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Upcoming: Healthy Soils for Healthy Waters Symposium

August 14, 2015

December 1-3, 2015

Memphis, TN

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.

Edge of Feild Monitoring Conference

Water in the News

March 2, 2015

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.

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Hypoxia Task Force develops new strategies for nutrient reduction in Mississippi River, Gulf of Mexico
Water World

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.

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EPA, Army Corps officially withdraw Waters of the US Interpretive Rule
Farm Futures

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.

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Here’s how to end Iowa’s great nitrate fight
NPR

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.

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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.

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Water in the News

January 12, 2015

Applications accepted for 9 watershed projects in Arkansas
Arkansas Online

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.

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Arkansas agency seeks environmental award nominations
THV 11

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Water in the News

December 22, 2014

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.

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EPA Investing $13.5 Million In Arkansas Drinking Water
KUAR

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.

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Senate Ag Committee met to discuss water conservation
Ag Professional

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.

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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.

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Water in the News

December 1, 2014

Agriculture, Interior Departments partner to measure conservation impacts on water quality
Water Online

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.

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Ecology changing watershed evaluation process
Capital Press

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.

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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.

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Reducing climate change risk for agriculture
Farm Futures

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.

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Water in the News

October 6, 2014

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.”

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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.

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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.

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Using local lakes to safeguard regional water quality
Ag Professional

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.

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Louisiana agriculture officials ask FAA for new rules for drones
LSU AgCenter

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.

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Water in the News

September 24, 2014

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.

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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.

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Vilsack provides 6-month update on farm bill implementation process
McPherson Sentine

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.

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EPA regional head and ag leaders talk water quality
Ag Professional

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.

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Research team probes climate’s impact on groundwater quality
Phys.org

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.

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NMPF, Clean Water Agencies to collaborate on watershed improvement
AgWeb

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.

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Development of nutrient, erosion management tools
Ag Professional

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.

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Water in the News

August 29, 2014

Watershed Zoning Code Pleases Water Authorities, Irks Some Landowners
KUAR

This week the Pulaski County Quorum Court voted unanimously to adopt amendments to a zoning ordinance for the Lake Maumelle Watershed, but challenges still remain for those affected by the ordinance.  A task force of property owners, stakeholders and conservation groups had met over a course of several months to draft recommended changes for the ordinance.  Among the key challenges they faced: balancing the need to ensure Lake Maumelle’s clean water supply for 400,000 Central Arkansans with the desires of property owners in the area.

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‘Game-Changing’ Initiative Could Drastically Cut Water Usage For Farming
KUAR

Delta Plastics and a consortium of agricultural interests in Arkansas have launched a new water conservation software initiative that leaders say could reduce water usage by 20 percent by the year 2020. “This initiative is the most important conservation effort we have ever launched,” said Dhu Thompson, Delta Plastics Chairman.  “‘Preserving our farmland’ has been our company slogan for nearly 20 years.  But conservation and sustainability is so much more than a slogan for us. It is a principle that has driven every major operational decision that we have made.”

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Dead zones: Devil in the deep blue sea
OnEarth via LiveScience

A stretch of the Gulf of Mexico spanning more than 5,000 square miles along the Louisiana coast is nearly devoid of marine life this summer, according to a study from the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium. Caused largely by nutrient runoff from farm fertilizer, this oxygen-deprived “dead zone” is approximately the size of Connecticut. Although slightly smaller than last summer’s edition, the Gulf dead zone is still touted by some as the largest in the United States and costs $82 million annually in diminished tourism and fishing yield.

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New program supports conservation efforts
AgriNews

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service’s new Regional Conservation Partnership Program drew an overwhelming response from partners across the nation. Of the almost 600 preproposals submitted in July, about 230 have been invited to continue the process by submitting full proposals by Oct. 2.

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Congressional reps oppose new EPA water rule
Sedalia Democrat

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt and U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler spoke out at a press conference on Aug. 14 at the Missouri State Fair against the “Waters of the United States” rule proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers. Many agricultural organizations are opposed to the rule, citing unclear language that could allow federal control of every small tributary in the country including small irrigation ditches that run across farmland. They are calling the measure a “land grab” that dictates how farmers run their farms.

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2014 ANRC NPS Stakeholder and Project Review Meetings

August 26, 2014

September 17 and 18

NPS Invite

Registration now open HERE

2014 Nonpoint Source
Pollution Stakeholder and
Project Review Meeting

Successes, Species and
Stakeholders

Please join us for this two day event to hear from
successful water quality improvement efforts, to connect
with other watershed stakeholders, and to learn about
nonpoint source pollution issues facing Arkansas.

When
WEDNESDAY AND THURSDAY
SEPTEMBER 17 -18, 2014
From 8:30a.m. to 4:30p.m.
Registration opens at 8 a.m.

Where
UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS
DIVISION OF AGRICULTURE
COOPERATIVE EXTENSION SERVICE
2301 S. UNIVERSITY AVE

Water in the News

August 19, 2014

Can utilities make friends with conservation?
Water Online

The downside of water conservation is that it hurts water utilities, which are already struggling to stay afloat. “The need for more reliable revenue is more important than ever, as water service providers contend with prolonged droughts and aging infrastructure. Unfortunately, this need for revenue can make conservation the unwanted stepchild of water utilities,” according to an editorial published by National Geographic. Does it have to be that way? Maybe not.

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Keeping nutrients in the field and out of tile lines
Dairy Herd Management

By definition, drainage water management is the practice of managing water discharged from subsurface agricultural systems via a water control structure at the end of a conventional drainage system. It functions as an in-line dam, allowing the outlet to be artificially set at levels ranging from the soil surface to the bottom of the drain. These structures create a variety of options for producers and can artificially raise the water table in a field when water is scarce and are used before liquid manure applications are made, reducing the risk of manure entering surface water through tile lines.

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‘USDA-approved’ conservation innovation
The Huffington Post

Paying farmers to store carbon in untilled prairie. Stimulating demand for wooden “plyscrapers.” Creating markets for nutrient and temperature credits. This is not your grandparents’ Department of Agriculture. At a White House meeting and industry conference, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is promoting innovative opportunities for private investment in rural America. The White House Rural Council’s Rural Opportunity Investing conference is an attempt to attract investors to investment opportunities in biofuels, wastewater, sustainable timber and local and regional food systems.

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Center pivot does not always mean efficiency
AgriLife Today

Identifying, but more importantly, gaining adoption of the most efficient irrigation systems is an important step in water conservation within agriculture, according to a recent study conducted by Texas A&M AgriLife Research. The study, in partnership with the Texas Alliance for Water Conservation, determined that producers who were not using low energy precision application, or LEPA, sprinkler systems were leaving as much as $100 per acre behind.

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‘Settling the waters’ may be tool for addressing water conservation, runoff issues in Delta
Delta Farm Press

Could a material called polyacrylamide or PAM become one of the tools that could help Mississippi Delta growers address the issues of a declining Delta alluvial aquifer and nutrient runoff into the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico? The Delta Sustainable Water Resources Task Force and the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service are working to determine if it can. Those organizations and several farmers and companies are working with PAM to try to determine if the compound could address those issues and help improve crop yields.

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