Women landowners sought for conservation

By Chris Kick –  Farm and Dairy – April 7, 2017
While the majority of U.S. farms are operated by men, many of those same farms are owned by women who, in turn, lease their farmland to male operators. The trend toward female ownership is difficult to track because most data only records the gender of farm operators, and the amount of farmland that is leased. According to the U. S. Department of Agriculture, only about 14 percent of farms are operated by women, but the number of farms owned by a woman is presumably much higher. For full story, click here.

On many farms, reducing pesticides probably won’t hurt profit or yields

By Emma Bryce – Anthropocene Magazine – March 31, 2017
The dependence of modern agriculture on pesticides is a growing environmental problem, causing soil and water contamination, threatening wildlife, and severely harming human health. Increasingly, experts are pondering whether we really need to be applying pesticides with such reckless abandon to our crops. A group of researchers now says no: in fact, we could significantly reduce pesticide use and still maintain current productivity on most farms, they assert. For full article, click here.

Large grain stocks revive debate over US land retirement

By Chuck Abbott – Successful Farming – April 3, 2017
Three years ago, Congress voted as part of the 2014 farm law to wind down the CRP to a maximum of 24 million acres, its smallest size since 1988. Enrollment in the long-term land-idling program was down by 30% from its 2007 peak as farmers chased profits in the commodity boom, so the cap was a painless step that incidentally helped lawmakers meet their target for budget savings. Land retirement is on the table again as Congress prepares for the new farm bill. This time, the argument is whether to divert U.S. cropland from production in the face of large grain inventories worldwide. For full story, click here.

Farm Policy in Age of Climate Change Creating Another Dust Bowl, Critics Say

InsideClimate News – March 22, 2017
Over the past decade, farmers in the Great Southern Plains have suffered the worst drought conditions since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. They've battled heat, dust storms and in recent weeks, fires that devoured more than 900,000 acres and killed thousands of cattle. These extreme conditions are being fueled by climate change. But a new report from an environmental advocacy group says they're also being driven by federal crop insurance policy that encourages farmers to continue planting crops on compromised land, year after year. For full story, click here.

U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear S.D. farmer’s wetlands case

By David Ganje – Bismarck Tribune – January 12, 2017
On Monday, Jan. 9, The U. S. Supreme Court denied the Petition of a Miner County South Dakota farm couple who were fighting a USDA wetlands designation. USDA enforces rules in which it declares as “wetlands” farmland that has been converted by a farmer from wetlands to arable working land. When such a federal designation is made the farmer loses his right to participate in USDA programs and benefits. Under USDA maps about two thirds of North Dakota, one half of South Dakota and the western part of Minnesota is covered by prairie potholes and wetlands. For full story, click here

Bee's knees: A new $4m effort aims to stop the death spiral of honeybees

By Alison Moodie The Guardian December 11, 2016
On the 33-acre Prairie Drifter Farm in central Minnesota, farmers Joan and Nick Olson are cultivating more than just organic vegetables. Alongside their seven acres of crops – including tomatoes, cucumbers and onions – they’ve also planted flowering plants, dogwood and elderberry hedgerows to accommodate species of bees and butterflies essential for the health of the crops. The Olsons are not beekeepers, but they are part of a movement to reconnect sustainable farming to a healthy environment. For full story, click here.

NRCS to Expand Targeted Conservation Effort for Wildlife on Agricultural Lands

Contact: Justin Fritscher – USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service – November 29, 2016
From the northern bobwhite to trout and salmon, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is adding dozens of new target species to its premier wildlife conservation effort that helps agricultural producers make wildlife-friendly improvements on working lands. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is adding 11 new projects to Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW), the agency’s targeted, science-based effort to help producers restore and protect habitat for declining species on farms, ranches and working forests. “Agriculture and wildlife both thrive together through landscape conservation,” said NRCS Chief Jason Weller, who toured a Missouri farm that has created young forest habitat to aid bobwhite and many other species. “Working Lands for Wildlife has delivered many unprecedented successes over the years, and we’re proud of our collective past achievements and look forward to continuing our work with America’s producers.” For full news release, click here.

