A top ranking U.S. Department of Agriculture official is in Iowa today as part of a work exchange program.
Christina Muedeking of the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is shadowing corn and soybean farmer Mark Kennett of Malcolm, which is near Grinnell. Kennett chairs the Poweshiek County Soil and Water Conservation District.
Muedeking says it was a request from Kennett that brought her to Poweshiek County. "I’m relatively new to USDA and one of the first meetings that I had was someone from the national headquarters telling me that there was a producer in Poweshiek County who was interested in having someone participate in the ‘Walk a Mile in My Boots’ program and would I be willing to do that," she says. "I said: Who could turn down a day in Iowa?’"
Muedeking oversees NRCS programs and personnel in 15 states from Texas to Minnesota to help producers voluntarily implement conservation practices on the ground. "For example, we work with producers on putting in terraces that will help prevent erosion," she says. "We also work with producers on animal waste management systems through a variety of programs that we administrater that are authorized under the Farm Bill."
Muedeking will look at a local water quality project and walk through Iowa farm fields using "no-till" and "low-till" techniques. "No-till and low-till are when we don’t go in and take off the ground cover at the end harvest, that you leave some ground cover on — thus preventing erosion," she says.
The "Walk a Mile in My Boots" initiative is a work-exchange program developed by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Muedeking is one of the highest ranking NRCS officials to participate in it.