Friday, December 21, 2012

Giving the Gift of Water

The Soil and Water Conservation Society recently topped this list of water conservation organizations to donate to this holiday season. (Thanks, Seametrics!) By making a donation, you will help SWCS
  • Maintain our Washington, DC, presence that has provided excellent representation for you on the current Farm Bill and other conservation policy issues
  • Reestablish a position in Ottawa to interface between Canadian government officials and our membership across Canada
  • Produce position papers on important conservation science and policy issues and encourage their consideration in policy and program implementation

Making a contribution is simple. You can
  1. Donate online at;
  2. Write a check and mail it to the SWCS at 945 SW Ankeny Road, Ankeny, IA 50023; or
  3. Call our office at 1-800-THE-SOIL.
Thanks for supporting us and natural resource conservation efforts this year!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Beginnings of a Paradigm Shift

By Dan Towery, SWCS President

There is a growing buzz about soil health, and I believe that this subject is going to be a game changer. I wasn’t taught about soil health in college (in fact, I was taught that one cannot increase the organic matter on cropland). However, things have changed since then. Back then, no-till was in its very early years of adoption, and if cover crops were planted, they were used as a green manure crop. When I was working as a soil conservationist with the Soil Conservation Service, if a grower planted no-till it was a major accomplishment. At that time, however, it was done as a one-year conservation practice. Continuous no-till was only being used by a small number of growers, and even fewer researchers were using continuous no-till. Rotational tillage (no-till one year and then full-width tillage for other years) was the norm. It was almost twenty years before I realized that it took continuous no-till to see improvements in soil properties. Most (but not all) researchers and those who provide technical assistance now realize that rotational tillage results in almost no change in soil properties.

The adoption of continuous no-till and a more diversified crop rotation (at least in the Great Plains) began the shift in thinking regarding soil health or soil quality. Over time, there was an increase in organic matter in the top most soil layer; infiltration, aggregate stability, available moisture holding capacity, pore space, and bulk density improved. The soil was functioning better, and growers were seeing a yield increase in dry summers. Growers then started planting cover crops to add some or even more diversity to the crop rotation, and the changes in soil properties came much faster and were even more pronounced. Scavenging or fixing nitrogen dramatically changed the nitrogen cycle. Also, the use of cover crop “cocktails” (mixes) started growing.

Due to these production advantages, soil health has become the buzz. It may not be prominent in your county or area yet, but it will be. Instead of just looking at the physical and chemical soil properties (as I was taught in college), the interrelationship with the biological properties is now emerging as a critical component of the soil functioning process. But it takes time to change the biology in the soil. It is complex and is affected by temperature and moisture (remember it is a living system). Just as we can’t see germs and viruses, we can’t always observe the actual bacteria, fungi, or other soil critters, but they are there. Researchers will sort out the scientific aspects regarding soil biology over time. Meanwhile, more and more farmers and farmer advisors are seeing the results of an improved soil. They are seeing consistently higher yields in some years because they are making their soil more resilient. And a healthy soil is a critical step in order to improve water quality and to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service recently launched a soil health campaign that can be viewed online here. The Indiana Chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society held a soil health workshop on November 16th, and two cover crops conferences will take place in Iowa and Illinois this winter. Take a look at these and other events and become involved in learning what soil health is all about.

This article first appeared in the November 2012 Conservogram newsletter.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Dale Threatt-Taylor interviewed on PBS

Watch Wednesday, November 14, 2012 on PBS. See more from NC Now.

District Director for the Wake Soil & Water Conservation District in Raleigh, NC, (and SWCS Member) Dale Threatt-Taylor is interviewed on the relationship between Ken Burns' new documentary The Dust Bowl and soil and water conservation today.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Soil Health Workshop Videos

The Colorado Chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society is hosting a Technical Conference in Vail, Colorado, on November 12 and 13. The focus of the conference is soil health. Presentations will be streamed live and available for viewing after the conference. Access the presentations here.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Conservation Technology Information Center: 30-Year Anniversary

The Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC), an SWCS corporate member organization, celebrated its 30th anniversary on October 25, 2012, at Monsanto's facility in Creve Coeur, Missouri. The event included panel discussions exploring the past, present, and future of agricultural conservation, as well as recognition of individuals who have contributed to the organization's mission. Read the full event summary here.

