New USDA program can benefit parish

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 9, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Monday was the beginning of a national initiative through the Conservation Reserve Program to restore the floodplains by planting bottomland hardwood trees in the Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio River valleys and the southern coastal plain.

And it all began on Carthage Point Road on Riva Ridge Farm in Adams County.

&uot;This is an example of the kind of land we would restore back to the original,&uot; said James Moseley, deputy secretary for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. &uot;This (program) is one we feel pretty strongly about. From a conservation standpoint, it is pretty darn important.&uot;

Email newsletter signup

According to Moseley the program has multiple benefits: reducing soil erosion and the impact of floods, restoring a habitat for wildlife, improving water quality and carbon sequestration &045; collecting carbon dioxide from the air and putting it in the fiber of the trees and back into the soil.

Farmers with eligible land, cropland located within a 100-year floodplain, can sign up on a continual basis, starting now, to get trees planted on their land. Participants receive 50 percent of the cost to establish the trees, assistance planting the trees &045; oak, ash, maple, cypress and tupelo &045;

and a rental payment for the land for either 14 or 15 years.

&uot;You don’t lose any of your property rights with the program,&uot; said John Johnson, deputy administrator for farm programs of the farm service agency (FSA). &uot;Whatever property rights you have today, you will have.&uot;

Each state has a different amount of acreage allotted it. Mississippi is allotted 50,000 acres, one of the largest, with a total acreage of 500,000 nationally.

&uot;This program is one we think will capture quite a bit of attention,&uot; Moseley said.

But, Adams County is not eligible to receive trees from this new initiative because it is already participating fully in the Conservation Reserve Program. The county is limited to 25 percent of the cropland in the program.

&uot;We’re at that limit now,&uot; said Stacy McKay, county executive director of the FSA. &uot;For other counties, I would imagine it would be a big impact.&uot;

And in the surrounding parishes in Louisiana &045; Concordia, Catahoula and Tensas &045; it will be.

&uot;Concordia parish would definitely have conservation land Š Tensas and Catahoula Š that northeast would have more than anybody,&uot; said Willie F. Cooper, state director of FSA in Louisiana. &uot;It is a prime area.&uot;

Right now, Adams and the surrounding counties have about 20,000 acres in bottomland hardwood, mostly in the CRP and the Wetland Reserve Program, said Bryan Stringer Jr., district conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

&uot;We’ve had mixed success (with bottomland hardwood,&uot; Stringer said. &uot;About 75 percent success with our planting.&uot;

And that is planting since 1989, Stringer said.

&uot;It is hard to grow a tree when the river is over it,&uot; McKay said, talking about the difficulty of the Mississippi River.