Friday, May 2, 2014

Friday May 2 Ag News

Cattle Temperament Linked to Feedlot Performance

            The temperament of cattle may have a significant impact in how they perform in the feedlot, according to research by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Kansas State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

            Cattle classified as temperamental appear to be less susceptible to lung damage and related respiratory diseases and have decreased yield grades, but at the same time may produce lighter weight carcasses with decreased quality grade, according to the study by Ty Schmidt, Joe Buntyn, Chris Calkins and Kathy Domenech of UNL; Jeff Carroll and Jeff Daily of USDA-Agricultural Research Service; and Justin Waggoner of Kansas State University.

            The research team used 2,800 cattle at a commercial feedlot to determine cattle temperament solely by exit velocity upon arrival to identify the impact temperament had on feedlot performance. Infrared sensors were attached to the processing chute and alleyway and used to time how fast cattle exited the processing chute.  Once exit velocity was determined, within each pen the fastest 20 percent were classified as temperamental and the remained deemed non-temperamental, said Schmidt, UNL animal scientist.

            Exit velocity was used as a measurement of temperament because it is the only objective and practical measurement of temperament that can be applied in a commercial setting. Scientists sought to evaluate the impact of temperament on animal health and carcass merit with an eye toward using the data as a sorting tool within feedlots.

              After scientists determined exit velocity, the cattle were maintained in their original pens, not sorted based upon temperament, and finished.  At the end of the finishing period, the research team followed the cattle to the packer and evaluated lung damage, liver abscesses and collected all the variables for carcass data.

            One of the major findings of the trial was the difference in lung damage associated with respiratory disease. The results suggest that the non-temperamental cattle had more observable damage to the lung, indicative of the animal being impacted by respiratory challenge, when compared to cattle classified as temperamental.

            "The temperamental cattle may have more resilient immune systems," Carroll said. "Research has suggested that temperamental cattle have an altered immune response and display limited clinical symptoms of illness and this altered immune response may be a more resilient immune response compared to non-temperamental based upon these findings."

            Schmidt and colleagues also found that cattle classified as temperamental had lighter carcass weight at harvest and decreased quality grades. More than 53 percent of the non-temperamental cattle received a quality grade of choice, compared to 49 percent of the temperamental animals.

            Schmidt said the findings from this trial "suggest that utilization of temperament may be a viable management tool for feedlots. It might provide for a unique management strategy that might increase returns on these temperamental animals."

            With the difference in lung damage in the temperamental cattle at the time of harvest, and previous research indicating limited clinical signs of illness in temperamental cattle, segregation may allow for some modifications to the processing procedures and management of these cattle to take advantage of this alterations, Schmidt said.

            Alterations may also be introduced in terms of nutritional management, or even modification of days to feed to overcome the decreased body weight of the temperamental cattle.  However, before this type of segregation can be used in commercial feedlot, there is still a need to further evaluate this methodology, Schmidt added.  The next step for the research team is to determine temperament upon arrival and then sort the cattle based upon temperament.

U.S. Meat Animal Research Center Celebrates 50 Years

            Fifty years ago Congress approved legislation that began the transfer of a Naval Ammunition Depot to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, thus creating the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center at Clay Center.

            Since that time, scientists at the center and USDA Agricultural Research Service scientists at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln have grown its flagship genetics program and its germ plasm evaluation project, which has evolved to be the largest breed comparison study over the last 35 to 40 years, said John Pollak, the center's director. The project also has information on how various breed crosses worked as composites.

            "It laid the foundation for commercial ranches around the country," Pollak said.

            USMARC houses both UNL and federal employees and also is the home to the Great Plains Veterinary Educational Center.

            During the last 15 years, capitalizing on its wealth of genetic diversity information, scientists began working in genomics and have been developing and refining genomic tools for use in selection by the industry, Pollak said.

            "During that time period, the genomics group worked on the first case of BSE, using genomics to identify the origin of the animal," Pollak said. "It identified that particular cow was a Canadian animal, not a U.S. animal."

            The program also produced marker tests such as those for tenderness and for the genetic defect osteopetrosis in Red Angus cattle.

            In addition, USMARC was one of the collaborators, along with the University of Missouri, ARS Beltsville and the University of Alberta research teams, to work on the development of the original 50K SNP chip.

            "Today, USMARC is sequencing their discovery population to better learn about the underlying mutation causing variation in economically relevant beef traits," Pollak said.

