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Are These Tools in Your Toolbox? Bioreactors

Bioreactors, an emerging edge-of-field practice, are becoming more prominent in agricultural settings. Dr. Reid Christianson, former research assistant professor of Crop Sciences at University of Illinois, and Dr. Bryan Maxwell, a visiting assistant research scientist at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, explain how bioreactors work and the steps towards getting one installed.


Are These Tools in Your Toolbox? Prairie Strips

Prairie strips are notably not a very well-known conservation practice, despite their many benefits. Prairie strips are a conservation practice that uses strategically placed native prairie planting in agricultural fields.

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USDA Invests $70 Million to Expand Conservation Assistance to Underserved Producers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $70 million in partnerships that will improve outreach to underserved producers and communities to expand access to conservation assistance, including programs funded by the Inflation Reduction Act, as well as career opportunities. 


Agri Drain, ESE Founder Charlie Schafer Earns IAWA Private Impact Award, Honored at Iowa Watershed Awards

Agri Drain Corporation and Ecosystems Services Exchange (ESE) founder and leader Charlie Schafer has been named the winner of the 2023 Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance (IAWA) Private Impact Award, which will be presented at the Iowa Water Conference next week in Altoona.


ISAP Seeks Conservation Drainage Project Sites

The ISAP team is accepting conservation drainage practice site recommendations via an online form through Friday October 13th. The team is especially interested in opportunities to install practices to treat areas larger than 50 acres or to treat multiple tile outlets, projects that integrate conservation drainage practices into new tile designs, and projects that leverage resources from USDA programs such as CRP or EQIP. 


The Quick and Dirt-y on Dissolved Reactive Phosphorus (DRP)

A hot topic in soil health and nutrient loss over the last few years has been Dissolved Reactive Phosphorus (DRP), a form of phosphorus that is dissolved and readily available to plants and algae. DRP differs from the phosphorus loss we usually hear about, which is tied to soil particles, also known as Particulate Phosphorus (PP). 


Mastenbroek and Port Industries Unveil American Bulldog Trencher

Mastenbroek in partnership with Port Industries recently unveiled its first-ever utility trencher designed specifically for the North American market. Port Industries provide full aftermarket parts, sales and service to support the dealer groups offering the Mastenbroek line of products in North America.

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Benefits of Saturated Buffers for Farmers

Now’s the time to be thinking about adding an environmentally friendly practice to your operation.  There are quite a few out there and we learn about one that comes with 100% cost share. Saturated Buffers were on display at a Practical Farmers of Iowa Field Day during their Summer Series of over 40 different farms across the Midwest.

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BigIron Makes Inaugural Corporate Donation  to LICA Educational Foundation for Veterans 

BigIron, a leading name in the online auction industry, has made the first corporate donation to the LICA Educational Foundation for Veterans, marking a significant milestone for the Foundation’s mission of supporting veterans in their transition to new careers in heavy equipment operation. 


NASA Scientists Test New Tool for Tracking Algal Blooms

y the time they were over, a series of massive algal blooms along the west coast of Florida in 2020 would be linked to some 2,000 tons of dead marine life around Tampa Bay. The human costs were stark, too, including a double-digit increase in asthma cases in Sarasota and Pinellas counties, and estimated losses of around $1 billion across economic sectors from tourism to fisheries.

Green Water

Trade-offs in Nutrient & Sediment Losses in Tile Drainage from To-till vs Conservation-till Cropping Systems

Nutrient and soil loss from agricultural areas impairs surface water quality globally.In the Great Lakes region, increases in the frequency and magnitude of harmful andnuisance algal blooms in freshwater lakes have been linked to elevated phosphorus(P) losses from agricultural fields, some of which are transported via tile drainage.


UFG Insurance & Prins Insurance Announce State LICA Insurance Program 2022  Dividend Results

UFG Insurance strives to uphold its policyholder promise to ensure businesses are financially prepared to overcome losses with its trustworthy insurance protection. The carrier is proud to have fulfilled this important promise for the members of the State LICA Insurance Program last year.


