Party time! We are pleased to share this post by Bridget Holcomb from the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute based on a day-long visit to Wisconsin last week by USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan and Natural Resources Conservation Service Chief Dave White.
I’ve been to my share of birthday parties before, but this has to be a first. A birthday party for a federal agency? There better be cake. Not only was there cake (donated — no tax dollars were used to buy me cake), but the 75th birthday party for the Natural Resources Conservation Service also had one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. Cake and celebrity! Now we have a party!
USDA Releases Non-Federal Rangelands Health Assessment: On Friday, October 1, USDA announced the release of a new study evaluating the health and productivity of non-federal rangelands in the western United States, which make up 21% of the total area of the lower 48 states. Findings indicate that less than 25 percent of non-federal rangelands have significant land degradation, but that non-native grasses and shrubs now occur on nearly 50 percent of all non-federal rangeland. The study, which was the result of collaboration between USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), was published last week in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.
USDA to Issue Over $1.6 Billion in Annual CRP Payments to Producers This Month: During the month of October, USDA will distribute more than $1.6 billion in annual Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) rental payments to producers enrolled in the program. Since October is the first month of the federal fiscal year, all CRP annual payments are distributed during this month. Producers use these payments to establish and maintain conservation practices such as removing environmentally sensitive land from cultivation, or protecting wildlife habitats on one’s agricultural land. CRP currently honors 744,000 contracts on 416,000 farms, totaling 31.3 million acres reserved under the program. Each of these farms will receive an average of $52.56 per acre in CRP rental payments, or an average of $3,955 per farm.
USDA Announces Rural Cooperative Development Grant Recipients: USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager today announced $8.3 million in grants through the Rural Cooperative Development Grant (RCDG) program to help rural cooperatives expand economic activity in their communities. Grantees included NSAC member organization Farm to Table, Inc., of Santa Fe, NM, which received a grant for a project to improve economic conditions in rural New Mexico.
USDA Economic Research Service Issues Brief on Rural Economy: On Wednesday, October 6, USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) updated its briefing page dedicated to Rural Income, Poverty, and Welfare. According to ERS, after unprecedented rural growth in the 1990s, rural development has stagnated and even declined in many areas. ERS points to the recent economic recession as the source of lasting troubles in rural areas.
NRCS Extends CSP Sign-up Period, Releases Latest Enrollment Data: On Thursday, October 7, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced the extension of the FY 2011 sign-up period for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) until January 7, 2011. NRCS will use the additional time to expand and improve program marketing and outreach to producers.
Harvesting Media Coverage: New NSAC Program Champions Farmers’ Voices: What’s one of the most underutilized assets of the sustainable agriculture movement? It’s the authentic and inspiring personal stories of the farmer innovators practicing sustainable and organic agriculture across our country. A new NSAC program aims to tap into this force for change: Farm & Agriculture Resources for Media (FARM). FARM is an innovative venture that connects journalists with farmers and NSAC member organizations. FARM also provides free tools and training for farmers to share their stories effectively with the press. FARM provides critical resource for spreading a collective vision for sustainable agriculture and our Farm Bill priorities. Find the free FARM toolkit here.
Farm to School Webinar and Resources: Today, October 7, the USDA Farm to School team and the National Farm to School Network hosted a webinar, “Digging through Farm to School Resources,” which shared a bevy of useful supporting materials for state agencies, school food service administrators, farms, and non-profit organizations looking to start or expand Farm to School programs. The complete slide show, with links to the supporting materials, can be found here, and the webinar will be archived here shortly.
Organic Agriculture Grows in Northern Tier Organic farming grew steadily from 2005-2008 in the Ninth Federal Reserve District, which includes Minnesota, Montana, North and South Dakota, 26 counties in northwestern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, according to an article published in the October 2010 FedGazette.
SARE Posts Audio and Presentations from Sustainable Ag Symposium: In September, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and Organic Farming Research Foundation co-sponsored an all-day symposium to discuss the recently published National Research Council report Toward Sustainable Agricultural Systems in the 21st Century. On October 8, USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE), another co-sponsor of the event, announced that audio transcripts and powerpoint presentations are now available on its website.
EPA Publishes FY 2011-2015 Strategic Plan: On Thursday, October 7, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a 5-year strategic plan outlining strategies for advancing its mission and priorities. The plan presents 5 strategic goals that will dictate EPA’s actions over the next 5 years. The strategic goals are:
- Taking action on climate change and improving air quality
- Protecting America’s waters
- Cleaning up communities and advancing sustainable development
- Ensuring the safety of chemicals and preventing pollution
- Enforcing environmental laws
10/10/10 Global Work Party Features Food and Farming: Food and farming are playing a prominent role in many of the events taking place on Sunday for the 10/10/10 Global Work Party, “the single largest day of carbon-cutting action in the planet’s history,” according to 350.org, which is organizing the day of action in partnership with hundreds of organizations around the world. Over 7,000 events are expected to take place in 188 countries for the Global Work Party, from “gardening gangs” giving away seedlings in Dunedin, New Zealand to an urban agriculture/food justice bike ride in Oakland, CA. Look for events near you at http://www.350.org/en/map.