The Johnson County Soil and Water District will hold their next regular board meeting on Monday, February 14th, 2022 at 12:30 PM. The meeting will be virtual. To participate, email the District, or call (319) 337-2322 ext. 3 for meeting details.
Johnson County Farmers Selected for USDA Cover Crop Initiative
IOWA CITY, IA, Jan. 11, 2022 — Farmers in Johnson County have until Feb. 4 to apply for the new USDA Cover Crop Initiative in fiscal year 2022. Johnson County is one of only four Iowa counties selected for the pilot initiative.
Administered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Cover Crop Initiative will offer contract terms and payment rates through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Iowa NRCS has $3.2 million allocated for Iowa farmers through the initiative this year.
The EQIP Cover Crop Initiative is aimed at improving soil health with conservation practice standard (CPS) 340 (Cover Crop) in 11 States through a targeted, rapid, and streamlined application and contract approval process.
Cover crops are plants and grasses such cereal rye, oats and winter wheat planted in the summer or fall around harvest to temporarily protect the ground from wind and water erosion and supply living roots to the soil during times when cropland is often not adequately protected. Cover crops also:
- Enhance soil health by adding organic matter and biological activity
- Improve water infiltration
- Trap nutrients
- Reduce weed competition
- Provides livestock grazing
To apply in Johnson County, call (319) 337-2322, extension 3. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some NRCS offices are taking in-person visitors by appointment only, so please call ahead. For more information about conservation planning and programs to help treat natural resource issues on your land, visit www.ia.nrcs.usda.gov.
Johnson County 5-year Plan
The Johnson County Soil and Water District is pleased to share our first ever 5-year plan. The plan can be viewed or downloaded here.
Learn More About Iowa S.T.A.R
- Promote a positive image of agriculture in the local community
- Inspire others to take action in helping to meet nutrient loss reduction goals for Iowa
- Increase farm income
- Reduce crop insurance premiums
- Decrease nutrient loss
- Promote producers for new farmland leases
- Secure local conservation cost-share
- Secure market incentives for growing crops using conservation cropping practices
- Obtain documentation in support of water quality issues
Learn More from the Conservation Districts of Iowa
Local producers in Johnson County encouraged to sign up for new S.T.A.R. program
Two critical conservation concepts – managing nutrient loss and protecting soil from erosion –greatly enhance the future of Johnson County agricultural production and help better position farmers for changing weather patterns and to expand into the emerging sustainability marketplace. Today, the Johnson Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) introduces a new program that assists local ag producers who want to target conservation best management practices for their operation with a new program being piloted across the Midwest.
The new program “Saving Tomorrow’s Agriculture Resources” or S.T.A.R.– gives ag producers a free tool that assigns points for each practice producers are using and can use on an individual field level to prove a level of conservation. Crop rotation, no-till, nutrient application, cover crops and other soil conservation activities are graded and points assigned and converted to a rating of 1-to-5 “Stars” for each individual field.
S.T.A.R. makes its debut in Iowa this fall, sponsored by the Conservation Districts of Iowa (CDI) which selected the Johnson SWCD to help inaugurate this significant push to promote soil health and water quality in Iowa.
Johnson SWCD Board Chairman Alex Schmidt encourages local ag producers to sign up now for the free tool and take advantage of the short- and long-term benefits participation reaps. “We’re excited to be one of the first 25 counties in Iowa CDI selected to be part of this pilot program, and I believe local farmers will find value in quantifying the good work they are already doing and seeing how additional practices can improve their score” Schmidt says.
“We have a culture of respect for the land here, with an understanding that farming is a business,” says Schmidt. “The S.T.A.R program works to improve the land through workable conservation practices, while increasing productivity and net profitability. It takes a commitment to accomplish those goals. With uncertain markets, weather and a water quality crisis S.T.A.R. may be the path forward and open newmarketing opportunities for our crops.”
According to CDI President Dennis Carney, landowners and ag producers who sign up for the free S.T.A.R. program can expect “unexpected” benefits. “When a landowner commits to applying sound soil health and water quality practices to their fields in a program that evaluates and documents their success – which S.T.A.R. does – they may see both conservation and economic benefits,” says Carney. “Certainly, we can establish decreased nutrient loss, keep more phosphorus in the field, and prevent water runoff. But also consider the potential for increased net farm income, and a chance to leverage market premiums from buyers who more and more demand proof that farm products be grown in sustainable environments.”
S.T.A.R Program Director Carlee Sabus adds that participation in S.T.A.R. may assist operators in securing local conservation cost share (when available), generate documentation to support potential water quality improvements, and help landowners evaluate a tenants’ level of commitment to conservation when renting their land.
To sign up, Producers fill out a simple field form that Sabus says takes about three minutes to answer questions for one field. Each field is assigned a “S.T.A.R.” rating from one-to-five stars and participants earn certificates to recognize their cooperation and level in the program from Johnson County SWCD and CDI. As the carbon and sustainability markets begin to grow, these certificates provide verified documentation that the commodity from this field was produced sustainably.
“We believe operators who sign up for S.T.A.R. will discover how easy it can be to prevent runoff and protect our water supplies,” says Sabus. “They’ll see the importance of taking the time to plan and execute a sustainable farming strategy that yeilds tremendous rewards.”
For learn more or sign up, please contact S.T.A.R. Program Manager Carlee Sabus at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Johnson County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Natural Resources Conservation Service can assist you with projects related to soil, water, air, plants, or animals in Johnson County, Iowa.
We provide free technical assistance in protecting these resources and can also assist with applications for funding.
We can help farmers and urban homeowners conserve soil and improve water quality through state and federal cost-share and incentive programs.