            In the late 1990s, USMARC scientists began a focus on food safety and developed mitigation strategies for management of E. coli through the production cycle from the feedlot to harvest.

            Scientists are now sequencing the genomes of E. coli and Salmonella to better understand the genetics behind antibiotic resistance, as well as to provide genomic DNA diagnostic tools to screen meat products for those pathogens.

            Since the main focus of the Beef Improvement Federation's annual meeting is genetics, it is fitting that the meeting will be held in Nebraska this year in conjunction with the USMARC's 50th anniversary.

            Many of the USMARC faculty and scientists have been involved in BIF through research presentations since its beginning.

            A June 21 post conference tour following the 2014 Beef Improvement Federation's annual meeting and research symposium will bring participants to the USMARC, where they will visit two sites – the center's feedlot and pasture.

            Participants will view the large feed efficiency facility and hear from nutritionists and geneticists about what is going on in the facility and what scientists have learned from it. Participants also will hear from one of the scientists from the environmental management area that works on heat stress.

            At the pasture, participants will see a wide array of different animals in the germ plasm evaluation project and hear about its results.

            Co-hosted by UNL, USMARC and the Nebraska Cattlemen, the 2014 Beef Improvement Federation's annual meeting will start at noon June 18 with registration.

Annual BIF Meeting at Nebraska in 2014

            It's no coincidence that 2014 Beef Improvement Federation's annual meeting and research symposium is in Nebraska, said Matt Spangler, associate professor in University of Nebraska-Lincoln's animal science department.

            The U.S. Meat Animal Research Center is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2014, and USMARC scientists have contributed to the annual BIF meeting since its beginning, he said.

            The 2014 BIF meeting will allow the research community and industry to meet and discuss issues surrounding the genetic improvement of beef cattle and for attendees to learn about technologies and management practices that can aid in the profitability of their operations.

            Co-hosted by UNL, USMARC and the Nebraska Cattlemen, the event will start at noon June 18 with registration. A welcome reception will kick off the event at 5 p.m. followed by a USMARC Symposium: 50 ears of Service to the Beef Industry.

            On June 19, the meeting will start at 8 a.m. with a general session and welcome. Presentations and technical breakout sessions will follow through June 20. A post-conference tour will take place on June 21.

            Cost to attend the 2014 Beef Improvement Federation's annual meeting and research symposium June 18-21 at the Cornhusker Marriot in Lincoln is $300. Day-only, student and media discount rates also are available. For a full and up-to-date conference schedule, lodging information or to register, visit

            The Beef Improvement Federation ( was formed more than 45 years ago to standardize beef cattle performance programs and evaluation methodology and to create great awareness, acceptance and usage of these concepts for the genetic improvement of beef cattle. It represents more than 40 state and national beef cattle associations.

Farm Credit Services of America Announces First Quarter 2014 Earnings

Farm Credit Services of America (FCSAmerica), a customer-owned financial cooperative with more than $21 billion in assets, today announced financial results for the first quarter of calendar year 2014.

Net income was $121.5 million compared to $110.1 million for the same quarter in 2013. This increase in net income was primarily due to an increase in net interest from growth in loan volume and increases in distributions from AgDirect, LLP and AgriBank, FCB patronage. The income increases were partially offset by noninterest expenses for increased staffing to support business initiatives and growth and by increases in premiums charged by the Farm Credit System Insurance Corporation.

Loan volume increased by $130.3 million during the first quarter of 2014 to $20.3 billion. Members’ equity increased to $3.7 billion from $3.6 billion at the end of 2013.

“We continue to be pleased with the strength of FCSAmerica’s business and financial performance,” said Doug Stark, president and CEO of FCSAmerica. “We are well-positioned to continue serving the financial needs of our customers in the agricultural sector.”

Heifer Development Resources from Iowa Beef Center Available Online

With cow herd numbers at the smallest level since 1962, along with recent moderation in grain prices and optimism for growth in domestic and export demand, the stage is set for expansion of the national beef cow herd. These factors have led to increased heifer retention numbers over the past two years, but environmental and financial concerns have tempered that optimism, according to Patrick Gunn, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach beef cow-calf specialist.

“Recent droughts in many areas of the U.S., coupled with increased feed prices and land prices, have undoubtedly hampered realization of true expansion to date,” Gunn said. “However, with both fed and feeder cattle markets now at record levels, it appears the national cow herd is ready to expand.”

