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From plowing to pasturing

''This land will run away from you if you plow it,'' says Texas cattleman Harvey Chitty, standing in the middle of a sloping field he and the US government have teamed up to save.

In this 50-acre field, 12-foot gullies were filled. Then there was careful seeding to start grass growing before rain could cut new gullies.

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The Soil Conservation Service contributed $6,040, covering 80 percent of the cost. The field's owner paid $1,510. Mr. Chitty, who leases the land for grazing, contributed time and farming skills.

With a 10-year lease, Chitty hopes for a good return on his hard work. By introducing new strains of grass and fertilizing, he says, ''this land, which was just wasteland with a cow to every 10 or 12 acres, in another five years should be able to carry one cow per acre.''

Looking over fields that once grew cotton, Chitty says, ''Every time you put a furrow here, you have a ditch and the beginning of serious erosion.'' His answer is to turn ruined farmland into good pastureland, adding to the 1,500 acres he now rents for grazing.

Chitty calls the 80-percent government funding essential. With farm incomes gutted by low prices, he says, ''very few bona fide farmers could come up with even 20 percent today.'' Instead of cutting soil conservation funds, he adds, the govern-ment should find new ways to help the many farmers who ''would need 100 percent government funding before doing anything at all with their land.''

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