December 1-3, 2015
The December 2015 symposium will be part of the Nutrient Management and Edge of Field Monitoring (from the Great Lakes to the Gulf) Conference led by the University of Arkansas and the Soil & Water Conservation Society on behalf of the Hypoxia Task Force and SERA 46. The day-one HSHW symposium will focus on crop consultant and producer experiences with Nutrient Management & Soil Amendments, Quality No-Till, Cover Crops, and Water Management.
Days two and three will include region specific case studies in the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds to further management practices to meet national water quality goals.
Will Des Moines water lawsuit change farming rules?
The Des Moines Register
A Des Moines, Iowa, utility’s plan to sue three northwest counties for polluting central the state’s drinking water supply may have broad ramifications for state and U.S. farmers, who environmentalists complain have been too slow to embrace meaningful conservation practices. It’s too soon to say exactly how Des Moines Water Works’ threatened lawsuit could play out in farm fields across Iowa and the nation. But agriculture experts and environmentalists are closely watching the case.
Hypoxia Task Force develops new strategies for nutrient reduction in Mississippi River, Gulf of Mexico
The 12 states of the Hypoxia Task Force have announced that they are devising new strategies to speed up reduction of nutrient levels in waterways in the Mississippi/Atchafalaya River Basin. The HTF is a partnership of five federal agencies, tribes and environmental quality, agricultural and conservation agencies from 12 basin states working to address nutrient pollution and the hypoxic zone, or dead zone, in the Gulf of Mexico.
EPA, Army Corps officially withdraw Waters of the US Interpretive Rule
The EPA and Army Corps of Engineers on Jan. 30 issued a memorandum of understanding to withdraw the Waters of the U.S. Interpretive Rule, which outlines which conservation activities provide farmers an exemption from Clean Water Act permitting. Congress requested that EPA and Army Corps withdraw the IR in its “Cromnibus” funding legislation, passed in December.
Here’s how to end Iowa’s great nitrate fight
Nitrogen fertilizer turns into nitrate, which can run into streams and waterways. During the summer, when crops are growing on fields, they scarf up most of the soil’s available nitrate. The plants need it to grow. And as a result, during that period, there’s usually not much nitrate flowing into streams and rivers. The problem is, most crops are only grown for five months out of the year in Iowa.
Taskforce strives to improve water management
The Shreveport Times
An LSU AgCenter taskforce is identifying ways to help farmers irrigate more efficiently and improve water quality. The group brings together AgCenter extension agents and researchers who are working to fill data gaps and enhance outreach efforts as Louisiana farmers face increasingly complex decisions about water management.
Applications accepted for 9 watershed projects in Arkansas
Arkansas farmers and landowners have until Jan. 16 to submit applications for financial assistance to install conservation practices through nine Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative projects. Michael Sullivan, a conservationist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said the projects in Arkansas are being implemented to accelerate conservation treatment to improve water quality, maintain productivity and enhance wildlife habitat.
Arkansas agency seeks environmental award nominations
The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality is accepting entries for its annual Environmental Stewardship Award. The award recognizes citizens or organizations for their efforts to protect and enhance the state’s environment.
Federal agency renews support for Arkansas Water Resources Center
UofA Division of Agriculture Communications
The Arkansas Water Resources Center passed its three-year evaluation and will be eligible to continue receiving federal funding. The AWRC, a unit of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, received its annual base grant of $92,355 from the U.S. Geological Survey. The AWRC is one of 54 water resources research centers across the nation that the federal program funds to support its work. The AWRC and the other centers use the funding to train new scientists, disseminate research results to water managers and the public and cooperate with other institutions in their regions on water issues.
2015 water preview: States react to new era of water scarcity
Circle of Blue
Water roared to life in state politics in 2014. These actions represent an awakening in the United States that water supplies are not as abundant as once thought. A series of severe droughts in recent years — from Texas in 2011 to the Midwest in 2012 to California today — is the frontline reality of a hotter, drier era that is forcing state leaders to take stock of their water assets and reevaluate laws, regulations and investment strategies.
Rotation is best thing for cotton
Southwest Farm Press
Ronnie Hopper and his son, R.N., believe in no-till crop production, and predict it will gain acceptance across the Texas High Plains as farmers deal with the increasingly serious problem of a declining water resource. Reasons for no-till cotton production include soil and water conservation, energy and labor savings, and replacing organic matter in the soil. The thing that makes it work, they say, is crop rotation.
