Environmental Law Blog
Soil Conservation: Your Tax Dollars Do Work
The Soil and Water Conservation Program is a state-funded incentive program designed for the purpose of saving soil and water throughout the state through erosion abatement and sediment control on agricultural lands. In 1984, voters passed and continue to approve a 1/10 of 1% soil and water conservation and parks tax to fund state parks and to conserve soil on Missouri's agricultural lands. The cost-share program is intended to provide financial incentives to landowners to install erosion control practices that they would not otherwise install.
The Soil and Water Districts Commission sets all rules and policies governing the state cost-share program and reviews them as needed or as requested by local soil and water conservation districts. Funds authorized for cost-share assistance on erosion control practices, incentives or demonstration practices are allocated to local soil and water conservation districts. Annually, the commission approves a list of eligible cost-share practices that may be implemented by the local soil and water conservation district. During the annual review of the eligible practice list, the commission considers the current use of each practice and the relative needs for the practice.
Each locally elected soil and water conservation district board of supervisors is given the authority to manage the district's cost-share program within the rules and policies that govern the cost-share program. The district can only utilize those practices approved by the commission.
Landowner claims for cost-share can be denied when they do not comply with program rules. The commission will either approve or deny a claim for cost-share if it is alleged that the practice does not comply with the program rules. A landowner must agree to maintain the practice as approved for a period of years, usually 5 or 10. If the landowner alters or fails to maintain the practice, the district may demand a pro-rata return of the state's cost-share monies.
The Soil and Water Conservation Districts Commission also oversees the Agricultural Non-point Source Special Area Land Treatment Program (AGNPS SALT). The SALT Program addresses soil erosion and reduces or prevents agricultural non-point source pollution in targeted watersheds. Types of agricultural non-point source pollution include soil erosion, excessive nutrient loading from animal waste runoff, nutrient and chemical loading from crop areas, and increased nutrients and chemicals in water supplies caused by improper animal waste management.
Local soil and water conservation districts identify watersheds with existing water quality problems and apply for AGNPS SALT projects from the Soil and Water Districts Commission. The Soil and Water Districts Commissions decides which proposal will be approved as AGNPS SALT projects.
The Soil and Water Conservation Program also updates Missouri soil surveys and provides detailed maps of the different soils throughout the state. Soil scientists also provide soil assistance to landowners and other agencies to effectively make proper soil resource decisions.
The Attorney General provides legal counsel to the Commission and represents it in litigation. Questions concerning practices eligible for state cost-share can be directed to the local district office or the Department of Natural Resources.
Is this program a priority for Missouri in the 21st Century? Should Missouri continue to actively promote soil conservation, or should we focus on other objectives and allow federal regulators to handle these issues?