December 2015 Marks 30th Anniversary for the Nation's Most Successful Voluntary Conservation Program

WASHINGTON, Dec. 1, 2015 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today reminded farmers and ranchers that the next general enrollment period for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) begins today, Dec. 1, 2015, and ends on Feb. 26, 2016. December 2015 also marks the 30th anniversary of CRP, a federally funded program that assists agricultural producers with the cost of restoring, enhancing and protecting certain grasses, shrubs and trees to improve water quality, prevent soil erosion and reduce loss of wildlife habitat.

As of September 2015, 24.2 million acres were enrolled in CRP. CRP also is protecting more than 170,000 stream miles with riparian forest and grass buffers, enough to go around the world 7 times. For an interactive tour of CRP success stories from across the U.S., visit, or follow on Twitter at #CRPis30.

"Over the past 30 years, farmers, ranchers, conservationists, hunters, fishermen and other outdoor enthusiasts have made CRP one of the most successful conservation programs in the history of the country," said Vilsack. "Today, CRP continues to make major environmental improvements to water and air quality. This is another longstanding example of how agricultural production can work hand in hand with efforts to improve the environment and increase wildlife habitat."

Participants in CRP establish long-term, resource-conserving plant species, such as approved grasses or trees (known as "covers") to control soil erosion, improve water quality and develop wildlife habitat on marginally productive agricultural lands. In return, FSA provides participants with rental payments and cost-share assistance. At times when commodity prices are low, enrolling sensitive lands in CRP can be especially attractive to farmers and ranchers, as it softens the economic hardship for landowners at the same time that it provides ecological benefits. Contract duration is between 10 and 15 years. The long-term goal of the program is to re-establish native plant species on marginal agricultural lands for the primary purpose of preventing soil erosion and improving water quality and related benefits of reducing loss of wildlife habitat.

Contracts on 1.64 million acres of CRP are set to expire on Sept. 30, 2016. Producers with expiring contracts or producers with environmentally sensitive land are encouraged to evaluate their options under CRP.

Since it was established on Dec. 23, 1985, CRP has:

  • Prevented more than 9 billion tons of soil from eroding, enough soil to fill 600 million dump trucks;
  • Reduced nitrogen and phosphorous runoff relative to annually tilled cropland by 95 and 85 percent respectively;
  • Sequestered an annual average of 49 million tons of greenhouse gases, equal to taking 9 million cars off the road.

Since 1996, CRP has created nearly 2.7 million acres of restored wetlands.

For more information FSA conservation programs, visit a local FSA office or To find your local FSA office, visit

The Conservation Reserve Program was re-authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, which builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing, and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit


Weekly Video Address
Thursday, November 19, 2015

Video can be found here.

Every Child Deserves the Love of a Forever Family

On any given day, more than 400,000 children are living in foster care in the United States.  About one quarter of them are eligible for adoption, and anxiously wait for an adoptive family.

Many of these children are victims of trauma, abuse or neglect.  And every year, thousands of these kids age out of the system without ever knowing the stability, security and love of a forever family.

November is National Adoption month.  As co-chairman of the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth, I'm working to bring people together at the policymaking table to make a difference for foster youth and promote the importance of adoption.

This week, I held a hearing in the Judiciary Committee to celebrate the positive impact that adoption brings.  We also examined policies related to international adoptions.  A number of families shared their experiences and challenges with international adoption, including one family from Spencer, Iowa.

We highlighted the struggles that more than 400 families are currently facing in bringing home children from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The adoptions have been finalized by the home country as well as the United States, yet, despite the fact that the parents must provide financially and emotionally for their children who are physically in the Congo, they cannot bring them home.

After the hearing, several of my colleagues and I met with the Congolese ambassador to the United States to discuss this issue.  We stressed the importance of finding a solution for these families, all of whom simply need immigration travel documents from the Congolese government to bring home the children.

The family is the foundation of American society.  Strong families make America strong.  This season of Thanksgiving gives us an opportunity to count our blessings and give thanks for our own families, and to those who provide permanent, loving homes to children from around the world.

