Needs Assessment

The Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District board of supervisors, district staff, and local landowners with the assistance of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Missouri University Extension in the past determined county resource needs by practice request. Since the implementation of the Needs Assessment information for the first Needs Assessment was gathered by using local landowner meetings, the County Profile maps on the CARES Web site determining land use as well as the 2002 census data. The past cost-share usage reports, and a landowner survey sent to approximately 500 area landowners also aided in determining the local area resource concerns for the county. After the first needs assessment was completed a cost-share assistance request list was created by the district. It was felt that this list would help to better assist the landowners of the county as it was required by the needs assessment to request cost-share assistance monies in different resource concern areas. The district continues to use a cost-share request list as sufficient funding has not been allocated to the county to assist all landowners that are requesting assistance. The ninety-five landowners currently on the list are requesting assistance in one or more resource concern areas.

The Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors feels that the goals and cost-share request submitted in the FY 2014 Needs Assessment are accurate for the current state of the agricultural farm demographics in the county. The following information addresses the districts current state and changes that may impact future cost-share needs. Current grain prices are definitely increasing the number of acres planted to row crop. The local economy is also having an impact on the number of acres planted. Landowners are unable to sell or develop purchased traditional farm ground so they are seeking operators to put in annually tilled crops. Absentee landowners are also seeing the upward trend of grain prices and are requesting operators plant areas of farms that have not been in row crops for many years. Acres previously in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) are also being planted to crop instead of re-enrolled in the program. The reduction of the counties cost-share allocation along with economics and the unusual weather patterns are contributing to the ever growing cost-share requests list for the county. Requests currently being funded are two years old as the latest request to be funded is from September of 2010. Even with the recent resignation of one of the districts technicians the board would like to request the following funding. The board feels the recent payments of over forty drought assistance contracts totaling over $243,000.00 to the county landowners prove they are committed to putting conservation and water quality practices on the ground.

Animal Waste Management

Swine production in the county is almost non-existent. The few that remain are considering alternative uses for their facilities. This resource concern ranked last in the needs assessment survey. Funding is not requested for this resource concern at this time.

Grazing Management

The first rotational grazing in Warren County was completed in 1997. Since then interest in the practice has been ever increasing. The East Central Grazing Conference put on by NRCS, SWCD, and Extension staff in the past was well attended. An advanced grazing school was added to the list of programs available to local landowners and was also very well attended. To add to the boards commitment to putting conservation on the ground in the county and to encourage more landowners to implement grazing systems the board had staff write a grant for local landowners to attend the Rotational Grazing Schools which their registration would be paid. This grant was awarded to the district earlier this summer.

With the implementation of rotational grazing systems water quality only stands to improve due to improved plant vigor and reduced sedimentation and animal waste runoff. Significant sloping fields, cropped in the past, are now being utilized for livestock grazing. Results from the first needs assessment survey were to complete 1830 acres of grazing land in the next five years. Economically this may not be feasible. The current cost-share request list has eleven landowners in the county requesting some type of DSP assistance. For fiscal year 2014 the district intends to request $25,000.00 to complete these systems and $30,200.00 for fiscal year 2015.

Irrigation Management

Warren County has seen an increase in irrigation especially in the uplands of the county. Systems that have been put into place have not been completed with state cost-share funds nor has anyone requested state cost-share funding for irrigation in the next fiscal year. Inquiries for fiscal year 2015 have been made. Funding for this resource concern will not be requested at this time but may change in fiscal year 2015.

Nutrient and Pest Management

Nutrient and Pest Management has become a popular practice in Warren County. Water quality concerns, drought conditions, availability and rising nutrient and seed costs, availability of lime, and abnormal weather patterns have made applying nutrients difficult. Implementing and following nutrient and pest management plans keeps area producers from over applying nutrients and pesticides and may aid in application timing. This not only improves water quality but assists with landowner input costs. Landowners expressed interest in completing nearly 6,000 acres of nutrient management and 3,000 acres of pest management over the next five years in the original landowner survey. This did not seem unreasonable due to the fact a practice like this has not been offered county wide. With the availability of a new variable rate technology and application methods in the area more operators are contacting the district requesting information on nutrient management practices. Due to wet weather timing was an issue for nutrient application which caused the cancelation of applications. For fiscal year 2014 the districts asks for $15,000.00 to complete the requests for nutrient and pest management and $15,000 to complete second year requests in 2015.

