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Posts tagged: drought

Secretary’s Column: Helping America’s Farmers Rise to the Challenge of Climate Change

Farmers, ranchers and foresters have long understood the need to care for our land and water—not only because preserving those resources for our children and their children is the right thing to do, but because they know that our farms and forests are more productive and efficient when they’re properly cared for.

Science and technology has expanded our capability and improved our understanding over the years, but this core mission remains the same. Today’s farmers and ranchers have risen to the twin responsibilities of producing safe, affordable food while employing cutting edge conservation practices on their operations to conserve water, minimize runoff, prevent soil erosion, and preserve wildlife habitat. They know that this will only become more critical as we take on the challenges of feeding a growing global population and dealing with the impacts of a changing climate. Read more »

Pooling Resources for Scientific Breakthroughs

Over the last 50 years, research and technological advances have led to a 35% decrease in the pork industry’s carbon footprint.

Over the last 50 years, research and technological advances have led to a 35% decrease in the pork industry’s carbon footprint.

American farmers know about planting seeds—both in the ground and in groundbreaking research. While the seeds they plant as individual farmers feed and clothe the rest of us, the seeds they sow collectively through participation in research and promotion (R&P) programs are vitally important, too.

Funded entirely by industry, agricultural R&P programs are a way for producers and businesses across a commodity industry to pool their resources to help market and improve their products. With oversight provided by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), one of the most important seeds these programs sow is the foundational research that paves the way for breakthroughs that once seemed unimaginable. Read more »

Budding Conservation Practice Helps Farmers use Technology to Control Amount, Timing of Water

Planting foxtail millet, a summer annual forage with low water needs, helps conserve water for subsequent crops. Photo by Scott Bauer.

Planting foxtail millet, a summer annual forage with low water needs, helps conserve water for subsequent crops. Photo by Scott Bauer.

An up-and-coming conservation practice offered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps farmers and ranchers manage water on their land, keep water clean and better cope with extreme weather like drought.

Drainage water management enables landowners to determine when and how much water leaves farms through underground tiles and drainage ditches. Underground tiles lay beneath fields removing excess water from the soil subsurface.

“Since landowners don’t need the same drainage intensity at all times during the year, this practice lets them use their drainage water in a way that’s most advantageous to them, their crops and the environment,” NRCS Senior Project Leader Paul Sweeney said. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Supporting Families Facing Adversity: USDA Achieves Results for Producers after Week One of Disaster Assistance Sign up

Last week, farmers and ranchers began signing up for disaster assistance programs that were restored by the 2014 Farm Bill. While it took a year to implement disaster relief programs after the last Farm Bill was passed in 2008, disaster programs were up and running in just 60 days this time around, thanks to hardworking Farm Service Agency (FSA) employees in more than 2,000 offices across the country. These disaster programs will not replace all of the losses farmers and ranchers faced, but it will provide some relief and help ensure that extreme weather won’t cause families to lose the farm.

After just one week, I am pleased to say that we’ve received more than 10,000 applications for these programs. Approximately 95 percent of the applications were for the Livestock Forage Program (LFP), which provides payments to eligible producers for grazing losses. The high number of applicants is no surprise considering the widespread, ongoing drought that has plagued livestock producers in the West Coast and Midwestern portions of the United States for nearly three consecutive years. Read more »

How do You Prepare for this Year’s Fire Season? Tune in Friday with #PrepareAthon!

Prepare your home and family for wildfire season.

Prepare your home and family for wildfire season. Click to enlarge or download.

With yet another busy fire season around the corner, the U.S. Forest Service, CAL FIRE and the U.S. Fire Administration decided to take to social media and talk about America’s PrepareAthon!, which is a nationwide, community-based campaign for action to increase emergency preparedness and resilience through hazard-specific drills, group discussions and exercises conducted at the national level every fall and spring.  Wildfire experts will be ready to answer any questions that range from how to help protect your home from wildfire to what the wildfire season forecast looks like this year.

Drought conditions in the West, especially in California, combined with other factors portend a dangerous fire season that now could start at any time.  Last year, 34 wildland firefighters died in the line of duty as fire ravaged 4.1 million acres and destroyed more than 1,000 homes around the Nation. This year the U.S. Forest Service has more than 10,000 firefighters who stand ready as well as aircraft and engines deployed around the country.  Should that call be received, these firefighters and the tools that they use are ready to spring into action. Read more »

Everybody Talks About the Weather…

A member of the Geronimo Interagency Hotshot Crew, Department of the Interior (DOI) Indian Affairs (IA) Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) San Carlos Agency in Arizona; on assignment. The combined effects of droughts and insects may lead to a pulse of tree mortality that increases the potential for intense fires. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

A member of the Geronimo Interagency Hotshot Crew, Department of the Interior (DOI) Indian Affairs (IA) Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) San Carlos Agency in Arizona; on assignment. The combined effects of droughts and insects may lead to a pulse of tree mortality that increases the potential for intense fires. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

The climate statistics for the first month of 2014 have been impressive. Extreme weather has lashed the United States from Alaska to Florida with record warmth, cold, dry and wet conditions all at the same time. The National Climatic Data Center reports that January of 2014 was the driest January on record for New Mexico, 2nd driest for Arizona and 3rd driest for California. January 2014 was also in the top ten of coldest Januaries on record for much of the upper Midwest.

Extreme drought conditions in the western U.S. are dramatically impacting water supplies critical to agriculture and elevating fire risk across our National Forests. Across the continent frequent cold waves have repeatedly threatened winter crops across the Southeast while frost depths reaching several feet will impact springtime planting across the Midwest. This kind of winter gets everyone talking about the weather.  It brings to mind the quote “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it,” often attributed to Mark Twain (but apparently said by a friend). Read more »