USDA Begins National Project to Quantify Effects of Ag Conservation

KTIC Radio – November 3, 2016
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) is contacting 16,300 farmers and ranchers now through March to take part in a national survey that will more accurately measure the environmental benefits associated with implementation and installation of conservation practices on agricultural land. The results of the National Resources Inventory Conservation Effects Assessment Project (NRI-CEAP) survey will help further develop the science-based solutions for managing the agricultural landscape to improve environmental quality. For full story, click here.

Which states have most land in CRP?

By David Murray – Great Falls Tribune – November 1, 2016
On Oct. 28, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released details of the nearly $1.7 billion in Conservation Reserve Program payments made to more than half of a million U.S. property owners in 2016. “We have seen record demand to participate in this important program,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a Oct. 28 news release. “Despite the current enrollment limit of 24 million acres, USDA is committed to continuing our important partnerships with farmers, ranchers, state and local governments and sportsmen to maintain the environmental benefits provided by the Conservation Reserve Program.” For full story, click here.

Farmers Find Cleaning Waterways Can Help The Bottom Line

The Roanoke Star – October 21, 2016
Nestled in the mountains of Luray, Virginia, in the northern part of the Shenandoah Valley, David Sours’ produce farm is one of many in the Shenandoah and Rappahannock river watersheds to benefit from a grant supporting farm-to-table connections. “Everybody believes local food is an easy thing and take it for granted but it is complicated, especially on the distribution side,” said Dale Gardner, field scientist and value chain facilitator. “People don’t realize how labor intensive it is.” For full story, click here.

Factory Farms Get Bigger, Pollution Grows, but Regulators Don't Even Know Where They Are

By Georgina Gustin – InsideClimate News – October 21, 2016
After Hurricane Matthew churned across North Carolina earlier this month, swollen rivers deluged poultry and swine farms, killing millions of chickens and thousands of hogs and sending potentially toxic animal waste coursing into waterways. It could take weeks or months for North Carolinians to learn the scope of the pollution or where it came from—if they ever do. For full story, click here.

Ag secretary: Bay states lead on conservation

By Amanda Yeager – Capital Gazette – September 9, 2016
The six states in the Chesapeake Bay's watershed lead the United States in conservation practices, the nation's top agriculture official said Friday. Ninety-nine percent of the watershed's cultivated acres have at least one conservation measure in place, a figure U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack called "an extraordinary achievement unmatched anywhere in the United States." For full story, click here.

USDA announces changes for largest conservation program

U.S. Department of Agriculture – Farm Forum – September 1, 2016
In response to customer and partner input, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service announced today a significant update to the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), the nation’s largest conservation program by acreage. Beginning with the new enrollment period planned later this year, the updated CSP will leverage redesigned planning and evaluation tools and an expanded array of new enhancements to provide conservation-minded producers with more options to improve conditions on working lands. For full story, click here.

Nothing easy about conservation easements

By Mateusz Perkowski – Capital Press – August 18, 2016
Rancher Roger Ediger has no problem giving up the ability to subdivide his nearly 2,700-acre property near Mount Vernon in Eastern Oregon. Development is the biggest threat to agriculture, wildlife and open space, Ediger believes, which is why he decided to place a conservation easement on the land that will preserve its current condition in perpetuity. “If we don’t look farther than our own lifespan, then we’ll have nothing,” he said. However, Ediger still faces a dilemma. He is reluctant to have an environmentally oriented land trust or similar entity impose conditions on how he operates the ranch in exchange for “holding” the easement. For full story, click here.

