Natural Resources Conservation Service

Five questions non-operator landowners should ask their farmers about soil health | NRCS

Five questions non-operator landowners should ask their farmers about soil health | NRCS #agchat

NRCS provides five questions non-operator landowners should ask their farmers about soil health. NRCS graphic by Jennifer VanEps.

More farmers, ranchers and others who rely on the land are taking action to improve the health of their soil. Many farmers are actually building the soil. How? By using soil health management systems that include cover crops, diverse rotations and no-till.

And when…

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Resource Thursday: Plants Database

Plants Database is run by the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (try saying that ten times fast!), and it’s a comprehensive collection of information about the different plant varieties that grow in the United States.  Using the database, you can pull up lists of plants native to your state, learn about endangered plant species, find out about pollinator conservation, view lists of federally declared noxious and invasive weed species, and see over 40,000 pictures of different plants.

Basically, if you want to know anything about flora in the USA, this is the site to go to.  I imagine that it would be especially useful to gardeners, so keep it in mind if you get questions along those lines.

The Courage to be First

It’s no small task being first. This is a fact that Willie Tuck and James Perkins know first-hand. Tuck was Alabama Natural Resources Conservation Service’s first black employee and Perkins was the first black mayor of Selma, Alabama.

Both shared their stories during Alabama NRCS’ annual Black History Program in Auburn, Alabama on February 24, 2015. The room was rapt as Tuck explained that he first learned what was then called the Soil Conservation Service (SCS) while in high school in 1964. 

A native of Talladega, he and several other young men competed to be one of 19 black men hired by the federal government in Alabama through the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Tuck was the 19th man selected and the first for the agency as a survey aid in the Talladega Watershed office. During his 15 years with the agency, Tuck’s skills made him a dynamic employee who many relied on to train other personnel.

Tuck went on to work for the Federal Bureau of Prisons after his career with NRCS. Tuck now runs a charter bus company, Universal Stage Coaches, with his wife.

Not too far away in Selma, James Perkins was 11 years old in 1964, and already a seasoned civil rights supporter. In 2000, he became the first black mayor of his hometown.

Tuck and Perkins acknowledged that while we’ve come a long way from those days of the civil rights movement, we still have work to do.

“The word courageous means something on the grounds of Selma. In order to move beyond fear. In order to move beyond opposition, conflict and confusion, one has to have courage. You have to have courage to move beyond where you are. Someone has to be willing to be first and that takes courage,” Perkins said.

IDNR Offers Opportunity for Youth Turkey Hunters - Deadlines Feb 27 & Mar 20

IDNR Offers Opportunity for Youth Turkey Hunters – Deadlines Feb 27 & Mar 20

Thanks to a $1.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Illinois Department of Natural Resources is able to provide additional access for youth turkey hunters this spring.  Through the Illinois Recreational Access Program (IRAP), IDNR is accepting applications from young turkey hunters to hunt on private land on sites in 28 counties…

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Virginia receives federal grant to advance Chesapeake Bay cleanup

Virginia receives federal grant to advance Chesapeake Bay cleanup

Governor Terry McAuliffe today announced that Virginia has been selected to receive a federal grant to accelerate the implementation of practices related to Chesapeake Bay cleanup goals.

Virginia will receive $1.75 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service through its Regional Conservation Partnership Program. The funds will be used to install soil and…

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USDA to Invest $84 Million to Help Communities in 13 States Recover from Natural Disasters

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Release No. 0047.15 Contact: Justin Fritscher 202-375-0871   USDA to Invest $84 Million to Help Communities in 13 States Recover from Natural Disasters  

WASHINGTON, Feb. 26, 2015 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service will invest an additional $84 million through the Emergency Watershed Protection Program [ ] (EWP) to help disaster recovery efforts through more than 150 projects in 13 states.

"This program helps communities carry out much needed recovery projects to address the damage to watersheds that is caused by floods, hurricanes and other natural disasters," Vilsack said. "USDA is committed to helping repair and rebuild the rural communities that anchor rural America and are a key part of our nation’s economy."

