News

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The Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers Are Experiencing Widespread and Regional Changes

Status and Trend Reports It is the third of its kind produced as part of the Upper Mississippi River Restoration (UMRR) program and includes information on long-term changes in water quality, aquatic vegetation and fish from six study areas spanning the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers.

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Kocher & Kuberski Receive National LICA Scholarships

Every year, National LICA awards scholarships to support students in their pursuit of higher education and to encourage students to fulfill their dreams of entering into the career of their choice. 

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NOAA Forcasts Summer 'Dead Zone' of Nearly 5.4K Square Miles in Gulf of Mexico

NOAA is forecasting a summer “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico that will be approximately 5,364 square miles, making it about average for the 35-year history of the summertime dead zone measurements in the region. The forecast is lower than last year’s measured size and slightly lower than the five-year average measured size of 5,380 square miles. 

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Drainage Contractor’s Perspective on Barriers to Conservation Drainage Adoption Report

Respondents were asked about their degree of familiarity with six different types of conservation drainage practices: woodchip bioreactors, saturated buffers, drainage water management, constructed wetlands, subirrigation, and drainage water recycling. Drainage water management was the most familiar to respondents, with 75% of drainage contractors reporting they were very familiar with the practice. Drainage water recycling was the least familiar practice, with just 23% reporting they were very familiar with it.

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50 Years of the Clean Water Act

The Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948 that had been in place was the first major U.S. law to address water pollution issues. However, it was not providing the protection it should have due to a lack of enforcement. The Clean Water Act of 1972 was an amendment to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948. 

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LICA's View: Moving Forward Together

The new LICA Educational Foundation for Veterans staff has been working diligently to advance the foundation’s mission. Earlier this year we submitted a grant application to help fund the foundation. We will know later this summer if application was accepted for funding.

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Birkey's Transfers Ownership of Company to Employees

Birkey’s Farm Store, headquartered in Champaign, is now 100% employee-owned, as it has transitioned its business structure to an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) as of December 31, 2021. 

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How Farmers Keep Illinois Drinking Water Clean So You Can Beat the Summer Heat

I have spent pretty much my entire career thinking about our water, and what I can do to keep Illinois drinking water clean and safe. After all, I drink the same water and enjoy nature’s beauty just like you.

A farmer’s responsibility is to ask ourselves this question: “What is the potential impact of this farming practice on the land and water resources?”

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Long Term Study Shows Constructed Wetlands Provide Meaningful Water Quality

In 2005, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), began a long-term study to understand if, and how much, constructed wetlands can reduce agricultural nutrient losses from tile drainage on a Midwest row crop farm. Recent analyses of data collected over a 12-year period and published in the Journal of Environmental Quality shows that these treatment wetlands are very effective both in removing nitrate and in retaining dissolved phosphorus delivered from adjacent row crop farm fields via tile drains.

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How Do We Solve the Problem of Agricultural Nutrient Runoff?

U. of I. natural resources and environmental sciences researcher Lowell Gentry describes the pros and cons of various strategies to reduce nitrate runoff from agricultural fields.

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Is Water Quality a Trade-Off for the Benefits of No-Till?

No-till reduces soil erosion, reduces surface runoff, increases organic matter and increases soil water holding capacity. However, Baker et al., 2017 notes that there is a risk of P transport through macropores with no-till in fine-textured clay soil.

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Small Wetlands Can Have Big Impacts

In a new study, researchers have shown that wetlands built next to farmlands can dramatically reduce the amount of excess nutrients reaching aquatic environments.

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ISAP Releases 2021 Annual Report

In 2021, ISAP remained committed to working collaboratively to advance sustainable agriculture in Illinois. The Partnership is proud to share many of the year’s accomplishments in the 2021 Annual Report and looks forward to continuing this important work throughout 2022.  

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EPA Memo Points to Need for More TMDLs

The EPA is pressing state environmental regulators to expand the number of so-called pollution diets to reduce nutrient runoff in rivers and other water bodies and to expand the adoption of numeric nutrient standards, according to an agency memorandum sent to state officials this week.

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Take Conservation Action for Bobwhite Quail

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) unveiled a new plan to help guide voluntary conservation work over the next five years across 25 states, including over 7 million acres of new conservation practices on productive, working lands, and ​will contribute to the current Administration’s efforts to make our nation a leader on climate change mitigation, adaptation and resilience. Illinois is one of those states.

