MN Farmers Have Until May 5 to Renew CSP Contracts

Land Stewardship Project, CSP, Conservation stewardship programMinnesota farmers have until May 5 to re-enroll in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). This renewal option is specifically for farmers and ranchers who enrolled in CSP initially in 2013. Farmers are encouraged to contact their local Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office for more information on renewing (www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/contact/local).

CSP is a comprehensive working lands conservation program that provides technical and financial assistance to farmers and ranchers to actively manage and maintain existing conservation systems and to implement additional conservation activities on land in production. Through CSP, participants take steps to improve soil, water, air and habitat quality, and can also address energy conservation issues.

“CSP is a wonderful program,” said Jon Jovaag, a Land Stewardship Project farmer-member from Austin, Minn. Jovaag had a CSP contract in the past and plans on reapplying in 2017. “It helps farmers implement conservation practices over their entire farming operation.”

Land Stewardship Project, Conservation Stewardship Program, CSP

The Land Stewardship Project would like to remind Minnesota farmers that the renewal deadline for the Conservation Stewardship Program is May fifth. The renewal option is specifically for farmers that enrolled in CSP back in 2013. (photo from nrcs.usda.gov)

Program contracts, which are administered by the NRCS, last for five years, at which time they are eligible for renewal. There are approximately 7,000 U.S. farmers and ranchers with program contracts that will expire this year, totaling over 9.5 million acres. In Minnesota, there are 552 contracts expiring, totaling 387,331 acres.

It is optional to renew an expiring contract, and participants who do not re-enroll can always re-apply and compete for funding in future annual program signups. However, there is significant benefit to renewing now: the process for renewing is non-competitive and much simpler than re-applying through the competitive process later, and participants will avoid any gaps in their CSP payments that would otherwise occur.

NRCS has already mailed letters to all participants with contracts that are set to expire this year. Local NRCS offices will then follow up with producers to discuss renewal criteria and new conservation options. Participants will need to meet additional renewal criteria. Under the terms of the 2014 Farm Bill, program contract holders can renew their contracts provided they have met the terms of their initial contract, agree to adopt and continue to integrate conservation activities across the entire operation, and agree to either meet the stewardship threshold of at least two additional priority resource concerns or exceed the stewardship threshold of at least two existing priority resource concerns by the end of the renewed contract period.

Here’s a bit of a refresher course on the CSP if you’re thinking about doing it for the first time:

EWG: voluntary conservation isn’t enough

Seven years in the making, EWG’s Conservation Database allows Americans to see exactly where billions of dollars in conservation funding have gone. The data obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, is broken down by county.

“Used wisely and with the right incentives, farm conservation programs are making a difference in protecting our health, and improving our quality of life and the environment,” said Craig Cox, EWG Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources. “But we need to focus taxpayer dollars on getting the most effective practices in the right places to address the most urgent threats.”

Data obtained by the EWG through FOIA requests show where federal conservation dollars have been spent on projects, including cover crops.

Data obtained by the EWG through FOIA requests show where federal conservation dollars have been spent on projects, including cover crops.

The data, obtained through 28 FOIA requests over seven years, show that since 2005 farmers and landowners have received $29.8 billion in payments through four initiatives funded by Congress and administered by USDA.

-Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program, $318 million

-Conservation Reserve Program, $20 billion

-Environmental Quality Incentives Program, $7.4 billion

-Conservation Stewardship Program, $2.2 billion

The data confirm the growing recognition that voluntary programs alone are insufficient. Voluntary programs in the federal farm bill can play an important role, but they aren’t leading to clean water, clean air and a healthy environment.

“It’s more than fair to expect farmers and landowners to do more to protect the environment in return for the generous farm and insurance subsidies they receive,” Cox said. “Americans across the country are seeing the price of farm pollution firsthand. It’s time for Congress to deliver a return on their tax dollars by requiring farmers who take money from these programs to do more to protect the environment and public health.”