NRCS Staff Hosts Stakeholder Briefing

The quarterly briefing by NRCS Chief Cosby occurred this week. Below are the highlights on the staff presentation regarding climate change programs, a key priority for USDA.

Climate Smart Practice Update Notes – Dana Ashford-Kornburger.

Thank you all for the continued input and feedback on activities that provide mitigation benefits. Especially those stakeholders that have provided scientific literature and/or participated in State Technical Committees at the state level. Many states are building out Climate Change subcommittees of their State Technical Committees, so this is a great place to give input for state initiatives and provide feedback.

Farm Equipment Parts Repair

Farm Bill Debate the Time to Air Concerns

Debating pros and cons of an issue intensifies when a bill is before Congress for consideration. With the farm bill front and center in the halls of Congress, this opinion piece typifies the kinds of issues that come up as a bill is under consideration.


Administration Rewrites WOTUS After Court Ruling

Pursuant to a May 25 U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruling, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Aug. 29 revised its Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule defining what constitutes a protected waterway under the Clean Water Act (CWA). Despite directives from the Court, the new rule makes only marginal improvements to EPA’s previous version, which took effect March 20.

Black Soil

Long-Term Drainage Water Recycling Affects Soil Health & Soil Properties

Drainage water recycling (DWR) using drainage and subirrigation (DSI) has increased the resiliency of crop production and improved water quality in the midwestern United States, but the effects on soil properties and soil health parameters have not been determined.


Scaling Up Drainage Water Recycling

“In the Midwest, farmers often have to deal with both too much and too little rain in the same season,” says Chris Hay, Ph.D., senior research scientist with the Iowa Soybean Association. “Trends of more rain in bigger events in the spring and longer, more frequent periods of drought in the summer are expected to continue.”


Evaluating Returns Necessary to Justify Installation of Tile Drainage

Tile drainage improves yields on most installations by reducing moisture from fields. Herein, we present a methodology for determining the yearly break-even benefit required to cover the installation investment in tile. This methodology is based on the payment function in Microsoft Excel. For example, a $1,000 per acre installation investment requires a yearly break-even benefit of $81.74 per acre, given an 8% interest rate and a 50-year life. 


Former NRCS Chiefs Call for Loosening Income Restrictions

Five former Natural Resources Conservation Chiefs are joining specialty crop growers in calling for a loosening of income restrictions for conservation programs, but opponents worry that easing the means test will make it harder for smaller farmers to obtain assistance.

Government Building

Farm Bill Reauthorization Still on the Table

Rep. Dusty Johnson, a member of the House Ag Committee and chairman of the Republican Main Street Caucus, told reporters Wednesday he doesn't believe members of the hard-line Freedom Caucus are "interested in delaying" this year's farm bill.

But the South Dakota Republican, who is close to House GOP leaders, said that some of the more conservative GOP members of the House may push for cuts in farm bill spending that would prevent the bill from getting the support it needs to pass the House.

Green Farm

Reforming the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)?

As one of the largest private-lands conservation programs in the United States, the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) has provided a variety of stewardship and natural preservation benefits on agricultural lands. However, its implementation has been overly broad, allowing large tracts of prime, productive farmland to idle even during times of high demand for U.S. agricultural commodities.


NOAA & Partners Announce Below Average 'Dead Zone' Measured in Gulf of Mexico

Today, NOAA-supported scientists announced that this year’s Gulf of Mexico “dead zone”— an area of low to no oxygen that can kill fish and marine life — is approximately 3,058 square miles. That’s almost two million acres of habitat potentially unavailable to fish and bottom species — nearly as large as the land area of Yellowstone National Park. 

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Adding Conservation Practices on Farms

The increasing role of private agronomists and crop advisers in helping farmers with conservation practices and tapping into USDA programs was highlighted this week at the Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS) meeting in Des Moines.

