Conservation funding available to local landownersNatural Resources Conservation Service to promote programs at Nobles County Fair
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — With federal funds available and a deadline looming, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Nobles County will be promoting two of its programs at the fair in Worthington today through Sunday.
The Conservation Stewardship Program has funds available to landowners to maintain and expand existing conservation practices on their farm. Qualifying individuals can earn up to $15 to $18 per acre to do enhancement projects, according to NRCS District Conservationist Stephanie McLain, who works in the Worthington office.
Enhancement projects eligible for CSP funding include everything from converting to no-till, expanding grass buffer strips, implementing use of drift-reducing nozzles or recycling 100 percent of farm lubricants. A complete list of qualifying projects is available at www.nrcs.usda.gov/new_csp.
“The more enhancements you do, the closer you’re going to be to that ($15 to $18 per acre) payment rate,” said McLain.
The application process for the CSP program began Monday and continues to Sept. 30. The voluntary program pays landowners based on the enhancements they make and the resulting benefit to water, soil and wildlife.
“If we can enhance wildlife habitat … then we’re providing that much more benefit to wildlife,” McLain said. “If there’s an existing filter strip out there and we can make it bigger, there’s that much more protection to the water and improvement in water quality because our filter strips are doing a better job of protecting lakes, rivers and streams.”
Congress has capped the CSP program at 12.8 million acres nationwide, and McLain said a lot of local producers have the potential to be eligible for cost-share funds. Among the stipulations are that the producer document all of their conservation practices and be willing to enter into a five-year contract.
There is a self-screening checklist available through NRCS to determine eligibility for CSP funds, and information will be presented to landowners during meetings today through Saturday at the Nobles County Fair in Worthington.
The programs will be presented at 1 p.m., in the former FFA petting zoo building. If landowners are unable to attend one of the meetings, neighboring counties are also offering meetings.
There will be a meeting at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. today at the Murray County Courts Building in Slayton; at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Jackson campus of Minnesota West Community and Technical College; at 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Lakefield Multi-Purpose Building; and at 10:30 a.m. Aug. 21, at the Edgerton Pizza Ranch.
Information is also available by contacting your local NRCS office.
Earlier this year, the Nobles County NRCS office was awarded $200,000 to help fund projects in the Kanaranzi-Little Rock Watershed District. The agency has until Sept. 30 to award all of the funds to landowners for conservation practices.
With $50,000 to $100,000 remaining in the cost-share program, McLain said the agency will be touting PL-566 at its booth inside the Commercial Building at the Nobles County Fair this week.
“PL-566 funds are geared towards terraces, waterways, pasture and hay land plantings,” said McLain. “They seem to be the biggest conservation practices that we do out there.”
The money is only available to individuals who reside within the K-LR Watershed District, which encompasses a large portion of the county stretching from Wilmont to Bigelow and west to Ellsworth.
McLain said she’s been pleased with the number of applications already received for the funds, adding that the projects will help reduce soil erosion within the watershed district.
“I don’t see us not getting the money spent,” she said. “If people are interested, they need to come in soon.”