conservation

U.S. creates pollinator conservation center

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will establish a Pollinator Conservation Center focusing on the decline of pollinating species, including the monarch butterfly, announced Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on Thursday.

High commodity prices shift conservation lands to crop fields

Landowners told the USDA they will take 1.7 million acres out of the long-term Conservation Reserve and put it back into crop production, betting on profits from sky-high commodity prices. This year’s “general signup” for the reserve would also bring the smallest amount of land into the reserve …

New crop insurance policy for ‘split-apply’ nitrogen

Corn growers in 11 states can apply for crop insurance coverage this year for a practice that reduces nutrient runoff, said the Risk Management Agency on Wednesday. The policy will cover yield losses if bad weather prevents growers from making multiple applications of nitrogen fertilizer during key parts of the growing season.

Significant progress toward 30 by 30 goal, says White House

In a progress report, the Biden administration said on Monday that it has "made significant progress to support effective and enduring conservation strategies" en route to conserving 30 percent of U.S. land and waters by 2030. The "30 by 30" plan relies on locally led and voluntary stewardship but has been met in some regions with suspicion of a hidden federal motive.

A court decision may help endangered orcas, but Alaskan fishermen are wary

The U.S. District Court in Seattle seemed to offer endangered orca whales a lifeline in September when it issued a preliminary decision that might make more wild king salmon available to the marine mammals. But while the court decision is expected to help orcas, it may be bad news for fishermen.(No paywall)

New research shows hunting’s effect on sage grouse population is mixed

The sage grouse population fell so low during the 1990s that the chicken-sized species was considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act. Now, two researchers say that restrictions on hunting the sage grouse have a mixed record when it comes to the bird's numbers.

Project will measure carbon on idled U.S. cropland

A $10 million project will sample, measure, and monitor the amount of soil carbon in environmentally fragile cropland idled as part of the Conservation Reserve, said the USDA on Tuesday. Earlier this year, the agency said it would harness the reserve to mitigate climate change by paying landowners to implement climate-smart practices.

Ag coalition proposes climate mitigation for $100 an acre

At the same time farm-state lawmakers are trying to add $2 billion to $3 billion a year to USDA conservation programs, a coalition of farmers and ag groups says the price tag for climate mitigation on the farm should be much higher —$100 per acre or $40 billion a year when fully implemented. No paywall

Comity fractures in face of House Agriculture Committee ‘shenanigans’

Hostile Republicans finally got under the skin of gentlemanly Rep. David Scott. The House Agriculture chairman limited discussion during a committee hearing on Thursday — "We're here to deal with climate change and nothing else," he said — and told Republican Austin Scott, "I'm tired of your disrespect."

Farming boom threatens Biden’s climate and conservation goals

High prices for corn and soybeans, coupled with the ethanol mandate and generous crop insurance, are spurring farmers in the Great Plains to plow up native grasslands in favor of commodity crops. The loss of these ancient carbon sinks "poses a conundrum for the Biden administration," which wants to cut agriculture's carbon emissions to net zero and conserve 30 percent of the nation's land in a bid to protect biodiversity.(No paywall)

House panel approves $66 billion ag bill; change in ‘stepped-up basis’ is abandoned

The Democratic-controlled House Agriculture Committee approved its $66 billion part of President Biden's $3.5 trillion "build back better" bill on a party-line vote Monday, with Chairman David Scott saying he was confident that $28 billion will be added later for land stewardship and climate mitigation by farmers. Meanwhile, House Democrats said they would not alter a tax break that helps farmers pass land from generation to generation.

Conversion of grasslands accelerates in Great Plains

After slowing with the collapse of the commodity boom nearly a decade ago, the conversion of grassland to row crops is accelerating in the Great Plains of the United States and Canada, said the World Wildlife Fund.

IUCN Congress: Crop wild relatives in peril; food giants’ regenerative-ag push

The wild relatives of some of the world’s most important crops are at risk of extinction, threatening efforts to breed plants with greater resilience to climate change and improve yields, according to a new paper presented Tuesday at the IUCN World Conservation Congress. (No paywall)

Green, farm groups offer their plan for conservation spending in reconciliation bill

Congress should provide $30 billion for climate-friendly agricultural practices and organic production in the upcoming reconciliation bill, said five dozen farm, environmental, and food groups in a letter to Democratic leaders on Wednesday.

After years of shrinking, Conservation Reserve to expand this year

The federal program that pays landowners to take environmentally fragile land out of crop production to prevent erosion, protect water quality, and preserve wildlife habitat will expand for the first time this year after losing ground annually since 2007. The USDA said on Monday that it expected a net gain in acreage in the Conservation Reserve Program, which was retooled in April to help slow climate change.

Senate Democrats will apportion USDA bonus funds by themselves

Whether they are Democrats or Republicans, members of the House and Senate Agriculture committees routinely say the panels are the least partisan in Congress, even if the harmony is strained from time to time. In the weeks ahead, the infighting over President Biden's two-part infrastructure package will test that comity on the Senate panel.

Groups ask Congress to double funds for land stewardship

Farm, wildlife, and environmental groups, from the Sierra Club to the National Farmers Union, on Wednesday called on lawmakers to increase funding for USDA land stewardship programs by $50 billion.

Biden to end large-scale old-growth timber sales in Tongass

The Biden administration will end large-scale sales of old-growth timber in the Tongass National Forest on the Alaska panhandle, the world's largest intact temperate rainforest, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Thursday.

Do conservation subsidies really battle climate change?

The Conservation Reserve Program, which will pay farmers more than $1.8 billion this year to take land out of crop cultivation, has become a linchpin of the Biden administration's climate mitigation program for agriculture. But critics question just how effective the program is in reducing the greenhouse gas emissions generated by agriculture, says FERN's latest story, produced in collaboration with The American Prospect.  (No paywall)

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