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Posts tagged: Illinois

Bioreactors Form a Last Line of Defense against Nitrate Runoff

Illustration of how a denitrifying bioreactor fits in with drainage water management (DWM). Image by John Peterson.

Illustration of how a denitrifying bioreactor fits in with drainage water management

NOTE: This year, we’ll be highlighting some of 2015’s conservation practice innovations in a monthly series. NRCS supports science-based conservation by offering technical and financial assistance for nearly 170 conservation practice standards. As conservation science and technology advances, NRCS reevaluates each standard every five years and incorporates new advancements into conservation practice standards.

Walk to the edge of certain crop fields in Iowa and look down. You might not notice anything unusual, but just beneath the surface hordes of woodchip-dwelling microorganisms are busy removing excess nitrates from water before it leaves the field. By filtering nitrates, this organic gauntlet safeguards local streams and, eventually, the Gulf of Mexico. Read more »

Local Food Systems at Work in the Driftless Area

Acting Administrator Elanor Starmer at Dubuque Food Co-op

Everybody is welcome at the Dubuque Food Cooperative, which features local, organic, and sustainably produced food. USDA photo by Bill Menner.

So called because it was left untouched by retreating glaciers that flattened much of the Midwest, the Driftless Area of northeast Iowa, southwest Wisconsin, and bits of Minnesota and Illinois is home to more than just beautiful rolling hills. It’s also the site of inspiring efforts to develop a strong regional food economy. I had the honor of visiting the region in my first trip as Acting Administrator of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).

With Secretary Vilsack’s leadership, USDA has put local and regional food front and center over the last seven years. We realize that consumer demand for local food can create economic opportunities, help develop systems that bring healthy food to underserved communities, and better connect consumers with agriculture. Building these systems often brings together unlikely partners – farmers, economic development experts, local government, school officials and supply-chain businesses – in the pursuit of shared goals. Read more »

Conservation Partnerships Improve Illinois River

Erosion along the Illinois River

Erosion along the Illinois River and its tributaries results in high turbidity levels. (Photo by Lauren D. Ray)

Thanks to conservation partnerships, two segments of the Illinois River are off Arkansas’s impaired waters list.

Surface erosion and agricultural activities along the river caused high levels of turbidity – or water haziness. Improvement in these conditions from the 2006 listing, led to ten segments of the river removed from the state’s list of impaired waters in 2014.

With assistance through the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Illinois River Sub-Basin and Eucha-Spavinaw Lake Watershed Initiative (IRWI), poultry farmer Bruce Norindr is doing his part to improve water quality in the Lower Muddy Fork Watershed. Read more »

Shawnee National Forest’s Camel Rock Coming Soon to a Pocket near You

Shawnee National Forest’s Camel Rock on the United States Mint's new America the Beautiful Quarter

Shawnee National Forest’s Camel Rock is as depicted on the United States Mint’s new America the Beautiful Quarter.

When hiking through amazing sandstone rock formations in the U.S. Forest Service’s Shawnee National Forest, in Illinois, one particular formation inevitably catches your attention, a camel stoically perched overlooking a spectacular landscape. It is this striking image, called Camel Rock, that was selected to represent the Shawnee National Forest on the newest America the Beautiful Quarter.

Started in 2010, each year the United States Mint issues a quarter with the reverse (tails) side depicting a national site or park. The Shawnee is one of only five national forests to be recognized in the program. Read more »

Intercollegiate Meat Judging Program – Developing Future Ag Leaders

Meat graders discussing the meat in front of them

Here at AMS, one of the many benefits of creating marketing opportunities for ag businesses is seeing first-hand how the industry supports 1 in 12 jobs all over the country.

For many years, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), through its Livestock, Poultry, and Seed Program, has been actively involved in the Intercollegiate Meat Judging Program. The program serves as a tool to recruit and train future leaders in the meat and livestock industry.  Judging is a competitive event for youth through college students and it has a rich history in the U.S. meat industry – and here at AMS.

The program originally started in 1926 at the International Livestock Exposition in Chicago, and was sponsored by the National Live Stock and Meat Board.  Contests have been held every year since 1926, with the exception of the war years. Read more »

Library Garden Provides ‘Rest Stop’ for Monarch Butterflies

The pollinator garden

After one year, the pollinator garden has grown exponentially, feeding multiple species of pollinators and creating an outdoor classroom. NRCS photo by Ellen Starr.

The pollinator garden at our library in Princeton, Ill. is a popular rest stop for monarch butterflies on their cross-continental journey. My agency, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), worked with local partners and businesses to create a 2,400-square-foot pollinator garden as a way to educate the public and provide needed pollinator habitat.

We planted the garden designed by our landscape architect Vicki Morrical in 2014. It features 28 plant species and more than 700 plants. Signs help visitors identify the different plants. Read more »