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Two Meetings Coming for Indiana Pork Producers

Two Meetings Coming for Indiana Pork Producers

The Indiana Pork Producer's annual meeting is slated for Tuesday, Feb. 6 at the Indiana Pork office. It is located at 5722 W. 74th Street, Indianapolis. A number of items of interest to all pork producers will be on the agenda.

Information about key pork topics will be interspersed with awards for those who have served the pork industry and IPPA business. There will also be reports from representatives on the National Pork Board.

The meeting is slated to run from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. EST. Lunch will be provided at no cost.

Stay profitable: Two meetings early in February will be tailored to pork producers.

Seating is limited. Registration in advance is required. You can register for the conference by visiting www.indianapork.com. Follow instructions to register for the meeting.

Sarah Ford is the IPPA contact person for the meeting. You can reach her at 317-872-7500.

Secretary of Agriculture Sue Ellspermann and new director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, Gina Sheets, are scheduled to address the group, and lay pout their roadmap for agriculture in Indiana.

Central Indiana Pork Conference

You're in luck if you're a pork producer and like meetings. The Central Indiana Pork Conference will be held the following day, Feb 6 from 9 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. RST at Rossville High School located at 1 Robert Egly Drive, Rossville.

This workshop is built around helping producers stay competitive, says Curt Emanuel, Clinton County Extension ag educator. He also sees it as a networking opportunity and a chance to let pork producers know what's going on in the legislature.

Representatives from Indiana Packers, the meat processor, Delphi, will present a 'state of the industry' report. Chris Hurt, Purdue Extension ag economist, will discuss the industry outlook from his perspective and someone from MP3 Farms will talk about electronic sow feeding.

Register by Feb 1 to be sure you can have lunch. Registration fee is $15. Contact Emanuel at cemanueal@purdue.edu or call 765-659-6380.

The fiscal cliff fallacy and the debt burden for our kids and grandkids

If you have young children or grandchildren, look at them and imagine signs around their necks: “I owe my government $52,000 — and each day I will owe more.”

While the number varies according to the parameters of data used in the calculation, it is a reasonable approximation of each U.S. citizen’s share of the current national debt, now north of $16 trillion.

And unless the kick-the-can-down-the-road Congress and administration bite the bullet and make some meaningful, realistic effort to enact measures to begin reining in the debt, today’s youngsters will face an even heavier burden as they enter the workforce.

The problem will be exacerbated by a continuing decline in the overall working population as more jobs become automated, the self-service society expands, and employers push for even greater productivity from fewer workers.

As ominous and onerous as the mounting debt may be, the greater worry for today’s young adults and the kids who reach working age in 2025 and beyond will be the availability of gainful employment in a business world trying to eliminate insofar as possible the costs associated with live bodies.

The glass-half-full view could be, “Well, that kind of environment will open opportunities for self-employment, for cottage industries that can grow and provide jobs,” while the glass-half-empty adherents envision a large segment of permanently unemployed, the continued erosion of the middle class that made America strong, and a growing social unrest as the numbers of poor escalate.

Toss into that witches’ brew the increasingly large elderly population, the cost of whose healthcare and subsistence will be borne by a continually declining workforce, and you have a not rosy picture.

Today, analysts say, 36 percent of the federal budget goes to Social Security and Medicare, and that will increase as more of the 77.5 million “baby boomer” generation becomes eligible for benefits.

There has been much ado of late about “the fiscal cliff,” with a lot of back-patting and self-congratulation by the Washington honorables at having reached a solution.

Which, of course, they did not. It was yet another smoke and mirrors exercise, which did zilch to rein in spending or reduce debt, but oh so coincidentally included nearly $70 billion in pork for a lot of special interests (millions for Puerto Rico rum makers, Hollywood movie makers, NASCAR racetrack owners, and on and on).

And they had the unmitigated gall to title it “The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012” — even more a misnomer when it actually increased the tax bite on every working citizen by reinstating the 2 percent Social Security tax reduction that had been in effect the past two years  (which never should have been done because it only further added to the looming shortfall in the Social Security system).

