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SHERIDAN — For crop and livestock producers, it all comes down to the bottom line. They want to produce the most crops and best livestock they can while conserving as much money as possible.
While putting up fences to divide pastures for grazing rotation may not seem like a way to conserve money in the short-term, former Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service Arlen Lancaster said it is in the long-term because it extends the life of the pastures and produces richer food.
And it’s even better if the government will spend a little money to help with the cost of that fencing as can happen through a variety of programs through the local NRCS office and Sheridan County Conservation District.
“Based on my past experience working with producers, they all are thinking about conservation and production and how things work together,” Lancaster said. “My opinion is what is most important is the bottom line. Conservation is important to every producer I’ve ever met, and if they are told that they can get help implementing conservation projects, they seek opportunities to take advantage of that help.”
In coming weeks, the region’s agricultural producers, and folks looking to incorporate conservation practices into their home operation and home gardens, will have opportunities to learn techniques that can save them money — and save the region’s natural resources, too.
On May 5-8, the Sheridan County Conservation District will host “Productive Landscapes,” a series of workshops focused on the recently passed 2014 Farm Bill, small acreage grazing management, exploring energy efficiencies in the home and water-saving gardening in spaces large and small. The workshops were made possible through a Rural Living in Wyoming grant from Barnyards and Backyards and partnerships with the Nature Conservancy and Sheridan Community Land Trust.
All sessions are free and open to the public, but RSVPs are requested by Wednesday.
“We decided last year that we were going to host an event every year for Soil and Water Stewardship Week, which is the last week of April and into May. This event is part of that,” SCCD Program Specialist Amy Doke said. “We would like to educate people about what the conservation district does, provide resources and information to them, do some special programs like we are this year with the workshop and just bring information to people about natural resources.”
SCCD District Manager Carrie Rogaczewski said now that Lancaster lives in Wyoming, it seemed like a good time to call on his expertise about the revised Farm Bill and how it may impact Wyoming residents.
Lancaster was chief of the NRCS from 2006-2009 and prior to that was staff director for a Senate subcommittee that handles conservation programs. He helped write the 2002 Farm Bill conservation programs and lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s efforts on the 2008 Farm Bill conservation programs.
While 80 percent of the Farm Bill’s monetary allocations go toward nutrition programs such as food stamps, it allocates money to a variety of conservation programs, too, and Lancaster said those programs continue to expand.
“The Farm Bill is the largest piece of conservation legislation that Congress deals with and it does it the right way through voluntary and incentive-based programs. It’s useful for producers if they have conservation goals in mind,” Lancaster said.
The 2014 Farm Bill consolidated 23 conservation programs through the previous Farm Bill into 13 to make program delivery more efficient. At the same time, the bill seeks to expand the reach and availability of conservation programs.
One key component of the new bill is the Regional Conservation Partnership Program that will encourage partners — agricultural associations, farmers co-ops, water and irrigation districts, conservation districts, or even just neighbors — to work together to address an area-wide problem with specific conservation practices utilizing state and federal funding.
For example, residents in the Tongue River area could work together to address erosion problems on the river by applying for assistance to implement practices to reduce erosion and increase foliage, Lancaster said.
Lancaster will also focus on various “strings” that may be attached by the government on conservation programs in his discussion. But ultimately, he just wants to remind Sheridan residents that assistance is available through financial grants, partnerships and easement programs to conserve Wyoming’s precious lands.
On May 5-8, the Sheridan County Conservation District will host a series of workshops focused on the 2014 Farm Bill, small acreage grazing management, exploring energy efficiencies in the home and water-saving gardening in spaces large and small.
All sessions are free and open to the public, but RSVPs are requested by Wednesday. Anyone registered by Wednesday will be entered into a drawing for a package of 25 seedling trees. Also, the first 15 people to register for the water-wise gardening session will receive a free copy of “Plants with Attitude,” a field guide of regionally native plants for Wyoming gardens.
• Farm Bill discussion with Former Chief of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Arlen Lancaster and “Small Acreage Grazing Management: Managing for Proper Stocking Rates” with University of Wyoming Extension Agent Blaine Horn at 6 p.m. May 5 at the Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library Inner Circle.
The same presentation will be held at 6 p.m. May 6 at the Clearmont Community Center.
• “Edible Places in Water-Saving Spaces” presentation by Jodi Torpey, author and founder of WesternGardeners.com, at 6 p.m. May 7 at the Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library Inner Circle.
• “Exploring Energy Efficiencies and Alternatives such as Solar Electric and Solar Hot Water” by UW Extension Agent Scott Hininger at 6 p.m. May 8 at the Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library Inner Circle.