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News Release

Aerial Conservation Compliance Reviews NR

Terraces are an important practice to improve the water quality in Prairie Rose Lake in Shelby County, Iowa.

Teams of federal conservation experts, partnering with experienced pilots, will conduct aerial conservation compliance reviews on 635 sites in nearly 40 counties in northwest and southwest Iowa this month.

The 1985 Farm Bill requires the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation (NRCS) to check a random sampling of highly erodible fields each year to ensure farmers are following the provisions in their conservation plans. Conservation compliance is required for maintaining eligibility for USDA programs. Status reviews in the remaining 60 counties will be conducted on the ground.

"Other states have been using aerial surveys to save time and resources for several years," said State Conservationist Richard Sims. "We are implementing this pilot project to see if we can increase our efficiencies and effectiveness while maintaining accuracy and fairness."

If the project is successful, NRCS may chose to implement the strategy statewide, said Sims.

Teams on the ground will verify the accuracy of the aerial status reviews that find farmers out of compliance. NRCS offices sent notification letters to all producers and landowners with fields the agency will review aerially.

Planes will be flying at lower altitudes, about 500 feet, to allow conservationists to visually evaluate tillage use, residue levels, conservation practices in place, the presence of ephemeral gullies and other key compliance factors.  Farmers who are not following a conservation system or drain wetlands could be found out of compliance and risk losing USDA benefits.

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Contact: State Conservationist Richard Sims, 515-284-6655