Source: EWG

This article can be found at farmfutures.com

Buffer strip proposal creates Minnesota controversy

Buffer strips

Buffer strips between farm fields and permanent waterways are designed to help improve water quality in Minnesota. (photo from www.topps-life.org)

Buffer strips are a hot topic of conversation in Minnesota agriculture. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) defines buffer strips as “small areas or strips of land in permanent vegetation, designed to intercept pollutions and manage other environmental concerns.”

A recent push by Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton and other legislators seeks to push all buffer strips along waterways in Minnesota to a uniform 50 feet in length. Farmers are fighting back against what they call a ‘one size fits all’ proposal.

A recently introduced bill before the Minnesota Legislature would require farmers to install a 50-foot buffer strip of permanent vegetation between their fields and adjacent bodies of water. The strips work to help filter phosphates, nitrates, and sediment from running off the fields and into any nearby water, thereby helping to improve water quality.

On Friday, April 3, Governor Dayton and other officials met with Austin area farmers to discuss the proposal. The Austin Daily Herald quoted Mark Novak, who farms near Wells, Minnesota, telling the Governor, “With 33 feet of buffers, very little water is going from my land into the ditch. You want me to add another 15 feet?”

Governor Mark Dayton

MN Governor Mark Dayton recently met with Worthington-area farmers to discuss his push for 50-foot buffer strips in the state. (Photo from www.wctrib.com)

“All buffers are not the same,” said Minnesota Farmers Union President Doug Peterson on a recent interview with Dustin Hoffmann of KLGR Radio in Redwood Falls. “One size does not fit all.”

Peterson said the Farmers Union clearly stated that there is a need for buffer strips during a recent board meeting. “Again, it greatly varies throughout the state, and one size does not fit all. We do want to work with state agencies to improve water quality, but we need a common sense approach.”

“It’s critical here that local officials and local control be exerted over some of the decisions that may be made in the countryside,” said Peterson. “We need to get an inventory and we need to find funding for making decisions on buffers. We need to work with local officials on that, and that’s what we’re recommending to the Legislature.”

State Representative Paul Anderson wrote a piece on the EchoPress.com website, quoting Howard Midje, a retired Minnesota state design engineer at the former State Conservation Service (what is now the National Resources Conservation Service). He quoted Midje as saying, “The Governor’s buffer strip requirement the largest land grab in state history.”

MN Republican Representative Paul Anderson of District 12B (photo from www.house.leg.state.mn.us)

MN Republican Representative Paul Anderson of District 12B (photo from www.house.leg.state.mn.us)

Midje said maintaining buffer strips and pheasant habitat, which the Governor (an avid pheasant hunter) wants to see more of, is not always workable. “Buffer strips need to be mowed and clipped several times in a season to keep the grass short and to keep trees from putting down roots. If grass is allowed to grow over two inches tall, it will simply bend over when water flows through it, and it loses its effectiveness at trapping sediment.”

Anderson said he doesn’t want what he referred to as a “Cookie cutter approach. We should be targeting high-impact areas, where buffers will do the most good. We should be doing it in a way that fairly compensates farmers for the loss of productive land.”

The KLGR radio website reported that originally, the Governor promoted this idea back in December as a way to improve pheasant habitat. The original proposal would turn over enforcement of the buffers to the DNR, and take it away from the Soil and Water Conservation Service, who have been enforcing the laws currently on the books. The idea of DNR enforcement on private lands was called “unacceptable” at a recent listening session at the Redwood Falls Community Center.

One Redwood-area farmer was quoted as saying, “This feels like nothing more than a land grab by the DNR. We already have water conservation buffer rules on the books. How about we do a better job of funding that, instead of spending money on a whole new initiative?”

Senator Gary Dahmes of Redwood Falls visited with KLGR Radio recently, and said he doesn’t support the bill for several reasons. “In 4 of the 6 counties I represent, we have 1,423 miles of dredged ditches. With a 50-foot buffer strip,that is 16,100 acres. If you take that number times the average sales price registered at the court house, that’s $114,000,000 in agricultural assets that we’re asking our farmers to set aside, without any way of making money off it.”

MN District 16 Senator Gary Dahms, a Republican from Redwood Falls.  (Photo from senate.mn)

MN District 16 Senator Gary Dahms, a Republican from Redwood Falls. (Photo from senate.mn)

Dahmes wants to know why that much land should be taken out of food production. “We have to double our food supply by 2050 (because of rising population), and this works against that.

