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The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) have agreed to provide an additional $2.2 million to expedite the technical assistance that private landowners need to get federal Farm Bill program benefits.
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.
To better address the wildlife resource, NRCS and MDC years ago created a unique partnership in which some state MDC biologists are located in federal NRCS offices. MDC has an area biologist in each of NRCS’ four area offices in St. Joseph, Palmyra, Jackson and Springfield; a private lands program biologist in the NRCS State Office in Columbia; four wetland biologists on NRCS wetland teams; and about 60 biologists and foresters working out of NRCS county offices.
“NRCS’ work with private land users to improve wildlife habitat is greatly enhanced because of its partnership with MDC,” NRCS State Conservationist J.R. Flores says.
Under the new agreement, NRCS will provide $1.1 million to MDC in exchange for MDC biologist providing technical assistance to Farm Bill program participants identified by NRCS. MDC will match the contribution by providing an additional $1.1 million in technical assistance. The $2.2 million will expedite the development of about 1,000 Farm Bill program plans and will accelerate the establishment of conservation practices on nearly 40,000 acres.
MDC Private Land Services Division Chief Mike Hubbard emphasizes that the partnership with NRCS, “allows us to do more together than either agency could ever do alone in providing services to landowners and having a positive impact on natural resources.”
Mark Kulig, NRCS assistant state conservationist, says much of the workload will focus on contracts related to the Conservation Reserve Program and the Wetlands Reserve Program. The agreement also contains provisions for MDC to assist with several other Farm Bill programs, including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program, Grassland Reserve Program, and Conservation Security Program.
“There are a great number of individual contracts that require plans before landowners can implement the practices and receive their payments,” Kulig says. “By having this mutual agreement with MDC, we will be able to accomplish these tasks sooner.”