Monthly Archives: January 2014

“Kobach urges passage of bill that would exclude Lesser Prairie Chicken from federal protection”

Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, supports a state bill (Kansas Senate Bill 276) that would prevent the US Fish & Wildlife Service from protecting imperiled nonmigratory wildlife species or their habitats in Kansas. The Cimarron National Grassland in southwest Kansas, a major habitat for the Lesser Prairie Chicken in Kansas, is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The following short excerpts are from the Lawrence Journal World: The full online version can be seen at

Kobach urges passage of bill that would exclude Lesser Prairie Chicken from federal protection

By Scott Rothschild

Posted Thursday, January 23, 2014

 “Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach on Thursday urged legislators to approve a bill that would exclude the Lesser Prairie Chicken from federal protection.

The bill would assert state sovereignty over nonmigratory wildlife, declare null and void any federal law in Kansas on the Lesser Prairie Chicken, and allow state officials to charge federal officials with a felony if a federal official tried to enforce a federal law dealing with the Lesser Prairie Chicken.”

Connecting Kids to Nature in the Digital Age

Connecting Kids to Nature in the Digital Age

NWF Report: Friending Fresh Air

So how do parents balance the role of technology in their kids’ lives with the simple pleasures and lasting benefits of outdoor play? Better yet, how do they use technology to get kids moving, exploring and interacting with the outdoor world around them?

            Be Out There takes an in-depth look at how to balance screen time with green time in the report, Friending Fresh Air: Connecting Kids to Nature in the Digital Age. Here, we offer insight on how to use technology you already love and still connect your kids to nature.

            Bridge the Indoor/Outdoor Gap with Tech

1. Use technology to help plan outdoor time or inspire your next outdoor adventure.

2. If they love it, embrace it, and take it outside!

3. Keep a record of your experiences with the help of electronics to take photos, make videos or keep an electronic journal of adventures and discoveries

“Everything in moderation” is a wise old saying that applies to many aspects of our lives. As much as we love chocolate, a diet of cookies and candy bars just doesn’t cut it in the nutrition department. Likewise, technology can be a wonderful tool for learning and playing, but kids require a balance of screen and green experiences to grow up happy and healthy. Kids, and even parents, need time to recharge their own batteries, so don’t forget the importance of unplugging completely and enjoying some disconnected connection with nature, too.

Smartphone or not, it’s good for kids to Be Out There!

To download the entire report, go to:

Farm bill in trouble

 Farm bill in trouble

 By David Rogers


House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas conceded Thursday (January 9) that final action on a farm bill conference report is now likely to slip into late January — a major blow to himself and an ominous turn for the bill itself.

The draft package combines a landmark rewrite of commodity programs together with cuts from food stamps to generate in the range of $25 billion in 10-year savings, according to preliminary estimates. These accomplishments remain a strong argument for saving the bill. but the persistent in-fighting and delays are taking their toll and a worry for supporters.

“It need            s to be done as soon as possible but the issues are of such magnitude I can’t go until I get the issues addressed,” Lucas said. The Oklahoma Republican admitted to immense frustration — and some surprise — at the full dimensions of the standoff now between Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Lucas’s own ranking Democrat, Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, over dairy policy.

 “I don’t know that I understood how just hard the positions were by the two interested parties,” Lucas said in a hallway interview. “No one has shown any flexibility whatsoever.”

The latest farm bill delay — after what has already been a two year struggle — is a challenge to Lucas’s own leadership as chairman.

He is a likable, popular figure, but his critics would argue that he should have seen the crisis coming earlier. Lucas said he is now working on options to broker some compromise but he conceded as chairman, “There comes a point in time here where I have to pick a side and go with it.”

At issue is a new margin insurance initiative for dairy farmers which would include supply management tools to guard against over production. Peterson has argued that the supply controls are vital to keep down the cost of the insurance program. But Boehner believes the increased government role amounts to a bridge-too-far in a world of dairy policy which the speaker is already fond of comparing to the former Soviet Union.

Indeed Boehner sounded this theme again in his weekly press conference on Thursday. “The Soviet-style dairy program we have will continue, but let’s not make it any worse by including supply and management tools,” the speaker said. “I’ve fought off the supply and management ideas for 23 years that I have been in Congress, and my position hasn’t changed, and Mr. Peterson and others are well aware of it.”

Asked directly if he would block the farm bill conference report from coming back to the House floor if it did include the Peterson supply management language, Boehner suggested Lucas would protect him from having to make that decision.

“I am confident that the conference report will not include supply and management provisions for the dairy program,” the speaker said.

