State Conservationist Gary O'Neil Says Farmers Really "Dig" Soil Health and Conservation ProgramsThu, 07 Dec 2017 11:19:32 CST
It has been an interesting year for those that focus on conservation. Oklahoma’s State Conservationist Gary O’Neil has worked extensively with farmers, consulting them on different financial assistance programs available through the Natural Resources Conservation Service and other new, innovative ideas and practices like soil health systems. He told Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays in a recent interview that conservation has captured the imagination of farmers and has sparked widespread interest in the benefits that a systems approach to production agriculture can yield. You can listen to their complete conversation by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below at the bottom of the page.
“It just continues to pick up steam and more people are getting involved in the systems and the practices within those systems,” O’Neil said. “We have farmers who are kind of setting the stage for this part of the country on what can happen. We’re excited about it and we’re seeing a lot of interest.”
As interest and participation grows across the state by farmers implementing programs such as cover crops and crop rotations on their properties, new evidence is coming to light that rebuilding healthy soil can actually be done even quicker than experts first thought. O’Neil says his office is working hard to make sure there are options available to farmers who wish to get involved and take advantage of the benefits offered under the practice of conservation. One of the most popular programs available, is of course the Environmental Quality Incentive Program, or EQIP.
“It’s a financial incentive that will help offset some of that risk they take on and also some the additional cost,” he said. “It’s there as an option and we’re seeing a lot of farmers that want to look at that. We’re thinking this is really going to be a huge thing and how it’s moved in five years - we’re hoping that the next few years we’ll see exponential gains for these practices.”
While demand and interest remains high for EQIP by farmers, O’Neil says there is still a lot of unfunded applications. However, $22 million have been invested into high priority applications. Meanwhile, the Stewardship Program is also very popular, but again is in the same situation as EQIP, struggling to match funding with the level of interest.
You can hear O’Neil speak with Hays on these programs and others, including a new project piloted this year here in Oklahoma involving the gleaning of cover crops for local food banks, by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below.
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