DAVIS, Calif., Dec. 22, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The invaluable part of voluntary conservation on farms and ranches is customers walking away with a deeper appreciation for the natural resources they just protected. For David Jablons, of Toluma Farms in Marin, Calif., who works with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), he values gaining better management practices from his in-depth conservation plan.
"We have been so grateful for our partnership with the NRCS," said Jablons. "Working with them for over a decade has made a critical difference in our ability to resurrect our farm into a thriving and efficient goat and sheep dairy. Using programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program has expanded our experience implementing best land management practices, while helping put the farm back into our local food shed."
This ongoing partnership has translated into a beautiful and restored certified-organic operation that produces award-winning farmstead cheeses while creating meaningful jobs in Marin County.
NRCS in California again invested nearly $120 million in 2015, using working lands conservation programs through the 2014 Farm Bill. When matching contributions by farmers and ranchers are included, this investment essentially doubles. On top of the financial contribution, the technical and management skills attained through the conservation planning process on each farm and ranch will benefit customers for years to come.
"This was a challenging year for producers, and conservation in general, due to a fourth year of drought conditions," says Carlos Suarez, state conservationist for NRCS in California. "I continue to admire our customers and conservation partners who strive to put good conservation on the ground and be better stewards of our natural resources."
In a year of extreme drought, NRCS assisted farmers and ranchers to sustain their operations for better years ahead. NRCS continued to assist farmers address soil erosion, soil health, and irrigation efficiency. Furthermore, the Agency continues to target funding and technical assistance to help farmers adopt practices to address Climate Change, increase carbon sequestration, and other innovative processes.
California is home to some of the worst air quality in the nation. To help achieve California's clean air goals, NRCS invested over $38 million to address dust, particulate matter, and on-farm engine emissions. Through NRCS's National Air Quality Initiative, farmers recycled old, high-polluting diesel engines and replaced them with systems that run up to 90 percent cleaner. The NRCS National Air Quality Initiative that funds engine replacement, continues to help farmers exceed emission-reduction targets established in the State Implementation Plan for California's Central Valley.
A number of NRCS wildlife initiatives continued to achieve success throughout California. In particular, efforts to protect Sage-Grouse, Tricolored Blackbirds and migratory waterbirds continue to give the Agency an opportunity to work with key government and non-profit partners through collaborative conservation.
NRCS continues to preserve and protect the landscape through easement programs. The NRCS Agricultural Conservation Easement Program invested approximately $20 million to protect productive and sustainable farms in perpetuity, and restore former wetlands into prime wildlife habitat that can also provide carbon sequestration benefits.
Lastly, NRCS did not only focus on financial and technical assistance but also outreach to historically underserved customers. NRCS partnered on a successful conference in Fresno, Calif., that brought together over 300 Hispanic farmers to learn skills on conservation, soil health, and financial management.
This coming year is already shaping up to be another critical year to manage water resources, reduce dead and drying trees to prevent wildfire, improve crop and rangeland soils, and provide free conservation plans to current and future customers.
Since its inception in 1935, NRCS has worked in partnership with private landowners and a variety of local, state and federal conservation partners to deliver conservation based on specific, local needs. Please visit www.ca.nrcs.usda.gov for more information about NRCS.
SOURCE USDA - Natural Resources Conservation Service