Landowner Reduces Erosion and Enhances Wildlife Habitat in Mississippi Delta

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Mississippi landowner, Leo Pittman Edwards, has always made conserving and improving his land a priority. With 500 acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), he has seen an improvement in erosion control and wildlife habitat on his land in the Mississippi Delta.

Leo Pittman Edwards, a landowner near Cleveland in Bolivar County, Mississippi, has worked to improve the land on his farm for many years. Edwards’ land is located in the Mississippi Delta near a bogue, or a stream, making the land highly susceptible to erosion.

Edwards, a retired insurance agent, worked with the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) in the early 1990s to help preserve and restore wetland areas. In 1998, Edwards returned to the Bolivar County FSA office looking for a conservation program to help control erosion and prevent his land from washing away. Continue reading

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Minnesota Farmer Commits a Century of Life to Agriculture

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FSA Administrator Val Dolcini celebrates Art Hulberg’s 100th Birthday and his 30 year commitment to the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). (Photo courtesy of Deb Mercier, News Editor, Pope County Tribune)

Dedicates Last Three Decades Solely to Conservation

By Brenda Carlson, Public Affairs Specialist, USDA Farm Service Agency

Born in 1915, Minnesota farmer and conservationist Arthur “Art” Hulberg celebrated his 100th birthday this year, and if that milestone weren’t significant enough, 2015 also marks the 30th anniversary of USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)–a program in which Hulberg has participated since its inception.  To commemorate the centenarian’s lifelong commitment to agriculture and conservations as well as USDA’s flagship conservation program, FSA Administrator Val Dolcini traveled to Benson, Minnesota, to personally offer birthday wishes and hand deliver a message of gratitude from Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. The ceremony capped an open house in honor of Hulberg and his dedicated participation in CRP. Continue reading

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Vermont Dairy Family Focuses on Land Stewardship and Conservation

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As part of the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Conservation Reserve Program, FSA Administrator Val Dolcini recently visited the Hull’s dairy operation in Vermont to see conservation programs in action. The Hulls used a USDA conservation program to improve their operation and protect the Lake Champlain water basin.

Warren and Marie Hull, along with their sons Matt and Eric, know what it takes to produce high-quality milk while caring for the land on their Franklin County, Vermont, dairy farm. The Hulls have used many conservation practices and improvements on the farm over the years to protect the land and improve the water quality in the Lake Champlain water basin.

The Hull’s farm has been with the family for nearly 100 years. They currently milk 90 cows with another 80 dry cows or calves on the farm. Seven years ago, the Hulls enrolled more than 15 acres of pasture in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program in partnership with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets. Continue reading

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Kentucky Farmer Seizes Opportunity to Put Down Roots of His Own

DANIEL-1By:  Kentucky Farm Service Agency

For the first 25 years of Daniel Hayden’s life, he has dedicated his time working on other people’s farms. He fed cows, cut hay, hauled tobacco and for the past five years, managed his parents’ Kentucky farm operation. But he never had his own farm.

That all changed last year. Continue reading

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Texas Rancher Creates Haven for Lesser Prairie Chickens and Duck Nesting; a True Grassroots Conservationist

James Blackwell is a third-generation landowner and nature lover in Littlefield, Texas, which is northwest of Lubbock in the southern reaches of the panhandle, a one-time Dust Bowl region. He has about 2,500 acres straddling Lamb and Hockley Counties. When the USDA introduced its Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) 30 years ago, Blackwell jumped at the chance to do his part. Since the beginning, he has gone the extra mile to protect and nurture local wildlife and flora.

Blackwell initially set aside 180 acres for conservation efforts in 1986, the beginning of CRP. He established an area of suitable grasses in which the Lesser Prairie Chicken could thrive. Since then he has gone much further to help the conservation effort and local wildlife. The move has in turn helped his land. Continue reading

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A Few Pennsylvania Acres in Conservation Makes a Big Splash in the Chesapeake Bay

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The Rohrer family helped to reduce nutrient and sediment loading of the Upper and Lower Susquehanna and Potomac River Basins by establishing riparian buffers and a contour grass strip with the help of the USDA Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP).

Roger and Kandy Rohrer and their children know that even small changes on their farm help clean up important natural resources not far away. The family farms in Pennsylvania’s rural Lancaster County. The Rohrers have noticed tremendous environmental benefits on their farm even with just a handful of acres enrolled in a popular U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) conservation program.

Since 2000, Roger and Kandy have enrolled three tracts in the USDA Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). The program, which establishes partnerships and agreements with local conservation organizations, targets high-priority conservation issues identified at the local, state or regional level. Continue reading

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FSA Helps Beekeeper Share Passion for Honeybees

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Michigan Beekeeper, Steve Reiger, lost 38 percent of his colonies in 2014 due to the unusually cold winter and Colony Collapse Disorder. Reiger used a Farm Service Agency disaster assistance program to replace the colonies he lost.

By Paula Blough, Michigan FSA Program Technician

Steve Reiger has been captivated by bees since he was a young boy. So it is no surprise that he now has more than 100 colonies, received his Master beekeeper certification and is a mentor to other beekeepers.

Reiger, a beekeeper in Muir, Mich., gained his love of bees from his grandfather’s neighbor who kept honeybees on his property. “He lifted off the top [of the hive], and I looked, and here’s 20 to 30 thousand bees on the top,” said Reiger. “They didn’t buzz out after me or anything, and I thought that was quite fascinating.” Continue reading

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Colorado Ranchers Thankful for USDA’s Emergency Haying and Grazing Program

Sustains Herds During Severe and Persistent Drought

Livestock producers face tough business decisions on a daily basis. However, 2012 left many of the country’s livestock producers facing the ultimate decision – liquidate or figure out a way to survive.

