The Farm Bill and Missouri Landowners
Missourians have close ties to the land.They are proud of our natural resources and have worked diligently to control soil erosion, improve water quality and manage our forests.They also have a special tie to wildlife. Countless Missourians are finding ways to make their land more valuable for wildlife.
A variety of technical and financial assistance programs have helped landowners improve their property. The Farm Security and Reinvestment Act is the latest in a series of government programs designed to assist landowners. Passed by the Congress in May 2002 and administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), this legislation is commonly known as the Farm Bill.
Many people consider USDA programs to be targeted solely to agricultural production efforts. Although the Farm Bill primarily addresses agricultural production, it also deals with a wide range of landowner objectives and a diversity of land uses.
For example, the Farm Bill provides federal dollars for technical and financial assistance to people participating in various conservation programs and installing beneficial conservation practices on their property.
The Missouri Department of Conservation provides staff to assist landowners and USDA staff with specialized fish, forest, and wildlife planning. The combination of Conservation Department staff members and the substantial funding and assistance provided by the Farm Bill can make a big difference to Missouri's soil, water and wildlife resources.
Steve Peoples of Shelby County is one landowner who has been able to take advantage of one of the Farm Bill's popular programs, which combines USDA funding with technical assistance provided by the Conservation Department.
Peoples farms row crops on about 1,200 acres. He switched to no-till farming in 1988 to reduce both costs and soil erosion. His property includes 210 acres along Black Creek that he believed would benefit from special management. He farmed the dark bottomland soil from 1994-2000, but because of frequent flooding along the creek, he was able to plant and harvest only three years of crops.
Peoples studied the Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) with cautious interest until 1999, when John Baker of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the USDA agency responsible for administering WRP, and Shawn Duckworth of the Conservation Department helped him formulate a plan.
"Staff from NRCS and the Conservation Department came out to the farm and answered all of our questions," Peoples said. "It helped me decide WRP was right for us, and a contract was finalized in 2000."