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Beginning farmers cattle operation benefits from initiative for underserved farm

StrikeForce Landing







By Beverly Moseley

Emma and Percy Brown of Vicksburg, Miss., are beginning farmers whose lives have benefited from fund

Emma and Percy Brown of Vicksburg, Miss., are beginning farmers whose lives have benefited from funding through the USDA StrikeForce Initiative for Rural Growth and Opportunity.

Since the Browns installed two water troughs and heavy use pads on their farm from additional EQIP f

Since the Browns installed two water troughs and heavy use pads on their farm from additional EQIP funds through the USDA StrikeForce Initiative for Rural Growth and Opportunity, they are no longer spending hours using a water hose to fill up eight water barrels for their cattle.

Farmer Percy Brown and Patrick Smith, NRCS district conservationist in Port Gibson, Miss., visit abo

Farmer Percy Brown and Patrick Smith, NRCS district conservationist in Port Gibson, Miss., visit about conservation planning on Emma and Percy Brown’s farm.

For more than a year, Mississippi retirees Percy and Emma Brown traveled 50 miles roundtrip three times a week from their home in Vicksburg, Miss. to their farm in Port Gibson to provide water for their cattle. It was a waste of time and money as they filled eight barrels with many gallons of water for the growing cattle herd.

That all changed when the Browns, who were new to farming, heard about USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, an agency that helps private landowners implement conservation. They learned NRCS provided financial assistance for livestock water troughs and other conservation practices through the USDA StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity.

The national StrikeForce initiative addresses high-priority funding and technical assistance needs in rural communities in 20 states, including Mississippi, with a special emphasis on historically underserved producers and communities in designated counties with persistent poverty. The initiative provides an opportunity for landowners who have not traditionally worked with NRCS, such as beginning farmers like the Browns, to determine how to best leverage available financial assistance.

“We just really wanted to get started, and we didn’t really know how,” Percy said.

The Browns were able to install the farm’s first ever water troughs with financial assistance through StrikeForce. The farm has two water troughs located in separate pastures.  Not only does this improve farming efficiency, it allows for the troughs to conserve water, as they are refilled only as needed.

With the days of hauling water are over, the Browns can now spend that time on other farm projects. “It gives us peace of mind knowing our cattle will always have drinking water,” Emma said.

The Browns also installed cross fencing, one key to implementing a rotational grazing system which can help reduce the pressures caused by overgrazing. Negative effects of overgrazing include soil erosion, soil compaction, decreased soil organic matter and reduced forage availability for the livestock.

Providing water for livestock is a major challenge for many ranchers across the U.S. StrikeForce has helped ranchers and cattle operations across the nation use water more efficiently.

For example, in drought-stricken Texas, StrikeForce helped Willie Utley install a solar-powered well, which provides fresh, cool water to livestock and wildlife. Like the Browns in Mississippi, this well saves Utley the trouble and expense of hauling in water or moving cattle to leased pastures.

“Without StrikeForce, I would not have been able to afford drilling a new well,” Utley said. “It’s going to be a big improvement and lessens the worry of not having water when you need it.”

And in Utah, NRCS and the Navajo Nation Department of Agriculture helped two chapters of the Navajo Nation drill new livestock wells and safely decommission unusable, contaminated wells through StrikeForce.  

Before the new wells were installed, members of the Teec Nos Pos and Red Mesa Chapters had to truck in water from up to two hours away for their 1,000 or so cattle, sheep and goats. NRCS is also helping the chapters install pipeline and troughs to provide multiple access points for cattle to drink.

“As far as our priority concern that we have for our community, the way we want to see in the future – five, 10, 20 years down the line for our new generation – is to have better water quality to meet the needs of our livestock,” said Herman Farley, president of the Red Mesa Chapter.

The Navajo Nation has one of the highest poverty levels of any area in the U.S. with more than 173,000 people living on the reservation.

StrikeForce is creating conservation opportunities in rural communities and tribes across the nation. Learn more.