Monthly Archives: April 2011

Federal Legislative Update: May 2nd to May 6th

The US Senate and House will get back to work next week, following a two-week district work period. Here are a few items of interest.

On Tuesday, May 3rd, the House Committee on Agriculture and Committee on Natural Resources will hold a joint hearing titled, “At Risk: American Jobs, Agriculture, Health and Species—the Costs of Federal Regulatory Dysfunction.”  This hearing will focus on pesticide regulation as it relates to FIFRA (Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act). The hearing starts at 10:00am EDT (8am MDT, 7am PDT), and if you click here, you will be able to watch or listen to the hearing. IASCD solicited questions from member districts on this issue, and will be submitting them to Congressman Raul Labrador. Congressman Labrador is a member of the Committee on Natural Resources.

Congressman Mike Simpson and Congressman Labrador joined a bipartisan group of House members expressing concern about guidance put out by the Environment Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that would change the definition of waters subject to the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. You can view a copy of this letter by clicking here.

Finally, Capital Press published the editorial IASCD wrote for Earth Day. It’s similar to what was run by the Post Register, but had more examples of the great work our districts do each day. Capital Press reaches readers in California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho. Click here to read the online editorial.

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IASCD’s Earth Day Editorial

IASCD was able to have an Earth Day editorial published last week in the Idaho Falls Post Register. Since we were limited to 450 words, and not everyone receives a copy of the Post Register, we thought you would be interested in reading the editorial in its entirety.

Before you woke up this morning, a group of environmentalists were already up working to improve and conserve Idaho’s natural resources. When they come home tonight, their boots will be covered in dirt, their hands muddy from fixing irrigation lines, and their brains racked from trying to think of a way to grow more crops using less water. Today is Earth Day, but every day is Earth Day for Idaho’s soil and water conservation districts.

During the Dust Bowl, the federal government sought out local land owners to help solve the erosion problem plaguing our nation. President Franklin D. Roosevelt encouraged the formation of local conservation districts, and Idaho landowners created the first five soil and water conservation districts in 1939. Their goal then, as it is today, was to promote non-regulatory conservation to preserve and protect Idaho’s natural resources. Today, there are 50 individual districts, each day working to make improvements to our state’s environment.

Conservation district boards are made up of farmers, ranchers and private land owners. The work and projects they complete seldom make the news, however these projects have increased agriculture production, while saving water, keeping the air clean, and keeping millions of tons of sediment from entering our rivers. Soil and water conservation districts help land owners develop common sense solutions to challenges they face. These are crafted by people with real expertise in land and natural resource management, not a pencil-pusher in San Francisco with zero background in farming or natural resource conservation.

Here are a few projects from some of the districts around Idaho:

The Gem Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) helped a land owner install a pivot irrigation line on his land, which resulted in reducing sediment loads by 324 tons per year.

The Teton SCD held a poster contest for students in their district. This year’s theme was Forests: For People More Than You Imagine, and district educated youth on the importance of forests in their daily lives. Nearly 300 students participated in the contest, a new record for the Teton SCD.

The Valley SWCD worked with the Valley County Road Department to improve road surface drainage that annually reduces sediment load by 70 tons, nitrogen by 193 pounds and phosphorus by 142 pounds.

The Squaw Creek SCD treated 12,800 acres of forest land in FY ’10 with tree planting and thinning, noxious weed control and stock watering facilities.

The Adams SWCD is implementing the Little Weiser River stream bank stabilization and rehabilitation project in Adams and Washington counties. Their goal is to prevent stream bank and stream channel erosion, thus protecting farmland, improving the flood channel, irrigation diversion and wildlife habitat through enhanced riparian areas.

The Butte SCD signed an agreement this week with US Fish and Wildlife to enhance the riparian habitat of the bull trout and other native fish in the Little Lost River Watershed.

The Bonner SWCD has taken the lead in addressing aquatic invasive species by managing boat inspection stations. This has protected Priest Lake, Lake Pend Orielle, and a number of other bodies of water in Bonner County.

The West Side SWCD helped landowners install over a half-mile (2,733 feet) of center pivot irrigation lines in their district. These systems are highly water efficient, and save tons of soil from eroding into nearby streams and creeks.

The Latah SCD recently completed work on the Corral Creek Steelhead Habitat Restoration Project. This created 18 miles of habitat upstream from Corral Creek by restoring the stream channel, allowing water to flow naturally from the creek to the Potlatch River. They also revegetated the stream bank and meadow with native plant species to reduce erosion, enhance stream bank stability, and provide shading for the fish.