Lucas said that in his own conversations with Boehner, the speaker had warned him explicitly. “His statement to me was that if supply management is in it, it’s not coming to the floor. Flat out,” Lucas said.

“If the conference adopts Peterson exclusively, his language on dairy, we might not have a conference report. Where do I go from there?” the chairman said. “By the same token if the conference rejects Peterson, Collin has been a very key player in helping to pull this all together. How will he react? Will he light a match and blow up a stick of political dynamite?”

“I’m trying to work with both factions on any or all options.” Lucas said, but he likened the experience to trying to separate two over-heated bulls in the middle of a pasture.

“They get hot, they get mad and they lose their focus on what’s going on around them,” Lucas said. “You go to separate them, if you are not careful, you get smashed. I’m getting close to getting smashed no matter what happens.”

Peterson lost to Boehner on the supply management issue during the House farm bill debate last summer. But his language has the support of the Senate in its version of the farm bill. And the Minnesota Democrat believes he has the votes in the House-Senate talks now to ultimately prevail.

An important swing vote here is Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.). Rogers is counted as loyal to Lucas but under pressure from dairymen at home to back Peterson if possible. “I get the feel that Rogers’s dairymen want Peterson’s language,” Lucas said, when asked about his own conversation with Rogers this week. “I get the feeling that Rogers wants to be reflective of his dairymen.”

Peterson has long said he would be willing to sunset the supply management tools, once farmers have had a chance to adapt to the new margin insurance program. Processors, who bitterly oppose the proposal, counter that the real flaw is that the premiums charged to farmers would be set under law — and not reflect market forces.

Indeed, unlike most crop insurance — in which the government subsidizes the premiums charged by private companies — the margin insurance would be run through the Farm Service Agency that has a long history with dairy programs. This was done in part to reduce administrative costs and because it is an agency known to dairy farmers. But critics argue that it would be useful to also tap into the experience of a pilot margin insurance program now run through the Risk Management Agency, elsewhere in the Agriculture Department.

Known as LGM Dairy, this initiative remains very modest in scope but the actuarial data collected could serve to help future adjustments in the rates for the larger margin insurance program envisioned in the farm bill. That might help facilitate a faster transition from the supply management tools favored by Peterson to a more market approach favored by Boehner and processors.

“I don’t know that I would word it exactly that way,” Lucas said, “But that would be the net effect of some of the stuff we have been talking about.” 

NRCS Extends Deadline for Conservation Stewardship Program Applications

NRCS Extends Deadline for Conservation Stewardship Program Applications

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has extended the deadline for new enrollments in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) for fiscal year (FY) 2014. Producers interested in participating in the program can submit applications to NRCS through February 7, 2014.

            “Extending the enrollment deadline will make it possible for more farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to apply for this important Farm Bill conservation program,” NRCS Chief Jason Weller said. “Through their conservation actions, these good stewards are ensuring that their operations are more productive and sustainable over the long run and CSP can help them take their operations to the next level of natural resource management.”

Weller said today’s announcement is another example of USDA’s comprehensive focus on promoting environmental conservation and strengthening the rural economy, and it is a reminder that a new Food, Farm, and Jobs Bill is pivotal to continue these efforts. CSP is now in its fifth year and so far, NRCS has partnered with producers to enroll more than 59 million acres across the nation.

            The program emphasizes conservation performance—producers earn higher payments for higher performance. In CSP, producers install conservation enhancements to make positive changes in soil quality, soil erosion, water quality, water quantity, air quality, plant resources, animal resources, and energy use.

            Eligible landowners and operators in Kansas can enroll in CSP through February 7, 2014, to be eligible during FY 2014. While local NRCS offices accept the CSP applications year round, NRCS evaluates 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 the CSP eligibility requirements, stewardship threshold requirements, and payment types.

            For the checklist and additional information, visit the CSP Web site or visit your local USDA NRCS office.

Ag drainage leads to environmental concerns

Ag drainage leads to environmental concerns

Julie BuntjerPrairie Business Magazine

For years, conservationists in Minnesota have been concerned about agricultural drainage of the state’s farm lands. Miles upon miles of underground tile have been installed through private lands as a way to remove excess water and improve crop yields. What benefits the farmers, though, has come at a cost to the environment, some say.

“We’re running into more flooding problems because of drain tile,” said Nobles County Soil and Water Conservation District Manager Ed Lenz. “We’re draining agricultural land quicker than it normally would in a natural environment, which results in a much quicker and larger bounce, where the stream comes up quicker for a shorter duration.”

Multiplied by added tile lines and sped up by big rain events, water cuts into stream banks and stream beds, making for wider, deeper channels and eroded soil that ultimately ends up in lakes and rivers.