Roger Wolf, director of conservation for the Iowa Soybean Association, said the private sector is going to have to take on a greater role in providing farmers with technical assistance for conservation practices.


Winter Rye Cover Crops Can Help Reduce Nitrate Levels in Drainage Water

Results published in the journal Environmental Research Letters revealed that establishing a winter rye cover crop between corn-soybean rotations reduced nitrate levels in drainage water by over 45% compared to fields without rye. This reduction in nitrate loads entering the Gulf of Mexico via the Mississippi River basin can help improve water quality and reduce the size of the hypoxic “dead zone” in coastal waters.


Reversing the Negative Effects of Poor Agricultural Drainage Using Risk Management

Agricultural drainage is essential to the success of irrigated agriculture because it prevents ponding, waterlogging, and salt. This Paper presents a systematic method for identifying, assessing, and mitigating the risks associated with poor agricultural drainage (PAD). Using Monte Carlo simulation within a risk management process, the cumulative impact of all conceivable PAD risks on agricultural productivity was examined.


Long-Term Drainage Water Recycling Affects Soil Health & Soil Properties

Drainage water recycling (DWR) using drainage and subirrigation (DSI) has increased the resiliency of crop production and improved water quality in the midwestern United States, but the effects on soil properties and soil health parameters have not been determined.


ISAP Publishes Companion Incentive Directory for Edge of Field Practices

Bloomington, Ill. – Illinois Sustainable Ag Partnership (ISAP) is excited to announce the publication of Edge of Field Incentive Directory for Illinois. The directory, which is a companion to the 2022 Cover Crop Incentive Directory, was designed to be a quick reference for farmers and conservation partners interested in programs that provide financial and technical assistance for edge of field (EoF) practice implementation in Illinois. 

Government Building

House Republicans and Administration Clash Over Endangered Species

The Fish and Wildlife Service proposed this weekay to restore automatic protections for species listed as “threatened," as the Biden administration moved to roll back a Trump-era overhaul of the way the Endangered Species Act is implemented.

The proposed revisions “are poised to undo most if not all of [that] administration’s damage to the Act,” said Earthjustice, an environmental law firm.


Tiling to Cope with Extreme Wet Weather

Introduced to agriculture in the United States in 1838, the practice of tiling fields has become increasingly important as heavy rain events have occurred more frequently.  

The frequency of extreme, single-day precipitation events remained mostly steady between 1910 and the 1980s but has risen substantially since then, with climate change as a major contributor, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


Rich in Collaboration: Sangamon County Nutrient Stewardship field day

Bright yellow excavators dug up rich Sangamon County soil as more than 100 people arrived by hayrack to watch the cultivation of a cross-collaboration partnership.

The first Nutrient Stewardship field day of the summer, hosted at Pickrell Farms in rural Buffalo Thursday, demonstrated work being done with edge-of-field practices to help reduce nutrient runoff as part of the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy.


NOAA Forecasts Below-Average Summer 'Dead Zone' in Gulf of Mexico

NOAA is forecasting a summer “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico that will cover approximately 4,155 square miles, making it below the 5,364 square mile average over the 36-year history of dead zone measurements in the region. The dead zone, or hypoxic area, is an area of low oxygen that can kill fish and other marine life.


Is Drainage Water Recycling Right for You?

What sites are suitable for drainage water recycling? The short answer is: a site that can benefit from both improved drainage and supplemental irrigation. If you know how to access the USDA-NRCS’s Web Soil Survey, you can look up the suitability of the field’s soils for drainage as well as irrigation. The surface topography and the layout of the field’s subsurface drainage system will play an important role in deciding the location of the storage pond, as well as the appropriate irrigation method (subirrigation versus overhead or drip). 


