Continuous Learning About Continuous Living Cover

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When it comes to introducing and supporting innovative sustainable farming practices, nothing beats a field day. Such events provide an opportunity for farmers to see firsthand how profitable, environmentally sound production practices are performing on their neighbor’s land under climatic, agronomic and economic conditions they can relate to. Studies have shown that while sustainable farming practices reduce a producer’s dependence on chemical and energy-based inputs, the tradeoff is a greater reliance on networking with other innovative farmers.

That’s why a new report showing a significant uptick of field days related to “continuous living cover” in the four state region of Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin is so encouraging. The report is based on statistics

compiled by the Green Lands Blue Waters (GLBW) initiative, a collaboration involving individuals, groups—including the Land Stewardship Project—and institutions that have a shared goal of increasing the amount of Mississippi River basin land that’s covered in vegetation for more than 90 days a year, which is the typical growing season for the corn-soybean duo-culture that dominates the region.

Getting that cover established is key if we are to get on top of a water contamination issue that’s causing problems here in Minnesota and extending all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. It’s no coincidence Green Lands Blue Waters is focusing on Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois—these four states produce an outsized share of agricultural runoff.

Giving the land the kind of consistent armor that can build soil health while protecting water quality and providing wildlife habitat can take many forms on the farm, from well-managed pastured acres and grassed waterways to cover crops and agroforestry enterprises. Some of these plant systems are perennial (grass, trees) while others offer a way to extend the green season on an annual basis (cover crops such as small grains and brassicas). GLBW places all of these options under a general term called “continuous living cover.” This category provides farmers with various choices for integrating land-friendly plantings into their operations, especially if they’re not willing or able to plant the whole farm to grass.

And judging by GLBW’s “2014 Continuous Living Cover Events Report,” there are increasing opportunities to learn about what options are out there for extending the green season in the Midwest. In 2010, the four state region of Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin had less than two dozen continuous living cover field days; by the end of 2013 that number was 161. Iowa tends to lead the pack as far as number of field days offered annually, but the other states are catching up.

By far the most popular topic discussed at these events is perennial forage (pasture grass and hay), but cover cropping is a hot topic as well, with agroforestry and biomass also featured at several field days, according to GLBW.

It’s also interesting to note who is sponsoring these events. Overall, the number of organizations sponsoring or co-sponsoring such events more than doubled from 2012 to 2013 alone. The usual suspects—the Land Stewardship Project, Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota and Practical Farmers of Iowa—are on that list of sponsoring groups. But it’s exciting to see university extension, state agriculture departments, some “mainstream” farm groups and even government natural resource agencies and environmental nonprofits stepping up to the plate.

If we are to make serious inroads into shortening the “brown season,” it’s these latter two entities that could really make a difference. When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Natural Resources, Nature Conservancy or Trout Unlimited sponsor such a field day, it’s a recognition that working lands conservation plays a critical role in creating a healthier landscape—simply relying on land retirement or wildlife refuges isn’t going to cut it.

And with more groups and agencies sponsoring such events, the chances of having one in your neighborhood are better than ever. In Iowa and Minnesota, the number of counties in which continuous living cover educational events are being held has increased every year since 2010. Such localizing of innovation is how big ideas become practical, on-the-ground solutions.

News Watch: Oct. 23

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Today’s Topics: Agriculture & Food; Climate Change; Energy; Mining; Oil & Pipelines; Outdoor Recreation; Transportation; Waste & Recycling; Water; Wildlife; Loon Commons Blog

Agriculture & Food
MPR: Dangerous dance: Farm equipment, power line accidents up in rural MN 
Star Tribune: Farmers hope new steps will contain epidemic killing piglets 
Star Tribune: New combination herbicide for crops gains federal approval 
Think Forward: Farmers, ranchers, and consumers lose on WTO COOL ruling (In TC Daily Planet

Climate Change
MinnPost: Community Voices: Drought and climate change in the Horn of Africa require responsibility and resilience
MPR: NOAA: 2014 warmest year on record so far 

Energy
Climate Progress: Cheap Solar Power Just Became An Employee Benefit For More Than 100,000 People
Minnesota Daily: Minneapolis City leaders aim for greener energy with newly approved Xcel and CenterPoint contract (In TC Daily Planet) 
MinnPost: America’s energy future is starting to look like our energy past 
MinnPost: How Minnesota’s highways are poised to become renewable energy generators 
MN Daily: Opinion: Biodiesel fuel superial to ethanol 
MPR: Firewood a hot commodity as rural Minnesotans ready for winter 
Red Wing Republican Eagle: Xcel, Red Wing might create city energy plan 
Star Tribune: At 3M, solar power becomes an employee benefit 

