News

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USDA Offers Expanded Conservation Program Options for Climate-Smart Agriculture in 2022

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is announcing several new and expanded opportunities for climate-smart agriculture in 2022. Updates include nationwide availability of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Conservation Incentive Contracts option and added flexibilities for producers to easily re-enroll in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).

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Conservation Cropping 2022 Seminar

Attention Illinois Farmers! Find ways to improve soil health, learn about cover crops, remain profitable—and even more marketable—by using sustainable techniques that build up natural resilience to weather extremes, pests, and weeds. State Conservationist Ivan Dozier encourages farmers to learn from conservationists, partners, and other Illinois farmers by participating in this Conservation Cropping Seminar online event.

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Much Work Remains to Reach Nutrient Loss Goals

Progress, current and future challenges were highlighted in the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy biennial report.

Details of the report were unveiled during the Nov. 10 NLRS Partnership Conference.

The 2015 Illinois NLRS established a goal to reduce the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus in Illinois waterways by 45%, with interim reduction goals of 15% nitrate-nitrogen and 25% total phosphorus by 2025.

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Nitrogen Calculators Not Created Equal, According to Illinois Study

When deciding how much nitrogen fertilizer to apply, farmers have options. The standard tool for the Midwest – the maximum return to nitrogen (MRTN) calculator – offers a static recommendation. It is based on hundreds of field trials, but doesn't vary much year to year. Newer dynamic tools have the potential to account for soil properties and weather, but also require input from farmers during the growing season to deliver site-specific nitrogen recommendations.

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Increasing Yield Down the Drain

Most farmers are fully aware of the benefit drain tile provides to land in our area.

In fact, three farm infrastructure investments that never concern Suzy Martin, a Farm Management Specialist with the Ohio Valley Farm Analysis Association, are the installation of irrigation systems, grain storage systems, and soil drainage systems.

These three investments are essentially guaranteed to increase farm income over their useful service life, therefore considered a wise investment for your land.

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ADMC is Working with the Conservation Drainage Network to Gain Insights from Drainage Contractors

Conservation drainage practices, applied in a conservation systems approach, offer great promise to improve environmental performance and farm economic viability on artificially-drained cropland. However, despite their benefits, producers are not adopting these practices on a widespread basis on tile-drained cropland.

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Recycle: Farm Progress Show wood chips to bioreactor

Anybody who’s walked the streets of the Farm Progress Show knows there’s a whole lot of wood chips out there. Turns out, they have life after the show.

Folks at the University of Illinois have put them to work following the 2021 FPS, using them to fill six wood chip bioreactors on Eric Miller’s farm in Piatt County, Ill.

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Soil Study Shows why Nitrous Oxide Emissions Should Factor into Climate Change Mitigation

Poorly drained agricultural soils emit enough of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide that the resulting climate change effects could far exceed the benefits of using the same soils as a means of sequestering carbon, according to a recently published scientific study.

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What’s Inside the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act for Water?

Understanding what’s inside a 1,000+ page bill can feel daunting- so we’ve done our best to pull out the details below in a longer-than-usual blog post (!) as well as some thoughts on what’s ahead for implementing River Network’s priorities- clean, safe, affordable drinking water, resilient cities and communities, healthy rivers in agricultural landscapes, and robust and effective water laws and policies- are all present in the historic Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (HR 3684). 

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Oxbow Restorations: The Fix for Many Water Problems in Rural Iowa

On a cold wet November morning, a couple dozen people met in the Lu Verne Community Center to learn about oxbows and all the benefits of restoring an oxbow. The planned tour of a recently restored oxbow and nearby restoration a few years old was called off due to the wet conditions but Drone13 was able to fly over both sites, as seen in the video above.

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NRCS Announces 2022 EQIP Application Cutoff Date for Illinois Headwaters Conservation Partnership

State Conservationist Ivan Dozier announced that the 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).

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Access CSP Funds for Macoupin County Project

State Conservationist Ivan Dozier announced U. S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will offer funding in Macoupin County for the Upper Macoupin Creek Watershed using the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).

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NRCS Announces Application Cutoff for Special Conservation Projects in Marshall-Putnam Counties

State Conservationist Ivan Dozier announced U. S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will offer funding in Marshall and Putnam Counties for the Mississippi River Basin Big Bend Enhancing Water-Soil-Habitat Quality project through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).

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NRCS Announces 2022 EQIP Application Cutoff Date for Otter Lake Source Water Protection Project

State Conservationist Ivan Dozier announced that the 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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NRCS Announces EQIP Application Cutoff Date for NW Illinois Driftless Area

State Conservationist Ivan Dozier announced that the 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). 

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2021 Conservation Practitioner Poll

Conservation practitioners are the delivery system for natural resource conservation across the nation. Employees of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Soil and Water Conservation Districts and Departments, state conservation agencies, and nongovernmental conservation organizations work directly with farmers and landowners to implement conservation practices through technical assistance, conservation planning, and program implementation.