Power SCD worked with two land owners to improve planting and irrigation techniques. These efforts stopped severe wind erosion in the Sand Farms and near I-84. It is estimated that this project saved 5 to 10 tons of soil per acre.

Ada SWCD’s biggest project this past year included active natural resource management of all Ada County conservation easement parcels (over 800 acres) as well as the management of the Avimor Planned Community conservation easement (400 acres) for protection and enhancement of open space and wildlife habitat.

Soil conservation districts don’t have one day a year to celebrate Earth Day; for them, it’s every day. Districts produce tangible, common sense solutions to save natural resources, and each day improving the world around them. We simply don’t see these kinds of positive results from individual activists. You will not find Idaho’s True Environmentalists at an Earth Day rally today; they are too busy actively saving resources and getting their hands dirty.

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Reminder: Financial Assistance Available for Idaho’s Organic Producers

This is a reminder that NRCS has an additional funding opportunity for certified organic producers and those transitioning to organic production to implement resource conservation practices on their agricultural operations. Funds come from a section in the 2008 Farm Bill for organic farmers and those transitioning to organic.

Eligible producers include those certified through USDA’s National Organic Program, those transitioning to certified organic production, and those who meet organic standards but are exempt from certification because their gross annual organic sales are less than $5,000.

If you’re interested, contact the NRCS service office in your area.

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New USDA Initiative Can Help Farmers Develop An Oil Spill Prevention Plan

A new USDA initiative may help agricultural producers in Idaho comply with revised Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations for on-farm oil spills. Idaho is participating in this pilot program, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service is accepting applications for the Spill, Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) pilot initiative through May 20, 2011. The EPA has exempted milk and milk product containers from this rule.

Here are some answers to some frequently asked questions:

SPCC applies to a farm that:
●  Stores, transfers, uses or consumes oil or oil products, such as diesel fuel, gasoline, lube oil, hydraulic oil, adjuvant oil, crop oil, vegetable oil or animal fat; and
●  Stores more than 1,320 US gallons in total of all above ground containers (start counting at 55 gallons or more) or more than 42,000 gallons in completely buried containers; and
●  Could reasonably be expected to discharge oil to waters of the US or adjoining shorelines, such as interstate waters, intrastate lakes, rivers and streams.

Question: How does a farmer determine if his/her farm could reasonably discharge oil into or upon navigable waters or adjoining shorelines?

Answer: Farmers and ranchers can determine this by considering the geography and location of their farm relative to nearby navigable waters (such as streams, creeks and other waterways). They should consider if ditches, gullies, storm sewers or other drainage systems may transport an oil spill to nearby streams.

Question: If a farm does not have fuel storage that will flow into US waters by a ditch, river stream or lake, does a farmer have to prepare a SPCC Plan?

Answer: No. EPA suggests a common sense approach. If an oil storage tank leaks, and the spilled oil would not flow to other property or into watersheds that could end up impacting other waters, you do not have to prepare a Plan.

To learn more about the SPCC pilot initiative, contact the Idaho NRCS office nearest you. Please click here to find the service center in your area.

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Pesticides Legislation Introduced in US Senate

This week, Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) introduced a bill to eliminate a burdensome, costly and redundant permit requirement for applications of pesticides. This legislation is a companion to HR 872, which passed the US House of Representatives last week. You can read the text of the legislation by clicking here.

The legislation is a response to a 6th Circuit Court ruling that National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits are required for all pesticide applications made to, over, or near U.S. bodies of water. Prior to this ruling, EPA considered pesticide applications in accordance with Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) exempt from CWA permits. Without legislation, EPA is under court order to require CWA NPDES permits in addition to the requirements under FIFRA.

Idaho Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch are original co-sponsors of this bill. S. 718 has been referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.

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State and Federal Legislative Update

It seems the Idaho State Legislature is wrapping up their session. So, we have no committee updates for you for next week. However, we’ll still continue to monitor any developments and let you know when they officially adjourn sine die.

From Washington, DC….
As we posted the yesterday, HR 872 passed the US House of Representatives with a bipartisan vote of 292-130. Congressman Raul Labrador and Congressman Mike Simpson were co-sponsors of the legislation and voted in favor of it. Congressman Simpson spoke on the House floor in support of the bill, and you can watch the speech by clicking here.

The Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry will be holding a hearing on April 6th to review the state of the beef industry. The hearing starts at 9:30am EDT (7:30am MDT and 6:30am PDT). You can listen and view the hearing by clicking here.

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