Now is a Good Time to Review Your Lease

DNR-managed trust land in agricultureWith 2015 well underway and irrigation season upon us in many areas, it’s time to review your agriculture lease. In particular, take a look at Section 2.01 Permitted Use to refresh your memory on the allowed uses to ensure that you maintain lease compliance. Section 2.01 spells out exactly what type of use may occur under the lease agreement. For example, if an irrigated agriculture lease states the following:

2.01 Permitted Use. For this lease, the following use(s) and no other use(s) is/are permitted:

PERMITTED USE ACRES AUTHORIZED CROPS
Irrigated Agriculture 500 Potatoes, Corn, Peas, Timothy, Alfalfa,
Conservation 140 Wildlife Habitat

Crop type and rotations are agreed upon before the signing of the lease. The lessee can grow only the crops listed under the column “Authorized Crops.” DNR calculates the annual rent based upon the fair market value of the crops being grown on the lease. In cases where an unauthorized crop is planted, the unit land manager must recalculate the lease rent and, possibly, collect additional funds from the lessee to make the Trust (which receives the revenue) whole. Lessees who want to plant crops not authorized in their lease agreement must obtain advance written authorization from DNR.

Another item to note: grazing is not listed as a “Permitted Use” so livestock cannot graze the 140 acres of wildlife habitat, or aftermath graze the crops grown on the 500 acres of irrigated agriculture. Grazing of wildlife habitat is non-negotiable; however, the lessee may request authorization in advance to aftermath graze the irrigated acres. If the unit land manager determines that there will not be adverse impacts from removing the crop residue, DNR will issue a letter authorizing the lessee to allow aftermath grazing. The letter will also spell any additional rent due based on the number of animal units the department allows to graze.

As a lessee, it’s always a good idea to review your agriculture leases on annually to re-familiarize yourself with the requirements of each section. Doing so may help avoid problems and expenses down the road. As always, your DNR unit land manager is available to answer your questions.

By Tim Kopf, Washington DNR, Southeast Region Unit Land Manager, Southeast Region Office: 509-925-8510 and Northeast Region Office: 509-684-7474; tim.kopf@dnr.wa.gov

Agricultural Education is a “Hands-On” Experience in DNR Partnership with Southwest Washington School District

Center for Agriculture, Science,  & Environmental Education, Battle Ground, WA

The Battle Ground School District has turned an 80-acre parcel leased from DNR into a thriving center for agriculture education.

DNR-managed trust land in Brush Prairie, just south of Battle Ground, is providing students and community members with ready access to a host of learning opportunities and services. The Battle Ground School District leases 80 acres of Common School Trust land from DNR at market value. On this lease, the school district’s Center for Agricultural, Science and Environmental Educational provides a unique outdoor (hands-on) agricultural learning experience for students. The outdoor learning opportunities include a fruit orchard, greenhouse, nursery, and garden. Students also get a taste of the agriculture marketplace by taking part in fund-raising events to sell their plants and produce.

The school district subleases a portion of the agricultural land for blackberry and strawberry production, providing further learning opportunities for students. Timber and recreation management, an arboretum, botanical gardens, ponds, and science and computer labs provide additional lease opportunities.

This land lease serves as an agricultural community hub by housing an array of services, including offices of the WSU Cooperative Extension, Farm Service Agency, USDA Rural Development, Clark County Noxious Weed Control, and Clark Conservation District. The Battle Ground School District office also is located on the lease site. Over the longterm, the school district hopes to purchase the entire 80-acre parcel from DNR. When that happens, DNR will invest the proceeds into purchasing replacement income-producing state trust land.

DNR derives trust income from this parcel by establishing land rent based on the highest and best use of each of the five land uses permitted through the lease. These include: irrigated agriculture, dry land agriculture, storage and composting demonstration, experimental forest, and administrative buildings and classrooms. At five-year intervals, the value of each permitted use is updated and the rent adjusted.

The DNR partnership with the Battle Ground School District has served trust beneficiaries, the school district, students, and the local community very well by generating trust income, consolidation of services, and most important, providing a unique and valuable learning opportunity for children.

By Pat Hennessy, DNR Western Washington Lease Manager, pat.hennessey@dnr.wa.gov

Meet DNR’s New Agriculture Program Manager: Noah Bates

Noah Bates, DNR Agriculture Program Manager

Noah Bates, DNR Agriculture Program Manager

For my first contribution to The Dirt, and as a new agriculture program manager, I thought that I’d provide an introduction. I am a recent transplant to Washington and based in Olympia. I moved here with my wife, Alexis. Prior to this position, I lived in a small town of about 1,200 people in the mountains of northwest Colorado where winter lasted eight months and subzero temperatures were common, but the spring and summer always made up for it. I was based in a rural NRCS field office in a “Partner” capacity tasked with implementing the NRCS’s Sage Grouse Initiative. I provided rangeland management support at the field level to deliver technical assistance to private land owners and ranching enterprises. Prior to this, I worked at a ranch in Gunnison, Colorado, as a natural resource manager. From my work, I developed a love of sagebrush steppe ecosystems and grass hay and livestock production in mountain environments – this is what I know best.

