Episode-1723- An NRCS Insider’s Perspective with Frank Cochran

nrcs

The NRCS Can Help With Developing Sustainable Agriculture Practices

Frank Cochran is the NRCS District Conservationist for three counties in east-central Alabama.

He started working with the NRCS as a Soil Conservationist in 2011 after finishing up graduate school at Auburn University in 2010.

His research was centered on soil quality/health, soil variation, and management use impacts across five land uses including the native Longleaf Pine-Wiregrass ecosystem.

A North Georgia native, he is interested in gardening, animal husbandry, self-reliance, Liberty, outdoor adventures, and spending time with family and friends.  Frank is a MSB member and an avid listener to TSP for nearly 5 years.

Join Frank and I Today to Discuss…

  • What exactly does the NRCS do
  • What are the roots of the NRCS
  • What is the NRCS organic initiative
  • Who can apply
  • What is the process to get NRCS assistance
  • Is the NRCS are regulatory agency
  • How can producers have a voice with the NRCS

Resources for today’s show…

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16 Responses to Episode-1723- An NRCS Insider’s Perspective with Frank Cochran

  1. Thanks Frank for a great interview.

    After listening to Rob’s interview I contacted my local NRCS office. I live in the upstate part of South Carolina. The lady I spoke with was very nice and informative. Here is the info she gave me. (Like Frank was saying it is different for all states, so it may not be the same in your area)

    – Thanks for your interest in our programs. To qualify for cost share assistance on a Seasonal High Tunnel (SHT) under the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP), you must be growing crops/or recently have grown crops in the area where you would like to install the SHT. You must register as a USDA participant with the Farm Service Agency (FSA). That includes bringing in a copy of your deed and plat and filling out other paperwork.

    SHT must be a minimum of 6’ high, 6 mil poly, and constructed according to manufacturer’s instruction. (You cannot build your own.) If you apply before August 2016, you will be considered for funding for the 2017 fiscal year- meaning if you are approved, you would have a contract by spring of 2017.

    The payment for SHT is by the Square Foot ($4.09 per SF for 2016 for New and Beginning Farmers.) Some companies may extend credit to you for 120 days or so to construct SHT and give you time to receive cost share reimbursement before they expect payment. FarmTek has done that in the past. Also, low interest loans are available through Farm Service Agency for EQIP applicants. (Ex. 30’Wx96’Lx14’H High Tunnel 2880 sqft. Cost $$8009(according to their website / SHT payment would be $11,779.20)

    This works great for me, because the land I will be using the HT on is a new piece. This will give me the opportunity to grow crops this year and get ready for the tunnel next year. I’m getting all my paperwork together now and hopefully will be a new HT owner next year!

    Thanks Jack for the motivation and the hard work you do!

  2. Frank,

    Could we get a list of “acceptable terms” right next to common permaculture terms we could use when working with the government you have heard?

    I think by now most listeners know a swale is a NRCS code 600 terrace 🙂
    http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb1046935.pdf

    • Modern Survival

      That may be useful but if you listen more an talk less you will hear their words and can repeat them.

      You may say something like, “I have an erosion issue and concern here, could you take a look and give me your thoughts”?

      You point them at the problem, lead them to a solution you want but they feel it is THEIR solution and people always love their own solutions.

    • This is a condensed list of the field office technical guide, research your own state and local agency’s conservation practices list.

      http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detailfull/national/technical/cp/ncps/?cid=nrcs143_026849

      The rest I will attribute from a conversation with Grant Schultz(focusing on agroforestry in this instance).

      The individual agent may not be familiar with everything that is offered within the scope of their programs, there is nothing wrong with feeding them their own information.

      http://nac.unl.edu/publications/index.htm

      You can get them FREE online or they’ll ship printed copies to you for FREE as well. I’d get some and hand them to your local reps to get schooled up.

    • A permaculture to government dictionary. Haha.

  3. Great interview. Thanks for the information.

  4. Vivaldi on a survival show, it’s great. TSP never fails to surprise and educate. Will listen to the rest on tomorrow’s commute. Thanks Jack.

  5. This show brought back so many great memories for me.

    My old man was a district conservationist for NRCS (and SCS, the predecessor agency) for around 25 years in West Virginia (5 years before as a soil scientist) before he passed. I spent a lot of time during the summers while a kid with him doing these programs on local farmers land and with the local Soil Conservation District.