See How a Smart Wetland Reduces Excess Nutrients from Illinois Waters

Two years ago, this Marshall County farm field looked like most of Illinois’ 12 million acres of tile-drained cropland. But, in September 2021, a local contractor moved over 6,000 cubic yards of earth here to create a Smart Wetland. You are welcome to see the resulting tile-treatment wetland at a field day on Thursday, June 29, and learn about the wetland’s naturally occurring processe

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Supreme Court Rules Against EPA in WOTUS Case

The U.S. Supreme Court sided with an Idaho couple in a significant environmental case against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over a plan to develop a small lot near Priest Lake. This decision has national implications for water quality, ag, development and the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule. 


Supreme Court Sharply Limits the EPA's Ability to Protect Wetlands

A conservative majority held that the agency’s authority under the Clean Water Act covered only wetlands connected to larger bodies of water, which environmentalists called a “catastrophic” limitation.


State Policies Working to Fix Gulf Nutrient Pollution

Tackling nutrient pollution in the Gulf of Mexico is a big job, requiring coordination between dozens of states whose waters flow into the Mississippi. Although a 2011 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency memo set a framework for each state to reduce its nutrient load, it was up to the states to set their own policies in motion.


Cover Crops & Conservation Tillage Could Reduce Likelihood of Highway Dust Storms

Pop-up dust storms such as the May 1 event that resulted in the loss of eight lives on an Illinois interstate could eventually be curtailed if more agricultural producers take advantage of government-funded programs that help defray the costs associated with adopting sustainable conservation agriculture practices on their farms.


From the ADMC: Stars are Aligning

There has been a demand to increase the use of conservation drainage practices. Demand originated with regional resource concerns such as the Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone, Western Lake Erie Basin algal blooms, or the total maximum daily loads (TMDL) in the Chesapeake Bay. Farmers are now starting to create demand themselves as they see the benefits of gaining more control of when and how water leaves their field. 


Is that a pond or a wetland? How to tell ponds and wetlands apart & why the correct name matters.

While ponds and wetlands may look similar at first glance, they are two distinct ecosystems with different structural characteristics and ecosystem functions. Some key features that can help to tell them apart include water depth, surface area, percent of emergent plant cover, and bank slope. These differences influence the types of plant communities present, what animals live in or use the ecosystems, and their water quality benefits.


GroundBreakers Class of 2023 - Focusing on Quality of Water & Quality of Service

For the second year of the GroundBreakers program, Drainage Contractor aimed to even up the balance of contractors and non-contractors – ensuring that the content in the program included equal perspectives from those who are driving the industry forward from the field and those who are doing so from labs and offices. This also ensured that the program stayed true to one of its key founding values: that innovation and leadership do not look like just one thing.


USDA Opens Full-Time, Entry-Level Soil Conservationist Positions in Illinois

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is quickly ramping up hiring of new team members to help implement $19.5 billion from the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) for conservation programs. For example, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) opened job announcements this week for soil conservationists in Illinois and elsewhere across the country. 


Bi-Partisan Bill Aims to Provide More Technical Service Providers via NRCS

On May 3, the Increased TSP Access Act was introduced in the house and senate. The bipartisan sponsors of the bill say this will help address a shortage of Technical Service Providers (TSP) who work with farmers to adopt conservation practices via USDA-NRCS programs, and this legislation will build on the framework of the 2023 Farm Bill.


Navdeep Singh and Gabriel T. LaHue, who work in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences at Washington State University, focus on solutions for growers whose fields experience dry periods during the growing season. They already have drain tiles installed under the field – which were put in for wet seasons.

Garden Soil

Few studies have addressed whether in-field practices to reduce nitrate-nitrogen (NO3-N) leaching might increase nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions, which could undermine attempts to mitigate agricultural N pollution.


Illinois USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will offer Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership (JCLRP) funding for portions of four counties in Southern Illinois. Illinois NRCS has partnered with the USDA-Forest Service - Shawnee National Forest to help producers address resource concerns such as increasing terrestrial habitat and preventing plant degradation on private lands near high priority stewardship clusters in Southern Illinois.


