Farmers in counties declared federal disaster areas after last summer's flooding may be eligible for conservation compliance variances this spring. The variances allow for limited tillage in corn stalks and soybean stubble.
"Because of the unusually heavy and intense rain storms in 2008, some no-tilled fields may have developed some small rills across the slope," says John Myers, state resource conservationist for USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service in Iowa. "This variance allows farmers the opportunity to smooth out those areas without penalty."
If limited tillage is needed to facilitate planting in these areas with excessive erosion, farmers should request a variance from their local NRCS office before completing any tillage. After receiving a request, NRCS staff may complete a field review.
With this variance, the tillage must be limited
"It is important to note this variance is not blanket coverage allowing producers to do tillage," says Myers. "It applies where the farmers has used no-till planting methods as specified in their conservation compliance plan and on areas where permanent practices to control ephemeral gully erosion would normally not be needed."
NRCS is also offering a variance to allow farmers to deviate from the crop residue requirements listed for mulch tillage where additional tillage is needed for re-planting purposes or to level areas where rill erosion or ephemeral gully erosion occurred. It only applies were mulch tillage is specified in the conservation compliance plan.
If a producer's compliance plan called for establishing meadow, a variance allowing a one-year extension may be available as well.
Where will compliance variances not be granted?
Conservation compliance variances will not be granted on tracts were permanent practices, like grassed waterways, field borders, critical area seeding and water and sediment control basins, needed to control ephemeral gully erosion, were not in place. NRCS will not grant a variance for fields that were tilled prior to the heavy rains, and the conservation compliance plan specifies a no-till planting system.
If you have questions on your conservation plans or would like to do a review, contact your local field office staff to schedule an appointment. This is a good time to complete conservation plan follow-up visits to review the plan and make any revisions that are needed, says Myers.