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Conservation district assists county landowners

Posted on Tuesday, April 30, 2013 at 2:41 pm

The Pike County Soil and Water Conservation District has been assisting rural landowners with erosion problems since 1945.  Thousands of acres of agricultural and rural ground have been restored from damage caused by erosion and preserved for future generations, through the efforts of various staff members throughout the years, and with financial assistance from the Missouri State Cost-Share Program, funded by the Missouri Soils & Parks Tax.

Missouri is one of the only states in the nation to have a tax exclusively for soil preservation and parks maintenance.  This tax has reaped many benefits for the past, present and future citizens of the state, including healthier and more productive agricultural land, as well as cleaner water and air.

The Missouri State Cost Share Program was implemented in 1983, to help subsidize landowners’ efforts to reduce soil erosion on their agricultural fields.  In the nearly 30 years since the program’s inception, Pike County landowners have received over $5 million in Cost-Share funds.  The amount of funding received each year fluctuates, and is based on the number of practices completed and funded in our county the prior year, as well as the amount of money generated by the Soils and Parks tax each year.

Any practices that are surveyed, contracted and not completed in a given year results in loss of those funds for the county.  Thus it is vitally important that any landowner obligating funds for a conservation practice, complete that practice in the year it is contracted.

This past fiscal year, Pike County landowners claimed $195,000. Through the years, the annual allocations we have claimed range from $38,307 the very first year, to a high of $314,549 in 1989.

Fiscal year 2013 is shaping up to be another big funding year, with the inclusion of the Governor’s Drought Relief Program.  27 Pike County landowners received assistance with livestock watering, through this one-time program.

The Cost Share Program originally provided funding for terraces, waterways and some ponds to address agricultural land erosion, but has expanded to include many other areas of natural resource concerns.

The Pike County Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors has expanded the list of offered services in our county to include the new practices of Well Decommissioning, Spring Development, Nutrient Management, Timber Harvest Plans, Skid Trail Restoration and Field Borders.  These practices are in addition to the regular services that have been offered for a number of years.

Pike County SWCD holds an annual sign-up for Cost Share assistance during the entire month of March.  Applications are ranked according to the severity of their erosion problem, as well as the cost/benefit ratio of the practice needed to address the problem.

In most years, the funding is sufficient to complete between 20 and 30 practices, out of the 70 to 150 applications we receive.   The ranking system we use helps ensure that the most urgent erosion problems are being addressed with the limited funds we have each year.

The Pike County Soil and Water Conservation District is governed by an elected Board of Supervisors, comprised of local landowners, with a University of Extension staff member serving as Board Secretary.  Board elections are held every two years, with each term being four years, two seats are filled in each election.

Current Board members are Charlie Becker, Chairman; Rick Merritt, Vice Chairman; Kenneth Turpin, Treasurer; Danny Hubert, Member; and Wayne Shannon, Secretary.  Current District employees are Liz Harrelson, Financial Officer; Debbie Scherder, Program Specialist II; and Zachary Rasche, District Technician II.

To learn more about the Pike County Soil and Water Conservation District, and the Missouri State Cost-Share Program, call or stop by your local USDA Service Center.

The phone number is 573-324-3201, ext. 3, and the address is 1220 S. Business Highway 61, Bowling Green.