SALEM, Ohio — The farmland in Ohio’s southeastern Appalachian region is noticeably more hilly and pasture-based than most parts of the state.
With that in mind, the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Ohio has allocated $500,000 in Environmental Quality Incentives Program funding specifically for pasture and farmstead improvement projects.
Farmers in the following 10 Ohio counties can now apply for the funding: Adams, Athens, Gallia, Highland, Jackson, Lawrence, Meigs, Pike, Scioto and Vinton.
“As you get into southeast Ohio, it’s primarily grasslands — a lot of beef farms,” said Doug Pauley, assistant state conservationist.
Pauley said some of the local soil and water conservation boards identified the need for more funding in their part of the state.
This funding is exclusively for grazing and pasture-based projects — not cropland and forestry.
Farmers will benefit by improving their grazing conditions and also keeping soil nutrients in place.
Water from this part of the state carries sediment and nutrients from pastures to the Ohio River, eventually ending up in the Gulf of Mexico via the Mississippi River. The conservation practices offered through this funding will help prevent this.
According to NRCS, the 7,600 farms in the 10-county area average about 140 acres each, adding up to over one million acres of farmland.
Heavy grazing can cause erosion problems, especially when the ground is wet and when the animals are contained near the farmstead in colder weather.
Conservation practices such as heavy use area protection and designated reinforced stream crossings prevent erosion. Developing watering areas within the pasture helps with grazing management, as does constructing firm access roads between pastures.
Portable fencing makes rotational grazing easier and allows pastures to regrow, improving the quality of pasture forages while also protecting the soil from exposure due to overgrazing.
When combined, all of these practices lead to improved grazing management, with the added benefit of healthier animals and healthier land.
Applications for funding should be made by June 20, at a local NRCS field office.
Pauley said he’s hoping the funds will be distributed “fairly evenly,” but it will depend on applications and the types or projects.
“You’ve got to have a need on the land and that (need) will be evaluated,” he said. “It’s competitive in those 10 counties.”
Applications will be scored on how well they reduce soil erosion and improve water quality. Ideally, Pauley said applicants should have a grazing management plan in place prior to having their application reviewed.
The NRCS conservationists working with each farmer will develop a conservation plan based on the farmer’s goals. Applicants selected to participate will receive payments from NRCS that cover a part of the cost of implementing the conservation practices they choose to include in their plan.
Learn more about NRCS programs and services at your local field office, or at www.oh.nrcs.usda.gov.