Jane Hardisty, State Conservationist of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service announced Thursday that field offices around the state are gearing up to provide information and assistance to farmers hit hard by the drought. NRCS administers a number of Farm Bill programs that provide financial incentives to farmers to install conservation practices.
Hardisty said, “We know farmers around the state have been hard hit by the drought. We have not seen conditions like this since 1988 and according to some the prolonged and extreme heat temperatures coupled with lack of rain is creating situations in some areas comparable to the dust bowl.”
The drought may force some farmers to make critical changes to their operation. NRCS is encouraging farmers under contract with the agency or who need advice to contact their district conservationist at the county field office. “Farmers under contract with the agency who cannot meet established deadlines will have some flexibility in meeting their obligations,” said Hardisty. According to Hardisty, contracts will be reviewed by the District Conservationist and modified as needed. Some programs allow for practice substitution or rescheduling of installation dates.” Hardisty adds, “Assistance is also available for those farmers that have established practices which have failed because of drought.”
According to NRCS guidelines, a drought falls under the category of natural disaster so this gives the agency some options to work with producers. Hardisty says, “We want to talk with producers and encourage them to use program flexibilities and proper procedure to avoid the need for contract cancellation.”
Livestock producers have been especially hard hit and NRCS has regional grazing specialists that can provide suggestions about pasture management, options and consideration for feed sources, and water management. Hardisty says, “It’s important for farmers to have a backup plan such as deferred or rotational grazing, alternative water sources, combining herds, etc.”
NRCS encourages farmers that are considering installing any engineered practice (such as wetland levees, pond dams, grassed waterways, water and sediment control basins) to delay construction in drought conditions. All Farm Bill programs allow for alternatives during times of natural crisis. Hardisty said, “These practices cost a lot of money and we don’t want to see them fail. One of the biggest concerns is a lack of soil moisture that would prohibit proper compaction.” NRCS can advise landowners and contractors on best moisture levels to achieve the best outcome.
NRCS can help farmers with water, land or crop management concerns through the development of a conservation plan. Conservation plans can include drought planning and are free. Being prepared for a drought and creating a plan will allow farmers to continue operations even in the most severe conditions.
To learn the types of assistance that area available or to review contract guidelines, Hardisty urges farmers to contact their district conservationist as soon as possible. More information about the drought and specific Farm Bill programs can be found at www.in.nrcs.usda.gov. Locate your nearest NRCS field office at www.in.nrcs.usda.gov/contact/directory/field_offices.html.
Source: Indiana NRCS