SOUTH DAKOTA– When Lyman County producer Reed Petersek signs a contract with USDA to enroll his farm in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) this Wednesday morning August 9th, it will mark a conservation milestone for South Dakota farmers and ranchers. Petersek’s signing will mark the 7 millionth acre of land in South Dakota to be enrolled into the program.
SD Agriculture Secretary Mike Jaspers, SD Game, Fish and Wildlife Secretary Kelly Hepler, Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA NRCS) State Conservationist Jeff Zimprich, and Karl Jensen and Angela Ehlers of the South Dakota Association of Conservation Districts (SDACD) will be on hand to congratulate farmers and ranchers for their conservation accomplishments and thank them for their work.
The signing event will take place at 10 a.m. Wednesday, August 9, on the Front Porch at the Sioux Empire Fair in Sioux Falls. Tomorrw is Agriculture Appreciation Day at the fair.
CSP is a USDA program that rewards producers performing at a high level of conservation and encourages them to do more; contracts cover more than 15 percent of the cropland and rangeland in South Dakota. Farmers and ranchers enrolled in the program go above and beyond basic conservation practices, adding specific “enhancements” that improve soil health, water quality, wildlife habitat and other resources on both rangeland and farmland.
“Lloyd and Marianne Frein in Haakon County adapted their haying equipment with flush bars to allow wildlife to escape when they mow their hay. Anthony Bly in Minnehaha County has revamped his system to substantially reduce pesticide drift, and he’s using cover crop mixes to make his soil healthier, among many other improvements,” Zimprich says. “John Schubeck of Lincoln County now has high level integrated pest management to reduce environmental risks, and Kirk Jensen is establishing pollinator and beneficial insect habitat on his land in that county. There are examples of higher level conservation like this all over the state.”
According to NRCS records, in the five-year period between 2011 and 2016, South Dakota ranchers and farmers improved grazing management through CSP on more than 1.1 million acres to benefit wildlife. In that same period, they made 132 miles of fence wildlife friendly for deer, antelope or sage grouse, and they began using practices like flush bars in haying operations on 280,000 acres to reduce loss of nests and young birds.
Among the practices applied through CSP leading to improved water quality are reduced pesticide drift on 1.7 million acres, and plant tissue testing, variable rate fertilizing, and conversion to no-till farming on a combined 1.5 million acres. NRCS also cited the use of cover crops on 300,000 acres and grassland monitoring on 3.4 million acres as significant steps towards soil and rangeland health.
Those practices are among the more than 50 CSP enhancement activities South Dakota farmers and ranchers are using on rangeland and pastureland are aimed at improving soil, water, wildlife, and other resources both on and off the farm or ranch.
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