Friday, November 2, 2012

SWCS 2013 Annual Conference: Call for Presentations

The Soil and Water Conservation Society is seeking oral and poster presentations and symposia proposals for the 2013 International Annual Conference in Reno, NV.

Each year SWCS identifies topics or a theme for special attention at the Annual Conference. The overarching theme for the conference this year is Resilient Landscapes: Planning for Flood, Drought & Fire. 

At the 2013 SWCS Annual Conference, we would like to explore conservation planning, policy, and practices that, by improving system resilience, help adapt to and mitigate the adverse effects of Flood, Drought, and Fire. This may include urban, suburban and rural natural resource environments and landscapes as well as working agricultural lands. We hope that your abstracts for oral presentations, posters, and symposia submissions will address the technical, educational, and informational needs of conservationists as we work together to address the challenges encountered in creating resilient landscapes.

In the face of pressures from a highly dynamic climate, changing markets, and evolving environmental conditions, agriculture must produce not only food, feed, and fiber but also fuel and a broader array of landscape or ecosystem services. Conservation professionals need to adapt to new resource demands and changes in our client base and needs. Conservation must deal with larger spatial-temporal scales of soil and water management and conservation, such as landscape and watershed scales, and planning for extreme events. Achieving these changes will require improved collaborations with different agencies and research institutions to plan and apply on the ground conservation. It may also require returning to our conservation roots to invigorate local coalitions to prioritize and plan conservation needs and programs.

The submission deadline is December 17, 2012. Download the full call for presentations here. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

SWCS Chapter Leader Training Webinars

The SWCS Chapter Leader Training Webinars have begun! Yesterday's webinar provided an overview of the series. The next webinar will be held on Thursday, November 8, 2012, at 1:00 p.m. eastern standard time. Register for the free workshop here.

This training series has been developed by the SWCS Leadership Development Committee to assist anyone interested in a chapter leadership role in the Society. Presenters will include members of the committee, SWCS headquarters staff, and other experienced chapter leaders. You can read more about the webinar series and test your connection for the upcoming meeting here.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

SWCS Winter Cover Crops Meetings

The Soil and Water Conservation Society is hosting two cover crops conferences this winter! The first will be held December 13-14, 2012, in Altoona, Iowa. The second will be January 29-30, 2013, in Decatur, Illinois.

These meetings will build on the success of last year's SWCS Cover Crops conference held in Decatur, Illinois, which was attended by 290 people. The meetings will provide a forum for farmers to exchange information, discuss opportunities for collaboration, and learn about the new and successful practices related to cover crops. Case study presentations will identify and discuss strengths and pitfalls of real applications.

Speakers will include farmers, crop consultants, and university researchers who have extensive experience in cover crop management. Exhibit halls at the meetings will host dozens of equipment companies, service providers and seed dealers to help answer your questions about how to incorporate cover crops into your system. If you're interested in being an exhibitor or sponsor at one or both meetings, more information is online here, or contact Meredith Foley at

Registration for these meetings is just $49 each. View the agenda and register for the Altoona, Iowa, Cover Crops Conference here. View the agenda and register for the Illinois Cover Crops Conference here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

6th World Congress on Conservation Agriculture: Call for Presentations

Call for Oral and Poster Presentations
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
22-26 June 2014

Soil Health and Wallet Wealth
is the overall theme for the 6th World Congress on Conservation Agriculture because the path to sustainable long-term agricultural production starts with healthy soil. Agricultural production systems are not sustainable unless they are profitable, and Conservation Agriculture is the key to building and maintaining healthy soils and profitable farming systems. Three subthemes for this Congress will focus on aspects of Conservation Agriculture designed to enhance our knowledge base and share experiences among attendees.

