Feature Story: A New Neighbor You May Want To Meet
There are people across this country who love the land and who work hard to make their land the best it can be. These are people like you. They work hard; they play hard. Whether it’s a large ag operation in the Midwest that feeds millions or a small organic farm out East that sells fresh produce locally, they all have one thing in common: Soil.
Soil is one of our country’s most precious natural resources. Taking good care of soil is key to maintaining agricultural productivity and frankly, life as we know it.
75 years ago, the U.S. faced a major economic depression and an environmental disaster called the “Dust Bowl.” From these two events, a government agency was created called the Soil Conservation Service. That agency still exists today. Now called the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), their staffs are located in nearly every single county in every single state. They are technically trained conservation specialists who work one-on-one with private landowners to help them manage and maintain the quality and productivity of their natural resources.
NRCS’ mission, “Helping People Help the Land,” covers all relevant resources-soil, water, air, plants, animals and humans. NRCS offers science-based technical assistance, programs and financial support, as well as guidance and engineering designs and specifications to guide landowners and land managers in their particular land-based endeavors:
Farm operations - large and small
Grazing or pasture systems
Wetland restoration or floodplain management
Non-industrial forest/woodland strategies
Prairie management or creation
Wildlife habitat development
Water quality improvements
Soil erosion and sediment control tactics
Invasive species control
In Illinois, NRCS recently launched a campaign called “Good Grazing Makes Good $ense!” that targeted livestock operations and encouraged use of grazing management systems that are sustainable and profitable. A large part of what NRCS does is provide information and tools to help operators in their quest for solutions that work and that support the land and the ecosystem long-term. “We know grazing is both and art and a science,” says Grassland Specialist Matt Bunger. “With NRCS and all our partners, we can help folks find success on both sides of the equation.”
Because grazing and good grass/forage production is key to so many different kinds of operations, NRCS reaches out and offers help to beef cattle grazers as well as sheep, goats, and buffalo - any herd that eats grass. For clients like these, NRCS offers assistance with grass species selection, soil quality improvements, fencing options, watering systems, weed control, erosion reduction - nearly every aspect of the job. NRCS examines the land, your objectives, and shows you a variety of options that fulfill both. If you are interested and eligible, a federal conservation program may cover installation and costs of the practice or you can do the work on your own or use a local contractor.
The work associated with projects like these may seem old fashioned or simplistic to some. But all these undertakings take place in the 21st Century, where things are now web-based, digital, and high-tech. NRCS can bridge that gap for you because they offer workable and sensible conservation practices that fit the land, the soil and slope, and that solve unique resource problems.
NRCS has technical information available online and install yourself or you can meet with a staff member, discuss your needs, and create a customized conservation plan for your little piece of the planet. As always, NRCS works with producers and landowners strictly on a voluntary basis.
Whether you’re new to a lifestyle that’s connected to the land or you’ve been in the business for years and are interested or ready to do a little more, consider whether the expertise of technical specialists at the NRCS could help you fix a resource problem or offer a new sustainable option that could improve production or save some money. Visit www.nrcs.usda.gov today and track down your new local natural resource neighbor at NRCS!
NRCS - Helping People Help the Land
An Equal Opportunity Provider and Employer
For more information, contact:
Paige Mitchell-Buck, IL NRCS State Public Information Officer
IL NRCS State Office
2118 W. Park Court
Champaign, IL 61821