Opinion by Brenda LIng, Mary Schrader and Cheryl GrapesWritten by Brenda Ling, Mary Schrader and Cheryl Grapes
By Brenda Ling, Mary Schrader and Cheryl Grapes, based on a report by Shelly Anderson, Natural Resources Conservation Service
Wyoming has seen an increase in the numbers of landowners, while the average size of an operation has decreased. Every county in Wyoming has seen some of this change, according to the 2007 National Agricultural Statistics Service census. Within these small acreage areas, natural resource concerns and needs may become more intensive and complex. New small landowners have concerns about soil erosion, irrigation, tree planting, land management uses and decisions, or their own natural resource expertise.
Small acreage landowners who are new to Wyoming and who are also new to farming or ranching are most in need of information and education. Like larger landowners, most small acreage landowners love the land and the open space of Wyoming.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) mission is “Helping People Help the Land,” and NRCS receives many requests from people who are interested in what they can do to care for and improve the landscape. How does NRCS assist small acreage landowners in making sound land use and management decisions to reduce the potential for erosion, lessen the impact on water quality and address their other resource concerns?
NRCS has field offices in every county in Wyoming that serve agricultural producers and others with natural resource needs. Meeting the demand for NRCS technical and financial assistance is very often challenging for field office staff. In addition to one-on-one technical assistance from field office staff, small acreage landowners are encouraged to attend local natural resource workshops, often sponsored by local conservation districts. They can also learn about the soils on nearly any parcel of land on the Web Soil Survey at soils.usda.gov/survey.
Recognizing that information and technical assistance are often the greatest need of small acreage landowners, financial assistance may also be available. NRCS offers several conservation programs under the 2008 Farm Bill. Assistance may be available for treating soil erosion, improving irrigation or grazing systems, restoring streambanks and wetlands and other resource problems. Financial assistance is available to agricultural producers, regardless of size, who meet the following criteria:
• Be an agricultural producer (generally, must produce at least $1,000 worth of agricultural products).
• Be in compliance with the Highly Erodible Land and Wetland Compliance provisions of the 1985 Farm Bill.
• Meet Adjusted Gross Income limits.
• Have farm records established with the local USDA Farm Services Agency.
Landowners may find information on a variety of practices on the NRCS website. A link to the electronic Field Office Technical Guide (eFOTG) can be found there. Practice standards and specifications for all technical and management practices NRCS provides assistance for are located in the eFOTG. This is a valuable resource for landowners who are interested in learning about new practices and where specific practices will be most beneficial in treating resource concerns. Information about conservation programs is also available there. For more information, or to contact the local USDA NRCS office, visit wy.nrcs.usda.gov.