Most people don’t know that America’s most valuable and less recognized resource is right in the middle of our country. Now you might think that this valuable asset is our Oil….No, it’s our Soil! Without our soil and the farmers or “stewards of the land,” we could not feed the world like we do. It just makes me cringe every time I see a new mall, bank or subdivision being built on some of our prime real estate that grows our food. The way the Kansas City, St. Louis and Springfield metropolitian areas have been sprawling out, I wonder where we will cultivate crops in the next one hundred years. It must have been a beautiful sight to see when Henry Rowe Schoolcraft traveled and wrote about the “Tall grass Prairie” that once graced our country so many years ago. As a past United States Department of Agriculture employee I saw personally the importance of the educational programs and the cost sharing venues our government has invested into. The USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service is the office I worked out of as a Soil Technician. We were responsible for “spot checking” areas of “highly erodible land” in the county I was assigned to. The Conservation Reserve System was in place which paid the landowners who participated and qualified not to cultivate any land where the soil was highly erodible. Farmers sixty to one hundred years ago had many acres of corn, soybeans or wheat planted as far as the eye could see and this scenario caused topsoil by the tons, to be washed downstream in Southwest Missouri. The USDA was created because of the disaster from the dust bowl days. With the mix of erodible soil and the huge rainfall amounts that we typically get in Missouri, something had to be done. There were many programs we had to implement, one in particular was the riparian or creek bed stabilization. We would assist the Missouri Department of Conservation and cut cedar trees to be anchored into bare soil banks along the creek. We would then plant native willow trees along the creek bank to assist in the soil stabilization. The county Soil Conservation office would pick up the extra expense of building fences to keep the livestock out of the creek. We also cost shared on dairy lagoons for farmers that just hosed down the dairy barn out the back door and typically these structures were near the head waters of some creek or watershed. The United States Department of Agriculture is a very important government installment and has kept the promise of education and installing the wise use of our natural resources….. our Soil and Water.
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