Programs offer farmers help in environmental conservation

Published 7:50 pm Friday, August 5, 2016

Two state programs offered annually to bridge the gap between agriculture and its effect on the environment are now open for application.

The Beaufort County Soil and Water Conservation District has received stated funding available for two programs: the N.C. Ag Cost Share Program (NCCSP), which assists landowners and operators establish methods to decrease runoff entering local waterways; and the Agricultural Water Resources Assistance Program (AgWRAP) helps farmers and landowners increase water use efficiency, availability and storage, as well as conserving and protecting water resources, according to Anthony Hester, Natural Resources Conservation Service soil conservation technician.

Hester said both are voluntary programs and are not required, but the programs do help farmers do their jobs more effectively and in an environmentally friendly way.

Hester said landowners and farmers may apply for assistance with conservation tillage, precision nutrient management, cover crops, water control structures, lagoon closures, agricultural pond restoration/repair/sediment removal, precision agrichemical application, land smoothing, conservation irrigation conversion and irrigation wells.

“(NCACSP) helps improve water quality, and provides financial and technical assistance to help farmers install these practices on their farms. The practices help save money and help improve water quality,” Hester said.

For example, a farmer may want assistance through the NCACSP in blocking field ditches from running off, which allows sediments to settle, rather than flowing into a major body of water, according to Hester. Another commonly used technique is a no-till practice, which means the farmer would not disc his fields, reducing the amount of sediment that runs off into field ditches.

The AgWRAP could assist farmers with building an irrigation pond to water crops, rather than doing so through another water supply, helping the farmer conserve the use of water, according to Hester.

Hester said anyone interested can reach out to the organization for help in navigating some of the practices and how to address concerns on their farms. The organization also helps farmers with surveying and giving input on ways to improve farming operations, even if it doesn’t pertain to the two programs.

Hester said any practices put in place, however, have to improve water quality or conserve water to be eligible to receive money through each program.

“A lot of our farmers are more environmentally friendly than people think,” Hester said. “If farmers ask us to do a field visit on their farm, we determine what type of resource concerns they have on their farm and help them choose which practices would work better if they have a resources concern on their farm.”

For more information or to apply for funds, call the District’s office at 252-946-4989 or visit the office at 155 Airport Road in Washington. A conservation specialist is available to assist with questions, site visits and solutions for conserving and protecting creeks and streams that flow into the Tar-Pamlico and Neuse river basins.