Mining
City Pages: Blog: Will Mining Save or Destroy Northern Minnesota? 
Council of Canadians: Sulfide mines in Minnesota would threaten Lake Superior 
Duluth News Tribune: Groups want health risk study of PolyMet 
Duluth News Tribune: Reader’s view: Copper mining is political 
Gear Junkie: Paddling 2,000 Miles To Protect The BWCA 
Mesabi Daily Press: Franken ‘optimistic’ on PolyMet 
Pioneer Press: More medial groups want study of proposed PolyMet mine 

Oil & Pipelines
Brainerd Dispatch: Opinion: Pipeline Safety 

Outdoor Recreation
Star Tribune: Duluth’s outdoors czar is a natural for the job 

Transportation
TC Daily Planet: Saint Paul Healthy Transportation for All convening to empower citizens, build relationships for transportation equity 

Waste & Recycling 
MPR: Single-sort boosts Minneapolis recycling by 25% 
Star Tribune: Minneapolis recycling rate rises with single-sort services 

Water
Brainerd Dispatch: Cass policy to oversee land use conversions 
NPR: Re-curving a river to restore its meandering path (In MPR)

Wildlife
Associated Press: Minnesota deer harvest expected to be lowest in decades (In MPR
MPR: DNR: Encouraging signs in latest Mille Lacs walleye survey 

News Watch: Oct. 20

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Today’s Topics: Agriculture & Food; Energy; Global News; Mining; Oil & Pipelines; Outdoors; Parks & Trails; Transportation; Waste & Toxics; Water; Wildlife

Agriculture & Food
MinnPost: Anchor initiatives: Local food means business for local neighborhoods 
MPR: EPA: Controversial pesticide offers little help to soybean farmers 
MPR: Startup’s new sprays promise longer-lasting fruit, fewer pesticides 
NPR: An ‘environmental impact’ label for beef? (In MPR
NPR: New GMOs get a regulatory green light, with a hint of yellow (In MPR
Star Tribune: Letter: Will Minnesota, and American agriculture, ever reap the benefits of this versatile plant? 

Energy
Duluth News Tribune: Save or Shiver: Ways to conserve energy as winter looms 
Midwest Energy News: Minneapolis utility fight ends with unique clean-energy deal 
Minnesota Daily: Contract aims for greener Minneapolis 
MPR: Xcel to end coal burning at Burnsville plant in April 
Star Tribune: Letter: New clean-energy jobs in wind and solar are an inefficient sleight-of-hand 

Global News
Associated Press: Ebola escalation could trigger major food crisis 

Mining
Mesabi Daily News: ‘Huckster’ has no place in PolyMet discussion 

Oil & Pipelines
Brainerd Dispatch: Lueck decries environmentalists’ criticism of pipeline 
NPR: As oil prices fall, who wins and who loses? 
MPR: Predictions of ‘peak oil’ production prove slippery 

Outdoors
MinnPost: Journal: Letter from Willow River: Investigating the phenomenon of October Light 
MPR: Photos: One (last?) spectacular week of fall color 

Parks & Trails
Politics in MN: Suburbs push back against Met Council 
Twin Cities Daily Planet: Community Voices: What’s up with clear-cutting on Mississippi River Road?

Transportation
Bemidji Pioneer: As debut year ends, Nice Rice is cruisin'; Bike sharing to be back for next two years 
Twin Cities Daily Planet: Green Line getting up to speed in fits and starts 

Waste & Toxics
Twin Cities Daily Planet: Community Voices: GAF corporation offers $500K to alleviate asphalt odors in Northeast Minneapolis 
Twin Cities Daily Planet: Community Voices: Phillips community sweeps up the neighborhood 

Water
St. Cloud Times: Report: Clean up Sauk River Chain of Lakes 

Wildlife
Associated Press: Wisconsin DNR closing two more wolf zones (In Pioneer Press
MPR: A guide to Minnesota bird migration this fall 
MPR: St. Paul calls for bird-safe Vikings stadium glass 
Pioneer Press: Tracking the American woodcock

News Watch: Oct. 16

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Today’s Topics: Agriculture & Food; Candidates & Elections; Climate Change; Energy; Mining; Oil & Pipelines; Outdoor Education; Parks & Trails; Transportation; Water

