Henry County Farmers are glad the drought of 2012 is over, but now they are dealing with the effects of this spring's heavy rains. Once it dries, farming operations will proceed at a rapid pace. However, farmers must do so in a careful manner and be mindful of their conservation credo.
The heavy rains experienced by much of the area in mid-April took a toll on area fields. Areas that needed conservation practices such as grassed waterways, filter strips, basins and grass seeding were affected the most. Areas that normally do not experience erosion problems were also affected. Because NRCS understands that farmers must follow their USDA compliance plan AND get into their fields, NRCS would like to offer a few suggestions on how to successfully approach the sticky situation.
Although tilling the soil may not be allowed in your conservation compliance plan, it may in fact be the only way to re-establish a drive-able landscape that you can plant. Here are some steps to take to keep you in compliance for your Highly Erodible Land.
• Grab your camera. Take a few photographs to document field conditions you face. If gullies exist or residue has drifted into piles, pictures will confirm that situation. Keep the pictures for later use and evidence just in case your tract comes up for a random spot review or a whistleblower reports it.
• Don't till up the entire field for just a few bad spots. Use tillage only in truly troubled/problem spots; only perform the amount needed to till in ruts. Only till damaged areas that need it—leave other areas alone.
• If you have other critical areas or problems or special circumstances that call for unique or extreme measures, photograph them and be sure to let your NRCS staff know what the situation is. They can advise you on what action will work best and will be familiar with it if your land shows up on a spot review sometime next year. They can make a note of it for later reference, if needed.
Keeping these guidelines in mind should give producers peace of mind as they deal with current conditions and worry what it may mean for the year. If you run soil tests or have other records that document conditions, keep them; have them available if documentation is needed.
Remember, when conducting compliance reviews, NRCS always looks at recent AND long-term conservation history. If you must perform management techniques that fall outside of your usual and ordinary activities, NRCS must ensure the tillage or operations performed were indeed necessary and were the best management decision or option available.
If you approach the problem sensibly, document actual conditions and the decisions you've made and you've communicated with NRCS, you can remain in conservation compliance. For more information about these special compliance issues, visit with your NRCS staff located at your county USDA Service Center today.