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Ranchers Using NRCS Conservation Practices Boost Prairie Chicken Occupancy

Habitat conservation practices make a difference for lesser prairie-chickens. That's the finding of a recent scientific study – the first part of a multi-year study – described in a new report from the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative (LPCI).

LPCI, led by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), works with partner organizations and ranchers to improve habitat and address threats to the bird. Since 2010, more than 1 million acres of habitat have been restored on working lands.

Minnesota Farmer Commits a Century of Life to Agriculture, Dedicating Three Decades to Conservation

When Minnesota farmer and conservationist Arthur “Art” Hulberg celebrated his 100th birthday this month, he also marked the 30th anniversary of USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)–a program in which Hulberg has participated since its inception.  Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Val Dolcini traveled to Benson, Minnesota, to offer birthday wishes and hand deliver a personal letter from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Hulberg and his brother Clifford farmed nearly 200 acres in Pope County, Minnesota.  When CRP began, the Hulbergs eventually enrolled 188 acres in the program.  When Clifford passed away in 1989, Art took over as full owner of the property and to this day works with USDA staff to manage his CRP acres.  For example, when the Walk-In-Access (WIA) program began, Hulberg immediately enrolled to allow for hunting on his CRP acreage.  WIA is supported by a grant through the USDA’s Voluntary Public Access Program that assists with public access to CRP for wildlife-dependent recreation.  Hulberg also has helped fellow farmers and livestock producers in his community by allowing them to use his CRP acres for managed haying practices.

Louisiana's "Teddy Bear" is Making a Comeback

On the brink of extinction in 1992, the Louisiana black bear was added to the threatened and endangered species list.

At the time of listing, more than 80 percent of suitable Louisiana black bear habitat was lost. The bottomland hardwood forests of the Louisiana Delta were cleared for row crop production; roads, homes and towns were built; and humans began encountering the shy, but curious, Louisiana black bear more often. The habitat fragmentation, or isolation of suitable patches of hardwood bottoms, affected the bears’ ability to travel for food, to find mates or simply to relocate to a more desirable spot to live. 

At a Washington Ranch, It's for the Birds - and Elk

Most landowners would give up when faced with the challenges on Nine Pine Ranch near Chewelah, Washington, but not Glen Hafer. After trying for 40 years to farm his piece of land in the Colville River Valley, Hafer decided to convert it back to its original glory – wetlands.

Historically, the land in this valley flooded annually from the river, but settlers drained the area to farm. With no wetlands to hold water, flooding in the area worsened over time, making the land tough to farm.

When Hafer took the reins of his family’s land, he wanted to do something different. He was already – as he puts it – “semi-retired” and wanted to use his land to support his family.

Introducing www.usda.gov/newfarmers: A One-Stop Shop for the Farmers of Tomorrow

Growing up on a farm in Camilla, Ga., I developed a passion for agriculture early. Being a farmer’s daughter helped me understand the challenges farmers and ranchers face over time and the need for common-sense policies and programs to create and expand opportunities for the farmers of the future. Now, as the Deputy Secretary of the USDA, my highest priority is to ensure that beginning farmers and ranchers - women, young people, immigrants, socially disadvantaged producers, returning veterans and retirees - have access to the programs and support they need to succeed.

Today, we’re announcing a new resource: USDA.gov/newfarmers.  This new website is a one-stop shop to connect new farmers and ranchers with USDA resources, programs and support.  On www.usda.gov/newfarmers, new farmers can find information about accessing land and capital, managing risk, finding education, outreach and technical assistance, growing businesses and markets, and investing in the land and environment.

Microloan Gets Getting Growing

This post is part of a Microloan Success feature series on the USDA blog.  Check back every Tuesday and Thursday as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s Farm Service Agency.

Beginning farmer Andy Getting was doing some research on the Internet when he came across information on USDA’s Microloan program.  The program allows beginning, small and mid-sized farmers to access up to $35,000 in loans using a simplified application process, and with up to seven years to repay.

Getting, an Iowa farmer, grows irrigated corn, soybeans and strawberries. He is a part-owner with his parents, Don and Mary Getting, who are starting their 30th farming season.

The Gettings started growing strawberries in 1983 on one acre. Next year, they will pick 17 acres of June-bearing strawberries. Their customers have the option of picking their own berries or they can buy pre-picked berries at the market, which also sells fresh strawberry shakes, muffins, bread and many other strawberry-flavored baked goods made by Getting’s grandmother. During the summer months, the market employs 15 to 30 people.

Secretary's Column: A New Report Shows the Critical Benefits of Farm Bill Conservation

America’s farmers, ranchers and landowners have led the way in recent years to conserve and protect our soil, water and wildlife habitat.

With the help of Farm Bill programs, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has worked with a record number of producers since 2009 – more than 500,000 of them – to get this important work done.

Ever since the Dust Bowl, we’ve known that investments in conservation on working lands and other wild areas is important. And this week, a new report amplified our understanding for the critical importance of the Farm Bill in protecting natural resources in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

Farm Service Agency Resuming Payments to Millions of Farmers & Ranchers

Within a week after the government opened from a 16-day shutdown in October, Farm Service Agency employees were able to quickly issue payments to more than 1 million farmers and ranchers.

Secretary Vilsack said that he was “proud of the commitment by USDA employees” to ensure these conservation and safety net funds reached America’s farmers and ranchers. “USDA assures rural America that it remains a priority, and these actions by FSA staff serve as yet another reminder that America needs passage of a new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill as soon as possible to continue support of producers.”

Wetland Conservation: Good for Nature, Good for the Soul

Maybe it’s Murry Moore’s profession as a funeral director that inspires him to put tired land to rest, but his restoration efforts of nearly 700 acres on the banks of the Obion River in western Tennessee has ensured a peaceful home for wildlife.

In the early 1950s, Moore’s parents bought the tract, and for years afterward they cleared it for timber. Later, Murry and his brother Dean began row cropping. Year after year, the land was flooded by the Obion and eroded bit by bit, leaving a field of unproductive crops and frustrated farmers.

Adapting to Climate Change and Drought Risk

Economists working on climate change spend a lot of time trying to predict how farmers are going to adapt.  Without knowing how farmers will react to higher average temperatures or different rainfall patterns, we cannot accurately say what climate change will mean for the future.  Farmers have many adaptation options available.  They can change the mix of crops they grow, as well as their production practices, and production might be redistributed across regions. The Economic Research Service (ERS) has looked at potential impacts including how some regions will be impacted through commodity price changes resulting from climate-driven crop acreage changes farmers make in other regions.