State Technical Committee Meeting by NRCS


									                           State Technical Committee (STC) Meeting
                                         May 20, 2008
                                     Pierre, South Dakota

Janet Oertly, State Conservationist, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS),
welcomed everyone and thanked them for taking the time to attend the meeting. A packet of
information was provided which included the full agenda. No additional agenda items were

Introductions were made.

Sharon Stroschein, Senator Johnson’s Office, Aberdeen, reported the Farm Bill (FB) contains
several provisions Senator Johnson worked to make sure were included in the final version,
including COOL, a structured approach to agriculture disaster and a commodities safety net.
Senator Johnson was disappointed with a lack of meaningful payment limitation provisions and
that this bill did not address packer ownership of livestock. He also pushed for a more
comprehensive, national Sodsaver program; however, the program was stripped down due to
opposition from House Republicans. Senator Johnson will continue to fight for these programs
from his seat on the Ag Appropriations Subcommittee.

Maeve King, Congresswomen Herseth-Sandlin’s Office, Aberdeen, provided an update. The
2008 FB is not all that we wanted but there are meaningful provisions in the conservation title
that will protect important natural and recreational resources for years to come. These
provisions will also help ensure that South Dakota's (SD) economy can continue to benefit from
a strong tourism industry. We are disappointed that overall acreage was reduced for the
Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) and Grasslands Reserve Program (GRP). On the other
hand, we were able to increase funding for these important conservation measures. The
Sodsaver compromise, to make it opt-in per the discretion of the governors for the Prairie
Pothole areas of North Dakota (ND), SD, Montana, Iowa (IA), and Minnesota was a
disappointment. Originally, it was supposed to be a nationwide program and was written as
such in the House bill.

Other positive provisions included in the bill were:
    Permanent disaster assistance.
    Increased target prices for wheat, sorghum, barley, oats, and soybeans and rebalanced
       loan rates on wheat, barley, oats, oilseeds, and honey, are enhancing the basic safety
       net for these commodities.
    The establishment of a 30-day rolling average as the basis for calculating repayment
       rates for marketing loans while still allowing producers to retain beneficial interest in their
       commodities at the time they receive a Loan Deficiency Payment under the marketing
       loan program.
    A hard cap on average adjusted gross income (AGI) for farmers for eligibility to receive
       farm program payments of $500,000 for non-farm income, a substantial reduction from
       the former eligibility limit of $2.5 million, and $750,000 for farm income for which there
       was no previous eligibility limit. There is also a ban on conservation payments to people
       with adjusted gross incomes of $1 million per year unless two-thirds of that money
       comes from agriculture or forestry, then no limit.
    The elimination of the three-entity rule that has allowed individual producers to collect as
       much as double the current limit on farm program payments, and requires direct
       attribution of farm program payments to the individuals who receive them – a key

       transparency measure. Both of these reforms will crack down on those who try to game
       and abuse the system.

In addition to maintaining a safety net for producers, the FB includes provisions to encourage
the development of renewable sources of energy within the energy title including:

      The creation of the Biomass Crop Assistance Program to develop the next generation of
       feedstocks for renewable energy.
      Loan guarantees for biorefineries producing advanced biofuels.
      The creation of the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) to provide grants and
       loan guarantees for agricultural producers and rural small businesses to purchase
       renewable energy systems and make energy efficiency improvements.
      The establishment of Forest Biomass for Energy, a program authorizing funding for
       research and development supporting the use of woody biomass for energy, including
       feedstocks such as byproducts of forest health treatments and hazardous fuels

And, for the first time, the FB includes a dedicated livestock title including an agreement for
implementing mandatory COOL and interstate shipment of beef. Additionally, 70 percent of the
bill’s spending will go toward domestic and international food assistance, a critical necessity as
we see food prices rising around the world. Finally, the agreement increases money for
conservation programs, including a Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), Environmental
Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), GRP, and WRP.

Finally, we were pleased Congresswoman Herseth Sandlin’s provision addressing the United
States Department of Agriculture (USDA) County Office Closures would prevent the Farm
Service Agency (FSA) from closing any county or field offices for two years after the enactment
of the overall FB.

Ben Ready, Senator Thune’s Office, Sioux Falls Field Office, thanked Janet for the opportunity
and time to provide an update. Senator Thune is pleased with the additional $4 billion devoted
to conservation programs in the 2008 FB. Senator Thune is disappointed that the conferees
stripped nationwide application of Sodsaver to only portions of the prairie pothole states. Also,
states have to opt-in to Sodsaver rules, it appears very doubtful that any of the states’ governors
will do so. Senator Thune is looking forward to meeting with and receiving input from the STC
regarding various components of the Conservation Title and how they will be implemented in
SD. Senator Thune’s Office is developing a comprehensive fact sheet for Conservation and
other FB titles which will be distributed after passage into law. Senator Thune requests input
and suggestions from the STC and individuals with suggestions for implementation.

