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Cost-share money available for farmers

Lawrence County farmers may be eligible for money from the federal government to improve their grazing land in an effort to protect the environment and give producers a better yield.

Wednesday, March 27, 2002

Lawrence County farmers may be eligible for money from the federal government to improve their grazing land in an effort to protect the environment and give producers a better yield.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program allows landowners to contract with USDA for a minimum of five years to address such problems as woodland grazing, soil erosion, livestock water quality, and poorly managed pasture land.

Selected applicants would receive cost-share assistance to help install conservation practices on their grazing land. Natural Resource Conservation Service conservationist Ralph Crawford said applicants will be screened, using an elaborate environmental screening assessment. The number derived from this assessment is used to rank the level of importance.

Landowners are able to better their score through a buy-in, which reduces the amount the USDA will pay into the cost share. The maximum cost share is 75 percent. Crawford said this program is targeting pasture land in watersheds, with the Symmes Creek watershed being a major point of interest.

Crawford reminds farmers that this is not the lime and fertilizer program, but a program that aims to change pasture management practices that is both friendly to the environment and yields a healthier herd and a higher product yield. He said the program will concentrate on developing a planned grazing system that will utilize best management practices.

Pasture management ideas have changed, Crawford said. Spring watering systems, Crawford used as an example, "may not be the answer anymore to supply the water needed" for a herd.

The program money could be used, he said, to develop a centralized, livestock water system that helps producers get better recycling of forage.

"This program," he said, "just doesn’t look at one aspect" of pasture management, "but the whole picture." He said once farmers get past the barrier of traditional management systems and move to prescribed grazing systems, they can spend "less time on the tractor and more time letting the cows do the biggest part of the work."

For more information, contact the NRCS or the Farm Service Agency at 740-446-8687.