American Farmland Trust President Andrew McElwaine presents NRCS Chief Jason Weller (right) with a thank you card with more than 1,300 signatures. NRCS photo.
As a part of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, the most rewarding part of my job is seeing and hearing about the impact our work is having on the communities we serve.
Last month, I had the pleasure of meeting with American Farmland Trust President Andrew McElwaine. He presented me with a card signed by more than 1,300 people thanking Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and NRCS for the successful launch of the newest Farm Bill conservation program – the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, or RCPP. Read more »
Professor Edward Jones discusses an alfalfa nutrition experiment with Delaware State University students (left to right) Tony Carney, Latisha Corey, and Karen Meyer. (USDA photo by Scott Bauer)
February is traditionally a month of celebration for our nation’s 1890 land-grant universities (LGUs) in commemoration of Black History Month. These institutions are historically-black universities that were established in 1890 under the Second Morrill Act. Now, as the month draws to an end, the 1890 LGUs are setting their sights on August 30, which marks the 125th anniversary of the Congressional action that created a network of historically black colleges and universities dedicated to providing educational opportunity for all through innovative scientific research and community-minded Extension programs.
“One of the ways we can best honor black history is by providing a proper foundation to support future achievement. Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and Extension programs, NIFA focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people’s daily lives and the nation’s future,” said Cathie Woteki, USDA’s Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics. Read more »
The recently installed solar panels on the roof of Ideal Dairy in Richfield, Utah save them around $400 per month in utility costs on average.
Last month, Secretary Vilsack announced the opening of the new application cycle for our Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). In addition to the announcement, RBS conducted a national REAP stakeholder forum which discussed program changes and provided examples of successful projects from previous years.
For example, Ideal Dairy restaurant of Richfield, Utah used a REAP grant to leverage a loan from Zions Bank and install an array of solar panels on the roof of its retail location. The addition has saved an average of $400 a month in electricity expenditures for owners Kristi and Gary Sorenson. A larger scale solar project in Guayanila, Puerto Rico allowed a major employer – Master Paints and Chemicals Corporation – to completely offset its $180,000 annual energy expenses and give it independence from fossil fuel-based energy. Read more »
FSA Administrator Val Dolcini speaks at the 2015 National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic.
I recently attended the 2015 National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic in Des Moines, Iowa, where I met with sportsmen, farmers, young people, wildlife biologists and others who are committed to strengthening wildlife habitat throughout America. It was exciting to see firsthand the passion for the native and restored grasslands and woodlands that typify the rural American landscape.
I had the honor of speaking to the group, where I highlighted the 30th anniversary of USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). CRP, one of the largest private lands conservation programs in the nation, is designed to reduce soil erosion, improve water and air quality, and provide habitat for wildlife. Interested landowners can establish long-term USDA-approved grasses or trees in exchange for USDA helping with the cost of establishing the plants and providing annual payments for 10 to 15 years. The covers along fields, streams and rivers prevent soil and nutrients from washing into waterways, reduce soil erosion that may otherwise contribute to poor air and water quality, and provide valuable habitat for wildlife. Read more »
The Common Market team, led by founders Haile Johnston (far left in red shirt) and Tatiana Garcia-Granados (far right in orange sweater), brings food into Philly communities by connecting Mid-Atlantic farmers with wholesale customers. Photo courtesy Common Market.
It all started with one truck—one truck and the idea that bringing fresh, healthy foods into Philly communities was just a question of coordination. For Haile Johnston and his wife, Tatiana Garcia-Granados, founding Common Market was the logical solution to solve the food access issues they saw in the communities around them.
“The core of Common Market is selling to schools and hospitals,” said Johnston. “Historically, they have been the hardest institutions to reach. They serve the most vulnerable population. That’s why we focus on partnering with schools and hospitals.”
Their food hub business model connects local farmers in the rural Mid-Atlantic region with wholesale customers in urban areas. In their first year, Common Market worked with only a dozen farmers and had 22 customers, but they kept growing—adding trucks and building relationships with local family farms and institutional buyers in urban communities. Read more »
The greater sage grouse thrives in the sagebrush landscape of the West. USDA NRCS photo.
The Sage-Grouse Initiative (SGI) is one of our shining stars at USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service – it’s become the model for voluntary, incentive-based conservation at its best. Through conservation science and partnerships at the federal, state and local levels, we’re making a huge impact for conservation and agriculture.
We launched SGI in 2010 to target efforts to protect sage-grouse and its habitat and to help sustain working rangelands for the long-term. Through SGI, we’re bringing back grouse populations, while at the same time, helping to improve ranching operations. Read more »