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Capturing Water from Atmospheric Rivers will Help Build Drought Resilience in California. Here's How:

Several locations in California set all-time 24-hour rainfall records this past weekend when an atmospheric river delivered much needed precipitation as the majority of the state remains in extreme drought conditions.

In Sacramento, this wettest day on record followed the longest consecutive dry spell on record amid California’s second driest year.

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Call 811 Before You Dig

Do you know what’s below the ground? It’s a simple question, but many excavators are not aware that buried beneath the ground is an extensive network of millions of miles of pipes, wires and cables that transport natural gas and other energy resources, electricity, telecommunications, water, and sewage. Contacting 811 is more than a call.

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From the ADMC: Working to Improve Practice Delivery

The success of the Polk County Saturated Buffer project has shown that there is potential to deliver edge-of-field conservation practices at a scale and pace significant enough to have an impact on water quality by improving upon traditional practice delivery methods. The pilot project has increased the number of bioreactors and saturated buffers installed in Iowa to 166 from 115. and did so in a cost-effective manner. 

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Illinois EQIP 2022 Application Deadline Established

Look to the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for conservation assistance on agricultural and forestland. Ivan Dozier, Illinois NRCS State Conservationist explains, “NRCS can assist agricultural and forestland producers to address natural resource concerns. One opportunity for assistance is with the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).”

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NRCS Announces 2022 Application Deadline for EQIP Landscape Initiatives in Illinois

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

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Submit Illinois CSP Applications for 2022

State Conservationist, Ivan Dozier announced the submission deadline for Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) applications to be considered for funding in fiscal year (FY) 2022 is January 7, 2022. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) plans to invest up to $8.64 million for new CSP contracts in fiscal year 2022 in Illinois.

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Illinois Farmers: Consider Conservation Easements

NRCS State Conservationist, Ivan Dozier announced funding is now available for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program - Agricultural Land Easements (ACEP-ALE). Dozier explains the ALE program can help address development and population pressures that pose a threat to Illinois farmland acres currently used for agricultural production. 

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Sign up for Wetland Reserve Easements for 2022

Ivan Dozier, State Conservationist, announced the application period for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Agricultural Conservation Easement Program - Wetland Reserve Easements. (ACEP-WRE). The purpose of the Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE) program is to help landowners enhance and protect habitat for wetland wildlife on their lands, reduce impacts from flooding, recharge groundwater, provide outdoor recreation, and increase habitat for migratory waterfowl. 

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Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) Holds Stakeholder's Call

In their continuing effort to reach out to interested industry partners, NRCS Chief Cosby and his senior staff briefed NLICA and other interested stakeholders on the Service’s recent activities. Chief Cosby highlighted the three agency policy priorities: diversity, climate and urban agriculture. You can view the three Powerpoint briefing presentations on the subjects.

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OSHA Proposes Heat Protection for Workers

On October 27, 2021, OSHA published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) for Heat Injury and Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings in the Federal Register. With this publication, OSHA is beginning the rulemaking process to consider a heat-specific workplace standard.

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Fall Covers for Spring Savings: Cover Crop Premium Discount Program

American Farmland Trust is leading a coalition of partners in Illinois to offer a Fall Covers for Spring Savings (FCSS) cover crop premium discount program to farmers who are planting cover crops on acres installed outside of state and federal program incentives (e.g., EQIP, CSP and state cost share). Eligible applicants receive a $5/acre insurance premium discount on the following year’s crop insurance invoice for every acre of cover crop enrolled and accepted in the program.

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Celebrate No-Till November

Back (again!) by popular demand, USDA and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Illinois are celebrating No-Till November. This fall, NRCS encourages America’s agricultural producers to keep the stubble and give their farm a more rugged, natural look. According to State Conservationist Ivan Dozier, “There are still many farmers who till fields up during the fall and expose the soil to harsh winter winds and weather, but there are so many good reasons not to.” Here are a few reasons to “Go No-Till”:

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Why are People Quitting Their Jobs, Exactly?

In a post-pandemic world, mass turnover has happened from people reevaluating their lives and their careers, and no company is immune. The Great Resignation is here and it's time for leaders to step up and put talent in the spotlight.

There are ways to curb the revolving door of turnover. In the second edition of its 2021 Talent Index, Beamery surveyed 5,000 employees in the U.S. and U.K. to gather insights on post-pandemic workplace policies and the retention issues plaguing employers.

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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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Restoring Wetlands More Popular for Landowners

Jason Bleich, a private lands biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said he has seen a lot of momentum in recent years as farmers and conservation programs have connected and found good use for land that might have seemed previously unusable.

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6 Things Hidden in the Fine Print of Your Telematics Provider Contract

Do you know the true total costs associated with your asset management contract agreement? In order to know if the contract you are signing is really best for you and your company, you need to spend some time combing through the fine print. Overlooking the standard boilerplate clauses can prove to be a high-priced mistake and the agreement you are signing may have hidden fees and costly terms.

