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Maryland State Technical Committee

Maryland State Technical Committee

October 19, 2011

Meeting called to order by Jon Hall.

Jon thanked the committee for attending and discussed implementation of the committee’s programs.

Action item: Mr. Hall will send out periodic reports updating the Committee on implementation.

Jon turned the meeting over for Committee Reports.

  1. Forestry Subcommittee report presented by Dan Rider.
    The Subcommittee has not held a meeting this quarter, but with the growing interest in agro forestry they will hold a meeting soon. US Forest Service is very interested and looking to Maryland for demonstration sites. Dan will present to the subcommittee a report regarding the possible combined funding between Farm Bill foresters, the US Forestry Service and NRCS.

    He has spoken with two non profits who are interested in partnering with us to provide technical assistance, the reconsolidated Delmarva RC&D Council and the National Wild Turkey Fund. He passed out a document for review and discussion entitled Accelerating Conservation Farm Bill Programs on Forestland (Farm Bill Foresters).

Action item: Review handout and provide feedback so Dan can finalize the report which he will then forward to National Forestry Service.

After continued discussion of the hand out it was decided that we would like to shoot for spring planting season to get the Forestry Techs on line. We are hoping to bring on 3 Forestry Techs.

  1. Nutrient Subcommittee report presented by Bill Angstadt.
    The Subcommittee held a meeting last Tuesday and discussed that there are three issues:
    • CNMP
    • NRCS Outreach for TMDLs
    • Phosphorus Ditch Filters

570 CAFOs have filed Notice of Intents to develop CNMPs in the next three years. At this point there was discussion on whether it would take 2 years or 3 years. Jon suggested the complexity of the land and operation determines the time.

We have a gap between the need for CNMP’s and budget. They would like to look into the possibility of a grant to assist with the funding.

Action item: Can we reach out to MDE to see if we have the capacity to meet the demand. Of the 570 operations, how many are simple or complex? NRCS will get an estimate of how long it takes to develop a CNMP. If we need additional staff – can we accelerate with an implementation grant?

Jim Baird of American Farmland Trust suggests possible group training or workshop training. Lynn Hoot said we tried the workshop training route it didn’t work.

Should we issue an alignment of resources to meet TMDL priority practices/priority geographic to see if it helps us to get the farmers to accelerate implementation? Should we try outreach to see if we can get additional farmers to implement these practices on the ground? Jon asked for clarification of outreach needs for TMDL’s i.e. is it lack of people being aware of our programs or is it people are not implementing. Bill stated that the feedback he has received indicates that MDA is working with county agriculture working groups and with BMPs in hand they cannot reach their goals.

Discussion: Tom Morgart asked how we get to people to bring them into contracts. Rob Schnabel spoke about grazing – he indicated we are only to 2009 levels of land conservation – we need a NRCS Grazing Specialist. Bill stated that we need training focusing on specific groups for specific practices. Lynn Hoot suggested evaluating practice standards and make them more user friendly. Tom Morgart stated the new 590 standard will be coming out soon, we need to put our focus on the new standards.

Bill stated that people are asking why NRCS is not funding absorbing materials in Ag ditches and why we don’t have practices in place. The short answer is the University of Maryland is not ready to work with NRCS to develop the practice standard.

  1. Outreach Subcommittee presented by Genevieve Backus

Genevieve Backus - The outreach has been focusing on state fairs, forestry meetings and high schools to get the word out about our programs.

Lisa Purnell – the University of Maryland – Eastern Shore has been approved for an Agriculture Camp for students ages 14-17 which will be held July 15-28, 2012. They will be able to accommodate 16 students. The application for students is online on the APHIS website. They are also looking for volunteers.

Genevieve – Update on female and Hispanic farmers. The claims process has been set up for female and Hispanic farmers who feel they have been discriminated against. We are doing a lot of outreach – predominate discrimination claim is during the loan process. We are still actively promoting and reporting.

Aimee Weldon - Absentee Land Owners – we are looking to hire someone to help people to work for the program so we can promote our new Absentee Land Owners Program which we hope will be in place by late 2011 or early 2012.

Jon gave everyone an open invitation to attend Outreach Subcommittee meetings. We need to step up our presence at County Fairs and any other venue where people would like to hear about our programs. We are also looking at the possibility of a mobile NRCS office to go where the needs are.

  1. D. Soils Update by Amanda Moore

We have a National agreement with Fish and Wildlife for RFP/NFWF. 2009/2010 National Resource Inventory Surveys (NRI’s) are being compiled and will be available in 2012 information online.

