2013: A fine year for conservation

Farm Forum

Good job, farmers and ranchers. As we begin 2014, let’s take a moment to reflect on 2013 with collective pride for conservation well done.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service provides technical and financial assistance to help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners with voluntary conservation practices. These thousands of local, partnerships between NRCS and landowners across the United States add up to make a huge difference.

In cooperation with farmers and ranchers in 2013, NRCS:

• Developed conservation plans for more than 43.8 million acres. NRCS conservationists develop these plans that include a map of the land and a proposed suite of conservation practices.

• Obligated more than $4 billion in technical and financial assistance for agricultural conservation.

• Enrolled more than 279,000 acres into conservation easements, setting aside valuable wetlands, grasslands and farmlands. These landscapes help create wildlife habitat, clean air and water and lead to other environmental benefits.

• Worked with producers in the Ogallala Aquifer region, the nation’s breadbasket, to implement conservation practices that use water wisely on more than 70,000 acres.

• Improved habitat for at-risk wildlife. Two initiatives geared toward the lesser prairie chicken and sage grouse put conservation practices on more than 220,000 acres and 570,000 acres, respectively.

• Assisted producers in the Mississippi River basin improve water quality, restore wetlands and improve wildlife habitat on more than 255,000 acres.

• Helped landowners in nine states improve sustainability and profitability of longleaf pine forests, an iconic forest of the Southeast, on more than 50,000 acres.

NRCS employs conservation and natural resource experts, who work to improve the way that farmers and ranchers can use conservation to help their land and the environment. This year, NRCS:

• Developed an updated soil health training curriculum based on more recent science and best practices.

• Appeared in three episodes of public television series ‘This American Land’ showcasing conservation.

• Introduced the Rapid Carbon Soil Assessment, an online dataset providing information on how much carbon is stored in soils.

• Worked with Colorado State University to create COMET-FARMTM, an online tool to help producers estimate the impacts of conservation on soil carbon levels.

• Increased conservation program participation of historically underserved communities by up to 200 percent under the StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity initiative.

All in all, 2013 has been a great year for conservation. With your help, 2014 will be even better.