Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment Ann Mills addresses the audience at the first ever EPA-USDA National Workshop on Water Quality Markets.
This week, I have the privilege of participating in the first ever EPA-USDA National Workshop on Water Quality Markets at the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute in Lincoln, Nebraska. More than 200 attendees from agriculture, utilities, industry, state agencies, and research institutions gathered at the University of Nebraska’s aptly named “Innovation Center” to think critically about how we can improve and expand water quality markets across the country.
As Secretary Vilsack noted in his introductory video remarks, water quality markets can be effective tools in helping communities improve the quality of their water at lower cost. Markets create financial incentives for private landowners to manage their lands more sustainably to produce cleaner water while generating environmental benefits at lower cost. They promote public awareness of the role sustainable private land management can play in protecting public health and natural ecosystems. They inject private dollars and innovation into efforts to improve water quality – leveraging finite federal funding. Read more »
2015 USDA/EPA National Workshop on Water Quality Markets graphic. (Click for the registration link)
For most people, water quality markets are probably a new concept. They are not something you hear about on the news every day, even though reports frequently cover the need to clean up rivers and lakes. But to some—like states, utilities, and farmers—they represent an opportunity, and should be on the radar.
Water quality markets can reduce costs of cleaning up waterways by allowing sources with high costs of meeting water quality requirements to purchase credits from sources that have lower costs of making the same water quality improvement. Agricultural producers often have lower costs of improving water quality, which makes farmers and ranchers prime candidates to supply water quality credits. Read more »
A team of USDA officials and Nebraska congressional and state representatives participated in the first ever Local Foods for Local Tables conference. The group got together with the common goal of promoting local foods. USDA Photo.
I was thrilled to join USDA colleagues at the first-of-its-kind “Local Foods for Local Tables” conference in Omaha, Neb., on Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. USDA Rural Development (RD) State Director Maxine Moul and the office of Congressman Brad Ashford led the effort to bring together groups and community members with the common goal of promoting local foods. Along with RD state leadership, the event featured Farm Service Agency (FSA) State Executive Director Dan Steinkruger and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist Craig Derickson, all of whom serve on the Nebraska State Food and Agriculture Council (SFAC). They brought together a panel of public servants who are experts in their field, as well as community leaders who are on the front lines of bringing fresh, healthy food to the American table.
With more than 150 people in attendance, there was tremendous energy in the room. The discussions were lively and the ideas inspired! For everyone sitting in the room – whether a volunteer gardener or a state conservationist – it was a great opportunity to learn about programs and initiatives right in their backyard that are supporting local and regional food systems. I had the privilege of serving as the keynote speaker during the luncheon, which was prepared using delicious, locally-sourced foods. I shared how my agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), plays a key role in providing technical assistance, awarding grants, and conducting research that contribute to ongoing efforts in Nebraska and across the country to strengthen local and regional food systems. Elanor Starmer from the Office of the Secretary also attended and talked about the Department-wide Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative to support local food. Read more »
Wade Kloepping has made several conservation improvements to his farm.
A rich background in agriculture helped Wade Kloepping make the decision to come home to Dawson County after college and take over the family farm near Eustis, Nebraska.
Two years before graduating from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Kloepping’s dad passed away; he was the manager of the family’s farming operation. Wade has since taken over that role. As a beginning farmer, he aimed to improve the stocking rate of his pasture, advance forage productivity and increase the amount of native plants. Read more »
The Hausman family of Scotts Bluff, Nebraska used USDA Rural Development's Single Family Guaranteed Loan Program to purchase a home to call their own.
Homeownership Month 2015 is already coming to the end, and I couldn’t be happier with the celebrations I’ve participated in, read about or listened to stories of.
In 30 days I have visited seven states across our nation to meet the people that work for and with USDA Rural Development to help make homeownership a reality for so many rural American families.
I’ve seen hardworking folks in California and Montana push up the walls to their future homes; I met families in Ohio and Oklahoma who were already moved in, but still thoroughly filled with the joy of homeownership. Read more »
Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Patrice Kunesh admires an official USA Winter Olympic Team sweater made with wool from the Imperial Stock Ranch in Shiniko, Oregon. The Ranch used a USDA Value Added Producer Grant to develop the yarn.
“When you are a small farm, you don’t have a lot of capital.” says Julie Donnelly of Deepwoods Farm, a small tomato farm she runs with her husband in Bradley County, Arkansas. Despite being in an area known for its tomatoes, Deepwoods Farms was having a hard time getting ahead. “We couldn’t get past the commercial tomatoes.” Julie remembers. “We were almost bankrupt. I thought ‘I’ve got to do something!’ ”
What Julie decided to do was diversify her tomato crop to produce more varietals, including heirlooms and different colored tomatoes. She believed this would give her farm a competitive edge and open up new market opportunities. The tomatoes were growing well and tasted good. However, no one knew the Donnelleys were doing something different than before. Deepwoods Farms needed marketing and branding support to tell customers why their tomatoes were different. “When I heard about the Value Added Producer Grant, I thought this might be the answer,” said Julie. Read more »