A number of states have introduced legislation and three have passed bills prohibiting the use of unmanned aircraft in their states. But there are proponents who say unmanned aircraft could be used for all sorts of good including agriculture. Gretchen West is executive director of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, she says they would like to see the technology move into the commercial market and believes agriculture will be a big user.
The Wisconsin State Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee has voted to restore funding for County Conservation staff. Governor Scott Walker’s proposed budget cuts $998,600 from funding for County Conservationists. The State pays toward three positions in each county, 100% of the first, 70% of the second and 50% of each subsequent position.
The Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters program director Anne Sayers praising the Joint Finance Committee for reinstating the funding noting “our lakes, rivers and streams can’t protect themselves. Every day county conservationists are on the front lines working to prevent runoff that leads to polluted water and stinky lakes.” Sayers adds the fuding still faces some hurdles in the state budget process, “but we are grateful to the members of the Joint Finance Committee who stood up for Wisconsin’s County Conservationists.”
The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture started spraying for the gypsy moth Tuesday morning. DATCP reports spraying was completed as scheduled in Rock and Green/Dane counties and at several sites in Lafayette and Iowa counties. Under a separate program managed by the Department of Natural Resources, spraying also was completed at Governor Dodge State Park.
Due to deteriorating weather conditions, spraying was not completed at three sites in Lafayette County and one site in Iowa County, nor at any of the scheduled sites in Crawford and Grant counties.
Spraying has been rescheduled for Wednesday in these areas, weather-permitting.
As the farm bills work their way through Congress, there are a number of changes from the last bill including funding for conservation programs. Dave Nomsen is Vice President of Government Affairs with Pheasants Forever; he says “We are going to see a significant drop in expenditures for conservation programs.” He says we are seeing a “significant reduction in CRP land” due to high land and commodity prices and that is just a bigger challenge with less money available.
He is happy that the farm bills continue the CRP, wetlands and habit preservation programs as well as working-lands programs like EQIP. “Farm bill conservation programs are right there with expenditures on commodity programs right now.” He also encourages landowners to take a good look at the CRP program with both a general signup and continuous signup underway.
Meanwhile, organizations such as his need to step-up and help landowners manage sustainable landscapes for agriculture and wildlife. “Overall there’s going to be some substantial reductions in conservation programs period. There’s no way around that given where we are at with deficit, debt reduction, spending levels those types of things. So we are trying to find ways to do more with a little less.”
What grade would you give the House and Senate Ag Committees following markup of the Farm Bill?
Based on conservation and wildlife provisions included in the Senate Ag Committee Farm Bill, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) would give them an A, but Julie Sibbing, director of Agriculture and Forestry Programs for NWF, says they were disappointed in the work done by the House Agriculture Committee.
“It failed to include any provisions to re-link conservation compliance, the wetlands and soil protection provisions to crop insurance eligibility and it reduced the funding even further for wildlife programs in the House bill, I guess we would give them a “D” for their effort,” Sibbing said. “We’re happy they got a bill out of committee, but we’re not pleased with the wildlife provisions.”
Sibbing tells Brownfield they’re hopeful they’ll be able to get an amendment offered on the House floor with regard to conservation compliance, but first she says their attention will be on the full Senate.
The Senate passed the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) on an 83-14 vote on Wednesday. The plan includes more than 20 new projects for the Army Corps of Engineers including making ports more accessible, harbor maintenance and dredging of inland waterways. 20 percent of the dredging is to be in the Great Lakes region. The bill takes another step toward upgrading the lock-and-dam system on the upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers with a barge fuel tax. It would speed-up the environmental review process for the projects.
The plan also sets up a commission to consider defunding old uncompleted projects; the Corps has a $60 billion backlog of projects.
The $12.2 billion, ten-year plan now goes to the House for approval. Even if the House passes it, the projects would still need to be funded through the annual appropriations process.
The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) will resume the battles against Emerald Ash Borer and Gypsy Moth in the coming days. Weather permitting, spraying for the gypsy moth will begin in late May, 25 counties are targeted this year: Barron, Bayfield, Chippewa, Clark, Crawford, Dane, Douglas, Dunn, Eau Claire, Grant, Green, Iowa, Jackson, La Crosse, Lafayette, Monroe, Polk, Richland, Rock, Rusk, Sawyer, Taylor, Trempealeau, Vernon and Washburn.
Once again, Btk will be used, it is not toxic to people, bees, pets or other wild animals. However, some people with severe allergies may wish to stay indoors during spray application or avoid areas to be sprayed on the day that spraying occurs.
Meanwhile, DATCP, DNR and USDA employees will be hang as many as 1,100 purple EAB traps around the state. Most of the traps will be set in counties where EAB has not yet been found. However, in the 13 counties were EAB has already been confirmed, some villages and cities may choose to set traps to find new infestations within their own borders.
Counties where EAB has been confirmed are Brown, Crawford, Kenosha, La Crosse, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Rock, Trempealeau, Vernon, Walworth, Washington and Waukesha. DATCP asks that you do not move the traps.
The 45th sign-up period for the Conservation Reserve Program begins next week. It is designed for farmers and landowners with environmentally sensitive lands.
Craig Trimm, with the USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), says the first step is to go in to your local FSA office and develop a conservation plan that could include the planting of trees. “Look at things that maybe they are interested in putting on their acreage. They’ll actually submit an offer, make a bid, per se, or rental rate that they’re willing to take for their land that they’re wanting to put into the Conservation Reserve Program,” says Trimm.
Each offer will be evaluated, the rental rate value per acre will e assessed and each offer will then be given a score. Trimm says, “We’ll have a cut-off score that we actually look at and the ones that actually meet that score, or above that score, are the ones that we would accept.”
The Ag Secretary makes the final decisions on which landowners are accepted into the CRP program. Signup begins Monday, March 20th and ends June 14th.
On a 15-to-5 vote, the Senate Agriculture Committee has approved a farm bill. “The bill includes major reform in food and agricultural policy by ending direct payments and transitioning to responsible risk management tools that support farmers only when they have been impacted by disaster, saving taxpayers billions of dollars. Overall, the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013 will yield a total of over $23 billion dollars in spending cuts by eliminating unnecessary subsidies, consolidating programs to end duplication, and combating misuse and fraud in food assistance programs.” The bill now goes to the full Senate.
A short summary of the bill follows: a more extensive summary is available here:
The Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013
Sign up has begun for a new project to monitor water quality on agricultural fields in targeted areas throughout the state. Indiana’s Natural Resources Conservation Service acting state conservationist Roger Kult made the announcement on Friday. Kult says NRCS is seeking producers to monitor the water quality benefits of a variety of conservation practices, such as no-till, cover crops, and nutrient management on their land.
The results will be used to help farmers adapt their management to increase water quality benefits that work with agriculture production goals.