In the 1930s, as the Dust Bowl swept across the nation relocating an estimated 300 million tons of soil, Americans realized the devastating effects of soil erosion. Legislation began to take shape to better manage and conserve the nation’s soil. Despite these actions, Missouri was still plagued with high erosion rates.

Missouri Soil and Water Conservation Districts

The State Soil and Water Districts Commission was created in 1943 to administer the soil and water conservation districts and formulate policies and general programs for the saving of Missouri soil and water through the county soil and water conservation districts. Missouri joined the movement to localize soil and water efforts when Harrison County formed the first soil and water conservation district in 1944. In 1996, Washington County became the last of Missouri's 114 counties to organize as a district.

The Soil and Water Conservation Program carries out the policies of the Soil and Water Districts Commission following the Soil and Water Districts Law (Chapter 278, RSMo). The program promotes good farming techniques that help keep soil on the fields, our waters clean and conserves the productivity of Missouri’s working lands.

Each soil and water conservation district is governed by a board of five supervisors, responsible for all district actions and employees. Four supervisors on each board are resident county agricultural landowners or their legal representative elected to serve four-year terms. The fifth is a representative from University of Missouri Extension.

In 1982, Missouri was losing soil at a rate of 10.9 tons per acre each year on cropland, one of the highest rates of erosion in the nation. In order to reduce soil erosion, improve water quality as well as support Missouri state parks, Missouri voters passed a one-tenth-of-one-percent sales tax in 1984, now called the Parks, Soils and Water Sales Tax.  The tax funds are divided equally between the Department of Natural Resources Soil and Water Conservation Program and Missouri State Parks. Slightly more than two-thirds of Missouri voters renewed the tax in 1988 and 1996, and 70.8 percent voted in favor in 2006. In 2016, all 114 counties approved the sales tax renewal resulting in the highest approval to date at 80.1 percent.

Missouri’s soil and water program is a role model for the nation. Other states envy Missouri for its dedicated tax and support of soil and water conservation. Since 1982, Missouri’s soil erosion rate dropped more than any other state with more than 10 million acres of cropland. It is estimated that more than 179 million tons of soil have been saved since passage of the sales tax.

The sales tax provides financial incentives that share the cost between the farmer and the state of implementing the installation of soil and water conservation practices that prevent or control excessive soil erosion and protect water quality.

Missouri has come a long way since the sales tax was first approved in 1984; however, there is still work to be completed. Issues affecting soil health, soil erosion, water quality can have detrimental effects on Missouri’s natural resources and agricultural productivity. Research and water quality monitoring can help verify that soil and water conservation practices are working as intended. With your continued support, we can help make Missouri an even better place to live, work and enjoy the outdoors.

Christian County History

Information taken directly from "The State of Missouri an Autobiography" 1904 by Walter Williams.

Christian Co. 1904

Christian County is situated in the Ozark mountains of southwest Missouri ten miles south of Springfield. Its surface in the north and west comprise considerable plateau land, high and level, and elsewhere in the county is characterized by deep mountain gorges and corresponding cliffs.

Farmsof the countyare estimated to be worth, according to present market price, $3,112,266, and number 2,648 with an average size of 97.5 acres.  The county contains 556 square miles or 355,840 acres of which 149,140 acres are in cultivation and past years surplus products amounted to $1,000 for each farm.

Tobacco, strawberries, and tomatoes of the fancy, as distinguished from staple, production but all grains, vegetables, and fruits of this latitude are raised. Railroad ties have long supplied ready money to farmers who choose to employ otherwise idle time.

List of crops in 1902 in Christian County

POPULATION: - Total population, 16,939. Farm homes owned, 2,050; rented, 645; other homes owned, 338; rented, 422; total families, 3,455.

FINANCE: - County tax, 40 cents; school tax average, 64 cents; total assessed valuation, $3,315,010; assessed valuation percent of actual valuation, 66 and 2/3; county debt, $28,450; no township debt.

TIMBER: - Originally there was an unbroken forest of white oak, black oak, post oak, black-jack, and a few other species, but easily accessible commercial growth has been remove.  Acreage timbered is 206,700, most of which is second, small growth.  In the eastern and southern sections, however, are white oak and black oak marketable size.  Creek bluffs are often crowned with cedar thickets, timers of fence-post size.

MINERALS: - One-fifth if the county shows mineral prospects, but a comparatively small portion has been developed.  Lead and zinc are mined at Ozark.  one mine output for the past year was 180 tons of lead.  Iron evidence are abundant; no active mines.  Fire and pottery clay are found; limestone is everywhere.

LANDS: - Most of the soils consist of a clay loam of varying depths under laid by a bright red clay subsoil.  Creek and river bottom lands are of deep, sandy loam soil, rich in organic matter and will support annual grain crops for years without the use of fertilizers.  Uplands are fertile according to the depth of the soil.  In the west end there is land very valuable for general agricultural purposes, as is in between the vicinity of Nixa and Highlandville.  Southern and extreme eastern parts are more broken and some level or undulating land is found in the east central part.  All upland soils are gravel-laden and in places very stony.  Grain and grass thrive.  Large areas of upland soils seem well adapted to tobacco growing.  Price of lands range from $5 to $50 an acre.  maximum price is paid for the best bottoms, which range from $30 to $50, depending upon situation with reference to the market.  Table lands in the west end between Ozark and Sparta, in the central district, and the prairie near Nixa are priced at $25 to $35.  Best ridge lands, improved, are selling at $20 to $25.  Hill lands, improved, $5 to $15.  Unimproved land sells at $3 to 415, depending upon timber growth or soil.

Wagon on a river bridge in Christian County

TRANSPORTATION: - St. Louis and San Francisco main line crosses the northwest corner.  The Chadwick branch opens the center of the county.

MINERAL SPRINGS: - There are springs at Reno and Eaudevie, in the southern part of the county.  These waters possess medicinal properties and the towns are popular local resorts.  Fishing and hunting are additional attractions of these vicinities. 

TOWNS: - Ozark, county seat, population 830, has two flouring mills, a canning factory, and mineral reduction works.  Billings, population 702, has a flouring mill, grain elevator, canning factory, creamery, and iron foundry; center for fruit and dairy region.  Sparta, population 300, has a flouring mill, and a farming center.  There is also; Nixa, Chadwick, Kenton, Riverdale, Griffin, Highlandville, McCracken, and Clever.

NEWSPAPERS: - Ozark Democrat, Christian County Republican; Sparta Leader, Billings Times. Post, Nixa News.