Agriculture & Food
 
Candidates & Elections
 
Climate Change
 
Energy
 
Mining
 
Oil & Pipelines
Mesabi Daily News: Let’s get the pipelines going 
 
Outdoor Education
 
Parks & Trails
 
Transportation
 
Water
Duluth News Tribune: Local view: Sportsmen and sportwomen support clean water (Written by John P. Lenczewski of MEP member group Minnesota Trout Unlimited, Gary Botzek of MEP member group Minnesota Conservation Federation, and Rich Staffon of MEP member group Izaak Walton League) 

News Watch: Oct. 14

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Today’s Topics: Agriculture & Food; Candidates & Elections; Climate Change; Energy; Frac Sand Mining; Mining; Oil & Pipelines; Transportation; Water; Wildlife

Agriculture & Food
MinnPost: Corn farmers say Syngenta’s GMOs have cost them the Chinese market 

Candidates & Elections
Star Tribune: St. Anthony: Minnesota chamber has guidance for governor and Legislature 
Sun Current: Letter: Ron Erhardt supports protection of natural resources

Climate Change
Brainerd Dispatch: Opinion: No hype 
Climate Progress: Pentagon: Global Warming Poses ‘Immediate Risk’ To National Security 
Mother Jones: Pentagon: We Could Soon Be Fighting Climate Wars 
MPR: As Minnesota’s climate changes, bad air and new disease risks follow

Energy
Star Tribune: Biofuel leaders say EPA has treated industry unfairly 
Twin Cities Daily Planet: Minneapolis and utilities establish unique “Clean Energy Partnership” 

Frac Sand Mining
Winona Daily News: State looking for input on frac sand air regulation 

Mining
Grand Rapids Herald Review: PolyMet CEO optimistic on EIS 
Star Tribune: State briefs: PolyMet reviews to be completed by spring, DNR chief says 

Oil & Pipelines
MPR: Fiery oil-train derailments prompt calls for less flammable oil 
MPR: The Keystone XL Pipeline: An International Town Hall 

Transportation
MPR: How will Minnesota pay for transportation needs 
Star Tribune: Green Lines projects win Knight grants 

Water
Brainerd Dispatch: MPCA seeks comments on watershed report 

Wildlife
CBS: Citizens Continue To Call For Bird Safe Glass on New Vikings Stadium (MEP member group Audubon Minnesota featured)  
MinnPost: Turbines may be luring bats to their deaths, wind-farm research suggests 
MPR: Pheasant hunting season begins despite population decline 

News Watch: Oct. 9

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Today’s Topics: Agriculture & Food; Candidates & Elections; Climate Change; Energy; Extreme Weather; Frac Sand Mining; Mining; Oil & Pipelines; Transportation; Water; Wildlife;

Agriculture & Food
MinnPost: Review recommends more analysis of MPCA’s work on sulfates and wild rice 
MinnPost: What I wish people knew about pig farming 
MPR: Seeds for bees: Worries drive new plantings for pollinators 
Rochester Post Bulletin: Flavors fuel food industry, but remain a mystery 
Star Tribune: Commentary: The case for labeling genetically modified food 
Twin Cities Daily Planet: Twin cities farmers look to Cuba for urgan ag infrastructure 

Candidates & Elections
Duluth News Tribune: Local View: Candidates for votes, using EPA as punching bag
Duluth News Tribune: Reader’s View: Democrats support protecting our waters 
Star Tribune: Pipeline, flood control dominate 2nd debate in governor’s race 
Twin Cities Daily Planet: Rep. Rick Nolan uses “turds” to describe past Minnesota water quality 

Climate Change
MinnPost: New evidence suggests Earth’s oceans are warming far faster than we knew 
MPR: Climate One series: Resource Revolution 
MPR: How climate change may affect your bottom line 
Red Wing Republican Eagle: An ice-free Arctic? (featuring Will Steger of MEP member group Will Steger Foundation and J. Drake Hamilton of MEP member group Fresh Energy) 

Energy
Star Tribune: Letter: How big solar project actually will pay off 
Winona Daily News: Letter: Minnesota benefits from renewable energy 

Extreme Weather
MPR: Minneapolis to withdraw federal aid request for summer storms 

Frac Sand Mining
Star Tribune: Wisconsin county shuts down frac-sand operation ‘running wild’ 
Winona Daily News: Letter: Johnson pushing frac sand agenda 
Winona Daily News: MPCA: Monitoring shows silica sand not a concern in Winona 

Mining
Duluth News Tribune: DNR: PolyMet EIS will be completed by spring 
MPR: DNR chief: Expect PolyMet environmental review by early spring 

