Environment & Weather
"We don't know what normal is anymore": Confronting Extreme Weather on U.S. Farms PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Jackie Wei   
Friday, 02 May 2014 13:52

Matt Russell has seen strange weather before.  As a fifth-generation Iowa farmer, he’s used to being at the whims of the skies.  But ominous changes are underway at his Coyote Run Farm, and lately, he’s been trying to cope with “the wrong weather at the wrong time.”

Like Matt, I grew up as the fifth generation on my family’s farm.  In fact, my 83-year-old grandfather, Art, is out planting corn with my dad this week. In Art’s eight decades in the field, he’s seen his share of tough times.  When he was just a little boy, he saw his family’s crops wither up, die, and blow away into the Dust Bowl.  Like many American families, the Great Depression tested our family’s commitment to farming.

But we persevered, and out of the devastation of the Dust Bowl, a new era of hope and progress for American farmers was born.  Under the leadership of the US Department of Agriculture, farmers began viewing soil conservation as a key risk management tool.  On our farm and many others, we learned that protecting the soil was paramount to surviving future dry years.  And although dry times like the 1950s and 1980s were challenging, the conservation lessons learned from the Dust Bowl era lessened their impact on my family’s operations.

Now, we are at another critical moment for agriculture.  Climate change is bringing more frequent and severe weather challenges, unlike any that farmers have seen before, and already farmers are feeling the effects.  Countless scientists agree that climate change will affect every part of our food system—from crop yields to food processing and distribution.  More dry days and hot nights will stress already limited water resources.  Ironically, when it does rain, it will pour, exacerbating soil erosion.  Farmers will need to confront new challenges from weeds, diseases and pests. But farmers don’t need a scientist to tell them times are tough.  They can just look out their windows.  Listen to what Arlyn Schipper, a Conrad, Iowa farmer, has to say:

So how will we confront the climate challenge facing American farmers?  Will we ignore the ominous reality of climate change?  Or will we take steps to improve farms’ resiliency to extreme weather and prevent the worst impacts of climate change?

We know what needs to be done. We learned after the Dust Bowl that farmers have one of the best “insurance policies” right beneath their boots—their very own soil.  Healthy soil is more resilient to extreme weather events like droughts and floods because it can filter and hold more water.   The new “normal” of climate change calls for us to redouble our efforts to build healthy soil.  NRDC’s “Soil Matters” report describes how we can build farms that are more resilient to climate change by encouraging low risk, water-smart practices that regenerate soil.  Under NRDC’s proposal, farmers who adopt proven techniques, like cover cropping, to reduce their risk of crop loss would receive a discount on their crop insurance policies.  This could be done under existing law, and could have widespread benefits for farmers, taxpayers, and the environment.

But the longer we wait, the harder the job will be. Scientists agree that the increased concentration of heat-trapping carbon pollution in our atmosphere is the key reason that our climate is changing, and power plants are responsible for nearly half of that pollution.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed the first carbon pollution limits for future power plants, and is on track to propose limits for existing power plants by early June.  These new protections will help reduce the carbon pollution that is threatening American agriculture and our food security.

After the Dust Bowl, American farmers didn’t throw up their hands in despair.  They got to work, planting windbreaks, building terraces and making conservation a way of life.  Now it’s our turn.  Climate change is a tough challenge, but we know what we need to do.  We need to regenerate our landscapes to build resilient farms, and we need protections from the power plant carbon pollution that’s threating our food supply.  It’s time to act.  The next five generations of farmers depend on it.

 
Living Lands & Waters Event Rescheduled PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Natalie Linville-Mass   
Wednesday, 30 April 2014 09:04

Due to weather conditions, Living Lands & Waters has officially rescheduled their upcoming acorn planting event to Wednesday May 7th from 9:00am – 12:00pm.

Parking is available at the Davenport Library; 6000 Eastern Avenue, Davenport IA.  Please contact us with any questions.

Thank You, Natalie Linville-Mass,309-948-1436

 
Convoy of Hope Responds to Tornadoes in Midwest PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Molly Erickson   
Tuesday, 29 April 2014 12:43

Assessment Teams Headed to Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – April 28, 2014 - International humanitarian relief organization, Convoy of Hope, has assessment teams en route to affected areas throughout the Midwest where tornadoes ravaged communities yesterday.

