Message from the State Conservationist
William E. Puckett, Ph.D.
FY13 is coming to a close and much has been accomplished. You, the districts, and many other conservation partners are to
be congratulated on another outstanding year in conservation. I appreciate your dedication and hard work that has resulted in more conservation on the ground. Alabama’s citizens can take great pride in knowing that the conservation partnership is dedicated to not only keeping Alabama beautiful, but also keeping a healthy environment.
Alabama NRCS has recently been in the spotlight due to your hard work. The Jasper Field Office received the 2013 National Earth Team Chief’s Field Award for the Southeast Region, Thomas and Mary Freeman of Colbert Co received the 2014 Small Farmer of the Year Award, and I was honored as the Soil Conservationist of the Year at the 2013 Alabama Wildlife Federation Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards.
Our StrikeForce efforts with the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) made tremendous strides in locating summer feeding sites for children across central Alabama. I also want to recognize your efforts for the Feds Feeds Families Food Drive. Your efforts collected over a ton and a half of food for Alabama families. Thanks to Zona Beaty for leading this effort.
We are continuing to implement StrikeForce, a partnership with local and state agencies, universities, community-based organizations, and USDA agencies—NRCS, FSA, RD, FNS, Ag Marketing Service, and Risk Management Agency. We are
identifying the community-based organizations that want to be involved to increase customer’s access to, and participation in, programs to address needs in 23 persistent poverty counties. We are looking at what is already available and working to adapt it for other counties. The intent of this initiative is to enhance the opportunities for people in these rural communities and to help them increase their quality of life. I commend the NRCS staff in these counties for your hard work in making sure the StrikeForce goals are implemented and our work helps make this initiative a success.
Another exciting effort is our Soil Health Initiative. Our agency has always been about Soil Health and we are reaffirming our commitment to make Alabama’s soils productive and healthy. Keeping farms productive and farmers prosperous is vital to a sustainable rural economy. The prescription for healthy soils is not magic, we all know the formula--(do not disturb) + (keep it covered) / (plant variations) = healthy soil. We are highlighting eight producers from across Alabama who are doing
outstanding jobs protecting and improving soil health as Soil Health Champions. The Soil Health Initiative and Champions were introduced at this year’s ALFA Commodities Conference in Birmingham. (Fact sheets on each of these producers are on our website at: www.al.nrcs.usda.gov.) Please take some time with the partnership in your county and see how soil health works locally.
It has been a great year and we should take time to reflect on our accomplishments and what challenges still remain. We are about to embark on another fiscal year and there is much uncertainty. I know you have questions concerning the Farm
Bill, FY14 budget, sequestration, debt limit, etc., all issues that affect our operations. However, I ask you to remain focused on the mission and know we are all fortunate to be able to serve the citizens and resources of this great state. Let us continue to “Help Alabamians Take Care of the Land.”
Dr. William E. Puckett
“Helping People Help the Land!”