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Posts tagged: Illinois

An Airport is No Place for an Owl

USDA airport biologist Bobby Hromack holds his first captured short-eared owl. Although it weighs no more than 16.8 ounces, the species can pose an aviation safety hazard due to its 33-43 inch wingspan and low, rolling flight style.

USDA airport biologist Bobby Hromack holds his first captured short-eared owl. Although it weighs no more than 16.8 ounces, the species can pose an aviation safety hazard due to its 33-43 inch wingspan and low, rolling flight style.

Seeing a short-eared owl in November on the Pittsburgh International Airport, where I work as an airport wildlife biologist, was a unique occasion. However, as the number of owls grew to eight, I recognized the challenge ahead:  Like all birds of prey, short-eared owls are a recognized potential aviation hazard. Their low rolling flight and difficult-to-disperse reputation means they pose an aviation safety threat.  From 1990-2012, short-eared owl strikes with aircraft in the United States caused over $1 million in damage, and often are fatal to the birds.  Convincing them to leave would be difficult but important.

The task would be harder because short-eared owls are listed by the State as an endangered species.  Common in many areas globally, Pennsylvania is the southernmost edge of their breeding range.  These owls likely migrated from Canadian breeding grounds to winter in Pennsylvania. Read more »

Join us for a Google+ Hangout: The Changing Face of Agriculture with Deputy Secretary Harden

This week at Ag Outlook, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Krysta Harden will host a discussion on the challenges and opportunities facing women in agriculture. Women represent part of a diverse population that has a growing interest in the future of agriculture, but young people, veterans, socially-disadvantaged producers and retirees also have a stake in that future.

On Monday, February 24th at 3 p.m. eastern, Deputy Secretary Harden will host a Google+ Hangout to share some highlights from Ag Outlook and discuss how USDA is working with the next generation of farmers and ranchers to provide them with the tools necessary to succeed. Read more »

Illinois Dairy Farm’s Waste Storage Gets a Makeover with USDA’s Help

NRCS District Conservationist Lewis Nichols (left) worked with Illinois rancher James “Jim” Johnson and his son Thad on a comprehensive nutrient management plan to best use manure on their land. USDA photo.

NRCS District Conservationist Lewis Nichols (left) worked with Illinois rancher James “Jim” Johnson and his son Thad on a comprehensive nutrient management plan to best use manure on their land. USDA photo.

A dairy cow can produce up to 140 pounds of manure in a day. So for James “Jim” Johnson, who owns 150 dairy cows on his Boone County, Ill. ranch, that means 7.7 million pounds of manure per year. Where does this manure go?

On many ranches, manure is stored and filtrated in a waste lagoon. But after a heavy rain in 2011 caused Johnson’s waste lagoon to overflow onto a nearby road, Johnson sought help to prevent it from happening again. In an effort to protect the quality of water and soil, he worked with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to find a solution.

NRCS assessed his operation and developed a comprehensive nutrient management plan. The assessment and plan helped Johnson to change his barns to properly handle the storage and flow of manure. Read more »

Strengthening the Modern Farm Safety Net for Specialty Crop Growers

Beginning in 2014, crop insurance will be available as a pilot insurance program for cucumbers in Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina and Texas.

Beginning in 2014, crop insurance will be available as a pilot insurance program for cucumbers in Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina and Texas.

As consumer demand for fresh fruit and vegetables increases, so do the production risks for the nation’s farmers as they grow these crops.  To meet this challenge, the Risk Management Agency (RMA) pays close attention to the changing agriculture sector to ensure that crop insurance is made available where feasible.

A tremendous amount of work goes into offering a new insurance product, making sure that the product provides the coverage needed by growers at a reasonable premium without distorting the market or affecting a grower’s management decisions for the crop. New insurance products must have written policy, underwriting and loss procedures, as well as an actuarially-sound premium rate. The ability to innovate with new and expanded insurance offerings to reflect modern and changing farming practices is central to how the Federal Crop Insurance Program works. Read more »

New Naturalist Program Aims to Bring Southern Illinois Kids Outdoors

The Shawnee National Forest will offer a new school program this year called Naturalist in the Classroom. Youngsters will have an opportunity to enjoy the Shawnee National Forest, like the kids here at the Young Trekkers afterschool program. Photo used with permission.

The Shawnee National Forest will offer a new school program this year called Naturalist in the Classroom. Youngsters will have an opportunity to enjoy the Shawnee National Forest, like the kids here at the Young Trekkers afterschool program. Photo used with permission.

With declining budgets in the public school system, there has been a steady decrease in school fieldtrips in recent years. This plight further widens the disconnect between children and nature.

To help bridge the gap between the schoolroom and the natural world, the Shawnee National Forest will offer a new school program this year called Naturalist in the Classroom.  The program will be piloted to third- through fifth-grade students in Union and Alexander counties located in southern Illinois, and will focus on two themes – forest ecology and wetland ecology. Read more »

From Small Potatoes to 36,000 Pounds of Carrots: Farm to School Grows

On January 15th, Growing Power’s Will Allen joined Chicago Public School, Aramark, FarmLogix and USDA staff to celebrate 36,000 pounds of carrots grown locally and served to Chicago students.

On January 15th, Growing Power’s Will Allen joined Chicago Public School, Aramark, FarmLogix and USDA staff to celebrate 36,000 pounds of carrots grown locally and served to Chicago students.

In the past few years I’ve seen an increasing number of news stories about successful farm to school programs. As reflected in the first USDA Farm to School Census, farm to school programs are thriving from Alaska to Florida and in every state between.

I attended a recent event that demonstrates just how quickly—and by what lengths—farm to school is growing. On January 15th, students in all Chicago Public Schools (CPS) were served sliced carrots grown at a farm only 90 miles away in Milwaukee. Read more »