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Posts tagged: Regional Conservation Partnership Program

Working Together to Improve Water Quality Along the Lake Erie Shore

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) engineer Kevin King (right) explains an edge of field water quality monitoring station to Ohio State Conservationist Terry Cosby, farm owners Joe and Clint Nester in the Western Lake Erie Basin near Bryan, Ohio on Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014. The device allows tracking of both surface and underground water moving thru field tile. Monitoring stations results help determine what may be best farming practices on different types of soil in the watershed. USDA photo by Garth Clark.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) engineer Kevin King (right) explains an edge of field water quality monitoring station to Ohio State Conservationist Terry Cosby, farm owners Joe and Clint Nester in the Western Lake Erie Basin near Bryan, Ohio on Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014. The device allows tracking of both surface and underground water moving thru field tile. Monitoring stations results help determine what may be best farming practices on different types of soil in the watershed. USDA photo by Garth Clark.

USDA has a long history of investment in water quality and quantity issues.  Still, Toledo, Ohio Mayor Michael Collins issued an emergency water advisory leaving about 500,000 people without clean tap water to drink or cook with from Aug. 2 to Aug. 4.  The reason for the advisory: toxins produced by algae in Lake Erie got into the city’s water supply.  Residents were forced to rely on bottled and trucked-in water for drinking, cooking, and brushing teeth.  The Lake Erie algae bloom incident shows we all have a lot more work to do to ensure adequate water supplies for now and into the future.

In response to the algae bloom incident, USDA leadership, represented by Terry Cosby, NRCS state conservationist,  joined Senator Sherrod Brown and Representative Marcy Kaptur, this week to immediately announce $2 million in new federal emergency funds to reduce runoff in the Western Lake Erie Basin. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: The Farm Bill at Work in Your State

Last week, USDA marked the six-month anniversary of the signing of the 2014 Farm Bill. I am proud to say that we’ve made important progress on every title of the Farm Bill, including issuing disaster assistance payments, updating risk management tools, modifying farm loan programs, announcing new support for agricultural research, establishing new conservation programs, and much more.

My team and I at USDA have gathered together some top statistics that show how the Farm Bill is at work in your state—and the record results we’ve achieved this time around. For example: Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Partnerships Power Conservation Efforts

When USDA launched the Regional Conservation Partnership Program several months ago, we talked about our hope that this new way of doing business would build coalitions of unlikely partners and bring new money and resources for conservation projects to the table.

The overwhelmingly positive response to this new approach has far exceeded our initial expectations. Over the past several months, nearly 5,000 partners have come together to submit nearly 600 pre-proposals to USDA. All told, these coalitions of partners requested more than six times the $394 million in funding available from USDA for the first round of conservation projects, in addition to bringing their own, matching resources to the table. Read more »

Community Combats Pollution in Inlet, Succeeds in Restoring Oyster Populations

The inlet once suffered from pollution. But the nearby community gathered together to improve water quality by preventing runoff of sediment and nutrients. Now, oysters thrive. NRCS photo.

The inlet once suffered from pollution. But the nearby community gathered together to improve water quality by preventing runoff of sediment and nutrients. Now, oysters thrive. NRCS photo.

Two years ago, the Nisqually Shellfish Farm south of Belfair, Wash. didn’t have a chance. Runoff from surrounding homes and dairy farms polluted Henderson Inlet, and the state declared the water unfit for raising shellfish for human consumption.

Worsening the problem, the place was overrun with an invasive species, the Japanese oyster drill, which feeds on and kills shellfish.

But water quality in the inlet, which flows into Puget Sound, is improving. Last year, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) began working with a nearby tribe and shellfish producers to monitor and remove the Japanese oyster drill. Read more »

Conservation Efforts Help Protect Longleaf Forests for Future Generations

A private landowner in Hancock County, Miss. is restoring a longleaf pine forest on his land.

A private landowner in Hancock County, Miss. is restoring a longleaf pine forest on his land.

I have a few decorative items on my desk at work, and some of those are longleaf pine cones. Even though I only learned of the rare longleaf pine forest – and the large pine cones that fall in them each year – a few years ago, it was love at first sight.

Longleaf pine forests once covered the coastal landscape of the Southeast, and they’re home to nearly 600 plant and animal species.

But over the past two centuries, development, timbering and fire suppression reduced the longleaf’s range by almost 97 percent. And many groups, including USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), are working to save and restore this landscape. According to the America’s Longleaf Restoration Initiative, longleaf forests have increased from about 3 million acres to about 4.4 million acres in recent years, reversing a century-long decline across the region. Read more »

Conservation as a Source of Innovative Partnerships for All

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden tours rice fields in the Sacramento Valley at the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area on Jun. 24, 2014. Rice grower Mike DeWit has a cooperative arrangement to provide habitat for wildlife while growing rice. Photo courtesy California Rice Commission.

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden tours rice fields in the Sacramento Valley at the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area on Jun. 24, 2014. Rice grower Mike DeWit has a cooperative arrangement to provide habitat for wildlife while growing rice. Photo courtesy California Rice Commission.

This summer, USDA is highlighting partnerships to invest in the future of rural America. Our partners work with us year after year to leverage resources and grow economic opportunities. They are the key to ensuring our rural communities thrive. Follow more of our stories at #RuralPartners.

My passion and commitment for conservation started on the farm learning from our first and finest conservationists:  American farmers. Our nation’s farmers and ranchers care deeply about the land, which is why they are incredible environmental stewards. Earlier this month, I visited the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, a popular wildlife refuge just minutes from downtown Sacramento. Here, farmers like the DeWit family are growing rice and providing some of the best wildlife habitat in North America.

Mike DeWit and his father, Jack, brought me right into the middle of the Sacramento Valley rice fields, where more than a half million acres are used as a source of America’s sushi rice. Equally valuable is the role these rice fields play as a habitat for nearly 230 wildlife species, including providing nearly sixty percent of the winter diet for millions of migrating ducks and geese. It was a thrill to walk on the levee of a shallow-flooded, brilliantly green field and observe several pairs of nesting American Avocets all around. When I noticed a nest with four small eggs, I knew that it represented a part of the future generation of wildlife. Read more »