Where does your dollar go? When you purchase an ECOpass, be it a $5 pass or a $200 pass, that money goes directly back to farmers and ranchers in Oklahoma who are making a difference for our environment and positively impacting conservation in our state. For each $5 pass, $3.50 goes right back to producers. The remaining $1.50 goes to local conservation districts and the Oklahoma Conservation Commission to verify the practices that have been put under contract. This ensures that everyone is getting their money’s worth and when we say you have an acre, we can tell you where that acre is and what that landowner is doing on that acre. For more information or if you have any questions, feel free to contact Sarah Pope at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Below are more details about how each practice positively impacts Oklahoma:
No-till Crop Systems
No-tillage or zero tillage is a farming system in which the seeds are directly deposited into untilled soil that has retained the previous crop residues. It is also referred to as no-till. Special no-till seeding equipment with discs (low disturbance) or narrow tine coulters (higher disturbance) open a narrow slot into the residue-covered soil that is only wide enough to put the seeds into the ground and cover them with soil. The aim is to move as little soil as possible in order not to bring weed seeds to the surface and not stimulating them to germinate. No other soil tillage operation is done. The residues from the previous crops will remain largely undisturbed at the soil surface as mulch. If the soil is disturbed even only superficially then the system cannot be termed no-tillage and is defined as mulch tillage (CTIC, 2011). In Oklahoma, we are behind the curve when it comes to adoption of no-till. This is something the ECOpass program is working to change because it not only sequesters carbon but also significantly reduces the amount of diesel needed to farm and allows land to be protected against drought and erosion from extreme weather conditions.
One of the most in-depth and complicated practices for a farmer to undertake is rangeland management. With adjustments to management techniques, land that is considered “native range” can have a carbon sequestration value. This practice includes anything from changing livestock grazing patterns and numbers to removal of invasive species to introduction of native species back into the range. Landowners who participate in this practice are responsible for keeping records and a close eye on the changes on their land. In addition to carbon sequestration, rangeland management has a direct impact on water conservation and wildlife habitat, which is especially important to species in Oklahoma that are being considered for potential listing under the Endangered Species Act.
This ECOpass practice is one that has a huge impact on urban and suburban folks because of its water quality benefits. Not only does the practice of fencing off waterways create carbon sequestration, it also measurably improves water quality by reducing sedimentation and stream bank erosion. By fencing off a certain distance away from the water, cattle don’t make their way into the streams and that avoids bacteria from entering the waterway- in ways I’m sure you can imagine happen. However, this practice does present an issue for farmers and ranchers by blocking that direct access to water. So in addition to the investment of installing the fences, alternative water sources must be installed to keep cattle and other livestock hydrated. But through ECOpass, we reward the good stewardship of producers who install these riparian areas and help offset part of the cost of those watering systems.
Conversion to Grassland
With crop prices at a higher rate than they have been in the past, converting cropland back to grass can have a direct impact on a producer’s bottom line. But with a drought that has a firm grip on the state, this conversion is one that can help save thousands of tons of top soil and improve air and water quality at the same time. By taking acres out of production, the soil doesn’t see the disturbance that it would if crops where being planted each year. Add to that a reduction in the amount of diesel and chemicals used to farm those acres and there is an obvious benefit beyond just the carbon sequestration value. Conversion to grassland has the highest sequestration value of all ECOpass practices and still allows farmers and ranchers to keep their land in production while at the same time having a positive impact on the environment.