1. Conservation Agriculture and Sustainable Intensification (production, profit, and sustainability)
As the world population grows, the demand for food, fuel and fiber will grow. Conservation agriculture will allow producers to intensify their cropping systems to increase production without increasing the area devoted to agriculture with emphasis on 1) improving soil quality; 2) increasing efficient use of inputs (labor, nutrients, water); and 3) increasing cropping system diversity.

2. Conservation Agriculture and Climate Change (variation, adaptation, and mitigation) 
Conservation Agriculture systems allow producers to take a proactive approach to dealing with climate change. A well-designed Conservation Agriculture system will not only reduce emissions but will provide producers with more options to deal with changes in rainfall patterns or growing season temperatures. Presentations will emphasize 1) the role of conservation agriculture in mitigation of climate change impacts, and 2) design and implementation of resilient and conservation agriculture systems that are “climate smart.”

3. Conservation Agriculture and Innovative Adoption (education and learning systems)
There is no better teacher of a technique than someone who has successfully mastered that technique. This subtheme area will focus on learning about conservation agriculture systems from those who have studied them as well as those who are successfully applying them. Presentations for this session will emphasize 1) communication strategies (farmer, industry, policy, and scientist); 2) adoption and innovation/learning systems (extension, farmer's experimentation); and 3) participatory resource management/adaptive management.

Proposals for oral and poster presentations are to be submitted to ( following the guidelines for submission by September 1, 2013. All submissions will be reviewed and the corresponding author notified after review by the program committee by October 15, 2013. The program for the 6th World Congress on Conservation Agriculture will be available by January 15, 2014.

Questions on the papers for the 6th World Congress on Conservation Agriculture can be directed to: Jerry L. Hatfield (Program Chair) at

Monday, October 22, 2012

CRP Readiness Initiative

Dear Friends in Conservation, 

This is just a reminder that the CRP Readiness Initiative is open for fall registration. Join over 340 of your colleagues across the country who have already participated in our comprehensive training program. The path to becoming an NRCS certified CRP Technical Service Provider (TSP) has never been easier with new online training options and access to local mentors. Participants complete an online Core Training, develop a CRP plan with a mentor and have access to a suite of online, in-person and hybrid supplemental courses.

If you, your staff, or interested colleagues were unable to attend one of the trainings we hosted earlier this year, now is your chance to sign-up and add to your conservation planning skill set. 

Participants who complete the FREE online Core Training are eligible for the mentorship and supplemental courses at no additional charge. Supplemental courses are available for a fee to all other participants.

Please visit our new website for an overview of the entire program including training availability, benefits and continuing education units (CEUs). Also, take a few minutes to get to know some of your peers who have already participated in the program by clicking on the Our Stories and TSP Blog sections of the website. If you are on Facebook, please help us get to 100 Likes by the end of the month so we can spread the word on conservation and the benefits of becoming a TSP.

Thank you for your continued support and we look forward to helping you take the next step in your conservation planning career.


Rebecca Power
Project Co-Director

Kevin Erb
Project Co-Director

Karen Bassler
Project Manager

Project Contacts

Rebecca Power, Project Co-Director

Kevin Erb, Project Co-Director

Karen Bassler, Project Manager

This material is based upon work supported by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under agency number 68-3A75-11-268, CDFA number 10.902. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. University of Wisconsin, U.S. Department of Agriculture and Wisconsin counties cooperating. An EEO/AA employer, University of Wisconsin Extension provides equal opportunities in employment and programming, including Title IX and American with Disabilities (ADA) requirements.

US Dairy Sustainability Awards: Upcoming Nominations Deadline

The Innovation Center for US Dairy is currently accepting nominations for this year’s US Dairy Sustainability Awards. The awards will recognize operations that have made commitments to environmental, economic, and social sustainability in the dairy industry. Nominations will be accepted through November 15, 2012, for the following awards:
  • Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability
  • Outstanding Dairy Processing and Manufacturing Sustainability
  • Outstanding Achievement in Renewable Energy
  • Outstanding Achievement in Energy Efficiency 
Visit the awards page and view the video below to learn more about the award selection criteria, the expert panel of judges, and past winners.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Nabbing Nitrates Video Series

The Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS) and the Iowa Chapter of SWCS are among 14 cosponsors of a new video series that shows how conservation practices remove nitrates from water. Missouri & Mississippi Divide Resource Conservation & Development Inc. (M&M Divide), based in west central Iowa, produced the four new water conservation videos in a series titled Nabbing Nitrates—Before Water Leaves the Farm.