Most of the world’s large aquifers at tipping point

By American Farm Bureau Federation – Natural Resource Report – August 12, 2016
To most people in the U.S., water is simply
assumed. Without much thought, they turn on the shower, brush their teeth, make coffee or tea, flush the toilet, and grab a full, cold plastic bottle of name-brand water. Taking a bite of food or slipping on a cotton T-shirt does not inspire thoughts of water, its role in agriculture, or challenges to managing the nation’s water supply. But water is the lifeblood of agriculture, and plays an ever-increasing role in food availability, cost, food security, and national security… and competition for it is increasing as supplies decrease. For full story, click here.

Iowa farmers ripped out prairie; now some hope it can save them

By Darryl Fears – The Washington Post – August 7, 2016
There’s a wild presence in Tim Smith’s corn and soybean field that most farmers kill on sight. Smith made his way toward it, hoisting his long legs over row after row of soybean plants under a baking mid-morning sun. “It’s right over there,” he said. He stopped at the edge of a Midwestern prairie, a thicket of tall flowers and grasses more frightening to farmers than any horror movie madman lurking in a barn with a chain saw. Most growers say prairie is a nuisance that can choke crops. But not Smith. He is proud of the three acres he planted in the middle of one of the most productive farms in the county. He was there to show it off, not spray it. This affection for prairie bucks a farming tradition that dates back to when settlers arrived in the Midwest to farm centuries ago and ripped out wild grasses to tame the earth. Over time, prairie was nearly eradicated. Farmers today are still destroying the little that is left. It is a colossal mistake, according to recent studies by researchers at Iowa State University. Not only does prairie, with its deep-rooted plants, soak up farm wastewater that pollutes rivers, it also enriches soil. For full story, click here.

Report: Maintaining Sagebrush-Covered Landscapes Keeps Water on the Land for Ranchers and Wildlife

By Justin Fritscher – U.S. Department of Agriculture – August 4, 2016
Removing invading conifer trees improves the health of sagebrush ecosystems, providing better habitat for wildlife and better forage for livestock. And now, new science shows these efforts may also help improve late-season water availability, which is crucial for ecosystems in the arid West. According to the Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI)’s newest Science to Solutions report – which summarized research from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) – a sagebrush-dominated watershed holds water in snow drifts an average of nine days longer than one dominated by juniper trees. For full blog post, click here.

How can industrial-scale agriculture reduce its environmental footprint?

By Jason Thomson – The Christian Science Monitor –  July 1, 2016 – Video
Rivers, streams, lakes, and coastal waters of the United States face various threats through human activities, not least of which is the bane of pollution. One of the major sources of contaminants that can upset the natural balance is industrial output, including large-scale agriculture, particularly if the processes and discharge are poorly managed, according to a new report from Environment America. For full story and to view video, click here.

Trading farmland for nitrogen protection

Eurek Alert – August 3, 2016
Excess nitrogen from agricultural runoff can enter surface waters with devastating effects. Algal blooms and fish kills are a just a couple of possible consequences. But riparian buffer zones - areas of grasses, perennials, or trees - between farmlands and streams or rivers can help. "Riparian buffer zones are nature's hydraulic shock absorbers," says Deanna Osmond, a soil scientist at North Carolina State University. They can reduce pollution and provide habitat for wildlife. Trees can hold stream banks together and provide food for animals. These buffer zones can also dampen the flow of agricultural runoff. This can lead to lower amounts of nitrogen reaching streams and rivers. But what kind of vegetation makes buffer zones most efficient at removing nitrogen from runoff? That is the question that Osmond and her colleagues set out to answer. For full story, click here.

The Nature Conservancy and The Fertilizer Institute join forces

By The Fertilizer Institute – AG Professional – June 16, 2016
The Nature Conservancy and The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) announced a new partnership in support of farm practices that result in clean water. The two organizations signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) aimed at ensuring American agriculture has access to tools to use fertilizer with maximum environmental and economic efficiency. For full story, click here.