Last week, we saw how strategic investments in conservation and habitat restoration can have a big impact for our nation's ecosystems.

We were pleased to announce that?thanks to collaboration across 11 western states?the greater sage-grouse no longer requires protection under the Endangered Species Act. This exciting news was made possible through close collaboration with federal and state partners, as well as over 1,100 farmers & ranchers who used USDA and other federal programs that provide financial assistance for conservation practices and habitat preservation.

Watch a video explaining why this historic announcement sets the groundwork for a 21st century approach to conservation.

Thanks for tuning in last week, and stay tuned next week as we shift our focus to the promise of rural America, and the #RuralMade economy.

Late Blight: A Ripening Issue for Central Pennsylvania Farmers

Perhaps there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Many farmers in central Pennsylvania would aptly agree to this notion after experiencing above average amounts of rainfall this summer.

Forest Service waives fees in support of the nation's largest volunteer effort on public lands

As the fall season slowly matriculates and the autumn equinox makes its debut, volunteers are encouraged to give back by participating in the annual National Public Lands Day.

Wisconsin Farm Serves as an Example for How Conservation Benefits Agricultural Operations

Some people are born to farm. Others grow to love it. Greg Nettekoven was born into a farm family, and he and his wife, Karon, have grown to love farming.

New Perspectives on the Dynamics of Dry Lands

Vast acreage of dry lands may evoke images of a desolate, scorched desert that is uninhabitable to humans. But the arid and semi-arid dry lands of about half of both the United States' and the world's land surfaces actually are complex ecosystems made up variously of grasses, shrubs, agriculture, and even urban dwellers.

Southern Plains Climate Hub Helps Land Managers Build Resilience to Climate Variability

The U.S. Southern Plains states have always been known for their wild weather. Stories of the volatile climate of this region abound.

Minnesota Farmers Restore Coldwater Stream in Driftless Area

Pine Creek wanders through prairies and rocky bluffs, and forests and pastures, including the land where Ryan Pulley raises beef in southeastern Minnesota. Pine Creek is beautiful - fed by limestone springs and home to freshwater trout.

Forest Service Funds Landmark Climate Change Study

Preparing for the effects of climate change, the U.S. Forest Service has taken the lead in a new report that highlights actions taken by federal agencies to adapt to a changing climate.

Unprecedented Collaboration to Save Sage-Grouse is the Largest Wildlife Conservation Effort in U.S.

Today marks an historic win for conservation and communities in the West and for the United States.

Helping Farmers Adapt to a Changing Climate through Regional Vulnerability Assessments

Just over a year after the establishment of the USDA Climate Hubs, we are keeping our promise of "developing the next generation of climate solutions" through regional vulnerability assessments.

Maryland Dairy Farmers Work to Improve the Health of Estuaries Producing high quality, nutritious milk may be a top priority for Coldsprings Farm, but it is not the farm's only accomplishment.

Even a brief visit to Davenport's Nahant Marsh will show something unusual: a wetland habitat nestled in an area that includes an interstate highway, a railroad, and various agricultural and industrial uses. You'll likely see plants and animals that you won't find anywhere else in the Quad Cities area, just a few minutes' drive from the Rockingham Road exit of Interstate 280 in the southwestern part of the city.

ICYMI, here's what happened last week at USDA:

The heart of USDA's mission is to put in place sound policies that lay a steady groundwork for a better future for our children and our children's children. That means using the resources we have today to invest in creative solutions to tomorrow's challenges.

USDA's management of our national lands and our support for farmers' and ranchers' stewardship of private working lands not only helps to support a robust and thriving rural economy, but also meets our moral obligation to the next generation to leave our land, water, and wildlife better than we found it. Our efforts to strengthen rural economies by providing farmers and ranchers the resources they need to feed their families and our nation can at the same time promote clean air, clean water, and thriving wildlife habitat on both public and private land. No one knows the importance of conservation more than our nation's farmers and ranchers. And we are here to support them.

