USDA pilot offers 30-year contract for Conservation Reserve

Since 1985, the Conservation Reserve has paid landowners an annual rent to idle environmentally fragile land under contracts that last for 10 or 15 years. Now a pilot program will offer a 30-year contract in the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay regions.

Legislation calls for measuring conservation results

For the first time, the USDA would assess the results of its land stewardship programs, such as tons of carbon sequestered in the soil or reductions in nutrient runoff, under companion bills filed in the House and Senate on Wednesday.

Water reuse may become part of USDA programs

As part of an administration initiative, the USDA will consider including reused water, also known as recycled or reclaimed water, in its land stewardship and community development programs. "Water reuse is going to be how agriculture continues to increase productivity while decreasing our environmental footprint," said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Thursday.

Eating tomorrow: A conversation with Timothy Wise

Timothy A. Wise spent four years researching the industrialization of agriculture and the influence of agribusiness on policy creation around the world. Everywhere he traveled, he saw how governments and philanthropies have committed to a vision of hunger eradication that heralds industrial, large-scale agriculture. His new book, Eating Tomorrow: Agribusiness, Family Farmers, and the Battle for the Future of Food, details how this vision has largely failed to bring countries closer to food security even as it has imperiled our water, soil, and farming communities.(No paywall)

Central figure in Iowa nutrient runoff case, Bill Stowe, dies of cancer

Bill Stowe, a central figure in the 2015 lawsuit by the Des Moines Water Works that tried to hold drainage districts in three northwest Iowa counties responsible for nutrient runoff from farms, died of cancer on Sunday at age 60. He retired as general manager of the utility on April 2 because of the illness, said the Des Moines Register.

FDA to delay ag-water rule until 2022

The FDA will soon announce a two-year delay on a rule setting water-quality standards for large produce farms, said Frank Yiannas, the agency’s deputy commissioner for food safety, on Thursday.

FERN Q&A: Beaver-created wetlands could be a farmer’s best friend

In his new book, Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter, FERN contributor Ben Goldfarb makes the case that this widely vilified rodent, which was trapped nearly out of existence in the U.S., is not only making a comeback but could play a major role in mitigating the effects of climate change and other problems afflicting farmers. (No paywall)

Napa voters lean toward limit on vineyard development

Voters in the heart of California wine country, by a slim, 42-vote margin, would restrict the planting of new vineyards in order to protect oak trees and waterways, according to the unofficial results of a Napa County referendum.

Signup starts today for high-priority land-stewardship projects

The USDA says there is now enough room in the Conservation Reserve that, for the first time in months, it will accept applications for high-priority stewardship projects, such as filter strips, that prevent erosion and maintain water quality on fragile land. Enrollment runs from today through Aug. 17 for the practices, which require comparatively small amounts of land.

Coalition urges Iowa legislators to end new factory farm development

A coalition of 55 environmental, agricultural, and food-safety organizations signed a letter urging the Iowa General Assembly pass a moratorium on new and expanded factory farm development in the state. Iowa currently houses nearly 23 million hogs, a record for the state and the highest number in the country.