USDA taps ranchers to continue stewarding sage-grouse habitat

greater sage grouseU.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced a four-year strategy to invest more that $200 million in greater sage-grouse conservation efforts.

The strategy, known as Sage Grouse Initiative 2.0, will build on successful public and private conservation efforts to improve sage-grouse habitat by providing additional assistance for ranchers to make conservation improvements to their land.

It’s encouraging to see USDA remaining at the forefront of federal efforts to move sage-grouse protection forward. This funding is a huge boost for sage-grouse, but there are opportunities through emerging programs for impact industries to do even more to protect this iconic bird. Read More »

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Strong market signal for sustainable grain

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Walmart, Smithfield Foods and USDA discuss sustainable agriculture in St. Louis.

The agricultural supply chain is shifting towards demanding more sustainably produced grains, according to some of the country’s biggest food companies and retailers.

Representatives from Walmart, Smithfield Foods, and USDA recently discussed the importance of and increased consumer demand for agricultural sustainability in front of 100 agricultural retailers in St Louis. They were there for a meeting convened by United Suppliers, Inc., with a primary focus of the company’s SUSTAIN™ platform.

Three messages were clear:

  • Demand for more sustainable crops is here to stay.
  • Growers’ connection with the consumers of their products is increasing.
  • Fertilizer optimization and soil health offer a business opportunity for growers, ag retailers, and food companies alike.

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3 ways drones can help take agriculture to new sustainability heights

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A drone collects data while in flight. Photo credit

Drone technology has been around for decades, taking to the skies to capture movie sequences, collect scientific data and scout territory. But there’s another industry where drones are really beginning to take off: farming.

Agriculture is on tap to make up 80 percent of the market for unmanned aircrafts in the next couple of decades. With the invention of newer, more effective technologies, drones have the potential to launch the agriculture industry into a future of sustainability.

Rules of the sky

In February of this year, the Federal Aviation Administration proposed long-awaited rules on the commercial use of small drones in the agricultural sector. The new regulations require operators to be certified, fly only during daylight and keep their aircraft in sight. Although this proposed legislation could take one or two years for final adoption, it marks a major step for the industry, as the guidelines provide the formal structure needed to legitimize drone use and advance the market for their production.

Although drone technology is still modifying production to increase ease of use and lower prices, these machines already have the potential to go a long way towards improving farmers’ bottom lines – and the environment. Here are three key benefits of drone use in agriculture: Read More »

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The devastation of the Soda Fire, and the seeds of hope for the future

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Wildlife warning sign on Highway 95.

My family and I returned home to California a few days ago following an idyllic week camping on Payette Lake near McCall, Idaho. Our route home took us down Highway 95 in southwestern Idaho, a road typically bordered by the beautiful farmlands of the Snake River Basin. But our views weren’t so picturesque.

Just south of Nampa, Idaho we began to notice the charred landscape left behind by the Soda Fire, the largest of recent fires burning across the United States. The Soda Fire has burned more than 280,000 acres of prime sagebrush steppe, which provides key grazing lands for cattle ranchers and important habitat for threatened wildlife like the greater sage-grouse.

As I gazed upon the aftermath of the fire, all I could think about was the devastating effects it has had on local ranching families and wildlife. Fortunately, there are steps we can take to restore these scorched landscapes and prevent damaging wildfires in the future, but we have to act fast. Read More »

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Cutting food waste to support farmers and the famished

Surplus food at the Food Donation Connection. Photo Credit: USDA.

Surplus food at the Food Donation Connection. Photo Credit: USDA.

Food waste affects more than just our wallets. Approximately one-third of all food produced in the world gets thrown away every year, leading to 3.3 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions. At 2.6 trillion pounds, that's enough sustenance to feed three billion people, or almost all people living in poverty worldwide today.

That’s why, last week, when I attended a Q&A session for ag interns at the U.S. Department of Agriculture with Secretary Tom Vilsack, I was intrigued when a fellow intern asked a question regarding food sustainability and what the U.S. can do to ensure that there will be enough food to feed the 9 billion people expected to populate the world by 2050.

The Secretary’s answer? Reduce food waste.

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Grasslands protocol opens another carbon market for farmers

GrasslandsGrowers with grasslands on their property have a new reason to leave that land untouched.

On July 22, the Climate Action Reserve, a non-profit organization that creates offset standards and serves as one of the offset registries for California’s cap-and-trade program, approved a new protocol that rewards farmers for avoiding the conversion of grasslands to cropland.

The new “grasslands protocol” highlights a growing trend in agriculture: farmers being paid for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Read More »

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