The recent price boom in all sectors of the beef industry translates to increased value (and cost) of replacement breeding stock, so it’s vital for enterprises looking at expansion to understand how to maximize reproductive efficiency, according to Gunn. Two years ago the Iowa Beef Center at Iowa State began offering educational opportunities aimed at helping producers learn to successfully develop a heifer to breeding age.

“In conjunction with the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, in 2012 the Iowa Beef Center offered a successful statewide educational program entitled Heifer Development: Rebuilding Our Future,” he said. “Through this program, best management practices from weaning to pregnancy-check were outlined and resources shared.”

IBC continues to receive requests for information shared during the program and is making the resources available online to meet the demand. Iowa Beef Center specialists and faculty have created a series of YouTube videos and gathered additional resources on a heifer development webpage at

Contents of the page include eight videos highlighting best management practices and will be expanded as additional resources are identified.


Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey today thanked the Iowa Legislature for their continued support for a voluntary, science-based approach to improving water quality.  The Legislature has passed a total of $22.3 million to support water quality and conservation efforts.

“I appreciate the legislature stepping up to continue funding voluntary, science-based water quality efforts in Iowa.  This funding would help us continue our efforts in targeted watersheds as well as provide funds to help farmers try new water quality practices statewide,” Northey said. “The Governor and Lt. Gov. have been strong supporters of the Water Quality Initiative from the beginning and I hope they will approve this funding.”

The Legislature approved $4.4 million in ongoing funding and $3.5 million in one-time funding specifically for the Iowa Water Quality Initiative.  These funds will allow the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship to continue to encourage the broad adoption of water quality practices through statewide cost share assistance as well as more intensive work in targeted watersheds.  The legislation also gave the Department the authority to provide cost share assistance for urban conservation projects.

The legislature also provided $5 million in one-time funding to help address the backlog of state soil conservation cost-share projects.  This is in addition to the annual appropriation of $6.7 million.  All funds are matched by the landowner to support construction.

The legislature provided $1.2 million to support the closure of eight additional agriculture drainage wells and $1.5 million to the Watershed Improvement Review Board.

Additionally, $1.3 million was appropriated to the nutrient management research center at Iowa State University to support ongoing research on practices farmers can use to reduce nutrient losses.

USDA Reports Iowa Monthly Farm-gate Prices

The preliminary April 2014 average price received by farmers for corn in Iowa is $4.80 per bushel according to the latest USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service – Agricultural Prices report. This is up $0.25 from the March price, but $2.30 lower than April 2013.

The preliminary April  Iowa average  soybean price, at $14.60 per bushel,  is up $0.90  from  the March price, and $0.20 higher than the previous April.

The preliminary April oat price is $4.70 per bushel, down $0.22 from March and $0.15 below April 2013. 

All hay prices in Iowa averaged $161.00 per ton in April, down $6.00 from the March price, and $72.00 per ton less than April 2013.   Alfalfa hay prices fell $76.00 per ton from one year ago, to $175.00 and other hay prices were $55.00 per ton lower than last year, at $110.00.  

Iowa dairy farmers received an average of $25.90 per cwt for milk sold in April, up $0.20 from March, and $5.80 per cwt above one year ago.


The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service released the final 2012 Census of Agriculture results sharing a wide-range of information about what agricultural products were raised in the United States and Nebraska in 2012, and where, how and by whom they were grown.  The data, which is reported at the national, state and county level, will help farmers, ranchers, local officials, agribusiness and others make decisions for the future.  

The number of farms in Nebraska during 2012 was 49,969, up 5 percent from the 2007 Census of Agriculture.  Land in farms, at 45.3 million acres, remained about the same as that reported five years prior.  The average size of farm was 907 acres, down 5 percent or 46 acres from 2007.  

Market value of production was $23.1 billion, up 49 percent from 2007. The average value per farm was $462,000, compared to $325,000 in 2007. The number of farms with sales of $500,000 or more was 8,717, up from 5,921 in 2007.

During 2012, the average age of the principal operator was 55.7 years compared to 55.9 years in 2007.  The number of operators under the age of 34 was 4,747, up 42 percent from 2007 while the number of operators over the age of 65 totaled 13,177, up 1 percent from 2007.


Today the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) released the final 2012 Census of Agriculture results sharing a wide-range of information about agriculture at the national, state and county level.  This information will be used by farmers, ranchers, local officials, agribusiness, commodity groups and others to guide future decisions, in evaluating and implementing policies, and to educate consumers, which will provide a return on the investment made by the thousands of farmers who completed their Census form.

