Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

Posts tagged: Tom Vilsack

Secretary’s Column: Investing in Conservation Innovation

Earlier this week, USDA announced $15.7 million in Conservation Innovation Grants to 47 organizations that will help develop and demonstrate cutting-edge ideas to help farmers and ranchers continue to improve conservation practices on their operations.

More than half of this year’s awardees focus on preserving and improving soil health, which leads to improved water quality, increased soil water availability, enhanced resilience and nutrient cycling, captured carbon, among many other vital natural resource needs. Read more »

A Kentucky Professor Works to Improve Irrigation Efficiency, Soil Health in High Tunnels

The University of Kentucky is using a Conservation Innovation Grant to improve the efficiency of seasonal high tunnels. NRCS and UK staff  view a water line with a high tunnel in the background. NRCS photo.

The University of Kentucky is using a Conservation Innovation Grant to improve the efficiency of seasonal high tunnels. NRCS and UK staff view a water line with a high tunnel in the background. NRCS photo.

Seasonal high tunnels have emerged in the past few years as an important tool for farmers wanting to extend their growing seasons. Right now, thanks to a Conservation Innovation Grant from USDA, a University of Kentucky professor is studying them – and how they can be made more efficient.

Krista Jacobsen, an assistant professor of horticulture, is studying the soil inside of high tunnels and the possibilities of catching rainwater to irrigate crops inside of them. High tunnels are plastic-covered structures that enable farmers to have crops ready earlier or later in the season. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: The Land and Water Conservation Fund at 50: As Important Today as Ever

Today, September 3, 2014, marks two important 50th anniversaries: the signing of the Wilderness Act and the establishment of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Since President Lyndon Johnson signed both pieces of legislation in 1964, Americans in all 50 states, across thousands of rural and urban communities, have reaped the benefits of accessible outdoor recreation opportunities and protected natural areas.

Together, these landmark pieces of legislation helped to usher in a new era for conservation.

The Wilderness Act protects wild and scenic undeveloped land across the United States for the benefit of all. Today, the National Wilderness Preservation System includes more than 750 wilderness areas covering almost 110 million acres. Read more »

World’s Best Soil Judgers Visit Washington, Meet Secretary Vilsack

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack talks to winners of the 1st International Soil Judging Contest during their visit to USDA on Aug. 18. American college students took the top two places in the first ever international competition.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack talks to winners of the 1st International Soil Judging Contest during their visit to USDA on Aug. 18. American college students took the top two places in the first ever international competition.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack hosted the world’s eight best soil judges last week after they earned the top spots at the 1st International Soil Judging Contest in Jeju, South Korea, in June.  The Natural Resources Conservation Service Soil Science Division was actively involved in organizing the event and mentoring the winners. The first and second place teams, both from the U.S., along with their coaches, participated in a roundtable discussion with Secretary Vilsack and NRCS Chief Jason Weller to talk about soil judging, the importance of soil health, and careers in soil science. In addition, NRCS’ Landscape Architect, Bob Snieckus, led the students and coaches on a tour of USDA’s green projects, including the rooftop garden and The People’s Garden.

It was the first international soil judging contest, but soil judging in the United States dates back to at least 1960. The events involve the description, classification and interpretation of soil, with the main purpose of helping students recognize important soil and landscape properties and to consider these characteristics when deciding how to use soils. A contest involves “judgers,” or students interested in soil science, entering a soil pit to examine the profile. The judgers then determine where the different horizons are and describe each one, looking at factors such as soil type, color, depth, consistency, shape, structure and other features. The soil is classified, and site and soil interpretations are performed. Read more »

Puerto Rico’s First Lady Promotes Community Gardens, Starting with Her Backyard

First Lady Wilma Pastrana Jiménez and others plant seeds in People’s Garden.

First Lady Wilma Pastrana Jiménez and others plant seeds in People’s Garden.

Puerto Rico’s First Lady is a big fan of the home garden, and actually, the garden at the governor’s mansion, called La Fortaleza, is part of USDA’s national garden movement.

First Lady Wilma Pastrana Jiménez’s garden was the first People’s Garden at a Puerto Rico state government facility and the third on the island.

The garden joins more than 2,000 across the nation as part of the People’s Garden Initiative, started in 2009 by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Read more »

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 »