Beef cattle, hay top crops in Polk

Published 5:56 pm Thursday, May 30, 2013


Beef cattle is the top agriculture business currently in Polk County with hay production being second, according to the Polk County Farmland Preservation Board.

The county’s agriculture was discussed extensively during a joint meeting earlier this month with the Polk County Board of Commissioners, the Polk Soil and Water District and the farmland preservation board.

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Agriculture officials also said the county currently has 7,200 acres of land classified in the voluntary agriculture district, with 1,600 of those acres being in the enhanced voluntary agriculture district. Landowners in the enhanced district have agreed to restrict land to agricultural use for 10 years.

Farmland preservation board chair Doug Harmon said in the future he’d like to see more truck farming with produce being sold in Polk County. Harmon said there have not been any large producers of produce in the county, but there has been a lot of small producers who have started as evidenced at local farmers markets.

Polk County Commissioner Chair Michael Gage asked if there have been any new and innovative crops in Polk County.

Harmon said there are some aquaponics and many consumer farmers, or farmers who grow large gardens and sell at the farmers markets.

County commissioner Keith Holbert asked how the state defines a farm. Polk Soil and Water District Administrator Sandra Reid said a farmer has to produce a product with certain amounts of quantity to qualify as a farm.

“You can’t take in horses for sport and be a farm,” said Reid.

Soil and water district supervisor and farmland preservation board member Dave Slater reviewed the cost share program between the state and farmers. He said the state provides funding to the districts with the district working with farmers for certain projects. An example, Slater said, is developing a watering system in fields where cattle graze in order to keep cattle out of streams. He said the state pays a greater amount if they are in a voluntary agriculture program, with the state paying 90 percent of qualifying projects if a farmer is in the enhanced agriculture district.

History of soil & water district

The Polk County Soil & Water Conservation District is a government entity dedicated to the protection, preservation and enhancement of Polk’s natural resouces.

Soil and water districts and their governing boards were formed nationwide based on legislation approved by congress following the devastating Dust Bowl and other critical conservation problems of the 1930s.

“Because nearly ¾ of the continental United States is privately owned, Congress realized that only active, voluntary support from landowners would guarantee the success of conservation work on private land,” Slater said.

The partnership has been the backbone of highly successful efforts over the past 75 years to address problems across the state including soil erosion, flood damage and water quality issues.

North Carolina has 96 soil and water districts with over 3,000 soil and water districts nationwide.

The districts are governed by a five-member board of supervisors, with three who are elected and two appointed. Board members serve four-year terms.

Polk’s current board includes chairman Richard Smith, who has been on the board for 25 years, vice-chair Frank Smith who has been on the board 17 years, secretary/treasurer Hubert McEntyre, who has served 53 years, Charles Dean Edwards, with 31 years of service and Slater with 16 years of service.

Polk County provides funding for one full time administrator and one part time district technician. The state provides some reimbursement for the district technician and a district conservationist is fully funded by the federal government.

The county also provides funding for operational costs such as office space, supplies, telephone, postage and travel. The soil and water district office is now located in the Mill Spring Ag Center.

Conservation funding ranges per year to meet conservation needs. Over the past five years, the Polk Soil and Water Conservation District has brought in over $6 million.