In both English and Spanish, the series includes animation that shows what happens in wetlands and below the ground in four conservation practices that remove nitrates from surface and groundwater: “Water Conservation Drainage,” “Riparian Forest Buffers,” “Working Wetlands,” and “Bioreactors.” The series was produced with a Conservation Innovation Grant awarded by the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Services (NRSC).

The objective of the series is to educate landowners and producers of practices that can assist in solving the nutrient water quality issues in the Iowa Mississippi River Basin Initiative (MRBI) target watersheds.

Copies of the videos have been distributed to USDA NRCS, Farm Service Agency, and Iowa State University Extension offices in 25 counties that are part of the Iowa MRBI target watersheds. Those watersheds (and counties) are
  • North Raccoon River Watershed: Buena Vista, Pocahontas, Sac, Calhoun, Carroll, Greene, Dallas, and Polk counties;
  • Boone River Watershed: Kossuth, Hancock, Humboldt, Wright, and Hamilton counties;
  • Upper Cedar River Watershed: Worth, Mitchell, Floyd, Chickasaw, and Bremer counties; and
  • Maquoketa River Watershed: Fayette, Buchanan, Delaware, Dubuque, Jones, Jackson, and Clinton counties.
Soil and Water Conservation Districts and USDA NRCS offices in the six Iowa counties served by M&M Divide also received copies of the videos, which can be checked out for viewing. They are Audubon, Carroll, Crawford, Green, Guthrie, and Sac counties.

The videos are also available for viewing online on the M&M Divide’s projects page at

Along with SWCS and the Iowa Chapter of SWCS, other partner sponsors who helped fund the series with cash and in-kind donations include Des Moines Water Works, Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Environmental Council, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa Department of Agriculture-Soil Conservation Division, Agri Drain Corporation, Raccoon River Watershed Association, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, Carroll County Extension Council, Carroll County Soil and Water Conservation District, and Iowa Conservation Education Coalition.

Contact SWCS if you are interested in checking out our copy of the video series: 515-289-1227.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Considering Ecology, Economics, and Ethics: 2012 Conference Videos

Videos and photos from the 2012 SWCS International Annual Conference are now available for viewing on the Web site. Both the Monday and Tuesday plenary sessions are provided for online viewing.

In Monday's keynote lecture, conservation biologist, historian, and writer Curt Meine spoke about the ways that learning from the past can help us make ecological, economical, and ethical conservation choices for the future. Both the video and text of his lecture are available online.

The follow-up Tuesday morning panel discussed the projected economic ramifications of the pending Farm Bill on conservation programs; the effects on farms, communities, and farmers; and potential to reach the goal of balancing food, fiber, feed, and fuel with limited supplies of funds and growing supplies of people. The panel was moderated by Dan Zinkand. The Tuesday panel video is here.

Tuesday morning panelists included
  • Laurie Drinkwater, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Horticulture in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.
  • Ray Layton, Research Fellow for Environmental Safety within the Global Regulatory Scientific Affairs group at DuPont-Pioneer. 
  • Curt Meine, Ph.D., Senior Fellow with the Aldo Leopold Foundation and with the Center for Humans and Nature.
  • Wanhong Yang, PhD., Economics Professor in the College of Social and Applied Human Sciences at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada.
At the author or presenter's discretion, many of the 250+ presentations, slides, and posters from the conference are available online at

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Webcast- NIFA-CEAP Watershed Syntheses: Lessons Learned

