Ohio ‘priorities’ receive funding

SALEM, Ohio – The USDA recently doled out nearly $5 million to conservation programs across the country, and for the first time, $250,000 went to Ohio projects.
More than $50,000 of that will go to the Morgan County Soil and Water Conservation District in southern Ohio. The remainder is earmarked for a joint effort between the state conservation agencies in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan.
The Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative grants are for state and local governments’ projects.
Education concentration. The Morgan County plan focuses on educating producers, said district program coordinator Sandy Lahmers.
The biggest push will be for no-till farming and planting winter cover crops, she said.
In addition, in the last several years, many producers in this predominantly beef county have installed heavy-use feeding pads, Lahmers said. But now it’s time to look at upkeep and planting coarser grasses around the pads to stop runoff, she said.
The district also plans to look at animal waste storage methods, buffer strips on stream banks, and water testing in two areas of the Wolf Creek Watershed.
Workshops, targeted newsletters and field days all will be part of the education process, Lahmers said.
The first step, though, is to put together a committee with producers.
“We want to discuss the problems so we know if we’re on the same page and be sure what we think are problems are the same things they think are problems,” she said.
“We want to keep it local so they have a say and it’s not just another government person telling them what to do.”
Another component of the proposal, Lahmers said, is a producer notebook.
The district would make these for farmers and include aerial maps and soil maps of their properties. In addition, it would include easy tables for keeping records.
Because the grant requires a match, the rest of the money will come from within the office, Lahmers said.
Working together. The tri-state collaboration will focus on the St. Joseph Watershed, which overlaps northwestern Ohio and corners of Michigan and Indiana.
The grant money will be used toward formalizing a plan over the next year and a half to protect wildlife.
To do this, restoring habitats and creating wildlife corridors will be necessary. In addition, livestock nutrient management needs to be addressed, according to the proposal.
The money will help establish an advisory group to oversee the project, map wetland and riparian sites and develop conservation goals.
In the proposal, conservation experts expect another $5 million will need to be raised to implement the plan.
Upping the money. The grant program was originally known as the Conservation Partnership Initiative. This year, however, it was renamed the Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative and funding was expanded from $1 million to $4 million.
Thirty-eight entities received grants. These were split between Conservation Priorities and Rapid Watershed Assessments.
Approved Conservation Priorities projects focus on terrestrial and freshwater aquatic wildlife habitats, invasive species, livestock nutrient management, minor and specialty crop management and agricultural air quality.
Rapid Watershed Assessments look at resource assessment on watersheds that average 450,000 acres.
An additional $1 million went to 14 state NRCS offices for the assessments.
(Reporter Kristy Hebert welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419, ext. 23 or by e-mail at khebert@farmanddairy.com.)

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