So, when you see this or that Congressperson or administration official bloviating about their accomplishment in avoiding the fiscal cliff, just remember that IOU around your kids’/grandkids’ necks.

hbrandon@farmpress.com

O.A. Cleveland: A pleasant surprise — cotton prices stronger than expected

DENNIS REGINELLI from left Mississippi State University Extension Service Starkville Carla Taylor Baldwyn Miss dairy farmer Keith Maloney area director USDA Cotton Classing Division Dumas Ark and Betty Mills Winona Miss producer were among those attending the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federationrsquos annual commodity conferenece
<p> <em><strong>DENNIS REGINELLI, from left, Mississippi State University Extension Service, Starkville; Carla Taylor, Baldwyn, Miss., dairy farmer; Keith Maloney, area director, USDA Cotton Classing Division, Dumas, Ark.; and Betty Mills, Winona, Miss., producer, were among those attending the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation&rsquo;s annual commodity conferenece.</strong></em></p>

With the Chinese government sitting on a huge chunk of the current world cotton supply and an outlook for sharp acreage cutbacks in the U.S. this year, support should continue for prices in the 80-cent range, says O.A. Cleveland, Jr.

O.A. CLEVELAND, JR.

“We’re in an exciting cotton market now,” he said at the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation’s annual commodity conference at Jackson, Miss.

“It’s not the $1.50 to $2.00 excitement we saw in 2010, but it is impressive from the standpoint that many analysts and market experts have been suggesting prices in the 45 cents to 60 cents range. Even the International Cotton Advisory Committee, one of the very best analytical organizations, has suggested we’d be seeing a price somewhere between 65 cents and 75 cents.

“If you believe in technical analysis, as I very strongly do, it is just a study of the history of prices, and with a world carryover in the neighborhood of 80 million bales — nearly 10 million more than we’ve ever had — history tells us that prices should be at such-and-such a level.”

But, says Cleveland, “There is something different about this particular market — and that difference is China. The Chinese government has taken their entire crop of some 48 million bales and essentially locked it away in their strategic reserve. The government pays cotton growers directly, and this is cotton for which they’ve paid between $1.41 and $1.45.

“They have something over $30 billion invested in this crop, which is almost as much as the USDA’s entire budget for farm commodity programs (not counting its food programs).

“This is a very interesting situation because of the impact it’s having on the world market. People say, well they’ve got all that cotton and they’re just going to let the bottom fall out of the market. But, the Chinese are very astute in finance and marketing, and with all the money they’ve got invested in their own cotton, and with half the world’s cotton supply locked up, it’s not likely they want a big drop in the market.”

China just recently started offering for sale quantities of their cotton, Cleveland says. “They were offering textile mills 2008 crop cotton; now they’re offering 2011 crop cotton. But they’re not getting many takers. They’re only selling about 20 percent to 25 percent what they offer on a daily basis.

“They’re selling middling 1-3/32 cotton to the textile mills for $1.38 per pound roughly. The mills can buy a bale of U.S. cotton and land it in China for $1.27 per pound, with about a 15 percent tariff paid on it. Because of the cost, Chinese textile mills by and large aren’t using Chinese cotton; much of it is imported, some from the U.S.

“Chinese spinning mills aren’t particularly active. The government is officially holding the price of their cotton very high to textile mills, which makes them uncompetitive with international mills. They’ve also maintained a very low polyester price, so Chinese mills can buy polyester 10 percent cheaper than last year. In other markets around the globe, polyester is only 2 percent to 3 percent cheaper. So for whatever reason, China hasn’t lowered their polyester price and they are very favorable toward using polyester in their textile mills.”

Chinese importing cotton yarn

However, Cleveland says, the Chinese are importing yarn. “There is no tariff on importing yarn; it comes in duty-free, which allows the mills to get around the problem of buying expensive cotton. By importing yarn instead, they can compete in the world textile market. Pakistan, India, Vietnam, South Korea, the U.S., are selling yarn to China.

It’s cheaper to import quality U.S. cotton and spin it in China than to buy quality Chinese cotton and spin it in China.”