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Can We Reduce Fertilizer Use without Sacrificing Food Production?

One of the world’s biggest and most impressive studies shows us that simple interventions can produce large results. In a decade-long trial, researchers worked with 21 million smallholder farmers across China to see if they could increase crop yields while also reducing the environmental impacts of farming.1 They were successful. 

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CRP, CRP, Where Art Thou Acres?

Launched in the depths of the 1980s Farm Financial Crisis, the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is a long-running cornerstone of farm bill programs. Initially implemented to primarily curtail burdensome ending stocks – and after years of ad hoc programs that idled more than 70 million acres annually – the goal of CRP was to create a long-term program with environmental benefits. Today, the program is a potential contender for environmental attributes.

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USDA Invests $75 million in Partner-Led Projects

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will invest nearly $75 million for 15 partner-led projects to address natural resource concerns on private lands. This year, projects funded by the Regional Conservation Partnership Program’s (RCPP) Alternative Funding Arrangements (AFA) focus on climate-smart agriculture and forestry and other conservation priorities as well as improving access for historically underserved producers. 

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Illinois Officials Release Third Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy Biennial Report

The Directors of the Illinois Department of Agriculture and Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are announcing the release of Illinois’ third Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy (NLRS) Biennial Report. The Report describes the continued progress being made in Illinois as well as challenges to reduce nutrient losses from multiple sources to improve water quality in Illinois and downstream to reduce the hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

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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.

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Nutrient Loss Strategy will Require Long-Term Efforts

You might think someone whose job is all about water quality would be concerned as the focus shifts to more broadly address climate change. Not so for Laura Christianson, a water quality professor at the University of Illinois.

She has seen attention migrate from the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and lawsuits against Iowa farmers to carbon sequestration and carbon credits as many field days and ag meetings feature the trendy topics today.

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New Effort Aims to Hold Back Water to Slow 'Flashy' Minn. Rivers

 This year, the river is the lowest the Waskoskys have ever seen, due to the widespread drought. But in past years, heavy rains have caused the river to suddenly swell into a torrent, carving away steep banks, and washing sand and silt downstream.

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It’s Been Six Years Since Illinois Set Out To Improve Water Quality. So Far, Farm Runoff Is Worse

When it rains on Joe Rothermel’s central Illinois farm, most of the water drains into the nearby East Branch Embarras River. There, it begins a journey south through the Wabash, Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. As it flows through more and more farmland, fertilizer runoff — which once nourished crops — compounds the water’s nutrient load, resulting in a dead zone off the coast of Texas and Louisiana. 

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Edge of Field Practices Can Help Food & Ag Companies Meet Sustainability Goals

Food is among the most basic and essential ways that we interact with nature. The security and continuity of our food supply chains depend on healthy soil, clean water and a stable climate—all factors that impact a producer’s ability to grow crops. Businesses are increasingly recognizing these connections and including environmental factors into their business models. One way they do this is by setting sustainability goals related to water quality and climate change.

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Illinois Officials Release Third Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy Biennial Report

The Directors of the Illinois Department of Agriculture and Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are announcing the release of Illinois’ third Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy (NLRS) Biennial Report. The Report describes the continued progress being made in Illinois as well as challenges to reduce nutrient losses from multiple sources to improve water quality in Illinois and downstream to reduce the hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

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Labor Shortages Contribute to Project Delays: AGC

Six of 10 contractor firm respondents said their projects are being delayed because of workforce shortages, according to a survey conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America and Autodesk. In addition, delays due to the lack of approvals or inspectors, or an owner’s directive to halt or redesign a project, were each cited by 30 percent of contractors.

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Use the Right Tools on Your Farm to Improve Water Quality

At a field day near Slater, Iowa, landowners, farmers, and ag experts discuss which tools to implement on the farm that help reduce nitrate leaching.

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USDA to Invest $50 Million in New Cooperative Agreements for Racial Justice & Equity

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing up to $50 million in cooperative agreements to support historically underserved farmers and ranchers with climate-smart agriculture and forestry. The Racial Justice and Equity Conservation Cooperative Agreements are available to entities and individuals for two year projects that expand the delivery of conservation assistance to farmers who are beginning, limited resource, socially disadvantaged, and veteran farmers.

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Rain, Rain Go Away, Right on Down the Ditch and Drain

It’s not a surprise to anyone that last week was a little wet. Okay, maybe a lot wet. Most folks I talked with reported no less than 2 inches of rain in a day of torrential downpours. For a 10-acre farm, that equates to 543,080 gallons of water! I won’t even mention the volume for larger tracts of land (hint: a 250-acre farm breaks 10 million gallons). Where is all that water going?

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EPA, Corps Announce Meetings to Gather Input on WOTUS

The Biden administration has reiterated its pledge to get input from a wide variety of stakeholders, including the agricultural industry, on how it plans to define “waters of the U.S.” in the Clean Water Act as it announced a series of upcoming “community engagements.”