Last March, the Science Museum of Minnesota and several major universities published a three-year independent study concluding that agricultural drainage is responsible for increased river flows and stream bank erosion, and is a leading cause of excess sediment in lakes and rivers. The study compared changes in water flow for 21 southern Minnesota rivers between 1940 and 2009 and concluded changes in flow were “strongly correlated” with changes in land use. Artificial drainage was also identified as a major driver of increased river flow.

Lenz sees firsthand the problems created as more tile lines are added to the landscape. At the same time, he understands why farmers are apt to install drainage systems. “Tiling is important to our local economy and the farming industry,” he said. “There’s no reason to say that we need to end it, but there are certain practices we could use with the tile that could be beneficial to both the ag industry and the local environment.”

Those practices include installation of terraces, sediment basins or conservation drainage structures that slow water movement. Woodchip bioreactors, which work to remove excess nutrients from water outletting from drainage tile before it enters another water body, are another option.

In Nobles County, Lenz said only a small percentage of farmers implement conservation practices to address water storage. “We will do roughly 40 practices a year,” he said. “Two years ago, our drainage practices hit 600 — that could be to repair a section of tile or to install pattern tile on a quarter-section.”

As more farmers implement pattern tiling or repair existing tile lines, concerns about downstream impacts of drainage aren’t just localized. A statewide drainage work group is now reviewing Minnesota’s drainage laws, from drainage management to flood control and water quality.

“One of the reasons for controlled subsurface drainage is … to hold back some of the water in the soil profile so that water can be used by the crop rather than drain off downstream,” explained Al Kean, chief engineer for Minnesota’s Board of Water and Soil Resources and a member of the work group. “One of the key environmental concerns about tile drainage is transport of soil nitrates. Putting tile in the ground increases the transport of nitrate from the soil profile into downstream waters.”

Dan Livdahl, Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District Administrator, said it has become more apparent that nitrogen transported by agricultural practices is a pollution problem. Excess nitrogen escaping farm fields and getting into lakes, rivers and ultimately into the Mississippi River is blamed for the growing dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

Closer to home, Livdahl said higher levels of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus are fueling more algal blooms. Lake Okabena inWorthington last year had some of the earliest and latest algal blooms recorded, with blue-green hues visible in the lake for much of the summer.

The presence of algae is not only a visual problem — the odors emitted from decaying algae can be likened to rotten eggs. It could also impact aquatic life. “More recent information says nitrate … in particular, is probably harmful to aquatic insects, zooplankton and plankton,” Livdahl said. Those species are at the bottom of the food chain and can affect all life in the aquatic system.

Addressing nutrients

Recently, Soil and Water Conservation Districts, watershed districts and other organizations have helped fund projects in southwestMinnesota to reduce the amount of nutrients leaving farmers’ fields through tile and ending up in drainage ditches, streams and lakes.

The SWCDs in Cottonwood and Jackson counties teamed up to earn a $250,000 Clean Water Partnership grant in 2010 to install nine woodchip bioreactors on tile lines feeding into Fish Lake. Brian Nyborg, Jackson SWCD Manager, said the bioreactors aren’t “cutting-edge” in Minnesota, but are a relatively new option in this part of the state.

The nine bioreactors were placed on all but four of the tile lines that feed into the 300-acre Fish Lake to remove phosphorus and nitrogen from water in the tile lines before it enters the lake. The bioreactors “take hardly any land out of production,” Nyborg said, making them a viable option for farmers.

Bioreactors use woodchips to soak up the phosphorus and nitrogen carried through tile lines. “If the tile is four feet deep, you’d have three feet of woodchips and one foot of soil on top of the woodchips,” Nyborg explained.

Estimates are the bioreactors kept more than 3,800 pounds of nitrogen and 77 pounds of phosphorus out of Fish Lake in one year, though there’s no monitoring data to show improved lake health. The Clean Water Partnership grant didn’t include funds for lake monitoring.

“(Last) summer, there were some complaints that the water quality hadn’t improved,” Nyborg said. “It will take time. You still have that sediment and phosphorus in the lake (prior to installing the bioreactors).” The woodchip bioreactors cost from $4,000 to $8,000 each for theFish Lake project.

Nyborg said he’d like to do more bioreactor projects with willing landowners, and Livdahl wants to get a woodchip bioreactor project started in Nobles County.

“If they’re built and managed well, they’ll remove nitrogen from that tile water before it’s discharged,” Livdahl said. “They also remove dissolved phosphorus … the nutrient that causes the most problem with algae blooms. “If you’ve got pollution coming out of your tile and you can treat that relatively cheap, why wouldn’t you?” he asked.

