Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will visit Silver Ridge Farm on Thursday, Dec. 5th to announce the release of a new report that outlines the impact of voluntary incentive-based conservation practices across the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
The Conservation Effects Assessment Project report demonstrates the need for a new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill that will invest in conservation partnerships with our nation’s famers, ranchers and landowners.
Silver Ridge Farm, located in Fredericksburg, VA, is a multigenerational family farm that, like many farms in the Bay Watershed area works with the USDA to implement a wide range of conservation measures.
Farm Foundation, NFP and The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation today announced the launch of a new initiative designed to :bring attention to the critical role of soil health in the challenge of feeding 9 billion people by 2050.”
The announcement was made to mark World Soil Day which will be commemorated tomorrow, December 5, and coincides with Farm Foundation’s forum today on the Future of Federal Conservation Programs.
Through the leadership of the two foundations, the Soil Health Initiative will bring recognition to the central role of soil in productive agricultural systems, and establish a strategic plan to address soil health issues.
City dwellers as well as farmers need bottom-line returns from over $4 billion invested in federal conservation programs every year. A new “Farm Portfolio” approach shows that the U.S. economy, human health and the environment can benefit in measurable ways from coordinating conservation at all levels.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) highlighted the new six-step approach to focusing conservation programs in a first-of-its-kind Farm Portfolio webinar on Conservation Practices: Farm Fix-it to Farm Portfolio.
Since the 1930s, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has relied on the 9-step conservation plan and its local and state partners to meet with landowners and install conservation practices like field terraces and streambank filter strips. While farm bill conservation programs remain an important component of the new farm portfolio approach, the priority shifts to national-scale environmental outcomes and using resource-driven, data-based professional expertise.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is opening the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) for new enrollments for federal fiscal year 2014. Starting now through Jan. 17, 2014, producers interested in participating in the program can submit applications to NRCS.
Eligible landowners and operators in all states and territories can enroll in CSP through January 17th to be eligible during the 2014 federal fiscal year. While local NRCS offices accept CSP applications year round, NRCS evaluates applications during announced ranking periods.To be eligible for this year’s enrollment, producers must have their applications submitted to NRCS by the closing date.
The Farm Bill is still up in the air on Capitol Hill, and that’s why the folks at Farm Foundation have set up another of their free forums not too far from where Congress will be discussing the legislation’s future. In this next forum on Wednesday, Dec. 4, at the National Press Club in downtown Washington, D.C., the group has invited a host of experts to talk about the future of federal conservation programs and what those programs mean to land owners and conservation work on the land.
Moderating the panel will be former Texas Congressman Charlie Stenholm. Five panelists will present perspectives on the legislation:
Bruce Knight of Strategic Conservation Solutions and former Chief of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, will provide an overview of federal conservation policies and the role of federal programs in conservation work.
Eric Lindstrom, who works on wetlands and water conservation at Ducks Unlimited, will discuss that organizations’ migratory bird program, including the federal duck stamp program.
North Dakota farmer Don Bauman will explain the role of conservation in his farming operation.
Marcus Maier of the Indian Creek Watershed Project, will discuss the role of federal programs in this farmer-led project.
To sign up, click here. Also, if you can’t make it to the event, the audio will be archived on the Farm Foundation website.
Producers in 16 Ohio counties watched the skies, not for weather, but for seeds that will help improve soil and water quality and boost their bottom lines. Working with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), local soil and water conservation districts (SWCDs) and the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD), 235 farmers are planting cover crops on 21,709 Ohio acres. Approximately half of the acres have been planted through aerial seeding, which allowed for the seed to be planted without affecting crops still on the field. The remainder of the cover crops are being planted using conventional methods.
Cover crops are nationally recognized as a soil and water quality best management practice because they control erosion and maintain nutrients in the soil. ODNR program administrators estimate the cover crop planting could result in up to 30,000 tons of soil saved as well as 30,000 pounds of phosphorus and 60,000 pounds of nitrogen kept out of Ohio waters. Aerial seeding began in late September.
ODNR provided oversight for the program, including rule development and payment administration. Local SWCDs in 16 counties worked directly with farmers to sign up, evaluate and eventually verify fields had been planted. MWCD provided $320,871 in funding to assist farmers in planting cover crops on soils within the conservancy district, with priority given to fields that offered the highest potential for erosion into district waters.
One area where there seemed to be general agreement in the first meeting of the farm bill conference committee last week was the need for a strong conservation program – and most committee members who mentioned it during last week’s meeting are in favor of tying conservation compliance to crop insurance, which is part of the Senate bill.
“As we make this shift to risk management policies, it’s very important that farmers and ranchers continue to do the things that make them the best stewards of our land and water resources,” said Senate Agriculture Committee chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). “By reconnecting conservation compliance to our now-strengthened crop insurance program, we protect the future of agriculture for our children and grandchildren.”