State Plan: Divert Surface Water To Make Up For Groundwater Loss
Arkansas Business & Politics
Between $3.4 billion and $7.8 billion should be invested in the infrastructure needed to help Arkansas take advantage of surface water instead of unsustainably pumping from depleting groundwater sources. The good news: The state has more than enough surface water to take care of its needs. Those are some of the conclusions of the Arkansas Water Plan 2014 Update, a non-binding strategic plan that guides the regulatory and legislative priorities of the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission.
EPA Investing $13.5 Million In Arkansas Drinking Water
Arkansas will receive $13.5 million from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help with the state’s water infrastructure and inspection. The money will be used by two state agencies and local communities to install, upgrade and replace water infrastructure across the state.
Senate Ag Committee met to discuss water conservation
U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Senator Debbie Stabenow convened a Committee hearing Dec. 3 regarding water conservation. The hearing, “Farmers and Fresh Water: Voluntary Conservation to Protect our Land and Waters” examined different ways farmers and ranchers can help improve water quality in American lakes and rivers through voluntary conservation practices. Testimony by panel witnesses focused on farming’s effects on the health of the nation’s lakes and rivers, and how to avoid such externalities in the future.
No-till boosts efficiency, helps save southern soils
Delta Farm Press
Ernie Flint, regional agronomist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service in central Mississippi, says conservation tillage, and especially no-till, offer farmers the best chance of saving precious soil that often runs off during heavy rains that are typical across the Mid-South and other areas. “It may be the best method of farming much of the state’s land and other areas of the South, especially in areas with sloping topography,” says Flint, who works out of Kosciusko, Mississippi.
Agriculture, Interior Departments partner to measure conservation impacts on water quality
The United States Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of the Interior announced a new partnership agreement recently that will provide a clearer picture of the benefits of farmers’ conservation practices on the quality of our Nation’s water. Working together, USDA’s NRCS and DOI’s USGS will quantify the benefits of voluntary agricultural practices at a watershed scale. This information will strengthen the effectiveness of state and federal nutrient reduction strategies while protecting the privacy of individual farmers.
Ecology changing watershed evaluation process
The Washington state Department of Ecology is changing the way it evaluates farming operations for potential pollution, and the executive director of the Washington Agriculture Legal Foundation says it is a good first step. The agency recently unveiled the changes it is planning during a agricultural and water quality advisory committee meeting. Under the changes, letters from the department to producers would include specific information about observed pollution problems, an offer for farmers to access documentation related to their operation and a clear timeline for producers to contact the agency.
The science of variable climate and agroecosystem management
Journal of Soil and Water Conservation
Highly variable climate presents uncertainty and risk challenges to managing water and soil resources in agricultural landscapes. The Third National Climate Assessment documents increased climate disruptions to agriculture in the U.S. over the past 40 years and projects accelerated impacts in the next 25 years. Loss and degradation of soil and water assets due to increasing extremes in precipitation are identified as key concerns to both rainfed and irrigated agriculture.
Reducing climate change risk for agriculture
A number of agriculture groups at this fall’s UN Climate Summit signed on to a new, three-year North American initiative that will give farmers the opportunity to work with industry, academic, government and nongovernmental partners to mitigate the risks of changing climate conditions. “With increasing public focus turning to the climate, farmers must take a seat at the table to ensure our interests and concerns on this topic are accurately represented,” says Paul Taylor, a farmer from Esmond, Illinois.
Irrigation is next frontier in precision agriculture
Southeast Farm Press
Many of the original precision agriculture technologies are approaching maturity, so the time is right for farmers to use the advancements to better apply and use water on the farm. “We’ve been using them for a number of years now to measure crop response and to do variable rate applications of fertilizers, plant growth regulators, defoliants on cotton and other inputs,” said George Vellidis, University of Georgia crop and soil sciences professor and head of the Vellidis Research Group at UGA. “So the next big challenge is to address the parameter that affects all crops, and that’s water.”
