NRCS Chief Weller talks with partners, conservation agencies and landowners during a conservation tour in Illinois.
When USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) launched the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, (RCPP) we envisioned a program that would help local and diverse organizations to accelerate innovation, bring new partners to the table, and demonstrate the value and effectiveness of voluntary, private lands conservation to a national audience.
The response was tremendous! More than 5,000 partners submitted nearly 600 pre-proposals from all 50 states and each critical conservation area. The total amount of NRCS funding requested was more than six times what was available. About $2.7 billion in federal assistance was requested, but incredibly these partnerships offered about $2.9 billion in leveraged conservation funding and in-kind support to deliver their projects. In the end, NRCS has about $394 million in total funding to co-invest in projects during this first signup. Read more »
While working for the city of Worland for the Wyoming Game & Fish Department, Rory Karhu, currently a NRCS district conservationist in Park County, spearheaded tamarisk removal along the Gooseberry Creek, a tributary to the Big Horn River. NRCS photo.
It took Dee Hillberry six years before he could get a handle on encroaching and hardy invasive vegetation. Working on two separate properties, he removed tamarisk trees, or salt cedars, from 200 acres along Cottonwood Creek and Russian olive trees from 100 acres along the Big Horn River.
Despite Hillberry’s hard work in Hot Springs County, Wyoming, his efforts in restoring riparian areas were part of a larger endeavor that involved work done in phases over several years, over hundreds of miles, and with numerous partners in the Big Horn River basin. The basin is about 100 miles wide, and so far, more than 13,000 acres of invasive trees have been removed from the riparian area. Read more »
Today, small businesses and global companies alike have harnessed the power of America’s farms to create new biobased products that are used all around the world. Everything from cleaning products to packing peanuts originates in rural America, and the potential to create even more new products derived from the crops grown in rural America is nearly limitless.
Yesterday, I visited the first-ever Bioproducts World Showcase, hosted by the Ohio Bioproducts Innovation Center at Ohio State University. At the Showcase, I had the opportunity to see the latest and greatest in cutting edge innovation in the bioeconomy and speak with leaders across the bioeconomy about emerging opportunities and challenges in the bioeconomy. Read more »
USDA is committed to working with our partners in the sheep industry to support them as they provide quality products to consumers and increase producer returns here at home. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung
Since they were brought over during the earliest explorations of North America, the sheep industry has played a vital role in the agricultural history of our nation. In the 1940s, there were over 55 million sheep in the U.S., but today those numbers hover around one-tenth of that total. There are about 80,000 sheep ranchers across the U.S., and, with support from the 2014 Farm Bill, they will have additional resources to help develop innovative approaches to address their long-term needs.
Consolidation of the U.S. sheep packing industry, higher feed and energy costs, loss of animals to predators and lower lamb consumption, along with competition from imported of lamb cuts, have taken their toll on U.S. sheep producers. In response to industry needs, USDA is committed to working with our stakeholders to ensure the long-term viability of the sheep industry. Read more »
Partnering for a Strong Rural Economy is a USDA Specialty
A strong rural economy benefits the whole nation. Sales of specialty crops – which include everything from fruits and vegetables to tree nuts, cut flowers and nursery crops – total nearly $65 billion per year. The success of specialty crop farmers and businesses creates opportunities for new jobs and is critical to the rural economy. That’s why my agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), is partnering with states to support the hardworking American farmers who grow these products.
This week Secretary Tom Vilsack announced millions of dollars in grant funding authorized through the 2014 Farm Bill, including $66 million in Specialty Crop Block Grants (SCBG) awarded by AMS. The goal of the SCBG program is to promote and increase opportunities for specialty crop producers by supporting projects that create new business opportunities, boost productivity and improve food safety. Every state department of agriculture receives a block grant that it can use to fund projects that support its specific priorities. This year’s specialty crop block grants fund 838 projects across all 50 states, the District of Columbia and four U.S. territories.
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This October, just like every other month during the school year, school menus will feature an array of products from local and regional farmers, ranchers, and fishermen. Kids of all ages will dig up lessons in school gardens, visit farms, harvest pumpkins, and don hair nets for tours of processing facilities. Science teachers – and English, math, and social studies instructors, too – will use food and agriculture as a tool in their classrooms, so that lessons about the importance of healthy eating permeate the school learning environment.
An investment in the health of America’s students through Farm to School is also an investment in the farmers and ranchers who grow the food and an investment in the health of local economies. In school year 2011-2012, schools purchased $386 million in local food from farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and food processors and manufacturers. And an impressive 56 percent of school districts report that they will buy even more local foods in future school years. Farm to school programs exist in every state in the country. Read more »