  Free Watershed Academy Webcast entitled "USDA’s NIFA-CEAP Watershed Synthesis: Lessons Learned on May 15, 2012 from 1:00pm to 3:00pm Eastern.
  Hear about some important lessons learned from USDA’s Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP). 
USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) in partnership with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) established university-led watershed-scale research and extension projects in support of the USDA Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP). CEAP addresses USDA's need to quantify the effects and benefits of agricultural conservation practices.
  This webcast will highlight a study led by North Carolina State University to analyze and synthesize key lessons learned from 13 of these watershed-scale projects on cropland and pastureland. The goal of CEAP Watersheds is to better understand how the suite, timing, and spatial distribution of conservation practices influence their effect on local water quality outcomes. The NIFA study also evaluated social and economic factors that influence implementation and maintenance of practices, as well as education critical to transferring knowledge to farmers, ranchers, community leaders, and other stakeholders to improve practice effectiveness. 
  This webcast will also highlight linkages between USDA’s CEAP project and US EPA’s Section 319 Nonpoint Source Program. Most of the 13 watersheds studied in the analysis also have 319 projects.
  To register for this webcast, please visit

Monday, April 30, 2012

National Soil and Water Stewardship Week

This week, soil and water stewardship efforts will be celebrated by conservation districts across the United States.

Governors in Iowa and Oklahoma have declared April 29 through May 6, 2012, as stewardship week in their respective states. These state-specific efforts will be held in conjunction with the National Association of Conservation Districts' 2012 "Soil to Spoon" stewardship awareness week.  

Click here to to find out more about Iowa Soil and Water Conservation Week. Read about other Soil and Water Stewardship events at the National Association of Conservation Districts Web site, and check out your local conservation district Web site to find out what's going on in your watershed!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

2012 Annual Conference Student Opportunity

Team up with SWCS and attend the 2012 Annual Conference this summer!

This year SWCS will introduce a new Annual Conference Student Moderator Program. Up to 18 awardees will spend one day working at the SWCS International Annual Conference as Student Moderators and will assist the conference presenters and symposium organizers during the educational program. For their service, their conference registration fees and hotel room costs will be waived or covered.

Students will work one of the two education days of the meeting (Monday or Tuesday, July 23 or 24) and may attend any sessions they choose on the other. To apply, students should indicate the topic area in which they would like to moderate from the list of issues areas for the conference. These include: 

1. Adaptive Management of Conservation Efforts
2. Agricultural and Conservation Economics
3. Biodiversity Conservation and Management
4. Conservation in Urban Settings
5. Conservation Models, Tools and Technologies
6. Conservation Policy and Program Design
7. Outreach, Education and Community Engagement
8. Soil Resource Assessment and Management
9. Water Resource Assessment and Management

Full-time undergraduate or graduate students are eligible for the program. Click here to read more and to apply. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

2012 Annual Conference News

Registration is open, hotel reservations can be made and the Preliminary Program is available for the 2012 SWCS International Annual Conference. 

We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible this summer in Fort Worth. 

Please help us spread the word and invite your colleagues to join you.

Friday, March 30, 2012

He Loved to Carry the Message: The Collected Writings of Douglas Helms

The writings of former Natural Resources Conservation Service historian and long-time SWCS member Douglas Helms have been edited by the current NRCS historian, Sam Stalcup, and recently published in a single volume, He Loved to Carry the Message: The Collected Writings of Douglas Helms

The writings, which date from 1967 to 2010, cover a range of conservation issues, including the work done in early soil surveys; the roles of Hugh Hammond Bennett and Walter Lowdermilk in the soil conservation movement; and ongoing concerns about wildlife, forest science, range management, water quality, and agriculture.

This new collection is an important addition to any conservationist's shelf.  Preview and order the book online here.

Monday, March 26, 2012

SWCS--They’ve “Got All the Grapes”

By Anita Nein, Northern Plains Regional Director

That’s the position Soil and Water Conservation Society members have. They’ve “got all the grapes.” For example, the scientific knowledge that we can access through SWCS technical workshops to solve conservation situations is huge. Why wouldn’t every professional conservationist participate? Yes, we learn technical aspects through our jobs, but networking with people from many organizations gives a much wider view and gives members the edge in their careers. The useful knowledge spread over large land areas gives overall understanding of conservation situations and multiple approaches to solutions. The technical information offered by the Society is useful and updated often to help any person make a difference in conservation.

