Farmers encouraged to maintain conservation during crisis

Farm and Food

By Mike Moen, Public News Service- Iowa

The coronavirus pandemic remains the focus of policymakers as they look to reduce the impact of the global outbreak.

While those important actions play out, other key programs, including one that helps Iowa farmers implement conservation practices, are continuing.

Iowa farmers have until May 29 to apply for the latest round of funding under the federal Conservation Stewardship Program.

Washington County farmer Rob Stout says he's been able to add environmentally friendly practices to his operation over the past decade.

"Since we're always doing cover crops, we've added multi-species cover crops," he explains. "We added two or three species to a portion of the acres. And then we've done some soil health testing."

Cover crops are intended to manage soil erosion.

Farmers such as Stout who sign up for the program do so under a five-year contract. They are reimbursed for expenses they take on for implementing these practices.

While the health crisis has had a serious impact on market prices, Stout says farmers can't lose sight of the role they play in helping the environment and should consider signing up for the program.

Anna Johnson, policy manager at the Center for Rural Affairs, says in addition to helping the environment, these practices can help with a farmer's bottom line in the long run.

"Conservation practices that build soil health and in general invest in the natural resources of an operation can go a long way to help eventually cut costs," she explains.

Johnson notes that under the most recent Farm Bill,payment levels for certain conservation practices have increased. Farmers interested in applying should contact their local Natural Resources Conservation Service office. Because of COVID-19 concerns, the offices are taking phone calls instead of in-person visits.

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