What’s in a conservation plan? (Keeping the Farm)
(Editor’s note: Sally Kepfer is a state resource conservationist for USDA NRCS Service, Delaware.)
The programs outlined in the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, or the 2018 Farm Bill, shape nearly every aspect of American agriculture — including conservation.
President Donald Trump signed the Farm Bill into law late last year; however, before conservation programs can be administered, the USDA is charged with writing the actual rules for how these programs will be implemented on the ground.
The rulemaking process is extensive and lengthy.
Still, USDA offices continue to provide the support and assistance that agricultural customers rely upon.
With the rulemaking process underway, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service is encouraging farmers and forestry landowners to visit their local USDA Service Center to develop a conservation plan to improve the health and function of beneficial natural resources.
Whether growing grains, forages, or vegetables; raising poultry or livestock; or managing forestland, a plan can integrate a farmer’s operational goals with their environmental ones.
During the conservation planning process, a certified conservation planner will work with customers to understand their objectives and the resource needs of the land.
Based on sound scientific practices, the planner and farmer will develop a plan together that provides recommendations to meet land use and natural resource goals.
As a poultry or livestock producer, a plan could help determine the need and size for a manure storage structure or energy efficiency practices.
A plan could help cropland producers identify practices to improve their soil health.
These practices may include cover crops, reduced tillage and irrigation water management.
A soil health assessment can be completed to determine the soil’s potential.
As part of the planning process, NRCS can help with designs or practice specifications, determine estimated costs and identify funding sources.
NRCS and the conservation districts have planners on the ground to walk farmers through the planning process, which includes inventorying natural resources, identifying problems and opportunities, offering solutions, and providing assistance to help implement the conservation plan.
This assistance is free and voluntary.
Several benefits to a conservation plan include the following:
• Improving water, soil and air quality;
• Improving the farmer’s bottom line;
• Complying with environmental regulations; and
• Creating or improving wildlife habitat, and many more.
A conservation plan combines farmers’ experience with the science-based knowledge of the conservation planner.
The plan includes items such as a land use map, soils information, inventory of resources, standard drawings and designs — all based on the producer’s goals and resource needs.
Conservation planners can customize the plan to meet the farmer’s goals which might include lowering production costs, increasing crop yields, improving soil health or water quality, conserving soil, increasing forage production, or providing water for livestock.
Farmers choose the options that best fit their farm.
Getting started is easy.
Just call or stop by your local USDA Service Center. To find your local office, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/contact and search the map by state.
Visit www.nrcs.usda.gov for additional information on NRCS programs and services.
Together we can find solutions to meet your land management goals.
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