In a news release Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of the Army, which includes EPA’s regulatory partner the Amy Corps of Engineers, said they would host virtual sessions in August and — potentially — September to gather feedback on their efforts to tackle a rewrite of the controversial definition.

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GPS Protection Bill Introduced

Newly introduced legislation backed by Farm Bureau and several dozen organizations representing a broad range of interests would help ensure farmers, ranchers and the many others who rely on GPS would not have to pay to correct any interference created by Ligado Networks’ operation on the broadband spectrum.

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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.

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Momentum is Building for Water Management

The drainage industry is currently in an interesting period. Currently, there is tremendous opportunity to advance agriculture for future generations. Changing precipitation patterns along with crop demands are driving the need for farmers to invest in tile drainage to provide consistent returns and mitigate risks.

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Conservation Addendums for Illinois Farm Leases

On September 26, 2019, the farmdoc project released three conservation addendums for the Illinois farm leases, available in the Agricultural Law section of farmdoc. The addendums provide a model for landowners and farm-tenants to discuss and agree upon specific aspects of production on the leased land.  This article provides further information and background.

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Infrastructure Bill - Go or No Go?

While there is a reported agreement by a bipartisan group of senators to the framework of increased spending on core infrastructure programs, the political jockeying continues. Republicans question how the increased spending will be paid for – definitively not with any kind of gas tax increase – in addition to what commitments are being made to then consider a massive government funded bill that would not require bipartisan support.

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Agriculture Funding Approved by House Committee

The House Appropriations Committee approved a fiscal 2022 funding bill this week for the Agriculture Department, Food and Drug Administration and Commodity Futures Trading Commission that would boost spending by more than 10%, including hefty amounts for ag research and climate-change-related programs.

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Tile Drainage Impacts Yield and Nitrogen

As most kids know, a big pile of mud can be a load of fun.

But not for farmers. Muddy fields mean too much water. And too much water means crops might not grow well.

Farmers often install underground drains, called tile drains, in waterlogged soils to help move the excess water away quickly. The drier soils are beneficial to their crops.

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USDA Seeks New Partnerships to Safeguard, Restore Wetland Ecosystems

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing up to $17 million for conservation partners to help protect and restore critical wetlands on agricultural lands through the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership (WREP). USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is prioritizing proposals that focus on assisting historically underserved producers conserving wetlands. Proposals from partners are due August 15, 2021.

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A relatively new type of technology, known as a bioreactor, is helping farmers in the Midwest reduce their nitrogen (N) loss up to 62 percent. 

Nitrogen is a key nutrient found in fertilizer, manure or compost such as ammonia. It helps grow healthy and bountiful crops, also has environmental implications if it is washed out of the soil. 

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The USDA is investing up to $5 million in the Wetland Mitigation Banking Program (WMBP), a grant program that supports the development of mitigation banks for use by agricultural producers seeking to maintain eligibility for USDA programs. Funds are available to Tribes, government entities, nonprofits, and other organizations.

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Employers Beware: Illinois Law Amended to Protect Applicants & Employees with Criminal Conviction Record

On March 23, 2021, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed into law amendments to the Illinois Human Rights Act (P.A. 101-656) with regard to criminal conviction records of applicants and employees in the state of Illinois. The amendments took effect immediately, so Illinois employers must become well informed about the new restrictions on the ability of an employer to rely on criminal records when making employment decisions.

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Biden Administration to Review Water of the US (WOTUS) Rule

On June 9, 2021, EPA and the Department of the Army (the agencies) concluded their review of the Navigable Waters Protection Rule defining the term “waters of the United States” and announced their intention to initiate a new rulemaking process that restores the protections in place prior to the 2015 WOTUS implementation and develops a new rule to establish a durable definition of “waters of the United States.”

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NOAA Forecasts Average-Sized ‘Dead Zone’ for the Gulf of Mexico

NOAA scientists are forecasting this summer’s Gulf of Mexico hypoxic area or “dead zone” — an area of low to no oxygen that can kill fish and other marine life — to be approximately 4,880 square miles. The 2021 forecasted area is smaller than, but close to the five-year average measured size of 5,400 square miles.

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Mind the Gap, Please

Over the last year, the concept of allowing space has become top-of-mind as people navigate their daily lives. We now know six feet is the minimum distance between people required to keep them safe from airborne viruses – and while there’s a bit more flexibility outdoors, the six-foot rule is somewhat universally applicable.

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May 31st is National Dam Safety Awareness Day-Focus on Dam Safety and Investment Needs

National Dam Safety Awareness Day was established in memoriam of the 2,220 people who lost their lives in the 1889 South Fork Dam failure near Johnston, Pennsylvania. The collapse of the South Fork Dam was a tragedy, but by no means was it an isolated incident.