The Gulf of Mexico Is About to Experience a "Dead Zone" the Size of Connecticut

By Tom Philpott – Mother Jones – June 17, 2016
The Gulf of Mexico teems with biodiversity and contains some of the globe's most productive fisheries. Yet starting in the early 1970s, large swaths of the Gulf began to experience annual dead zones in the late summer and early fall. This year's will likely be nearly a third larger than normal, about the size of Connecticut, according to a recent report from the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium and Louisiana State University. The problem is tied to industrial-scale meat production. To churn out huge amounts chicken, beef, and pork, the meat industry relies on corn as cheap feed. The US grows about a third of the globe's corn, the great bulk of it in the Midwest, on land that drains into the Mississippi River. Every year, fertilizer runoff from Midwestern farms leaches into the Mississippi and makes its way to the Gulf of Mexico. For full story, click here.

Better water quality? Here's what 5 states are doing

The Des Moines Register – May 21, 2016 – Video
Like Iowa, Minnesota and other large farm states are searching for solutions on how to reduce the loss of nutrients that are crucial to growing crops but also threaten drinking water and feed toxic algal blooms. "There are several experiments going on, but I don’t think any state necessarily has it figured it out," said Larry Clemens, director of The Nature Conservancy's North America agricultural program. For full story and to view video, click here.

How to make rain – by splashing water

Kate Ravilious – The Guardian – May 22, 2016
Need to make it rain? Try asking farmers to turn their water sprinklers on. New findings suggest that the act of water splashing on to ploughed fields throws up millions of microscopic particles – the remains of dead plants and animals. And it turns out that this special dust often helps to seed clouds and generate localised rainstorms. For full story, click here.

Owyhee County Ranchers Create Wetlands for Wildlife, Livestock

By Steve Stuebner – Life on the Ranch – Video
In the arid West, water is key to the survival of everything. That's why early-day pioneers staked out the riverbottoms when they settled the West. It was all about water. In recent years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been partnering with ranchers in Owyhee County to create more ponds and wetlands on private lands. For full story, photo album, and to view video, go here.

NRCS to Help Farmers Measure Conservation Impacts on Water Quality

Contact: Ciji Taylor – USDA Natural Resources Conservations Service – April 26, 2016
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced the availability of $2 million to help farmers install edge-of-field stations that monitor water quality as it leaves their fields, providing data to evaluate the success of various conservation efforts. The funding is available to farmers located across key watersheds in nine states and is part of USDA’s ongoing commitment to measure the effectiveness of a wide range of conservation initiatives. For full news release, click here.

Conservation needn't cut agriculture profits 

By Jon Cartwright – Environmental Research Web – April 14, 2016
Scientists in the US have put forward an economic argument for diversifying cropland and improving agricultural ecology. The argument, made by Elke Brandes at Iowa State University and colleagues, draws on publicly available data on agriculture to show that conservation techniques can be driven by market forces. For full story, click here.

USDA says voluntary water quality efforts are working

By Chris Kick – Farm and Dairy – March 29, 2016
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced new funding for water quality efforts in the Western Lake Erie Basin, and released a study that says voluntary practices are making a difference, during a March 28 press conference at Maumee Bay State Park. USDA will invest $41 million in a three-year initiative to support the ongoing work of farmers in Ohio, Michigan and Indiana. The initiative helps farmers implement conservation measures to reduce runoff. For full story, click here.

Lake Erie phosphorus-reduction targets challenging but achievable

Phys.org – March 22, 2016
Large-scale changes to agricultural practices will be required to meet the goal of reducing levels of algae-promoting phosphorus in Lake Erie by 40 percent, a new University of Michigan-led, multi-institution computer modeling study concludes. For full story, click here.

Regenerating degraded dirt

By Britt E. Erickson – Chemical & Engineering News – March 7, 2016
It’s hard to find a bare spot on the more than 800 acres farmed by Cory Atkins of Seaford, Del. Even in the dead of winter, a carpet of ankle-high ryegrass blankets the soil where he plans to grow soybeans in the spring. In other fields, wheat and barley sown last fall poke through the dirt next to remnants of sunflowers, clover, and radishes.“These cover crops hold the dirt in place and put nutrients back in the ground,” Atkins says. They also increase soil organic matter—the dark material, called humus, in the top layer of dirt. That layer contains cellulose, starch, lignin, and other molecules from the decomposition of plants and animal residues, plus a slew of biochemicals produced by earthworms and other organisms that live in soil. For full story, click here.

