Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District

We inspire and partner with our community to protect the natural resources and agricultural future of our District.


Can the Fern That Cooled the Planet Do It Again?

Can the Fern That Cooled the Planet Do It Again?

Fifty-five million years ago, when scientists believe the Earth was in a near-runaway state, dangerously overheated by greenhouse gases, the Arctic Ocean was also a very different place. It was a large lake, connected to the greater oceans by one primary opening: the Turgay Sea.

When this channel closed or was blocked nearly 50 million years ago, the enclosed body of water became the perfect habitat for a small-leaved fern called Azolla. Imagine the Arctic like the Dead Sea of today: It was a hot lake that had become stratified, suffering from a lack of exchange with outside waters. That meant its waters were loaded with excess nutrients.

Azolla took advantage of the abundant nitrogen and carbon dioxide, two of its favorite foods, and flourished. Large populations formed thick mats that covered the body of the lake. When rainfall increased from the changing climate, flooding provided a thin layer of fresh water for Azolla to creep outward, over parts of the surrounding continents.

Azolla bloomed and died like this in cycles for roughly 1 million years, each time laying down an additional layer of the thick blanket of sediment that was finally found in 2004 by the Arctic Coring Expedition.

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Source:  Jennifer Huizen, Scientific American, July 15, 2014

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Mark Shepard, manager of New Forest Farms and author of the book Restoration Agriculture, will offer a critique of annual crop-based staple food production, while laying the ecological framework and reasons for designing a perennial staple food crops farm.

You will gain the basic skills to begin the transition from annuals to a permanent, perennial agriculture incorporating everything from nuts and berries, to livestock and fruits and vegetables.

Shepard’s talk will introduce the concept of ecosystem mimicry, Keyline water management and will help you to chart a path forward to a truly ecologically designed farm.

This was presented by Mark Shepard at PV1 in March 2014.

Learn more and listen at permaculturevoices.com/podcast.


What the Budget Deal Means for American Agriculture

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After months of negotiations, the House and Senate have finally reached a two-year budget deal to keep the government running, increase annual discretionary spending caps for defense and non-defense programs ($300 billion), and provide disaster relief ($89 billion). The Senate passed the bill 71-28 around 2am this morning, and the House followed shortly thereafter with a vote of 240-186. The agreement paves the way for the next critical step in the government funding process, appropriations.

The budget deal sets the parameters within which Congress can fund particular programs, but it does not dictate how much money each discretionary program will receive – the allocation of funds is left to the congressional appropriators. In a normal budgetary cycle, new appropriations bills would be passed annually before September 30, which is the end of the federal fiscal year. However, when appropriations are delayed, Congress typically passes a “Continuing Resolution” (CR), which keeps federal programs running at the previous fiscal year’s funding levels. Because there has been no overall budget deal until this week, the government has been operating under a series of CRs for the past four months, since the beginning of FY 2018. By raising the discretionary funding caps for two years, Congress has dramatically improved the odds that congressional appropriators will be able to finalize appropriations legislation for FY 2018, as well as for FY 2019 later this year.

In addition to raising spending limits, the deal includes yet another CR, the fifth since last October, extending FY 2017 funding levels through March 23. This timeline should give the Appropriations Committees time to hammer out the details of an omnibus appropriations bill that adjusts spending upward to the new budget caps.

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Source:  National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, February 9, 2018


Stripes of wildflowers across farm fields could cut pesticide spraying

Tailored flower strips allow pest-eating insects to reach throughout crop fields

Long strips of bright wildflowers are being planted through crop fields to boost the natural predators of pests and potentially cut pesticide spraying.

The strips were planted on 15 large arable farms in central and eastern England last autumn and will be monitored for five years, as part of a trial run by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH).

Concern over the environmental damage caused by pesticides has grown rapidly in recent years. Using wildflower margins to support insects including hoverflies, parasitic wasps and ground beetles has been shown to slash pest numbers in crops and even increase yields.

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Source:  Damian Carrington, The Guardian, January 31, 2018


CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF FOOD AND AGRICULTURE AWARDS $9.64 MILLION FOR ALTERNATIVE MANURE MANAGEMENT PROJECTS

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The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has awarded $9.64 million in grant funding to 17 alternative manure management projects across the state. These projects, part of the Alternative Manure Management Program, or AMMP, will reduce greenhouse gas emissions on California dairy farms and livestock operations by using manure management practices that are alternatives to dairy digesters (i.e. non-digester projects).

When livestock manure decomposes in wet conditions, it produces methane, a greenhouse gas 72 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Changing manure management practices so that manure is handled in a dry form can help significantly reduce methane emissions. These reductions contribute to the state’s overall short-lived climate pollutant strategy under Senate Bill 1383, which aims to reduce California’s methane emissions to 40 percent below 2013 levels by 2030.

“California dairy farmers are leading the way in proactively addressing greenhouse gas emissions” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “I am excited to see both the diversity of farms and the variety of non-digester manure management practices being adopted through these projects that will help meet the state’s climate goals.”

More of the press release here.

AMMP program info here.


Racial Equity in the Farm Bill: Recommendations and Opportunities

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Editor’s Note: This blog post is the third and final post in a three-part blog series by NSAC Policy Intern Noah McDonald, which examines how the Farm Bill can take steps to advance racial equity within the food system. The first post discussed the historical context and foundations for racial inequities with the food system. The second post spoke to some of the present-day issues that farmers of color and farm/food advocates face, as well as the policies that USDA has put into place to amend its wrongdoing. This post will propose some solutions and examine what institutional changes are needed to achieve greater racial equity in the 2018 Farm Bill and beyond.

With the 2018 Farm Bill on the horizon, there is no better or more urgent time than now to be discussing the role of racial equity in agriculture, and working together to find solutions. The farm bill is a rare beast – it only comes around every four years (notwithstanding delays), and includes multiple titles of legislation that will allocate billions of dollars of funding and services across the food and farm system. The gravity of this bill makes it the perfect vehicle through which to address systemic racial inequities in our agricultural system through thoughtful and impactful public policy.

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Source:  National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, January 31, 2018.