Controlled drainage structures, which allow farmers to hold back water — as well as nutrients — in the field for the times they are needed for the crop, are another option. SWCDs and watershed districts have worked with willing landowners on these projects in the past, and government funding is available.

Yet, Lenz said, few farmers install the controlled drainage structures here because of the cost. Instead, he deals primarily with terrace and sediment basin requests, along with streambank erosion projects.

Charlie Loosbrock, co-owner of Loo Con Inc., of Wilmont, said farmers are using conservation tillage and terraces to hold water and nutrients on the soil so it’s available to the crops. He contends that paved roads and buildings — any impervious surface — causes more runoff than agricultural land. “Those are what are contributing, in my estimation, to these increased flows in rivers,” Loosbrock said. “It is not the farmland.”

Kean acknowledges that while sediment and nutrients are carried in runoff from those impervious surfaces, the majority comes from agricultural land.

“Larger urban areas, they’ve been doing stormwater ponds, trying to reduce peak flows and settle out sediment and other pollutants for a number of years,” he said. “There’s a lot more agricultural land than urban land.”

Five Tips for Helping Birds This Winter

Five Tips for Helping Birds This Winter

by Rob Ripma

Garden Club Newsletter

With the sinking temperatures near my home in Indiana, it is evident that winter is quickly approaching, and the weather changes this time of year always get me thinking about how I am going to help our feathered friends survive the winter. Here are five tips for helping the birds survive the coming cold months.

1.      Provide suet. Suet is a great source of protein for the birds. This will help them stay warm and survive those extremely cold nights. Remember that the larger woodpeckers much prefer a suet feeder with a tail prop!

This Downy Woodpecker is feasting on some suet that will help her stay warm on this cold winter day.

2. Put out a heated birdbath.

Once lakes and streams start to freeze, birds have a difficult time finding water. By offering a heated birdbath for your birds to drink from, you will not only help them survive but will also attract many more birds than you would with feeders alone.

3. Offer peanuts in your feeders.

Peanuts, like suet, are another good source of protein for your birds. Woodpeckers, nuthatches, and chickadees are just a few of the many species that will frequent a peanut feeder.

4. Use a ground feeder.

There are quite a few species that are not comfortable coming to traditional bird feeders. Most of our native sparrows such as Song, White-throated, and White-crowned, prefer to feed on the ground. By offering seed using a ground feeder, you will ensure that these species have easy access to food even when the ground is covered with snow.

5. Leave your bird houses up.

There are several species that will use bird houses as roosting sites during the winter. Bluebirds do this most commonly. Be sure to clean out the old nesting material and block any of the ventilation holes so they can retain their warmth. If you can, flip the orientation of the front of the house so that the hole is on the bottom.

KC SCI Youth Wildlife Conservation Experience

KC SCI Youth Wildlife Conservation Experience

The Kansas City Chapter of Safari Club International is hosting the Second Annual Youth Wildlife Conservation Experience at the Overland Park Convention Center. The event is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 8 from 8:00-1:30 at the Convention Center.

This event is centered around Wildlife Law Enforcement, African Hunting & Conservation, as well as Local Hunting & Outdoor Opportunities. Participants will have access to shoot archery, air rifles, as well as engage in a virtual reality hunting simulator. Meet Miss Kansas and hear about her archery experience. The event is open to the first 150 Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts between the ages of 14-16, and 40 spots for adult leaders. Lunch will be provided for all registrants.

Everyone who registers will also be granted free admission to Kansas City Safari Club’s Annual Hunter’s Expo. To register & click on Youth Wildlife Conservation Day under the Events tab.

Don’t miss out on this educational and fun outdoor experience! Space is limited so register today!



Mantis: Photo credit:

The mantis is often called the praying mantis due to the predatory position of its forelimbs. Because they are green or brown color, the mantis becomes camouflaged on vegetation. Their ability to remain motionless for long periods of time also makes them difficult to see. You will have a good chance to find them in vegetable or flower gardens where insecticides are not applied. Their spiked forelimbs exhibit tremendous speed when striking out to grasp insect prey that commonly include flies, grasshoppers, moths and crickets. The female typically eats the male mantis during copulation. Their two large widely spaced compound eyes provide them with excellent stereoscopic vision up to 50 feet away. They also have three additional simple eyes located between the large eyes. Their heads can swivel approximately 180 degrees. A mantis nymph will molt its exoskeleton several times as it grows. Most species develop wings after their final molt. Their lifespan is short, less than 15 months; and they typically die in areas where the winters are cold. To view excellent photos of the mantis, visit