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

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In the 1930s, as the Dust Bowl swept across the nation. 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.


In 1982, Missouri was losing soil at a rate of 10.75 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).

Over the past 30 years, soil and water conservation programs have helped Missouri landowners keep more than 175 million tons of soil from eroding into our waterways.

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.

From 1986 to 2014, the Department of Natural Resources has provided $635 million to Missouri agricultural landowners to implement more than 217,000 conservation practices to protect the state's soil and water resources. In addition, revenues from the Parks, Soils and Water Sales Tax allowed Missouri to have the highest reduction in it's rate of soil erosion when compared to other states with more than 10 million acres of cultivated cropland.

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.

* Source: USDA NRCS 2010 National Resource Inventory