Action on farm runoff is needed to protect quality of rural tap water, says EWG

"Simple and familiar conservation practices, if applied in the right places," are key to reducing worrisome levels of nitrates and other types of farm runoff in the drinking water of rural communities, says the Environmental Working Group. In a report, "Trouble in farm country," the green group said stewardship of all working land should be a requirement for growers who want farm and crop insurance subsidies.

Wheat yields benefit from cover crops, says farmer survey

Farmers taking part in a survey about cover crops reported a nearly 3-percent increase in wheat yields when cover crops are used in the offseason, says the Conservation Technology Information Center. This was the first time the survey compiled enough responses to calculate the impact on wheat; past surveys associated cover crops with higher corn and soybean yields.

Enrollment for revamped green-payment program opens in a week

The USDA will open a three-month enrollment period on Nov. 14 for the Conservation Stewardship Program, which pays farmers and ranchers for making soil, water and wildlife conservation a part of their daily operations. A small-farm group says producers should submit an initial application if they're interested in the program, but it says USDA has yet to fully describe its changes to CSP.

USDA skimps on checking if farmers reduce erosion, preserve wetlands

The government rarely checks to see if farmers carry out soil and water conservation duties that are part of the farm subsidy program, said Agri-Pulse, citing a report from the USDA's inspector general. The IG reported that random sample reviews were conducted in only one of USDA's farm support programs from 2012-14.

Farm Bureau launches survey of USDA programs

The largest U.S. farm organization announced an online survey open to all farmers and ranchers to rate their experiences with 10 USDA programs on soil and water conservation, rural energy, farmers markets, and farm operating and land ownership loans.

COP21 – Carbon farming may figure in climate mitigation

PARIS – Due to an initiative launched by France, there is now an international framework that for the first time brings agricultural soils into climate negotiations. Called “4 per 1000,” this new proposal aims to protect and increase carbon stocks in soil.

Soil degradation can be rolled back, says FAO

Wind and water erosion carry away as much as 40 million tonnes of topsoil each year, said the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in a report that lists erosion as one of several threats to food production.

Only a few miss deadline for conservation compliance

Some 98.2 percent of farmers met the June 1 deadline to show they practice soil and water conservation on their land. By filing the document, form AD-1026, producers are eligible for premium subsidies on crop insurance.

Mountain soils vital to food and water supply worldwide

In the newly published book, "Understanding Mountain Soils," the FAO calls for attention to sustainable management of the soils, which are "home to a vast array of human activities ranging from quinoa cultivation in the Andes through European ski resorts to the collection of medicinal plants in Tajikistan's 'roof of the world' Pamir range."