“Our prayers are with the families whose lives have been impacted by these storms,” says Hal Donaldson, president and co-founder of Convoy of Hope. “Our teams will provide crucial information that will help us as we make plans in the coming days and monitor additional severe weather forecasted in these areas throughout the week.”

Online donation:

Those wishing to make a contribution to Convoy of Hope can make a secure online contribution by visiting: www.convoyofhope.org.

Text to Give donation:

To place a $10 donation on your cellular bill, text the word CONVOY to 50555. Standard text and data rates apply.

About Convoy of Hope

Convoy of Hope, a faith ­based organization founded in 1994, has a driving passion to feed the world. With a long history as an early responder in times of natural disasters, Convoy of Hope has been a Four Star Charity as recognized by Charity Navigator for 11 consecutive years. In the last 20 years, Convoy of Hope has served more than 65 million people. For more information please visit http://www.convoyofhope.org.

 
USDA Awards Research Grants to Address the Impact of Climate Change on U.S. Agriculture Production PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by USDA Office of Communications   
Tuesday, 22 April 2014 13:52

Des Moines, Iowa, April 22, 2014 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded $6 million to 10 universities to study the effects of climate on agriculture production and develop strategies to provide farmers and ranchers with the solutions they need to supply the nation with quality food. Vilsack made the announcement during remarks at "The Frontier of Climate Change: State and Local Action in the Heartland" conference held at Drake University.

"With longer growing seasons and an increased number of extreme weather events, climate-related changes are increasingly posing new challenges and risks for America's producers," said Vilsack. "Every day, farmers and ranchers see the impact that changes in climate patterns have on their operations, and they are contending with drought, floods or extreme temperatures. The discoveries these grants will lead to will be invaluable for American farmers whose livelihoods directly depend on the nation's land and water resources."

NIFA made the awards through its Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) funding opportunity in the Climate Variability and Change challenge area. NIFA's climate work is focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing carbon sequestration in agricultural and forest production systems and preparing the nation's agriculture and forests to adapt to changing climates.

The fiscal year 2013 awards announced today include:

  • University of Colorado, Boulder, Colo., $900,000 - This study will provide an integrated social and biophysical assessment of vulnerability and adaptation to climate change and variability in the Blue Mountains ecoregion of Oregon.
  • Florida International University, Miami, Fla., $250,000 – This project will study the mechanism of Ochratoxin-A toxicity in wine-musts (freshly pressed grape juice for wine making) which is predicted to intensify in winemaking regions because of the increased prevalence of the toxin producing fungi in warmer climates, and create an inexpensive and simple method of detoxification.
  • Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, $550,000 - The goal of this research is to examine factors that either facilitate or hinder climate adaptation, while assessing the role of human-made infrastructure and policies that protect natural resources, grassland and wetlands. .
  • Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich., $975,000 – This project will seek to define the effects of hot and cold temperatures on turkey growth and development and develop management practices to mitigate these effects.
  • University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minn., $25,000 – This is a conference grant to support the National Extension Climate Science Initiative Conference, which will empower Extension professionals and collaborators with the latest in climate science research and delivery methods.
  • Montana State University, Bozeman, Mont., $800,000 – This project will determine what effects a climate-induced rise in water temperature will have on rainbow trout gut microbial communities and fish metabolism.
  • Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., $600,000 – This project will evaluate the resiliency of rice production with increasing climate uncertainty by developing models integrating historical rice yield data at the county and farm level, weather variables, and genotypic parameters.
  • Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Okla., $1,000,000 - The project will provide some of the first climate adaptation tools for beef production systems in the form of water management resources and lead to the development of beef cattle that are adaptable to climate change induced drought.
  • Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pa., $750,000 – This project aims to strengthen farm operators' capacity to manage cropping system's adaptation to climate change by providing real time online decision making tools.
  • West Virginia University, Morgantown, W.V., $150,000 – This project will study the effect of climate change on interactions among solitary pollinator bees, bee parasites and crops.