EWP provides critical resources to local sponsors to help communities eliminate imminent hazards to life and property caused by floods, fires, wind-storms and other natural occurrences. EWP is an emergency recovery program.

The funds support a variety of recovery projects, including clearing debris-clogged waterways, stabilizing stream banks, fixing jeopardized water control structures and stabilizing soils after wildfires.

Projects include:

* *Stabilizing Ground around Florida Homes and Roads:* A 2014 storm unleashed more than 20 inches of rain in one day in Florida, causing severe erosion that threatened the safety of homes and roads. Eighteen sites in Escambia, Okaloosa, Calhoun and Jackson counties have been approved for $5.9 million to help the counties recover from the damages and remove the threat to homes and roads. This work will include removal of debris and installation of structures that will stabilize the land and prevent future erosion.
* *Rebuilding after Heavy Rains and Tornados in Alabama:* Torrential rains and a series of tornadoes in 2014 led to millions of dollars in damage to several Alabama communities. These natural disasters eroded stream banks, created gullies and increased runoff of nutrients and sediment into waterways. NRCS is investing $2.9 million in projects for 32 sites, working with six cities and five counties to help restore stream corridors, remove debris, curb erosion problems and prevent future flooding.
* *Conservation Work Helps Colorado Communities Rebound from Massive Flood:* A 2013 flood caused $3 billion in damages in 18 counties in Colorado. NRCS is investing $56.9 million in the second phase of a project to help restore stream corridors, remove debris and prevent future flooding. Work will target about 500 sites in the area. These projects bring together state agencies, 20 local governments, watershed planning coalitions and other groups. This second phase of work builds on a $12.9 million investment in 2013.

NRCS will also fund projects in *Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Vermont*. For more information about funding amounts and descriptions by state, please visit the 2015 Projects of Emergency Watershed Protection Program website [ ].

EWP work must be sponsored by a public agency of the state, tribal, county or city government. NRCS provides 75 percent of the funds for the project; the public organization pays the remaining 25 percent. EWP allows NRCS to put its engineering expertise to work in a variety of places – both rural and urban.

For more information on NRCS programs, visit [ ] or a local USDA service center [ [ ] or a local USDA service center [ ].


USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).


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USDA New and Renewed CSP Contracts Benefit Biodiversity and Bees

( — February 25, 2015) Camarillo, CA – The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced a renewal process for expiring Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) contracts. Eligible agricultural producers and forest landowners must adopt additional conservation activities that will increase the level of conservation of their farms, forests, and ranches.

Natural Resources Conservation Service Chief Jason Weller announced the option to renew existing contracts has been extended until March 31, 2015. He also announced the USDA will accept new general sign-up CSP applications until Friday, March 13, 2015.

The deadline extensions give farmers, ranchers, and private forest managers two additional weeks to apply for federal funding to develop conservation programs. The $100 million block grant will greatly increase acreage tended and dedicated to conservation efforts across the U.S.

“CSP producers are established conservation leaders who work hard at enhancing natural resources on private lands,” Weller said.  “This contract renewal period will provide greater opportunities for these conservation stewards to voluntarily do even more to improve water, air, and soil quality and enhance wildlife habitat on their operations.”

Some of the new conservation activities covered by the bill include cover crops, intensive rotational grazing, and wildlife-friendly fencing. Recent studies by both UCCE and USDA have shown that hedgerows and cover crops have far-reaching benefits for farm activities. They provide both habitat and forage for bees and other pollinators when there are no crops to pollinate. Agriculture relies on pollination and diverse habitats help maintain thriving populations of native bees.

A recent UC/ANR article reports that flowering plants used in hedgerows have a proven ability to attract pollinators and provide food and shelter from early spring to late fall.

A diversified refuge like a hedgerow provides the elements needed to support insect populations. Although some pest insects are found in surveys, pest species are out-numbered by predatory insects. The pest insects are the food source that keeps the predator population from leaving. Resident predator populations explode when food sources increase. Organic growers count on these local populations to control pests.

