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USDA Official Discusses First-Hand Assessment of Agricultural Lands Ravaged by Missouri River Flood

On June 15, 2011 USDA’s executive director of the National Food and Agriculture Council, John Berge spoke with agricultural producers and businesses regarding his tour of the agricultural lands devastated by the Missouri River flood and the assistance that USDA has to provide in this time of need.

Berge said, “Our goal with the tour and the conversations that we have had with producers and community leaders is to get a firsthand look and provide that information back to Washington necessary to better deliver our disaster programs expeditiously to effectively respond to this disaster.” Read more »

USDA Takes Steps to Help Preserve the Environment, Wildlife Habitat

There are new developments in two popular USDA programs that will support conservation of working lands for the benefit of wildlife, water quality, and recreation. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) is expanding its efforts to encourage owners of privately held farm, ranch and forest land in eight additional states and one Tribal area to voluntarily open the land for public recreational use. It also announced the enrollment of acreage under the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).

The Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP) is a grant program open to state and tribal governments that provides a financial incentive to encourage landowners to open their land to the public for wildlife-dependent recreation such as fishing or hunting. Read more »

The Results are in For Recipes for Healthy Kids

Drum roll please…. The long anticipated winners of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Recipes for Healthy Kids competition were announced this morning by Secretary Vilsack.

USDA and the First Lady launched the Recipes for Healthy Kids competition last September, challenging kids, nutrition professionals and community members to dream up healthy recipes to be incorporated on lunchtime menus for the National School Lunch program. The contest is a component of the First Lady’s broader Let’s Move! initiative that also includes Chefs Move to Schools, which encourages chefs to work with schools in their communities. Read more »

Biomass Crop Assistance Program to Spur Renewable Energy Development, Job Creation, in Four States

This photo shows giant miscanthus (measuring seven feet tall). Photo courtesy of NRCS

This photo shows giant miscanthus (measuring seven feet tall). Photo courtesy of NRCS

Four more states will be added to the list of project areas under a Farm Service Agency program that encourages producers to establish dedicated energy crops to be used for production of biofuels. Today’s announcement is expected to spark the creation of thousands of new jobs in future production years. Read more »

Farm of the Future: Five Landowners Produce Crops, Livestock, and Ecosystem Services

The new Farm of the Future project profiles working farms, forests, and ranches that are participating in environmental markets or receiving payments for ecosystem services. In the five case studies just released, landowners changed their management practices to provide water quality, wetlands, wildlife habitat, and carbon benefits—generating new revenue from the sale of ecosystem services to supplement traditional income. Read more »

New Report Highlights Innovative Payments for Watershed Services

A new report titled Innovations in Watershed-Based Conservation in the United States: Payments for Watershed Services for Agricultural and Forest Landowners was just released by EcoAgriculture Partners with funding and support from USDA’s Office of Environmental Markets (OEM) and the U.S. Endowment for Forestry & Communities. The report surveys payments for watershed services (PWS) schemes to understand their current role in the U.S. and future potential for increasing cost-effective watershed protection on private lands.

Water is crucial for many human needs; yet water resources in the United States face serious threats from increasing pollution and overuse.  PWS can address these challenges effectively as a complement to USDA conservation programs and other existing incentives. Read more »