State Conservationist Quarterbacks Cover Crop Pilot to Keep Farmers Compliant with NRCS ProgramsMon, 19 Jun 2017 12:06:10 CDT
The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Conservation Partners announced last week a new collaboration these groups will be undertaking to feed hungry people in the state while advancing the soil health movement. This pilot project will help us understand the viability of planting fruiting cover crops that can be gleaned to help feed the needy.
Four Oklahoma farmers have signed on to pilot this program, and will plant up to 10 acres or so in a variety of squashes, melons, greens and other plants as cover crops, that will eventually be gleaned and donated to the Regional Food Bank. Oklahoma State Conservationist Gary O’Neil is assisting with this project. Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays spoke to him during the announcement of this partnership last week, about his role and involvement in this experiment. You can listen to their full conversation by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below at the bottom of this story.
“For a pilot, we want to make sure we’re not having any negative impact on these farmers to participate in programs - and that includes (NRCS) programs and also FSA,” O’Neil said. “We’re also providing technical assistance, helping to come up with the mixtures and the plans on how we’re going to do this.”
O’Neil says it is the collective hope of the group to come out of this project with ideas on how such a program could be improved, better managed and expanded. His main task at hand though, will be to help farmers find ways to participate, without violating any conservation agreements they have made through the Natural Resources Conservation Service or the Farm Service Agency.
“To my knowledge, I don’t know that a lot of states are doing this, but a lot of people are planting covers and if it works in Oklahoma it ought to be able to work anywhere,” he contended. “The other really neat thing is, the food stays local.”
The conservation community has begun to strongly advocate for farmers to plant more covers on their land to help improve soil quality and health. O’Neil says he plans to spread the message about what they are doing here in the state and hopefully get this type of program implemented across the nation.
“There’s a lot of push for covers,” O’Neil pointed out, “and there’s no reason why this can’t be part of the equation.”
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