This is a letter to the editor from Steven Brown, State Executive Director, Indiana Farm Service Agency and Jerry Raynor, State Conservationist, Indiana Natural Resources Conservation Service
At USDA, we celebrate Earth Day 2019 by offering big thank-yous to Indiana farmers and forest landowners for all they do. Every day we see their efforts to conserve natural resources while producing food, fiber and fuel for people in their communities and around the world. They are doing what needs to be done to make sure we all enjoy the benefits of clean and plentiful water and healthy soils, ecosystems and wildlife habitat.
This year’s Earth Day theme, “Protect Our Species,” highlights the responsibility we share in supporting wildlife. Two-thirds of the land in the continental United States is privately owned, and the decisions that Indiana farmers make for their land can impact wildlife.
We at USDA believe people and wildlife can thrive together. USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) assist agricultural producers with adopting conservation practices that benefit not only farms and forest lands, but wildlife species.
Producers across Indiana have played and continue to play important roles in helping wildlife species flourish, rebound or recover. USDA provides assistance to help make conservation improvements that benefit the monarch while also increasing the productivity and resiliency on working lands. Indiana’s farmers and forest landowners are voluntarily combating the decline of monarchs by adding and maintaining high-quality monarch habitat and controlling invasive species on their land. While many of these practices target improving grazing lands or reducing soil erosion, simple tweaks to the practice can yield big benefits for monarchs.
Similarly, better grazing and forestry practices by managing for early successional habitat are part of the effort to support the northern bobwhite quail in Indiana. With the help of USDA, landowners are making wildlife improvements by establishing field borders and buffer strips, integrating native plants into conservation cover and pasture plantings, and thinning mature forests through brush management and prescribed fire to invigorate understory vegetation. These practices provide vital habitat for the northern bobwhite quail and other wildlife species.
USDA offers a wide array of Farm Bill programs to help Indiana producers make wildlife-friendly improvements to croplands, grazing lands and working forests, as well as benefit agricultural operations. Programs include the Conservation Reserve Program, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program. USDA also offers free conservation advice as well and financial assistance to help implement conservation practices.
If you farm in Indiana, we encourage you to reach out to your local FSA and NRCS representatives at your nearest USDA service center to see if there is a program right for your operation. Find your nearest office at farmers.gov/service-locator.
If you’re not a farmer, on this Earth Day please thank one for the work he or she does to put food on our tables and to conserve our natural resources and support our nation’s wildlife.