We get to meet a lot of interesting and dedicated people at the local soil and water office.
I answered the telephone recently and was asked, “My neighbor said some government program would pay me to build fence to keep cattle out of the creek. Do you know anything about that?”
I explained to him that we have several programs that might work, but first I needed more information from him.
“Do you have a conservation plan, or a farm tract number, have you ever participated in the government programs, and do you have a cropping history on your farm?”
Is it any wonder people lose interest after they hear a few of these questions? And that doesn’t even begin to include all our acronyms like SWCD (Soil and Water Conservation District), NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service), EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program), or CRP (Conservation Reserve Program)!
Cost share money. Before I completely scare you away, be assured that your local SWCD/ NRCS office can assist you with cost-share money for most of your conservation projects. After all, we are in the business of protecting our soil and water resources.
Building fence to keep cattle out of the stream and designing a spring development to supply drinking water are two practices that we do a lot of in eastern Ohio. But before you get excited and think that money is falling from the sky, let’s remember where this money comes from.
These are government funds, and whether it is federal, state, or local money, there are guidelines to follow for both the landowner and government agency. The program contract you sign for your cost-share money means you agree to follow the rules of the program. Read and understand these documents to avoid problems later. Most contracts must have all your practices completed before they will be paid.
Concerns. The most important question for you to answer is “what are my natural resource concerns?” These could include soil erosion or condition, water quantity or quality, air quality, plant suitability, and animal management.
What most people really need is a conservation plan instead of a “program.” Conservation planning is your roadmap to where you want to go.
• Identifying the resource problems;
• Determine your resource objectives;
• Inventory your resources;
• Analyze your resource data;
• Formulate alternatives;
• Evaluate your alternatives;
• Make decisions about your conservation plan;
• Implement your conservation plan;
• Evaluate your conservation plan.
Plan ahead and think about what you want to do. Complete your eligibility paperwork. We don’t enjoy the paperwork anymore than you do, but it’s a fact of life in today’s world. None of this paperwork is easy or simple, but it is necessary to track program dollars. We must be responsible with taxpayer dollars and that is where the program money comes from.
Contracts must be fully completed today to receive payments, because somewhere in the past, someone did not complete the entire contract. Your local office would like to pay you for one practice to allow work on the next, but we must follow the rules.
Spend time with your NRCS district conservationist or SWCD district technician and get to know them. Invite him or her out to your farm or operation. These personal relationships are what districts were founded on over 60 years ago.
Cost-share programs are not for everyone or every situation, but we are always here to assist with technical advice and your conservation projects.
This is still the most rewarding part of our jobs today, helping landowners address a problem and find a solution. Working together, we can protect our soil and water resources and keep our land bountiful for future generations.