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Maryland State Technical Committee

Maryland State Technical Committee

October 27, 2010

State Conservationist Jon Hall welcomed 28 attendees of the State Technical Advisory Committee (STAC). Members introduced themselves.

Sub Committee Reports

Forestry

Dan Rider shared the following issues and concerns:

  • Marketing Issues and Solutions
    •  Utilize private foresters to promote public programs
    • Develop joint brochure with NRCS that explains all program options
    • Hold joint trainings for Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and NRCS forestry staff
      • Jon Hall suggests identifying a date in early December to hold trainings
  • Lack of forestry interest in the Conservation Stewardship Program
    • Forestry bundle identified as hurdle in getting forest landowners to sign up- doesn’t fit for Maryland.
    • Rider will work with Tom Morgart to draft letter to NRCS National Headquarters suggesting ways to make bundles work in MD.
  • Baltimore County patches
    • GIS data was used to locate key patches of privately-owned forestland in MD
    • Found that 85% of foresters in MD own less than 10 acres
    • Determine from this information is may be more affective to find common goals among landowners in key patches and treat them as a whole rather than individually.
  • Poultry litter as forest fertilizer
    • Research and science is solid, standards and BMPs are approved- may need to be updated
    • Largest obstacle is lack of businesses to transport and apply litter.
    • Considering applying for a Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) to assist in setting up business to transfer the technology
      • Steve Strano raises concerns over impact of litter on trees. Rider assures it will be applied at establishment or time of thinning.
      • Rudy Arredondo questions the runoff produced by this practice. Tom Morgart explains that there is enough material on the ground to soak up the runoff, but timing will be crucial for an effective practice.

Craig Highfield inquires about the status of Forestry Technical Service Provider (TSP) issues. Tom Morgart notes there are currently 3 TSPs certified to write Forest Stewardship Plans.

Nutrient Management

Bill Angstadt shared the following issues and concerns:

  • Revision of the 590 Nutrient Management Standard
    • The Serra 17 is currently circulating the 1st formal draft review
    • By spring 2011 the new national standard will be published, at which time each state will be allowed to narrow down the standard for their specific needs
    • Committee wants assurance that NRCS, Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA), and the University of Maryland coordinate to synchronize the new standard
  • Tech note adaptive nitrogen management concern. What will happen if adaptive nitrogen recommendations results in more nitrogen being applied than allowed by law.
  • 590 Tiers in Maryland
    • Would like NRCS to develop a deliverable for farmers to demonstrate performance, that they effectively implemented the practices in their contract.
      • Tim Pilkowski notes that receipts are required to prove the technical aspects were completed, and NRCS currently reviews 5% of the NM plan.
      • Jon Hall NRCS work with MDA to expand their evaluation system, which currently spot checks their contracts.
  • Alternate manure use for phosphorus (P)
    • The committee proposes outreach for the practice increases for FY2011
    • University of Maryland-Extension, MDA, and the Delmarva Poultry Industry should all work with NRCS on outreach
  • Bay Conservation Effects Assessment Project
    • Committee views the results as favorable towards agricultural and NRCS’s work
    • Assessment targets ‘critically untreated acres’ – areas that are most likely to show improvement

Outreach

Nothing to report.

Resources

Anne Lynne reported that MD NRCS is revising its hedgerow standard and a draft is currently out for review.

Programs

Tom Morgart announced he has been hired as the Assistant State Conservationist for Programs in Maryland. He shared the following items:

