IFB suggests changes to conservation practice standards

Organization looking for increased flexibility, equivalent benefits.

In a 12-page letter to NRCS, IFB President Richard Guebert Jr. outlined the organization’s concerns about federal standards for agrichemical handling facilities, cover crops, field border and filter strips, and streambank and shoreline protection, among many others. (Photo by Catrina Rawson)

By Deana Stroisch

Illinois Farm Bureau suggested Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) improve federal conservation practice standards to “increase flexibility” while also “ensuring equivalent benefits.”

In a 12-page letter, IFB President Richard Guebert Jr. outlined the organization’s concerns about federal standards for agrichemical handling facilities, cover crops, field border and filter strips, and streambank and shoreline protection, among many others.

“The standards developed by NRCS should be viewed as a technical resource, and not simply a gateway for implementing financial assistance programs,” Guebert wrote.

NRCS solicited public comment on its national conservation practice standards as part of the 2018 farm bill implementation process.

Guebert also shared concerns about Illinois’ state standards, which he described as more detailed and sometimes more restrictive than the federal standards. He recommended the state standards also be periodically reviewed and open to public comment.

“These state standards should be prepared as a resource for Illinois farmers that provides recommendations for implementation of practices outside of participating in NRCS financial assistance programs,” Guebert wrote. “These standards should provide the farmer sound recommendations for construction, realistic operation and manageable maintenance of the conservation practices.”

Among IFB’s state concerns:

 - NRCS cover crop guidelines recommend Illinois farmers terminate cover crops at, or within, five days after planting but before crop emergence. “This guideline does not allow Illinois farmers flexibility they may need to prepare for planting,” Guebert wrote.

 - Composter design plans don’t reflect the size of bins and layouts most farmers want to implement. IFB recommended Illinois NRCS review the standard drawings and increase options.

 - IFB also recommended reviewing seeding recommendations for flexibility in planting and allow for years when weather allows for earlier or later seeding.

A 2018 survey found IFB members want NRCS help with nonprogram technical assistance, whole farm conservation planning not linked to a financial assistance program and improving conservation practice standards.

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