ISAP Publishes 2022 Annual Report

ISAP is excited to announce the publication of the 2022 Annual Report highlighting efforts to advance conservation agriculture across Illinois and expand the collective efforts to improve soil health and water quality through partnership, collaboration, and consistent messaging.


Farmers Say Stewardship Key to Keeping Land, Water Sustainable for Future Generations

The Turner farms are an example of various soil, water and nutrient stewardship practices, some tried and true and some relatively new, that keep dirt and fertilizer on the farm and put cleaner water downstream. The latter result is especially important in their Mason County operation, which is located above a huge water aquifer that supplies critical irrigation to crops grown in the area’s sandy soils.


After 202 Years, What is John Johnston’s Lasting Impact?

Just how far back the practice of subsurface drainage dates is no surprise to most contractors. Since the 1800s, drain tile has been a tool for good across the United States. But a new video by the Geneva Historical Society’s curator of collections John Marks dives into the history of drainage. And some forget that drainage pioneer John Johnston went through a great dear of failure and doubt before drainage picked up.


Coming Together to Research & Educate on Controlled Drainage & Soil Health 

Prinsco is proud to partner with Farmamerica, NRCS, Ellingson Drainage, Minnesota Ag Water Resource Center, and Minnesota Corn Growers on a research project that involved re-tiling 120 acres of farmland with controlled drainage and control structures. The pipe was donated by Prinsco and installed by Ellingson Drainage in Waseca, MN.


American Society of Agronomy Announces Partnership With Natural Resources Conservation 

The American Society of Agronomy (ASA) announces its partnership with U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to expand conservation technical assistance capacity.


Fishers & Farmers Partnership Earth Day Webinar:  April 20, 2023 3PM CST.

The Wetland Initatve Senior Environmental Engineer Dr. Jill Kostel and Field Outreach Specialist Jean McGuire will present on two constructed wetland sites successfully built on private farmland in north-central Illinois and how partnerships were instrumental to making them happen.


The Future of Farming: Saturated Buffers Help Farmers & the Environment by Reducing Fertilizer Runoff

Central Illinois farmers are adopting more practices to make sure that fertilizers, or nutrients as they are called in the business, stay where they're supposed to stay, and stay out of the places where they shouldn't be.


The Excavation Safety Guide
(Pipeline Edition)

April is Safe Digging Month, and the 2023 Excavation Safety Guide - Pipeline Edition has been sent to more than 530,000 excavators.  A PDF copy can be downloaded here.  Additional printed copies may be requested using the online order form.  These copies, and shipping, are at no cost. We hope you will find it a valuable resource.


USDA Awards Innovations in Climate-Smart Agriculture, Soil Health and Nutrient Management

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $40 million this year for 31 new projects through its Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program, one of the ways USDA brings together partners to develop innovative approaches to climate-smart agriculture.


NRCS Announces $75 Million to Assist Producers Transitioning to Organic as Part of USDA's Organic Transition Initiative

As part of the multi-agency Organic Transition Initiative (OTI), USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will dedicate financial and technical assistance to a new organic management standard and partner with new organic technical experts to increase staff capacity and expertise.  


USDA Invests $12 Million in Cooperative Agreements for Conservation on Grazing Lands & Support for Farmers & Ranchers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded $12 million in cooperative agreements for 49 projects that expand access to conservation technical assistance for livestock producers and increase the use of conservation practices on grazing lands. The funding is provided through the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative (GLCI).   


ConExpo 2023 Shatters Show Records

The show crushed expected attendance numbers, drawing over 139,000 construction and fluid power professionals from 133 countries to Las Vegas from March 14 – 18, 2023 – making it the largest trade show in North America with more than 2,400 exhibitors from 36 countries spread out over 3 million square feet of exhibit space.

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Senate Votes to Repeal WOTUS Action

On March 29, four Senate Democrats—Sens. Cortez Masto (Nev.), Manchin (W.Va.), Rosen (Nev.), Tester (Mont.)—and Senator Sinema (I-Arizona) joined Republicans in voting for legislation to repeal the Biden administration’s Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule expanding federal permitting jurisdiction over wet areas and more construction projects.