Bruce Peterson is the President of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, and farms near Northfield. He posed a question in a guest column on southernminn.com: “How many non-farm people even know farmers already use buffer strips?”

He speaks from experience. “I already use these practices on my farm near Northfield to protect several waterways that flow near my fields. Each of these practices is sized and designed specifically for their location in a way that maximizes water quality benefits.”

Peterson wants to know who is to blame for the knowledge gap?

“In my opinion, it’s farmers,” he said. “Farmers have not done a good job of telling their conservation story, and we’re losing the public perception battle because of it.”

After the recent meeting in Redwood Falls, Minnesota Farm Bureau President Kevin Paap encouraged farmers to speak up.

“We need to be the ones to improve the image of agriculture,” he said. “Don’t approach the issue defensively. Instead, educate the public. Show them what we are doing to maintain land and water quality.”

He said farmers know the long-term importance of protecting resources.

“Many of us are descendants of the people who built the farms we live on,” said Paap. “My own son lives in the house his great-Grandfather built. He sleeps in the same room his Grandfather was born in. We need to show that we know the importance of the land we’ve been given, and the importance of maintaining it for future generations.”

 

 

MN Farm Bill Partnership Invites Landowners to a Pheasant Summit

Pheasants Forever and the Minnesota Farm Bill Partnership invite area landowners and farmers to participate in the state’s first Pheasant Summit at Southwest Minnesota State University on December 13, 2014. No cost conservation planning for area landowners will be available throughout the day at the “Landowner Habitat Help Desk” to provide consultation regarding USDA and state conservation program eligibility.The Minnesota Pheasant Summit will include hunters, farmers, policymakers, conservationists, other stakeholders, and key members of the Governor’s Cabinet. The event will focus on strategies to increase the state’s pheasant population, improve pheasant habitat, and ensure future generations of Minnesota hunters have the opportunity to enjoy one of the state’s most popular and iconic game birds. Attendees can register for the Pheasant Summit online.“Farmers and landowners play a huge role in the quantity and quality of pheasant habitat across Minnesota,” said Eran Sandquist, Pheasants Forever’s state coordinator in Minnesota. “Pheasants Forever and its partners encourage landowners to attend the summit to provide input about the future of pheasants in our state. Wildlife biologists will be on hand at the landowner help desk all day to assist landowners in developing wildlife goals that fit with their operation and build an understanding of current program options to help achieve those goals.”NRCS and Pheasants Forever have developed a wonderful partnership to help Minnesota private landowners implement conservation practices on their land. The Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Biologists have made a significant difference in how many landowners we service from our USDA Service Centers. Every day they assist us with voluntary conservation implementation and actively demonstrate that our landowners recognize we can have both economically viable farms and excellent pheasant habitat. The Minnesota Summit is another demonstration of the leadership and dedication Pheasants Forever has for working with the agencies and private landowners,” explained Don Baloun, State Conservationist, NRCS.

The Minnesota Farm Bill Partnership is a collection of state agencies and organizations dedicated to providing technical assistance and conservation planning to Minnesota landowners through USDA habitat programs. Participating partners include the Board of Water and Soil Resources, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Department of Natural Resources, Pheasants Forever, Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts and the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources.

Post-Summit Gathering

Pheasants Forever will host a post-summit gathering of the Minnesota Pheasant Summit at Brau Brothers Brewing Company in Marshall, Minn. Participants, members, pheasant hunters and landowners are encouraged to attend and discuss further ideas to support Minnesota’s pheasant population.

  • What: A no cost event to discuss outcomes of the inaugural Minnesota Pheasant Summit. A special price of $10 will include a burger and beverage.
  • When: Saturday, December 13, 2014, starting at 5 p.m.
  • Where: Brau Brothers Brewing Company Tap Room (910 East Main Street, Marshall, MN 56258)
  • Hotels: Rooms are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Please contact Darin Rahm with the Marshall Convention and Visitors Bureau at 507-537-1865.

About Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever

Pheasants Forever, including its quail conservation division, Quail Forever, is the nation’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to upland habitat conservation. Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever have more than 140,000 members and 700 local chapters across the United States and Canada. Chapters are empowered to determine how 100 percent of their locally raised conservation funds are spent; the only national conservation organization that operates through this truly grassroots structure.

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Pheasants Forever is dedicated to the conservation of pheasants, quail and other wildlife through habitat improvements, public awareness, education and land management policies and programs.

Get support for your innovative ag idea

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is accepting applications for the Sustainable mdalogosmAgriculture Demonstration Grant program. These funds promote conservation of environmental resources and strive to improve on-farm profitability and quality of life. The MDA awards up to $250,000 for on-farm sustainable agriculture research or demonstration projects. Eligible recipients include; Minnesota farmers, educational institutions and individual staff, and non-profit organizations. Farmer’s projects receive priority. All non-farmer initiated projects must show significant collaboration with farmers.

“Farming in Minnesota has a rich past of progress and success,” said Commissioner Dave Frederickson. “It’s our responsibility to keep those advancements in agriculture moving along for future farmers. These grant funds support innovative ideas to sustain our agricultural economy and environment for upcoming generations.”

Dave Frederickson

Minnesota Department of Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson (Photo from MDA website)

Since 1989, the MDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Demonstration Grant Program has awarded more than $3 million to 300 statewide projects. Grants are available to fund:

·         Project diversification and organic production using traditional and non-traditional crops and livestock

·         Cover crops and crop rotations to increase nitrogen uptake, reduce erosion, or control pests

·         Conservation tillage and weed management

·         Cropping systems to start integrated pest management systems for insects, weeds and diseases

·         Nutrient and pesticide management, with an effort to keep them out of water bodies

·         Energy production, such as wind, methane, or biomass

·         Developing/refining marketing opportunities, season extension, and post-harvest storage and handling

·         Other creative ideas addressing farm conservation, energy, and/or profitability

The grant application is available on the MDA website at: www.mda.state.mn.us/grants/grants/demogrant.aspx or by contacting the Agricultural Marketing and Development Division at 651-201-6012. Completed applications must be received no later than January 23, 2015.

 

Current and past grant projects are highlighted in the Greenbookwww.mda.state.mn.us/greenbook.

Federal Premium and Pheasants Forever Celebrate 40 Million Rounds

Federal Premium® Ammunition, Pheasants Forever’sOfficial Ammunition Sponsor, has produced more than 40 million shotgun shells in support of the nation’s leading upland habitat conservation organization. These special shells are all sold in boxes marked with the Pheasants Forever logo, as part of an on-box royalty program.

Federal Premium and Pheasants Forever’s on-box royalty program began in 1998 with Federal Premium’s Pheasants Forever-labeled Wing-Shok® shotgun shell boxes. The program evolved in 2010 with the revolutionary Prairie Storm™ specialty pheasant load, and it continued to grow in 2011 with the introduction of Prairie Storm™ FS Steel®. A portion of the proceeds from each Pheasants Forever logoed box sold goes directly to the conservation group’s wildlife habitat efforts, which help pheasant populations and pheasant hunters alike.“Pheasants Forever was the first organization we did logoed ammunition with,” stated Ryan Bronson, Federal Premium’s public policy and conservation manager, “Today we are proud to sell 30 distinct products in Pheasant Forever logoed boxes—17 configurations of Prairie Storm™ and 13 configurations of Wing-Shok® upland loads. Choosing to purchase a box of Federal Premium’s shotgun shells labeled with the Pheasants Forever logo is one more way that hunters can contribute to upland conservation efforts and ensure future generations can enjoy our hunting heritage.”

“Thanks to the Pittman-Robertson tax—an 11 percent excise tax on ammunition and firearms that helps fund wildlife conservation in the United States—it’s safe to say that all ammunition companies understand the link between hunting and conservation. In fact, last year alone the Pittman-Robertson tax produced over $500 million for wildlife conservation,” stated Brad Heidel, director of corporate sales for Pheasants Forever. “What makes Federal Premium® Ammunition stand out is it gives back even more to wildlife conservation through its on-box royalty program with Pheasants Forever.”

