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Maryland State Technical Committee

January 20, 2010

State Conservation Jon Hall welcomed 31 members of the State Technical Committee (STAC). Members introduced themselves.

Sub Committee Reports

Forestry - Dan Ryder reported no news.

Nutrient Management - Bill Angstadt reported on a meeting that was held on Wednesday December 2, 2009 with recommendations to the State Conservationist.

  • Priority on Washington County Cattle Stream Exclusion - Connie Musgrove indicated that the meeting with Jim Baird and Elmer Weibley, Extension and Olivia was very positive. Elmer is open to working to increase fencing and promoting adaptable fencing. There is a need for a funding opportunity to supplement existing resources, as 60%-70% of grazers are Amish. Any assistance would be welcome. Bill Angstadt said that the goals would be 100% funding and MACS dollars would be available so that these grazers could implement practices which would reduce sediment and protect drinking water and also indicated need for additional outreach and technical assistance.
  • Upper Chester River Showcase - Bill indicated the need for outreach through Ag Business Dealers . Jon Hall indicated that NRCS is waiting on Department level approval before announcing the Showcase.

    Jon has spoke to Regional Conservationist Leonard Jordan concerning an announcement about the Showcase. Much discussion centered around the need for an Outreach Coordinator position to work with the Kent and Queen Anne’s Soil Conservation Districts and identify better ways to implement conservation. Discussion will be held with MDA and MDE to consider a pilot for TMDL’s. The Chester River Association is also working on this.

    Jon Hall indicated that outreach efforts should include the availability of information to the entire Ag community including the awareness of all Federal, State, and Local technical and financial assistance that exists for producers.

Resources High Tunnel Practice Pilot

NRCS Programs Specialist Tom Morgart reported on a new NRCS Practice Standard – High Tunnels. He discussed highlights on the new practice – A High Tunnel is similar to a greenhouse with no electric, no fans, and no heat source and uses a plastic cover. The structure must be placed on existing cropland; it is not for animal use. Plants must be grown in the soil, not in any pots or containers. Its main purpose is to extend the growing season. The practice is considered to have a four (4) year life span.

Programs

AMA - The High Tunnel practice will be eligible through the AMA Program.$200,000 will be available, at $2.00 per square foot, with a size of no more than 2,178 square feet. An alternative would be to have more than one structure, but the financial assistance will not exceed the 2,178 square foot limit. Organic and sustainable farms have expressed interest in the pilot.

EQIP - Fund pools have been established for the state competition levels of 1)Northern Tier (Carroll Co. and west; primarily livestock), 2) Central Maryland (Baltimore Co. and south; primarily urban work), 3)Harford and the Eastern Shore (primarily irrigation and grazing land). Funds are set to be distributed as 60% livestock, 5% socially disadvantaged/beginning farmers, 16.3% air quality, 6 ½% organic, 7 ½% CPPI which will be advertised through a RFP. Jon Hall added these fund pools are considered National Initiatives.

CBWI - Guidance for fund allocations differ from EQIP. Tom shared the updated CBWI Priority Areas pointing out that the Patuxent River area was increased in size. Priority area livestock accounts for 36% of funds, priority area grazing 7 ½ %, cropland 40% and USDA Showcase (when approved) 15%. Non priority areas percentages will be the same as priority area percentages. The priority area applications will be funded before non priority area applications. These percentages support Maryland’s 8 – 10 Milestones to meet TMDLs. Practices eligible include a short list of 28 priority practices in priority areas.

Bill Angstadt commented that the programs are too complicated, and that there is still a need to identify underserved, and socially disadvantaged farmers within the priority areas.

Jim Baird indicated that there has not been enough marketing and organizations need more talking points to get the information out to the producers.

More discussion was held on communications and marketing and the need to establish an Outreach Subcommittee. This Outreach Subcommittee would provide a separate forum and identify ways on how NRCS and partners can provide information without getting in each other’s way. The subcommittee would identify and leverage resources to move in a more organized and consistent manner.

It was agreed that partners are available to assist in getting the word out. Jon stressed there was a more immediate need to address outreach and asked that a meeting be held the following week to assess ways to identify and market current programs. Formation of an Outreach Subcommittee could be implemented at a later date. The meeting should include the members of the State Technical Committee as well as soil conservation districts. It was pointed out that the soil conservation districts have a much better handle on who is not participating in Federal and State Programs and identify ways on how to reach them. A tentative meeting time was set for the following Thursday, January 28th at the NRCS State Office Conference Room.

Bill Satterfield asked about AMA/EQIP in Delaware on practices including windrowing poultry litter and demolation of old poultry houses. He indicates that there is much interest in Delaware because it helps to reduce the volume of litter and also the cost-sharing of demolition of dilapidated chicken houses.

Tom Morgart responded we have received the go ahead from NHQ regarding the remediation of chicken houses however the windrowing is not available in Maryland. This may not be eligible for cost-share because air quality (nitrogen emissions and ammonia) being an issue.

WHIP - NRCS Programs Specialist Tiffany Davis announced that Maryland received about $100,000 for WHIP. This is 1/3 of the allocation we normally have received in the past. Additional funds have been requested from OMB by NHQ. The fund codes that were approved by NRQ are Upland Wetland, Fish Passage ($50,000), CPPI Initiative - $28,000, and 10% of our budget for underserved producers.

CSP - The new CSP (Conservation Stewardship Program) focuses on targeting good stewards of the land to do “new” practices. There are approximately 50 applications received to date for $300,000 for FY2010 practice funding. Deadline for contracting is next Friday, January 29, 2010.

The prior CSP Program (Conservation Security Program) still has 500 active contracts with $3.4 million in FY10 Annual Payments for which $2.3 million has been paid out and the remainder will be paid out by March. Bill Angstadt pointed out that Maryland has the highest % of CSP participation in the country in the past showing how well outreach worked in MD.

FRPP - Assistant State Conservation (Programs) Mark Rose projected that $3.4 million will be available for 2010 easements. MD NRCS currently has over 200 easements on approximately 8,000 acres. Land trusts and local units of government will be eligible to apply for FRPP beginning February 5.

WRP - Mark Rose shared that the geographic rate caps for WRP are very competitive and closely compare to CREP and ag land preservation. We have $3 million this year and there will be 4 application periods beginning February 5.

New Business

Mark Rose shared the Maryland Grazers Network Calendar in hard copy (also available as a PDF on the MD NRCS Website), along with the NRCS National Soil Planner Calendar.

The State Technical Committee has a request from the FSA State Committee to conduct a grazing research project on CRP land in Queen Anne’s County. The research will focus on 135 acres of CRP lands with warm season grasses. The study will determine if grazing can be used as a control for undesirable plant species on CRP land. Grazing will be used to improve and maintain wildlife and bird habitat and create a diverse habitat while protection the soil and water resources. Glenn Carrowan requested the study also ensure that water quality will be maintained utilizing this method of undesirable specie control.

Bob Tjaden asked about the status of the CNMP Planners and was informed that a panel is being put together and appointees will be hired as quickly as possible, i.e., somewhere between the next 2 weeks to 45 days.

Next Meeting April 21, 2010, 9:00 a.m. Maryland Association of Realtors Conference Room.