Conservation planning helps save our soil

Bull Country compost

What are your future plans? Are you perhaps preparing to purchase your first home, thinking about career options or seeking ways to increase farm productivity and profitability, or perhaps you are thinking short term — something that you can accomplish in a few short months.

Planning is an essential component of reaching your goals. Planning is nothing but thinking before the action.

Lessons from the past

The process of planning reminds me of my experience growing up with my nine siblings. My parents raised six girls and four boys in a small house with one bathroom, and we all survived!

My father was a planner, and he was all about dividing up the workload of chores on our small farm operation by identifying, prioritizing, assigning and setting timelines.

He developed a hand-drawn spreadsheet that was action-oriented and time-bound — years before Excel was designed. I did not realize until years later, but those childhood experiences have had an impact on how I deal with projects and situations today working for a soil and water conservation district.

Endurance of conservation planning

Conservation planning has been the root of the efforts to save our nation’s precious soil since the Dust Bowl era some 80 years ago.

Now, more than ever before, American farmers and ranchers face a seemingly impossible task — to feed a rapidly growing global population. This challenge is being met with fewer farmable acres, less freshwater and more pronounced climate change.

In an effort to assist the landowners and operators to meet these challenges, the National Conservation Planning Partnership (NCPP) was formed to emphasize the critical role that conservation planning plays in advancing voluntary conservation efforts on private lands.

NCPP is made up of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS); the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD); the National Conservation District Employees Association (NCDEA); the National Association of State Conservation Agencies (NASCA); and the National Association of Resource Conservation and Development Councils (NARC&DC).

NCPP is working together to do the following:

  • Reinvigorate conservation planning,
  • Improve the partnership’s capacity to deliver one-on-one conservation planning assistance,
  • Ensure the delivery of technically sound, science-based assistance, and
  • Build a workforce of strong conservation planners.

Listening to customers

The NCPP and teams have conducted listening sessions across the United States, hearing from farmers, ranchers, field staff and public and private partners. Nationally, surveys have been distributed, and the returns have been analyzed.

Additional technical training for field staff; improved communications and technical, science-based tools, techniques and processes; and identifying private sector partners who can provide precision agriculture and economic data to producers are but a few of the goals of NCPP.

For more detailed and comprehensive information for farmers, conservation field staff and the general public about the advancement in conservation planning a website has been created. Go to

Although it has been a long time since I have checked off my action item responsibilities on my father’s hand-sketched spreadsheet, those learned habits have remained with me.

I will end with a message from Matt Tracy, a farmer in Johnston, Rhode Island: “With good conservation planning and the right set of conservation measures in place on our farm, there are direct economic benefits. We’ve seen overall increases in yield and crop health accompanied by overall decreases in expensive inputs like fertilizers and water. Improved pollinator habitat increased honey production. High tunnels have help us to extend our growing season with minimal resource inputs. All of this means the farm is not only more profitable, but it means we can spend this extra income to employ more local people and utilize local services to keep the farm running.”


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Irene Moore, district administrator for Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District, can be reached at 740 264-9790. Moore has been employed by the Jefferson SWCD since 1987.



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