USDA invests $25 million in watersheds to improve water quality

By USDA – AGProfessional – February 29, 2016
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced an investment of $25 million targeted to help agriculture producers improve water quality in high-priority streams and rivers across the country. Through the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI), USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will help agricultural producers in 187 priority watersheds apply conservation measures that contribute to cleaner water downstream. For full story, click here.

Conservation study: Millions spent, but no lasting gains

By Donnelle Eller – The Des Moines Register – February 8, 2016
A study of eight high-priority watersheds in Iowa found little increase in acres devoted to two key farm conservation practices over a three-year period, indicating taxpayers are getting minimal additional environmental benefits despite millions of dollars spent. The Environmental Working Group's report, being released Sunday, comes as Iowa lawmakers are expected to weigh proposals this year that would ramp up financing for farm conservation practices to help clean the state's rivers, lakes and streams — including a $4.7 billion plan from Gov. Terry Branstad. For full story, click here.

Nutrient field studies starting to show results

By Chris Kick – Farm and Dairy – February 1, 2016
Scientists are actively pursuing answers to how nutrients are moving and leaving farmers’ fields in the western Lake Erie basin, and the results could be a little surprising. Mark Williams, a Columbus-based soil drainage researcher with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, gave Ohio Farmers Union members an update on research regarding tile drainage and surface runoff. He said phosphorus loss through tiles was considered negligible in the 1980s, because the focus at the time was on nitrogen drainage. But now that phosphorus is showing up in the water, researchers are trying to figure out why, to help combat the growth of toxic algal blooms. For full story, click here

Rural pollution is becoming an urban issue

By Rona Kobell – Bay Journal – January 04, 2016
Arkansas poultry farmer Jeff Marley grows 240,000 birds a year on his farm outside Fayetteville. But it’s because of city dwellers in Tulsa, OK, that he rarely spreads manure on his pastureland. Marley sells most of the 1,500 tons of manure his birds generate via a litter bank. He doesn’t store it on his property even for a few days, he said. As soon as the hauler shows up and loads his truck, the manure is gone. Nearly 15 years after the Tulsa Metropolitan Water Authority sued six poultry companies and one small Arkansas city for contaminating Tulsa’s water supply with phosphorus from manure, most of the waste never touches the land in the watershed that feeds Tulsa’s lakes. Instead, it goes to Kansas, Missouri and other areas not near the watershed, called the Eucha-Spavinaw for its two lakes. Marley’s farm is in a neighboring watershed, but he still has the manure hauled out. Why spread it at home when it’s so valuable elsewhere? For full article, click here.

Water Runoff From Farming Will Be Major Issue In 2016

By Dr. Mike Rosmann – Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan – January 5, 2016
Increasingly, complaints are being lodged about runoff and discharged water from U.S. farms and other sources, such as industries and metropolitan areas, by downstream users of the water who raise concerns about its safety to drink, as well as the costs to treat contaminated water to make it drinkable. Last week’s Farm and Ranch Life column provided information about the availability of water worldwide for agriculture and other uses.  Underground aquifers have almost been used up in some countries and are dwindling slower--but declining nevertheless--in key agricultural-producing regions of the U.S., chiefly the seven western-most states and the Ogalalla Aquifer which underlies parts of seven High Plains states. For full story, click here.

Agriculture is big threat to water quality. These farmers are doing something about it.