What is SWCS doing to merit the dues paid by each member? This week I was helping judge the award applications for professional development with this given criteria:

1. Does the chapter consistently offer educational and professional development opportunities to its members or to nonmembers?
2. Does the chapter provide experience through strategy or curriculum that improves professionalism of those working in the conservation field?
3. Does the chapter provide professional development in a timely manner and/or use state of-the-art approach to conservation?

All the chapters with which I have been associated offer these qualities to members and nonmembers alike. Some chapters are more structured than others. Some offer more activities than others, but these are their shared goals. The conservation presentations are creative and range from showing how specific conservation issues can be solved in the field to formulating solutions on a broad scale and over time. A chapter’s offering of the above itemized steps alone would be worth the money for any member to belong.

A key word for the Society is sustainability. The insight into and improvement of soil health and carbon sequestering is paramount. Good water quality everywhere is a target we can hit with great effort. Feeding the world with higher production and increased efficiency is attainable only with the newest technology and applications that can be learned and applied through SWCS outreach. Often, there is a subtle infusion of sustainable ideas passed on to the agricultural chain of marketers, such as seed dealers, machinery salesmen, and chemical vendors, who reinforce sustainable practices to producers. Driving sustainability is a worthy SWCS endeavor.

Advocacy is another way to illuminate the importance of conservation for those who make conservation policy. Coordination with other groups is one way to grow the power in our voice. There is an article in the Conservation NewsBriefs e-mail from February 16, 2012, “Do the Farm Bill Now,” that lists SWCS and other organizations who are unified to encourage the passing of a new farm bill to keep conservation support strong. Advocacy is SWCS, in concert with other likeminded organizations, sticking up for conservation through letters and contacts to legislators that make their requests for conservation issues known. This resounding force is a value of SWCS that we cannot duplicate by ourselves.

What is exciting about a future with SWCS? We all want to make a difference. We all want to be confidently associated with an organization that is willing to lead based on scientific data. I remember those that stood at the 2011 SWCS International Conference in Washington, DC and told us how important it was that we took the lead enacting the policy statement on climate change and how our action enabled other organizations, including the USDA, to proceed with addressing conservation issues. Our SWCS leadership really matters.

Being a SWCS member truly means you’ve "got all the grapes” for the modern conservation game.

DISCLAIMER: Some ideas in this article came from the SWCS Board of Directors Outreach Committee Teleconferences held in February, 2012.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Oklahoma Chapter Workshop: Communicating with New Producers

The SWCS Oklahoma Chapter will be hosting a one-day workshop, Communicating with New Producers: How to Reach Them, How to Teach Them, next week, on March 20. The workshop will address ways for agricultural professionals to reach a broad range of producers. Read a description from the event website below:

Agricultural educators, public agencies, consultants, and extension agents are seeing a new type of producer. Many of these producers don’t have a traditional background in agriculture, requiring industry professionals to adapt their outreach and education methods. Who are these new producers? What works? How do you incorporate social media?

Get answers at a one-day workshop, hosted by the Oklahoma Chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society. The workshop will be held on March 20, 2012, in Oklahoma City. For more information or to register, go to the event website or call 580.224.6292.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Precision Conservation Conference and Minnesota Chapter Annual Meeting

The Minnesota Chapter annual meeting will be held on March 29, 2012, in conjunction with the Freshwater Society’s day-long conference: “Precision Conservation: Technology Redefining Local Water Quality Practices.” 

Precision conservation effectively and efficiently targets scarce resources to the spots on the landscape where they will do the most good. Learn about the latest technologymuch of it based on LiDAR scanning that pinpoints “sweet spots” where runoff, erosion, and pollution are disproportionately severe and the potential for improvement is disproportionately great. 

Speakers include NRCS chief Dave White; Dr. David Mulla, university soil scientist and a pioneer in employing modern LiDAR- based technology in the service of conservation; Dr. Gerald Van Amburg, president of the Buffalo-Red River Watershed Board; and several other Minnesota expert conservationists sharing rural and urban examples. 

The event will be at Silverwood Park in St. Anthony, Minnesota. Visit the Freshwater Society Web site for a current agenda and registration information. 

