"You've got to have money to entice people to do conservation work. It's expensive." That's how Duane Drockelman, coordinator of the South Laughery (Creek) Watershed program, views the best way to get delivery of conservation practices onto the land today, and prevent further soil erosion.
Farmers and landowners in the South Laughery area are eligible for cost-share for a variety of practices. The watershed encompasses 122,000 acres and parts of four counties- Dearborn, Ripley, Ohio and Switzerland. At one point, the watershed extends all the way to the Ohio River.
Drockelman currently has 22 farmers taking advantage of the cost-share money available in phase two of the South Laughery project. Phase one was dedicated to planning, and documenting the need for cost-share for various practices. Drockelman says they've applied for another grant for another round of cost-share in the future, but don't yet know if they will receive it.
Known as 319 grants, the money actually comes from the Environmental Protection Agency, specifically Region V in Chicago. However, it's administered by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. Requests are made to IDEM. These requests require long hours of preparation.
Part of the money used for cost-share so far in South Laugher is to encourage more farmers to no-till, Drockelman reports. The long-time conservationist retired from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, then began serving the South Laughery Watershed project in April, '07. He's a master at helping farmers plan how to solve erosion problems.
"I love it," Drockelman says. "It's great to get back out in the field and help farmers plan how to solve their water quality issues. We designed our cost-share practices so we could primarily address water quality concerns."
One practice important in southeast Indiana is pasture renovation, and intensive pasture management, he says. In some areas, steep wooded soils have been pastured, leaving 'thin' pastures more susceptible to erosion. The goal is to get grass back where it belongs, and return land to proper us.
The Ripley County Soil and Water Conservation District owns a Great Plains drill specifically designed for reseeding pastures. It's available for rent, and Drockelman says that's one of the ways qualifying farmers can use the money.
With limited state support for soil conservation compared to neighboring states, use of innovative programs, including EPA 319 grants, remains an important source of funding to help get conservation on the land.