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It’s one-stop shopping for conservation

By Staff | Jun 18, 2016

ALTOONA – According to Amanda Brown, project coordinator for the Polk Soil and Water Conservation District, as rain events become more frequent and volatile, controlling topsoil erosion will be a growing challenge for farmers.

Brown addressed a roomful of farmland owners and operators on June 9 to direct them to resources regarding conservation efforts and to better prepare for managing climate change through conservation.

“We will be losing a lot of top soil and top soil is what drives the production of our land,” Brown said. “It’s what makes our land profitable.”

“To keep the value of our land, we need to keep that topsoil on your ground.”

There are several practices designed to reduce topsoil erosion including building waterways, terraces or basins, wetlands and planting cover crops.

Cover cropping, Brown said, is an option for in-field management that helps improve soil health which in turn increases water storage capacity and also increases organic matter in the soil.

Cover crops will aid in reducing water runoff, which will result in less erosion and improve water quality by helping to hold nutrients in the soil.

Brown said U.S. Department of Agriculture Service Centers have been created with all resources under one roof including the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency and the Soil and Water Conservation Districts.

“These centers are a great opportunity for farmers and landowners because all of the resources are under one roof,” said Brown. “It’s a one-stop shop and there is one located in every county.”

USDA Service Centers assist with education and outreach, technical assistance and funding acquisition.

In 2015, the Polk SWCD provided a wide range of services, according to Brown. These included:

A). A total of 1.6 miles of cattle exclusion, which means removing cattle from natural water sources helping to keep those areas clean.

B). A total of 2,917 acres of soil quality was improved.

C). A total of 1,347 acres of cover crops were planted.

D). Seven acres of streamside buffers were installed.

E). A total of 3,375 feet of terraces were built.

F). A total of 82 acres of woodlands were restored.

There are several potential funding sources at the federal, state, county and local levels. Visiting a county’s USDA Service Center, Brown said, will provide farmland owners with that help.

“If you’re seeing issues, we are here to help you,” she said. “There are a slew of resources in these offices to help you and we go out to the field daily to help farmers.”

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