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Posts tagged: Conservation

Two Years after Sandy: USDA Continues to Aid in Recovery and Disaster Prevention Efforts

Only the dock remains from a Bay Point, New Jersey residence after Hurricane Sandy hit.

Only the dock remains from a Bay Point, New Jersey residence after Hurricane Sandy hit.

About two years ago, Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on several states in the Northeast, causing $68 billion dollars’ worth of damage to critical infrastructure, businesses, homes and landscapes. Since 2012, multiple agencies, including the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), have remained committed to helping the region build back stronger and better prepared for future storms.

To help the victims recover from Sandy and prevent future devastation in vulnerable flood areas, NRCS has invested about $120 million in Emergency Watershed Floodplain Easement Program, a program that helps restore and protect lands vulnerable to flooding. Read more »

On the Road with the Hypoxia Task Force

Deputy Under Secretary Ann Mills and Adlai Schetter in front of a test plot. NRCS photo

Deputy Under Secretary Ann Mills and Adlai Schetter in front of a test plot. NRCS photo

If you ever wonder about the future of agriculture, go no further than Brighton, Illinois.  Just 10 minutes with 15-year-old Adlai Schetter will reinforce that stewardship of private working lands is in good hands. It will also convince you that cover crops and second generation biofuels are a dynamic part of our agricultural future.  On the day I visited with Adlai at his parents’ farm, he summed up his vision in a professional PowerPoint presentation to an audience of more than 20 state and federal officials.

Adlai spends a lot of his free time researching the effectiveness of different cover crop seed mixes that include rye and radishes. After his formal presentation, we walked over to his test plots.  I asked him if he’s determining which cover crop work best and he responded that “they are like players on a football team, they each have important roles.”  Adlai understands how to make these cover crops work for him.  While other farmers may be looking at bare fields this winter and early next spring, Adlai and his parents get to watch their cover crops scavenge nutrients, improve soil porosity and suppress weeds. This frees up time for Adlai to spend on another passion – the second generation biofuel miscanthus.  Adlai puts his harvested miscanthus to work fueling a burner that heats a cavernous building that houses farm equipment and the farm’s office.  Ten bales a day of miscanthus and corn stover keep the building a comfortable 72 degrees throughout the cold Illinois winter.  This winter he will experiment with using even less fuel.  Asked if he gets any school credit for all this work, Adlai responds, “not really.” Read more »

Pollinators-An Indicator of a Healthy Mother Earth

Often I am asked to participate in events in my role as a Deputy Undersecretary.  Other times I participate based on my heritage, as a member of the Mescalero Apache Tribe.  Sometimes, the lines blur, as they did recently when I addressed those attending the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign meeting here at USDA.

Pollinator health is tied closely to the overall health of ecosystems. Pollinators are important to producers of a wide variety of crops, and to forest health.  Native Americans grasp how all things are interconnected. I told the audience that when I was a boy, my relatives would sing songs in Apache.  These songs were about things in nature: evergreens, water, even the rocks.  All things are tied to Mother Earth: all things work together. So it is with pollinators. Read more »

Hmong Farmer Overcomes Adversity, Makes the Most of American Opportunities

Poultry farmer Kao Her and former District Conservationist Lynn Jenkins look over a map of Her’s farm. Since beginning his poultry operation in 2005, Her has added two, 600-foot poultry houses to his property, as well as an updated stacking shed and composter, all with financial and technical assistance from NRCS. NRCS photo.

Poultry farmer Kao Her and former District Conservationist Lynn Jenkins look over a map of Her’s farm. Since beginning his poultry operation in 2005, Her has added two, 600-foot poultry houses to his property, as well as an updated stacking shed and composter, all with financial and technical assistance from NRCS. NRCS photo.

Kao Her is a self-taught poultry farmer. Everything he knows about poultry farming he learned over two weeks with the farm’s previous owner and nine years of on the job trial-and-error.

“I’ve learned a lot by mistake,” said Her, a member of the Hmong community. “My cousin always told me to do my research before getting into something new. But that’s never been my way of doing things.”

Her houses 235,000 broilers, or meat chickens, in six poultry houses in the small town of Noel, Missouri, located just six miles northeast of where Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma intersect. He walks three miles a day through his 500-foot and 600-foot houses checking on the chickens that help provide for his family. Since beginning his Class 1 poultry operation in 2005, Her has raised chickens for local commercial poultry operator, Simmons. Read more »

USDA Works With Remote Utah Tribe to Prevent Future Flooding

USDA Under Secretary Robert Bonnie (left), Chairwoman Lori Bear of the Skull Valley Band of the Goshute, and Deputy Under Secretary Ann Bartuska (right) discuss the impact of flooding on tribal lands. USDA photo.

USDA Under Secretary Robert Bonnie (left), Chairwoman Lori Bear of the Skull Valley Band of the Goshute, and Deputy Under Secretary Ann Bartuska (right) discuss the impact of flooding on tribal lands. USDA photo.

A massive wildfire followed by heavy rains greatly damaged the landscape of a Utah valley, home to the Skull Valley Band of the Goshute Indian Tribe. The natural disasters broke water delivery systems and disrupted vital community infrastructure.

Recently, the band’s leadership met with USDA officials to find solutions on how they could recover and prevent future flooding events.

At a StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity meeting held in Tooele near the reservation, Tribal Chairwoman Lori Bear and Vice Chairwoman Kristen Bear-Stewart took the opportunity to share with USDA Under Secretary Robert Bonnie and Deputy Under Secretary Ann Bartuska some challenges they face on the reservation. The USDA officials also toured the flood-damaged area. Read more »

USDA is Acting on Climate and We Have a Plan

Soybeans show the effect of the Texas drought near Navasota, TX on Aug. 21, 2013. USDA photo by Bob Nichols.

Soybeans show the effect of the Texas drought near Navasota, TX on Aug. 21, 2013. USDA photo by Bob Nichols.

We know that there are climate change risks and vulnerabilities facing agriculture that have significant implications not just for farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners, but for all Americans and the world. That’s why we are working on measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for climate change impacts such as flooding, sea level rise, severe weather and temperature extremes.

Today’s release of the USDA Sustainability Plans and Climate Change Adaptation Plans coincide with the fifth anniversary of President Obama’s 2009 Executive Order on Environmental, Energy and Economic Performance, which set aggressive energy, climate and environmental targets for agencies, and detail how USDA’s actions have already contributed to reducing the Federal Government’s greenhouse gas emissions by more than 17 percent since 2008 – the equivalent of permanently taking 1.8 million cars off the road. Read more »