Dec 4 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has joined Dale Hall, CEO of Ducks Unlimited, to highlight the value of public-private conservation efforts and the record conservation results achieved by producers, landowners and the U.S. Department of Agriculture since 2009. Secretary Vilsack emphasized the critical need for Congress to pass a new Farm Bill to continue these efforts.
Across the nation, USDA works directly with farmers and ranchers to carry out conservation practices aimed at strengthening our nation's soil and water resources. USDA has partnered with more than 500,000 farmers, ranchers and landowners on these conservation projects since 2009 – a record number.
By protecting marginal cropland, preserving habitat and implementing environmentally friendly production methods, these efforts preserve the ability of America's farmers and ranchers to continue producing an abundant food supply in the years to come. Conservation also strengthens outdoor recreation, which adds more than $640 billion every year to our economy.
The Farm Bill represents the nation's largest investment supporting the voluntary and successful conservation, restoration and management of America's working lands. A new Farm Bill would:
A Farm Bill would strengthen efforts USDA has undertaken across a range of innovative new landscape-scale initiatives aimed at restoring land and water. For example:
USDA has treated or harvested more than 500,000 acres for timber as part of 23 new "Collaborative Forest Restoration Projects." These efforts reduce fire risk and create jobs in rural America.
USDA has sold more than 10.3 million board feet of timber since 2009 from National Forest lands – and to ensure modern Forest management, USDA released and implemented a new Planning Rule to balance forest care and restoration with commonsense job creation.
To help spur innovation in conservation, USDA has invested in new research, monitoring and coordination efforts that help researchers and producers enhance conservation benefits on the land.
More than 1,000 Conservation Innovation Grants since 2009 have helped to fund technical assistance, research and capacity-building for innovative new conservation efforts and sustainable growing practices. For example, a CIG partnership with Michigan State University has helped small dairy farmers to evaluate the performance of a new technology to treat wastewater.
USDA undertook the Rapid Carbon Assessment, released this year to support conservation planners; and released the COMET-FARM tool, which enables farmers and ranchers to calculate how much carbon their soil is storing.
And to help American agriculture mitigate and adapt to climate change, USDA will soon announce seven regional " Climate Hubs" around the nation. The hubs will deliver region-specific information to help farmers and ranchers adapt to climate threats specific to their area.
We have boosted efforts to strengthen ecosystem markets. USDA has supported the creation of water quality trading markets that hold potential to boost income for producers while providing environmental benefits at a lower cost than more traditional approaches. And through the Working Lands for Wildlife Initiative, we are helping farmers and ranchers proactively protect species with declining populations.
Many of these conservation efforts, and USDA's ability to continue working with farmers, ranchers and landowners to protect our environment, depend on Congressional passage of a new Farm Bill. Americans are counting on Congress to get its job done and pass a Farm Bill as soon as possible.
Click here for charts that provide a state-by-state look at the impact of some leading USDA conservation programs within the Farm Service Agency and Natural Resources Conservation Service.