District Policies

The Allamakee SWCD has established several policies regarding the approval of conservation plans and usage of conservation cost-share funds.  If you receive a denial letter based on the sodbust or CRP policies, you do have appeal rights.  Please contact the SWCD/NRCS office to discuss how you can appeal these decisions.

Sodbust Policy
The Allamakee SWCD Commissioners have revised their current policy regarding sodbusts. According to the board, “In response to an increase in the number of requests to turn very steep and often shallow pasture and timber land into row crop production, we have determined we will not approve the plan if it meets one of the following criteria.”

  1. If the ground has a class 6 or higher. According to the Soil Survey of Allamakee County, soils in these classes are generally not suited to the mechanized production of commonly grown field crops without special management, but they are suitable for plants that provide a permanent cover such as grasses and trees.
  2. If the ground is predominantly an E slope or greater. According to the Soil Survey of Allamakee County, soils with an E slope designation are generally 14-18 percent slopes.
  3. If the ground has a corn suitability rating, CSR, of 30 or less. According to the Soil Survey of Allamakee County, the CSR provides a relative ranking of all soils mapped in the State of Iowa based on their potential to be utilized for the intensive production of row crops. The CSRs in Allamakee County range from 95-5.

According to the board chairman, Lynn Stock, “People are simply not using good judgement regarding ground they want to bring into production. Many landowners are looking for every acre they can rent due to high rentals. They aren’t paying any attention to how steep or shallow the ground is.”

According to the National Food Security Act Manual, Fifth Edition, in order to receive farm program benefits, a producer agrees to the following on any famers in which such a person has an interest: Not plant or produce an agricultural commodity on highly erodible fields unless actively applying an approved conservation plan or maintaining a fully applied conservation system.

CRP Policy
At the November 13, 2015 meeting of the Allamakee SWCD commissioners, a policy was established regarding the approval of plans for specific Continuous CRP practices that include CP33-Habitat Buffers for Upland Birds, CP42-Pollinator Habitat, HELI (Highly Erodible Land Initiative), and SAFE Gaining Ground (State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement) and amended it at the January 5, 2016 meeting to include all General CRP practices.

The policy states the following:
If more than 40% of the predominant soil types enrolled are A, B, C, or D slope, the plan will not be approved unless the soil types have weighted average CSRs of 35 or less.

You will receive a letter if your CRP plan is not approved and the following options are available.

  1. Revise the offer to only include the steeper ground
  2. Appeal the decision in writing and request that the NRCS approve the plan.

The rationale that the commissioners have is:

We as elected officials are charged with properly managing the resources, fulfilling the intent of legislation, and wisely utilizing conservation dollars.  We feel that by implementing the above policy, we are meeting this goal.  The CRP program was established to enroll highly sensitive areas into a vegetative cover for soil protection, water quality, and wildlife habitat.  Due to the limited amount of acres in these programs, we want to make sure that the acres enrolled are best suited for these programs in an effort to help conserve our natural resources and conservation dollars.  At the same time, we want to keep productive farmland available and used wisely.  Enrolling productive farmland into the CRP contradicts the original goal of the program and could potentially prevent other, more sensitive areas from being enrolled when acreage limits are met.  In addition, we feel that this program makes it difficult for beginning farmers to get their start or small farmers to acquire additional acres when they have to compete with CRP rental rates that exceed costs of crop production.  We believe that keeping productive land in production and enrolling the most sensitive land in CRP is the best use of our resources within the county and of federal conservation dollars.

Policy Regarding Use of State (IDALS) Cost-share Funds
More detailed information regarding our state cost-share policy can be obtained at the Allamakee SWCD office or by contacting Brianne Wild ([email protected]).

The cost share rate for terraces has been set at 50%.  Cost share will not be approved for switching tile outlet terraces to a new type (e.g. grassback to narrowbase).  Cost share may be approved for new terraces or to convert grassed waterway outlet terraces to tile inlet terraces if the existing terrace system is not under a maintenance agreement (common length is 20 years). Cost share may also be approved if an entire system is going to be redone, meaning that all or most of the old terraces will be eliminated and new terraces will be laid out.

Waterways, Grade Stabilization Structures (Ponds), and Sediment Basins
The Allamakee SWCD will fund grassed waterways, grade stabilization structures and sediment basins at up to 50% cost share as long as they are designed to meet NRCS specifications. Funds may be approved for tile for waterways if it is necessary to keep the waterway dry.

Cover Crops
Cost share may be approved for producers that have never received financial assistance to install cover crops in the past through State or Federal (EQIP, WHIP, or CSP) Programs. Cost share is limited to $25 per acre for up to 40 acres. The cover crop will be seeded by September 15 for non-winter-hardy crops such as oats, barley, spring wheat, brassicas and legumes. Winter-hardy species such as winter wheat, cereal rye, and winter triticale may be seeded up to October 21. All cover crops seeded after October 1 must be drilled or incorporated. Either the cover crop or the following crop will be no-tilled.

IDALS Buffers
A one-time incentive payment of $300/acre is available. The buffers must be maintained for five years.  The minimum eligible buffer width will be determined by NRCS/SWCD based on crop rotation, tillage, soils and slope and buffers must be installed to NRCS standards.  The maximum width for payment is 60 feet. Headlands must be established on slopes greater than 5% and will be wide enough to eliminate end rows. The maximum headland width eligible for payment is 60 feet and the headlands must be installed in conjunction with buffers.  Failure to install the buffers as flagged may result in denial of payment.