Oil & Pipelines
Pioneer Press: North Dakota oil production to rise, but price and flaring could hurt 
Winona Daily News: Letter: Let’s work together to stop pipeline 

Transportation
Kare 11: County bicycle plans for next 25 years 
MPR: Pedal power: 2040 plan outlines boost for bike infrastructure in Hennepin Co. 
MPR: University on board with Green Line as traffic, safety worries fade 

Water
University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences: Moos Family Speaker Series on Water Resources Presents: “Dwindling Groudwater Reserves as Viewed from Space” (VIDEO) 
MPR: A tricky mix: Managing water in northern Lakes 
MPR: Northern Minnesota lakefront owners argue over water levels 

Wildlife
MPR: Blog: Songbird carnage hits Duluth 

News Watch: Oct. 6

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Today’s Topics: Agriculture & Food; Air Quality; Candidates & Legislature; Climate Change; Legislature; Energy; Invasive Species; Mining; Oil & Pipelines; Outdoor Recreation; Transportation; Water; Wildlife;

Agriculture & Food
Associated Press: Freeze could end growing season for immature crops (In MPR
MPR: Burden of rail delays falls on western Minnesota 
NPR: Two for one: Subsidies help food stamp recipients buy fresh food (In MPR

Air Quality
Business North: First hearing help on tough air quality proposal 

Candidates & Legislature
Duluth News Tribune: 8th Congressional District race/Challenger’s view: Vote for your family, the environment and veterans 

Climate Change
MinnPost: Community Voices: Marching for the planet – and for hope 
MPR: Minneapolis council weighs utilities’ greenhouse gas deal 
Red Wing Republican Eagle: Editorial: Let’s warm up to tackling a global concern (J. Drake Hamilton of MEP member group Fresh Energy & Will Steger of MEP member group Will Steger Foundation featured)  

Energy
Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development: Minnesota Clean Energy Economy Profile 
Twin Cities Business: MSP airport building state’s largest solar energy site (In MinnPost

Invasive Species
Associated Press: Young mussels found in the Red River (In MPR

Mining
Mesabi Daily News: Editorial: ‘The minerals aren’t going anywhere’ 

Oil & Pipelines
MinnPost: Community Voices: A public role in rail’s big battles? 

Outdoor Recreation
Duluth News Tribune: Reader’s view: Support all uses of public land in Fredenberg Township 
Pioneer Press: Water Trails Summit focuses on economic impact of paddling sports in Minnesota 

Transportation
Finance & Commerce: Public skepticism of gas tax complicates Move MN effort (MEP member group Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy mentioned)  

Water
Bemidji Pioneer: Letter: We need to protect all of Minnesota’s waterways 
Duluth News Tribune: Cleanup of Radio Tower Bay in Duluth making progress 
International Business Times: Contaminated Drinking Water: EPA To Warm Public About Toxic Algae Outbreaks 
MPR: Mississippi River states prepare for an oil spill –not if, but when 

Wildlife
Star Tribune: Death count of birds could rise exponentially with new stadium (Joann Eckles of MEP member group Audubon Minnesota quoted)

News Watch: Oct. 2

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Today’s Topics: Agriculture & Food; Energy; Invasive Species; Mining; Oil & Pipelines; Parks & Trails; Transportation; Waste & Recycling; Wildlife;

Agriculture & Food
Bemidji Pioneer: ‘Bee’-midji: Ordinance in the works regulating beekeeping 
MPR: Getting water to crops when they’re thirstiest pays off 
Star Tribune: Sugar beet industry ready for harvest 

Energy
Star Tribune: Ethanol industry pushes back on rail safety improvements 

Invasive Species
Star Tribune: Letter: DNR is falling behind in race to keep lakes clean 

Mining
Duluth News Tribune: Essar Steel announces financing secured to finish iron mine, plant 
Timberjay: Long road remains for PolyMet EIS 

Oil & Pipelines
Associated Press: Enbridge delays ND oil pipeline at least a year 
Politics in MN: Rail Congestion taking a toll 
Star Tribune: Sack cartoon: Riding the rails 

Parks & Trails
Winona Daily News: Hikers, rejoice: New state forest land opens in Winona County 

Transportation
Politics in MN: Suburban counties fight transportation policy 
TC Daily Planet: Joint committee seeks answer to rail congestion 

Waste & Recycling
Associated Press: California becomes first state to ban plastic bags 
CBS: Good Question: Why Do We Use So Much Plastic? MEP member group Eureka Recycling quoted 

