For the Lakeside Leader
A shelterbelt program is returning to Big Lakes County, after it was terminated about four years ago. Council ‘replanted’ the program at its Nov. 29 meeting, limiting it to 1,500 seedlings and a $3,500 purchasing budget.
“My hope is that producers will find shelterbelts are beneficial,” said agricultural fieldman Sheila Kaus, “and will buy seedlings.”
Although council approved the recommendation, some needed a bit of persuading.
“I see a lot of farmers have taken out their shelterbelts,” said reeve Ken Matthews
“They were designed for soil conservation and they help with water retention, pest control and promote county beautification,” Kaus explained.
The program would be accessible to all county residents and a waiting list would be created for people from out of county, if seedlings are available.
The 100-year-old shelterbelt program bit the dust in 2013 when the federal government discontinued funding for it. Kaus explained the effect:
“While some of the gap left has been filled by greenhouses and nurseries, oftentimes producers are unable to source enough trees to install a shelterbelt, or the cost is too prohibitive for them to do so.”
Further in her pitch for the county to get back into shelterbelt promotion business, Kaus said, “Establishing a shelterbelt program gives residents more options when considering high-volume purchases that are not available…” from local sources.
With the county doing the purchasing, she said, “when we shop around we will try to get the biggest bang for our buck.”
Kaus said the program would not compete with local greenhouses.
“Landscape and ornamental species will not be selected,” she said.
The Ag Service Board approved the request on Sept. 8 and had intended it to start in the fall of 2017, but then decided to make it 2018. Funding by the county for shelterbelts will be reviewed annually.