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.

Scotland County SWCD History

Scotland County was organized as a county in the year 1841. Scotland County is roughly 20 by 21 miles containing 441 square miles of territory and is situated the second county west of the Mississippi River on the Iowa border. Scotland County was originally a part of Lewis County. Lewis County was divided into 4 parts. Lewis County, Clark County, Knox County, and Scotland County. Scotland County got its name from the surveyor who surveyed the county. He needed a name and since he had come from Scotland, he just wrote Scotland on his Surveys - and it stuck.

As to early settlers - the county was settled sparsely prior to its incorporation as a county. There is some dispute as to who were the first settlers. Whoever they were they shared the territory with the Sac and Fox Indian Tribes who camped in this locality until about 1842.

Scotland County hasn't produced many famous people. Tom Horn was a native of Scotland County, and for a while he was a famous lawman in the wild west - later, he ended up on the end of a rope for alleged misdeeds.

Another remarkable citizen of the county was Ella Ewing. Ella was 8 feet 6 inches tall and traveled with P. T. Barnum and Buffalo Bill's shows around the turn of the century. Unfortunately Ella wasn't into basketball, as she could have easily stuffed flat-footed.

Scotland County is primarily devoted to farming. Around 1900 the population of the County was over 12,000. Today it is under 5,000. Should you take Amtrak from Chicago to Los Angeles you would pass through the southeast corner of Scotland County.

For more historical information, consider visiting the Downing House, Scotland County's museum.