Southern Plains Perspective: Surfin’ the net for blog ideas can be a mixed bag…

There is a new blog post out at the Southern Plains Perspective, by Clay Pope. Read below!

I thought I had a great idea in mind for my blog this week….I’m not kidding.  But, as with all the best-laid plans of mice and men, they often go awry (and so did my blog idea).  So here I am digging around for ideas to write about at the last minute

I came across all kinds of “positive” climate-smart ag/soil health/conservation type headlines that I thought I might share.

Soil in midwestern US is eroding 10 to 1,000 times faster than it forms, study finds

Summary—“In a discovery that has repercussions for everything from domestic agricultural policy to global food security and the plans to mitigate climate change, researchers recently announced that the rate of soil erosion in the Midwestern US is 10 to 1,000 times greater than pre-agricultural erosion rates. These newly discovered pre-agricultural rates, which reflect the rate at which soils form, are orders of magnitude lower than the upper allowable limit of erosion set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).”

–Always nice to see that we are losing topsoil at an alarming rate….


Summary—”A Kansas State professor says climate change could be costing farmers opportunities in carbon markets.  Dr. Chuck Rice says rainstorms are increasing in frequency and intensity leading to soil erosion and carbon sequestration issues. “Cover is extremely important, otherwise you’re going to lose the carbon and the soil nutrients and it’s going to go downstream.”

–Again, loss of soil and the depletion of soil health has impacts across the board, both for the environment and producers’ bottom lines….

U.S. winter wheat yield loss attributed to compound hot-dry-windy events

Summary—“Climate extremes cause significant winter wheat yield loss and can cause much greater impacts than single extremes in isolation when multiple extremes occur simultaneously. Here we show that compound hot-dry-windy events (HDW) significantly increased in the U.S. Great Plains from 1982 to 2020. These HDW events were the most impactful drivers for wheat yield loss, accounting for a 4% yield reduction per 10 h of HDW during heading to maturity. Current HDW trends are associated with yield reduction rates of up to 0.09 t ha−1 per decade and HDW variations are atmospheric-bridged with the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. We quantify the “yield shock”, which is spatially distributed, with the losses in severely HDW-affected areas, presumably the same areas affected by the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Our findings indicate that compound HDW, which traditional risk assessments overlooked, have significant implications for the U.S. winter wheat production and beyond.”

–Another study results in another story about how our changing climate is causing and will continue to cause serious challenges for agriculture producers….

I could go on and on, but I hate to be a “Debbie downer.”  

The good news is that not every headline I found was depressing. In fact, here is one ray of light that I would like to share…

USDA Requests Public Input on Implementation of Inflation Reduction Act Funding

Summary—“NRCS is asking for public input through a Federal Register request for information on implementation of more than $19 billion provided by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). NRCS is asking for comments on how to target program benefits, quantify impact, and improve program delivery and outreach, especially for underserved producers. Comments are due Dec. 21, 2022. NRCS will identify immediate changes that can be made in fiscal year 2023 and will continue to identify and adopt additional changes in future years.”

— As I wrote in an earlier blog, a lot is happening in the climate-smart ag/soil health/conservation space, especially with the injection of funds that NRCS received this fall when the President signed into law Senate Concurrent Resolution 14 (2021-22), better known as the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022.  The appropriation made possible by this act resulted in a huge investment in conservation programs that has the potential to do a lot of good in the countryside and help with the challenges mentioned in the stories above.  It also means a lot of additional activity and workload at our local USDA Service Centers and the need for input from local stakeholders to help ensure that these dollars are spent where they are needed most. 

The good news on this is two-fold…first, more help is coming.  There will soon be more resources for climate-smart ag practices through programs like EQIP and CSP and additional technical assistance through NRCS.  Second, USDA is looking for input from farmers, ranchers, and other stakeholders on how best to make this happen.

Now would be a good time for producers to look at the Federal Register Notice on the request for information from NRCS and reach out to their local USDA service centers to see what they can do to prepare for this new funding when it finally becomes available (as well as to check out what help already exists).

When it comes to climate change and agriculture, the news can sometimes seem overwhelming.  It’s good to remember that not all of it is bad.  Help is available.

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