Two topics I wish to touch that are appropriate:
- Producers have been coming into the Farm Service Agency office to certify their crops and report acres. Some have come in to report acres that they have added to their fields. This is called sod-busting. Most of the time, producers are clearing old buildings and plowing up old pastures. We want to inform producers that the new 2008 Farm Bill included provisions to protect endangered species such as the Indiana Bat. Clearly trees that are a potential habitat to this species could jeopardize producers USDA benefits. Take home message is this – Check with our first to see if the area you are clearing is OK. A form AD-1026 needs to be signed first that you intend to add acres or modify a drainage system that has not been certified our office.
- Spring rains took a heavy toll on soils and left many fields with gullies and rills. Many waterways were damaged and required extensive repairs. Fields needs an extra tillage pass prior to planting to remedy rills and washouts. Planting was delayed due to cold, wet conditions. As a result, residue levels were below expected on HEL fields. Many of you brought in maps and reviewed corrective measures needed to get your fields in shape to plant. Thank you for your efforts and your commitment to conservation. I know many of you would have preferred not to spend the time and fuel that you had to. But this was an extreme event and hopefully, one that we won’t see a repeat for many years.
One think we did come away with was the need for more grassed waterways. Bigger planters and spray equipment has taken a toll on grassed waterways in many fields and it showed this spring. During compliance reviews we will be paying particular attention to this. Most compliance plans included waterways to control gully and ephemeral erosion. Check your plan and see if it needs to be reviewed by one of our staff. Many producers have focused on residue levels in their plan and forget that controlling areas prone to small gully erosion of their field is also subject to compliance. Again, check with staff.
There still is cost-share assistance available through either the State Conservation Program (CPP) or the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) that you can apply for.
-Rich Stewart, District Conservationist