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President and Cabinet Members Call For Historic Infrastructure Investment

To support “the fastest pace of economic growth in this country in nearly four decades” and help America compete better against “China and other countries to win the 21st Century,” President Joe Biden re-emphasized his call for beefed up infrastructure investments.

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Administration Introduces Board Conservation Proposal

Conservation groups praised the Biden administration’s first step in conserving 30% of the nation’s lands and waters by 2030, but the nation’s largest farm group said the initiative still lacks specifics, and a key farm-state senator said he was worried about removing too much land from production.

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LICA Legislative/Regulatory Priorities Established

National LICA has developed a set of legislative and regulatory priorities to guide our efforts this year. The Executive Committee has reviewed and discussed the priorities and looks forward to continuing the dialogue on these issues with other LICA members and most importantly, government and elected officials.

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EPA Commits Not to Go Back to Onerous Waters of the US Definition

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan told Congress this week that he does not intend to go back to the Obama administration’s definition of Waters of the U.S.

 

 

During a House Appropriations Subcommittee budget hearing, Republican Congressmen Mike Simpson of Idaho and Chris Stewart of Utah pressed Regan on his planned WOTUS actions as administrator.

 

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USDA Raising CRP Payment Rates, Expanding Insentives

The Biden administration is increasing payment rates and offering new financial incentives in a bid to spur landowners to enroll 4 million more acres into the Conservation Reserve Program.

 

 

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the plan this week in a meeting of the administration’s climate task force on the eve of the global climate summit, according to a readout provided by the White House.

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State DOTs Offer Federal Funding Solutions

State highway officials shared their views this week with a Senate committee reviewing funding options for long term highway and bridge investment.  State officials noted that there has been no increase in the federal gasoline tax of 18.4 cents per gallon since 1993. Alongside improvements over the last few decades in fuel efficiency, increased use of alternative fuel vehicles, the loss of fuel tax purchasing power, and the ever-growing costs of maintaining the nation’s transportation network, “there is recognition that our current funding model is not sustainable” to keep pace with long-term system needs.

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Climate Bill Would Expand USDA Stewardship Programs

The USDA would double the size of the Conservation Reserve, the government’s largest land-idling program, as part of supporting land stewardship on 100 million acres of farmland under companion bills filed in the House and Senate on Monday. Democrats Sen. Cory Booker and Rep. Abigail Spanberger, the sponsors, compared the legislation to New Deal programs to help farmers and combat soil loss during the Dust Bowl.

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Illinois State Funded Programs Need to Fill in Gaps

The interim goals of the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy, or NLRS, are to reduce 15% of nitrate-nitrogen losses and 25% total phosphorus losses to streams and rivers by 2025. A large part of getting to those goals means rapidly scaling up the kinds of regenerative farming practices that help reduce erosion, increase carbon sequestration, and promote soil health.

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LICA Joins Support For Congress to Fund Technical Assistance

LICA joined over 70 organizations in a letter to Congress calling for robust discretionary funding and support for Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) field staff through the Conservation Operations and Conservation Technical Assistance programs.
The letter emphasizes that technical assistance is essential for the delivery of conservation support for farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners across the country by providing capacity and conservation planning to support conservation practice implementation.

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Emerging Drainage Water Recycling Practice Could Improve Yields, Water Quality

 Drainage water recycling (DWR) is a drainage management system designed to capture water during wet periods so it can be used later when growing crops are thirsty.

Versions of DWR have been around for years, but adoption has remained limited. Now, interest is growing as the practice is recognized for its potential to improve water quality and help farmers reduce risks from weather volatility.  

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Global Plastics & Polymers Market Challenges Hit Spring Season

LICA is hearing more and more from members about the continuing price increase and availability of plastics products. The situation is impacting drainage, packaging, bottling, medical supplies…….you name it and if plastics is involved a scramble is underway now for product.

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4 Causes for Excavation Accidents and How to Prevent Them

Utility damages are on the rise. According to the Common Ground Alliance’s 2019 DIRT Report, there were 534,151 reported utility damages in the U.S. and Canada in 2019, a 4.5 percent increase since 2018.

The majority of excavation accidents fall into just a few root categories. Read on to learn what these categories are as well as steps utilities can take now to prevent future utility damages.

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Conservation Conversation Virtual Roundtable

A roundtable discussion featuring Precision Conservation Management Operation Manager Clay Bess and Director of Water Quality Research at IL Corn Laura Gentry will take place March 31 from 11:00 a.m. – 12 noon.

This hour long discussion will feature questions pre submitted from farmers interested in joining the Precision Conservation Management (PCM) program and what it all entails.

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Submit Illinois CSP Applications for 2021

State Conservationist, Ivan Dozier announced the submission deadline for Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) applications to be considered for funding in fiscal year (FY) 2021 is May 7, 2021. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) plans to invest up to $7.85 million for new CSP contracts in fiscal year 2021 in Illinois.

