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Workers harvest catfish from farm pond in Tunica County, Mississippi. Such enterprises are proving profitable to many farmers throughout the south. The Soil Conservation Service is accelerating its technical assistance in the field of aquaculture.
An SCS District Conservationist examines one of tour mine openings which will be sealed to prevent access to the mine interior, thereby eliminating a safety hazard to children playing in the area. Below, a section of the abandoned mine site in Junior, W. Va., will be gradedy covered with soil, seeded to grass, and used for community recreation.
Retention of Prime Farmlands: Nearly 1 million acres of our Nation's farmlands are being converted to other uses each year in the face of a 50-year projection of increasing demands for production of food and fiber for foreign trade; for domestic production of strategic and essential industrial materials that are now imported; and to supply renewable sources of energy. An estimated 2 million acres of adjacent lands are being lost to agriculture as a result of these conversions. In addition to the loss of agricultural production capacity, these conversions are "... sapping the vitality of large and small cities...and wasting energy at every turn," according to the July 1980 House Report on Compact Cities (Subcommittee on the City of the Committee on Banking, Finance, and Urban Affairs). The Soil Conservation Service is committed to reducing the loss of important farmlands and limiting developmental sprawl around the Nation's cities through a strong voluntary program of technical assistance in policy formulation and land use planning with landholders and agencies of government at all levels.
Water Quality: Water quality as a benefit of conservation planning and application is emphasized in all programs. Technical assistance for water quality has been targeted in over 100 special project areas including 13 experimental Rural Clean Water, i model implementation, special ACP water quality, and small farmer assistance project areas. Soil Conservation Service specialists have been detailed to 10 Environmental Protection Agency regional offices and headquarters to assist in plannning and implementing water quality management plans.
Targeted Geographical Areas: Beginning in 1981 a program of accelerated technical assistance will be initiated in targeted geographical areas with severe erosion, water conservation, and water quality problems. In FY 1982 a total of $6.7 million of technical assistance funds will be designated for this purpose. The targeted geographical areas will include the Palouse area of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho; the Corn Belt area of Missouri and Iowa; the Southern Piedmont areas of Alabama and Georgia; West Tennessee; and the irrigated areas of the Western States.
Selected Examples of Recent Progress: Technical services were provided to individual landusers conservation planning or application during fiscal year 1980. They received services essential to making land use or treatment decisions or applying conservation measures. Conservation practices were applied by . individuals or groups during the year as a result of technical assistance provided.
Decisionmakers receiving technical services is the number of individuals, groups and units of government assisted with the authority to make land use and treatment decisions on lands under their management and control.
Acres treated to conservation standards is land adequately protected to maintain productive capacity and contain erosion and deterioration within acceptable limits. Needed conservation practices and management systems have been installed.
Assistance to Indians: The Soil Conservation Service in FY 1978 began accelerating its technical assistance to Indians both on and off reservations. A targeting of resources has taken place in those States with Indian landusers. The number of Indians assisted increased 40 percent from FY 1978 to FY 1980. Several new conservation districts are in the process of being formed on Indian land in Arizona and several new field offices are being set up to provide technical assistance.
Agricultural Waste Management: Livestock wastes are the number one problem related to pollution by organics from agriculture. The Soil Conservation Service has assisted landusers with the management of their agricultural waste since 1935. In recent years with the increased emphasis being placed on water Conservation Service has accelerated its technical assistance in the agricultural waste management area. In FY 1980 there was over a 100 percent increase in the number of agricultural waste management systems installed compared to FY 1978, from 2,200 to 4,700.
Aquaculture: Through local conservation districts, the Soil Conservation Service now provides technical assistance to fish farmers. This assistance covers a range of subjects including: basic biological matters related to or influenced by 1 use and water management; water quality and waste disposal; engineering assistance in the design, layout, and construction of production facilities such as ponds, reservoirs, raceways, dams, water supply and waste disposal systems; and interpretation of soils information in site selection for production facilities. A national aquaculture team was established in FY 1980 to assist in coordinating technical assistance efforts. Eight states, Alabama, Arkansas, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and Vermont, were designated in FY 1980 to accelerate aquaculture assistance to fish producers.