By Richard Mertens – The Christian Science Monitor – December 27, 2015
Mike Werling shoulders his way into a field of head-high corn and peers down a row. “That’s a beautiful sight!” he exclaims. It was not the corn that delighted Mr. Werling in late September as much as what was growing underneath. Shoots of rapeseed and rye poked up through the dirt, spreading a green flush beneath the tangled leaves. The new plants, sown the week before into the ripe corn, will remain in the field long after the harvest. They’ll protect the soil over the winter and absorb nutrients that might otherwise find their way into the St. Marys River, whose brown-green waters flow past Werling’s farm on their way to Lake Erie. For full story, click here.

Organic farming can cut nitrate leaching in half

By Francis Thicke, Margaret Smith and Paul Mugge – The Des Moines Register – December 24, 2015
New research indicates that organic farming can be one solution to the problem of excess nitrate in Iowa’s rivers. Recent research published by Cynthia Cambardella and Dan Jaynes, USDA Agricultural Research Service in Ames and Kathleen Delate, Iowa State University in the journal “Sustainable Agriculture Research” demonstrated that a typical organic crop rotation reduced nitrate leaching from crop fields by nearly 50 percent, compared to the conventional corn and soybean rotation common in Iowa. The researchers measured how much nitrate leached down through the soil profile and out through the field tile drainage systems, which drain into streams and rivers. Over three years, the conventional corn/soybean cropping system leached a total of 69.7 lb/acre of nitrate-nitrogen, compared to 35.1 lb/acre for the organic cropping system. For full story, click here.

Saturated buffers reduce nitrates in runoff from farms’ tile drains

By Rona Kobell – Bay Journal – December 14, 2015
A new technique to reduce nitrates flowing off farm fields, now being tested in the Midwest, holds promise for Chesapeake Bay watershed farmers. Called a saturated buffer, the practice focuses on reducing the amount of nitrate that can enter streams via tile drains. Tile drains, ubiquitous in the Midwest and quite common in parts of the Chesapeake Bay’s watershed as well, are a system of trenches and below-ground pipes that improve drainage so crops can grow. For full story, click here.

Farms near Lake Erie get millions

By Tom Henry – The Blade – November 30, 2015
Between 2008 and 2015, concentrated animal feeding operations in the western Lake Erie watershed have received more than $16.8 million in direct payments, cost-shares, and other subsidies from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, according to a report issued earlier this month by activist groups tracking the issue. The Less=More Coalition said in its Nov. 19 report, Follow the Manure: Factory Farms and the Lake Erie Algae Crisis, that millions of taxpayer dollars continued to be disbursed even as concerns about algal toxins rose following the 2014 Toledo water crisis. For full story, click here.

Gulf Hypoxia Battle Still In Early Rounds

By Lisa Heacox – CropLife – November 7, 2015
It took decades for the hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico to develop. It’s going to take decades to wipe out. That’s the most recent conclusion not only of a February 2015 EPA report but of the many groups that have been developing and implementing strategies to prevent nutrient losses. For full story, click here.

USDA commits $4M in several states to improve Chesapeake Bay water quality

WaterWorld – October 2, 2015
In a first round of funding, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it will commit $4 million to several states in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed to help agricultural landowners with accelerating stream and riverbank tree plantings that can reduce soil sedimentation and field and animal waste runoff, ultimately improving water quality. Delaware, New York, Virginia, and West Virginia have each been approved for an additional $1 million under the USDA Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) to increase or maintain acres enrolled in Chesapeake Bay Riparian Forest Buffer conservation. For full story, click here.

Farm Bureau will take Chesapeake Bay water quality fight to Supreme Court

Farm Futures – September 22, 2015
The American Farm Bureau plans to take its fight over EPA Chesapeake Bay pollution limits to the Supreme Court, according to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, a group in support of the limit plans. Joining AFBF in the effort to overturn two lower court decisions on the blueprint will be the National Association of Homebuilders. AFBF has requested an extension of time to ask for the Supreme Court to hear the appeal. For full story, click here.