 “The 2012 Census of Agriculture provides a wide range of demographic, economic, land, and crop and livestock production information as well as first-time or expanded data,” said Greg Thessen, Regional Director.  “Many of these data about Iowa and our counties are only collected and reported as part of the every-five-year census.”

The 2012 Census of Agriculture data show the following key trends for Iowa. 
 ·  In 2012, the value of agricultural products sold by Iowa farmers totaled $30.8 billion, up nearly 51 percent or $10.4 billion from 2007.  Crop sales accounted for $17.4 billion of the total and livestock sales accounted for $13.4 billion, up 68 and 34 percent, respectively, from 2007.
·  Iowa ranked 2nd nationally for total value of agricultural products, crop sales and livestock sales in 2012, with Iowa moving up one position from 2007 for each item. 
·  Farmers in Sioux, Lyon, and Kossuth counties had the largest value of sales in 2012, with Kossuth county ranking as the top corn producing county in the U.S. and Sioux county ranking 3rd nationally for the number of hogs and pigs sold.
·  Farmers spent a total of $23.7 billion on production expenses in 2012, up nearly 54 percent from the $15.4 billion in 2007.
·  The amount of land operated by Iowa farmers declined by less than one percent between 2007 and 2012, from 30.7 million acres.
·  Farmers harvested crops from 24.5 million acres in 2012 with no-till practices used on 6.95 million acres and conservation tillage practices used on 8.76 million acres.
·   The average farm size of the 88,637 Iowa farms was 345 acres in 2012.

“The Census of Ag is an extremely valuable snapshot of agriculture in Iowa and across the nation that helps tell the story of our state’s farmers,” said Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey.  “The results released today again show the tremendous economic impact of agriculture on our state’s economy and the importance of Iowa agriculture nationally.  It also contains valuable information about the conservation practices used on farms, showing that farmers use no-till or conservation tillage on two-thirds of their crop acres.”

2012 Census of Agriculture Reveals New Trends in Farming

There are now 3.2 million farmers operating 2.1 million farms on 914.5 million acres of farmland across the United States, according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, released today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The agriculture census presents more than 6 million pieces of information, which provide a detailed look at the U.S. farm sector at the national, state and county levels.

“Once every five years, farmers, ranchers and growers have the unique opportunity to let the world know how U.S. agriculture is changing, what is staying the same, what’s working and what we can do differently,” said Dr. Cynthia Clark, the retiring head of USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, which administered the survey. “Today, we can start to delve into the details.”

Census data provide valuable insight into the U.S. farmer demographics, economics and production practices. Some of the key findings include:
-    Both sales and production expenses reached record highs in 2012. U.S. producers sold $394.6 billion worth of agricultural products, but it cost them $328.9 billion to produce these products
-    Three quarters of all farms had sales of less than $50,000, producing only 3 percent of the total value of farm products sold while those with sales of more than $1 million – 4 percent of all farms – produced 66 percent.
-    Much of the increased farm income was concentrated geographically or by farm categories.
-        California led the nation with 9 of the 10 top counties for value of sales. Fresno County was number one in the United States with nearly $5 billion in sales in 2012, which is greater than that of 23 states. Weld County, Colorado ranked 9th in the top 10 U.S. counties.
-        The top 5 states for agricultural sales were California ($42.6 billion); Iowa ($30.8 billion); Texas ($25.4 billion); Nebraska ($23.1 billion); and Minnesota ($21.3 billion).
-    Eighty-seven percent of all U.S. farms are operated by families or individuals.
-    Principal operators were on average 58.3 years old and were predominantly male; second operators were slightly younger and most likely to be female; and third operators were younger still.
-    Young, beginning principal operators who reported their primary occupation as farming increased 11.3 percent from 36,396 to 40,499 between 2007 and 2012.
-    All categories of minority-operated farms increased between 2007 and 2012; the Hispanic-operated farms had a significant 21 percent increase.
-    144,530 farm operators reported selling products directly to consumers. In 2012, these sales totaled more than $1.3 billion (up 8.1 percent from 2007).
-    Organic sales were growing, but accounted for just 0.8 percent of the total value of U.S. agricultural production. Organic farmers reported $3.12 billion in sales in 2012, up from $1.7 billion in 2007.
-    Farms with Internet access rose from 56.5 percent in 2007 to 69.6 percent in 2012.
-    57,299 farms produced on-farm renewable energy, more than double the 23,451 in 2007.
-    474,028 farms covering 173.1 million acres were farmed with conservation tillage or no-till practices.
-    Corn and soybean acres topped 50 percent of all harvested acres for the first time.
-    The largest category of operations was beef cattle with 619,172 or 29 percent of all farms and ranches in 2012 specializing in cattle.