With record fires currently burning out West, the importance of forest management is front and center in our nation's policy discussion.  Unprecedented resources are being spent to combat fires throughout the U.S., which means the Forest Service's budget for non-fire operations, including forest conservation and management activities that lessen the threat of wildfires, are at risk. The work we do today to create and maintain resilient forests will have lasting impacts on our future generations.

Throughout the month, we'll focus on our partnerships and collaborative efforts that will ensure our national forests and private working lands are conserved, restored, and made more resilient to climate change. Follow along or join the conversation using hashtag #conservation.

Announcement to be made at a press conference Tuesday at the State Historical Building


(DES MOINES) - Iowa Gov. Terry E. Branstad will announce a special project aimed at promoting and preserving Iowa history for future generations at a press conference on Tuesday, August 11, 2015, at 1 p.m. at the State Historical Building.

The following press conference is open to credentialed members of the media:

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

1 p.m. Gov. Branstad announces special project aimed at promoting and preserving Iowa history

State Historical Building - Collection Vault

600 E. Locust Street

Des Moines, IA


Aug. 8 event will include screening of cult comedy film, contests, bowling and live music

TIPTON, Iowa–The Hardacre Theater Preservation Association will host its first-ever Hardacre "Big Lebowski" Festival this Saturday, Aug. 8, from 6:30 p.m. to midnight.

The event will include a screening of "The Big Lebowski," a 1998 cult comedy film from the Oscar-winning Coen brothers ("Fargo," "No Country for Old Men"), contests, live music from the Tipton-based rock band Home Brew Heroes and bowling at Tipton's bowling alley, Cedar Lanes.

The event is sponsored by the HTPA, a nonprofit group raising funds to renovate Tipton's historic Hardacre Theater. Learn more at

What:    Hardacre "Big Lebowski" Festival

Who:    Festival director, fans of the film, Tipton rock band Home Brew Heroes

When:    Saturday, Aug. 8, from 6:30 p.m. to midnight

The festival director is available for interviews Wednesday through Saturday.

Where:    Tipton High School auditorium (second floor)

400 E. 6th Street

Tipton, IA 52772

Cedar Lanes

605 E. 7th St.

Tipton, IA 52772

Contact: Will Valet

Vice President, Hardacre Theater Preservation Association


WASHINGTON, D.C. - Iowa Representative Dave Loebsack and Missouri Representative Sam Graves today introduced a bipartisan bill to address critical healthcare shortages in rural communities.

"Rural hospitals are bedrocks of their communities, providing more than just high quality, local access to health care," Rep. Loebsack said. "Rural hospitals stimulate the local economy, creating jobs in the hospital and the community. Without local health care, lives and communities are lost. Our bill will save rural Iowans as well as the communities where they have built their lives."

"In the past two years, more rural hospitals have closed than in the previous ten years combined," Rep. Graves said. "These closures have left millions of Missourians, particularly the elderly, vulnerable during times of medical emergency. The Save Rural Hospitals Act will stop impending hospital closures and ensure all rural Americans have access to the healthcare they need."

Nearly 300 rural hospitals could be closed in the coming years, leaving 700,000 Americans at risk of losing access to their closest emergency room. This comes as nearly 80 percent of rural counties are facing primary care health professional shortages, and 9 percent of those counties have no physician at all.

The Save Rural Hospitals Act will eliminate the Medicare sequester for rural hospitals, and it provides a permanent extension of the rural ambulance and super-rural ambulance payments. It will also provide an innovation model for rural hospitals that continue to struggle. This model will ensure access to emergency care and allow hospitals the choice to offer outpatient care that meets the health needs of their rural community.

"The National Rural Health Association applauds Representatives Graves and Loebsack on the introduction of this comprehensive legislative response to the rural hospital closures across the nation," said Jodi Schmidt, 2015 president of the nonprofit organization. "We're calling on Congress to pass this comprehensive legislation to save rural hospitals and patients and to provide a pathway to the future for rural health."


WEST BRANCH, IOWA– What is a national park ranger and what do they do? On Saturday, July 18 a park ranger from Herbert Hoover National Historic Site will discuss the various jobs of present and historical national park rangers and other employees: everything from search and rescue to archaeology to educating school children.