Irrigation District to Clean Water in Milestone Settlement

By Scott Smith – abc news – September 16, 2015
The federal government has settled a decades-old lawsuit with the nation's largest irrigation district, which has agreed in a tentative deal to clean up contaminated water in California's fertile Central Valley. Westlands Water District will clean up water tainted by salt that has accumulated in soil from years of irrigation, general manager Thomas Birmingham said Tuesday. Federal officials have failed for more than half a century to do the work that the district will undertake, he said. The Department of the Interior estimated the cleanup to cost $3.5 billion, based on a project the government had proposed several years ago but never completed. For full story, click here.

Agriculture and forest restoration could coexist - with proper planning

By Apoorva Joshi – Mongabay – July 23, 2015
Around the world, humans have razed billions of hectares of forests, grasslands, and other ecosystems in our pursuit of land on which to grow our food and expand our infrastructure. Ecological restoration is a widely recognized way of reversing some of the damage done to converted land. Now, a new study recently published in Frontiers in Ecology finds it may help save one of the most imperiled ecosystems on the planet – while still allowing room for agriculture. For full story, click here.

Agriculture and forest restoration could coexist - with proper planning

By Apoorva Joshi – Mongabay – July 23, 2015
Around the world, humans have razed billions of hectares of forests, grasslands, and other ecosystems in our pursuit of land on which to grow our food and expand our infrastructure. Ecological restoration is a widely recognized way of reversing some of the damage done to converted land. Now, a new study recently published in Frontiers in Ecology finds it may help save one of the most imperiled ecosystems on the planet – while still allowing room for agriculture. For full story, click here.

First farm-based wetland built during ‘ground-breaking’ Conservation Expo

The Wetlands Initiative – August 18, 2015
August has been an exciting and ground-breaking month for the Wetlands Initiative—literally! During the week of August 3, 2015, the Wetlands Initiative's senior environmental engineer, Jill Kostel, coordinated construction of the first farm-based wetland designed for nutrient removal in the Big Bureau Creek Watershed in north-central Illinois. The small wetland was built at Thacker Farms in Bureau County during a three-day Conservation Expo, co-organized by TWI and the Illinois Land Improvement Contractors Association (ILICA). Nearly 100 people from 13 counties participated in the expo, learning about various conservation practices and observing the wetland's construction firsthand. For full story, click here.

Soil-health movement gains converts

By Mychel Matthews – Idaho PressTribue – July 26, 2015
Nestled in a valley west of the Big Wood River lies a pricey chunk of land where cattle graze in the shadows of brush-covered foothills. Spiked Diamond Ranch operated for years as a traditional cattle ranch. But big changes are coming to the 750-acre spread. The ranch has no choice but to change, says its manager, Dan Vandermeulen. Using traditional farming methods, the ranch was not able to pull its own weight — and pay its increasing property taxes — forcing Vandermeulen’s family to think about selling. Farmers and ranchers all over the country have found themselves in similar predicaments and are experimenting with ways to survive in the competitive field of agriculture. For some, it means finding ways to increase production. For others, it means finding ways to reduce costs. For those in drought-threatened areas, it means finding ways to conserve water. For full story, click here.

Officials in Columbus discuss Midwest’s role in Gulf of Mex. dead zone

By Laura Arenschield – The Columbus Dispatch – May 21, 2015
The farmlands of the Midwest are contributing to a dead zone the size of Connecticut in the Gulf of Mexico, where low oxygen levels have made it impossible for fish and other aquatic life to survive. On Wednesday, policymakers from across the Midwest met in Columbus to talk about ways to ease that dead zone and solve other agriculture-runoff problems, including the kind of toxic algae that plagues Lake Erie each summer. For full story, click here.

9 Things You Need to Know About Water Quality

By Gil Gullickson – Agriculture.com – May 5, 2015
Water quality — or lack of it — is the buzzword in environmental and agricultural circles these days. Here are nine points to keep in mind about the issue following a panel discussion at the recently held North American Agricultural Journalists meeting in Washington, D.C. For full story, click here.

