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Conservation

Disaster Recovery: USDA Answering the Call

In early December, I gathered with a group of neighbors in a Puerto Rican community to watch work begin on a USDA project to protect a nearby bridge. Minute-by-minute, the sound of rumbling equipment grew louder as the excavators emerged from behind houses, rolled along the debris-covered horizon and worked along the river’s edge. I was glad to be able to see first-hand USDA’s disaster recovery work after Hurricane Maria, including this emergency watershed protection project to aid a southern Puerto Rico community.

The Dollars and Cents of Soil Health: A Farmer’s Perspective

Last year, the United States lost 2 million acres of land in active crop production. As the global population grows towards a projected 9.8 billion people by 2050, so too does demand for the food, fuel and fiber grown in America. The result? American farmers are looking for sustainable ways to produce high yields year after year.

70 Years in the Last Frontier

From protecting people and their communities to growing food in high tunnels to restoring streams for salmon to protecting precious soils, the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has been investing in Alaska’s working lands for 70 years.

The NRCS’s commitment to agriculture in Alaska began on February 19, 1948, when the agency (then the Soil Conservation Service) set up shop in the city of Palmer, one of state’s centers of agriculture. Since that time, the NRCS in Alaska has been steadfast in its mission of helping people help the land.

Good Forest Management Yields Wildlife Oasis

For Mike and Laura Jackson, many mornings begin with hot tea and birds. This particular morning, they spotted a mourning dove, a pileated woodpecker and many others. And the retired science teachers in Bedford County, Pennsylvania jot down the types and numbers of birds they see each day.

Quantifying Water Quality Benefits of Conservation Practices

Although we know that farm conservation practices, like cover crops, reduced tillage and nutrient management, as well as improve overall performance and environmental outcomes, it’s difficult to say exactly how these practices affect resources, such as water quality. We can say that the water coming off of a field with conservation practices might “look cleaner,” but what does this really mean in terms of nitrogen, phosphorous, and sediment? These challenges can make it difficult for producers to decide which practices to implement, because there’s no way to determine which are the most effective at improving their soil health or reducing their environmental impact. There’s an element of risk as well, because it’s difficult to predict how new conservation practices might affect yield.

Sustaining the Forests of the Mississippi Headwaters

The headwaters of the mighty Mississippi River flow through Camp Ripley, a military facility that serves as the National Guard training center for Minnesota and six surrounding states. Straddling 50 miles of the Mississippi River, the area also includes the watersheds of four major tributary rivers, making it one of Minnesota’s most important sources of drinking water. Its 45,000 acres of open water support many fish, animal, and bird species, as well as recreational opportunities for residents, tourists, and outdoor enthusiasts.

The Rancher in the Rye

Buying more land isn’t always an option. But often, you can make your existing land go much further. By removing invasive weeds, seeding rye grass and adopting rotational grazing, Oregon rancher Jeff Baxter was able to produce a whole lot more on the same number of acres.

Harvey was Strong, Texas is Stronger

No one knew when Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas on August 25 as a Category 4 hurricane that it would be one of the most devastating hurricanes to make landfall in the United States. Texans along the Gulf Coast saw cities demolished, peak wind gusts as high as 130 mph, unprecedented rainfall of more than 50 inches that caused catastrophic flooding in areas, the death of 88 Texans, displacement of thousands of residents and more than $200 million dollars in agricultural losses.