CSP sign-up in Wisconsin

Wisconsin farmers who were the first to enroll in the USDA Conservation Stewardship Program back in 2010 may now renew those contracts. The original agreements were for 5 years, producers may extend the contracts through 2019. Renewal starts July 11th and runs through September 12th.

New enrollments will also be accepted, details are available from the USDA Farm Service Agency office.

The program provides payment opportunities for farmers who are already established conservation stewards, helping them improve water quality, soil health and wildlife habitat.

Since CSP began in 2010, more than 2,200 farmers and 830,000 acres in Wisconsin have enrolled in the program.

Another $8 million for bee habitat

The USDA is committing $8 million in Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) incentives to establish honey bee habitat in Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. More than half of the commercially-managed honey bees are in these five states during the summer.

Disease, parasites, loss of habitat and other factors have contributed to a significant decline in the honey bee population. The number of managed honey bee colonies has fallen from over 6 million in 1947 to 2.5 million today.

The incentives will be used to manage or replace existing cover vegetation with high nutrition seed mixes with distinct blooming cycles to benefit the bees. The new seed mixes were developed by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. USDA says more than $15 billion worth of agricultural production including fruits and vegetables depend upon the honey bees.

Earlier this year the ag department committed $3 million to Midwest states to support bee populations through the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

EAB found in Door County, Wisconsin

EABAdd Door County to the list of counties in the state with Emerald Ash Borer. The tree-killing insect was found south of Fish Creek in the Town of Gibraltar last week and confirmed by USDA on Tuesday. The discovery was really no big surprise given the amount of tourism in Wisconsin’s “thumb”.

As a result, Door County will be quarantined, prohibiting ash wood products and hardwood firewood from being moved out of the county to areas that are not infested.

There are now 22 counties under quarantine in Wisconsin: Brown, Crawford, Dane, Dodge, Door, Douglas, Fond du Lac, Jefferson, Kenosha, La Crosse, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Rock, Sauk, Sheboygan, Trempealeau, Vernon, Walworth, Washington, Waukesha and Winnebago.

EAB adults lay eggs on the bark of ash trees in mid- to late summer. When the eggs hatch a week or two later, the larvae burrow under the bark for the winter and eat the wood, forming the characteristic S-shaped tunnels and destroying the tree’s ability to take up nutrients and water. In summer, the adults emerge through D-shaped holes in the bark.

RCPP informational meetings

Informational meetings to explain the new Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) are being held in Indiana.

Hosted by the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA), the meetings will provide landowners with information about the program and the funding available.

Meetings will be held –

June 11, Tippecanoe Co. Public Library, 10:30-4

June 16, Manchester University Science Center, 9-3

June 17, Sugar Ridge Fish and Wildlife, 9-3

For more information about the Regional Conservation Partnership Program or the informational meetings contact your local NRCS offices.

Loss of milkweed means loss of Monarchs

A new study says the loss of habitat in the United States, not wintering grounds in Mexico is the reason for the significant decline in Monarch butterfly population. The study from a research team at the University of Guelph in Ontario says the loss of milkweed especially in the cornbelt has been the culprit. Monarchs lay their eggs only on milkweed and when the caterpillars hatch they feed only on milkweed. Most of the milkweed is in agricultural areas where it is susceptible to herbicides. Professor Ryan Norris says from 1995 to 2013 there was a 21 percent reduction in milkweed in the Midwest.

Changes in milkweed abundance can affect everything from larval competition for food to egg-laying in adults. Lead author of the study, Tyler Flockhart says, “Left unchecked, milkweed loss will cause the monarch population to decline by at least another 14 per cent.” The researchers say, “Planting milkweed in the Central and Southern U.S. would provide the largest immediate benefit.” The study is published in the latest Journal of Animal Ecology

Up to now, the loss of winter habitat in Mexico was thought to be the main reason for the decline. Monarchs from the central and eastern United States spend winters in close concentration in the fir trees of the trans volcanic mountains in central Mexico. Because they are so concentrated, thousands in each tree, they are counted by the area covered. In a report last January, The World Wildlife Fund and Mexico’s Environmental Department cites as an example an area west of Mexico City which covered 1.65 acres this year compared to 2.92 acres last year and a peak of 44.5 acres in 1996.

AUDIO: Flockhart talks about the study 6:51 mp3

Read more from the University of Guelph here:

Mixed opinions on Obama’s carbon plan

Reaction rolling-in to President Obama’s proposal announced Monday to reduce the carbon emissions from the nation’s fossil-fuel-fired power plants by 25 percent by the year 2020 and 30 percent by 2030.

