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Driftless Area cover crop acres may double in 2020
Crawford County LCD

CRAWFORD COUNTY - The Crawford County Soil and Water Concerns Committee met by teleconference on Tuesday, May 12. 

At the meeting, they learned that acres would likely double for the successful cover crop program in 2020. This is supposing, according to USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) District Conservationist for Crawford County, Karyl Fritsche, that all EQIP contracts currently up for approval are funded.

“Cover crops planted in 2019 did fairly well, but were challenged when cold spring weather retarded growth,” Fritsche told the committee. “In 2020, we expect the planting to take place around September 1.”

Fritsche said that Black Sand Granary, which took over the program from Crawford County and NRCS in 2018, will once again offer two mixes of cover crop seed. One will be rye and winter wheat, and the other will be a mix of barley, oats and red clover.

In addition to the impressive increase in acres planted in cover crops since the transition to private sector management of the program, Fritsche told the committee that “there has also been an increase to farmers planting their cash crops into a living cover crop.” This practice is known as “planting green,” and helps to promote soil conservation through decreasing the times of year with no living root in the soil.

CAFO Moratorium

County Conservationist Dave Troester informed the committee that AV Roth has moved ahead with applying to the Wisconsin DNR for a Wisconsin Pollution Discharge Elimination System (WPDES) permit for his proposed new hog CAFO in Marietta Township.

Although some in the community would allege that this is a violation of the spirit of the moratorium, it is not against the law of the moratorium, according to Troester.

Troester told the committee that he has heard from WDNR regarding Roth’s WPDES permit application that “the construction plan for the proposed facility is complete.” He said the WDNR representative had informed him that the agency has 90 days from the date the complete application was submitted to approve or deny it.

Ellen Brooks of the Crawford Stewardship Project Board (CSP) attended the teleconference meeting of the committee. In her comments, Brooks expressed that CSP is “disappointed that the CAFO moratorium committee meetings had been discontinued during the ‘Safer at Home’ order.” She pointed out that “time between now and when the committee’s report is due in October is short,” and asked when the meetings would be resumed.

“I talked about this with David Troester, and we decided that we would wait to resume the CAFO Moratorium Committee meetings until after the ‘Safer at Home’ order expires at the end of May,” committee chairman David Olson told Brooks. “At that time, we can move to twice-monthly meetings if necessary.”

Troester told the Independent-Scout in an interview after the meeting that he has reached out to Chris Clayton from WDNR as well as a planner from the Mississippi River Regional Planning Commission about making a presentation to the committee at an upcoming meeting.

Other business

In other business, the committee

• heard that 51 Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts had been funded by NRCS

• heard that the county had received about $700,000 in Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) funding from NRCS

• heard that another Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) signup deadline was coming up on June 5

• heard that NRCS is looking to hire another grazing program coordinator to replace Jacob Hawes who has resigned

• heard from David Troester that the county’s tree sale program has set a record in 2020, and that the distribution had gone well

• heard from Troester that the Land Conservation Department is trying to make a decision about holding their annual ‘Youth Conservation Day’ education event in September, and would make a tentative decision soon

• heard from technician Travis Bunting that if the weather continues to be dry, he may have to discontinue work on some of his projects due to issues with achieving the necessary soil compaction

• heard that, with the Prairie du Chien schools being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, technician Travis Bunting had taken on the building of the benches given to conservation award winners at the County Fair himself.