Last week, I attended my first Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Technical Committee Meeting in Bismarck. I failed to see what was technical about it, but it lasted only 3 hours or so and a very diverse group was there to listen to the speakers. Here is a partial list starting with interested agricultural organizations; Farmer’s Union, Farm Bureau, Grain Growers, Durum, Stockmen’s Assoc., Rangeland Management, ND Ag. Dept., and our ND Soybean Growers followed by the Forest Service, Red River Retention, Landowners, FSA, Turtle Mountain and Spirit Lake, ND Health Dept., Rural Water Assoc., Congressman Cramer’s office, Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited and a whole bunch of NRCS people. State NRCS Director Mary Podall got us started with telling us all about some Conservation Collaborative Grants which require no 50-50 matching and have only a 7 page grant application. The next round is closing in the first week of April, but more will follow later. One could google up NRCS Collaborative Grants or get a hold of some NRCS people if you are interested in those.
Then we heard from the Audubon Society who is running a Dakota Conservation Ranching Program which promotes bird friendly ranching practices. Josh was talking to us and explained they have 16 ranches in the Dakotas currently signed up, five of those in North Dakota. They are hoping consumers will purchase beef raised along the guidelines they espouse. One of their catchy taglines was “What is good for the bird is good for the herd.” Again, if you want more details, hit their website.
Then the new ND Farm Service Agency (FSA) Director Brad Thykeson, introduced himself and explained his background as a farmer would help him keep the producer uppermost in his mind as he goes about becoming familiar with all that the agency has going on. He likened it to the familiar “drinking out of a firehouse…” I have known Brad for over 30 years as we are from the same community and I have a lot of confidence in his abilities. Then his companion, Brad Olsen, who has over 30 years in the FSA, explained how their agency is not entertaining any offers for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). That runs counter to their longtime policy of at least accepting offers before further exploration. Offers for Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) II and CRP Grasslands may be accepted, they think, although the Farm Bill expires in September. He also reported that primary nesting season for CRP purposes in ND will remain April 15-August 1. David Patrick explained that Dakota Wetland Partners is seeking landowner participation in a wetland conservation initiative in North Dakota. It is about a way to sell and purchase wetland credits for mitigation purposes and you can go to www.DakotaWetlandPartners.com for more info.
Mike Ell of the ND Health Dept. (DOH) updated us on the slow progress of shifting DOH water, air and waste management (and more) into its own department of Environmental Quality. It looks like December now, they hope, as the EPA has to filter though it all. Todd Hagel explained a volunteer Conservation Steward program for the NRCS. Dan Wogsland of the Grain Growers expressed how much they value the farm bill specialists working in ND and he hopes the program can continue, which was seconded by Eric Broten of the ND Soybean Growers. The Ag Dept. mentioned that there is a lot of demand for wetland mitigation credits, but not many wanting to sell.
The Forest Service warned that the Emerald Ash Borer has shown up in the Winnipeg area. It is coming and it will most likely be ugly.