Before working in natural resources and agriculture, I earned a bachelor’s degree in urban and regional planning from the University of Colorado, and worked as a land use planner with city and county governments in the state. The county government I worked with had a robust open space and agriculture program that inspired me to return to school to further my education. I focused on rangeland ecology initially and then found a program that offered a Master of Science in Integrated Resource Management through the Western Center for Integrated Resource Management at Colorado State University. The program was a good fit for my interest in technical application to rangeland management, agriculture enterprise, and regional planning.

I am excited to work in my current capacity for the diverse agricultural enterprises that Washington supports and the natural resources, habitat, and wildlife issues that are associated with these enterprises. I also look forward to being involved with generating revenue and building value for the Common School Trust and other trusts for which DNR manages agricultural lands. I think it is a good fit for the skillset and knowledge I’ve built up over the years and I look forward to putting it to good use for DNR and Washington producers.

Please consider this an open invitation to contact me any time to introduce yourself. I’d really appreciate the opportunity to learn about the issues in your area and how I can best support your work and business in my current capacity. I enjoy being in the field, and welcome any invitations to learn first-hand.

By Noah Bates, Agriculture Program Manager, noah.bates@dnr.wa.gov, 360-902-1873

 

 

The Importance of Rotation in Crop Production Demystified

crop rotation promotes healthier crops and soilsMaintaining soil and plant health through crop rotations is critical to the profitability of the leases in DNR’s land base over both the short and long term. Because DNR-managed acreage is for perpetual use to benefit the Common School Trust, rotations and diversity are necessary to safeguard the quality of the land base. Diversity of rotation affects all parties: from the lessees to the school districts that receive construction funds from DNR’s leases.

Crop rotation can be defined as any cropping structure that creates biodiversity, prevents resistance of disease to inputs used by the lessees, and provides the basis to increase or at least maintain soil organic matter and flora. Simply put, monoculture of rotational crops provides breeding grounds for loss of income due to soil disease from pests such as nematodes, insects, weeds, plant parasitic fungi and bacteria, that flourish on lands where crops are in short rotation.

An example of how the lack of diversity and short rotations impact the natural environment is on the island of Oahu. Lands used for decades to grow pineapple are being returned to native Hawaiians are found to be infested with nematode, invasive weed species, resistant fungi and other parasitic pests — all the result of past agricultural practices. At first the land was fertile from the biodiversity of the native vegetation. Then a monoculture with one primary crop began. Machinery brought in weeds and other plant pests into areas that were once free of disease. Because of competition to grow crops ever cheaper and improve yield, fumigants were used extensively and programmed into the growing of the pineapple. Native Hawaiians now must deal with the disarray, clean it up and reintroduce crop biodiversity to eliminate resistant pests.

The situation in Hawaii is not unlike that of the potato industry. Washington state leads the world in potato yield per acre but the crop brings in adhering soil from the seed source that may contain fungi or nematodes that, for example, may negatively affect the skin finish of the potato. At first, fumigation was used to rid the soil of the pests and weeds. Shortening up the rotations from a one potato crop in (5) years to a one potato crop in (3) years increased revenue for the trust but it also began the process where rotation becomes key again.

The soil on many of the lands in Washington state with which DNR is entrusted is the best in the world; it is very similar to Hawaii’s virgin pineapple growing areas. At first the soils here produced huge yields without fumigation and Washington state became a major factor in global potato production. Now the honeymoon is over. Fumigation, combined with fertilizer additions, helped maintain yields for a while but now disease agents are becoming resistant to fumigation agents. Some of the weed population is also now resistant to herbicides. Fungi such as silver scurf and blackdot are becoming more prevalent in fresh pack situations.

Fumigation is almost a programmed event: eventually, diseases like pink rot will impact the processing crop of russet varieties. The way out of this downward spiral is to maintain rotations where disease resistance is broken, and annual fumigation is not necessary. Think about it another way: McDonald’s recently announced that it will not buy chicken from companies that use antibiotics in their feed rations. The company took this step because humans use the same antibiotics and the increased prevalence of antibiotic use in the general population has led new strains of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.

Our food system needs rich diversity and DNR-managed trust lands need this rich diversity of rotational crops to support public school construction for Washington state’s children into perpetuity.

By Jeff Bragg, DNR Agriculture Manager, Southeast Region, jeff.bragg@dnr.wa.gov