AFRI is NIFA's flagship competitive grant program established under the 2008 Farm Bill and supports work in six priority areas: 1) plant health and production and plant products; 2) animal health and production and animal products; 3) food safety, nutrition and health; 4) renewable energy, natural resources and environment; 5) agriculture systems and technology; and 6) agriculture economics and rural communities.

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, NIFA focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people's daily lives and the nation's future. More information is available at: www.nifa.usda.gov.

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USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write to USDA, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Stop 9410, Washington, DC 20250-9410, or call toll-free at (866) 632-9992 (English) or (800) 877-8339 (TDD) or (866) 377-8642 (English Federal-relay) or (800) 845-6136 (Spanish Federal-relay).


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USDA Rural Development Celebrates Earth Day by Supporting Water Quality Projects in 40 States and Puerto Rico PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by USDA Office of Communications   
Tuesday, 22 April 2014 12:01
2014 Farm Bill Enables Record USDA Investments in Rural Water Systems

WASHINGTON, April 22, 2014 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today celebrated Earth Day by announcing record support for 116 projects that will improve water and wastewater services for rural Americans and benefit the environment.

"Having reliable, clean and safe water is essential for any community to thrive and grow," Vilsack said. "I am proud that USDA helps build rural communities from the ground up by supporting water infrastructure projects like these. I am especially proud that we can help communities that are struggling economically and those that have urgent health and safety concerns due to their failing water systems."

Today's announcement is USDA's largest Earth Day investment in rural water and wastewater systems. Nearly $387 million is being awarded to 116 recipients in 40 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The Department is providing $150 million in grants through the 2014 Farm Bill plus $237 million in loans and grants from USDA's Water and Environmental Program.

Also noteworthy this year are USDA's accomplishments to help communities with the greatest needs. Sixteen of the Earth Day projects are in areas of persistent poverty. Twenty-nine are in communities served by USDA's "StrikeForce Initiative for Rural Growth and Opportunity." StrikeForce is a USDA initiative to reduce poverty by increasing investments in rural communities through intensive outreach and stronger partnerships with community leaders, businesses, foundations and other groups that are working to combat poverty.

Climate change in particular is putting more stress on municipal water systems. Many areas around the country have seen changes in rainfall, resulting in more floods, droughts, declines in snowpack, intense rain, as well as more frequent and severe heat waves. All of these are placing fiscal strains on communities – causing them to make more frequent (and often more expensive) repairs and upgrades.

Among projects funded this year, the city of McCrory, Ark., is receiving $2.1 million to build a water treatment facility and two water supply wells, and refurbish its two water storage tanks. The improvements will reduce high manganese and iron levels in the water supply to provide safe drinking water to McCrory's nearly 800 residents. McCrory is in Woodruff County, a persistent poverty area that is part of USDA's "StrikeForce initiative for Rural Growth and Opportunity."

Paintsville, Ky., is receiving a $4.9 million loan and $2.1 million grant to rehabilitate its sanitary and stormwater sewer systems. This is one of 10 projects funded by USDA that will improve water infrastructure in rural areas of Kentucky. The Paintsville project will serve nearly 2,300 residents and businesses and protect the ecosystems of Paint Creek and nearby lakes.

The city of San Joaquin, Calif., is receiving a $1 million loan/grant combination to replace a contaminated well. The city had to shut down one of its three wells due to high levels of bacteria. Once completed, this project will ensure San Joaquin residents have safe, clean drinking water.

In Ohio, the Erie County Commissioners will use $3 million in loans and nearly $3 million in grants to replace individual on-site waste treatment systems that discharge into and pollute the Sandusky Bay and surrounding areas. The commissioners also will build a wastewater collection system for the Village of Bay View and the neighboring Bay Bridge area. The Bay View peninsula is a vital ecological and economic area in the Western Basin of Lake Erie.

Earth Day is observed annually on April 22 to raise awareness about the role each person can play to protect vital natural resources and safeguard the environment. Since the first Earth Day celebration in 1970, the event has expanded to include citizens and governments in more than 195 countries.

President Obama's plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President's leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America's economy, small towns and rural communities. USDA's investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values. President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack are committed to a smarter use of federal resources to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.

USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, has a portfolio of programs designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.

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USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).


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