Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District

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How Much Water Do Coho Salmon Need?

Researchers Find Surprising Answer

For California’s endangered Coho salmon, just a trickle of water may mean survival in the small rivers and streams where the fish spend their first year, researchers found.

The Sonoma County Water Agency Mirabel inflatable dam and fish ladder on the Russian River in Sonoma County, California. A new study of Russian River tributaries found that even small amounts of streamflow can help endangered Coho salmon stay alive.Florence Low / California Department of Water Resources

In California’s small coastal streams, where hundreds of thousands of Coho salmon once returned each year to spawn, most wild populations now barely cling to survival. Habitat loss and intensive water use have pushed them to the brink; now climate change and increasing competition for water resources could send them over the edge.

However, recent research offers some encouraging findings – that juveniles of Coho salmon, an endangered species in California, can survive in creeks where just a trickle of water remains flowing. Since Coho spend their entire first year in fresh water before heading for the sea, it’s critical that their creeks don’t dry out in the summer.

Scientist Mariska Obedzinski and three collaborators – Sarah Nossaman Pierce, a California Sea Grant Extension specialist; Gregg Horton, a principal environmental specialist at the Sonoma County Water Agency; and Matthew Deitch, an assistant professor of watershed management at the University of Florida – found that less than 1 gallon per second of flow in small streams is all it takes in some creeks to keep pools interconnected.

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Source:  Alastair Bland, Water Deeply, July 9, 2018.

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Senate Farm Bill Offers Hope to Sustainable Agriculture Advocates

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On June 28, the Senate passed its version of the 2018 Farm Bill with strong, bipartisan support – 86 Senators voted in favor of passage, and only 11 against it. The Senate’s swift movement on their bill keeps hope alive that a final bill might be finished before the 2014 Farm Bill expires on September 30, 2018.

The Senate farm bill stands in stark contrast to the House, which one week prior to the Senate vote had just barely passed their own version of the farm bill. Unlike the Senate bill, which had support from most Senators (of both parties), the House bill barely squeaked through passage 213-211; 20 Republicans joined all Democrats in voting no.

The Senate bill aligns with many of the priorities of family farmers and sustainable food advocates and was applauded by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), as well as many other leading farm and food groups. The bill, for example, contains important provisions to increase investments in farm-to-fork initiatives and beginning and socially disadvantaged farmer programs, and also makes important policy improvements to federal conservation programs.

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Source:  National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, June 29, 2018.


Interviews Highlight Successes, Opportunities for New Dairy Methane Program

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California’s latest climate change and agriculture program is the first in country that aims to reduce methane emissions from dairies and livestock operations by incentivizing environmentally minded manure management practices. In addition to providing significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, alternative manure management leads to other co-benefits such as improved air and water quality, reduced odor, and the production of valuable soil amendments.

California Climate and Agriculture Network (CalCAN) recently interviewed a number of experts in the industry to better understand how the new Alternative Manure Management Program (AMMP) is working for dairy producers. We found growing interest in the program, but a complex and difficult application that may keep many small and mid-scale producers out of the program until improvements are made.

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Source:  Noah Lakritz for the CalCAN Blog, June 4, 2018

 


House Pushes Through Flawed Farm Bill on Second Try

Today, the House passed its deeply flawed farm bill, H.R. 2, which was widely criticized by farm and food advocates nationwide.

Farm, rural, conservation, and anti-hunger organizations, including the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), have been clamoring for the House to commit to a bipartisan, farmer-forward farm bill even before the first vote on H.R. 2 took place last May. The bill passed today by the House is full of provisions that would severely undermine local and regional food economies, weaken or eliminate popular conservation programs, and take food from the mouths of hungry Americans.

NSAC is dismayed that House leadership has refused to engage in the thoughtful, bipartisan debate that has been the hallmark of all previous farm bills. Our nation’s farmers, families, and food-producing communities deserve better. They deserve a strong farm bill that can gain enough support in both the House and Senate to ensure passage of a final package before the expiration of the current farm bill.

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Source:  National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, June 21, 2018


President’s Rescission Package is Direct Attack on Farm Bill

The rescissions package being considered by the Senate this week would pull the rug out from under struggling farmers and ranchers, handicapping their ability to tap new markets, grow rural jobs, and conserve soil, water, and other resources on their land. The package would cut $657 million from farm bill conservation programs and $15 million from the Value Added Producer Grants program, which catalyzes entrepreneurship and job growth in food producing communities. Furthermore, the bill undermines the authority of the Senate Agriculture Committee, which is actively working to reauthorize the farm bill.

The decision to approve or reject the rescissions package comes before the Senate just one week before it will likely to vote on the draft farm bill, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) urges the Senate to defend the farm bill process and America’s farmers and ranchers by voting no on H.R.3, the Spending Cuts to Expired and Unnecessary Programs Act.