The program is free and begins at 9:00 p.m. on the village green at the intersection of Parkside Drive and Main Street in historic downtown West Branch.  Visitors and their families are welcome to bring a lawn chair or blanket to sit on, and toasting sticks and marshmallows.

This year the National Park Service launched its "Find Your Park" campaign which begins a two year celebration commemorating its first 100 years of preservation and service to the public. "Find Your Park" is aimed at getting people out to experience all their national parks have to offer and to share their favorite stories about National Parks. Visit to learn more.

Herbert Hoover National Historic Site and the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum are in West Branch, Iowa at exit 254 off I-80. Both are open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central Time. For more information go online at or call (319) 643-2541.

Herbert Hoover National Historic Site

110 Parkside Drive

PO Box 607

West Branch, Iowa 52358

319 643-2541 phone

319 643-7864 fax

Twitter: @HooverNPS

Facebook: HerbertHooverNHS

Secretary Hails Program's 30th Anniversary, Announces General Signup Period

MILWAUKEE, May 29, 2015 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that an additional 800,000 acres of highly environmentally sensitive land may be enrolled in Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) under certain wetland and wildlife initiatives that provide multiple benefits on the same land.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will accept new offers to participate in CRP under a general signup to be held Dec. 1, 2015, through Feb. 26, 2016. Eligible existing program participants with contracts expiring Sept. 30, 2015, will be granted an option for one-year extensions. Farmers and ranchers interested in removing sensitive land from agricultural production and planting grasses or trees to reduce soil erosion, improve water quality and restore wildlife habitat are encouraged to enroll. Secretary Vilsack made the announcement during a speech delivered at the Ducks Unlimited National Convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

"For 30 years, the Conservation Reserve Program has supported farmers and ranchers as they continue to be good stewards of land and water. This initiative has helped farmers and ranchers prevent more than 8 billion tons of soil from eroding, reduce nitrogen and phosphorous runoff relative to cropland by 95 and 85 percent respectively, and even sequester 43 million tons of greenhouse gases annually, equal to taking 8 million cars off the road," said Vilsack. "This has been one of most successful conservation programs in the history of the country, and today's announcement keeps that momentum moving forward."

The voluntary Conservation Reserve Program allows USDA to contract with agricultural producers so that environmentally sensitive land is conserved. Participants establish long-term, resource-conserving plant species to control soil erosion, improve water quality and develop wildlife habitat. In return, USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) provides participants with rental payments and cost-share assistance. Contract duration is between 10 and 15 years.

"CRP protects water quality and restores significant habitat for ducks, pheasants, turkey, quail, deer and other important wildlife. That spurs economic development like hunting and fishing, outdoor recreation and tourism all over rural America," said Vilsack. "Today we're allowing an additional 800,000 acres for duck nesting habitat and other wetland and wildlife habitat initiatives to be enrolled in the program."

In addition to Ducks Unlimited's partnership with the Conservation Reserve Program, other longtime partners include Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, National Association of State Foresters, National Wild Turkey Federation, Audubon Society, National Bobwhite Technical Committee, Quality Deer Management Association, National Rural Water Association, Playa Lakes Joint Venture, Longleaf Alliance, state soil and water conservation districts, and state forestry, agriculture and natural resource agencies.

"I encourage all farmers and ranchers to consider the various CRP continuous sign-up initiatives that may help target specific resource concerns," said Vilsack. "Financial assistance is offered for many practices including conservation buffers and pollinator habitat plantings, and initiatives such as the highly erodible lands, bottomland hardwood tree and longleaf pine, all of which are extremely important."

Farmers and ranchers may visit their FSA county office for additional information. The 2014 Farm Bill authorized the enrollment of grasslands in CRP and information on grasslands enrollment will be available after the regulation is published later this summer.

The Conservation Reserve Program was re-authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, which builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing, and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit

For more information about CRP, visit, or contact your local USDA Farm Service Agency office. To find your local FSA office, visit