Soil & Water Conservation Program

History of the Soil and Water Conservation Program and the Parks, Soils and Water Sales Tax

In the 1930s, as the Dust Bowl swept across the nation relocating an estimated 300 million tons of soil, Americans realized the devastating effects of soil erosion. Legislation began to take shape to better manage and conserve the nation’s soil. Despite these actions, Missouri was still plagued with high erosion rates.

SoilIn 1982, Missouri was losing soil at a rate of 10.9 tons per acre each year on cultivated cropland. A one-tenth-of-one-percent parks, soils and water sales tax was passed by Missouri voters in 1984 to fund state parks and soil and water conservation efforts. Prior to the passage of the sales tax, Missouri had the second highest rate of erosion in the nation. Almost two-thirds of Missouri voters renewed the tax in 1988 and 1996. In 2006, the tax passed by its highest percentage to date (70.8).

Since 1982, Missouri’s erosion rate dropped more than any other state. It is estimated that more than 148 million tons of soil have been saved since the start of the sales tax, but millions of tons of soil still wash away every year on cultivated cropland in Missouri.

The majority of the soil and water portion of this tax has been used to assist agricultural landowners through voluntary programs that are developed by the Soil and Water Districts Commission. They are administered by the Soil and Water Conservation Program through district boards in each of the 114 counties.

The cost-share program provides financial incentives to landowners for up to 75 percent of the estimated cost for installation of soil and water conservation practices that prevent or control excessive erosion and improve water quality. Soil and water conservation districts provide technical support with the design, implementation and maintenance of practices.

By promoting good farming techniques that help keep soil on the fields and waters clean, each soil and water conservation district is conserving the productivity of Missouri’s working lands.