The Chinese government is preparing to set the 2013 cotton price, he says. “We have no idea what it’s going to be. They’ve not set prices for wheat or other commodities yet, but we’re anticipating they will lower the price of cotton, which will certainly have an impact on their plantings. We expect they will increase their acreage of food grains and feed grains, and information I’m seeing suggests they will reduce cotton production by 10 percent to 15 percent. We’re certainly looking for them to have a significant decrease, as is the case in the U.S.”

The Chinese government, Cleveland says, “is attempting, and more than likely will succeed, to move their cotton production area from the eastern seaboard to the arid far west, where there are very large mechanized farms.

“This is an area that is basically controlled by the Chinese army, which manages all the economic resources of the region. They have six-row equipment and miles ofutility lines for irrigation — it’s as modern as anything we have, and is highly efficient, but the ground and yields aren’t as good as the U.S. But they apparently plan to take the high yielding eastern seaboard area out of cotton so they can increase their production of grains.

“They also have new leadership, with tremendous exposure to western education. All the press has been commenting that the new leadership will be very consumer friendly, and their people will be expecting them to deliver on this. They’re expecting the entire market to be consumer friendly and for the government to pay more attention to them.

“While China is still very much agrarian country, it’s catching up fast in many ways, and many, many people have moved into the middle class. In 10 to 15 years, many analysts are predicting their economy will be larger than ours.

“This is why U.S. cotton exports are considerably larger than what we originally expected,” Cleveland says. “The USDA originally had forecast exports at 11. 2 bales, but that has been creeping up to about 12.2 million bales. Based on what’s been happening, I think we will probably export as much as 13 million bales to China this year, which is over 800,000 bales more than the current USDA estimate.

“I fully believe we’re on a pace to export 12.8 to 13.2 million bales. There is a strong demand for cotton, and the USDA has been slow to recognize this. I have a tremendous respect for USDA and ICAC analysts, and I know they have constraints on their analyses that I don’t have to contend. But I know too that they’re paying a tremendous amount of attention to all that cotton in China and why it’s not on the market.”

The USDA’s current estimate of global mill consumption is about 106 million bales, Cleveland says, but “I would anticipate they will increase that by at least 1 million, maybe 2 million bales. By the end of the marketing year, I think world consumption will be 110 million to 111 million bales — which is 4 million to 5 million bales more than the USDA is projecting right now.

“We’re seeing increases in Bangladesh, Turkey, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, South Korea, and other countries with growing textile operations. Their mills are spinning to  export yarn to China.

“Also, Chinese textile mill owners and textile investors are moving cotton outside out of China into these countries, and building new mills because China is becoming more expensive. The Chinese working class is expanding, people are moving away from the farm and subsistence agriculture into town and businesses. China is no longer the lowest price textile producer, but Cambodia, Vietnam, India, Pakistan are still low cost wage countries.”

India is “the bright star on the horizon as far as cotton goes,” Cleveland says. “Their yields have more than doubled in the last 10 years, and they’re in for another 50 percent increase, if not more.

“It’s still a country with lots of very small fields and very inefficient production, but as they begin to become more efficient they will become more and more a player in cotton. They will one day out-produce China and spin more cotton than China, whether it be 10 years from now or 15 years from now.”

 

Dave Dravecky headlines Ag Leadership World Ag Expo Breakfast

Former Major League Baseball pitcher, cancer survivor and motivational speaker Dave Dravecky will be the keynote speaker at the 19th annual Ag Leadership World Ag Expo Breakfast on Feb. 14. The fundraising event, hosted by California Agricultural Leadership Program alumni of Kings and Tulare counties, benefits the California Agricultural Leadership Foundation (CALF).

While Dravecky was pitching for the San Francisco Giants, a cancerous desmoid tumor was discovered in his pitching arm. He is known for his dramatic and courageous 1989 comeback following surgery. Just as dramatic was his departure from baseball after the return of the cancer and the amputation of his left arm.

