Another soil conservation meeting in the books

Matt Meyerhoff, NRCS supervisory district conservationist in Marion, Rice and McPherson counties, provided updates on what’s been happening with conservation practices. Meyerhoff said he was also impressed with the turnout at the 73rd annual meeting of the Marion County Conservation District. Patty Decker/Free Press
Matt Meyerhoff, NRCS supervisory district conservationist in Marion, Rice and McPherson counties, provided updates on what’s been happening with conservation practices. Meyerhoff said he was also impressed with the turnout at the 73rd annual meeting of the Marion County Conservation District. Patty Decker/Free Press
“The year 2018 was successful as far as practices actually applied to the land,” said Matt Meyerhoff, supervisory district conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. “We had 18,000 acres or 28 sections of conservation applied, and we have 134 new contracts signed.” 

Meyerhoff said these federal contracts provide producers with financial assistance for the conservation practices they are doing to their land.

In addition to Marion County, Meyerhoff is also the conservationist in Rice and McPherson counties. 

What the 134 new contracts represent, he said, is the high workload that’s done in Marion County.

“It pays tribute to the conservation passion that producers here have,” Meyerhoff said. “I am told this is the highest number in the state.”

Currently, he explained that Marion County is managing 230 contracts, which represent multiple years in conservation.

“A couple of new things I would like to mention include our new NRCS state conservationist, Karen Woodrich, who lives in Salina, and is running the conservation service for Kansas,” he said. “Prior to coming to Kansas, she was the state conservationist in Kentucky from 2011-18.”

Woodrich, he said, is a great asset and interested in partnerships and making sure we are providing service at the field-level to the producer, which will be good for those owning the ground and going forward.

“Additionally, I have a new supervisor, Kris Etheridge, replacing Shelton Hightower, who moved on to Tennessee becoming a state conservationist,” Meyerhoff said. “Kris is from the Manhattan area office and is now based in Hutchinson. He has multi-state experience and has a lot of great ideas he plans to put in use.”

Meyerhoff said: “We all remember the drought, but as we look outside, it’s back to average. Welcome to Kansas weather.”

The extreme drought, he said, saw ponds drying up last winter already, and by the end of summer 2018, ponds were going dry.

“We had 74 separate applications to touch over 100 different pastures here in Marion County providing livestock water,” Meyerhoff added. “We were able to work with partners and through the conservation district, Betty Richmond, district manager, was able to help people needing to act sooner than the federal government could get to them.

“We all know the federal government is a lumbering beast and moves slowly.”

Through the state of Kansas, he said, the district office was able to work retroactively and help some people who had put in wells as early as June—providing them with assistance.

“Here in Marion County, we work with a number of entities to include the Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategies, also known as WRAPS, which is run by Lisa Suderman, who manages Marion Reservoir WRAPS and Cottonwood WRAPS.”

Both of these programs are funded by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment for another three years, Meyerhoff said.

“If you live in either of those watersheds,” he said, “and you aren’t getting emails from Lisa, make sure to contact her.”

Meyerhoff said WRAPS is a wonderful program because it’s led by you, the producers, and the federal government rules do not apply.

“I am here as an advisor only, but you run the program,” he said. “We work with Kansas Wildlife and Parks, and WRAPS works closely with the state wildlife and parks (division).”

Another program, Meyerhoff said, that many people probably know about is the natural resources and environmental sciences secondary major at Kansas State University.

“We have been sending students down to do studies at the Marion County Park and Lake,” he said. “This program is now in its third semester, and those interested in finding out what the students have discovered so far is available on the NRCS website.

For those who want to be included in the survey, please let us know,” he said. “There’s been a real resurgence of interest in soil health and nutrient management that is a testament even in these downturns that people are seeing that benefit to those things.

“We have 92 applications for programs this year, and what that shows is that even in a downturn, producers see conservation as being a solid economic investment.”