Skip

STAC Minutes 9-13-2012

State Technical Advisory Committee Notes - September 13, 2012

2012 Overview – Alan Forkey

  • NRCS has obligated almost 100 million in EQIP funds in FY2012
  • AFO/livestock were a high priority: total of $13.45 million obligated
  • Received over 20 million to address irrigation efficiency needs.
  • Tribal Initiative new in FY2012 – we obligated $1.7 -$1.8 million
  • National Air Quality – received over 21 million to address air quality concerns through the replacement of older technology on-farm diesel combustion engines.
  • Most of the National Air Quality funding went to extreme non-attainment areas in the San Joaquin Valley.
  • California obligated approximately 2/3rds of the total air quality funding available nationwide.
  • National Water Quality – New for 2012. Five percent of the general EQIP funding ($2.5 million) was targeted to high priority water quality improvements
  • More interest in Organic than previous years: $2.78 million
  • Sage Grouse decreased – California gave approx. 1.2 million to Nevada for Washoe County projects that California will provide the technical assistance on
  • EGVM – in partnership with CDFA and APHIS
  • Focused on integrated pest management and substitution of soft chemicals
  • 4 counties were removed off the EGVM quarantine list in 2012
  • In addition to Water Quality, we had 4 National Initiatives in 2012
    • National Air Quality
    • Organic Transition and Certified
    • Seasonal High Tunnels
    • On Farm Energy
  • America Great Outdoors also known as Monterey Bay Conservation Program is in its second year and we have obligated approximately $1.7 million in FY2012.
  • Bay Delta Initiative – we have obligated approximately 15 million to those projects
  • Waterbird Enhancement Program – we have obligated approximately $6.7 million this year and approximately 106,000 acres total have been enrolled in the past 2 years.
  • Almost $600,000 in EQIP was obligated to the Tricolored Blackbird Initiative and the Declining Species Initiative.
  • CCPI- we have 13 active projects which are partnership driven and totaled approximately 6 percent of our EQIP funds

Question: In regards to Air Quality, are we concerned about the 85 percent of the applicants that are turned back from funding?
Answer: We get over 2000 applications a year and cannot deny signups. The fact that we can show such a large backlog of applications helps us to maintain or increase annual funding levels. We would rather have more interest and fund the highest priority projects than to fund a larger percentage and have to fund projects with marginal air quality benefits.

Recommendation: If you cap your projects you will be able to fund more applicants.

2013 Proposed timelines for Program delivery – Alan Forkey

  • In 2012 National Headquarters established the timelines and number of sign-up opportunities for national initiatives.
  • In 2013, we have more control and plan to be more consistent with roll out dates
  • For 2013, we will roll out signups immediately through November 16, 2012, for all ongoing programs. If there is a need to extend the sign-up period for specific initiatives then we will make additional funding decisions based on the new deadline

Question: How long is ranking queued? Is there a process?
Answer: We defer applications at the end of the year but they lose their ranking and screening and will have to be re-evaluated in the next fiscal year.

  • To the extent that California can influence the national air quality initiative, we will be using the same screening and ranking for National Air Quality in FY2013 as we did in 2012 which will allow us to focus on reduction of nitrous oxide emissions from on-farm diesel combustion engines.

Questions and Comments on Wildlife Initiative:

Question: Is there monitoring for the Tri Color Blackbirds?
Answer: Yes, Audubon is doing the monitoring

Question: how many producers this year for the Waterbird Enhancement Program?
Answer: we had 125 this year and 70 last year

Recommendations/comments:

  • A lot of areas need additional support for regional resource concerns:
    • Sierras, Klamath – aspen restoration
    • Blue Oaks – riparian restoration
    • Valley – Coast – hedgerows lacking
    • High mountain meadows
    • Wet meadows in Sierra
  • Opportunities for salmon along the coast (NRCS will possibly launch a salmon initiative in 2013).
  • Valley floor – shorebirds are limited, should continue with focus on Waterbird Habitat.
  • Tulare basin – pre-flooding has been successful for wildlife habitat.
  • Restoration on working waterways
  • High mountain meadows should be a priority
  • Coho Salmon recovery needed
  • National marine fishery has released a final Coho recovery plan, will share with NRCS
  • 10 percent of EQIP funds should go to wildlife initiative
  • There should be a pollinator initiative
  • NRCS - Under the next Farm Bill, WHIP will likely not be reauthorized, but wildlife issues will be incorporated into EQIP.
2013 Batching dates
  • November 16, 2012 is first cutoff date
  • Third week in February is tentative second cut-off date, if needed

Comment: the second date should depend on how quick the money is received. Applications are processed and farmers are ready to start but the money hasn't been received yet

  • If it is an urgency to install before the contract is signed then there is a waiver that can be requested. We have done it with EGVM. We don't like to publicize the use of the waivers.

