Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Conservation Dollars Available for Florida Farmers

Escambia County farm.

TALLAHASSEE, FL - Time is quickly running out for Florida farmers who want to continue receiving federal assistance to improve soil, water, air and habitat on their land. Since the Conservation Stewardship Program was launched five years ago, more than 60-million farm acres nationwide have been enrolled. Sophia Kruszewski, policy specialist with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, says the program isn't about helping farmers avoid environmental harm; it's about enhancing and improving what conservation-minded farmers already do.

"Maybe they started doing a little cover-cropping, but they really want to get more into a full suite of resource-conserving crop rotations," Kruszewski says. "Maybe they've done some improvements in the way they're managing their livestock, but they want to start looking at rotational grazing."

The Conservation Stewardship Program, created in the 2008 Farm Bill, has been reauthorized and strengthened. The roughly 20,000 farmers with five-year contracts up for renewal must do so by Sept. 12 at the nearest office of the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Kruszewski calls the program a win-win for the environment and for farmers, and says the program represents a new, forward-thinking vision of American agriculture.

"We're really seeing a strong focus on the need to support farmers," Kruszewski says. "Not only to have productive, viable farms and ranches, but also be able to work those farms with an eye toward natural-resource conservation. "

Kruszewski says new farmers interested in the program can submit an application at any time, with NRCS collecting and ranking the applications once per year, typically in February.

Photos/graphics and links added by the Observer | photo: filmnorthflorida

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