Private landowner Taylor Wilcox looks over flooded fallow rice fields on his Chambers County, Texas property. NRCS photo.
When 168,000 gallons of oil was reported to be spilled this spring into Texas’ Houston Ship Channel because of a collision between a barge and tanker, it was a reminder of the vulnerability of the Gulf of Mexico’s coastal wildlife and habitats.
The spill served to highlight the continued need for vigilance and proactive approaches in caring for the treasured Gulf Coast region. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), is one federal agency working everyday with coastal landowners, farmers and ranchers on conservation efforts aimed at protecting, restoring and enhancing vital coastal resources and bird populations. Read more »
Buck Holsinger, a 9th generation farmer from Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, served two tours in Afghanistan with the Air National Guard before returning back to his farm.
From the deserts of Afghanistan, to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, James “Buck” Holsinger has served his country as a pilot and a farmer. From an early age, Buck dreamed of becoming a pilot. After the events of September 11, 2001, he made the decision to enlist. For two tours in Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010, Buck flew large cargo planes.
After his second tour in Afghanistan and the birth of his third child, Buck wanted to return to farming so he could instill the same values in his children.
Buck is a 9th generation farmer. He grew up working on the farm with his father, grandfather, and cousins. Buck recalls, “On the weekends, it was everybody’s second job.” Looking back, he says, “Some of the tools and knowledge that I gained have been invaluable in all my careers including the military because I learned that farming work ethic.” Read more »
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden present the Secretary’s Honor Award to the Pioneers Alliance group leader Michael S. Stevens at the U.S. Department of Agriculture 66th Annual Honor Awards Ceremony in Washington, D.C. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.
The Pioneers Alliance, a unique group of ranchers, community members, conservationists, elected officials and agency employees, is making a difference for sage grouse in south central Idaho. Based in Carey, Idaho, the alliance leads a local effort to protect working ranches and core sage grouse habitat near Sun Valley. So far, more than 65,400 acres are protected through private landowner conservation easements supported by Farm Bill programs.
Last week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack acknowledged the alliance’s work with the Secretary’s Honor Award for External Partnerships. This prestigious national award recognizes groups who have made outstanding contributions that support USDA’s mission and goals. Read more »
Theresa Lackey talks to NRCS District Conservationist Tony Hoover about planned improvements to her land. (NRCS photo)
Theresa Lackey, of Ashland, Missouri, said she had a general idea about the improvements she wanted to make to the 32 acres of mostly overgrown woods around her home. But she credits a conservation plan that she developed with assistance from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, (NRCS), for helping turn her goals into reality.
“What NRCS did was work with us to create a plan for our goals,” she said. “Developing the plan helped us clarify what our goals were, and it helped clarify a process to move in that direction.” Read more »
David Warnack, a district ranger on the Lincoln National Forest in New Mexico, has a deep, even poetic connection to the wilderness. (U.S. Forest Service)
For most of his 16 years with the U.S. Forest Service, Dave Warnack spent them boots-on-the-ground. That’s to say that he does not just talk the talk.
“Wilderness will be the ultimate index by which I measure my status, progress and overall place in the world,” Warnack says in the film “Wilderness: The Ultimate Yardstick. “I say this because when you enter a wilderness alone, unsupported, you quickly realize that the wilderness doesn’t care about you. It doesn’t care about the grades you got in school. It doesn’t care about your medals, your degrees or the size of your salary. The first time you measure yourself by the yardstick of wilderness, you may quickly find that you are, indeed, very small and perhaps inconsequential.” Read more »
A water sample taken from the last wetland in a filtering system in use on a farm in Taylor County, Iowa. Wetlands and other conservation practices on agricultural land can improve water quality, and may allow producers the option of selling water quality credits in a water quality trading market. Photo Credit: NRCS
USDA has a long history of working with partners to meet the needs of America’s farmers, ranchers and forest landowners while striving to sustain the natural resources we rely on. American farmers produce food for the U.S. and the world, and also provide benefits for air, water and habitats through the adoption of conservation practices. In recent years, USDA has taken a more innovative approach to conservation by supporting the development of water quality trading markets.
Water quality trading can lower the costs of cleaning up waterways by allowing sources of pollutants with high costs of reducing pollution to purchase credits from others with lower costs. Often agricultural producers have relatively low costs of improving water quality, which makes farmers and ranchers prime candidates to generate water quality credits for sale. This offers the agricultural sector opportunities to improve the natural resource base and earn additional income through credit sales. Read more »