A decade of conservation effects assessment research by the USDA Agricultural Research Service: Progress overview and future outlook
Journal of Soil and Water Conservation
Ten years ago, the USDA Agricultural Research Service began a series of watershed assessment studies as part of the Conservation Effects Assessment Project. In this overview, a decade of research progress in 14 watersheds dominated by rain-fed croplands is reviewed to introduce a special section of this journal issue containing papers describing multiwatershed syntheses. The papers evaluate impacts of agricultural practices on soil quality, stream sediment sources, and the role of climate variability in watershed studies and conservation assessments at the watershed scale.
Development of a new long-term drought resilient soil water retention technology
Journal of Soil and Water Conservation
Increasing frequencies of drought coupled with increasing populations are requiring more water for irrigated agriculture. As global populations approach 9 billion by 2050, even more water will be required to produce an estimated 60 percent to 70 percent more food. Production of these greater quantities of food require, at current water use efficiency rates, 50 percent more water. Consequently, the growing demand for food and fiber combined with dwindling water supplies (in terms of both quantity and quality) available for agricultural irrigation require new soil technologies that conserve water.
Using local lakes to safeguard regional water quality
Isolated lakes in the Mississippi Delta can be transformed into farmer-friendly landscape features that trap agricultural pollutants, according to research at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. These findings by Agricultural Research Service ecologist Richard Lizotte and his colleagues can help producers control the impacts of field runoff on downstream water bodies as far as the Gulf of Mexico.
Louisiana agriculture officials ask FAA for new rules for drones
The Federal Aviation Administration is in the process of changing rules and regulations regarding the use of unmanned aerial vehicles or drones. This is of particular interest to the agricultural interests in the state because the agriculture community has embraced this new technology and found many valuable uses for it. For example, if a farmer can fly a camera over a field to check on the progress of flood irrigation water flow, then he can determine exactly when to turn off the pump. This simple operation could save water resources, reduce energy costs of pumping, and more effectively manage nutrients in the field.
USDA unveils new conservation innovation grants totaling $15.7 million
Delta Farm Press
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that 47 organizations will receive a total of $15.7 million in Conservation Innovation Grants aimed accelerating new ways to improve conservation efforts on private lands. The funds, which are made possible through the Agriculture Act of 2014 (2014 farm bill), are going to a variety of organizations, not all of which are usually identified with production agriculture.
US to spend $328 million on conservation easements
The Associated Press via US News
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced $328 million in funding to protect and restore farmlands, grasslands and wetlands across the country. The initiative, using money provided in the new five-year farm bill, will buy conservation easements from farmers to protect the environment, help wildlife populations and promote outdoor recreation, the USDA said in its announcement. The agency selected 380 projects nationwide covering 32,000 acres of prime farmland, 45,000 acres of grasslands and 52,000 acres of wetlands.
Vilsack provides 6-month update on farm bill implementation process
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced continued progress on implementing the Agricultural Act of 2014 (the 2014 Farm Bill), which President Barack Obama signed into law nearly six months ago on Feb. 7. The 2014 Farm Bill reforms agricultural policy, reduces the deficit and helps grow America’s economy. Since the farm bill was signed into law, USDA has made progress throughout all 12 titles of the bill, including conservation.
EPA regional head and ag leaders talk water quality
Karl Brooks, the Environmental Protection Agency Region 7 administrator for the states of Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas and nine tribal nations, addressed an audience of farmers and agribusiness personnel at an open forum and panel discussion, “Bridging Troubled Waters — the Outlook for Water Quality and Agriculture,” at the Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa. The allowed attendees to listen and engage with key figures in government and the agriculture industry via an open discussion on water quality and nutrient reduction.
Research team probes climate’s impact on groundwater quality
Climate change and increasing food production demands both influence groundwater quality. To better understand the links between climate, agriculture and groundwater, University of Nebraska-Lincoln researchers will investigate climate’s impact on groundwater contamination from chemicals used in crop and animal production.
NMPF, Clean Water Agencies to collaborate on watershed improvement
The National Milk Producers Federation and the National Association of Clean Water Agencies signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to promote increased cooperation and communication between the two organizations in their efforts to make watershed-level water quality improvements. This MOU marks an important milestone in efforts to strengthen ties between urban and rural sectors on conservation activities to improve local water quality and the environment.
Development of nutrient, erosion management tools
Iowa State University researchers expect to unveil later this year a set of decision-making tools for best management practices to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus and erosion/sediment losses. The Web-based tools will provide the latest BMP information in one place that can be customized by producers.