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2012 Annual Report

STC J.R. Flores participates in an interview.BIOMASS CROP ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (BCAP)

The Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) created in the 2008 Farm Bill is a primary component of the domestic agriculture, energy, and environmental strategy to reduce U.S. reliance on foreign oil, improve domestic energy security, reduce carbon pollution and spur rural economic development and job creation. The program, administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA), provides incentives to farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to establish, cultivate and harvest biomass for heat, power, bio-based products and biofuels. Missouri had three designated BCAP project areas in Fiscal Year 2011 which encompassed all or portions of 40 counties in central, west central, and southwestern Missouri. Missouri NRCS staff assisted landowners with enrollment and conservation plan development on 514 individual offers affecting approximately 22,786 acres.

In Fiscal Year 2012, there was no new sign up for BCAP. However, during the year Missouri NRCS staff assisted FSA and landowners in assessing 126 BCAP miscanthus plantings in 14 counties in central and southwestern Missouri. Forty-five of the plantings evaluated were determined to be failures and were re-authorized for additional cost share funding. The 45 failures covered approximately 2,000 acres.

CONSERVATION RESERVE PROGRAM (CRP)

The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is a voluntary program that assists farmers, ranchers and other agricultural producers to use their environmentally-sensitive land for conservation benefits. Producers enrolling in CRP establish long-term, resource-conserving cover types in exchange for rental payments, cost-share and technical assistance.
A nationwide competitive enrollment period began in March 2012. While the program is administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA), Missouri NRCS staff provided technical assistance to landowners on 4,262 offers and developed conservation plans for the 3,894 offers that were accepted for enrollment. These accepted offers covered approximately 214,700 acres.
CRP is also offered to landowners on a continuous basis for practices, such as conservation buffer practices, that provide special environmental benefits. During Fiscal Year 2012, Missouri NRCS staff assisted 246 landowners with continuous CRP offers on approximately 2,700 acres and developed conservation plans for those acres.

During the drought of 2012, USDA offered CRP participants the opportunity to utilize emergency haying and grazing on CRP acres. Missouri NRCS staff developed nearly 1,000 emergency grazing conservation plans for CRP participants and developed more than 4,400 emergency haying conservation plans for CRP participants.

CONSERVATION STEWARDSHIP PROGRAM (CSP)

The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) encourages agricultural and forestry producers to undertake additional conservation activities while improving and maintaining the existing conservation on their land. The program provides financial and technical assistance to conserve and enhance soil, water, air and related natural resources. CSP is offered statewide through a continuous sign-up process with periodic ranking periods to evaluate all submitted applications. 434 contracts were developed, enrolling 178,409 acres of agricultural land and 22,492 acres of non-industrial private forest land. The contracts will provide nearly $18 million in financial assistance to participants over the five-year contract agreements.

CONSERVATION TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE (CTA)

RCS and its partners provide Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA) to land users to identify resource concerns and opportunities related to the use of natural resources on their land. This information assists land users in making sound natural resource management decisions. Assistance may be in the form of resource assessment, practice design, resource monitoring or follow-up of installed conservation practices. Although CTA does not include financial assistance, it does include developing a conservation plan which can serve as a springboard for those interested in participating in USDA financial assistance and easement conservation programs.

EMERGENCY WATERSHED PROTECTION (EWP)

The Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program provides technical and financial assistance to reduce hazards to life and property from floods, ice storms, earthquakes, tornadoes or other watershed impairments caused by a natural event. All practices must be economically and environmentally defensible and conform to NRCS technical standard. Typical work in Missouri includes repair of floodplain levees with drainage areas less than 400 square miles, removal of sediment and debris from drainage ways, removal of logjams that cause significant problems and streambank protection near public facilities.

Mississippi River flooding in April and May, 2012 caused significant damage to drainage systems in the Bootheel and bank stabilization problems in southwestern Missouri. Total funding received has been $33.5 million. Twenty-nine damage survey reports (DSRs) were completed, there are a total of 88 projects. Agreements with sponsors to repair the damage were completed within 90 days of receipt of funding. Repairs have been completed on 71 projects.

Flooding on the Missouri River occurred from June through October. Total funding received has been $1.4 million. Fifteen DSRs were developed and agreements with sponsors were completed within 120 days of receipt of funding. Repairs were completed on nine projects. The remaining projects were either ineligible or assisted by FEMA.

High TunnelENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY INCENTIVES PROGRAM (EQIP)

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) promotes agricultural production and environmental quality as compatible goals. It provides financial and technical assistance to install or implement structural and management conservation practices on agricultural land.

Missouri farmers received a total of $29 million in EQIP financial assistance in Fiscal Year 2012, funding 1,376 of the nearly 2,000 eligible applications received in Missouri. This financial assistance will help install conservation practices to reduce soil erosion, use water more efficiently and improve grazing land, wildlife habitat and water quality.

