TIME FOR TREE ORDERS AGAIN!

With the impending winter weather in the forecast, we might as well start thinking SPRING! We’ve got our tree order form all ready to go! Take stock of your needs and let us know how we can help! Note that the order forms are due by March 4, 2020.

REPORT: INNOVATIVE STATE-LED FINANCING ADVANCES AGRICULTURAL CONSERVATION

EDF, NASDA find nontraditional financing can benefit farmers, taxpayers, and the environment

States that embrace innovative new ways to finance on-farm conservation can deliver multiple benefits to farmers, state residents, taxpayers, and the environment, according to a new report released today at the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) Annual Meeting by NASDA and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).

The report, Innovative state-led efforts to finance agricultural conservation [PDF], highlights state-level programs that use nontraditional financing mechanisms, including crop insurance discounts and transferable tax credits, to incentivize conservation adoption.

“The solutions in this report help state and private dollars go further toward increasing the number of acres of farmland under conservation management across the country,” NASDA CEO Dr. Barb Glenn said. “These efforts ensure that valuable resources remain productive well into the future. We hope that states will exchange ideas with each other about best practices and effective program design for scaling conservation efforts.”

“Existing federal and state conservation programs are essential but provide insufficient funding to meet today’s environmental challenges. In response, states are finding creative ways to incentivize practices that protect drinking water and soil health, and improve the resilience of the agricultural economy,” said Mark Rupp, director for state-federal policy and affairs, Ecosystems at EDF.

The efforts highlighted in the report offer multiple demonstrated benefits. Farmers benefit from support in adopting conservation practices, which is particularly important in a depressed farm economy. State residents benefit from improved water quality, reduced agricultural water consumption, increased wildlife habitat and a more resilient food system. Taxpayers benefit from programs that are tailored to states’ specific needs to make more cost-effective use of public dollars. The entire country benefits from the incubation of ideas that can be implemented in other states or at the federal level.

The report, which is based on a review of more than 90 state-level agricultural conservation programs, highlights the following:

  • Arizona’s Best Management Practices Program.
  • California’s Healthy Soils Program.
  • Colorado’s Conservation Tax Credit Program.
  • Delaware’s Agricultural Nonpoint Source Pollution Program.
  • Georgia’s Conservation Tax Credit Program.
  • Iowa’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund Program and Cover Crop-Crop Insurance Demonstration Project.
  • Michigan’s Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program.
  • Minnesota’s Agricultural Best Management Practices Loan Program.
  • Nebraska’s Buffer Strip Program.
  • Pennsylvania’s Resource Enhancement and Protection Program.
  • South Carolina’s Land Conservation and Environmental Credits Program.
  • South Dakota’s Conservation Revolving Loan and Conservation Tillage Loan Programs.
  • Virginia’s Land Preservation Tax Credit Program.
  • Wyoming’s Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust Fund Program.

Download the full report at nasda.org/state-led conservation and edf.org/state-led-conservation.

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Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org), a leading international nonprofit organization, creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships. Connect with EDF on TwitterFacebook and our Growing Returns blog.

2020 NATIONAL CONSERVATION FOUNDATION FUNDRAISER

At the 2020 Live Auction in Las Vegas on Monday February 10, all proceeds will go to the National Conservation Foundation (NCF), NACD’s sister organization, to support their work in identifying and advancing the next generation of conservation leaders through the NCF-Envirothon, NACD Stewardship and Education Programs, and the NCF Next Generation Leadership Institute (NGLI).

In 2019, the NCF-Envirothon brought together nearly 25,000 students around the nation and multiple foreign countries, with 500 students participating at the international competition in North Carolina in July. The NACD Stewardship and Education Program is launching an online conservation education hub this year that will be found on the NACD website, providing conservation educators, both traditional and nontraditional, with easy-to-access resources and free, downloadable education materials.

The newest addition to NCF’s programs is the Next Generation Leadership Institute, which will host seven of the finest candidates in conservation leadership over the next year, equipping them with resources and skill sets to strengthen their leadership capacity at the local, state and national levels. The candidates who will be named as the first cohort of NGLI will be announced in December and will convene for their first session at the 2020 NACD Annual Meeting. Subsequent trainings will occur throughout the year, with a capstone session at the 2021 NACD Annual Meeting in New Orleans, LA.

Thank you again to all who have supported this fun evening in the past, and we hope you will consider donating items to this year’s event. Remember, the auction is open to everyone to attend, bid on items, and have a good time!

NACD RELEASES STATEMENT ON REPEAL
OF EPA’S WOTUS RULE

On September 13, 2019, NACD released a statement regarding the decision of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to finalize the repeal of the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule under the Clean Water Act.

“Since the WOTUS rule was proposed in 2014, NACD has been working continuously to advocate for its reversal,” NACD President Tim Palmer said. “[The] announcement is a positive step forward for locally-led conservation and brings a greater level of certainty for producers and landowners who are stewards of our land and water.”

The full repeal of the 2015 rule brings all 50 states back under regulations that have been in effect since the 1980s.

“For more than 75 years, conservation districts have been leaders in locally-led efforts to ensure a clean and sustainable water supply for the nation,” Palmer said. “The nation’s nearly 3,000 conservation districts and the landowners they work with are the best equipped to handle local decision-making, and we applaud the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers for reversing the 2015 rule.”

The EPA and Army Corps of Engineers will continue to work towards finalizing a revised definition of WOTUS published in the Federal Register in December 2018. EPA leaders expect to finalize the revised definition by the end of the year.