  • FY2010 Programs Summary: the update provided in July stands. Reminder that sign-up is continuous; NRCS has not received its FY2011 allocation but will ranks applications monthly when program guidance is received.
  • AMA
    • High Tunnel pilot launched in 2010 will continue in 2011.
      • 2010 saw 100 applications, NRCS was able to fund about 60
      • Pilot aligns with USDA Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative.
    • o New BMP Challenge for 2011- encourages farmers who are apprehensive about new technology to adopt.
  • CSP
    • Sign-up available until January 7, 2011
    • Fact sheets are available
  • WHIP- no changes from the 2010 program are expected
  • GRP- Tiffany Davis reported that the market analysis for geographic area rate caps (GARC) determined there wasn’t enough data to establish GARCs; the program will continue to use individual appraisals.
  • EQIP/CBWI
    • Farmers must now file the CCC 927 or 928 to determine AGI
      • Recent update from FSA shows many landowners have not yet filed- this will eventually lead to stopped payments if not filed.
      • May be landowner or tenant who files, name must match that on application
    • DUNS number
      • A DUNS number is now required for entities who enter into contracts for over $25,000
      • Warning that it is not an instantaneous process. May take weeks after application to receive DUNS
    • Priority areas for CBWI remain the same as 2010, aligned with SPARROW and COAST models.
    • Soil Runoff Potential- vulnerable soils and leaching maps have been updated
      • Areas around Baltimore, Prince George, and Caroline Counties are less detailed due to unavailability, still accurate, just aggregated at a higher level
  • Bundles
    • CEAP results show diminished returns, encourage a focus on areas of biggest concern
    • Should ranking take into account how much conservation has already been applied to the landscape? Use the rule of diminishing returns.
      • No objections raised by committee
  • Cover Crop
    • Should we change ranking to encourage planting those cover crops that remove the most Nitrogen.
      • Committee gives mixed feedback. This may work against MDA’s program.
  • Oyster Habitat Restoration Launch
    • Brings in new audience to NRCS, will help MD economy in the long run
    • Possibly run through WHIP.
    • Payment limits TBD.
    • Ben Alder suggests tying the practice to salt marsh restoration in WRP
      • Steve Strano says this won’t work, the program’s eligibility requirements are different
    • Caution must be taken when determining the length of the practice and how small farms will fit in.
    • Most NRCS management practices are available 3 times; Tom Morgart suggests Oyster bed restoration is only available once per acre.
    • This practice may count towards nutrient trading for TMDLs.
    • Jon Hall distributed the News Release.
  • Conservation Activity Plans (CAPS)
    • Energy- not popular because the State option is better
    • New Drainage Plan- to help people on the Eastern Shore determine where drainage systems are needed and how to manage them.
      • Al Rizzo suggests the CAP should be given a different name
      • Steve Strano notes that the plan will require NRCS to develop new engineering plans
  • WRP- Steve Strano gave an overview of the current program.
    • 2010 was a record year for enrolled acreage, likely due to the high GARC rates
    • For 2011, NRCS is evaluating the cost/benefit of 30-year easements
      • Federal regulations allow for payment to be 50% to 75% of permanent easement. MD NRCS currently pays 75%, may change to 50% to give greater value to permanent easements
    • Committee suggests working with DNR and Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to align programs before making any changes.
    • Committee also suggests making an exception on the 10-acre minimum requirement for Historically Underserved participants.
    • Dan Rider comments that landowners are not able to enroll in both DNR’s Forest Stewardship Program and WRP. When landowners sign up for WRP and lose their Forest Stewardship plan, they also lose the preferential tax benefits associated with the plan.
    • Nelson Brice has two concerns about the program:
      • Invasive species control – Phragmites is an issue. How do we deal with it?
      • Wildlife food plots – Concern re: abuse of this allowance. Must be very clear about the rules and where they will be conducted.
    • Tiffany Davis reports that the 2011 market analysis shows prices have dropped across the state. New GARCs will reflect this.
      • People who signed up for WRP in 2010 but funded in 2011 will use 2011 rates.
      • Proposed GARC values must be approved by NHQ before we can advertise the new GARCs.

Soils

Amanda Moore announced that National Criteria for soils mapping is being implemented. The biggest effect is showing in parts of Southern and Eastern MD, where T-factors are dropping. If farmers have a decreased T factor, they may need to implement additional conservation practices to negate soil loss.

  • The rule is still in draft form- grandfathering is possible
    • TMDLs will be tougher as a result
    • NRCS is currently working on responses to the affect this change will have on programs.

New Business

  • Aimee Weldon from the Potomac Conservancy announces the “Conserving Habitat through the FEDERAL Farm Bill: A Guide for Land Trusts and Landowners,” is now available.
  • Lorette Picciano from the Rural Coalition distributed “High Tunnels for Socially Disadvantaged Producers: A Farm Bill Success Story” to the committee.
  • State Conservationist Jon Hall distributed a handout containing a link to the CEAP report and the website for comments.
  • An announcement was made that a new position has been created at the Anne Arundel Extension for an Aquaculturist.

Next Meeting - January 19, 2011, 9:00 a.m.