This morning, the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee set the Fiscal Year 2014 budget for the Idaho Soil and Water Conservation Commission. Representative Steve Miller (R-Fairfield) made the main motion to support a $50,000 increase to the two-to-one state match, and for an additional $20,000 to allow the SWC to recover indirect costs for professional services related to cooperative conservation projects.
“This is great news for our state, our natural resources, and for the fifty soil and water conservation districts in Idaho,” IASCD President Kit Tillotson said. “These increases are a result of our member districts sharing their conservation projects with their legislators, and the outreach by the IASCD Board of Directors.”
The motion to support the increases in the budget passed by a vote of 19-0, and now moves to the floor of the House/Senate chambers with a “do pass” recommendation.
The Joint Finance Appropriations Committee (JFAC) wrapped up their budget presentations today with a handful of reports from the Senate and House committee chairmen. Today’s hearing started promptly at 8:00am with Senate Agricultural Affairs Chairman Steve Bair (R-Blackfoot) discussing the budgets his committee had reviewed.
Bair said they had reviewed the Soil and Water Conservation Commission’s budget, and referenced the two-to-one match was $209,700 from being fully funded. IASCD and the SWC presented to the Senate Ag Affairs Committee on February 14th, 2013 and discussed the importance of a fully funded match.
Chairman Bair let JFAC know that districts use match funds to leverage grants from the Office of Species Conservation, Bonneville Power Administration, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, and even private grants. He also said that local soil and water conservation districts can play a great role in reducing the TMDL in Idaho’s streams and rivers. Therefor, the Senate Ag Committee recommended an additional $209,700.
The date for JFAC to hear the SWC’s budget isn’t known at this time, but we will share it with you as soon as it is set.
Thank you Chairman Bair for your strong support!
Early this morning, the Senate Agricultural Affairs Committee held a confirmation hearing for Soil and Water Conservation Commissioner H. Norman Wright. Chairman Steve Bair started the hearing promptly at 8:00am, and asked Commissioner Wright to share his qualifications.
Commissioner Wright is an Idaho native, a Boise State alum, and currently serves on the American Falls City Council.
“I have learned a lot on the Commission over the last year,” Wright said. “It’s different being involved, rather than observing. I was a loan officer with FSA, and as you know the SWC runs an active loan program. We have looked at ways to streamline the RCRDP loan program, and try to find more people for it to continue.”
Chairman Bair asked Commissioner Wright what has surprised him most during his service on the Commission. Commissioner Wright said he “didn’t know they had a loan program [RCRDP loan program]. It was a well-kept secret, and I don’t want the RCRDP to be a secret anymore.”
Chairman Bair thanked him for his service, and then called on the Commission and IASCD to give their annual presentation.
Today, the Idaho Association of Soil Conservation Districts (IASCD) sent a letter to Congressman Mike Simpson (R-ID) and Congressman Raul Labrador (R-ID) asking they work with House leadership to bring the Farm Bill to the House floor for a vote. Prior to adjourning for the August District Work period, the House passed emergency drought legislation, but did not vote on the Farm Bill.
The IASCD Board of Directors wrote, “However, the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and local districts have the tools and resources available right now to continue common-sense conservation practices that will help mitigate the impacts of extreme weather. Strong, locally led conservation, as supported by Farm Bill conservation programs are essential tools to preserve natural resources here in Idaho and across our nation.
“A new, five-year Farm Bill must be passed in September which includes a strong conservation title that streamlines and consolidates programs for increased efficiency and ease-of-use for land owners and producers. We would be honored to work with you and your staff if the Farm Bill does come to the House floor next month.”
To read the letter in its entirety, please click here.
***Please note, the same letter was sent to both Members of Congress.***
Today, the Idaho Association of Soil Conservation Districts (IASCD) sent a letter to Idaho Senators Mike Crapo and James Risch asking they support the 2012 Farm Bill when it comes before them for a vote later in the week.
In a letter written on behalf of the IASCD Board of Directors and IASCD member districts, Kit Tillotson wrote, “The federal dollars invested in Title II programs in the Farm Bill ripple out into our communities and impact all facets of our economy; less sediment in rivers means a pristine river for fishing or rafting; healthy soil means a more plentiful crop; responsible land management means a balance between species habitat and grazing.
“The current bill advances and simplifies conservation programs. First, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) replaces legislatively-designated geographical programs with an opportunity for regional programs to continue to expand. Second, the consolidated Agriculture Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) simplifies wetland and agricultural land easements. Third, the current bill streamlines the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), allowing easier access for producers who wish to take advantage of either program.
“The work accomplished by our districts, in partnership with the Idaho Soil and Water Conservation Commission and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, is an example of good public policy and good government. This partnership provides useful information about land use change, soil erosion and health, water quality and quantity, and wildlife habitat.”
You can read the letter in its entirety by clicking here.
On Thursday, April 26, the Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy, and Forestry will hold a hearing to listen to conservation stakeholders prior to development of the 2012 Farm Bill. NACD President Gene Schmidt will be testifying in front of the Committee. The hearing starts at 9:30am EDT (7:30am MDT and 6:30am PDT). You can watch the hearing by clicking here.
Last June, Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) began the effort when the Agriculture Committee held 11 audit hearings on agriculture programs to look for ways to improve programs for farmers, increase efficiency, and reduce spending.
“It’s important to consider a variety of perspectives when writing comprehensive legislation. We are continuing our efforts to gather as much information as possible so we can write sound and effective farm policy that works for all of agriculture. We have reviewed spending trends and have heard from our producers on the ground. Now it’s time for national agricultural leaders and stakeholders to present their views on farm policy,” said Chairman Frank Lucas.
IASCD sent a letter to our federal delegation regarding vital conservation programs in the Farm Bill. You can click here to read the letter we sent.
Today the Idaho Association of Soil Conservation Districts (IASCD) sent a letter to Congressman Mike Simpson (R-ID) to share our thoughts in the vital federal conservation programs used by the fifty soil conservation districts in Idaho. IASCD requested funding for NRCS Conservation Operations, the 319 Nonpoint Source grant program, and State and Private Forestry programs.
“We fully understand the difficult decisions the Appropriations Committee has to make in funding or eliminating federal programs. IASCD fully supports a federal budget that reduces unnecessary government spending, and properly reflects our nation’s difficult economic situation. However, agriculture and natural resource spending almost always bears the brunt of spending cuts. For example, if we use the FY 2011 funding level adjusted for inflation, the NRCS Conservation Operations account in the FY13 Agricultural Appropriations budget would be $904 million, representing a 6% reduction from the FY2005 appropriated level. We would request you support $904 million in this account for this budget.”
IASCD requested that 319 Nonpoint Source funding be set at $227 million, and State and Private Forestry programs be set at $355 million for FY ’13. The 319 program has gained tremendous momentum in Idaho, especially in the southeast region. The program allows for further improvements in water quality, as well as reductions in sediment, nitrogen, and phosphorous into the streams. Districts in the northern part of the state use State and Private Forestry programs to improve forest health, reduce wildfire risk, and improve water quality, and steelhead trout habitat.
President Kit Tillotson’s letter to Congressman Simpson was written on behalf of the IASCD Board of Directors and member soil conservation districts. A similar letter was also sent to Senator Mike Crapo, Senator James E. Risch, and Congressman Raul Labrador.
To read the letter in its entirety, please click here.