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Water is a precious commodity. Just ask California growers trying to navigate through a drought that is said to be one of the worst since the 1500s.
In March, the California Farm Water Coalition upgraded its estimate of acres growers will leave idle this year to 800,000, up from 500,000, because of a lack of water. According to USDA’s Drought Monitor, the drought in 95% of the state is being called “Severe” to “Exceptional.”
What can California and growers in the West do? Unfortunately, options are limited. Conservation is an obvious solution — and most growers in the West are already well down that road. During the last couple of decades, many have turned their attention to drip irrigation, which is considered to be the most efficient way to water crops. Continue reading
Ann Johnson grows wine grapes in El Dorado County, Calif., where she carefully uses each drop of water. Water is imperative to her operation, and using it wisely and keeping it clean are important to private landowners like her.
Conservation practices, like a drip irrigation system, help her care for this natural resource. A public television series, “This American Land,” will showcase Johnson and other California farmers and ranchers who are working with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to put conservation on the ground. Continue reading
Three years ago, Carol Huether, decided it was time to change careers and reinvent herself. So, she took her years of experience managing other people’s businesses and turned those skills into a successful organic vegetable and herb farm in Spring Creek, Nev.
As she transformed her 10 acres into a productive operation, Huether wasn’t working alone. USDA agencies, such as the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Farm Service Agency (FSA), worked closely with Huether to create a sustainable operation, despite the region’s challenging climate.
“I wouldn’t have been able to even start this kind of operation if it hadn’t been for all the agencies coming together to help me under the umbrella of the USDA,” Huether says. Continue reading
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Jason Weller toured local farmland in Los Banos, California that is benefiting from a federal partnership between NRCS and the U.S. Department of Interior Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) to protect the Bay-Delta Watershed. Approximately $6 million was invested by the two agencies, from 2011 – 2013, to upgrade irrigation water delivery infrastructure and on-farm irrigation equipment to conserve water for San Luis Canal Company farmers.
“Water is the lifeblood of agriculture and the environment,” said Cannon Michael, a local farmer. “Farmers have a duty to be good stewards of our resources and conservation is a key element of good stewardship. Improved water use efficiency and reduced runoff benefits farmers and the environment. Our partnership with NRCS has yielded very positive results and their programs encourage conservation on a large scale.”
Weller toured Michael’s new drip irrigation system, funded by NRCS, and nearby infrastructure improvements funded by Reclamation. Continue reading