In Fiscal Year 2012, Missouri continued to see interest from agricultural producers in the Organic Initiative, first offered in Fiscal Year 2009, allowing Missouri NRCS to obligate $158,810 in EQIP financial assistance to all eligible applicants in the initiative. These Organic Initiative funds will be used by 14 contract holders for conservation practices on USDA-Certified organic operations and also assist other producers to transition to organic production.

Seasonal High Tunnel Systems, which were introduced as a new component in 2010, continued in 2012 to promote locally grown food for personal or commercial use. Missouri worked with nearly 200 producers who will be using $907,182 in FY12 EQIP financial assistance under the High Tunnel Initiative to extend the crop growing season, improve plant quality, improve soil quality and improve water quality from reduced nutrient and pesticide transport.

GRASSLAND RESERVE PROGRAM (GRP)

The Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) offers landowners an opportunity to protect grassland and pastureland rather than converting it to cropland or other uses. In Fiscal Year 2012, $650,000 in financial assistance was provided to Missouri landowners to enroll two permanent easements covering 340 acres and three rental contracts covering 270 acres. To date, 33 easements have been funded statewide encompassing 3,743 acres.

RESOURCE INVENTORIES: SOIL SURVEY, NRI AND CULTURAL RESOURCES

Resource Inventory and Assessment (RIA) progress included work by Major Land Resource Area (MLRA) soils offices to update the tabular and spatial data of 1.7 million acres and uploaded the information to the Web Soil Survey and Soil Data Mart. Most of the soil survey update work was done on the Drainageway Project which separated river valley floodplains from upland drainageway ecosystems. These two distinct landforms have different vegetative communities and generate different ecological sites. We summarized the air temperature, precipitation, soil temperature and soil moisture data for four Missouri stations of the Soil Climate Analysis Network (2001-2012) uploaded to the NRCS Field Office Technical Guide, and we added two new SCAN stations to the state network (Journagan Ranch; Schell-Osage Conservation Area). The RIA staff provided 1,780 Technical Soil Services, and served 52,439 people. NRCS’ assistance benefitted 64.8 million acres.

National Resources Inventory (NRI) efforts focused on the Fiscal Year 2012 NRI data collection, involving 2,613 segments covering the 2009 and 2010 growing seasons.
Missouri NRCS checked 474 projects that included ground-disturbing practices for cultural resources compliance. About 15 of those resulted in on-site investigations. Missouri NRCS developed a Cultural Resources information sheet that will be used during the conservation planning process with landowners.

NRCS continued developing ecological sites for Missouri MLRAs in 2012, including the completion of the first draft soil-ecological site correlation for all the soils in the state. NRCS developed an implementation plan for incorporating ecological sites into conservation planning in Missouri, and has initiated awareness-level training for field office staff.

WETLANDS RESERVE PROGRAM (WRP)

WRP helps landowners restore wetlands on agricultural and non-agricultural lands. Restored wetlands provide wildlife habitat for migratory birds, threatened and endangered species and other wetland wildlife. To date, 1,020 easements have been funded statewide encompassing 143,477 acres. NRCS enrolled 52 tracts covering 5,259 acres valued at $11.4 million during Fiscal Year 2012. Wetlands were restored on more than 8,530 acres.

WILDLIFE HABITAT INCENTIVES PROGRAM (WHIP)

The Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) promotes the establishment and management of fish and wildlife habitat. It provides financial and technical assistance on private agricultural land, nonindustrial private forestland and Indian land to assist eligible participants develop habitat.

Eligible Missouri applicants received $138,284 in WHIP financial assistance in Fiscal Year 2012, funding 31 of the 81 eligible WHIP applications. WHIP financial assistance helps producers install conservation practices that establish, improve, protect, enhance, or restore the land to improve conditions for fish and wildlife.

MISSISSIPPI RIVER BASIN HEALTHY WATERSHEDS INITIATIVE (MRBI)

The objective of MRBI is to improve the health of the Mississippi River Basin, including water quality and wildlife habitat. Through this initiative, NRCS and its partners help producers in selected watersheds in the Mississippi River Basin voluntarily implement conservation practices and systems that avoid, control, and trap nutrient runoff; improve wildlife habitat; and maintain agricultural productivity. Furthermore, the initiative is intended to address nutrient loading in the Mississippi River Basin. Nutrient loading contributes to both local water quality problems and the hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

In Fiscal Year 2012, four additional MRBI projects were approved in Missouri by NRCS Chief Dave White. Missouri NRCS (working with Soil and Water Conservation District sponsors) entered into 335 additional Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) contracts totaling $8.8 million in obligations. These new contracts, encompassing 40,516 acres of agricultural land, will help to address water quality within the Mississippi River Basin.

GRAZING LANDS CONSERVATION INITIATIVE (GLCI)

The Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative (GLCI) is a nationwide collaborative process of individuals and organizations working to maintain and improve the management, productivity and health of the nation’s privately owned grazing land. This process has formed coalitions that represent the grassroot concerns that impact private grazing land. The coalitions actively seek sources to increase technical assistance and public awareness activities that maintain or enhance grazing land resources.