Through an incredible journey of physical and emotional pain, Dravecky has experienced the heights and depths of joy and despair, faith and doubt, intimacy and aloneness. His story is about finding hope, courage and perseverance in the midst of overwhelming uncertainty. In the book “Worth of a Man,” Dravecky wrote about his challenges, his faith and his discovery of a new identity outside of baseball. He and his wife, Jan, founded Endurance, a ministry to encourage those who are facing serious illness, loss or depression.

Over the past 18 years, the Ag Leadership World Ag Expo Breakfast has raised more than $800,000 for CALF. The Ag Leadership Program, operated by CALF, has provided an advanced leadership development experience for emerging agricultural leaders since 1970. More than 1,200 men and women have participated in Ag Leadership and have become influential leaders and active volunteers in the agriculture industry, government, communities, business and education.

The fundraiser breakfast will be Feb. 14 at the Heritage Complex in Tulare, Calif. Doors open at 6:30 a.m. Table sponsors are $600, which includes a steak breakfast for eight and program recognition. Individual tickets are available for $65. Tickets sell fast, but are still available by calling The Lagomarsino Group at (559) 735-9700 or by e-mailing CALF@lagomarsino.com.

Cotton industry concerned with pesticide blame in honey bee decline

Cotton industry concerned with pesticide blame in honey bee decline

Dr. Don Parker, NCC’s manager of Integrated Pest Management, told attendees at the American Honey Producers Assoc. (AHPA) 2013 national convention that the U.S. cotton industry is concerned with the level of attention being given to pesticides as a factor of declining bee colonies.

An invited speaker at the convention in San Diego, Calif., on Jan. 8-12, Parker emphasized that recent surveys of beekeepers have indicated the greatest concerns were starvation, weather, weak colonies in the fall and lack of mite control -- yet most news media outlets have provided the public with stories related to pesticides. He further emphasized the change in pesticide use in cotton production with little use of organophosphates that once dominated the market.

(See related: Honey bee losses defy solitary explanations)

Parker noted cotton’s environmental footprint has continued to improve over time and that the industry is interested in working with producers and beekeepers to identify improvements at local levels rather than mandates that do not fit an individual production region’s different needs. He also encouraged beekeepers to learn more about crop producers’ different pest protection needs and why they select the products they select. He urged beekeepers to recognize that there are many areas in which producers and beekeepers could work together to address greater needs for pollinators such as habitat.

He also expressed concerns that regulations from EPA limiting producers’ choice of products to protect yield could reduce the cooperation of producers who might then feel that allowing hives on their land creates a liability.

Additional information about AHPA is at www.ahpanet.com.

Researchers Attempt To Develop Drought Schedule

Researchers Attempt To Develop Drought Schedule

Droughts can severely limit crop growth, causing yearly losses of around $8 billion in the United States. But it may be possible to minimize those losses if farmers can synchronize the growth of crops with periods of time when drought is less likely to occur.

Researchers from Oklahoma State University are working to create a reliable "calendar" of seasonal drought patterns that could help farmers optimize crop production by avoiding days prone to drought.

Researchers are hoping to find a way to help producers avoid future drought disasters.

Historical probabilities of drought, which can point to days on which crop water stress is likely, are often calculated using atmospheric data such as rainfall and temperatures. However, those measurements do not consider the soil properties of individual fields or sites.

"Atmospheric variables do not take into account soil moisture," explains Tyson Ochsner, lead author of the study. "And soil moisture can provide an important buffer against short-term precipitation deficits."

In an attempt to more accurately assess drought probabilities, Ochsner and co-authors, Guilherme Torres and Romulo Lollato, used 15 years of soil moisture measurements from eight locations across Oklahoma to calculate soil water deficits and determine the days on which dry conditions would be likely. Results of the study, which began as a student-led class research project, were published online Tuesday in Agronomy Journal. The researchers found that soil water deficits more successfully identified periods during which plants were likely to be water stressed than did traditional atmospheric measurements when used as proposed by previous research.