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Access CSP Funds For Macoupin County Project

State Conservationist Ivan Dozier announced U. S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will offer funding in Macoupin County for the Upper Macoupin Creek Watershed using the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). NRCS has partnered with American Farmland Trust to help local producers address natural resource concerns, namely degraded water quality and soil erosion.

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NRCS Announces ‘21 Application Cutoff for RCPP’s Precision Conservation Management Project 

State Conservationist Ivan Dozier announced U. S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will offer special funding for Precision Conservation Management efforts through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). Precision Conservation Management is an innovative service program designed to apply financial farm business planning with precision conservation technology to help farmers make intelligent conservation decisions.

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NRCS Announces Application Cutoff for Special Conservation Projects in Marshall-Putnam Counties

State Conservationist Ivan Dozier announced U. S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will offer funding in Marshall and Putnam Counties for the Mississippi River Basin Big Bend Enhancing Water-Soil-Habitat Quality project through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). NRCS has partnered with the Marshall-Putnam Soil and Water Conservation District to help producers address resource concerns such as degraded water quality and soil erosion.

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USDA Seeks Public Comment on Revised Conservation Practice Standards

“NRCS wants to ensure that the standards used to carry out the conservation practices are relevant to local agricultural, forestry and natural resource needs,” Acting NRCS Chief Terry Cosby said. “We are revising conservation practice standards to make sure they are the best technology and address the needs of producers and the natural resources on their land.”

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Infrastructure Struggles Call for Parental Attention

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) unveiled their 2021 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure last week, giving our nation a ‘C-’, up from 2017’s cumulative GPA of ‘D+’. This is the first time since ASCE began issuing the report card that the nation’s infrastructure has received a GPA outside of the D range. See each state report card at https://infrastructurereportcard.org/state-by-state-infrastructure.

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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.

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Saturated Buffers are Key to Removing Nitrates From Tile Drainage

Lee Tesdell farms 80 acres near Huxley, Iowa, that have been in his family since 1884. To maintain such a legacy, he’s adopted a long-term view of sustainability and strives to make his farm an example of the impact conservation practices have on soil health and water quality.

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Consider Illinois Conservation Easement Options

NRCS State Conservationist, Ivan Dozier announced funding is now available for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program - Agricultural Land Easement (ACEP-ALE) program. Dozier explains that the ALE program can help address development and population pressures that pose a threat to Illinois farmland acres currently used for agricultural production.

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ISAP Welcomes Two New Members

The Illinois Sustainable Agriculture Partnership, ISAP, is excited to welcome Illinois Soybean Association and Agricultural Drainage Management Coalition as new members to its current 12-member partnership. The expanded membership advances ISAP’s overall purpose of meeting goals identified in the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy and achieving environmental outcomes.

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Farmers Receive First H2Ohio Payments

REYNOLDSBURG, Ohio — Initial payments are going out to farmers enrolled in Governor Mike DeWine’s H2Ohio Initiative for improved water quality. The first incentive payments will be distributed to 154 farmers for completed and approved Voluntary Nutrient Management Plans (VNMP).

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Agriculture, Policy and Conservation Leaders Collaborate on a Path to Accelerate the Use of Edge of Field Practices on U.S. Farmlands

Today, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS), and Meridian Institute launched a Roadmap to accelerate the adoption of edge of field practices on US farmlands. Edge of field practices—like saturated buffers and prairie strips—can help farmers improve water quality, store more carbon in the soil, reduce flooding, support pollinators, and enhance wildlife habitat in working landscapes.

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U.S. President Joe Biden’s choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency told lawmakers on Wednesday he will consult with states and other stakeholders as the agency determines how to deliver on the administration’s plans to tackle climate change and clean up pollution hotspots.

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New BRON Mid-West Facility Open for Business

​​BRON Midwest, Inc. is NOW OPEN!  Our 24,000 sq/ft facility, strategically located at 610 Main St West, in Le Roy MN, will operate as a full sales, rental, parts, & service dealership.  Our new facility also houses an 1,800 sq/ft showroom to showcase BRON products and merchandise.  All BRON products and services will be available in Le Roy.

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Illinois Residents Value Strategies To Improve Water Quality

Illinois residents value efforts to reduce watershed pollution, and they are willing to pay for environmental improvements, according to a new study from agricultural economists at the University of Illinois.

Nutrient runoff from agricultural production is a major cause of pollution in the Mississippi River Basin and contributes to hypoxia – limited oxygen to support sea life in the Gulf of Mexico. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set up action plans to reduce pollution in 12 midwestern states and reduce transmissions of nitrate-nitrogen and phosphorus by 45% in 2040.

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USDA Undersecretary Northey Reflects

USDA Undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey told AgriPulse the majority of work on implementing the 2018 farm bill is done as well the heavy lifting for the first two rounds of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program funding for a diverse group of farmers and ranchers across the nation.