FB Update – Two handouts were included in the packet of information regarding the summary
of information from our agency regarding the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 for
Title I (Other Titles) and Title II, Conservation, which was posted on the House Web Site. Some
of the changes include the following:
      The WRP has been reauthorized through 2012 and increases the overall program
         acreage cap to 3,041,200 acres and removes the annual acreage cap. Prohibits
         enrollment of land where ownership has changed during the previous seven years.
         Allows limits on the timing of easement payments in excess of $500,000.
      Conservation Security Program (CSP) – changing the name of the program to
         Conservation Stewardship Program. No more tier structure.

       GRP – reauthorized through 2012 and increase 2.1 million acres.
       EQIP – reauthorized the program through 2012. Payments for practices with organic
        productions benefits are limited to no more than $20,000 per year or $80,000 during any
        6-year period.
       Agricultural Water Enhancement Program – Authorizes a new activity within EQIP to
        promote ground and surface water conservation and improve water quality on
        agricultural lands. Contracts will be honored in the 2009 new program.

Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 Program Update
Denise Gauer provided a handout concerning the status of EQIP. We received an initial
allocation of $13,452,182; an additional allocation on November 7, 2007, of $1,918,438; and on
February 22, 2008, $494,208, an additional $100,000 and $430,095 on March 19, 2008, for a
total of $16,394,923. The breakdown for the funding distribution is noted as listed below and is
based on the first two allocations we received:

       American Indian Earmark                                           $2,613,006
       Animal Waste Management Systems (AWMS)                            $2,000,000
       Statewide Resource Concerns                                       $5,303,805
       South Dakota Association of Conservation Districts (SDACD)        $5,303,809
       Cover Crop Initiative                                             $ 150,000

Total Initial Allocation                                                 $15,370,620

                                            Number of                     Number of
                                     Applications Received             Applications Funded
American Indian Earmark                    175                                   33
   Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation         92                                  16
   Crow Creek Sioux                          4                                    0
   Lower Brule Sioux                         2                                    2
   Pine Ridge Oglala Sioux                  14                                    0
   Rosebud Sioux                            17                                   10
   Standing Rock Sioux                      44                                    4
   Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux                   2                                    1

AWMS Earmark                                        105                            23
Statewide Resource Concerns                                                        47
SDACD Area Work Groups                              312                           195
    Coteau                                          37                            17
    Hills                                           33                            12
    North Missouri                                  46                            32
    Northwest                                       28                            38
    Prairie                                         56                            30
    South James/Missouri                            76                            44
    Vermillion/Big Sioux                            36                            22

Cover Crop Initiative                                77                           67

The earmarks are funded first and all the applications that were not funded under the earmark
went into the funding category under the statewide, if greater than $75,000, and into the SDACD

area watershed workgroups if less than $75,000. A total of 53 applications were deferred or
cancelled for various reasons. A total of 365 applications were funded.

A remainder of $288,031 is in a modifications/cost overrun account. Denise reported that we
have requested an additional $1.5 million in funding; however, we do not expect to receive that
much, if we get any, we are expecting about $500,000.

Cover Crop Initiative –This initiative was offered east of the river as a pilot project. This one
time incentive payment will be $12.50 per acre with a minimum enrollment of 25 acres and a
maximum of 160 acres. We currently have 67 contracts covering 7,086.3 acres for $89,055.
Cover crop mixtures were also provided for information along with a fact sheet which was
developed last September and distributed to producers. Denise indicated that cover crop
mixtures that were highlighted yellow are the more commonly used.

EQIP Ground and Surface Water Conservation (GSWC) – Our funds came in multiple
allocations. An allocation of $139,077 was received on January 30, 2008; an additional
allocation of $300 on March 11, 2008; another allocation of $29,957 on March 19, 2008; and
$4,600 on March 27, 2008, an additional allocation on May 8, 2008, of $71,100, and $2,113 on
May 8, 2008, for a total of $266,247. A total of 28 applications were received for $357,899;
however, only 22 applications could be funded with our allocation. There is a remainder of
$1,330 for modifications. This sign-up is continuous. This program is one that will expire when
the current FB expires and/or when a new FB is established. The SD Bulletin No. SD300-8-15
was distributed on May 22, announcing the second “Call for Ranking.” The cut-off date for
accepting applications was June 6, 2008, and will be considered for FY2008 funding should
additional funds become available.

Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) – An allocation of $180,000 was received as of
January 30, 2008; a second allocation of $18,704 on March 11, 2008; another allocation of
$452,044 on March 19, 2008; an additional allocation of $6,464 on May 8, 2008, for a total of
$657,212. The funding was distributed between the following four habitats:
    Grassland Habitat
    Riparian Habitat
    Wetland Habitat
    Woody Habitat

A total of 29 applications were received after the first and second “Call for Ranking.” The
funding results are as follows:
     Grassland Habitat – 14 applications for $464,570
     Riparian Habitat – 0 applications
     Wetland Habitat – 2 applications for $18,775
     Woody Habitat – 11 applications for $159,961

There is a remainder of $13,906 to use for modifications. A third “Call for Ranking” went out
because we funded all the applications that we had on hand. If we do not get any additional
funds, those applications will be rolled over to be considered for funding in the 2009 sign-up.

This year we did not have any special projects. We went out with a third “Call for Ranking” on
April 10, 2008. The cut-off date for accepting applications to be evaluated for funding is May 5,
2008. Mike indicated the WHIP Subcommittee need to take a look at the program and figure
out what we need to change to make the program more useable in SD. George Vandel, SD

Department of Game, Fish and Parks (SDGF&P) would like to focus more on spending dollars
in conserving grassland wildlife habitat.

CSP – The NRCS is currently coming to the end of the sign-up which goes until next week. The
program is moving pretty slow. Two watersheds have been approved for FY2008. They are the
Middle James and Beaver Watersheds. The Beaver Watershed will be administered by
Wyoming. Currently, we have one application in the Beaver Watershed and 39 applications for
the Middle James Watershed.

WRP – The NRCS did not receive an allocation for this program. We received 27 applications
for permanent easements and 22 applications for 30-year easement for a total of 49
applications covering 6,168 acres. Preliminary Title Commitments have been ordered for 47
applications. Two applications were below the ranking cut-off; therefore, we plan to work with
these two producers to see if there are adjustments that can be made to increase their ranking
for next year. There is no WRP allocation this year, rather a national drawing account from
which funds are requested. Funds are being requested and received as an application reaches
the next step in the application/acquisition process and as funds are available from National
Headquarters. Change in the Business Model requires Preliminary Title Commitments prior to
ordering an appraisal (adding an additional two weeks on to the acquisition process).
Restoration costs will not be obligated until a Final Restoration Plan is completed. Most of the
applications are in the eastern part of the state. We are using appraisals to value easement
offers. We have ordered 34 appraisals at this time. Eight of the 34 applications are completed
and being reviewed. Landowners were called to discuss the Geographic Rate Caps (GRC) and
valuation process prior to the appraisal being ordered.

FY2009 GRC – A copy of the SD FY2009 WRP GRC was provided. Sara reported we used the
SD Agricultural Statistics Service (SDASS) published values for cropland in 2006, 2007, and
2008 by county. We looked at other methods and thought we would continue with the SDASS
figures which were released in April. These values have increased from the 2007 data. Sara
reported she contacted other states to see what figures they were using. The states of IA and
ND are using SDASS figures while Nebraska (NE) is using the University figures. The
consensus of the group was to use the SDASS figure

Changes in the WRP Business Process
    Applications will be processed throughout the year.
    Certain eligibility must be met prior to conducting an onsite visit to determine land
         o Agricultural Gross Income
         o Highly-erodible land/Wetlands converted
         o Member information (if an entity)
         o Insurable title
         o Hazardous waste records search
    Land eligibility is determined and ranking completed.
    Application is tentatively selected or funding if over threshold.
    Establish easement value.
    Option to Purchase is sent once FY2009 funding is received.

FY2009 Program Timeline
    The WRP application deadline is scheduled for August 15, 2008.
         o Completed applications must be received by the field offices.

      The funding deadline is March 1, 2009.
          o By this date to be considered for FY2009 funding all applications must have:
                  All eligibility determined
                  Title work reviewed
                  A value established

The three initiatives for FY2009 for EQIP were discussed. They are as follows:

Forestry Special Project - Greg Yapp provided a PowerPoint presentation regarding the use of
EQIP to address the resource concern of forestland health in the SD Black Hills. Forests
occupy less than four percent of the total land area in the state. Private forest land in the Black
Hills is what we are concentrating on. We can utilize EQIP to address the need for better
management of forests in private ownership. The counties to look at for forest health are in
Lawrence, Meade, Pennington, Custer, and Fall River Counties. As far as technical assistance
– we do not have the people to complete the work; therefore, we are working with the SD
Department of Agriculture Resource Conservation and Forestry to establish an agreement to
complete the work. This project would be an earmark of funds and have its own ranking criteria
decided by the five counties involved.

