Community Agriculture Alliance: NRCS prioritizes conservation planning


— The Natural Resources Conservation Service in Colorado is encouraging farmers and ranchers to develop comprehensive conservation plans. Many landowners are interested in enhancing the condition and productivity of their natural resources and reaping greater returns from their efforts.

Whatever the case the may be, the first step is to know and understand the condition of the resources you're working with. A conservation plan provides that information.

The NRCS conservation planning process has many benefits, including that it provides an assessment and inventory of the condition of the land, it utilizes and considers alternative approaches to land treatment, and is based on the objectives of the landowner resulting in the optimum conservation management system being identified. Also, if an agricultural producer applies to participate in certain NRCS Farm Bill programs, conservation plans facilitate priority treatment.

"The right first step in any natural resource improvement or enhancement project is the development of a conservation plan," said Tim Carney, NRCS assistant state conservationist. "And although the plans are not required when applying for NRCS programs, the agency wants to reemphasize to our customers just how important they are."

To further illustrate the agency's emphasis on developing conservation plans, NRCS has restructured the 2008 Farm Bill program application schedule by accelerating the initial cutoff dates for some program applications. Applications for the 2008 Environmental Quality Incentives Program are accepted year-round, but the initial cutoff for processing applications has been set at Nov. 2, 2007. In future years, NRCS is planning to set initial Farm Bill application cutoff dates in mid-summer.

"The change affects how we in Colorado NRCS do business," Carney said. "We want to give agricultural producers and NRCS field staff adequate time to conduct upfront conservation planning before finalization of a conservation program application. Conservation planning not only takes time, but, most importantly, it takes the right timing. Rescheduling some application cutoff dates is just one of the changes that will afford us the opportunity to spend more of the right time in the field with our customers."

Applications based on a developed conservation plan will be processed first. Producers are encouraged to sign up early to facilitate the planning process.

Conservation plans are developed by NRCS employees who utilize state-of-the-art technology and scientifically based expertise. Plans are developed to provide management systems that if implemented can have a positive impact on the quality of soil, water, air, plants and wildlife habitats, as well as property investment.

The planning process is simple and consists of: 1) the identification of problems and opportunities; 2) determining objectives; 3) conducting an inventory of existing resources; 4) analyzing the resource data; 5) formulating alternatives; 6) evaluating alternatives; 7) making decisions; 8) implementing the plan; and 9) evaluating the plan.

It is without a doubt one of the best things you can do if you have made agriculture your way of life.

For more information, call or stop by your local NRCS office. Make an appointment today to discuss the possibility of developing your very own comprehensive conservation plan.

Barnes Walker is a public information officer for the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Colorado.


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