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State DOTs Receive Last Minute Financial Assistance

State departments of transportation are getting $10 billion in long-awaited emergency aid from a $900 billion COVID – 19 Relief Bill passed by Congress late on December 21 as part of a final year-end legislative package.
The House of Representatives passed the legislative package that included the COVID-19 rescue bill by a vote of 359 to 53, with the Senate passing it by a vote of 92 to 6.

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Water Rule Future Remains in Question

OMAHA (DTN) -- The future remains in flux for the Trump administration's Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR), as court cases continue to play out and the potential for yet again more changes to the Clean Water Act remains in play for the next administration.

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U of I's 2021 Crop Management Conference Goes Virtual

The 2021 Crop Management Conference is going virtual! CropFlix is binge-worthy content for corn and soybean producers aimed at improving your cropping systems.

CropFlix participants choose from a series of prerecorded programs and watch on demand for the entire month of February on the Learn @ Illinois Extension online learning platform. The conference’s new online format has doubled the number of presenters, with a wide variety of presentations on research updates, recommendations for best practices, climate projections, and more.

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Get Signed up for Wetland Reserve Easements

Champaign IL, January 4, 2021—Ivan Dozier, State Conservationist, announced the application period for the 2021 Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP-WRE). USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps provide long-term protection of Illinois’ farmland, wetlands and grasslands through ACEP. “The first application cut-off date has been established,” Dozier explains. “Right now we’re accepting applications for Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE). Applications that are received and meet program eligibility by February 5, 2021 will be considered for the 2021 program.

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ISA AND IL CORN INVEST IN CONSERVATION VIA THE PCM PROGRAM

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – December 14, 2020 – The Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) and Illinois Corn Growers Association (ICGA) have teamed up to research on-farm conservation practices and the financial implications of their adoption via the Precision Conservation Management (PCM) program.

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Edge of Field Practices in Agriculture

Farmers care deeply for the lands and waters that sustain their livelihoods and provide a wealth of benefits for all of us. Unfortunately, common agriculture practices inadvertently contribute to significant environmental impacts. For instance, runoff of excess nutrients—like phosphorus and nitrogen—from farm fields degrades the health of waterways, posing a threat to wildlife and drinking water.

Farmers hold the key to helping solve this and other environmental challenges.

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Springfield Plastics Presents Simmons Cancer Institute with Large Donation

SPRINGFIELD, Illinois (December 14, 2020) – Springfield Plastics presented Simmons Cancer Institute with a check for $76,151 from their 2020 Drain for the Cure Fundraiser on Monday, December 14 at 11:00am at Simmons Cancer Institute. Springfield Plastics launched their first “Drain for the Cure” campaign in 2014 and since then, has raised more than $400,000 for Simmons Cancer Institute.

 

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NRCS Unveils Conservation Concerns Tool

USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service has unveiled its new Conservation Concerns Tool on farmers.gov.

"Farmers and ranchers can use this tool to learn about different types of conservation concerns they might have impacting their land," said Kevin Norton, acting NRCS chief.

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LICA's View: Adjusting Accordingly 

The Land Improvement Contractors of America (LICA) continues to operate on all cylinders during these challenging times. Although we did not have a national summer meeting as planned, that has not slowed LICA down.

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Congress Attempts to Negotiate Highway Transportation Spending

Despite the uncertainty of the November 3 election, key committees in Congress are preparing to present their funding recommendations for next year. Infrastructure programs see a mixed bag of funding levels.

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And More Policy Outreach on Climate Change...

The Bipartisan Policy Center’s Energy Project focuses on developing pragmatic, evidence-based energy and climate policies to achieve meaningful progress toward a low-carbon future. Natural carbon removal by farm and forest lands is emerging as a critical component of legislative efforts to address climate change.

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Illinois EQIP 2021 Application Deadline Established

Champaign, IL, November 19, 2020 –Look to the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for conservation assistance on agricultural and forestland. Ivan Dozier, Illinois NRCS State Conservationist explains, “NRCS has a long history of conservation planning with agricultural producers and forestry managers. We have the technical knowledge to develop a conservation plan for your resource concerns and NRCS has conservation programs that are available to implement that plan.”

 

The primary financial assistance program is the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). EQIP provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural and forestland producers. To participate, producers can apply for EQIP throughout the year; however, Illinois NRCS has established an application deadline for January 8, 2021. Producers are encouraged to submit an application by the application deadline if they are interested in the program.

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NRCS Announces EQIP Application Cutoff Date for NW Illinois Driftless Area

Champaign, IL, November 19, 2020 – State Conservationist Ivan Dozier announced that the 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).  NRCS has partnered with Trout Unlimited to help producers address resource concerns such as wildlife habitat, water quality and soil health. Landowners can apply for assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to implement practices such as stream and shoreline protection, cover crops, and grassed waterways. The project focus is to reduce soil erosion, improve water quality, and improve wildlife habitat in portions of the following six counties: Boone, Carroll, Jo Daviess, Ogle, Stephenson, and Winnebago.      