“This information is critical to understanding the conditions of U.S. agriculture and determining future policy,” said incoming NASS Administrator Dr. Joseph T. Reilly. “Today’s data release is the culmination of years’ worth of planning and work that NASS has made openly available for public use.”

Conducted since 1840, the Census of Agriculture accounts for all U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. The Census tells a story of how American agriculture is changing and lays the groundwork for new programs and policies that will invest in rural America; promote innovation and productivity; build the rural economy; and support our next generation of farmers and ranchers.

For access to the complete data series and tools to analyze this information, visit A link to census data will also be available on the USDA Open Data portal,

Vilsack on Updated 2012 Census of Agriculture Data

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made the following statement on the updated 2012 Census of Agriculture data:

"The Census results reiterate the continued need for policies that help grow the rural economy from the middle out. The data illustrate the power of USDA efforts to grow the economy and strengthen infrastructure in rural America, create new market opportunities for farmers and ranchers, and provide access to capital, credit and disaster assistance for producers of all sizes. The Census also shows the potential for continued growth in the bioeconomy, organics, and local and regional food systems. USDA will continue to focus on innovative, creative policies that give farmers, ranchers and entrepreneurs the tools they need to attract a bright and diverse body of talent to rural America."

Highlights of the 2012 Census of Agriculture data release include:
-    22% of all farmers were beginning farmers in 2012. That means 1 out of every 5 farmers operated a farm for less than 10 years.
-    Young, beginning principal operators who reported their primary occupation as farming increased from 36,396 to 40,499 between 2007 and 2012. That's an 11.3% increase in the number of young people getting into agriculture as a full-time job.
-    969,672 farm operators were female—30% of all farm operators in the U.S.
-    The number of farms ran by Latino farmers increased from 82,462 in 2007 to 99,734 in 2012. That 21% increase reflects the changing face of America as a whole.
-    70% of all farms in the U.S. had internet access in 2012, up from 56.5% in 2007, but there is more work to be done to expand internet access in rural America.
-    Farmers and ranchers continue to lead the charge towards a more sustainable energy future. 57,299 farms reported using a renewable energy producing system in 2012. That's more than double the 23,451 operations that reported the same in 2007. Solar panels accounted for 63% of renewable energy producing systems on farms, with 36,331 farms reporting their use.
-    Nearly 150,000 farmers and ranchers nationwide are selling their products directly to consumers, and 50,000 are selling to local retailers. Industry estimates valued local food sales at $7 billion in 2011, reflecting the growing importance of this new market to farm and ranch businesses.
-    Total organic product sales by farms have increased by 82% since 2007, from $1.76 billion in 2007 to $3.1 billion in 2012. Organic products were a $35 billion industry in the United States in 2013.

USDA to Conduct Soy Checkoff Request for Referendum

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will conduct a request for referendum on the Soybean Promotion and Research Program (soy checkoff) during a four-week period, from May 5 through May 30, 2014. This referendum is authorized under the Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act.

The request for referendum will determine whether U.S. soybean producers want a referendum on the Soybean Promotion and Research Program. The Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act requires that the secretary of agriculture provide soybean producers the opportunity to petition for a referendum every five years.

To be eligible to participate, producers must certify they or the entity they are authorized to represent paid an assessment at some time between Jan. 1, 2012, and Dec. 31, 2013. Documentation for that assessment, such as sales receipts showing that the checkoff was collected, will be required up front when submitting the request form.

Eligible individuals who do not want a referendum need not take any action.

The process requires eligible producers who want to indicate their support for a referendum to complete and sign form LS-51-1. Producers may obtain this form online, in person at their nearest Farm Service Agency (FSA) office, by mail or by facsimile from May 5 through May 30, 2014.

FSA is then responsible for determining a producer’s eligibility. If FSA cannot determine the producer’s eligibility or if the producer fails to submit documentation, then FSA will notify the ineligible person in writing. Producers who do not participate in FSA programs may obtain a Form LS-51-1 at the county FSA office where the producer owns or rents land. This form may also be obtained via the Internet at

FSA will have until June 11, 2014, to notify ineligible producers in writing.  If FSA determines in writing that producer ineligibility is due to lack of documentation submitted (sales receipts or other relevant documents), the producer can appeal and provide the required documentation to FSA.  The required documentation must be received by FSA by June 18, 2014, when FSA will make a final decision on eligibility.