California supports a wide variety of bee species. Native bee’s life cycles account for winter by providing food and eggs for the next generation. Some native bees nest by ‘mining’, or burrowing into well-drained soil. Others nest in natural cavities like hollow plant stems, crevices, and some construct nests of flower petals. Some nest singly and some share nests in smaller social groups. A hedgerow provides all of these nesting environments.

California’s ongoing drought has not made it any easier on bees. A recent article in Voice of America documents drought tolerant study underway at the Lockerford Plant Materials Center in California. The center represents a diversified mix of Central Valley, foothills, upland, and mountains. There is a mix of fruits and vegetables, grazing, and timber production.

The VOA article highlights work by Jessa Kay Cruz of Oregon’s Xerces Society and botanist Margaret Smither-Kopperl. They are developing different wildflower mixes “specially designed for pollinators,” according to Cruz. There is a preference for drought tolerant plants in the study. Cruz is quoted as saying, “How do we establish these plants in really dry conditions?”

The CSP initiative may be a place to start. Weller indicated the scope of the program when he said, “We are ensuring that landowners will be able to take advantage of a program that will enroll up to 7.7 million acres this year.”

Changes in the 2014 Farm Bill allows NRCS  / CSP participants to renew their contracts if they maintain current stewardship efforts and address two or more existing natural resource concerns such as improving water quality or soil health.

About 9,300 contracts covering more than 12.2 million acres are nearing the end of their five-year terms.  To encourage compliance, all conservation activities in their original contract must be completed before a renewal can be granted.

CSP covers more acreage than any other USDA’s conservation program. It pays participants with higher payments for superior conservation performance. Nearly 70 million acres have been enrolled in the program since its launch in 2009.

The USDA statement adds, “USDA offers financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers or forest landowners for the active management and maintenance of existing conservation activities and for carrying out new conservation activities on working agricultural land. Eligible lands include cropland, grassland, prairie land, improved pastureland, rangeland, non-industrial private forestland and tribal agricultural land. Applicants must have control of the land for the 5-year term of the contract.”

Agricultural producers or forest landowners with expiring contracts who wish to renew for an additional five-year term must submit an application stating their intent to renew to their local NRCS office before the March 31 deadline.

To learn more about native pollinators, read USDA’s informative PDF Pollinator Partnership. To learn more about CSP contract renewals, visit your local NRCS office. Visit the Conservation Stewardship Program page for more information about this program.


In The News PR

In The News PR
Camarillo, CA United States93010


Connecting the Gap Between Humans and Nature – Participatory Ecology

Connecting the Gap Between Humans and Nature – Participatory Ecology

Am I being superstitious or karmic to believe that every time we casually and callously bring about the extinction of a creature or plant, we are moving ourselves towards our own extinction year by year?  I have in my mind a chart from the wonderful Ray Archuleta (if you don’t know him, everyone should).  Ray is a soil scientist with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service who has a…

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Health Soil, Health Food - Soil health is key to building sustainable crop operations.

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Doug Peterson, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), helps pork producers understand soil health and how it impacts crop production. Mr. Peterson shares what healthy soil can be and points out some of the issues that are in the crop ecosystem today. Mr. Peterson offers that the health of the soil is an indicator of the health of the food system and recommends resources for crop producers to learn more.

Soil Health Initiative - Doug Peterson, Natural Resources Conservation Service, from the 2015 Missouri Pork Expo, February 10 - 11, 2015, Columbia, MO, USA.

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#agriculture #farm #ranch #ag #crop #soil

Natural Resources Conservation Service and Forest Service Partnership Continues Conservation Work Nationwide

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Release No. 0042.15 Contact: USDA Office of Communications (202) 720-4623   Natural Resources Conservation Service and Forest Service Partnership Continues Conservation Work Nationwide   “Under Secretary Announces 15 Restoration Projects and a $37 Million Investment”  

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BOISE, Idaho, February 19, 2015 – The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today nearly $37 million in investments to mitigate wildfire threats to landowners and communities. This is the second year of a partnership between the U.S. Forest Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to help improve the health and resiliency of forest ecosystems where public and private lands meet.

