NATURAL RESOURCES DROUGHT ASSISTANCE FOR FARMERS\RANCHERS
United States Department of Agriculture . Natural Resources Conservation Service
Federal Building, 200 Fourth Street SW, Huron, SD 57350-2475 . (605) 352-1200 . (605) 352-1288 (FAX)
For Immediate Release
Jeffrey Zimprich, State Conservationist
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
(605) 352-1200 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Colette Kessler, Public Affairs Specialist, Pierre
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
(605) 224-2476, Ext. 5 | email@example.com
NATURAL RESOURCES DROUGHT ASSISTANCE FOR FARMERS/RANCHERS
NATURAL RESOURCES CONSERVATION SERVICE (NRCS), Huron, SD, July 27, 2012— Jeffrey Zimprich, State Conservationist, of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Huron, says field offices around the state are ready to provide information and assistance to farmers hit hard by the drought. NRCS administers a number of Farm Bill programs that provide technical and financial assistance to farmers and ranchers to install conservation practices.
Zimprich said, “The prolonged and extreme heat temperatures coupled with lack of rain is creating situations in some areas of South Dakota where some producers may be forced to make critical changes to their operation.” The South Dakota Governor’s Drought Task Force web site is an excellent resource: http://drought.sd.gov/. NRCS is also encouraging producers seeking advice to contact their district conservationist at the local field office.
The NRCS, along with many agencies, are working to help producers with their present drought-related crop and livestock production needs, the agencies strength is in working with the producers to cooperatively identify the conservation practices and management that will minimize the effects of future droughts. “NRCS has a lot we can offer producers technically, but at this time of the year, there is not a lot of financial assistance,” says Zimprich. “The financial assistance funds have been obligated for this fiscal year 2012. National funding at the present time is being targeted toward the hardest hit drought areas across the Nation. He explains, “Financial funding may become available after October 1, 2012 depending on the passage on a new Farm Bill.”
“While the weather situation and soil conditions are similar to the 1930s,” says Zimprich, “farmers and ranchers may be, in general, better coping with the drought because of the lessons we learned from the Dust Bowl. Now, producers using conservation practices have their natural resources in a better condition than 75 years ago.”
Crop residue management helps prevent precipitation loss by reducing runoff and soil temperatures and evaporation. Ponds, pipelines and tanks can help distribute water to where forage is located. Grazing plans and fencing can manage livestock grazing to keep forage plants healthy and deep rooted to maximize plant survival and productivity. Cover crops can improve soil health to improve water storage in the soil profile as well as provide additional grazing.
Livestock producers have been especially hard hit and NRCS has grazing specialists that provide suggestions about range and pasture management and options and consideration for forage and water management. Zimprich says, “It’s important for producers to have a backup plan such as deferred or rotational grazing, alternative water sources, combining herds, reducing livestock numbers, etc.”
“Producers with conservation contracts with the agency who cannot meet established practice installation deadlines will have some flexibility in meeting their obligations,” said Zimprich. Zimprich suggests that producers go over their contracts with their district conservationist to determine if practice implantation schedules need to be modified. Some programs allow for practice substitution or rescheduling of installation dates.” He adds, “Assistance is also available for those farmers that have established practices which have failed because of drought.”
NRCS encourages farmers that are considering installing any engineered practices (such as dams, grassed waterways, water and sediment control basins) to also consider resource conditions before construction. “These practices cost a lot of money and we don’t want to see them fail. One of the biggest concerns is a lack of soil moisture that would prohibit proper compaction.” NRCS can advise landowners and contractors on optimum moisture levels to achieve the best outcome.
Farmers and ranchers with water, land or crop management concerns can get help from NRCS through the development of a conservation plan. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) has continuous signup. Zimprich encourages farmers and ranchers to come in to their local office for ideas and future options for recovering from the drought. “It also helps us,” he says, “to get an idea of the needs out on the South Dakota landscape so we can be ready if and when conservation program funding becomes available.” Conservation plans can include drought planning and are free. Being prepared helps producers to continue operations even in the most severe conditions. Contact the NRCS staff in your local USDA Service Center for information about mitigating drought damage and specific Farm Bill programs.
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