If the USDA determines that at least 10 percent of the nation’s 569,998 soybean producers have requested a referendum, a referendum will then be held within one year from that determination. No more than one-fifth of the producers who support having a referendum can be from any one state.

For more information on the request-for-referendum procedures, visit or contact James Brow, Agricultural Marketing Specialist, Research and Promotion Division, Livestock, Poultry and Seed Program, AMS, USDA, STOP 0251, Room 2610-S, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20250-0251; tel. (202) 720-0633, e-mail; or fax (202) 720-1125.

Bioheat® takes center stage at annual energy event

This week biodiesel and Bioheat® experts took the spotlight at the Atlantic Region Energy Expo. As the name plate sponsor Bioheat® was prominently featured throughout what is widely considered the most significant energy event in the Northeast.

“Our partnership with AREE reflects the successful partnership of the oil heat and biodiesel industries,” explained Paul Nazzaro, Petroleum Liasion for the National Biodiesel Board. “The collaboration between these groups has fueled Bioheat® fuel’s success and provided expanded options for oilheat consumers and new opportunities for small business throughout the Northeast.”

Visionaries in the heating oil industry recognized opportunities for biodiesel blends nearly two decades ago. Since then, outside support from groups like the Nebraska Soybean Board and South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council have supported ongoing development both on Bioheat® fuel technology and consumer outreach. Now Bioheat® is available to customers across the East Coast and beyond.

“As the biodiesel industry has grown to more than a billion gallons each of the last three years it has begun to penetrate markets beyond just on-road diesel use,” said Bob Metz, South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council. “Bioheat® fuel is a tremendous opportunity to improve the air quality in home heating with a renewable product. Supporting AREE with the Bioheat® partnership is a great way to take that message direct to the industry.”

This is the third year that The Atlantic Region Energy Expo and Bioheat® have hosted the AREE event. This year’s meeting took place April 29-May 1. The conference, billed as the best energy, petroleum and HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) industry tradeshow in the Northeast, explores the evolving world of home and building comfort, efficiency and environmental responsibility. The event included an educational track of five Bioheat® sessions.

Bioheat® fuel is a combination of oilheat with biodiesel, America’s advanced biofuel made from sustainable resources such as soybean oil and other oils and fats. To be called Bioheat® fuel, the fuel must contain at least 2 percent biodiesel.  Bioheat is cost-competitive with oilheat, and does not require modifications to the oilheat system.

Landmark Farm Bill Support for Conservation Helps to Boost Rural Economy

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack

Rural Americans have always had a strong connection to the land. Since 2009 alone, more than 500,000 farmers, ranchers and rural land owners across the country have embarked on record conservation projects with USDA as a partner. This week, USDA built on those efforts by announcing two new conservation programs that provide producers with even stronger tools to protect land and water resources across rural America.

The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) and the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP) were both established under the 2014 Farm Bill. ACEP, which streamlines several existing USDA easement programs, makes available $366 million per year to a variety of public and private partners for conservation easements. The easements provided through ACEP help ensure the long-term viability of our food supply by preventing conversion of productive lands to non-agricultural use, while simultaneously protecting critical wetland resources.

VPA-HIP provides up to $20 million per year in competitive grants to support owners and managers of private lands who want to make their land available to the public for hunting, fishing, hiking and other recreational activities. Expanded access to private lands provides an additional revenue source for farmers and ranchers and encourages good stewardship of the land.

ACEP and VPA-HIP enhance the conservation practices farmers and ranchers have already implemented on their operations. Their efforts have already saved millions of tons of soil, improved water quality, preserved critical wildlife habitat, and helped to protect some of our nation’s most sensitive ecological areas.

While critically important, strong conservation practices protect more than just cropland and critical habitats—they can also help to boost the bottom line for rural communities. A 2013 study commissioned the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation estimates that every $1 spent on conservation programs in the U.S. yields $2.40 in economic activity by supporting outdoor recreation activities and related businesses. Last year, conservation activities supported more than 660,000 jobs.

The new farm bill provides landmark support for conservation, which will further invest in both rural land and rural economies. In the coming weeks and months, USDA will continue to implement key conservation provisions included in the 2014 Farm Bill. You can track our progress and learn more about how the new farm bill impacts you at, or visit for more information about ACEP and VPA-HIP.

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