Sensitive Areas

Approximately thirty percent of Warren County is in woodland the remainder is cropland and urban, with approximately 1000 miles of streams. This diverseness makes restricting livestock access to sensitive areas such as streams and woodlands a must. More and more landowners are also realizing the benefits to water quality and animal health by utilizing these types of practices. In the past most of this has been completed by utilizing the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The recently completed SALT Project in the county has brought about, the completion of alternative water and fencing out of sensitive area practices. In the needs assessment survey landowners expressed interest in protecting approximately 600 acres throughout the county.

In the past landowner meetings have revealed streambank erosion as the number one concern among landowners in Warren County. It ranked third on the landowner survey mailed out by the district for the needs assessment. There are approximately 680 miles of perennial and 330 miles of intermittent streams in the county. Streambank erosion is not limited to any stream order or highly erodible soils in the county. Missouri River flooding is an issue in some areas where landowners wish to complete stabilization practices. Landowners in the county expressed interest in completing some type of practice on approximately 30,000 feet of banks. Staff estimates half of the proposed feet would qualify for cost-share assistance. Most eroding banks in the county are short areas averaging 300 feet long. Interest in completing some type of streambank stabilization in the county is high however; completion is low due to the required establishment of riparian areas that in the past were required by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) the technical agency for streambank stabilization. MDC would also like to see the landowner leave a fifty to one hundred foot of riparian area along the entire stream on their property. This creates a hardship on most land owners as it takes in most of the smaller creek bottom fields they are trying to protect. The fifty to one hundred feet of trees also tends to make the field impossible or infeasible to farm. Completion of streambank stabilization practices has recently hit another road block as MDC no longer assists as a technical advisor unless the stream is located in a Conservation Opportunity Area (COA) as designated by them.

Well decommissioning through the Charrette Creek SALT Project was a successful practice. This is a practice landowners realized is a tremendous asset to water quality and liability. Interest in spring developments, composters, and fencing sink holes were also expressed on the needs assessment survey. The district plans to contact the landowners who recently completed drought assistance wells and tanks to offer them assistance to fence out the no longer used ponds and creeks that the wells replaced. If response to this program is great the request for fiscal year 2015 may change. The district is requesting $5,400.00 for this resource concern for fiscal year 2014 and 2015.

Sheet, Rill and Gully Erosion

Gully/sheet and rill erosion is currently the highest resource concern with landowners in the county. Reviewing the landowner survey results from a couple of years ago and the land use area of the county an estimated 8000 farmland acres could potentially be treated for sheet, rill, and gully erosion. Terraces, grading and shaping, diversions, ponds, dry structures, waterways, seeding crop ground to permanent grass, and no-till were the conservation practices landowners expressed a desire to complete. Warren County has three predominate soil types; Armster, Keswick, and Mexico. Their T value is as diverse as the county itself ranging from 2 to 5. Erosion rates also vary depending on slope and use of no-till.

Reduction of regular cost-share allocations and the loss of SALT funding for the county have put the number of completed projects for erosion control practices lower. Farm size, component price, fuel prices, labor, and weather have an impact on the number of practices any district can complete. There are currently seventy-two requests for assistance for sheet, rill, and gully practices on the districts cost-share request list.

The district board would like to request funding for all landowner requests however current economic conditions dictate a more realistic dollar amount request. For fiscal year 2014 the district requests $80,050.00 to complete as many of the practices listed on their cost-share request list as possible and $90,000.00 for fiscal year 2015.

Woodland Erosion

The approximately 140,000 acres of woodlands in Warren County has the potential for protecting acres of forested areas. Slopes on these acres range from 5 to 50 percent. Protecting these areas from livestock is a must for improving water quality. Utilizing Missouri State cost-share assistance, federal cost-share assistance through EQIP, and Missouri Department of Conservation's Conservation Opportunity Area cost-share assistance through the Missouri River Hills Project has proven to be a beneficial partnership to protect the counties woodland acres. Through these partnership efforts numerous acres of timber stand improvement (TSI), implemented timber harvest plans, and restoring skid and logging trails practices have been completed. The education of landowners in proper implementation of these practices is crucial to protecting the waters of the county. For fiscal year 2014 the district intends to request $7,000.00 to complete these systems and $4,500.00 for fiscal year 2015.

The Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District is requesting an increase in cost-share assistance monies based on the cost-share request list. Obviously completion of these projects will be contingent on weather, timing, and the local economy.