NRCS grassland specialists and staff assisted 785 landowners and partner organizations with 29 grazing schools held throughout Missouri. The schools provide landowners and interested individuals with an understanding of various grazing, forage utilization and fencing systems options to improve the management of all grassland resources in Missouri. NRCS grassland conservationists and staff also assisted with four regional forage conferences with 2,645 in attendance and with 90 field days/workshops with 6,202 in attendance

Sheep in a fieldCOOPERATIVE CONSERVATION PARTNERSHIP INITIATIVE (CCPI)

The Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI) was established in the 2008 Farm Bill. Each year, CCPI projects receive a targeted portion of the funds that NRCS has available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).

Missouri NRCS, which administers CCPI, partnered with 25 Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD) and the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) to address natural resource concerns in 29 project areas. These formal agreements between NRCS and each of the sponsoring SWCDs & MDC, provides $11.2 million in NRCS financial assistance through EQIP and WHIP contracts to more than 450 producers to assist in protecting water quality and reducing soil loss and improving habitat throughout Missouri.

CONSERVATION INNOVATION GRANT (CIG) AWARD SUMMARY

Two Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) were awarded by Missouri NRCS in Fiscal Year 2012.

A $50,000 CIG award to the Curators of the University of Missouri aims to encourage widespread adoption of practices that improve soil health by demonstrating the environmental and economic benefits that can be achieved by implementing a system of conservation practices. The suite of practices that will be adopted are cover crops, conservation crop rotation, residue management/no-till, nutrient management, and pest management. This CIG will: 1) demonstrate the environmental benefits of adopting a production system focused on soil health. 2) demonstrate increased soil water availability and biomass, and 3) promote the adoption of soil health conservation systems. The CIG will also demonstrate benefits of the proposed techniques for reducing dependency on fossil fuel, energy savings through adaptive management, reductions in nonpoint source pollution, and agricultural chemical inputs by incorporating legumes into conservation practices that reduce or eliminate the need for synthetic fertilizers.

An $18,000 CIG award to Southeast Missouri State University will provide an evaluation of soils having a subsurface controlled drainage system to reduce nitrate effluent discharges. The nitrate reductions are associated with drainage limited denitrification, cover crop uptake of residual nitrate and fertilized applications to minimize nitrate leaching.

GRANT ANNOUNCEMENT FOR WORKSHOPS, CONFERENCES AND TRAINING SUMMARY

A grant announcement was issued to find partners to conduct workshops, conferences, and training to help educate Missouri’s farm community, private landowners, conservation organizations, cooperating agencies and general citizenry and promote public awareness and implementation of Farm Bill activities. Fifteen grants were awarded totaling $138,388.

GRANT ANNOUNCEMENT FOR MISSOURI STATE PROJECTS SUMMARY

A grant announcement was issued to find partners with a mutual interest in Missouri agricultural viability, water quality improvements, soil and plant health, wildlife habitat improvements and other natural resource enhancements. Ten grants were awarded totaling $727,853.

CONTRIBUTION AGREEMENTS SUMMARY

NRCS utilizes contribution agreements to assist in the delivery of conservation technical assistance to landowners implementing beneficial conservation practices across the state. Under the agreements, conservation partner organizations contribute an amount equal to the NRCS fund contribution.

Three contribution agreements were amended to allow NRCS to expand services available to Missouri landowners. Contribution agreements totaling approximately $1 million were completed between NRCS and the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), The National Older Workers Career Center, and Quail Forever. Each of the agreements requires the conservation partner to contribute conservation technical assistance to NRCS-identified landowners equivalent to the $1 million provided by NRCS. In each case, NRCS conservationists work with farmers and ranchers to prepare conservation plans that the landowners must follow to receive federal cost-share funding. Conservation plans include the installation or implementation of farming practices or methods that reduce soil erosion and protect water quality. Many also include establishing plants and management techniques that improve wildlife habitat. Much of the workload will focus on contracts related to the Conservation Reserve Program and the Wetlands Reserve Program. The agreements also contain provisions to assist with other Farm Bill programs, including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program, Grassland Reserve Program, and Conservation Security Program.

Watermelon GleaningEARTH TEAM VOLUNTEER PROGRAM

The Earth Team Volunteer Program is part of the NRCS, the Federal Government’s lead agency for voluntary conservation of natural resources on private lands. Earth Team volunteers play an important role in helping NRCS fulfill its commitment to working with people to protect, maintain, and conserve our nation’s natural resources and environment.

Nine hundred ninety-nine Missouri Earth Team volunteers provided 10,200 hours of service at a salary savings to the agency of $222,268.89. Missouri attained two statewide goals: (1) 100 percent office participation in the Earth Team Program (2) 100 percent of offices conducted Needs Assessments to identify tasks volunteers could do.