EPA regulator set to release key herbicide report, lauds biopesticides

Carey Gillam – Reuters.com – May 5, 2015
The Environmental Protection Agency has wrapped up its review of the world's most widely used herbicide and plans to release a much-anticipated preliminary risk assessment no later than July, the regulator's chief pesticide regulator told Reuters. The EPA review of the health and environmental impacts of glyphosate comes at a time of intense debate over the safety of the chemical, and after the World Health Organization's cancer research unit declared in March that glyphosate was "probably carcinogenic to humans." For full story, click here.

USDA Extends Comment Period for Ag Cons. Easement Program

USDA – April 29, 2015
Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Jason Weller announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture will extend the deadline to provide public comment on the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program’s (ACEP) interim rule until May 28, 2015. “We extended the comment period for the ACEP rule to give our partners, landowners and the public additional time to comment on a rule that will be used to implement USDA’s premier conservation easement program on private agricultural lands,” Weller said. For full news release, click here.

Periodic corrections to ag. and values provide opportunity for conservation

By Larkin A. Powell – Journal of Soil and Water Conservation – March/April 2015
Private landowners manage over 75% of the land in the United States. More than 90% of each state's area in the Midwest and Great Plains is owned privately (Powell 2012). Thus, the decisions made on private lands may serve as major sources of change in farmed landscapes and ecosystems. For full article in PDF, click here.

Farmers Put Down the Plow for More Productive Soil

By Erica Goode – The New York Times – March 9, 2015
Gabe Brown is in such demand as a speaker that for every invitation he accepts, he turns down 10 more. At conferences, like the one held here at a Best Western hotel recently, people line up to seek his advice. “The greatest roadblock to solving a problem is the human mind,” he tells audiences. Mr. Brown, a balding North Dakota farmer who favors baseball caps and red-striped polo shirts, is not talking about disruptive technology start-ups, political causes, or the latest self-help fad. He is talking about farming, specifically soil-conservation farming, a movement that promotes leaving fields untilled, “green manures” and other soil-enhancing methods with an almost evangelistic fervor. For full story, click here.

Ranchers crucial to saving sage grouse – USDA

By Scott Streater – E & E Publishing LLC – February 12, 2015
Federal partnerships with private landowners across the West have resulted in protecting millions of acres of greater sage grouse habitat, according to a new report that underscores the critical role ranchers play in ongoing efforts to save the imperiled bird. The report released today by the Agriculture Department's Natural Resources Conservation Service shows that since 2010, NRCS has spent $296 million on programs partnering with ranchers and other private landowners that have resulted in restoring 4.4 million acres of sage grouse habitat. USDA also announced today that it plans to spend an additional $200 million over the next four years through conservation programs funded by the farm bill to expand restoration partnerships with working ranches and farms covering hundreds of thousands of acres across the grouse's 11-state Western range. For full story, click here.

EPA, Army Corps officially withdraw Waters of the U.S. Interpretive Rule

By Janell Thomas – Farm Futures – February 2, 2015
The EPA and Army Corps of Engineers late Friday issued a memorandum of understanding to withdraw the Waters of the U.S. Interpretive Rule, which outlines which conservation activities provide farmers an exemption from Clean Water Act permitting. Congress requested that EPA and Army Corps withdraw the IR in its "Cromnibus" funding legislation, passed in December. Many farm groups opposed the Interpretive Rule, which offered 56 "normal farming and ranching" exemptions under the regulations of the Natural Resources Conservation Service. For full story, click here.

Plan targets farmers in 3 states to reduce Lake Erie algae

By John Seewer – Seattle PI – January 18, 2015
Farmers in Ohio, Michigan and Indiana are being asked to be part of the solution in fixing the algae problem in Lake Erie. Federal officials on Friday outlined a program that will make $17.5 million available to farmers who take steps to reduce the pollutants that wash away from the fields and help the algae thrive. First, it's a voluntary program so farmers won't be forced to take part. And it only applies to those who have land in the western Lake Erie watershed, which is mostly made up of northwestern Ohio, southeastern Michigan and northeastern Indiana.For full story, click here.