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Conservation For Sale: Connecting Heartland Farmers with Sustainable Ag

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Tuesday, August 10, 2021   

HARLAN, Iowa -- The effects of climate change are laid out in a new United Nations report, which pointed to greenhouse gas emissions.

While global leaders address broader issues, local efforts continue to protect natural resources, including giving farmers an easier path to conservation resources.

The Center for Rural Affairs is out with new guides that aim to help producers in places like Iowa, who might be curious about implementing practices such as cover crops or no-till farming, know where to turn for reliable information.

Kalee Olson, policy associate at the center, said it can be overwhelming for anyone exploring something new, and farmers are no exception.

"For beginning farmers, or farmers who maybe just haven't worked with many federal cost-share programs before, they might just not be familiar of the services these places offer," Olson pointed out.

She referred farmers to local U.S. Department of Agriculture offices, which can help with applying for incentives through the initiatives such as the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).

The Center noted those interested can make the process easier by having a better idea of which practices might suit their property. Supporters of sustainable agriculture argued not only does it help a farmer protect their land, it helps residents all over, including urban centers, by addressing water quality.

The Center added farmers located on the edge of urban centers could qualify for incentives, too.

Weston Dittmer, district conservationist for the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service in western Iowa, likened the consultation they do with farmers to the assistance they get at a local tractor dealer.

"You got your machinery retailers, we're right in there with that as well," Dittmer observed. "A lot of our products and services are on land management."

He added when farmers dive into conservation, the goal they often cite is to protect the health of their soil.

Olson pointed out with severe drought a major issue in the Midwest this summer, it's reasonable to think more farmers might be compelled to consider the idea, so their fields can withstand extreme conditions in the future.

"I have talked with a couple of ranchers this year, who have been practicing CSP for a handful of years, about how that played an important part in some of the drought conditions that we've had," Olson remarked.

Disclosure: Center for Rural Affairs contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy and Priorities, Environment, Hunger/Food/Nutrition, and Rural/Farming Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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