Wildlife
MinnPost: Community Voices: Making sure the monarchs always return to Minnesota 
Star Tribune: Minnesota butterfly quest takes flight in new science film 
TC Daily Planet: The not-so-common Loon: New study warns of decline Matthew Anderson of Audubon Minnesota quoted 

News Watch: Sept 30

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Today’s Topics: Agriculture & Food; Air Quality; Conservation; Climate Change & Climate Summit; Energy; Frac Sand Mining; Mining; Oil & Pipelines; Parks & Trails; Transportation; Water; Wildlife

Agriculture & Food
MPR: Ag secretary says new farm bill programs will make farming less risky 
MPR: European activists say they don’t want any US ‘chlorine chicken’ 
MPR: Jonathan Foley’s Chautauqua Lecture on agriculture’s role in climate change 
Think Progress: USDA Sends Some Farm Bill Money to Organic And Local Agriculture 

Air Quality
Brainerd Dispatch: Opinion: Clean Air Act successes 

Conservation
MPR: Managing a herd: Bison could help restore Minnesota prairie 

Climate Change & Climate Summit
Rochester Post Bulletin: Cutting down on meat consumption will reduce greenhouse gases 
Star Tribune: Editorial: Global warming: There’s no ‘Planet B’ 
St. Cloud Times: Greenhouse gas sparks panel discussion at CSB 
Think Forward: Corporations represent at UN climate summit (In TC Daily Planet

Energy
Associated Press: Proposed Sioux Falls solar farm worries neighbors (In MPR
Greentech Media: Solar Policy Battle: IRS Now Part of Fierce Debate Over How to Value Solar Power 
Midwest Energy News: Cost of solar permitting swings widely in Minnesota Michelle Rosier of MEP member group Sierra Club North Star Chapter quoted 
NPR: Tiny Spanish island nears its goal: 100 percent renewable energy (In MPR
Rochester Post Bulletin: Rochester should become a leader in using renewable energy 

Frac Sand Mining
MinnPost: Earth Journal: Frac-sand mining boom accelerating and eluding regulators, analysis finds 

Mining
MinnPost: Community Voices: On Naomi Klein and the need to rethink the economics of North Woods mining 

Oil & Pipelines
Associated Press: US oil industry offers crude-train testing standards after accidents highlight risks (In Star Tribune

Parks & Trails
Winona Daily News: Proposed development in Whitewater State Park 

Transportation
MinnPost: Community Voices: Transit oriented development: linking community benefits and regional health 
MPR: Metro Transit riders to see new shelters, improvements 
Star Tribune: Suburban counties rise up against Met Council 

Water
St. Cloud Times: Opinion: Don’t amend Clean Water Act 

Wildlife
Associated Press: Minnesota Raptor Center to release healthy birds 
CBS News: Half the world’s wildlife gone over last 40 years 
MPR: Audubon to protest bird ‘death trap’ stadium design 
MPR: The worldwide impact of wildlife trafficking 


 

News Watch: Sept 25

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Today’s Topics: Agriculture & Food; Candidates & Legislature; Climate Change & Climate Summit; Energy; Hazardous Chemicals; Mining; Oil & Pipelines; Transportation; Water; Wildlife

Agriculture & Food
MinnPost: Blog: Can pig farmers be good stewards? 

Candidates & Legislature
Twin Cities Daily Planet: Carrie Wasley, candidate for protecting water in Ramsey County 

Climate Change & Climate Summit
Fortune: Climate summit kicks off with promises of $200 billion for clean energy 
Minnesota 2020: Blog: I Marched There to Come Home Here 
MPR: Hear President Obama’s UN speeches on terrorists and climate change 
MPR: President Obama outlines U.S. plans at UN Climate Summit 
Reuters: U.N. climate summit summit sets goals to save forests, use clean energy (In Duluth News Tribune
Star Tribune: Letter: Climate March 
Think Forward: People’s Climate Match: The currency of movements (In TC Daily Planet
Twin Cities Daily Planet: Community Voices: Media coverage of climate change march in New York 

Energy
Midwest Energy News: Minnesota faith groups featured in ‘Climate Reality’ project 
Midwest Energy News: Unique Minnesota data project illuminates cities’ energy use 
MinnPost: Community Voices: Solar in Minnesota: a marriage of increasingly popular objectives with enlightened public policy 
MPR: Blog: The great grease caper in Rochester 
Rochester Post Bulletin: Council considers option for Mayo Civic Center solar panels 

Hazardous Chemicals
 
Mining
 
Oil & Pipelines
 
Transportation
 
Water
 
Wildlife