About Pheasants Forever

Pheasants Forever, including its quail conservation division, Quail Forever, is the nation’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to upland habitat conservation. Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever have more than 140,000 members and 700 local chapters across the United States and Canada. Chapters are empowered to determine how 100 percent of their locally raised conservation funds are spent; the only national conservation organization that operates through this truly grassroots structure.

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Pheasants Forever is dedicated to the conservation of pheasants, quail and other wildlife through habitat improvements, public awareness, education and land management policies and programs.

Stearns County outdoorsman honored for 30 years of conservation efforts

Mel Roehrl and his family (Photo from Mn Pheasants Forever)

Mel Roehrl and his family (Photo from Mn Pheasants Forever)

87-year-old Mel Roehrl’s voice dripped with emotion as he recalled one of the biggest moments of his life. “Honored, humbled, and tearful,” he said. Mel had no idea that work he began almost 30 years ago would result in something that would outlast him, and be here for future generations long after he said goodbye to this life and moved on to the next.

Mel is an outdoorsman, and has a love affair with the outdoors that began at an early age:

 

His love of hunting led to a greater enjoyment of being outdoors, and that passion for the outdoors has grown and changed over the years too:

 

Roehrl was a 22-year veteran of the Stearns County Volunteer Fire Department, but had to step away as it began to interfere with his full-time job. However, after some much-needed time at home, Mel began to get restless. An avid hunter since childhood, Roehrl’s ears perked up when he heard about a local meeting involving hunting, and the ringneck pheasant. That combination was all it took to give him some post-volunteer fire department direction. Mel Roehrl met Pheasants Forever for the first time, and the rest was history:

 

After keeping a promise to his family, Mel needed an outlet for some restless energy, and his love of the outdoors was the perfect catalyst to get him back out into the wilds again:

 

The Stearns County Pheasants Forever chapter was born, and took off shortly thereafter. Only the ninth chapter in the nation when it was born, the Stearns County Pheasants Forever organization has purchased 34 plots of land with the money it raised, and added more than 4,700 acres to Minnesota’s Wildlife Management Areas and the Waterfowl Production Areas.

For 30 years, Mel worked hard to conserve our natural resources and the outdoors, and did so at an age when most would be content to sit on the sidelines. Pheasants Forever and the Minnesota DNR honored Mel by naming a 300-plus acre Wildlife Management Area after him. Eran Sandquist is the northern Regional Representative for Pheasants Forever, and said Mel is truly deserving of the honor:

Joe Duggan, Pheasants Forever Vice President of Corporate Relations, speaks at the Mel Roehrl WMA dedication (Photo from Mn Pheasants Forever)

Joe Duggan, Pheasants Forever Vice President of Corporate Relations, speaks at the Mel Roehrl WMA dedication (Photo from Mn Pheasants Forever)

 

Mel was a giant in outdoor conservation for three decades, and Sandquist said the Wildlife Management Area would continue that work for generations to come:

 

Mel Roehrl and the sign that will bear his name on the Wildlife Management Area, dedicated in his honor on May 8, 2014 (Photo from Mn Pheasants Forever)

Mel Roehrl and the sign that will bear his name on the Wildlife Management Area, dedicated in his honor on May 8, 2014 (Photo from Mn Pheasants Forever)

 

After a lifetime of working and playing in the outdoors, Mel came up with his favorite saying, “If you go hunting with your boys, you won’t have to go hunting for your boys.” Mel looked back on a lifetime of being in the outdoors with friends and his family:

 

The Mel Roehrl Wildlife Management Area will benefit the environment for generations to come (Photo from Mn Pheasants Forever)

The Mel Roehrl Wildlife Management Area will benefit the environment for generations to come (Photo from Mn Pheasants Forever)

Mel’s love of the outdoors, perfectly captured on the back of the Wildlife Management Area sign (photo from Mn Pheasants Forever)

Mel’s love of the outdoors, perfectly captured on the back of the Wildlife Management Area sign (photo from Mn Pheasants Forever)