The rescissions package being considered this week would:

  • Cut $157 million from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) on top of $1.5 billion in cuts already made by the Senate Agriculture Committee’s farm bill. EQIP is a cornerstone working lands conservation program, which provides financial and technical assistance for farmers and ranchers to implement conservation activities on their land in production. If the EQIP rescission is passed, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service will be prevented from signing more than 600 EQIP producer contracts.
  • Claw back $335 million from the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), for which the Senate Agriculture Committee decided last week to increase funding by $1.5 billion. Rescinded funds that would otherwise be used to service existing easement contracts would have to be replaced by current easement funds; as a result, approximately 490 ACEP easements would not be made. ACEP provides support to private landowners, land trusts, and other entities to preserve agricultural lands, grasslands, and wetlands.
  • Eliminate $15 million from the Value-Added Producer Grants (VAPG) program, which bolsters rural entrepreneurship and economic activity by helping family farmers grow and diversify their businesses. For past last five months, USDA Rural Development has been reviewing, ranking, and scoring hundreds of VAPG applications, but the rescissions package would strop that award process in its tracks.

American farmers and food-producing communities rely on farm bill funding to keep our food system vibrant and strong; the rescissions package would undermine the authority, spirit, and vital support of this important bill. A vote for the rescissions package is a vote against the farm bill, and against our nation’s farmers and ranchers, we therefore urge the Senate to oppose the Spending Cuts to Expired and Unnecessary Programs Act.

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Source:  National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, June 18, 2018.

About the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is a grassroots alliance that advocates for federal policy reform supporting the long-term social, economic, and environmental sustainability of agriculture, natural resources, and rural communities. Learn more and get involved at: http://sustainableagriculture.net

The post COMMENT: President’s Rescission Package is Direct Attack on Farm Bill appeared first on National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.


Senate Committee Leadership Produces Bipartisan Draft Farm Bill

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Washington, DC, June 8, 2018 – Following the Senate Agriculture Committee’s release of its draft farm bill, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) released the following comment:

Today, Senate Agriculture Committee leadership has shown that the farm bill can and should remain a bipartisan affair. Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) have, true to their word, worked together to produce a bill that includes much-needed policy improvements and funding increases that will help drive the sustainability of American agriculture. The Senate bill stands in stark contrast to its companion in the House, which moved out of committee along completely partisan lines and was denounced by many farm and food advocates before it was defeated on the House floor. We are pleased, for example, that unlike the House companion bill, the Senate Committee’s draft bill makes no cuts to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for low-income Americans.

The draft bill scales up investments for farm-to-fork initiatives and beginning and socially disadvantaged farmer programs, and makes important policy improvements to crop insurance and conservation programs. It also fails, however, to make meaningful reforms to farm subsidy programs to limit economic and farm concentration, and includes significant cuts to critical working lands conservation programs. In all, we believe the bill produced by Chairman Roberts and Ranking Member Stabenow offers a good starting point for farm bill negotiations in the Senate. We look forward to actively working with our members and with our allies in the Senate to pass a bill that protects and supports American family farmers

Conservation

The Conservation Title of the Senate bill includes much needed reforms to and enhancements of critical conservation programs, including those from the GROW Act and SOIL Stewardship Act. We commend Chairman Roberts and Ranking Member Stabenow for including policy changes in their bill that will help farmers to enhance soil health, water quality, and advance organic agriculture. We also applaud Senate leadership for prioritizing conservation assistance for historically underserved producers, and for protecting overall funding for the Title, (as well as restoring funding for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, which was cut in the 2014 Farm Bill).

Sadly, these improvements are severely dampened by the fact that the Senate draft bill cuts funding from the farm bill’s two primary working lands conservation programs – the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and Environmental Quality Incentives program (EQIP). Farmer and rancher demand for CSP and EQIP in recent years has often reached levels more than double the available funding, proof that these programs are important for farmers’ long-term sustainability and viability. While we appreciate that the Senate bill rejects any cut to overall Title funding, we believe that robbing cornerstone conservation programs to fund others in the Title is an ill-advised gambit that will open the door to additional attacks on conservation funding in the future.

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Source:  National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, June 8, 2018


Administration Seeks to Poach Nearly $1 Billion from Agriculture Programs

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Last budget cycle, individual voter and advocacy groups like the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) helped to push a strong budget package through Congress, one which the President ultimately – if reluctantly – signed. Immediately after that budget deal was done and a fiscal year (FY) 2018 appropriations omnibus was delivered (with an extra $2 billion for agriculture appropriations), the Administration seemed to regret its decision. On May 8, 2018, just months after signing an FY 2018 budget deal that included an additional $300 billion for discretionary and non-defense programs, President Trump sent Congress a package of proposed rescissions of federal spending. Rescission proposals from a President are a rarely used budget tool (we have not seen one since the Clinton Administration) that are designed to claw back federal funding that has already been allocated, but not yet spent.

In total, the President has asked Congress to cut $15.4 billion from discretionary programs under the rescissions package. For farm and food programs, nearly $1 billion in cuts are on the table, with conservation and rural development programs as the prime targets.

The Rescission Process

Rescissions proposals from Congress are fairly common and are typically a routine part the appropriations process. Recissions initiated by the President, however, are quite rare in recent history and must go through a somewhat complex process dictated by the Impoundment Control Act of 1974.

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Source:  National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, June 1, 2018