From 1995 - June 2013, the Kansas Rural Center helped farmers and ranchers protect water quality with sustainable farming practices through the Clean Water Farms Project. Over the course of the program, KRC administered 150 cost-share projects and helped over 300 farmers and ranchers develop whole farm plans that not only helped them identify problems or potential problems, but helped identify management changes and how to implement those changes on their farms. A strong outreach and education component built on a farmer to farmer transfer of information included over 100 farm tours, nearly 150 workshops, and over 260 presentations that reached thousands of Kansans.
But now due to state and federal budget cuts, KRCís role within the State of Kansas WRAPS program will end June 2013. However, the program built a strong education arm at KRC, and KRCís involvement in general water and conservation issues is far from over. And the stories of the farmers and ranchers who participated in the project live on as they continue to adopt new practices, and improve their farms and ranches.
Since 2001, the heart of the Clean Water Farm Project was the River Friendly Farm Plan - a self-environmental assessment that helps farmers and ranchers identify problems, needed management changes, and how to implement those changes on the farm. Use of the tool assumes a systems approach to farming. It emphasized not one management practice at a time, but an approach that looks at the cropping system, the grazing and pasture and livestock operation, the wildlife habitat on the farm, and the water resources - and the familyís goals. Then it helps the farmer or landowner identify solutions or improvements, develop a plan and a timeline, and links the farmer to financial and technical resources to achieve that plan.
Cost-share in the program was capped at $5,000 per farm, so that available funds could be distributed to more producers. Many of our cost-share grants were less than $5,000.
Many of the farmers and ranchers KRC worked with did not participate in state or federal conservation programs - too much red tape - or they were ineligible for the program, or the time they would have to wait for approval was too long. But for those who also received other state and federal assistance, KRCís cost-share projects between 2000-2010 alone leveraged nearly half a million dollars in additional state and federal cost-share to farmers.
A 2012 survey of program participants indicated that most had adopted additional practices beyond their KRC funded project, and that even those without cost-share but who had completed the RFFP assessment and whole farm plan, adopted new practices and changes Ė most often at their own expense. Through the lifetime of the program, farmers and ranchers (and KRC) contributed about $3 million of their own money toward on-farm projects - a testament to conservation values and commitment to a sustainable agriculture.
KRC has a long history of involvement with natural resource issues. We were into water quality before it was cool, asking questions about the impact of modern agricultural practices on water quality and promoting farming practices to protect water quality and improve soil.
KRC will continue to provide outreach and education, as funding and support allow, to promote the kind of farming practices that build soil and protect water. We will continue to promote long term crop rotations, cover crops, and integrated crop and livestock systems that move away from monocultures and enhance biodiversity . We will continue to promote grass based livestock systems that move away from confined feeding.
We will continue to explore new questions and the emerging challenge of farmer and rancher adaptation to a changing climate, and a system that leads to a more resilient farm and food system.
Below you can read about the Clean Water Farms Project and its accomplishments and participants. (Profiles of many of the participants are also available on this website.) And stay tuned to KRCís website, newsletter and communications to stay abreast of our continuing work toward a more sustainable, resilient farm and food system.
History of the Project
Beginning in 2001, the Clean Water Farm - River Friendly Farm Project included the use of the River Friendly Farm Environmental Assessment. A copy of the River Friendly Farm Environmental Assessment can be downloaded by clicking here. (NOTE: this is a pdf file which requires Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you do not already have this software, you may obtain it for free from Adobe) Hard copies are also available from the KRC office. Participating farmers complete the environmental self-assessment for their own farm with assistance from KRC staff. Then the farmer uses the completed assessment to develop an action plan that protects or improves water quality on the farm. Those who complete the assessment and developed an approved action plan were eligible for a $250 incentive payment.
With an approved action plan, farmers and ranchers were eligible to apply for up to $5,000 in cost-share funds to implement part of their plan. These funds could be used in conjunction with state and federal cost share programs. A Clean Water Farms advisory team reviewed the action plans and cost share applications for approval. CWFP staff worked with the individual farmer through all phases of the project: completing the assessment, developing the action plan, identifying possible solutions, and monitoring progress. (Click here for more information about the cost-share program.)
To be eligible for the CWF - RFFP Incentive payment or cost-share program - participants had to operate or own a farm or ranch within a WRAPS watershed or High Priority TMDL Watershed area as identified by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE).
WRAPS stands for Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy, and refers to a new approach to watershed planning, management and protection across the state. All state agencies, the Kansas Water Authority, the Governor's sub-cabinet on natural resource issues, plus Kansas State University are tied into this new framework for identifying problems and issues within local watersheds and developing action plans and identifying technical and financial resources to address those issues. Most TMDL areas (total maximum daily load) are also within a WRAPS boundary, but a few are not. Increasingly the various State cost-share programs will be tied to these areas. CWF-RFFP worked with farmers and ranchers within the WRAPS watersheds and in the TMDL stream areas identified below.
The Clean Water Farm - River Friendly Farm Project (CWF-RFFP) was a project of the Kansas Rural Center, administered by the Kansas Department of Health and the Environment and funded by U.S. EPA Non-point Source Section 319 Program Funds.
Clean Water Farms Project
The River Friendly Farm Environmental Assessment notebook was developed by Kansas State University and the Kansas Rural Center to assist farmers and ranchers in assessing the environmental strengths and weaknesses on their farms. The tool helps identify family and farm goals, problems or potential problems, and helps prioritize a plan of action to address the identified concerns.
The assessment consists of a notebook with questions to help farmers assess and score the status of soil conservation, nutrient management, pest management and livestock waste utilization on their farm. Using information they already have from conservation plans, aerial maps, and field and yield data, most farmers can complete the assessment in a day or a day and a half. A "quality of life" section involves the whole family in the planning process.
A copy of the River Friendly Farm Plan Environmental Assessment can be downloaded by clicking here. (NOTE: this is a pdf file which requires Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you do not already have it, you may obtain this free software from Adobe) Hard copies are also available from the KRC office.
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