    You do need to read the fine print of some of their programs, to qualify you have to use their specifications and do it “their way.” Most of the time it isn’t a problem but sometimes it gets a little silly (yes, you can absolutely over-engineer a frickin livestock feeding pad believe it or not). Nothing you can’t deal with though just be aware.

    While my dad had been accused of being a G-man occasionally and ran off of property by a few Bundy types with shotguns because his work vehicle had government plates, NRCS really is fighting the good fight. Thanks for this interview Jack and bringing a lot of this information to light, it was really great.

  6. More often than not, NRCS would prefer to distribute EQIP cost sharing dollars to folks of our mindset than those running hundreds of acres of crops and CAFOs. We applied for and will without doubt be receiving significant funding for a livestock well and fencing on top of incentives for managed grazing on 15 of 80 acres this year. We will be applying for the remaining acreage this year for 2017. It is not hard to talk them into as many programs that can be reasonable established on a parcel.

    • How many hundreds of acres does it take to become a problem?

      Depending on the crop, I’d prefer to see people of our mindset controlling hundreds of acres.

      Well managed grazing can work at a pretty big scale and be ecologically regenerative, as can forest systems.

      It’s even possible to work in an annual crop that’s ‘disked’ by hoof action at the same time it’s fertilized, weed once with a followup species and take the best to market and leave the rest for the next pass of the livestock.

      Unfortunately current organic laws require a really long season crop for this option, due to time from manuring to time of harvest, but it does work. Or just say screw ‘organic’ and focus on building a local customer base that cares more about how their food is grown than what label it has.

  7. Frank,
    I plan on contacting my local office, but do you think there are opportunities for indoor growers to receive cost sharing for indoor growing equipment? Such as auto watering and growing lights, etc? We do microgreens now, and are leasing 1500sf next month. We want to grow into producing full size vegetables, salad greens, edible flowers, and herbs as well.

    Thanks for the very informative show!

  8. I THOUGHT I heard him say that the NRCS “grants first time farmers, minorities, etc, the only exception are women” and then you interrupted him and both continued. What did he say with exceptions to women??? I sure hope not. I wondered if you could ask him about that.

    • Modern Survival

      What he said is basically the only things that do not qualify as a minority is being white or being a woman.

      So if you are a white guy or gal you are out on any minority preference, but anyone else is in. See more of that super duper white privilege YAY WHITE PEOPLE!

  9. Let me first quote Mr Spirko “ The hand that gives the money is always on top” I am surprised that Jack would advocate working with NRCS or other government entities. Even if it is your money you will get it back with strings attached. My personal experience with NRCS. I have grown vegetables for a few years and started to build a few customers. Not enough to actually qualify as a farmer but I decided to scale up and become a farmer. I bought 6 acres of previous conventional row cropped farm land to start organic production. I contacted NRCS. I confirmed the lot had a farm number and they were strong advocates of applying, promising me lots of things. I jump the hoops and have a person come out. Guy doesn’t even walk the property. Stands at roadside. I tell him Im growing veggies currently on the lot which I was and told him a portion would be pastured livestock. He draws a hand map of how to set up paddocks and leaves. I get a certified letter from NRCS stating that I am not eligible for ANYTHING because I do not have livestock. WFT I have a lot that need irrigation, platsiculture, animal protection, cover cropping, of corn stubble, advise on commercial sized production and tons more stuff. I was originally told I even qualify as a first time farmer and heck even my wife is part native American but dittly squat from NRCS. You would think someone who is changing a commercial row cropped ag lot to organic and was a beginning farmer might be something they are interested in. Not at all. They likely are trying to drum up applications and rejecting them to ask another department for more funding showing how there is such a demand. Dont tell me it was one person. I spoke with three different people in the office. TOTAL waste of your time. From personal experience in my past life any funds from government have life time strings attached and government is vindictive and controlling. Maybe Im mistaken and government really has a generous side and wants everyone to have a high tunnel just cause they are generous and love you. Right, stand in line to become dependent on the government tit. Remember the one who give the money is always on top. BTW I now have 20 families I supply veggies to and have multiple commercial wholesale accounts but I could have helped many more families with some NRCS services but we all know they really aren’t there to help our fellow citizens.

    • Modern Survival

      I am done explaining this, if you want to hold your breath do it till you turn blue and pass out, no one will care.