OSKALOOSA — In an effort to promote land conservation and be of assistance to farmers, Highly Erodible Land Initiative (HELI) acres are available for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) has a limited number of acres available for the program.
The FSA deals with a wide variety of programs to assist farmers and landowners. HELI is one of those programs. HELI deals with “ground that has an erodibility index of above 20, either wind or water erodibility. And as long as it has cropping history of four out of six years from 2008 to 2013, then it qualifies,” said Program Technician Deanna Rood. “It is just ground that is too erodible that they don’t want to farm.”
A general sign-up for CRP was held from December 2015 through February 2016. That particular sign-up marked the 30th anniversary of the federally-funded program; the continuous CRP program may be applied for at any time.
“And those [programs] are broken down in different subcategories below there,” said Rood. “It’s very intricate. I can’t say that it’s complicated; it can be, but there’s a lot of little steps that go into it.”
HELI is another way to be part of the CRP program. Ground that is difficult or dangerous to farm, such as steep, eroding areas, benefit from conservation. HELI contracts are ten years in duration. Within that decade, at some point within the cycle of the contract, farmers are required to go in and do mid-contract maintenance. “They have to enhance it somehow, whether by seeding or discing; spraying, some of them,” said Rood. “It depends on the practice what you can do.”
To ascertain whether the farmland can qualify for HELI, “they would have to come in and show it on the map at the FSA office, and we would run a program that would let us know what the erodibility [factor] is,” said Rood. Factors include rainfall and runoff, susceptibility of the soil to water erosion, and the effects of slope length and steepness.
There are only 775 acres available for HELI in Mahaska county this year, so farmers who are interested in being involved with the program should visit the FSA office and apply by July 1.
“July 20, they’re going to take the acres away from each individual county,” said Rood. “Those acres are then put into a state-wide pool, and will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. “Some counties didn’t get any [acres], so they would have to wait until it opens up to everybody.”
For further information, contact the Mahaska County FSA office at 641-673-3476 extension 2, or CRP Program Technician Deanna Rood directly at 641-638-3402.
Story provided by Angie Holland