Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack speaking at a press conference in Fairfax, VA. USDA photo by David Kosling.
USDA has a long history of helping farmers, ranchers and forest landowners maintain their bottom line while improving soil health and reducing runoff into streams and rivers. For nearly 80 years, USDA has offered funding and technical assistance for farmers to implement conservation practices through the conservation title of the Farm Bill. In recent years, however, USDA has also supported new, innovative approaches to voluntary, private lands conservation.
An announcement today by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, and Administrator Gina McCarthy of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in northern Virginia highlights an innovative approach called water quality trading. Farmers like John Harrison of Appomattox County are taking advantage of private investments to implement conservation practices on their land. These practices help reduce erosion and nutrient runoff into local bodies of water, generating nutrient credits that can then be sold to regulated entities looking to offset nutrient losses for compliance purposes. Read more »
U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell makes welcoming remarks at the"A Community on Ecosystem Services (ACES)" conference in Crystal City, VA. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.
What is the monetary value of a supply of clean water? Or the value of clean air or having places available to hike and fish?
For decades we have taken these resources for granted, or at least we have not put a monetary value on their benefits. That’s changing. Participants from 30 nations met this week at the ACES: A Community on Ecosystem Services; Linking Science, Practice and Decision Making conference to talk about just how we can value these benefits and include that in our decision-making and planning. As the conference kicked off, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tidwell talked about the need to quantify the benefits of public lands, building consensus and support for a multi-generational outlook, moving away from short term objectives and toward “sustaining the health and diversity of our forests and grasslands.”
Participants included a number of other federal officials, including Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, USDA Undersecretary Robert Bonnie, and Jay Jensen of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). Read more »
General Motors Global Public Policy Executive Director Greg Martin speaks at a press conference announcing the completion of the first-of-its kind purchase of verified carbon credits generated on working ranch lands by Chevrolet, at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), in Washington, D.C. on Monday, Nov. 17, 2014. (L to R Senator Debbie Stabenow (MI), General Motors Global Public Policy Executive Director Greg Martin, Ducks Unlimited Paul Schmidt, The Climate Trust Executive Director Sean Penrith, and USDA Natural Resources and Environment (NRE) Under Secretary Robert Bonnie). USDA photo by Tom Witham.
Earlier this week, USDA highlighted the creation of a market for carbon credits generated on working grasslands. Landowners benefit because they receive compensation for the carbon credits generated on their lands. They get a new source of revenue, while thriving grasslands provide nesting habitat for wildlife, are more resilient to extreme weather, and help mitigate the impact of climate change. Chevrolet, a division of General Motors, recently purchased almost 40,000 carbon dioxide reduction tons generated on working ranch grasslands in the Prairie Pothole region of North Dakota. It was the first purchase of its type.
Robert Bonnie, USDA’s under secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, announced the purchase and USDA’s involvement in the project at an event at USDA headquarters. He was joined by Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Greg Martin, executive director for global public policy, General Motors; Sean Penrith, executive director of The Climate Trust and Paul Schmidt, chief conservation officer of Ducks Unlimited. The under secretary thanked Senator Stabenow, Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, for her staunch support for the program, which she said is delivering “real world measurable results.” Bonnie said he hopes this purchase will set a pattern for future carbon credit sales. Read more »
The University of Kentucky is using a Conservation Innovation Grant to improve the efficiency of seasonal high tunnels. NRCS and UK staff view a water line with a high tunnel in the background. NRCS photo.
Seasonal high tunnels have emerged in the past few years as an important tool for farmers wanting to extend their growing seasons. Right now, thanks to a Conservation Innovation Grant from USDA, a University of Kentucky professor is studying them – and how they can be made more efficient.
Krista Jacobsen, an assistant professor of horticulture, is studying the soil inside of high tunnels and the possibilities of catching rainwater to irrigate crops inside of them. High tunnels are plastic-covered structures that enable farmers to have crops ready earlier or later in the season. Read more »
Curtis Millsap works in the Chinese High Tunnel on his southwestern Missouri farm. NRCS photo.
You can get just about anything you want at Millsap Farms, including an education about market farming.
Curtis Millsap estimates that he, his family and a crew of interns feed about 200 families on 2.5 acres of his 20-acre farm near Springfield, Mo. While another seven acres of the farm sometimes includes sheep, poultry and cattle, it’s the vegetable operation that supports Millsap, his wife Sarah and their nine young children.
Millsap uses two greenhouses and three seasonal high tunnels to grow produce year-round. Read more »
The Mid-Snake River, near Twin Falls. Water Quality Trading is one way the States of Washington, Oregon and Idaho are working to protect their rivers. Photo courtesy of the Idaho DEQ Twin Falls Regional Office, used with permission.
The Pacific Northwest is known for its picturesque lakes, cascading streams and dramatic coastlines. The many rivers of the Pacific Northwest—the Yakima, the Snake, Snohomish, Willamette, Klamath, Boise, and others—are part of the cultural, economic and environmental foundation of the region. These waters are meaningful for local Native American Tribes, agricultural production, industries who rely on water resources, and local communities and tourists from around the world that enjoy fishing and other forms of recreation along Northwestern rivers and streams.
It’s no surprise that the states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho are interested in protecting their rivers to preserve these values, and the wildlife and ecosystems they’re a part of. More surprising, however, is the innovative way the states are collaborating to do it. Read more »