Soil water deficit is defined in the study as the difference between the capacity of the soil to hold water and the actual water content calculated from long-term soil moisture measurements. Researchers then compared that soil water deficit to a threshold at which plants would experience water stress and, therefore, drought conditions. The threshold was determined for each study site since available water, a factor used to calculate threshold, is affected by specific soil characteristics.

"The soil water contents differ across sites and depths depending on the sand, silt, and clay contents," says Ochsner. "Readily available water is a site- and depth-specific parameter."

Upon calculating soil water deficits and stress thresholds for the study sites, the research team compared their assessment of drought probability to assessments made using atmospheric data. They found that a previously developed method using atmospheric data often underestimated drought conditions, while soil water deficits measurements more accurately and consistently assessed drought probabilities. Therefore, the researchers suggest that soil water data be used whenever it is available to create a picture of the days on which drought conditions are likely.

If soil measurements are not available, however, the researchers recommend that the calculations used for atmospheric assessments be reconfigured to be more accurate. The authors made two such changes in their study. First, they decreased the threshold at which plants were deemed stressed, thus allowing a smaller deficit to be considered a drought condition. They also increased the number of days over which atmospheric deficits were summed. Those two changes provided estimates that better agreed with soil water deficit probabilities.

Further research is needed, Ochsner says, to optimize atmospheric calculations and provide accurate estimations for those without soil water data. "We are in a time of rapid increase in the availability of soil moisture data, but many users will still have to rely on the atmospheric water deficit method for locations where soil moisture data are insufficient."

Regardless of the method used, Ochsner and his team hope that their research will help farmers better plan the cultivation of their crops and avoid costly losses to drought conditions.

Kinze family history part of ag innovation story

Names like John Deere, Cyrus McCormick, Harvey Firestone have long been part of the lore of American agriculture. But there’s a newer generation of innovators who are making their mark on U.S. and world agriculture. Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and Kinze Manufacturing’s Jon Kinzenbaw talked about one of those stories in this video from a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new Kinze Innovation Center.

FSA Has New Policy For 1099 Tax Forms

FSA Has New Policy For 1099 Tax Forms

USDA's Farm Service Agency has changed the policy on issuing 1099s and the information this income tax-related document contains. These changes have gone into effect for the 2012 calendar year. Like all other businesses, 1099s for farming operations must be issued by Jan. 31, 2013.

Beth Grabau, information and outreach specialist with the Iowa FSA office in Des Moines, provides the following answers to some often asked questions on this topic. She explains how you can find your information online and explains some of the USDA online services available. For more details and answers to questions contact your local FSA office or go to www.fsa.usda.gov/ia.

TAX TIME: USDA's Farm Service Agency has changed how it issues 1099s and the information this income tax-related document contains. The changes are in effect for 2012 calendar year. In past years, IRS Forms 1099-G were issued to show all program payments received from FSA, regardless of the amount. For calendar year 2012, the 1099-G reporting is different.

QUESTION: I've heard about changes FSA is making to the 1099, who will these changes affect? 

Answer: In past years, Internal Revenue Service Forms 1099-G were issued to show all program payments received from the FSA, regardless of the amount. For calendar year 2012, the 1099-G reporting will change.

IRS Form 1099-G (Report of Payments to Producers) will only be issued to producers whose reportable payments total $600 or more for the calendar year. Additionally, if the producer has at least $600 in reportable payments received from multiple FSA offices, only one Form 1099-G will be issued. Producers subject to voluntary withholding or backup (involuntary) withholding will receive the appropriate IRS form, even if combined payments are less than $600. The same changes will apply to producers and vendors who normally receive IRS Form 1099-MISC from FSA. 

Any producer who receives less than $600 in combined payments should consult a tax adviser to determine if these payments must be reported on their tax return.

QUESTION: My tax appointment is generally before the 1099s come out. I try to keep track of my payment transaction statements and receipts for loan repayments for my accountant, but I worry about missing one. If more than one payment is issued on one day, the total dollar amount is listed as one entry at the bank, also causing confusion. What is available to assist me? 

