February 4, 2015

Soil issues undecided

By Annette Tait
Much was discussed, but little could be determined at the Oliver County Soils Committee meeting Jan. 28, pending the outcome of the current legislative session.
“There is a possibility that the state will take back assigning soil values,” Oliver County Tax Director Teri Schulte told the group, noting that there is speculation this could occur during the current session.
Even so, the committee got down to business, discussing soil indices for reclaimed land, soil modifiers, and 2015 land valuations.
Reclaimed land
Determination of soil indices for reclaimed land has been an ongoing topic for many years, and the discussion continued during the January meeting. Soil on reclaimed land is not the same as when mining began, nor are the values the same as when pre-release testing was done by the time the land is released.
Price noted that work is underway on a separate classification for mining land, which prompted further discussion among the members about the significantly lower productivity for crops grown on reclaimed land. Farmers who grow crops on reclaimed land have to weigh everything grown that is taken out of the field, then a formula is used to determine productivity.
“BNI [Coal] is doing some cover crops and they’re trying some different things to get the nutrients back in the soil, and also to break it up,” Extension Agent Rick Schmidt said. “But those scrapers pack the dirt down.”
Committee members noted that there is large number of acres in the county that are still under bond. The bond is released once the land returns to 70 percent of pre-bond production. Committee Member Keith Oestreich mentioned that some of the land under discussion has been under bond since the 1970s, with only a minimal amount being released.

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