Question: Do we anticipate any drought money coming in 2013?
Answer: No, we do not appear to be as impacted as the mid-West and Great Plains states. Most of California's reservoirs were full by April 1st and we received some late spring rains that helped rangeland forage production.

  • For 2013 there is discussion on a Fire initiative for reseeding and mulching
  • Funding Pools have been moved from individual counties to multi-county regions. It is required by National headquarters for us to use multi-county or regional funding pool areas. We are moving towards targeting by resource concerns around the state rather than to have separate county funding allocations.

Question: How will that affect how local work groups work with DCs?
Answer: It will not affect it at all. DCs will continue to work with their Local Work Groups and the NRCS District Conservationist will establish local county priorities based on those recommendations. The identification of county-level resource priorities will determine which funding pools and initiatives that county will be able to utilize. However, it is required that Farm Bill program funding be targeted to those projects that exhibit the greatest environmental benefit.

Comment: We have been concerned by this process and have felt that it sidestepped the local work groups.

  • NRCS - There is a lot of confusion and misconception out there. Local work groups will still be meeting with their DCs and working on resource concerns to be addressed in their areas.

Comment: Need to work on misconceptions out there regarding lack of local input
Comment: It would be very helpful to know ranking criteria for clusters
Comment: There is concern on how ranking questions are answered by the DCs within the clusters

  • NRCS - We are working on these concerns. We need to develop a resource concern based ranking process that evaluates the severity of the problem. With respect to the inconsistencies in interpreting ranking factors from one county to the next, Programs staff has been monitoring the funding pools to see if any counties have unusually high or low scores, and then working with those counties to correct errors.

Comment: We would just like to be sure that they will all be interpreting the ranking questions the same way

Question: Is it still true that there is a limitation on the number of practices allowed for Organic?
Answer: Yes, but more can be added with State Conservationist approval

National Water Quality Initiative – Tom Hedt

Tom described background of the Initiative.

  • Rolled out in mid-March, watersheds had to be selected and signups announced by end of April, signups were completed by mid-May, and contracts obligated in July.
  • National guidance was for 1 to 3 watersheds per state; California initially submitted 9, and ended up with 5 approved.
  • Watersheds had to be at the 12-digit HUC's (hydrologic unit code). These are small areas, generally 5,000 to 40,000 acres. This was problematic in California, because many of the HUC-12's in CA, especially in the Central Valley are very small.
  • 5 percent of EQIP funding
  • Intent to go in and monitor for several years
  • EPA and Water Board very active partners. The goal of this, as identified by the NRCS and the EPA at the national level, is to identify watersheds that have been classified by EPA and the water boards as impaired due to agricultural sources that have the potential to be significantly improved, and possibly de-listed.
  • A very important part of selecting watersheds is communication with the local NRCS offices and partners making sure that this type of focused assistance would meet local priorities and that there is a high level of local participation to address these needs.
  • The 5 Watersheds selected in California for 2012 were:
    • Calleguas (2 HUC's: Calleguas: Revlon Slough-Calleguas and Nyland-Frontal Pacific)
    • Garcia (2 HUC's: Upper Garcia River and the Middle Garcia River)
    • Salt River
  • Would like your input on existing and new watersheds. For 2013, preferences and priorities for continuing the work in these watersheds or expanding work to additional watersheds.

Question: Is NRCS doing the monitoring? Do practices have direct effect?
Answer: Monitoring is being done by EPA and Water Board. Practices have already been started and EPA is already monitoring. Long time frames of monitoring more than 1-2 years.

Comment: EPA is having a hard time implementing and getting Water quality done – learning how to advance process and stay true to locally led customers

Comment: Need for broader locally led programs and target areas

Comment: Still not enough money to fix problems. Need watershed planning to focus on the ground needs.

Comment: Need to make sure practice standards are really practical, so that producers will continue to implement them even after funding is gone.

Comment: Methyl-Mercury issue. This is an evolving issue that landowners will have to deal with in the near future., research is being done and a TMDL is being developed. . Much of it is an issue of historic land use/mining activities. Need to stabilize sediment, mercury coming down from hills to watersheds

Comment: Northern California are excellent choices. Hope to finalize Ag waiver process by December

Comment: The watershed in Southern California is as urban as you can get; there is a high level of monitoring, and is a good contrast to the watersheds in northern CA. It makes sense to continue the emphasis on these watersheds for several years, and look for long term results.

Bay Delta Initiative – Tom Hedt

Described background of the Bay Delta Initiative.
Goals: Water quality from agricultural sources, water conservation, and fishery related habitat work.
Meetings held with partners throughout the fall of 2011 to gain input on priorities and the type of work that could be done to meet local priorities while meeting the goals of the Initiative.