Rep. Steve King (R-IA) agreed. “With direct payments eliminated, it’s important that we provide incentives for farmers to continue to be good stewards of the land,” he said.
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) noted that the vast majority of producers are already doing what is required. “Are we going to say to the few that might be bad actors that you can still get your insurance and not do what the vast majority are doing on their own?”
Only Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) spoke against linking conservation and crop insurance. “In the House version you do not tie the conservation compliance to crop insurance,” he said. “I think that is the right approach.”
The committee met for the first time on October 30. No word yet on when it will meet again but some members have said they are hoping to get the bill out of committee by Thanksgiving.
Producers and ag advisers interested in learning the finer points of using cover crops in a farming operation can see them used first hand during the Conservation Technology Information Center’s (CTIC) Cover Crop Summit Nov. 20-21 in the Fort Wayne, Ind., area.
Summit discussion topics will include practical ways to incorporate cover crops into an operation, cover crop planting methods and more. Tour stops will feature grain farmers and animal producers who have successfully incorporated cover crops into their unique systems through innovation. Travel scholarships to attend the event are available.
At each operation, producers will share details on their experiences with cover crops, including how they began, their current management techniques and benefits they have found on their farms. Other experts on cover crops, such as university researchers, also will be available to answer questions.
A room block under group code 1120 is available at Don Hall’s Guesthouse, 1313 W. Washington Center Rd., Fort Wayne. Participants should make their own room reservations, even if applying for a travel scholarship.
A sneak preview, the summit schedule, registration, hotel information and travel scholarship information can be found at www.ctic.org/CoverCropSummit. For more information, contact Chad Watts at 574-242-0147 or email@example.com.
Farmers waiting for their Conservation Security or Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) payments should receive them in the coming days. The shutdown of the federal government delayed some of the $907 million in payments from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to CSP participants who have enrolled millions of acres to improve the overall conservation performance of their operations.
The payments are part of a financial assistance program for producers who are already established conservation stewards and are implementing additional conservation activities for higher, farm-level benefits on their property. This work leads to cleaner water and air, healthier soil and enhanced wildlife habitat, while also supporting rural economies.
Funding for other Farm Bill programs expired Sept. 30, including the Conservation Reserve Program, Grassland Reserve Program, Wetland Reserve Program, Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative and Healthy Forests Reserve Program. NRCS is not accepting applications for these programs at this time.
Cover crops are one simple farming technique that can save money, produce better crops, clean rivers and estuaries, and address climate change. Yet, a new report released today from National Wildlife Federation, Counting Cover Crops, finds that less than 2% of cropland in the highly-farmed Mississippi River Basin is planted to cover crops. How can the nation get more cover crops on the ground? A second NWF report released today, Clean Water Grows, provides six examples of water quality groups working with farmers to clean up rivers and streams using cover crops.
Cover crops are non-commodity crops grown to protect soil in fallow fields, which also provide benefits to the public by improving water quality, air quality and wildlife habitat. If adopted on a large scale throughout the Mississippi River Basin (MRB), National Wildlife Federation believes cover crops could greatly improve the health of the Gulf of Mexico by keeping nutrients and sediments on farms and out of waterways. Cover crops could also help solve the worsening problem of toxic algae plaguing lakes, rivers, and streams across the nation.
Yet, the potential of cover crops in the Midwest is still largely untapped. Counting Cover Crops reveals that despite the growing popularity and the many benefits provided by cover crops, only 1.8 million acres (less than 2% of total cropland) in the MRB are planted to cover crops.
As Congress and the President wrestle over the budget and whether or not it should be tied to the Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare,” not only has the government shut down, but farm programs have come to a halt as the one-year extension of the last Farm Bill expired on Oct. 1. And that has meant some key conservation programs, such as the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, are not taking any new sign-ups.
While about 90 percent of the country, including probably a similar number of farmers and ranchers, is frustrated with Congress, the American Farm Bureau Federation is heaping scorn on all sides for not even moving the new farm bill to the conference process and issued this statement from AFBF President Bob Stallman.
“Farm Bureau members are deeply concerned over the political challenges that are making it next to impossible for Congress to reach a compromise on important legislation, while restoring fiscal order and setting a responsible course to get the federal budget back on track. Adding to our frustration, both the House and Senate versions of the farm bill would provide significant savings that could be applied toward reducing the federal deficit.
“Now that the 2008 farm bill extension has expired, farmers once again are left with uncertainty as to the safety net and risk management tools that are important in planning for next year’s crop. And come January, consumers once again face the impact of high food costs as decades-old farm policy kicks in.
“Both the House and Senate agriculture committees have worked hard to put together bipartisan packages that would deliver solid safety net options and comprehensive risk management tools for farmers and ranchers. It is past time for Congress to let these two committees get back to what they do best – work together in a bipartisan fashion to forge the best new farm bill possible in today’s tough political environment.”