According to the Energy Information Administration, 19 states get more than half of their electricity from coal-fired power plants. Kentucky and West Virginia get more than 90 percent of their power from coal.

The required reductions will vary by state depending upon how much carbon each state currently emits and how much they have reduced emissions already. Despite being heavily dependent on coal to generate electricity, states like West Virginia and Kentucky would have to reduce emissions by about 19 percent while New York would be required to cut 44 percent.

Under the Obama plan, states will submit their plan for reduction to the EPA by 2017: 2018 if they join with other states in creating a plan.

Critics charge the plan would be devastating to American jobs and households by driving up the cost of electricity. American Farm Bureau president Bob Stallman says not only would farmers face higher prices for electricity but any energy-related input such as fertilizer. He says rural electric co-ops would be especially hard-hit because they rely heavily upon coal generation.

National Farmers Union president Roger Johnson commended the Administration for its leadership on climate change mitigation. He says it has already begun to affect agriculture as seen in the volatile weather the past few years and it is clear that volatility will only continue. He says agriculture stands ready to be an important part of the solution with carbon sequestration and renewable fuels.

Partnership concept not new to SWCD’s

Soil and Water Conservation Districts have been partnering to deliver conservation programs since the 1930s. Earl Garber, President of the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) tells Brownfield that rich history will allow SWCD’s to be a catalyst in the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) announced by Secretary Vilsack.

Audio: Earl Garber, President, NACD (5:20 mp3)

A targeted approach to conservation programs

A new program that streamlines conservation programs in the 2014 Farm Bill has been launched.

The new Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) targets eight critical conservation areas including the Great Lakes, the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the Columbia, Colorado and Mississippi river basins, the Longleaf Pine Range, prairie grasslands and the California Bay Delta.

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack says the areas are designed to encourage broad and comprehensive partnerships.

“The size of the project is not key, what is key are results, there is going to be accountability with this program,” said Secretary Vilsack. “We’re going to be looking for innovative approaches, approaches that have never been tried before, partnerships that have never been developed before.”

Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee says the new RCPP provides farmers not only with some very important tools, it also shifts the emphasis of the Farm Bill.

“This is the first Farm Bill where we are supporting agriculture and supporting our natural resources through the Conservation Title with more dollars than the Commodity Title,” said Chairwoman Stabenow.

Audio: Sec. Vilsack’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program teleconference (17:50 mp3)

Earl Garber, President of the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD says the new program is something NACD supported throughout the Farm Bill process.

“We really feel like this was quite an accomplishment to come up this type of a program,” Garber said. “To allow more partners to come into the picture and also leverage these funds from private industry, from organizations, ag organizations, then we’ve got the money we really need.”

Audio: Earl Garber, President, NACD (5:20 mp3)

The overall federal commitment in the program over the next five years is $1.2 billion.

WRRDA goes to the President

On a 91-7 vote, the U.S. Senate passed the conference report on the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) on Thursday. The House passed the measure 412 to 4 earlier this week so it now goes to the President for his signature.

The bill advances the modernization of America’s waterways and ports and streamlines the project delivery process for those projects.

It sets hard deadlines on the time and costs of studies; consolidates or eliminates duplicative or unnecessary studies and streamlines environmental reviews and improves coordination.

The plan deauthorizes $18 billion of old, inactive projects which were authorized prior to 2007, sunsets new authorizations to prevent future backlogs and reduces the number of properties no longer needed for projects. It establishes a new, transparent process for future bills to review and prioritize projects with strong Congressional oversight. There are no earmarks in the bill.

WRRDA expands the opportunity for non-government interests to contribute funds to expedite studies, evaluations, permits and projects. The bill also promises to improve the Army Corps of Engineers’ response to weather events.

Two Oregon counties pass GM crop bans

Voters in two counties along the California border in southwest Oregon have passed measures banning the cultivation of genetically modified crops in their counties. The ballot initiative in Jackson County passed 66 to 34 percent while neighboring Josephine County’s initiative passed 58 to 42 percent.

The Josephine County measure is sure to face a legal challenge as it was initiated after Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber signed a bill last fall prohibiting counties from regulating GMO crops. The Jackson County measure was already in the works so it is exempt from the state law.

There are counties in Washington, California and Hawaii which have GMO crop bans in place.