Surface Mine Reclamation: A total of 2,885 program applications (on 91,000 acres) for assistance under the Rural Abandoned Mine Program have been submitted to the Soil Conservation Service by land users in 19 States. To date Soil Conservation Service has signed a total of 137 contracts for the reclamation of 2,893 acres; obligating 15.2 million. Seventy-four contracts totaling $8.8 million were signed in FY 1980. Reclamation is underway or completed on 57 of the contracts and 835 acres have been reclaimed.
Agricultural Conservation Program: SCS technical assistance was provided to approximately 100,000 Agricultural Conservation Program (ACP) participants in FY 1980 who requested cost-share assistance from ASCS to solve resource problems.
Technical assistance to ACP participants includes planning, design, layout, supervison of installation, and certification that the practice meets SCS standards and specifications.
Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Implementation: The SCS is providing accelerated technical assistance in the Grand Valley area of Colorado and the Uintah basin area of Utah to enhance and protect the quality of water available in the Colorado River for use in the United States and Mexico (PL 93-32, Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Act) to: prepare conservation plans of operations, design and supervise installation of irrigation improvements to reduce deep
percolation and salt load to the Colorado River from private lands, and provide continuing technical assistance to be sure irrigators practice adequate irrigation water management. The Colorado area encompasses 60,000 acres and the Utah portion 200,000 acres. Technical assistance funds designated for this purpose are as follows: FY 1980, $259,000; FY 1981, $516,000; and FY 1982, $516,000.
Emergency Technical Assistance Mt. St. Helens: Emergency technical assistance funds were used effectively in the Mt. St. Helens disaster area to aid landowners to reduce excess runoff and erosion by various methods of incorporating the ash blanket into the soil. Assistance was provided to irrigation farmers to increase infiltration rates through the ash and into the soil, again by mixing the ash with the underlying soil. Field trials to study the adaptability of plants were conducted on ash covered rangelands and at the Plant Materials Center. Four automated SNOTEL stations were installed in the devastated area for snow reports and moisture predictions. Some technical assistance was provided for the re-seeding and fertilizing of 21,000 acres of denuded land near the mountain. Most of the cost of that operation, however, was borne by Emergency Watershed Funds.
InVENTORY AND MONITORING
Work under this appropriation item consists of collecting and interpreting natural and related resource data, other than soil survey data, and providing the results to users for resource programming, planning, and appraising. The major effort is directed toward gathering statistically reliable data on the status and condition of the resources on non-federal lands, but includes several supportive efforts of making important farmland maps, reporting on wind erosion conditions in the Great Plains States, and conducting special inventories to detect any changes in resources such as the shelterbelts and drained farmlands. These activities bridge the void between technical resource data and application of these data in everyday land use decisions.
Current Activities: Current natural and related resource information from this program enables individuals, groups, and units of government to make sound and cost-effective resource and environmental decisions. The data and interpretations are used for identifying and examining resource problems, assessing resource concerns of the public, and targeting conservation efforts of USDA. The results of a recently released National Resources Inventory (NRI, 1977) of each State, except Alaska, were used for the appraisal part of the Resources Conservation Act of 1977 and for resource programming and planning at the State and national levels.
Specific problems to which efforts are now being directed are:
1. Retaining agricultural lands. There is a rapid growth in world demand for U.S. food, a concern about balance of trade, expanding energy costs, and uncertainties about future advances in farming technology. Inventories made of prime farmland and the potential for cropland provide benchmark data that are used for assessing the resource part of the issue. Continued monitoring will detect changes in the status and condition of these important lands.
2. Targeting conservation to resource problems and concerns. USDA and others direct their actions to the most pressing resource problems and to those that will provide the greatest benefit to society with the least cost. Inventorying provides resource data to decisionmakers for conservation programming and planning. Monitoring provides the followup required to measure progress and reevaluate conservation priorities.
3. Addressing environmental concerns. Growing more food and fiber increases the FTSK of degrading the Nation's soil and water resources. Tons of soil lost by erosion can be related to the loss of productivity of land and poor