NACD Releases 2023 Farm Bill Recommendations

The National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) released policy recommendations for the 2023 Farm Bill. Over the last year, NACD’s Farm Bill Task Force has convened more than a dozen times to review USDA conservation programs and consider policies to strengthen support for voluntary, locally led conservation efforts.

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Status of Farm Bill As Congress Takes A Break

The Congressional Budget Office is expected to release new 10-year estimates as soon as May. The forecast is vital to the farm bill debate. The cost estimates will set the limits on how much can be spent in the farm bill, assuming Congress doesn’t provide additional funding, and CBO’s estimates for future crop prices will be used to estimate the cost of modifying commodity program provisions. Experts say those price estimates, depending on how they come out, could make some policy options more attractive than others.


Urban Producers, Public Invited to Attend April Meeting of Fed. Advisory Comm. for Urban Agriculture & Innovative Production 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) encourages urban producers, innovative producers and other stakeholders to submit comments for and virtually attend the fifth public meeting of the Federal Advisory Committee for Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production (Committee) on April 18, 2023.   


Is Your Drain Tile Making the Grade?

As heavier rain events hit the Midwest, farmers are not only adding drainage tile but also updating the existing tile on their farm.

Robert and Kyle Winkelmann of Tallula, Ill., installed drainage tile in the mid-1990s, but were still seeing wet spots around the farm.

“The past few years, we’ve had wet springs,” says Kyle Winkelmann. “Using yield maps plus where I’ve had to replant corn the past several years, I noticed the water just wasn’t leaving fast enough, even though the field was tiled.”


Water Quality Success Stories: Saturate that Buffer for Crop's Sake

Driving across the rural Ohio landscape, you might occasionally see little gray objects with black caps poking their heads up around fields adjacent to streams and rivers. These gray box-like structures hold an opportunity for farmers and landowners to increase their ability to reduce nutrient loading while conserving precious water in their fields.

Golf Course Aerial Shot

Lawns and Golf Courses: A Leading Cause of Nitrate - N Loading

As the calendar turns to spring, my mind turns to golf. Golf has also been on my mind because of what I heard at some recent farmer/landowner meetings we hosted throughout the state. When we asked the participants what the leading causes of water quality issues are in Iowa, participants listed urban such as golf courses and lawns as one of the top three causes.


ADMC Ag Consultant Training

The Agricultural Drainage Management Coalition (ADMC) has developed a series of learning modules that focus on engaging Certified Crop Advisors on the role that water management plays in crop production and nutrient movement. In partnership with the Conservation Technology Information Center, ADMC created these trainings to provide additional resources to Ag Advisors on the benefits of conservation drainage.

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Study Forcasts Tile Drainage and Crop Rotation Changes for Nitrogen Loss

“Our model explains what's going on across 83 watersheds in the Midwest, providing a quantitative understanding of why certain watersheds differ in terms of nutrient loss. But the most important contribution is our scenario prediction, which hasn’t been done before. If you increase tile drainage or the corn fraction, how much does the nitrogen load change? 


Is Drainage Water Recycling for You?

What sites are suitable for drainage water recycling? The short answer is: a site that can benefit from both improved drainage and supplemental irrigation. If you know how to access the USDA-NRCS’s Web Soil Survey, you can look up the suitability of the field’s soils for drainage as well as irrigation.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is asking for public input on two water quality conservation initiatives, the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI) and the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI). Through the Federal Register notice published today, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) seeks feedback on how best to target program benefits, quantify impact, and improve program delivery and outreach in the future.


People have always tried combating the elements when it comes to farming — finding ways to plant earlier, keep crops safe and get better yields. Drain tile is one option.

“It has been a great deal. Virtually every piece of farmland I own is tiled,” Wyndmere farmer Jim Dotzenrod said.