  • Received over 30 proposals in FY2012. The ones that were funded were those that had high levels of local participation, and local partnerships that could assist in leveraging funds, or monitoring and measuring outcomes.
  • Focus areas selected in 2012 were: Walker Creek, Snake River, French Camp Sloughs, Eastern portion of the San Joaquin, the Waterbird Enhancement Program (5 Sacramento River Counties), areas where projects were selected for the Bureau of Reclamation WaterSmart/Water Use Efficiency grants.
  • Practices included:
    • Micro irrigation systems
    • Residue management
    • Tail water recovery
    • Comprehensive nutrient management plans
    • Waste Separation
    • Heavy use area protection
    • Shallow water management
  • We need to keep dialogue going with partners. Letters to partners asking for new proposals have been sent out and are due back by Sept. 30th. If anyone needs a copy of the letter, or the criteria, let me know and I will send it to you. Things we are looking for include:
    • small contiguous areas with high interest and participation
    • Ensure that it is locally led – high landowner buy in
    • Partner efforts to monitor and measure outcomes
    • Conservation planning is already done
    • Several years of focused input before results
  • We are looking for input on the focus areas selected in 2012. How much should we emphasize continuing work in those areas, versus new focus areas in 2013?

Comment: I just want to clarify partners suggest focused areas
Tom commented that is true, we pick from those and then the work is done thru regular EQIP

Question: What will next year look like?
Answer: It depends on what comes in – we will look at demand and check on existing watersheds and funding will also dictate.

Question: How are they ranked?
Answer: They are ranked according to the percentages in each one of the categories I outlined.

Question: How much demand was there in 2012, what percentages of the applications were funded?
Answer: We had sufficient funds to fund all applications in Walker Creek, Lower Snake, French Camp Sloughs, and Eastern portion of San Joaquin River, Stanislaus and Merced

Comments: Western United Dairymen appreciated the program, and the assistance it has provided.

Comments: Sutter RCD very much appreciates the selection of the Snake River focus area.

Comment: The Rice Commission appreciates the assistance through the Waterbirds Enhancement Program. We appreciate the program and how it is changing the producer's mindset to doing more conservation. The Rice Commission is even considering changing its name to the Rice and Waterbirds Commission.

Possible Salmon Initiative – Tom Hedt

  • We may have an opportunity for focused salmon work. As we are doing some of our preliminary analysis for salmon work, we are tending towards focusing on areas where Coho habitat is a focus, where there is a high degree of private landownership, and where our practices can assist in habitat work as well as improving the water quality of a watershed. Our preliminary work based upon these factors, is pointing us toward the north coast. We are interested in input on the factors we should consider if NRCS does some sort of Salmon Initiative.

Comment: The north coast is good direction. The Coho recovery plan has just been finalized by NMFS. That plan should be consulted when choosing priority areas. For the Coho recovery areas, there are high degrees of private land ownership in the Russian river area; there are also the Garcia and Shasta areas

Comment: Need to focus efforts on stream projects where permits are in place to be able to make sure that work can get installed.

Question: What will the funding be, will it be EQIP?
Answer: Yes

Comment: I second the comment regarding permits, NRCS needs to get the permit issues dealt with early on or not commit the money. Also, look at areas where Steelhead habitat restoration can be accomplished.

Comment: The restoration center is working with the Fish and Game on permits, so hopefully won't be such an issue

Tribal Initiative – Erik Beardsley

  • First year to actually have a Tribal Initiative
  • Initially allocated 1 million in funds to Tribal Initiative
  • Ended up adding to allocation and obligating approximately $1.1 million
  • Tribal Funding Pools:
  • Northern California Tribal Forests and Rangeland
  • Intermountain and Central Sierra Tribal Forests and Rangeland
  • South Coast and Desert Tribal Forests and Rangeland
  • Native Plants Restoration : Culturally Important Tribal Plants for Food and Fiber
  • Statewide Tribal Poly-farms
  • Would like you input on 2013 Tribal Initiative

Comment: Getting funding – overcoming hurdles – streamlining and sharing GIS data
Comment: Fisheries are not included, that is an obvious omission

Erik commented that the tribes did not target fisheries specifically as resource concerns in FY2012. Tribes focused on legacy forestland sedimentation concerns impacting fisheries on land they control. Fisheries are also impacted by broad range of resource issues occurring outside of tribal lands.

Question: How did you decide on ranking criteria and priorities?
Answer: NRCS met with tribes throughout the state to capture their priorities and collect information for ranking criteria

Comment: BIA wants to be included in meetings and workshops with the tribes. BIA should be signing off on all trust contracts. A block can be added to contracts for BIA supervisor signature. BIA needs more involvement in this.

