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Farm Programs

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Though construction contributes 48% of the sediment in streams according to TDEC, agricultural practices also contribute to destabilization of streambanks and muddy riverbottoms. The federal government used to encourage the alteration of streams and fill of wetlands before they fully understood their value. Crops and pastureland cover approximately seven million acres of Tennessee. In the past, federal funds and programs aimed at draining wetlands, straightening streams, and moving water off of property rather than storing it in the soil and protecting floodplains. Now, tens of millions of public dollars are invested to reverse the loss of our resources. Particularly when drought and flood conditions are increasingly volatile, natural water storage and flood plain buffering for property protection are critical. Click here for a summary of erosion in Tennessee.
TCWN is therefore developing a farm program to help farmers to access technical information and funding for remediation or conservation projects. We already support farmers trying to monitor development around their property that threatens crops and livestock water supplies. In addition, we are launching the following programs to support the farming community in Tennessee.
2007 Farm Bill: The Farm Bill is a new area for TCWN. The Farm Bill provides money under several different programs to encourage soil and water conservation and increase farm productivity and profitability. TCWN is a member of the State Technical Committee and in that role has supported policies that prioritize funding to projects that improve water quality. Good stewards of the land should be at the head of the line. As a member of the Mississippi River Basin Water Quality Collaborative, we have also studied the Farm Bill policies at the federal level, and are supporting better compliance review, continued support of programs funded through the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and increased access for small farmers and those who grow specialty crops. Traditionally, only a handful of grain and soybean varieties received the majority of funding from the Farm Bill. While TCWN support cellulose-based fuel sources, the market is setting a profitable price for those crops, and we are researching what non-traditionally funded specialty crops also benefit the land and water resources. Click here for the NRCS web site for more information. Click here to find the NRCS agent in your area.
Funding for Erosion Control: This program will encourage landowners in west Tennessee to take advantage of government cost-share funding to improve their property and water quality. Historically channelized streams can be modified through grade control structures, remeanders for channels, reestablished floodplains, and other best management practices. The North Fork Forked Deer Watershed will be the first target for the program. The watersheds in the northwest of the state transport significant sediment loads to Tennessee's rivers and are the leading Tennessee contributors of sediment and associated nutrients to the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. Grade structures and other BMPs that retain soil at the source will improve downstream conditions and help meet Tennessee's obligation to improve the hypoxic conditions in the Gulf. This new program is dependent on volunteer landowners and funding.
Farmers' Rights and Responsibilities: Increasingly, development pressures are encouraging many farmers to sell their land for residential or commercial building. For those who remain to work the land, new obstacles are emerging including changes to historical flow patterns, changes in well water access, and lower water quality for surface waters often relied on for livestock. Our members have documented floods of clay-laden mud flowing over their crops or cutting away the topsoil and creating channels through formerly productive acreage. Over the next year, TCWN will be providing information to the farm community about their rights and responsibilities under the water quality laws of the state. Farmers, like all other citizens, can protect their property through commenting on proposed permits, cooperating with state agencies to monitor harmful changes to water quality, or legal action against those who pollute their property and water sources. As well, TCWN will provide information about when landowners need to get permits themselves to avoid penalties from the agencies.

Farmers Rights and Relevance to Waters of the State (PDF)145.18 KB

Tennessee Clean Water Network

625 Market St.
Knoxville, TN 37901
Mailing Address:
PO BOX 1521
Knoxville, TN 37901
Office: 865.522.7007
Fax: 865.525.4988

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