Monthly Archives: February 2011

IASCD Meets With Senator Jim Risch

IASCD Directors David Ascuena and Rick Rodgers, along with Balanced Rock SCD Vice-Chair Rick Pearson and Ada SWCD Vice-Chair Lynn McKee sat down with Senator Jim Risch (R-ID) at 9:30am this morning. After introductions, Rick Rodgers said that when Idaho has strong farms, the state will have a strong economy. Senator Risch agreed, and said he’s one of the only members of the US Senate or House who actually own a cow. He then gave the group an overview of the challenges he is facing in the US Senate. Over the next two weeks, Senator Risch expects the Senate to hold lengthy debates on the national debt and the need for spending cuts.

Rick Rodgers stated that Balanced Rock SCD uses federal EQIP funds to help conserve water, save energy, and better utilize land. In fact, thanks to the many water conservation projects in the Magic Valley, the water run-off into the Snake River is next to nothing.

Lynn McKee discussed the urban and suburban issues the Ada SWCD faces, and described their work with Ada County on land easement maintenance. Ada SWCD also teaches natural resource conservation to those in urban areas, and a has variety of urban conservation projects that improve the environment.

Both David and Rick Pearson brought up projects in their districts. David told Senator Risch about a wheel line irrigation project that uses no energy to run, and Rick said he used EQIP funds to convert from gravity irrigation to a water and energy saving pivot system. Since no water leaves Rick’s farm, it helps keep the Snake River clean. David stressed the importance of federal conservation dollars, and how programs don’t make the farmer rich. Rather, funds are invested in vital projects that increase productivity on the ground. Next, David discussed Resource Conservation and Development Program funding and the work done in southwest Idaho leveraging these funds to obtain more outside funding.

Rick Rodgers thanked Senator Risch for his co-sponsorship for S. 249, and asked the Senator his thoughts on possible Endangered Species Act reform during this session of Congress. Senator Risch said reform will be tough, but he was confident we would win the gray wolf issue. The Senator stated the importance of turning over management of the gray wolf for the state to manage.

Special thanks to Brad Hoaglun, the senator’s communications director, for the photo!

Lynn McKee, Rick Pearson, Senator Jim Risch, Rick Rodgers and David Ascuena

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Soil & Water Conservation Commission To Present In Senate Ag

The Soil and Water Commission is giving a presentation before the Senate Agriculture Committee tomorrow (February 24, 2011). The hearing starts at 8am, and SWC is second on the presentation list.

If you can’t make it to the presentation, you can stream live to your computer. Simply click here and you’ll be taken to the Idaho Legislature Live website. If you scroll down a bit, you’ll see Agriculture Affairs listed under Senate Committees. Click that link, and you’ll be able to view the hearing.

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Congratulations to Julie Burkhardt!

Julie Burkhardt was awarded the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Agriculture yesterday at the Larry Branen Idaho Ag Summit. Julie has served on the Adams Soil and Water Conservation District for ten years, and has been involved with the Adams and Weiser Soil Conservation Districts with stream bank restoration and stabilization project on the Little Weiser River. She is currently the chairwoman for the Adams Weed Management Cooperative, and has helped secure grants totaling $400,000. Funds were used to build facilities and obtain equipment for a county-wide weed program. Julie is also owner/partner in Range West, a consulting firm which represents public land ranchers.

IASCD is thrilled for Julie, and congratulates her on this honor!

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Today’s Soil and Water Conservation Commissioner Hearing in Senate Ag

The Senate Agriculture Committee held commissioner hearings this morning for the Soil and Water Conservation Commission (SWC). Senator Tim Corder gaveled the hearing open at 8am, and asked all the producers in the room to stand. He thanked them for attending, and reminded the audience that they won’t be voting on the candidates today.

Mr. Richard Bronson was first to address the committee. Mr. Bronson said it was a true honor to be appointed by Governor Otter, and told the Committee, “Water and soils across Idaho are more important than ever, as we live in a hungrier world.” He also stated that Idaho agriculture has eased the current recession, especially in the smaller communities. Mr. Bronson was highly complementary of the individual soil and water districts stating that they have been the leaders in conserving water and Idaho’s natural resources. Mr. Bronson then took questions from the Committee.

Senator Jeff Siddoway asked Mr. Bronson about the relationship between the districts and the SWC. Mr. Bronson said the SWC serves to benefit 50 local districts throughout the state. The SWC’s sole mission is to provide the districts with technical support and funds so local districts lead conservation measures. The next question came from Senator Pearce. He asked what the biggest challenge will be for the soil conservation districts over the next two years. Mr. Bronson answered that TMDL’s will be one of the largest problem we have to solve to protect Idaho water for Idaho.

