LINGLE – Lingering snowdrifts from a late winter storm didn’t stop several area producers from gathering at the Speckner farm between Lingle and Fort Laramie Friday morning for the Goshen County Soil Health Field Day.
The event, sponsored by Lingle-Fort Laramie Conservation District, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Barnyards & Backyards, included discussion about the 2018 farm bill, high tunnels, soil health, a producer presentation by Joe Speckner, information on district cost-share programs, and field tours of both irrigated and dryland crops.
After an introduction by LFL Conservation District Head Don McDowell, Goshen County District Conservationist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture-NRCS Ryan Clayton took the stage.
The most recent farm bill – officially known as the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 – had an effect on multiple conservation programs, Clayton said, including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which will remain stable for five years and then increase in funding; the Conservation Stewardship Program, which will remain stable for five years and then decrease in funding (signup is open until May 12 this year); the Ag Conservation Easement Program, slated to receive $450 million a year for five years; and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, with an increase in funding to $300 million annually.
Clayton also explained how the NRCS office functions, stating a local work group comprised of conservation district board members, stakeholders, NRCS personnel, and other members of the community make recommendations, which are forwarded to the State Technical Committee. Local divisions then process resources of concern, and field office staff meet landowners on-site to gain insight into goals and potential improvement.
“We want to see what you got, what you’re doing, and want to hear what you have to say, too,” Clayton said.
Based on these findings, a conservation plan is developed, and available funding is determined.
Clayton next addressed high tunnels – a protective structure that may be assembled for a fraction of the cost of greenhouses, allows for greater climate and pest control, better soil health, as well as the use of precision tools, and provides longer growing periods and the opportunity for more diverse crops.
NRCS is available to help with technical and financial assistance to incorporate high tunnels into farms, however, producers should be aware crops must be planted in the ground, not pots; a source of irrigation water must be available; weather damage to the structure is possible; maintenance is required; and, if a high tunnel is cost-shared through the farm bill, an approved kit must be purchased.
Funding in the amount of $3.28 per square foot is available for high tunnels.
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