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SD Habitat Conservation Foundation contributes $1 million to new effort

SIOUX FALLS -- The South Dakota Habitat Conservation Foundation, along with South Dakota State University and The USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced Wednesday a new project called Every Acre Counts, designed to give ag...

SIOUX FALLS - The South Dakota Habitat Conservation Foundation, along with South Dakota State University and The USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced Wednesday a new project called Every Acre Counts, designed to give agricultural producers new ways to manage low producing acres while increasing their bottom line.

Four regions of South Dakota have been selected to kick start the project, including Aurora, Brule, Buffalo and Jerauld counties with saline/sodic and eroded areas. Moody, Lake and Minnehaha counties with eroded and wet areas; Brown, Spink, Clark and Day counties with saline/sodic and wet areas in addition to Edmonds, Potter and Faulk.

"Ag producers in South Dakota care about the land and we realize that our practices have far-reaching impacts for agriculture and conservation," said South Dakota Habitat Conservation Foundation President Christine Hamilton, of Kimball. "Every year, producers, like me, are faced with tough planning decisions. The opportunity to develop partnerships like this demonstrates the importance of our ag industry in South Dakota and our dedication to land stewardship."

SDSU will work with selected landowners in each of the four regions and their crop and financial consultants to precisely characterize the technical metrics of their existing operations and generate an accrual-based economic analysis. That information will then be incorporated into a profit mapping software to pinpoint and quantify marginal acres. In addition, federal, state and local habitat and conservation programs will be used to leverage funding.

"The primary focus for this project will be the optimal use of marginal lands impacted by wet conditions, saline or sodic soils, and eroded areas such as hilltops," SDSU President Barry Dunn said. "Millions of acres of cropland across South Dakota are impacted by these challenges, with over 7 million acres impacted by saline conditions alone. The financial burdens of attempting to produce crops in these marginal areas can be negative to a producer's bottom line. And, together, we want to change this."

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The vision is to build out from the initial adopters to recruit neighbors and create a critical mass of participants in each of the four regions, stated Dunn. Focusing the work in these specific areas enables a greater efficiency in delivering the programs to surrounding landowners, producing easy, but effective outreach.

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