Dotzenrod has been farming since 1973, and he first had drain tile installed around 2006. Since then, he has seen large increases in yields due to plants surviving during periods of extended rainfall.

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With the retirement of State Conservationist Ivan Dozier, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) would like to announce that Tammy Willis has been selected to serve a 120-detail as the Acting State Conservationist for Illinois until the position is filled permanently. Willis began her detail on February 27 and has assumed all duties of the Illinois State Conservationist position. Her bio follows.


Two years ago, Illinois had adopted a landmark clean energy law that called for building vast amounts of renewable power. At the same time, 15 counties with some of the most land available for wind and solar had passed, or were about to pass, restrictions on new development that made the state’s goals more difficult to reach. Something had to give. That something came last month, when Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill that took away the ability of local governments to limit or ban wind and solar power.

Agricultural Fields

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is making funding available for agricultural producers and forest landowners nationwide to participate in voluntary conservation programs and adopt climate-smart practices. The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) provided an additional $19.5 billion over five years for climate smart agriculture through several of the conservation programs that USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) implements.

Wetland Creation

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Illinois announced new  easement values used with the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). The Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE) portion of ACEP helps private landowners restore and protect critical wetlands.


 Farmers who have been waiting for approval and funding for USDA conservation programs this year may want to check with local offices about new dollars being added to the pot.

USDA on Monday announced the department is releasing $850 million to boost enrollment in some of its major conservation programs this year.


Researchers led by the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis plan to develop a more economical process to create concrete products that would ultimately result in a carbon-negative impact on the environment.


With TWI’s Smart Wetlands designs, we are simply providing the opportunity for wetlands to do what they all do naturally. By intercepting the tile water and allowing it to slow down and gently flow through a shallow wetland full of native plants, the naturally occurring processes adsorb/absorb, transform, sequester, uptake, trap, and remove nitrogen and phosphorus and other chemicals.


JULIE Approves Bill Proposal to Amend the Illinois Underground Utility Facilities Damage Prevention Act

The JULIE Board of Directors recently approved a bill proposal to amend the Illinois Underground Utility Facilities Damage Prevention Act. These substantial revisions include amendatory language to enhance public safety, minimize risks to excavators and prevent disruption of vital public services.

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NRCS Announces 2023 RCPP Application Cutoff Date for Precision Conservation Management

State Conservationist Ivan Dozier announced that the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will offer Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) funding for the Precision Conservation Management efforts in several Illinois counties. Illinois NRCS has partnered with the Illinois Corn Growers Association to help producers address sheet and rill erosion on farm ground in project areas.   


NRCS Announces 2023 RCPP Application Cutoff Date: Lake Springfield Source Water Protection Project

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will offer Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) funding for the Lake Springfield Source Water Protection Project throughout the Lake Springfield watershed. Illinois NRCS has partnered with City, Water, Light, and Power to help producers address resource concerns such as reducing erosion on farmland and protecting aquatic habitat.


The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will offer Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) funding for the Kinkaid Lake Restoration Project throughout the Lake Kinkaid watershed. Illinois NRCS has partnered with Kinkaid-Reed’s Conservancy District to help producers address resource concerns such as erosion on farmland and degraded plant conditions. 

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The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will offer Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) funding for the Southern Illinois Oak Ecosystem Restorations effort in Southern Illinois.

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NRCS Announces Application Cutoff for Marshall-Putnam Conservation Projects

The U.S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service will offer funding in Marshall and Putnam Counties for the Mississippi River Basin Big Bend Enhancing Water-Soil-Habitat Quality project.

The funding will be offered through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program.

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Submit Illinois CSP Applications for 2023

State Conservationist, Ivan Dozier announced the submission deadline for Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) applications to be considered for funding in fiscal year (FY) 2023 is February 3, 2023. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) plans to invest up to $12.1 million for new CSP contracts in fiscal year 2023 in Illinois.