As ranchers across the state planned to graze their livestock through the spring and summer, they found their pastures scorched by the hot sun. And their ponds were dry.

To help Colorado ranchers cope with the epic drought, ranchers were allowed to hay or graze certain contract acres enrolled in USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The emergency haying and grazing provisions under the CRP program provided relief to livestock producers in areas affected by the severe drought.

One Colorado cattle rancher who took advantage of the emergency grazing provisions was Jeremiah Liebl of JLD General Partnership.

Colorado rancher Jeremiah Liebl

Colorado rancher Jeremiah Liebl

The JLD operation typically grazes an average of 160 mother cows on approximately 4,000 acres of grass while supplementing with feed through the winter as needed.  2011 was a dry year, causing below normal, fragile pasture regrowth in 2012. That next year was exceptionally dry as well. By June 2012, the ranchers had utilized most of their pasture stocks, which in a typical year would last until December.

“When the emergency grazing program was announced, we were ready to take advantage of the opportunity to give our pastures a much needed rest,” Liebl said.

Liebl moved his entire herd onto 868 acres of CRP land that adjoined some of their grazing pasture. The use of the CRP emergency grazing, along with supplementation of alfalfa and protein, allowed JLD to keep its herd on grass until mid-October 2012. This saved the operation from taking more drastic measures that could affect the ranchers’ bottom line.

“The emergency grazing program has helped us maintain the majority of our herd through severely dry conditions,” Liebl said. “Grazing the CRP land in 2012 allowed us to maintain our herd in good condition and let our pastures regrow.”

Colorado rancher Rex Barlow

Colorado rancher Rex Barlow

Like Liebl, Colorado rancher Rex Barlow’s native grass pastures became stressed after the dry conditions of 2011. He had reduced the number of cattle grazing, but his pastures needed time to recover. Barlow also took advantage of the emergency grazing provisions in 2012 and moved part of his herd to CRP acreage for 30 days to minimize the overall impact on his pastures for the remainder of the year.

“The benefit to us was that we were able to hold on to our base cow herd and have more grass going into the growing season, and hopefully, stronger native grasses this season,” Barlow said.

Although ranchers Liebl and Barlow both took advantage of the emergency grazing provisions, there are also provisions for emergency haying of CRP.  The emergency haying and grazing provisions authorize producers to use the CRP acreage for grazing their own livestock or producing their own hay. It also makes it possible to grant another livestock producer use of the CRP acreage for the purpose of haying or grazing.

CRP, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2015, is among the largest private lands programs for conservation used extensively throughout the United States to reduce soil erosion, improve water and air quality and provide wildlife habitat.

It is a voluntary program that allows eligible landowners to receive annual rental payments and cost-share assistance to establish long-term, resource-conserving covers on eligible farmland throughout the duration of their 10-to-15-year contracts.

Since being established on December 23, 1985, CRP has helped prevent more than 8 billion tons of soil from eroding and protected more than 170,000 stream miles with riparian and grass buffers, more than 100,000 acres of bottomland hardwood trees, nearly 300,000 acres of flood-plain wetlands, and 250,000 acres each for duck nesting habitat and upland bird habitat.

2015 marks the 30th Anniversary of CRP. For an interactive tour of CRP success stories from across the U.S., please visit the FSA CRP 30th Anniversary website at http://www.fsa.usda.gov/CRPis30.

To find your local USDA Service Center, please visit http://offices.usda.gov.

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Virginia Producer uses USDA Conservation Program to Protect Livestock

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Virginia producer, Max Whitlock, sees the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) as a risk management tool in addition to a conservation program. While the program benefits include cleaner water in the streams and increased wildlife habitat, it also means keeping his cattle safe and away from the dangerous edges of the marshy stream bank.

Farming is a risky business and like most, Virginia producer Melvin “Max” Whitlock has experienced his fair share of livestock losses. Over the course of the last several years, Whitlock had the misfortune of losing two calves to the marshy stream edges on his property, and knew he had do something to protect his investment.

Whitlock, a retired firefighter, runs a 40-head cow-calf operation near Blackstone in Nottoway County that he purchased almost 17 years ago. The 107-acre farm consists of ground for hay, pasture, wooded areas and streams. Continue reading

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USDA Helps Fifth-Generation Tree Farm Recover from Hurricane Katrina

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The Emergency Forestry Conservation Reserve Program (EFCRP) helped Louisiana tree farm operator, Marilyn Sheridan, reforest 200 acres of lost timber that was flattened by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Pictured from left to right: Theron Graves, County Executive Director for Washington and St. Tammany Parishes, Sheridan and Bret Gardner, Sheridan’s son.

On Aug. 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the Gulf Coast flattening Marilyn Sheridan’s fifth-generation virgin timber farm near Bogalusa in Washington Parish, Louisiana. The aftermath of this tropical storm left residents like Sheridan in desperate need of assistance.

“I watched as our life was being destroyed by this hurricane,” said Sheridan. “Virgin Pine trees were ripped straight out of the ground – roots and all. There was no electricity after the storm for weeks; we couldn’t even get out of the driveway to leave because it was so full of trees.” Continue reading

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