According to a new report released last month by former USDA Deputy Secretary Jim Moseley, over the last 25 years, one of the least-publicized farmland conservation efforts has actually been one of the most effective. The report, entitled Conservation Compliance: A 25-Year Legacy of Stewardship, explains how conservation compliance, which has historically required farmers to implement conservation measures in return for federally funded farm support, helped save millions of wetland acres while keeping billions of tons of soil on farms. As a result, millions of marginal, erosion-prone lands have remained healthy and productive.
“Few conservation programs can boast the success rate of conservation compliance,” said Moseley, who served as Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 2001 to 2005. “This program has helped farmers save 295 million tons of soil per year and kept an estimated 1.5 million to 3.3 million acres of vulnerable wetlands from being drained. The results of this compact between farmers and taxpayers have been astounding.”
The report urges Congress to reattach conservation compliance to crop insurance premium assistance in the next farm bill reauthorization. As federal farm policy is updated, it is increasingly likely that some commodity programs will be phased out in favor of a strengthened crop insurance program that is becoming the core component of the farm safety net. Therefore, according to Moseley, it seems essential that conservation compliance also be updated to apply to the crop insurance premium assistance.
Cattlemen across much of Kansas are in a quandary. As grass managers, they are asking themselves how many cattle will their ranges and pastures support after twenty to thirty months of drought. What steps can be taken to protect the grazing resources while maintaining enough cattle numbers to be financially viable? Will we get enough runoff to fill the ponds?
The Kansas Rural Center (KRC) and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) have teamed up to lead producers on four “pasture walks” during the first week of April to help graziers evaluate the impacts drought has had on pasture conditions and to plan grazing strategies for the coming season.
Each session will begin at 1:30 PM and will last 2 to 3 hours. A NRCS rangeland management specialist will lead the sessions. The schedule of the pasture walk events is:
April 1-Pottawatomie County with Dennis Schwant as host, located from Blaine, Ks. 2.8 miles east on Hwy 16 and 1.8 miles south on
Clear Creek Road
with Tim Miller as session leader.
April 2-RenoCounty with Norman and Cindy Roth as hosts at intersection of Hwy 50 and
one mile north of Plevna with Dusty Tacha as session leader.
April 3-McPherson County with Roger Koehn as host at 22nd Ave and Smokey Valley Road (4.5 miles east of I-135 on SMV Rd) with Doug Spencer as session leader.
April 4-Coffey County with David and Jan Kraft as hosts at their ranch 2 miles west of Gridley with David as the session leader.
Evaluation of plant composition and vigor will be a focus of each session along with soil moisture conditions as a basis for planning grazing strategies through the 2013 growing season. Alternate forages and condition of livestock water supplies will also be discussed.
As NRCS State Rangeland Management Specialist, David Kraft emphasizes to producers that “the beginning of the growing season in early April is one of the critical dates to make stocking adjustments that will maintain or improve your native pastures during the ongoing stress of drought conditions.” He advises that participants should be prepared to be in the field for hands-on exercises.