Deputy Under Secretary Ann Mills meets with producer Rick Martinez at his Triad Farm in Dixon, California. USDA photo.
Recently I traveled to California to meet with farmers who are coping with the state’s historic drought. This was my second trip to the Golden State in recent months to see first-hand how USDA’s disaster assistance and conservation programs are helping producers and rural communities, and to continue the conversation about how USDA and the federal government as a whole can support efforts to build long term resilience to drought.
My first visit was with Rick Martinez at his Triad Farm in Dixon, California. Rick practices land stewardship on the 4,000 acres he farms and through his leadership as a member of the area Resource Conservation District. While he doesn’t face the exact same set of water shortage pressures experienced by California’s Central Valley farmers, Rick recognizes that the state’s drought may well extend into the foreseeable future and has a long-term plan to build resilience for his operation. As he has done over the past several years, he continues to install drip irrigation in his tomato fields and is experimenting with drip irrigation for his alfalfa and corn crops. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides cost share assistance for some of these investments – but Rick pays for 100 percent of other investments because it makes good business sense. He is able to reduce water use and input costs while increasing yields. Read more »
Terry Dabbs gives Ann Mills, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, and Nancy Stoner, Environmental Protection Agency Acting Assistant Administrator for Water (right), a tour of his farm. (NRCS photo by Reginald L. Jackson)
I recently toured several farms near Stuttgart, Ark. with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s acting Assistant Administrator for Water Nancy Stoner, state officials and conservationists. We met farmers working to clean and conserve water using conservation efforts, including the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.
The tour provided me and my colleagues from Washington, D.C. and almost a dozen states an opportunity to see firsthand how voluntary, incentive-conservation practices are helping Arkansas farmers maintain productivity while protecting wildlife habitat and improving water quality and water use efficiency.
On Terry Dabbs’ Discovery Farm, we heard how the combination of conservation practices results in better water quality. As Dabbs said, if he is contributing to poor water quality downstream and in the Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone, he wants to know about it and fix it. Read more »
An infographic exploring water conservation efforts across American commodity production. AMS product. (Click to enlarge).
Farmers have always been particularly attuned to the forces of nature – it’s in the job description, after all. When the regularity of growing seasons collides with the irregularity of extreme conditions like droughts, floods, windstorms, the American farming community is motivated to innovate and conserve.
For years, farmers have been leveraging the collective power of research and promotion programs to invest in research that improves on-farm practices through both innovation and conservation. Their efforts, with oversight from USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), has resulted in significant water and soil conservation, safeguarding our land for future generations.
Critical among these practices is smart irrigation. Almond growers in California have funded 71 irrigation projects over a 32-year period. Through these projects, growers have learned that micro-drip irrigation not only uses much less water than older methods, but also generates more vigorous plant growth. With the targeted distribution and uniformity, this increases crop production. Read more »
Over the last 50 years, research and technological advances have led to a 35% decrease in the pork industry’s carbon footprint.
American farmers know about planting seeds—both in the ground and in groundbreaking research. While the seeds they plant as individual farmers feed and clothe the rest of us, the seeds they sow collectively through participation in research and promotion (R&P) programs are vitally important, too.
Funded entirely by industry, agricultural R&P programs are a way for producers and businesses across a commodity industry to pool their resources to help market and improve their products. With oversight provided by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), one of the most important seeds these programs sow is the foundational research that paves the way for breakthroughs that once seemed unimaginable. Read more »
NRCS State Conservationist Keisha Tatem, NRCS Assistant Chief Kirk Hanlin (center) and Eric Juan with the Gila River Tribal Community discuss the efficiency gains of the concrete-lined irrigation ditch in the community. Before this ditch was lined, much of the water was lost. NRCS photo.
I come from generations of Mississippi River towboat captains and family farmers. From as early as I can remember, our family believed that if you were going to do a job, you’d better do it right, and that no job was either too big or too small.
Hard work was valued, and everyone always looked for new ways of doing jobs better. The river and the land have long supported our family. From time to time, I have an experience that takes me back and today’s trip was one of those times.
Recently, when I was crossing the Colorado River from California into Arizona, I thought about how many times I had crossed the Mississippi River from Illinois to Iowa or Missouri. But crossing this river was very different. Driving into Arizona, there was desert as far as I could see in any direction. This instantly sparked my curiosity. Read more »
This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.
As a major underground water source, the Ogallala Aquifer plays a key role in the economic vitality of vast stretches of the rural Midwest. The aquifer covers around 225,000 square miles in 8 states from South Dakota to Texas, supplying 30 percent of all U.S. groundwater used for irrigation.
But as with other natural resources that seem inexhaustible, the aquifer is effectively a nonrenewable resource. Demand from agricultural, municipal and industrial development on the Great Plains has meant that water is pumped out of a large portion of the aquifer much more quickly than it can ever be replenished. Read more »