State Conservationist Jeff Zimprich, Huron, has announced that the agency he oversees in South Dakota, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), is renewing its focus on soil health and quality for 2013. “A healthy soil can overcome many serious challenges to our resources such as drought. And, being healthy can help soil to maintain productivity. There is a lot happening with resources right now, but we believe that there’s potential to make our South Dakota soils more productive,” says Zimprich.
“A healthier soil can help people to better manage rainfall—from too much rain to very little rain, like last year,” he says. The NRCS has been partnering with farmers and ranchers for more than 75 years. Through educational and technical assistance, agricultural producers have learned the importance of natural resource conservation and their link with agriculture’s productivity. “A soil in better shape—better health— helps it to be more resilient, to bounce back, in times of stress,” explains Zimprich. “That’s why we’re looking at Soil Health so strongly this year.”
While USDA conservation funding assistance programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) or the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) seem to get the publicity, the technical assistance provided all year long and free from the NRCS is just as important. “Conservation partnerships can help producers develop and implement plans that better protect natural resources while maintaining economics for future production. Ag producers steer each plan’s creation and the farmer or rancher makes the final decision on moving ahead with conservation suggestions,” says Zimprich. Last fiscal year in South Dakota, NRCS worked with people on more than 4,700 conservation plans. The resulting conservation improved the health or enhanced the quality of more than 1.76 million acres of working agricultural land across the state.
Crop and livestock producers are encouraged to contact their local conservation district and NRCS office to discover ways of improving soil health and their bottom line. “I’m focusing on our NRCS employee’s ability to help people look at their land in new ways and maybe see additional potential that is there in the soil itself.” Learn more about conservation partnerships at any USDA Service Center or visit www.sd.nrcs.usda.gov.