Stallman encouraged Congress and Obama to start working together to fix the Nation’s budget and get a new farm bill, including its conservation provisions, approved.
The Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) Dialogues are right around the corner. The panel discussion will focus on the economic and ecological benefits of agricultural conservation systems. Conservation tools, measurements for economic and ecological benefits, long-term economic returns and their effects on producers’ decision-making processes and conservation trends that will affect agriculture in the next five years are all topics the panel will cover.
Agricultural conservation systems could hold solutions for several of the issues we are facing in agriculture, such as a growing population and the loss of land for agriculture. Conservation agriculture enables producers to do more with less while protecting water and air quality, improving the soil, providing habitat for wildlife, contributing to a healthy community and producing high-yielding crops for our nation’s feed, fiber and fuel.
The event will take place October 21 from 3:30-5:30pm in Washington, D.C. at the Rayburn House Office Building, room 2168.
Panelists will include:
- Suzy Friedman – Director of Agricultural Sustainability, Environmental Defense Fund
- Josh Maxwell – Senior Professional Staff, House Committee on Agriculture
- Ray McCormick – Producer, Indiana
- Jean Payne – President, Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association
- Wallace Tyner – Professor of Agricultural Economics, Purdue University
- Sara Wyant, Moderator & President, Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.
For more information visit www.ctic.org/CTICDialogues or call 756-494-9555.
The tales of young, tech-savvy entrepreneurs launching new ventures out of Silicon Valley are common. But what about three 20-something brothers who live – not in some high tech mecca – but near the small community of Wilderado, Texas, who started a new business venture?
The Gruhlkey brothers – Brittan, 24, Braden, 25, and Cameron, 20 – are farming cotton, corn, sorghum and wheat while showing how technology plays an important role in farming. The average age of Texas farmers is nearly 60 years old, making their enterprise a unique one and they’re doing this amid huge challenges, including an ongoing drought and a growing demand for water.
These technological advancements allow them to better water and feed their crops. Through subsurface drip irrigation, they can deliver water uniformly across the field and directly to the root of the plant to use water more efficiently. Through this irrigation system, they can schedule when plants are watered and eliminate overwatering.
In addition to this conservation work, the Gruhlkeys are also working with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to manage crop residue, rotate crops, plant cover crops, control weeds, provide plants for pollinators and use no-till and strip till methods. These efforts benefit their farm and the environment. They conserve resources, provide homes for pollinators, conserve soil moisture, maintain ground cover, prevent soil erosion and improve air quality.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the award of 33 Conservation Innovation Grants to entities across the nation to develop and demonstrate cutting-edge ideas to accelerate private lands conservation. Grant recipients will demonstrate innovative approaches to improve soil health, conserve energy, manage nutrients and enhance wildlife habitat in balance with productive agricultural systems. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service administers this competitive grants program.
The awards total $13.3 million. Six of the approved grants support conservation technologies and approaches to help farmers and ranchers who historically have not had equal access to agricultural programs because of race or ethnicity, or who have limited resources, or who are beginning farmers and ranchers.
NRCS has offered this grant program since 2004, investing in ways to demonstrate and transfer efficient and environmentally friendly farming and ranching. In the past nine years, the grants have helped develop trading markets for water quality and have shown how farmers and ranchers may use fertilizer, water and energy more efficiently.
Listen to announcement here: USDA Conservation Awards announcement by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and NRCS chief Jason Weller
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) report that shows farmers have significantly reduced the loss of sediment and nutrients from farm fields through voluntary conservation work in the lower Mississippi River basin. Secretary Vilsack highlighted the value of conservation programs to these efforts, and called on Congress to pass a comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill that would enable USDA to continue supporting conservation work on farms and ranches.
The report, released by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), marks the completion of a watershed-wide assessment of conservation efforts in the Mississippi River watershed. Its findings demonstrate that conservation work, like controlling erosion and managing nutrients, has reduced the edge-of-field losses of sediment by 35 percent, nitrogen by 21 percent and phosphorous by 52 percent.
While the report shows the positive impacts of conservation, it also signals the need for additional conservation work. The most critical conservation concern in the region is controlling runoff of surface water and better management of nutrients, meaning the appropriate rate, form, timing and method of application for nitrogen and phosphorous.
Model simulations show that an increase in cover crops will have a significant impact on reducing edge-of-field losses of sediment and nutrients and improve water quality.
The information in the report will help further develop NRCS’ work in the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative and Gulf of Mexico Initiative, aimed at helping producers improve water quality, restore wetlands and sustain agricultural profitability.
Download a fact sheet, a summary or the full report. Learn more about USDA’s Conservation Effects Assessment Project.