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Posts tagged: Environmental Quality Incentives Program

Updated USDA Program Enables Farmers and Ranchers to Help Monarch Butterflies

A monarch butterfly on a flower

NRCS has updated its Conservation Stewardship Program to enable farmers and ranchers to plant milkweed and other plants to help monarch butterflies. NRCS photo by Gene Barickman.

An update to one of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) key conservation programs will enable farmers and ranchers to aid the imperiled monarch butterfly. This year, NRCS updated its Conservation Stewardship Program to include incentives for farmers and ranchers who plant milkweed and other nectar-rich plants favored by monarch butterflies.

Monarch butterflies depend on milkweed to lay their eggs during their annual journey from Mexico to the United States to as far north as Canada. Data show that monarch populations have decreased significantly over the past two decades, in part because of the decrease in native plants, including milkweed, on which their caterpillars feed. Read more »

Protecting Pollinators through Habitat Conservation is Critical to Preserving Food Supply

Honeybees leaving and returning to the hive after collecting pollen

Honeybees leaving and returning to the hive after collecting pollen. Photo: Ashton Ebarb.

“They’re in a happy mood today,” Jim Pratt, a local apiarist, said.

At a comfortable 62 degrees, honeybees buzz with a clear objective: collect nectar and pollen, for honey and pollination.

“Pollinators, like honeybees, support food crops,” Pratt said, explaining why for 20 years he’s raised honeybees.

Pratt’s Farm annually produces about 120 pounds of honey per colony. He maintains 100 colonies, collecting honey from them each spring, summer and fall. During the winter, the bees eat stored honey until warmer weather arrives. Read more »

Rancher Weathers Drought, Restores Prairie Chicken Habitat at Same Time

Christian Hagen, science adviser for LPCI, and Bill Barby (right), a Kansas rancher

Christian Hagen, science adviser for LPCI, and Bill Barby (right), a Kansas rancher, monitor growth of sand bluestem and other native grasses on his 4,000-acre ranch. NRCS photo.

By Sandra Murphy, Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) works with ranchers and partners to improve habitat for lesser prairie-chicken through the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative (LPCI). Focusing on privately-owned lands, the initiative covers five western states. About 95 percent of lesser prairie-chicken habitat is located on private lands. Sandra Murphy is communications specialist for LPCI, a partnership led by NRCS. — Justin Fritscher, NRCS

On a late April morning in southwest Kansas, sand bluestem sways over rancher Bill Barby’s head. A medley of other native grasses — little bluestem, sand lovegrass, and prairie sandreed, and more — fill the pasture around him, providing food for his cattle as well as habitat for the lesser prairie-chicken, a threatened species. Read more »

USDA Helps a Texas Rancher Reach His Dream of Operating a Successful Ranch

 Rickie Roddy (left) of McLennan County Texas has worked closely with the Natural Resources Conservation Service on a conservation plan on conservation practices ranging from pasture planting to establishing water sources for his cattle herd. NRCS photo by Clete Vanderburg.

Rickie Roddy (left) of McLennan County Texas has worked closely with the Natural Resources Conservation Service on a conservation plan on conservation practices ranging from pasture planting to establishing water sources for his cattle herd. NRCS photo by Clete Vanderburg.

One central Texas rancher is fulfilling a childhood dream. Rickie Roddy bought his first cow when he was 14 years old. By the time he was 19, he had grown his herd to 13 head of cattle.

“I have always been fascinated by cattle,” Roddy said. “I didn’t know if I was ever going to be able to have any land, but I wanted to be a rancher since I was a little kid.” Read more »

Missouri Gardener Enjoys Fresh High Tunnel Produce

David Backus enjoys a tomato that he grew in his high tunnel. NRCS photo by Charlie Rahm.

David Backus enjoys a tomato that he grew in his high tunnel. NRCS photo by Charlie Rahm.

David Backus is reminded of the benefits of the seasonal high tunnel on his property in southeastern Missouri at nearly every meal – and sometimes between meals. 

“The food that I grow in my own garden is healthier than the food I can buy at the store, and it tastes so much better,” said Backus between bites of a just picked tomato.  Read more »

High Five for High Tunnels — Tool Brings Conservation, Fresh Produce to Detroit

Cynthia Brathwaite a loyal customer attends Wayne State University Market Day to purchase D-Town Farm’s fresh produce.

Cynthia Brathwaite a loyal customer attends Wayne State University Market Day to purchase D-Town Farm’s fresh produce.

Sherri Barnes, left, at D-Town Farm, harvest fresh vegetables from their high tunnel to sell at Wayne State University’s Market Day. At right, Kwamena Mensa her father before the market day begins to sell their fresh local produce.

Sherri Barnes, left, at D-Town Farm, harvest fresh vegetables from their high tunnel to sell at Wayne State University’s Market Day. At right, Kwamena Mensa her father before the market day begins to sell their fresh local produce.

The Detroit Black Community Food Security Network’s D-Town Farm located in River Rouge Park produces farm-to-table produce using a conservation practice encouraged by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). By using seasonal high tunnels, the practice helps to address food security in the city.

High tunnels, or hoop houses, conserve resources while serving as a source for local food. They are plastic-covered structures that enable farmers to have crops ready earlier or later in the season. In high tunnels, plants are grown directly in the ground, and the temperature is regulated by opening or closing the plastic curtain sides and doors on the ends. Read more »