CSP rewards farmers’ good stewardship
When Brent and Teresa Voss moved to rural Dexter in 1994, they viewed it as more of a place to settle their concrete and foundation business than to develop a large farming operation. But that soon changed. Just a week after buying their home property, they bought a nearby 80 acres of farmland.
Nearly two decades later the couple still has their booming concrete business — Voss Concrete Inc. — and a farming operation with 2,000 acres of crop, hay and pastureland, as well as 300 cows and between 500 to 1,000 feeder cattle.
Brent grew up on a family farm in Oskaloosa, but it wasn’t until he began raising livestock in Dallas County when he gained a better understanding of land stewardship and well-managed livestock.
After years of working with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to implement a complete conservation plan on his farm, Brent was awarded a Conservation Stewardship Program contract in 2010 on nearly 1,500 cropland and 262 pasture acres. Under CSP, NRCS pays participants for conservation performance — the higher the operational performance, the higher the payment.
• Central Iowa farm follows comprehensive plan to protect soil and water.
• Part of the farm is on historic land next to a river that’s prone to flooding.
• This often-flooded land is being put into a permanent conservation easement.
CSP is voluntary and encourages producers to address resource concerns in a comprehensive manner. Landowners agree to undertake additional conservation activities and improve, maintain and manage existing conservation practices. Brent is implementing a suite of practices to address wildlife habitat, soil erosion, water quality and pasture management.
Cover crops save soil
Through CSP, Brent planted cover crops on 75 acres of cropland and is making changes to how he harvests hay to allow wildlife to flush and escape. “NRCS district conservationist Brad Harrison has been really good at providing advice on how to better the land,” says Brent.
A few years earlier, the Voss family used financial and technical assistance through NRCS and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program to install three new hoop buildings to house livestock. “We’ve learned a lot from NRCS about how to properly manage and take care of livestock in an environmentally friendly way,” he says.
Hoop buildings also provide a healthier environment for growth, and aid in animal handling, manure management, feeding and ventilation. They eliminate the need for sediment basins, or holding ponds, reducing odor and potential groundwater contamination. In addition, hoop buildings provide more comfortable conditions than an open feedlot, which often leads to healthier and more productive cattle.
Voss is also storing and applying manure in a more environmentally friendly way, thanks to a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan, which is required of all new livestock facilities installed with EQIP financial assistance. His CNMP includes his entire farm.
“Implementing all of these new conservation practices and strategies has been an education for me,” says Brent. “It has helped our farming operation. It has been exciting and fun learning, and at the same time I feel good about being a better steward of the land.” For more about NRCS conservation programs in Iowa, see www.ia.nrcs.usda.gov or visit your local NRCS.
Johnson writes for NRCS in Iowa.
This article published in the March, 2012 edition of WALLACES FARMER.