Oklahoma Landowners Continue to Embrace Conservation Efforts- Using EQIP and CSP in a Big WayTue, 14 Jan 2020 08:34:33 CST
It's a busy time for the Natural Resource Conservation Service. Coming out of the 2018 Farm Law, several programs are essential to producers. Gary O’Neill, Chief of the Natural Resource Conservation Service, says last year they were able to develop programs under the old rules. Still, this year they must use the new interim rules, "There's going to be some, some significant changes in some of those programs, so we'll have an interim period where the rules reviewed, and then there'll be some guidance developed and we'll roll those programs out in 2020 with the new rules. That would include EQUIP, CSP, and the easement programs as well."
Both EQIP and CSP are widely used in the State of Oklahoma. O'Neill says those are very important, "If you're a farmer that has a lot of concerns and haven't had a chance, maybe you're buying some new land and has a lot of resource problems. EQIP is a good program to fix some of those problems. When you get those things addressed, and CSP is a good program that comes in, and you get rewarded for some of that stewardship you've done in the past, and then you can pick enhancements that will take you even to a higher level of conservation."
O'Neill says these programs are very popular in Oklahoma. They have about 1700 active EQIP contracts, and over 4,000 CSP contracts, and they are not only crucial for conservation but also Rural development. That number of CSP contracts is one of the biggest in the country, "For sure. If we're not one, we're in the top two on the number of contracts. Last year we picked up this new grassland initiative in CSP, and we had 1400 contracts alone just for that program. Texas and Oklahoma were the big states for that."
Soil health is another topic that O'Neill believes is very important for producers to embrace, "You know we've been doing it for a number of years, and have seen a lot of changes in Oklahoma related to acres of folks using no-till, and also cover crops. And we think it's just going to continue to expand. When you look at the benefits of that, It's far-reaching. Moisture is a big thing. We hear a lot of people are concerned if you plant a cover crop, you're going to use more moisture. Still, we're finding that if you plant the right species that you actually are, you're capturing and retaining every bit of more balls, and you're actually gaining moisture."
O'Neill says they are training their staff to be a place where farmers can learning about becoming soil health experts, "The programs are there now, where it helps mitigate some of the risks to make those changes. So, I think that the tools are there, we've just gotta get in there and make sure that farmers understand there are some opportunities in our state for soil health systems."
Click on the LISTEN BAR below to hear the complete interview with Gary O’Neill as he talks with Ron Hays.
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