These two farms have the same soils, same crops and same precipitation. The difference is that one farm uses many conservation practices that help improve soil health helping it thrive through extreme weather conditions. NRCS photo.
Soil health is always important, but extreme weather in the last few years has shown landowners just how important managing for it really is.
“The vital part of soil is topsoil, which unfortunately is also the part most susceptible to the effects of weather. That’s what makes protecting it so crucial,” said Doug Miller, soil health coordinator with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Minnesota.
The top two components of topsoil are clay content and soil organic matter that hold nutrients and water for plant use and growth. Read more »
Wetland sites like this one provide outdoor recreation opportunities including bird watching and hunting. NRCS photo.
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps private landowners return fields and pastures that were drained for agricultural use back to their natural state – wetlands. This is because of the value that wetlands provide: they filter and store water, they prevent floods and they provide vital homes to wildlife.
Mark Putman in Christian County, Ky. is seeing the benefits on land he enrolled into a conservation easement with NRCS. Thanks to the wetland restoration project, he and his 10-year-old cousin, A.J., have a great story to tell.
Putman owns and operates a guided and non-guided hunting operation, so restoring the land to attract more wildlife was important. He and his family also enjoy hunting deer, ducks and turkey. Read more »
Chris and Tracy Adams with their daughters Ashley and Abigail.
Similar to the old adage, when Chris Adams married the wife, he married the family – and the family farm. Lucky for him, he loves farming and enjoys working with his in-laws to manage the 4,000-acre farm of soybeans, wheat and corn. Now it’s his full-time job, working with his brother-in-law to raise fields of commodity crops each year. But recently, Chris and Tracy Adams, and the rest of the family, began experimenting with farming at a much smaller scale.
They built a seasonal high tunnel, a greenhouse-like structure that produces a plentiful supply of strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes and peppers. High tunnels are made of plastic or metal pipe and covered with sheeting, typically made of plastic. Unlike greenhouses, they require no energy to heat, instead relying on natural sunlight to create favorable conditions for growing vegetables and other specialty crops. Read more »
Today, President Obama established a Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience to advise the Administration on how the Federal Government can respond to the needs of communities facing the impacts of climate change. This is an important step in our shared effort to respond to climate change – and like the President’s broader Climate Action Plan, it will help American agriculture mitigate and adapt to the impacts of a changing climate.
America’s farmers, ranchers and landowners have long been tremendous stewards of our environment. At USDA, we have worked with a record number of producers and landowners over the course of the Obama Administration to help conserve the soil and water, and clean our air – more than half a million over the past four and a half years. Meanwhile, in support of the Climate Action Plan, USDA put forward a series of new policies in June to help agriculture develop new climate solutions in the months and years to come. We have taken steps to create seven new regional climate hubs that will aid in sharing climate information for farmers and ranchers. We released the results of the Rapid Carbon Assessment – the largest-ever survey of soil carbon to help improve research efforts. And our new COMET-Farm tool provides a way for producers to see the impacts conservation practices could have on their land. Read more »
A Missouri Coteau wetland near Bismarck, N.D., in the heart of the Prairie Pothole Region. Credit: Jim Ringelman, Ducks Unlimited, used with permission.
The Prairie Pothole Region of North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana provides sanctuary to millions of nesting waterfowl each summer. With an innovative partnership led by Ducks Unlimited (DU), USDA is helping to provide new opportunities for agricultural producers in the region to sequester carbon while cultivating new revenue streams.
With the help of a grant from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, these partners have created a carbon credit system for private landowners in North Dakota who agree to avoid tillage of grasslands. Grasslands store carbon dioxide, one of the leading greenhouse gases contributing to climate change.
The North Dakota Prairie Pothole project, funded by a USDA Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) of $161,000, provides potential new revenue streams for landowners while avoiding greenhouse gas emissions and increasing carbon sequestration. Read more »
Natural resource conservation is paramount to the ongoing strength of our nation. Healthy soil contributes to agricultural productivity. Healthy forests clean our water and air. Vibrant waterways are critical for our health, for transportation and for trade. Investments into conservation spur job growth and community development, particularly in rural areas.
This is an uncertain time for USDA conservation activities. Congress has not yet passed a comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill that would continue to invest in conservation efforts, while providing rural America with certainty regarding many other important programs.
As we continue urging Congress to provide a new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill, USDA this week took several new steps to strengthen conservation across the country. Read more »