Cross-posted from the EPA Connect blog:
In September of 2015, EPA and USDA sponsored a three-day national workshop at the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute in Lincoln, Nebraska that brought together more than 200 experts and leaders representing the agricultural community, utilities, environmental NGOs, private investors, states, cities, and tribes to discuss how to expand the country’s small but growing water quality trading markets. Recently we released a report that summarizes the workshop’s key discussions and outlines new actions that we and others will take to further promote the use of market-based tools to advance water quality improvements.
Over the last decade, states and others have discovered that they can meet their water quality improvement goals through lower costs and greater flexibility by using a voluntary water quality trading program. Trading is based on the fact that sources in a watershed can face very different costs to control the same pollutant. Trading programs allow facilities facing higher pollution control costs (like a wastewater treatment plant or a municipality with a stormwater permit) to meet their regulatory obligations by purchasing lower cost environmentally equivalent (or superior) pollution reductions (or credits) from another source, including farms that use conservation practices to efficiently reduce the movement of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment from their fields into local waterways. For example, Virginia’s nutrient trading program to offset stormwater phosphorous loads from new development has saved the Commonwealth more than $1 million in meeting state water quality goals while providing economic incentives to local agricultural producers to reduce soil erosion and runoff. Read more »
Cross-posted from the WhiteHouse.gov blog:
There’s an exciting trend underway across the country. More and more, major companies are leaving offshore hubs and turning to rural communities in America for high-quality IT talent. In addition to a narrowing wage gap and higher quality of work in these rural areas, the employee attrition rate in rural areas of the U.S. is less than half the rate typically seen in offshore locations.
The Obama Administration has supported the growth of IT jobs in rural America with unprecedented investments in rural broadband and other key infrastructure, and through innovative efforts like the White House TechHire Initiative, a multi-sector initiative and call to action to rapidly train Americans with the skills they need for well-paying, open tech jobs. Read more »
Chad Nelson takes a break from an audit with the University of Nebraska team. Pictured left to right: Kolin Scheele, Dr. Ty Schmidt, Chad Nelson, Laura Gorecki and Joe Buntyn.
About once every five years since 1991, the National Beef Quality Audit (NBQA) brings together producers, consumers, academia, and government in a collaborative research and data collection exercise that spans the entire U.S. beef industry. Funded by the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (the beef checkoff program), the NBQA assesses the current status of the industry regarding production processes and practices that ultimately affect consumer demand for beef.
The audit uses a multi-phase approach to identify the top challenges the fed-beef (cattle raised for meat production) industry faces. The NBQA first gathers data to measure current quality and consistency of U.S fed-beef, and then quantifies the level to which cattle producers are applying common sense husbandry techniques, specifically the Beef Quality Assurance principles, to safeguard that quality. The results are translated into practical guidance for continued improvement in the production of fed-beef and, in turn, consumers’ acceptance of the end products found in stores. Read more »
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack
A group of coders in hooded sweatshirts and big headphones stare intently at their computer screens.
In the corner, staff take a break at the foosball table, while a young woman in an oversized beanbag chair types away on her laptop.
You might be picturing the headquarters of a Silicon Valley startup, but the scene described above is over 2,000 miles away from San Francisco—in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Read more »
At USDA this month, we’re taking some time to focus on the work of farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to conserve our planet and our resources for the future. They know, like we do, that cleaner air, water, soil and habitat are not only good for our planet, but also contribute to healthy and productive working farmlands.
At USDA we have a wide range of tools and support available to help farmers voluntarily implement conservation practices to improve the health and productivity of private and Tribal working lands. Since 2009, the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) has provided more than $4 billion in assistance to farmers, ranchers and forest managers to enhance conservation on more than 70 million acres. And this year, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) plans to add an estimated 10 million acres to the rolls. Read more »
Three generations of farmers at sundown on a South Dakota farm.
The White House recently recognized 12 Champions of Change for their leadership in sustainable and climate-smart agriculture. This week we will meet them through their USDA Regional Climate Hub, today featuring the Northern Plains’ Keith Berns, Larry Cundall and Martin Kleinschmit.
Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska comprise the Northern Plains Region. The region accounts for a quarter of irrigated lands in the U.S. and more than a third of the pasture/rangelands. The Northern Plains has an extensive precipitation and temperature gradient moving from east to west, which provides a diverse array of environmental conditions for agriculture throughout the region.
The region faces longer and warmer growing seasons, earlier arrival of spring, and altered distribution of seasonal precipitation. These changes can affect agriculture production in a number of ways such as the timing of snowmelt for irrigation and changes in pest and weed pressure. Additionally, extreme weather events such as drought are occurring at greater frequency, duration, and intensity. The USDA Northern Plains Regional Climate Hub (NPRCH) produced a vulnerability assessment of key agriculture enterprises in the six-state area that highlights a number of adaption and mitigation strategies available to producers. Read more »