practice swabbing wild ducks for diagnostic sampling

Protecting agriculture is nothing new for USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), who is on the job 24/7 keeping livestock safe from animal disease.  APHIS is sharing that expertise internationally to help countries protect livestock and threatened and endangered species from diseases like brucellosis, tuberculosis, avian influenza, bluetongue and rabies.  APHIS, with help from the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), held a new training course specifically focused on wildlife disease issues.  APHIS recently hosted wildlife disease specialists from all over the world, including Cambodia, Kenya, Mexico, Tanzania, Uganda, and Vietnam. 

All of APHIS’ capacity building programs are designed to identify and reduce agricultural pest and disease threats while these threats are still outside of U.S. borders.   Capacity building includes training and technology transfer to assist foreign partners in building their animal and plant health infrastructures. This capability, in turn, helps to reduce the chances that undetected agricultural threats will find pathways into the United States. Read more »

Missouri Gardener Enjoys Fresh High Tunnel Produce

David Backus enjoys a tomato that he grew in his high tunnel. NRCS photo by Charlie Rahm.

David Backus enjoys a tomato that he grew in his high tunnel. NRCS photo by Charlie Rahm.

David Backus is reminded of the benefits of the seasonal high tunnel on his property in southeastern Missouri at nearly every meal – and sometimes between meals. 

“The food that I grow in my own garden is healthier than the food I can buy at the store, and it tastes so much better,” said Backus between bites of a just picked tomato.  Read more »

A Year of Promise for American Agriculture

It’s not hard to list our accomplishments here at USDA: After all, our progress on the much anticipated 2014 Farm Bill has been lauded as “the most successful Farm Bill implementation.” We also launched a website for New Farmers and started a conversation with women in agriculture that will continue to grow for many years to come.

What is sometimes less obvious is the people whose lives these programs and initiatives impact. So, to wrap up the year, I wanted to share a few of my most cherished memories from my first year as Deputy Secretary. Read more »