Joined by partners at an event in Idaho, Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Robert Bonnie unveiled the 15 Chiefs’ Joint Landscape Restoration Partnership projects for 2015. Located across the country from Washington to Vermont and Arizona to Ohio, NRCS and Forest Service will invest $10 million in new projects to improve conditions on public and private lands. One new project is in the Upper North Fork region near Gibbonsville, Idaho designed to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire to communities along a portion of the Highway 93 corridor.

"By leveraging the technical and financial resources of both agencies, this coordinated effort is helping to restore lands across large landscapes regardless of whether they are on public or private lands," Bonnie said. "Our successes from the 2014 projects demonstrate that these partnerships make a difference on the ground and we are grateful for the cooperation of several partners."

Bonnie noted that in some cases these new projects [ ] build on last year’s efforts. The partnership made investments in 2014 [ ] that will result in conservation improvements to over 266,000 acres. NRCS and Forest Service will provide an additional $27 million to continue work on 2014 projects.

In addition to NRCS and Forest Service investments, partners are contributing more than $5 million in the 2015 projects over three years in financial, technical and in-kind services. These 15 new projects, coupled with the 13 announced last year, will help mitigate wildfire threats to communities and landowners, protect water quality and supply, and improve wildlife habitat for at-risk species in high priority landscapes across the US.

For example, USDA support in 2014 enabled Tim Fisher of the Oregon East Face of the Elkhorn Mountains Partnership, to open up the tree canopy on 232 acres of private land which will reduce the risk for wildfire, help with soil erosion, and allow the trees to grow taller and stronger making them more marketable.

"Our agencies are being proactive to make sure conservation work flows seamlessly from private to public lands, ensuring crucial wildfire and water concerns are addressed and allowing people, like Fisher, to preserve their family lands," NRCS Chief Jason Weller said.

"Strategic investments across landscapes help create resilient forests, grasslands and watersheds while sustaining communities," said Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. "Treating lands to reduce wildfire threats is a smart investment that will protect vast areas of land and potentially save of millions of taxpayer dollars."

2015 Projects include:

*Idaho – Upper North Fork Project:* Idaho’s Upper North Fork is a great example of a project that provides a big benefit for a small investment. Fires often spread from private property onto public lands where they are difficult to control and become wildfires. The fix is to stop fires at the point where they start, before they have a chance to spread. However, many private landowners do not have the technical knowledge or funds to treat hazardous fuels on their property. This project targets private lands where fires have a high probability of starting and adjacent National Forest lands where they will initially spread. Treating fuels in these areas is relatively inexpensive and protects a vast area of public land. Implementing this simple solution would be unlikely without coordination among the partners.

*Hawaii – Koolau Forest Protection:* The Koolau Mountain forests supply groundwater for the Pearl Harbor Aquifer—used by over 40% of the population of the State of Hawaii. Unfortunately, groundwater levels in the aquifer have declined by half since 1910. Protecting the aquifer from further decline is vital for Hawaii’s sustainability and economy. The Koolau Mountains also has one of the highest densities of rare and endangered species in the world including the beloved ‘elepaio bird, the Hawaiian hoary bat, tree snails, insects and plants – many of which exist nowhere else. By removing invasive species and fencing out feral pigs, this project will help protect water quality and supply for communities and agriculture and improve habitat quality for at-risk species while allowing native Hawaiians to use the forest for their traditional customs.

*South Carolina – Indian Creek Woodland Savanna Restoration Initiative:* In 2004, the Indian Creek Woodland Savanna Restoration Initiative restored woodland savanna habitat on 8,300 acres of the Sumter National Forest as well as 7,700 acres of private land. Funding from this year’s announcement will help accelerate woodland savanna restoration, reduce wildfire risk and enhance water quality on 21,000 acres of public land and 19,000 acres of private land. The restoration will also provide crucial habitat for important and declining grassland birds, including Northern Bobwhite, Loggerhead Shrike, Prairie Warbler and Bachman’s Sparrow.

Summaries of all projects selected can be found here [ ].

Today’s announcement was made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill. The 2014 Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life.


USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).


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