Summer spurs terrace work
Construction for practices like terraces and grassed waterways has typically been limited to early spring and late fall, but thanks to the Summer Constructive Incentives program through USDA, Iowa farmers can hire contractors to build soil conservation structures in the summer and early fall.
Farmers who choose this option can’t plant their typical cash crop in areas needed to facilitate construction. They are required to plant a temporary cover crop, such as rye or winter-killed oats, in that area to control soil erosion and help suppress weeds.
To offset lost income, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service will make a one-time payment of $200 per acre to farmers through the Summer Construction Incentives, which is funded by the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, or EQIP. Construction must occur between June 15 and Oct. 15.
Rick McBroom, a farmer and construction contractor in Lucas County in southern Iowa, completed three sets of terraces on his own farmland last summer through the program. “So often our springs are too wet and our falls have too short of a window to get terraces constructed,” he says. “Without this incentive I don’t think we would ever get all of the work done that needs to get done to protect our soils from erosion.”
Longer window for work
Kristy York, area program specialist for NRCS at Atlantic in western Iowa, says this four-month window provides better construction weather and contractor availability. It also allows larger projects to get accomplished in a single year.
“This is a very efficient way to get conservation on the ground,” she adds. “We often use the incentive to construct multiple terraces on a hillside. Instead of going back and building additional terraces several years in a row, the producer can more quickly enjoy the benefits of the constructed system and not have to worry about getting the contractor back several years in a row.”
The Summer Construction Incentives helps in years of untimely bad weather, too, says Jeff Matthias, a district conservationist with NRCS in southern Iowa.
Helps in rainy years, too
“Summer construction has allowed us to complete many terrace projects over the past three years that probably would not have been completed due to adverse weather conditions,” he says. “Contractors like the program because they are not in as big of a time crunch as during fall construction, and landowners often favor it because it does not reduce yields as with spring construction.”
McBroom says even though the incentive often leaves 50 to 60 acres out of production for a year, he doesn’t feel it’s a big sacrifice. He’s convinced it’s a good long-term decision. “To me, it’s a no-brainer,” he says. “Terraces help keep soil on the field, preventing it from running off your farm.”
The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, through its Division of Soil Conservation, offers a similar summer construction incentive program. According to Tony Toigo, a conservation program specialist with IDALS-DSC, more than 1,300 acres have been set aside and planted to cover crops since March 2009 to allow for summer construction on conservation practices.
To learn more about Summer Con-struction Incentives for conservation practices, visit the NRCS office located at your local USDA Service Center.
Johnson writes for NRCS in Iowa.
This article published in the April, 2011 edition of WALLACES FARMER.