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Posts tagged: Conservation

A U.S. Forest Service Ranger Sees Wilderness as the Ultimate Yardstick

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)

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 »

USDA, Environmental Protection Agency and Partners: Working Together to Support Water Quality Trading

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

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 »

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 »