Aerial View of River

Farmers Not Happy With New Waters of the U.S. Rule

The Biden administration's new “waters of the U.S.” rule came under immediate criticism from farm groups and their GOP allies in Congress, who said it could expand federal jurisdiction over agricultural lands.

They also reiterated their stance that the administration should have waited for a pending Supreme Court ruling before finalizing the new definition of what land and water features are regulated under the Clean Water Act.


NRCS Looking How Best to Invest Influx of Federal Funds

Programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Conservation Stewardship Program have long been oversubscribed, something the new funding is expected to address. But the Agriculture Department is under pressure to increase NRCS staffing to handle the surge of spending.

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Springfield Plastics Donates Over $675,000 to Illinois & Iowa Cancer Centers Since 2014

Springfield Plastics, Inc. has donated more than $675,000 to Simmons Cancer Institute at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, Illinois, and John Stoddard Cancer Center of UnityPoint Health in Des Moines, Iowa, over the past nine years through its Drain for the Cure fundraiser.


2023 EQIP Application Cutoff Date for Otter Lake Source Water Protection Project

State Conservationist Ivan Dozier announced USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will offer funding in Macoupin, Morgan, and Sangamon Counties for the Otter Lake Source Water Protection project through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).

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2023 EQIP Application Cutoff Date Set for IL Headwaters Conservation Partnership

State Conservationist Ivan Dozier announced USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will offer funding to control invasive plants in forest stands in east-central Illinois through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). NRCS has partnered with the Champaign County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) and the Headwaters Invasive Plant Partnership (HIPP) to help producers address resource concerns such as water quality and soil health.


2023 Application Deadline Set for Il Equip Landscape Initiatives

State Conservationist Ivan Dozier announced USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will offer funding for the following Landscape Initiatives throughout the state: Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI) and the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI).


Illinois Equip 2023 Application Deadline Established

Illinois agricultural producers and forestry managers who want to address or improve natural resources are encouraged to sign up for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Ivan Dozier, Illinois Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist, announced that January 6, 2023 will be the EQIP application deadline.

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Equip Application Cut-Off Date Set for NW Illinois Driftless Area

State Conservationist Ivan Dozier announced USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will offer funding to help improve fish and wildlife habitat on cropland, forests, streams and prairies in northwestern Illinois through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).


ISAP Conservation Story Map

ISAP’s Conservation Story Map is designed to communicate sustainable agriculture efforts in Illinois and facilitate connections to support healthy soil, clean water, and profitable farms. We encourage you to connect with individuals and businesses listed on the map and invite you to put your own pin on the map!


Constructed Wetland Doing it's Job

A new constructed wetland was showcased during the recent Vermilion Headwaters Watershed field tour in Livingston County.

The constructed wetland was installed in August 2018 on Fulton Farms farmland and is designed to capture and remove nutrients from tile drainage. The wetland encompasses 4.6 acres, including a 1.1-acre water-holding pond and a 3.5-acre buffer that’s planted as a pollinator habitat.

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LICA Establishes Crucial Program for Veterans

The Land Improvement Contractors of America (LICA) has established the LICA Educational Foundation for Veterans. The foundation’s mission is to train U.S. military veterans to become highly skilled heavy equipment operators, as well connecting them with employment opportunities.


Study Shows Constructed Wetlands are Best Protection For Agriculture Runoff

A new study finds wetlands constructed along waterways are the most cost-effective way to reduce nitrate and sediment loads in large streams and rivers. Rather than focusing on individual farms, the research suggests conservation efforts using wetlands should be implemented at the watershed scale.


Drainage for the Long Haul

Subsurface “tile” drainage is an essential agricultural water management practice on naturally poorly drained soils in Indiana and throughout much of the Midwest. We have conducted a long-term (35yr) drainage research study at the Southeast Purdue Agricultural Center (SEPAC) on high silt, low organic matter, poorly-structured soils that were not typically tile-drained prior to the 1980s.

Illinois Land Improvement Contractors Association, Inc.

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