This summer, 40 organizations from Michigan, Ohio and Indiana will work together to help agricultural producers reduce phosphorus runoff that ends up in the western Lake Erie basin, affecting water quality and contributing to algae blooms. This is an example of how the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) can be used to solve natural resource challenges in a community, state or region. Eligible conservation coalitions nationwide have about a week to submit pre-proposals to improve soil health, preserve clean water, combat drought and protect wildlife habitat. The deadline is July 8th.
USDA is investing up to $235 million through RCPP to improve the nation’s water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat and protect agricultural viability. Created by the 2014 Farm Bill, RCPP empowers local leaders to work with multiple partners—such as private companies, local and tribal governments, universities, non-profit groups and other non-government partners—along with farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners to design solutions that work best for their region. Local partners and the federal government both invest funding and manpower to projects to maximize their impact. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service administers RCPP. Read more »
As local and regional food systems continue to expand, so does the need for reliable market data. USDA Market News now captures data on over 85 farmers markets in the U.S. Pictured here is the Des Moines Farmers Market, which draws an average of 20,000 visitors a weekend. Photo courtesy of Des Moines, Iowa Farmers Market.
Farmers markets are an important part of local and regional food systems. Nationwide, 150,000 farmers and ranchers are selling their products directly to consumers to meet the growing demand for local food. Many sell their products at farmers markets, which can be a catalyst for future growth.
According to USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory, there are over 8,400 farmers markets across the country serving as community gathering places where America’s food producers are building successful businesses and bringing fresh, local food to their communities. As local and regional food systems continue to expand, so does the need for reliable market data. Read more »
Florida landowners in the Northern Everglades use conservation easements as a tool to restore their wetlands. Photo courtesy of NRCS.
Wetlands are one of nature’s most productive ecosystems. They clean and recharge groundwater; reduce the damaging impacts of floods; enhance wildlife habitat; sequester carbon; and create diverse recreation opportunities such as hunting, fishing, birdwatching and canoeing.
Thousands of landowners voluntarily take big and small actions every day to protect, restore and enhance wetlands and wildlife habitat. Seventy-five percent of the nation’s wetlands are located on private and tribal lands. Read more »
An adult spotted lanternfly (Photo courtesy of Bugwood)
Last year, an invasive pest known as the spotted lanternfly was found in the United States for the first time ever in Berks County, Pennsylvania. Tucked away in Pennsylvania Dutch Country, Berks County may seem an unlikely location to find a foreign pest, but with today’s global economy unwanted pests can show up almost anywhere.
In response, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is working closely with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) to stop this pest from spreading. APHIS has already contributed more than $1 million in Farm Bill funding to support the response effort in Pennsylvania, and PDA quickly established a quarantine area and regulated the movement of potential host material to help protect other communities. Read more »
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 »
Thriving prairie with pollinator-friendly flowering plants, such as black-eyed susans, blooming.
James MacDonald owns 120 acres of rural land in Green County, Wisconsin. Through USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), James expanded relic prairie on his land, including planting 3 acres of native pollinator mix through EQIP financial assistance. His prairie is in blossom all summer, with plants blooming at different times. “There are hundreds of prairie plants and they sort of pass off who’s in bloom, so from the end of the snow until the snow falls again there’s always something in bloom,” said James.
MacDonald says between his neighbors, there are about 100 hives within two miles of his property, so many bees use his prairie for food. James had a good idea of what bee-friendly mixes he wanted to plant so NRCS provided financial assistance, as well as technical assistance in site visits and checking to ensure his seed mix was adequate. Read more »