Answer: All of this information is available online to producers who have signed up for e-Authentication, or e-Auth. Producers who have and use USDA's e-Auth can generate reports for current and historical financial information. Information available on the financial website includes: 

* Payments, providing a summary along with detailed information on payments made by FSA to you;

* Collections, showing collections received from you or on your behalf including the program the collection was for and the amount;

* Debt, which shows the outstanding principal owed;

* CCC-1099-G, showing the information reported to IRS;

* Customer Account Inquiry, a report providing a comprehensive list of financial activity for a selected period of time.  Detailed information may be obtained through use of links provided in the inquiry. Reports have payments broken down by farm numbers and by county, which could be helpful to multi-county producers. 

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Using this site, producers can also enter their own assignment of a payment to a third party, enter joint payment information to have a program payment made to yourself and a third party, as well as updating direct deposit information. USDA's e-Auth also allows producers to do other activities online such as signing up for the DCP program. 

QUESTION: What are the steps for signing up for e-Auth? 

Answer: Access to the Financial Services website and other online services are available after a producer has signed up for an e-Authentication Level 2 account. Producers may sign up for an e-Authentication Level 2 account on the www.eauth.egov.usda.gov website.

First producers will obtain a Level 2 account by completing a customer profile and submitting it online. After submitting the customer profile, producers will receive a confirmation email and must respond to it within seven days to activate their account. Then you must complete the "Identity Proofing" process by visiting your local FSA office and presenting a photo ID, such as your driver's license. During this visit the local FSA office goes online to complete the final steps to have access to this account. 

QUESTION: I've been getting fewer paper copies of newsletters from my local FSA office. They tell me they are unable to send paper copies due to budget constraints and cost saving measures. I try to keep up with USDA farm program information. Besides the website, is there another source of program information? 

Answer: FSA, like many other organizations, is trying to work smarter and be more efficient. Moving to electronic notifications via email helps conserve resources and save taxpayer dollars.

Many local FSA offices are moving toward a paperless news distribution system. Producers in counties that are using this delivery system are being asked to enroll in the new GovDelivery system, which provides notices, newsletters and electronic reminders instead of a hard copy through the mail. GovDelivery is open to anyone interested in subscribing and receiving FSA program information. 

Subscribing to receive electronic information is done by going to www.fsa.usda.gov/subscribe. After entering a valid email address, scroll to the applicable state or states. By expanding the state, you can choose to receive information from any state and any county or counties. You can select as many subscriber options as you want. This delivery system allows people who farm in multiple counties or across state lines to receive FSA updates from each county in which they operate or have an interest. 

Options also include receiving press releases and other program information online. After making all of the selections requested, hit submit. Modifications to this request can be made at any time by going back into this website or by clicking the link at the bottom of each GovDelivery message. Remember to update email addresses when they are changed.

Plans Announced For 21st Century Conservation Corps

Plans Announced For 21st Century Conservation Corps

FAQ: USDA and other federal agencies are forming a new modern-day Conservation Corps, with similar goals as the old Civilian Conservation Corps of many years ago. What progress is being made so for on this new effort to help preserve our nation's soil, water, forests, improve our parks and public lands and other natural resources and in the process to put young people to work, and veterans to work, who are looking for employment?

NEW GENERATION: Eight federal departments and agencies announced in January they are forming a council to build a 21st Century Conservation Service Corps for the U.S. The expanded corps will increase job opportunities for young Americans through valuable training and work experience while inspiring a new generation of conservation stewards.

Answer: Leaders of eight federal departments and agencies on January 10, 2013 announced they signed an agreement setting up a national council to guide implementation of the Obama Administration's 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) - a national collaborative effort to put America's youth and returning veterans to work protecting, restoring and enhancing America's great outdoors.

By signing the Memorandum of Understanding, the U.S. Secretaries of the Interior, Agriculture, Commerce and Labor, as well as the EPA Administrator, Chair of the President's Council on Environmental Quality, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service and Assistant Secretary for the Army (Civil Works) established the National Council for the 21CSC - fully implementing the first recommendation of the America's Great Outdoors Initiative introduced by President Obama in 2010.

