Op-Ed: Celebrate National Ag Day by committing to combating climate change
Since its founding as the Soil Conservation Service in 1935, the agency now known as USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service has been committed to helping landowners help the land. By conserving and protecting the natural resources on their land including the soil, water and air, farmers can improve the performance of their own farms while also making a lasting positive impact off the farm.
NRCS was founded out of the Dust Bowl after great clouds of soil from the southern plains blew across the country harming the quality of the farmland in the Great Plains and the livelihoods of all in the way of the storm. From that founding moment until today, NRCS has been committed to helping farmers help their land while also recognizing the impact their resource management decisions have on the surrounding landscape. That commitment is truer now than ever as NRCS works with farmers here in Indiana and nationwide to armor their operations against the impacts of changing weather patterns.
The impacts of changing weather patterns such as droughts gripping large parts of the country, excessive rainfall and an increased frequency of severe weather events have an impact on food production and resources conservation. The good news is we have the tools to combat harmful impacts and can continue to work together to rewrite the story for future generations. Rural communities make up 97% of America, providing ample opportunity for us to assist in our nation’s effort to mitigate the harmful effects of climate change.
As we celebrate National Ag Day today, the Agriculture Council of America has chosen “Agriculture: Growing a Climate for Tomorrow” as this year’s theme. This theme is a reminder for farmers, rural communities and agencies such as NRCS to continue working together to make a positive impact on food security, farm profitability and the environment in the face of extreme and changing weather.
We have resources available through our financial assistance programs and free technical assistance to help you implement practices on your land that will help your operations while simultaneously making a positive impact to the wider environment.
NRCS has taken steps to lead by offering solutions to mitigate the impacts of changing weather patterns and many of the practices already being implemented by Hoosier farmers and landowners are key parts of this effort. No-till farming reduces emissions by limiting the number of passes required by equipment in the fields. Minimizing disturbance of the soil also helps to keep harmful greenhouse gases such as carbon sequestered in fields. When combined with cover crops and a nutrient management plan, farmers can have a lasting impact on the environment while also improving their operations, reducing inputs and increasing yields.
Climate-smart agriculture is one of NRCS’s top priorities and we have been supported in this fight with additional program funding through the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). Through IRA, NRCS has been provided an additional $19.5 billion nationwide over five years for climate smart agriculture through several of the conservation programs that NRCS implements including $850 million in 2023.
In Indiana, $6.6 million of IRA funding has been made available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) to help farmers implement climate-smart agriculture practices on their land. These practices include nutrient management plans, cover crops, reduced tillage, forest stand improvements, prescribed grazing plans and more. You can apply for the current round of IRA funding by April 28. If you are interested in helping your land and operation, conserving natural resources and building the agricultural systems of the future reach out to your county’s district conservationist at your local service center which can be found at Farmers.gov/service-locator and see how we can help.
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service helps America’s farmers conserve the nation’s soil, water, air and other natural resources. All programs are voluntary and offer science-based solutions that benefit both the landowner and the environment. To learn more about NRCS and what we do go visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/Indiana. Follow us on https://twitter.com/IndianaNRCS.