Senator James Hammond asked what kinds of projects districts doing in regard to TMDL. Mr. Bronson said districts can create sediment ponds, for example, to help clean up water. However, even a project cleans up to 90% of the sediment in the water, the quality of the water may not look like it’s 90% clean. Senator Hammond had a follow-up regarding reliable funding sources for districts, and where reliable funding sources may be in the future. Mr. Bronson said the state gives $2.3 million to SWC today. Local districts then leverage state funds to bring in millions of dollars from local sources, federal sources, and grants. This helps producers and puts vital projects on the ground. The state investment is hugely beneficial to the state of Idaho.

SWC Chairman Bill Flory was next to speak before the Committee. He gave a brief introduction, and spoke about how his farm reflects his passion for conservation. Senator Melinda Smyser asked Mr. Flory to discuss his biggest contribution to SWC. Mr. Flory said that it was supporting the passion of our local, county and state partners work for conservation. SWC employees in the counties and districts have done an excellent job of supporting clean air, water and soil in Idaho.

Senator Tim Corder asked Mr. Flory about the vacancy in SWC staff, and about plans to fill the position or not. Mr. Flory stated the full-time staff is at 15 people, and the new position would assist the workload of the SWC.  Senator Jeff Siddoway had the final question for Mr. Flory, and asked him about the consolidation of Mud Lake and Jefferson SCD last year. Mr. Flory answered that he hopes it achieves administrative efficiencies and savings to put additional conservation efforts on the ground.

Mr. Dwight Horsch gave a historical background on his 101 year old farm in Aberdeen, and how his grandfather turned a marshy area into a prime place to grow crops and a prized homestead. Currently, Mr. Horsch is developing a conservation easement on American Falls Reservoir. Mr. Horsch said he’s helped to build a strong SWC over the past 5 years, and all five commissioners know who puts the work on the ground: the local supervisors and their staff. Our position and attitude is to support that effort.

The last commissioner to speak before the Committee was Roger Stutzman. Roger farms in Twin Falls County, served as a supervisor on the Balanced Rock SCD and a director on IASCD. He told the Committee that a district supervisor volunteers his time, not for financial benefit, but to take care of natural resources. A bottom-up, non-regulatory approach will continue as long as we have strong districts. For the dollars invested, it’s amazing to see the return. Last year alone, a combined local, state, and federal efforts lined up $60 million in projects over the next several years. These are good for conservation, good for local communities, good for water and good for soil.

The hearing ended a bit before 9am, and we headed over to the Soil and Water Conservation Commission meeting.

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Steve Miller of Fairfield, Idaho Elected as NACD Secretary/Treasurer

IASCD congratulates Steve Miller of Fairfield, ID for being elected as the National Association of Conservation Districts’ new Secretary/Treasurer! We sent the following press release to our Idaho media contacts just a few minutes ago.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 11, 2011

CONTACT: Bret Rumbeck

National Association of Conservation Districts Elects New Officers
Steve Miller of Fairfield, Idaho Elected as NACD Secretary/Treasurer

MERIDIAN, IDAHO — During the National Association of Conservation Districts’ (NACD) Annual Meeting last week in Nashville, Tenn., members elected a new officer team and approved a set of guiding principles for the 2012 Farm Bill. Steve Miller of Fairfield, Idaho was officially sworn in as NACD’s new Secretary/Treasurer.

“I look forward to being part of an integral part of the NACD team that advocates for 3,000 Conservation Districts and their respective state associations,” said Miller. “NACD is already working in Washington D.C. to promote a 2012 Farm Bill that will help Conservation Districts implement locally led resource driven conservation projects. This is a significant part of NACD’s challenge of being America’s leading voice for natural resource conservation.”

Miller has been an active member of the Idaho Association of Soil Conservation Districts, serving three years as president. Miller has been a member of the Camas Soil Conservation District since 1978, and farms in the Fairfield area.

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Legislative Display Photos

Here are two photos from IASCD’s Legislative Display in the State Capitol Building. Be sure to check out our Facebook page for a few more photos!

Sylvia "GG" Gilliland shows Senator Tim Corder a number of Elmore SCD's projects.

Karma Bragg shows Reps. Raybould and Shirley all about Division VI projects.

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Legislative Displays Media Advisory

The media advisory below was just sent out to the capitol correspondents and television stations alerting them to the district’s legislative display date tomorrow.

Keep an eye on our blog and Facebook page tomorrow for updates and photos (so long as the camera cooperates).

TOMORROW: Idaho Association of Soil Conservation Districts Legislative Displays
Member Districts Will Show Off Natural Resource Conservation Projects To State Legislators

BOISE, IDAHO – On Thursday, February 10, 2011, soil and water conservation districts from across Idaho will be displaying natural resource conservation projects on the 4th floor of the State Capitol Building. The fifty conservation districts in Idaho are the primary entities to coordinate voluntary, locally led efforts to sustain and enhance Idaho’s natural resources. The Legislative Display will take place from 9am to 3pm.

WHO: Idaho Association of Soil Conservation Districts

WHAT: Legislative Display to State Legislators

WHEN: Thursday, February 10 from 9am to 3pm

WHERE: State Capitol Building, 4th Floor of the Rotunda

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