Building on legacy of Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s

"The President's America's Great Outdoors Initiative is helping to connect Americans from all backgrounds with the recreational, economic and health benefits of our nation's extraordinary natural resources," said Nancy Sutley, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. "The 21st Century Conservation Service Corps will help prepare the leaders of the future by providing youth with valuable opportunities for recreation, career development and service to their community and their Nation."

"Building on the legacy of President Roosevelt's Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression in the 1930s, the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps will help build and train a workforce who fully represent the diversity of America while creating the next generation of environmental stewards and improving the condition of our public lands," said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.

Partnerships with youth conservation corps across the country

The 21CSC focuses on helping young people including diverse low-income, underserved and at-risk youth, as well as returning veterans gain valuable training and work experience while accomplishing needed conservation and restoration work on public lands, waterways and cultural heritage sites. It builds on existing partnerships with youth conservation corps across the country to engage thousands of young Americans in hands-on service and job training experiences on public lands and community green spaces.

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"By coordinating resources across the federal family and working with partners, the 21CSC will accomplish important restoration work, provide more job and training opportunities to a diverse group of young Americans, expand educational opportunities for youth, and create meaningful pathways to careers - all while reconnecting America's youth with the great outdoors," said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

"This is a great example of how innovative partnerships are utilizing government resources more efficiently and effectively," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "The Labor Department is committed to working with our partners to provide young people - especially those from underserved communities - with exposure to a wide variety of in-demand jobs and valuable training opportunities that can form the foundation of lifelong careers."

Federal lands and waters are vital to health and well-being of the nation

"Our federal lands and waters are vital to the health and well-being of Americans," added Jo Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works), who oversees the Corps of Engineers. "The 21CSC will expand the Corps' capacities to conserve and maintain these areas, and provide youth and veterans with meaningful work, education and exposure to the outdoors."

The National Council will work across the federal government to support the 21CSC by enhancing partnerships with existing youth corps programs around the nation; stimulating existing and new public-private partnerships; and aligning the investment of current federal government resources.

Members will be represented on the National Council by members of the senior leadership of each agency, bureau or office. The National Council will initially be co-chaired by representatives from the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture, for a one-year term, after which the two co-chair positions will be chosen from among the National Council members by consensus. For more information on the 21CSC, visit www.doi.gov/21csc.

USDA Conservation Program Marks Milestone

USDA Conservation Program Marks Milestone

FAQ: USDA recently announced that the Conservation Stewardship Program has reached 50-million acres. Tell me more about CSP.

In just four years, America's top conservationists have enrolled 50-million acres in USDA's Conservation Stewardship Program. CSP is a program that helps farmers, ranchers and forest landowners take soil and water conservation to the next level. CSP is aimed at producers who are already established as conservation stewards, helping them to deliver multiple conservation benefits on working lands, including improved water and soil quality and enhanced wildlife habitat.

Farmers and ranchers have reached the 50-million acre mark in USDA's Conservation Security Program.

The announcement of this conservation milestone being reached was made at the end of 2012. "Farmers and ranchers throughout the country are making USDA's voluntary Conservation Stewardship Program a major force for conservation," said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. "The protection of natural resources through conservation programs such as CSP create outdoor and wildlife recreation opportunities that provide crucial jobs and bolster economic growth in rural American communities."

Eligible farmers and landowners can sign up for CSP year-around

The land enrolled in CSP totals more than 78,000 square miles, an area larger than Pennsylvania and South Carolina combined, making the program one of the largest voluntary conservation programs for private lands offered by USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service. Nearly 12.2 million acres, or 18,750 square miles, were added to the program's rolls during 2012.

Eligible landowners and operators in all states and territories can enroll in CSP. NRCS local offices accept CSP applications year-round and evaluate applications during announced ranking periods.

A CSP self-screening checklist is available to help producers determine if the program is suitable for their operation. The checklist highlights basic information about CSP eligibility requirements, stewardship threshold requirements and payment types. It is available from local NRCS offices and on the CSP website. Learn more about CSP and other NRCS programs at www.nrcs.usda.gov.