Pollinators and EQIP – Kevin Luebke provided a PowerPoint presentation dealing with
pollinators which consisted of the Background, EQIP Pollinator Habitat Index, Pollinator Fact
Sheet, and Direction Forward. In the fall of 2008, we developed a “state issues” ranking
question #7 for “native pollinators.” In FY2009, consider native and non-native pollinators, crops
and pesticide usage. Result in FY2009 – developed the “Pollinator Habitat Index” and pollinator
Fact Sheet. Kevin asked the group for their comments which can be provided to him by
contacting him by phone at (605) 352-1242, or by e-mail ( Points
for this initiative would be incorporated into the existing EQIP ranking sheet.

Deferred Grazing Initiative – Terry Heck provided a presentation regarding the SD Grazing
Land EQIP Drought Incentive. The purpose of the initiative is to provide technical and financial
incentives to livestock producers in order for them to better mange grazing land resources,
particularly native rangeland. Conservation plans will be developed on grazing lands with
management items such as prescribed grazing. Drought contingency plans will be part of each
prescribed grazing plan. Incentives will be used to implement best management practices to
facilitate drought proofing ranches in SD. Terry presented information on the incentive for
prescribed grazing, complementary forage systems, and the proposed ranking. It was
suggested that an adhoc committee be established to look at this incentive.

FY2009 Timeline and Funding Distribution - Mike Kuck provided a handout regarding
decisions that need to be made for FY2009 program timeline and funding distribution for EQIP
and WHIP. Programs that are already authorized for FY2009 are EQIP and CSP. The
programs that are dependent on the FB are WHIP, WRP, GRP, Farm and Ranch Protection
Program, and EQIP- GSWC. We are currently proceeding under the assumption that there will
be a new FB.

Funding Distribution
EQIP – We currently had the following:
    American Indian – 17 percent.
         o Working with the Bureau of Indian Affairs to see whether the figures have
             changed regarding acres by reservation of Tribal lands.
    Nutrient Management Earmark - $2,000,000.

           o  Should we consider raising the cap due to the energy and the cost to construct
              these? The established state cap is $150,000; however, we could raise the cap.
              Mike stated that he would develop some figures as to what the cost is for these
              facilities. If anyone had comments regarding raising the cap, please provide that
              information to Mike. We plan on holding an EQIP Subcommittee meeting before
              the next STC Meeting (July 22) and this item will be discussed and a suggestion
              will be brought forth to the STC Meeting. The consensus was to continue
              working with the $2 million and discuss the raising of the cap.
      Forestry Earmark (5 counties in the Black Hills) - $150,000.
          o It was agreed to implement the forestry project and continue with the 5 counties
              and the $150,000.
      Cover Crop Incentive (East River or statewide) - $150,000
          o We used $90,000 and we expect an increase. The question is whether we
              should go statewide with the incentive and stay with the $150,000 earmark or
              raise the amount. The consensus was to go statewide and raise the earmark to
      Remaining split 50/50 statewide and 7 SDACD Watershed areas.
          o The earmarks are funded first and then they are rolled over to fund other
              applications either under the statewide or the SDACD watershed areas.

WHIP – Mike indicated that the new FB doubles the funds for WHIP. The funding has been
distributed equally between the following four habitats:
     Grassland Habitat
     Riparian Habitat
     Wetland Habitat
     Woody Habitat

And if we have a special project, we can use up to 25 percent of our allocation for that project.
The consensus was to continue using the process we have used in the past years by splitting
the funds equally between the four habitat types. George Vandel, SDGF&P, again emphasized
that priority should go to grassland habitat.

    The “Call for Ranking” will be September 26, 2008. We talked about moving the date up
       for the field offices (FO’s) to have time to complete their planning, but decided against it
       due to the FB situation.
    December 5, 2008 – All application packages must be submitted to the appropriate field
       support office for review.
    January 9, 2009 - Applications have been reviewed and sent to the area work group for
    In 2010, we plan to move the “Call for Ranking” forward to around August 1.
    The consensus was agreed to with the timelines.
    Will include the pollinator incentive in the ranking process for EQIP and WHIP. Caps will
       be set for acreages and incentive payments. Volunteers are needed to work with the
       EQIP and WHIP Subcommittees on this issue and be prepared to present to STC for
    Grazing Drought Proofing Incentives – The technical team has been working to develop
       the concept; however, we may need to put it off until 2010. Volunteers are needed to
       work to finalize this process. Individuals that volunteered are as follows: Jody Hickman,

       SD Cattlemen Association, will provide us with a name of a individual to serve as their
       representative, Jim Faulstich and Lavern Koch, SD Grassland Coalition, Tim Olsen,
       SDGF&P, Suzanne Koch, Pennington Conservation District, will contact Mike Tubbs to
       represent the SD Stockgrowers’ Association, Pete Jahraus, SD Department of
       Agriculture (DOA), and Angela Ehlers, SDACD. It was suggested that we use three or
       four counties as a pilot. The question was also asked if we would need an earmark for
       this initiative.

Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) – Daryl Campbell provided an update on CRP and
what to expect for CRP under the new FB. Daryl indicated that CRP figures are split between
the general and continuous sign-up. We currently have 29,152 contracts, 14,119 farms, and
1,295,563 acres in the state. Looking at the continuous sign-ups, we have the following acres
for the various programs:
      Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) – 0 acres
      Farmable Wetland Program – 42,618
      The State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) – 31,000

There are a total of acres nationwide (19,507,996) and in SD (820,813) coming out of CRP in
the next few years (2008-2012). The new CRP acreage limit of 32,000,000 acres will become
effective in 2010-2012.

Daryl provided figures for the national and state allocation and acres for the following CRP
practice initiatives as of March 2008.

                         CP 23       CP 23A      CP 27-28        CP33        CP37
                         Wetland     Wetland     FWP             Quail       Duck
                         Restoration Restoration                 Buffer      Nesting
                         Floodplain Non Flood
            National     500,000     250,000     1,000,000       250,000     100,000

            National     115,416        42,405        179,793    192,821       34,808

            State           8,200       33,000         60,000       1,500      40,000

            State           6,686         9,689        42,618       1,003      19,686

Daryl provided an update on the CRP SAFE/CP38 projects. One project is for the Pheasant
Habitat Practice on 20,200 acres which included all East River counties including Gregory,
Tripp, Lyman, Jones and Stanley Counties. At this time, we currently have 31,000 acres and
continue to approval SAFE contracts. This has been a great partnership between SDGF&P;
Pheasant Forever Biologist’s, NRCS, and FSA in conducting a successful signup. Pheasant
Forever Biologist’s are to be congratulated for their promotional efforts and skills in helping us to
exceed all expectations.

The other project is the Sage Grouse Habitat Practice on 500 acres which covers parts of Butte
and Harding Counties. This project has not been going as well. We have no applications at this

Daryl indicated he needed recommendations from the STC and State FSA Committee for
managed haying and grazing on SAFE acres. The consensus of the group was to support
having haying and grazing the CP38 practices with the same conditions and policies that are in
place for other eligible CRP practices. Managed haying and grazing would apply to eligible
practices in the Pheasant SAFE targeted area and managed grazing would apply in the grouse
targeted area.

New FB
   Extends CRP through 2012.
   Lowers cap from 39.2 million acres to 32 million acres for the FY’s 2010 – 2012.
       o Current CRP acres 34,697,697
   Requires the Secretary to conduct an annual survey of rental rates through NASS.
   Provision for early outs for retired farmers who sell/lease to
       o Beginning Farmers
       o Disadvantaged Farmer

CREP Proposal – Bill Smith, SDGP&P, provided copies of the final CREP proposal that will
submitted to NHQ by the Governor the first part of June. They are requesting additional letters
of support from producer and ag groups. Janet Oertly thanked the SDGF&P for taking the lead
on this project.

South Dakota Resource Assessment Update – Pete Jahraus, DOA, provided an update to
the group. He reported that a year ago NE was the only state doing any work dealing with
resource assessment. Since then SD has established a team from the STC of technical
specialists to analyze the existing data and various resource concerns. Pete stated that the
group is open to anyone. An initial list of resource databases has been developed for future
reference. The priority resources are forestry, range, water quality, soil quality, water quality,
wetlands, and wildlife. The team is currently working on gathering data, refining the data layers
and will combine this information and display on maps. The team’s next meeting is scheduled
for June 19, in Huron to determine how to weight the data and set priorities for SD. Pete plans
on presenting information to the full STC in July, and at the SDACD Convention in September,
and again in the fall at the STC Meeting for the group’s final consensus. Pete wants to present
this information to a larger committee than subcommittees before it goes to the STC Meeting.
We are looking more and more at a watershed approach for the practices. Pete thanked the
group for their time and will plan on providing another update mid summer.

The next STC Meeting is scheduled for July 22 in Huron. The November 3 meeting is
scheduled to be held in Pierre.

The meeting was adjourned.


Kathy Irving


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