If you need details about the soils on your farm, look no further than the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Web Soil Survey. Using this online tool you can map out the soils on your land and learn important information to ensure crop nutrition, soil fertility and soil and water conservation activities. This tool is especially useful for beginning farmers and new farm occupants so that they can get a better sense of the land that they will farm.
NRCS recently announced the latest version of the web soil survey. The new version includes improved maps, increased Area of Interest acreage, and upgraded options for changing map properties. You can also access the survey online 24 hours a day.
The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) that was passed by Congress in 2010 was the first major update to federal food safety laws in 72 years. Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released proposed laws to implement the provisions in the FSMA. These new rules leave out crucial aspects of the bill that were initially created to protect small, mid-sized and sustainable farmers.
While there needs to be an up-to-date and feasibly implemented food safety law, the FDA’s current proposal would force many family farmers to pay significant compliant costs. These fees could cost farmers up to half of their profits without many of the protections currently allotted to them. If passed the law potentially threatens local food sources, placing any farm with a profit of over $500,000 on the same level as any industrial agricultural conglomerate. The proposal also ignores Congress’ initial mandate that the FSMA must comply with The National Organic Program, making it difficult for farmers to implement natural or organic practices.
At this year’s concert, Farm Aid teamed up with our resource partner, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), to form a petition that concertgoers could sign against the FDA’s proposal. You can take a stand for family farmers and sustainable agriculture by signing that petition here. There is a comment period on the proposed rules until November 15, so NSAC created a comprehensive guide to form comments to the FDA for consumers and farmers alike supporting local food systems and family farmers.
The deadline for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) has been extended to June 14th, 2013. The CSP is a program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) that aims to protect natural resources and the environment on land in agricultural production. This program supplies farmers and ranchers with the tools they need—both technical and financial—to employ conservation activities on their land, as well as support existing projects. This year the NRCS’ goal is to accept 12 million acres into the program.
For more information about CSP, visit the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s CSP factsheet and their Farmer’s Guide to the Conservation Stewardship Program, where information about eligibility, step-by-step enrollment guidance, and helpful hints can be found.
In the first four enrollment years for CSP (2009-2012), more than 39,000 farmers and ranchers operating over 50 million acres of farm and ranch land that is now under five-year, renewable CSP conservation contracts. Annual CSP payments are currently $680 million a year!
The CSP is a working lands conservation program administered by the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service and available on a nationwide basis. CSP offers technical and financial assistance to farmers for adopting and maintaining high standards of resource conservation and environmental stewardship. Assistance is geared to both the active management of existing conservation systems and for implementing new conservation activities on land in agricultural production. Find the enrollment alert here!
Application forms are available at your local NRCS state offices and farmers should visit their local service center to sign up. State offices will have information on priority resource concerns for your state and agents available to help farmers.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has created an essential guide to help farmers learn how to apply for the CSP and includes a list of organizations that can assist with the application process. The Land Stewardship Project has a useful and up-to-date fact sheet.
Water conservation practices hold incredible potential for reducing farmer’s use of increasingly expensive and precious water resources.
The Ecological Farming Association’s Water Stewardship Project provides education and outreach materials about implementing on-farm water conservation measures, including a variety of resources, and videos case-studies.
The California Agricultural Water Stewardship Initiative also offers a variety of resources for water stewardship practices, including a helpful overview of different water stewardship approaches and practices and an extensive library of publications, technical services agencies, organizations and policy papers on the topic.
We also recommend checking out the USDA’s California State Natural Resources Conservation Service YouTube videos, providing a quick glimpse into some of the Agency’s most popular conservation opportunities.