New federal program aims to encourage conservation by farmers

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A new federal program aimed at encouraging farmers to adopt more conservation practices and improve existing ones is now taking applications from area agricultural producers, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The new initiative, called the Conservation Stewardship Program, replaces the USDA's former Conservation Security Program, which changed dramatically in the 2008 Farm Bill, according to Dwaine Gelnar, acting Missouri conservationist for the USDA.

"The new program should appeal to our diverse customers, and offer them an equal chance to participate," Gelnar said in a prepared statement.

The stewardship program focuses on encouraging more conservation enhancements than its predecessor and expands the field of eligible landowners or producers to include those who own small parcels of nonindustrial, private forestland, said Monica Siler, soil conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service's Jackson office.

In Southeast Missouri, the program will focus on conservation issues such as wildlife protection, energy use reduction, soil erosion and water quality, Siler said.

Potential practices aimed at addressing those issues include things such as recycling farm lubricants and improving grazing management practices, Siler said.

Farmers with cropland, pastureland or nonindustrial private forestland are encouraged to apply and could receive funding for conservation they are already doing or wish to implement if accepted into the program.

While the program is available on a continuous basis, the first application cutoff to receive funding for national ranking purposes is Sept. 30. Recipients will be determined in early November.

A self-screening checklist is available at or at the Jackson field office for those interested in gauging their own eligibility for the program.

Anyone interested in getting more information can attend one of four meetings offered at the Cape Girardeau County Extension office, 684 West Jackson Trails in Jackson. The classes will be at 9 a.m. Friday, 9 a.m. Sept. 3, 1 p.m. Sept. 14 and 7 p.m. Sept. 15.


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