The Chapter annual meeting will follow the conference. 


Monday, February 20, 2012

Greenest Presidents

Photo from the National Park Service Historic Photograph Collection

When considering presidents with environmental legacies, most people first think of Theodore Roosevelt. At the SWCS, we also remember FDR. But where do Carter, Clinton, and Nixon fall on the tree-hugging spectrum? For Presidents' Day, The Daily Green has offered a list of the 10 Greenest Presidents as well as picks for the least environmentally aware presidents. 

Pop quiz: Which president said, "trees cause more pollution than automobiles do?"

Des Moines Register Article: ISU study finds many Iowa lakes are dirtier, less healthy

Photo by Lynn Betts, USDA NRCS

A recent Des Moines Register article by Perry Beeman gives a preview of the results of a three-year, Iowa State University/Iowa DNR study on the quality of Iowa lakes over time. The study, based on sediment samples taken from 33 of Iowa's lakes, reveals the dramatic changes in the lakes due to intensified agricultural land use.

The implications of the study may be far-reaching: Beeman writes, "The findings by Iowa State University scientist John Downing and colleagues are likely to figure heavily in future debates over farm regulations and the next Farm Bill."

Conservationists also hope that this information can help provide realistic goals for cleanup and restoration.

Read the full article here.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Soil Quality Network 2012

If you've already exhausted the No-Till on the Plains soil health library from Monday's post, don't worry! Judging by the events posted on the SWCS Network calendar, February is the month of soil-friendly conferences and educational opportunities.

Today, farmers and educators gathered in Holyoke, Colorado for a no-till and cover crops workshop. This weekend, February 18 and 19, the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association is holding their annual conference, Sowing the Seeds of Our Food Sovereignty. And later this month is the International Erosion Control Association's Annual Conference.

Of course the SWCS wanted in on an event too, so we're co-sponsoring the Soil Quality Network 2012 in Portland on February 23-24. The Soil Quality Network 2012 conference will help agriculture consultants and planners develop strategies and actions to support farmers interested in improving soil quality. The agenda includes general sessions, farm tours, and breakout sessions, which feature hands-on demonstrations by researchers, technical specialists, and educators. Whether you're growing wheat or blueberries, the Soil Quality Network will provide information on assessing and monitoring soils in order to maintain the agricultural land base.

Who will be there?  NRCS and SWCD conservation planners; extension staff; crop consultants; field representatives; soil scientists; soil quality specialists; federal, state, and county agency agricultural staff; farmers and ranchers; as well as third party certifiers and inspectors are just some of the people who should plan to attend.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Chipotle Airs Sustainability Ad

Last night during the Grammy Awards, Chipotle aired their animated "Cultivate a Better World" advertisement, a music video argument for sustainability. Set to a soundtrack featuring Willie Nelson singing Coldplay's "The Scientist," the advertisement depicts a farmer wrestling with the practice of factory farming. By the end of the video, the farmer breaks down his confinements, frees the animals, and loads his product directly onto a Chipotle truck. Chipotle says that the ad was commissioned to "emphasize the importance of developing a sustainable food system."

The video has been available on YouTube for several months, but last night the advertisement reached a wider audience and since then has been tweeted over 10,000 times.

Soil Health Webinars

Need something to do while snowed in this week? The nonprofit educational group No-Till on the Plains has posted several free, online webinars about soil health. They cover a range of topics and come in bite-sized lengths. Click through to watch

Friday, February 3, 2012

New online tool: Farmer's Legal and Regulatory Guide

Corn and Soybean Digest
The Iowa Soybean Association's Environmental Programs and Services team announced a new, free online tool for farmers wanting to know what rules and regulations impact their operation. Organized in a question and answer format, the "Iowa Farmer's Legal and Regulatory Guide to Environmental Issues" is intended to help farmers navigate issues to figure out what are their rights and responsibilities and where to find more information. Topics include: air quality, animal production, fertilizers, fuel storage, leasing, manure management, pesticide use, soil conservation programs, water quality and more. More

More from this week's Conservation NewsBriefs at