The New Madrid County Soil and Water Conservation District named Richard Brands the "Farmer of the Year" during its annual meeting Thursday.
Involved in farming for the past 32 years, Brands currently farms 6,200 acres in partnership with his brothers. The operation grows cotton, corn, wheat and some milo, said Denis McCrate, vice chairman of the SWCD board of supervisors, who presented the award.
"One of Richard's top priorities to successful farming is the maintenance of erosion control culverts. He can remember putting in his first drop-pipe culvert in the early '70s," said McCrate.
In addition to his farming activities, Brands serves as vice president of Drainage District 18 and is a board member of Drainage District 29. He and his wife, Rita, are the parents of three children, Carri Haertling, Sara French and Jim Brands, and have one grandson, Chase Haertling.
The evening's guest speaker was Joe Tousignant, a wildlife biologist employed by the Missouri Department of Conservation. Stationed at the Area 5 NRCS office in Jackson, Tousignant works with farmers throughout southeast Missouri to promote wildlife habitat and to assist landowners in using farm bill programs to increase wildlife on their lands.
Beginning with the question: "Why bother talking about wildlife," Tousignant explained: "Because you can. If you can, why not? And besides it is good for the bottom line."
According to the speaker, often farming the edges of the fields is not profitable and this is an area which can be used to create wildlife habitat. Also he pointed out as more commodity programs are being phased out, others are being created to encourage conservation, such as wildlife habitat creation.
"Things are changing in Washington. We will see a much different farm bill in 2007 - now that is my opinion but I want people to be aware," he added.
Tousignant spoke about several ways to create habitat which can benefit the farmer's profits as well as animals. Also he explained several government programs which assist farmers in creating the habitats.
"The CSP (Conservation Security Program) is paying very good money to establish field border now. There is no need to wait ... the programs are already here," he said.
Tom Bradley, the treasurer for the SWCD Board of Supervisors, presented the district's update. Now in its 53rd year as a county soil and water district, according to Bradley, the county received approximately $215,619 in reimbursements to landowners in 2005 for installing drainage control structures.
"These structures reduce sediment and other pollutants from entering our drainage systems and they also help the drainage districts in saving on maintenance costs," Bradley said. He added the district anticipates installing over 200 of these erosion control structures in 2006.
In addition the county has 2,100 acres signed up for the Wetland Reserve Program and the Environmental Quality Incentive Program provided $175,000 in 2005 with the possibility of $100,000 this year in the county for projects.