2008-01-23 / News

Growing Green

Farmers conserve natural resources through incentive program
By Anne Marie Kyzer Staff Writer

Tommy Mead speaks at a conservation field day. Tommy Mead speaks at a conservation field day. They take an interest in the environment for good reason ... their livelihoods depend on it.

But an increasingly popular government program is giving farmers even more incentive to think green.

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) offers technical and financial help to agricultural producers who voluntarily begin certain environmentally friendly practices.

Several Burke County farmers have participated in EQIP, which is administered by the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service.

Tommy Mead, who owns a Hereford cattle farm outside Midville, said the practices he implemented on his operation through EQIP have not only conserved natural resources but have helped him better utilize his land.

"Thanks to the cost-share program, we were able to get some things done that we needed to do," Mead told a group at a recent field day hosted by the Brier Creek Soil and Water Conservation District.

Mead installed cross fencing in his large pastures for rotational grazing and improved his watersupply system.

Rotational grazing increases the quantity and quality of forages and makes Mead's land more manageable for grazing. By adding additional watering areas, Mead is able to make water more accessible to his cattle and increase their productivity. The water troughs are also surrounded by concrete, which keeps soil from washing away around them.

"The number one advantage is that the concrete keeps the area directly adjacent to your trough in good shape," NRCS District Conservationist Cread Brown explains. "It gives them a hard clean surface to stand on and reduces erosion."

Cread added that keeping the area clean can also improve herd health.

Fellow Burke County cattle producer Ellis Godbee has also participated in EQIP and installed several watering facilities on his farm.

"It has some real advantages," Godbee said of the additional watering sites, which go hand-in-hand with an effective rotational grazing program. "If it's readily available, they'll drink water all during the day. That water helps them … they grow better and eat more."

Aside from cross fencing and watering facilities, Cread said some of the more popular practices in EQIP include planting pasture and hay land. The program also offers incentives for row crop producers to make irrigation improvements, plant grassed waterways and build terraces.

According to Cread, the new farm bill could mean changes to funding levels and other aspects of EQIP. He doesn't anticipate the cost-share levels to decrease and said the program will most likely remain an attractive option for farmers.

However, he stressed that the program requires applicants to go through a competitive ranking process based on environmental benefits.

For more information on EQIP, contact the Burke County NRCS office at 706-554-2109, ext. 3, or Brown at 706-724-2247.

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