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Posts tagged: NRCS

Using Gypsum to Help Reduce Phosphorus Runoff

USDA agricultural engineer Jim Fouss observing an algal bloom on Alligator Bayou, near Baton Rouge, Louisiana

USDA agricultural engineer Jim Fouss observes an algal bloom on Alligator Bayou, near Baton Rouge, Louisiana. These blooms, a particular problem during hot summer months, can be caused by high concentrations of fertilizer nutrients from agricultural drainage waters.

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.

When it rains it pours. Whether we get a passing shower or a day-long downpour, the runoff ends up in rivers, streams and waterways. That runoff may include nutrients from fertilizers, and one of those nutrients is phosphorus.

Phosphorus runoff is causing blooms of harmful algae that deplete waterways of oxygen, resulting in “dead zones” that damage ecosystems vital for aquatic life. It’s a problem in many of the waterways we all depend on for recreation and drinking water, including the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay.  Just last year, Maryland’s outgoing governor proposed land use regulations designed specifically to reduce phosphorus runoff in the Chesapeake watershed. Read more »

USDA-EPA National Workshop on Water Quality Markets September 15-17

2015 USDA/EPA National Workshop on Water Quality Markets graphic

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 »

Commitment to Innovation and Conservation Shapes the Littles’ Family Farm

The Littles in front of their cattle

The Littles have a diversified farming and ranching operation. Photo: Dan Zinkand for NRCS.

When you stop on a bridge that crosses the Big Sioux River in Hamlin County, South Dakota, and look south you can see how well Donnie, Barry and Eli Little manage their cows and crops to improve soil and water quality and increase productivity.

Cows graze in one of 24 paddocks that the family manages with a computer program Eli made after graduating from South Dakota State University in 2013. An electric fence along a buffer strip following the river keeps cows out, protecting the source of drinking water for the city of Sioux Falls. Read more »

An NRCS Earth Team Volunteer Gives Her Perspective

Raquel MacSwain, NRCS Earth Team Volunteer

Raquel MacSwain, NRCS Earth Team Volunteer. Photo credit: Julie MacSwain.

I experience a sense of passion and pride towards something greater than myself every time I volunteer with an organization that directly benefits others, such as serving with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) as an Earth Team Volunteer.

I have been with NRCS since 2008 – volunteering nearly 100 hours over my summer breaks and a few hours a week while in school – assisting the public affairs specialist for NRCS in Minnesota. Through my familiarity with social media, I help by developing messaging for Twitter, promoting upcoming media events, as well as other clerical tasks like designing PowerPoint slides for presentations for employee meetings. Read more »

USDA Agencies Lead Local Food Discussion in Omaha

USDA officials and Nebraska congressional and state representatives

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 »

High Tunnels Helps Community Supported Agriculture Farm

Beth Rinkenberger holding a cheddar cauliflower she grew in the high tunnel

Beth Rinkenberger holds a cheddar cauliflower she grew in the high tunnel, one of the many vegetables the CSA box contains. Photo: Jody Christiansen.

Somewhat hidden in Livingston County, Illinois is a five-acre farm that is reminiscent of farms years ago. With assistance from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the farm is able to maintain a diversified operation with agritourism features and run a CSA ­– or Community Supported Agriculture.

A CSA is a way for consumers to directly invest in local farms, like Beth and Doug Rinkenberger’s Garden Gate Farms, and receive a regular delivery of fresh fruits and vegetables. Read more »