“We look forward to continue working with the administration to empower locally-led decision-making and protect our nation’s natural resources for the future,” Palmer said.

To learn more about the revised definition and read the full state, visit NACD’s website.

About the National Association of Conservation Districts:

The National Association of Conservation Districts is the nonprofit organization that represents the nation’s 3,000 conservation districts, their state and territory associations. and the 17,000 men and women who serve on their governing boards. For more than 70 years, local conservation districts have worked with cooperating landowners and managers of private working lands to help them plan and apply effective conservation practices. For more information about NACD, visit: www.nacdnet.org.

SEPTEMBER IS NATIONAL PREPAREDNESS MONTH

 

With all the crazy weather and flooding this year, we thought this article was especially important. The Emergency Preparedness theme is “Make a Plan.” Before a natural disaster hits, make sure you are prepared for unforeseen power outages and resource shortages by having enough food, water, and medication to last for at least 72 hours.

Learn more about the steps you can take to prepare for disasters and emergencies at Ready.gov. This looks like an excellent resource to have on hand!

NACD Government Affairs’ Update On FY2020 Appropriations
By Coleman Garrison
NACD Director of Government Affairs

We are optimistic that conservation programs supported by NACD will receive strong investments going into FY2020, thanks to the strong advocacy by NACD’s members across the country at both the grassroots level and during NACD’s annual Spring Fly-in. — Coleman Garrison

As the days grow shorter, we draw closer to the end of Fiscal Year (FY) 2019, when Congress is once again pressed into action to ensure that the federal government remains funded. New appropriations bills are needed to set spending for Fiscal Year 2020, which begins Oct. 1, 2019. Although the process is far from over, things are looking positive with respect to National Association of Conservation District’s (NACD) priorities.

The House of Representatives launched the appropriations cycle with the passage of several consolidated appropriations bills in June to provide funding for FY2020. However, these bills passed before Congress set the overall spending limit for the federal government. This bipartisan spending framework – or budget resolution – was passed in July, just before the August congressional recess. Unlike the House, the Senate opted to wait until the spending framework passed to begin its appropriations work. The Senate Appropriations Committee didn’t consider its Agriculture Appropriations bill, which funds most USDA activities, until Sept. 17. The Senate has yet to consider an Interior-Environment Appropriations bill, which would fund activities at the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and 319 grants at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Because of this slow progress, Congress must now pass a short term spending bill called a Continuing Resolution (CR) in order to avoid a lapse in federal funding, which will occur on Oct. 1. The House passed such a measure on Sept. 19, to provide funding through Nov. 21, 2019. This would give each chamber additional time to work toward a long-term spending measure to fund the federal government for the duration of FY2020.  Although NACD is concerned with the effects that short-term spending bills will have on operations at these agencies, this is a far better outcome than a government shutdown.

NACD is encouraged by the support that our priority programs are proposed to receive. The Conservation Operations (CO) account, which includes the Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA) program at the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), would receive $830 million in FY2020 based on the bill passed by the House earlier this year. This is an increase of more than $10 million over the FY2019 enacted level. In its draft bill, the Senate has proposed funding for the CO account at $835 million, an additional $5 million over the already increased House level. CTA provides funds for staffing at local offices and technical assistance for landowners. The CTA program is the lifeblood of conservation at the local level, and it is encouraging to see increased support of the program, as well as the work being done at NRCS.

Additionally, within the Agriculture Appropriations bills, there are increased levels of funding for the Watershed Operations and Watershed Rehab programs. The House provided $155 million and $12 million respectively, which are both increases over FY2019, while the Senate has proposed funding $175 million for the Watershed Operations program. This continued investment after several years of no funding will continue to generate water quality and erosion control benefits.

While the Senate has yet to act on its Interior-Environment Appropriations bill, the House’s proposal provides strong support for programs at the USFS and the EPA. The State and Private Forestry (S&PF) program would receive $382 million in FY2020, a $66 million increase from FY2019. Within this account, the House proposes an increase to $25 million for the Forest Stewardship program. At the EPA, the 319 grant programs would receive a bump from $170.9 million to $175 million. While the Senate has not yet proposed levels for these programs, NACD is hopeful that it will follow suit by matching this increased investment in natural resource conservation.

Based on these proposed figures, we are optimistic that conservation programs supported by NACD will receive strong investments going into FY2020, thanks to the strong advocacy by NACD’s members across the country at both the grassroots level and during NACD’s annual Spring Fly-in. However, Congress must take the time afforded by a CR to work toward a full FY2020 spending bill. Congress should avoid additional short term CRs, because we know from past experience that these CRs are difficult on the agencies they fund, and that they have led to government shutdowns in the past.

Coleman Garrison can be reached at coleman-garrison@nacdnet.org.

OUR AMAZING GRASSLANDS
Charlie and Tanya Totton
Chamberlain, SD

“I felt like I got a lot of good out of the South Dakota Grazing School. When they asked me to have it on the place, I couldn’t say no.” — Charlie Totton

2019 Grassland Stewardship Communications Project Partners: The Nature Conservancy, Pheasants Forever, South Dakota State University, Audubon Dakota, Ducks Unlimited, Partners for Fish and Wildlife, SD Game, Fish and Parks, SD Soil Health Coalition, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and SD Grassland Coalition.

USDA is an Equal Opportunity Provider, Employer, and Lender.