Erik commented that most contracts were with tribal government and our NRCS tribal liaison did involve BIA and was in contact with them. Erik will follow up with our liaison to strengthen communication with BIA

Question: Do you have a baseline acceptance? Do you know where all needs are?
Erik commented: We held workshops around the state to introduce tribes to NRCS, FSA, RD and RCDs and Cooperative Extension and the planning services provided. The workshops are one of the steps toward helping all tribes have plans to use for program assistance. We provide the same technical assistance to tribes as we do to all other customers

Alan commented that we have been working with tribes throughout the last 3 farm bills. This is just the first year that we have actually targeted money to an initiative.

Conservation Innovation Grants - Erik Beardsley

  • Originally allocated $375,000
  • Received 21 proposals
  • 6 proposals were funded in FY2012 for a total of $418,000
Tentative FY2013 CA CIG Timelines
  • National Guidelines and Priorities sent to states as early as January 4, 2013
  • CA submits draft CIG announcement and Priorities for national review by January 31, 2013
  • CA announces CA CIG opportunity by February 8, 2013
  • CA CIG proposals submission deadline May 17, 2013
  • CA CIG selections are anticipated to be announced by July 19, 2013
  • All agreements are expected to be awarded by September 1, 2013.

Proposed CIG criteria for comment:

Question: Re: demonstrations of bioreactor and ag-wasted water recycling priority: Is it open to projects that would aid in getting state trading credits?
Answer: We have another priority with ecosystem benefits trading credits focus. Will look at adding monitoring and documentation to support ecosystem benefits trading credits to broader range of criteria.

Question: Re: amending rangeland soils with organic additives for soil Om increase and GHG benefits: Why is this criteria restricted to rangeland?
Answer: There is a lot of science but not enough practical technology and guidance for rangeland like exists for cropland

Comment: Information and methods provided can be very technical.
Erik commented: We can look at adding a criterion that focuses on cropland.

Question: Practices that benefit wildlife?
Erik commented: We are open to considering suggestions. Would you be open to collaborating on writing a criterion?
Comment: yes

Comment: Ecosystem credits not just trading credits – eliminate "trading"
Erik commented: Good idea, will do.

Comment: Need priority area for biodiversity not just wildlife

Comment: Lacking practical monitoring tools on-ground for rangeland, need to include cropland as well.
Erik commented: We are open to considering suggestions; would you be open to considering collaborating on criterion?
Comment: yes

Question: How to create a market?
Answer: We will look at the extent we have statutory authority to award funds to market making versus land treatment projects.

  • State level grants cannot exceed $75,000, this is a national cap written in Farm Bill statute.

Comment: A good idea for CIG research would be tomato and cotton production – 5 point research station

FSA Report – Navdeep Dhillon

  • CRP signup #43
  • 66 offers received
  • 60 offers accepted
  • Approximately 17,000 acres
  • Top counties for CRP are Siskiyou and San Luis Obispo
  • Looking for additional money for ECP fire program
  • Mendocino county is the only county approved at this time
  • Shasta and Tehama have requested fire assistance
  • All disaster programs ended on Sept. 30, 2011

Easements – Dean Kwasny

2012 Accomplishments:

  • WRP closed 14 easements 9946 acres
  • FRPP closed 8 easements 3749 acres
  • GRP closed 1 easement 3940 acres
  • 51 restoration projects
    • Completed 5934 acres of restoration
  • Conducted on site monitoring on 275 easements
  • Completed 8 grazing plans
  • Completed 36 compatible use authorizations

Comment: Suggest making the February 15 date used for WRP, GRP and FRPP the same for EQIP second signup

Question: How will funds be next year with no farm bill yet?
Answer: There will possibly only be funding for existing WRP restoration projects and to maintain our monitoring and management efforts, FRPP will be ok, no funding for GRP. There will very likely be reductions across the board for all programs.

Wrap up Questions and Comments

  • Proposed more interagency network with NRCS and to continue collaborative efforts with NRCS.
  • Would like to see increased interaction between agencies – Marine Fishery and NRCS for example.
  • Support on National Air Quality and focus on helping landowners with streamlining for permits. Look at credit/trading opportunities.
  • Figure out way to help us reach out to broader communities of landowners.
  • Would like more support for AWEP program, on Climate Change – the state will be putting out new report.
  • Encouraged on measuring benefits of conservation, focus funding into high priority areas.
  • California is 50 percent private land, only 2nd to Hawaii on federally listed species. Need to focus resources on wildlife areas, recommend more commitment to wildlife resources.
  • Working with Oregon NRCS to implement guidelines on 5 priority practices for organic; information will be going out to California as well.
  • Proposal to provide assistance for catastrophic fires – economic losses. Hoping for funds in the near future. Response: NRCS is planning to launch an EQIP initiative early in FY2013 to assist producers.