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NRCS Announces 2021 Application Cutoff Date for Landscape Initiatives in Illinois

Champaign, IL — State Conservationist Ivan Dozier announced that the 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).  Producers who have agricultural or pastureland in an Initiative project area can apply for assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to implement a range of conservation practices that will improve water quality, decrease soil erosion, and improve wildlife habitat.

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NRCS Announces 2021 EQIP Application Cutoff Date for Otter Lake Source Water Protection Project

Champaign, IL, November 19, 2020 –State Conservationist Ivan Dozier announced that the 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). NRCS has partnered with Illinois Corn Growers Association to help producers address resource concerns such as degraded water quality and soil erosion. Producers can apply for assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to implement practices such as denitrifying bioreactors, saturated buffers, cover crops, nutrient management, and no-till. The project focus is to improve water quality in the Otter Lake Watershed located in portions of Macoupin, Morgan, and Sangamon Counties.

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NRCS Announces 2021 EQIP Application Cutoff Date for IL Headwaters Conservation Partnership

Champaign, IL, November 19, 2020 –State Conservationist Ivan Dozier announced that the 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. 

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NRCS Announces 2021 EQIP Cutoff Date for Upper Macoupin Creek Watershed Project

Champaign, IL, November 19, 2020 – State Conservationist Ivan Dozier announced that the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will offer funding in Macoupin County for the Upper Macoupin Creek Watershed project through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). NRCS has partnered with American Farmland Trust to help producers address resource concerns such as degraded water quality and soil erosion. Producers can apply for assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to implement practices such as drainage water management, denitrifying bioreactors, cover crops, nutrient management, and no-till. The project focus is to improve water quality in the Upper Macoupin Creek Watershed located in portions of Macoupin County.

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Register for VIRTUAL 2021 Conservation Cropping Seminars

Don’t miss information about ways farmers like yourself can improve soil health, learn about cover crops, remain profitable—and even more marketable—by using sustainable techniques that build up natural resilience to weather extremes, pests, and weeds. Learn from educators, researchers, experts, and local Illinois farmers! There will be Question & Answer sessions as well.

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USDA Announces Updated Conservation Practice Standards

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has completed and published updates to its set of National Conservation Practice Standards, which include 58 standards that have been updated or revised since August. The 2018 Farm Bill required USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to review all 169 of its national conservation practices to seek opportunities to increase flexibility and incorporate new technologies.

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New Positions Filled at Illinois NRCS State Office

State Conservationist Ivan Dozier welcomes two new members to the Leadership Team at the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Office facility in Champaign, Illinois. Winnie Chen works as the Assistant State Conservationist for Wetland and Conservation Compliance and Matt Robert is the new State Conservation Engineer.

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Farmers Encouraged to Keep the Stubble During No-Till November

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is encouraging Illinois farmers to “keep the stubble” on their harvested crop fields and improve soil health during No-Till November.

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USDA Identifies Priority Watersheds in Mississippi River Basin

USDA on Thursday identified 379 watersheds in the Mississippi River basin as priority watersheds to help farmers and landowners reduce nutrient runoff related to hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico.

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Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)

LICA participated in a call with USDA’s Farm Production and Conservation Under Secretary Bill Northey and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Acting Chief Kevin Norton on the Environmental Quality Incentives Program final rule. 

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President Promotes Better Water Management

President Trump has signed an executive order to create a water subcabinet that USDA Undersecretary Bill Northey says will make it easier for farmers to be successful.  Northey says “water is critical to farming and the success of Rural America.”

The EPA says the subcabinet will promote effective and efficient water resources management, develop a national water strategy, protect taxpayer investments and improve water infrastructure and support workforce development of water sector professionals.

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ISAP Releases Fact Sheet Highlighting Carbon Farming Opportunities!

This guide, developed by the ISAP Science Advisory Committee, serves to introduce farmers to financial opportunities available for implementing practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, summarizing minimum requirements and payments from traditional financial assistance programs side-by-side with market-based approaches.

Wetland Creation

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced up to $30 million is available in technical and financial assistance through the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership (WREP) to help conservation partners protect and restore critical wetlands on agricultural lands in Illinois.

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New Pilot Program to Show Farmers the Benefit of Conservation

The Ecosystem Services Market Consortium (ESMC), Illinois Corn Growers Association (ICGA), Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), and GROWMARK are launching an ESMC pilot project in Illinois to generate quantified, verified, certified greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and improved water quality credits from agriculture. 

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USDA Seeks New Partnerships to Safeguard, Restore Wetland Ecosystems

WASHINGTON, October 5, 2020 – The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced up to $30 million is available in technical and financial assistance through the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership (WREP) to help conservation partners protect and restore critical wetlands on agricultural lands.

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Construction Spending on the Rise