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Aspiration Begins to Slowly Meet Construction Jobs Demand

The first two months of 2022 saw a sizable increase in payroll numbers in the construction industry. The AGC reports employment rose by 60,000 jobs between January and February, and hourly pay jumped its highest in nearly 40 years. The industry still faces a massive worker shortage, but good-paying jobs have people migrating into construction, choosing craft trades over desk jobs.

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Biweekly Sampling Accurately Measures Tile Nitrate Levels, Research Finds

The monitoring of tile water on 48 Minnesota and Wisconsin farms from 2018-20 has established that biweekly testing is comparable in accuracy to real-time testing when measuring nitrate levels, according to Tim Radatz, coordinator of Discovery Farms Minnesota and Discovery Farms Wisconsin. The Discovery Farms programs are farmer-funded and farmer-directed programs that conduct on-farm research, outreach and education about conservation farming methods, with a focus on improving water quality.

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New Study Reveals Increasing Rate of Erosion in Midwest

A new study in the journal Earth's Future led by the University of Massachusetts Amherst shows that, since Euro-American settlement approximately 160 years ago, agricultural fields in the midwestern U.S. have lost, on average, two millimeters of soil per year. This is nearly double the rate of erosion that the USDA considers sustainable. 

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Tile Drainage 101

Underneath 50 million-plus acres across the nation are miles of tile quietly keeping fields in prime condition for growing crops.

Soils that tend to hold water longer, flat land that can’t shed water, and fields that have spots prone to saturation are suited to tile drainage. Depending on the issue, this practice enables the soil to act more uniformly.

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Tips for Improving the Performance of Your Drainage System

When you buy your drainage pipe, do you ask yourself if one pipe material removes water more quickly than another? Here are some tips that will improve the performance of your drainage system.

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USDA Makes Changes to Conservation Progr

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 (CIC) option, a new and streamlined EQIP Cover Crop Initiative (CCI), and added flexibilities for producers to easily re-enroll in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).

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More Riparian Buffer Strips Can Protect Waterways

A new study suggests more opportunities to protect waterways: One system for keeping too many nutrients out of streams could be used more widely than it is now. Known as saturated riparian buffer strips, the system slows down and redirects water coming off farm fields.

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NRCS 2022 RCPP Application Cutoff Date: Working Lands, Water, and Wildlife Partnership Project

State Conservationist Ivan Dozier announced USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will offer Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) funding for the Working Lands, Water and Wildlife Partnership Project throughout Illinois. Illinois NRCS has partnered with the Conservation Fund to help producers address resource concerns of inadequate habitat for wildlife, water quality, and long-term protection of farmland. 

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Illinois-A Major Feeder to the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone

Hundreds of miles south of Chicago, decomposing algae in the Gulf of Mexico makes life so perilous for fish they swim away — or die.

These dead zones, which result from algae blooms sapping up oxygen, have increased in oceans around the world as waters warm.

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2022 Overholt Drainage School

Come prepared to engage in a combination of lectures, field demonstrations, and panel discussions and to practice what you’ve learned through practical exercises.

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Environmental Quality Incentives Program

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is a voluntary conservation program administered by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) that offers farmers, ranchers, and nonindustrial private forest landowners financial and technical assistance to help plan and implement conservation practices and activities on working agricultural and forestry landscapes.

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Crops Collaboration and Conservation

Last spring, when crops were green and upland birds were nesting nearby, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever entered a partnership with the American Society of Agronomy (ASA). The purpose of this perhaps “odd couple” relationship? To connect the technical experts within each organization to increase knowledge and understanding, and most importantly, to work together identifying opportunities to increase our collective tools for helping farmers achieve their conservation goals.

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Shallow Drains

Shallow drains refer to subsurface (tile) drain pipes installed at a depth of 2.5- to 3-ft depth. Shallow drains have a higher initial cost because they require a narrower drain spacing than deep drains to achieve the same water removal rate, but they are worth considering because of their benefits. These benefits include lowering of the water table more quickly, removing less total water from the soil profile, reducing nitrate loss, retaining more moisture in the root zone, and increasing crop yield under certain conditions

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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.

Illinois Land Improvement Contractors Association, Inc.

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