They are also updating the Chesapeake Bay (CEAP) farmer reports of data. There will be a mailing of requests for data updates starting November 1 and run for 30 days. We hope to have a 2012 release of that updated data.

Amanda stated she will have more information after attending the meeting next week.

  1. Resources Update by Tansel Hudson

Tansel started out by stating that Resources is also in need of additional staff. There will be training provided to certify conservation planners in the various districts.

  1. Programs Update by Tom Morgart and Tiffany Davis

Tom Morgart - There are 4 National Initiatives – Air Quality, Energy, Organic, Seasonal High Tunnel. People in Maryland will not receive Air Quality Initiative.

With the Energy Initiative, the eligible producers could voluntarily receive an energy audit. Producers could also use this initiative to apply for an implement the recommendations from energy audits such as variable rate pumps; heat exchangers for removing the heat from milk and used to supply the hot water tank thereby cutting 2 utility bills on Dairy Farms. Poultry is very interested in insulation for retaining heat.

Question: Dan Rider (Forestry) Will greenhouses qualify? Tom said we will find out when the standards are released, but he believes they should qualify.

Tom - Organic – will be handled the same way i.e. Headquarters will hold the money and after receiving the ranking from the Programs staff, will disburse accordingly to contracts.

Seasonal High Tunnel –There will be a national initiative for States to offer seasonal high tunnels thru the EQIP program. Further guidance will be provided when it becomes available.

People who submit requests for these Initiatives will be ranked, eligible applications will then forwarded to National Headquarters who will be funding contracts for these Initiatives. Action Item: Genevieve will forward updates on the new initiatives.

Tom – NRCS is moving to regional Payment Rates will provide NRCS and producers greater consistency in the rates being paid across State lines. (Our region is MD/DE/PA/NJ & NY). Currently the 15 most used practices have been regionalized, but all practices are to be regionalized by 2013.

There is a new EQIP manual – new rules include: Eligibility criteria, which has been made simpler. Grazing challenges – we are not allowed to provide financial assistance for a perimeter fence. Question if we could provide this thru AMA? Tom will read the new manual and report at the next meeting which should be in January.

Deer fencing is excluded. Buildings such as a Covered Heavy Use Area, roofs are not allowed in any part of a building used for livestock housing and feeding. A roofed heavy use protection area or storage area that would provide more than incidental animal housing is not allowed. The State Conservationist can determine that a building is a necessary component of an animal waste system. Except where necessary for a management system. The engineers will be looking at least cost alternatives that will be required in these cases. In 2013, Access control, will no longer include forgone income in payment rate.

Tom – Conservation Updates –

  • We have a total of 784 contracts in 2011 and almost 1800 active financial assistance contracts.
  • In 2010 75% of CBWI money was applied on landscape. The partnership is to be congratulated for this high level of implementation in 2011.
  • With this large number of contracts, it is critical that we focus on the implementation of new contracts and getting older contracts completed. This year we are going to place an emphasis on getting old contracts on schedule and implemented.

New and updated practice standards

There are seven new or updated conservation practices that will be sent out for review in the near future. They are:

Farmstead Energy Improvement
Obstruction Removal
Roofs and Covers
Pond Sealing or Lining Soil Dispersant Treatment
Pond Sealing or Lining Bentonite Treatment
Roof Runoff Structure
Stream Crossing

  1. Tiffany Davis gave updates on the proposed FY2012 Geographic Area Rate Caps (GARC) to be used for GRP and WRP easement compensation.
  • • GRP GARC – the proposed rates were presented and are waiting for final approval of Headquarters. The rates are comparable to the rates of our neighboring states.
  • • WRP GARC– we had a market analysis update done which noted no significant change from last year’s land values. We sent to a proposal to Headquarters to use the same rates from FY2011 for FY2012. We are waiting for them to approve the proposed WRP GARC.

We need Technical Assistance to complete WRP land surveys and The Nature Conservatory has agreed to help facilitate acquiring the surveys. NRCS also posted a solicitation for surveyors’ qualifications so that we could develop a contract with surveying firms to do survey work with us during the year.

At this point Tom Morgart opened the floor for discussion, comments and questions.

Rob Schnabel (Grazing) – there is a grazing grant for Franklin, PA and Washington County, MD.

Dan Rider (Forestry) thanked NRCS for all their support at the National Association of State Foresters Meeting. NRCS sponsored a Forestry Technical Tour.

Lynn Hoot – the Farm Certification Program needs a couple of people to become nutrient management people.

Lisa Purnell introduced Dr. Tom Handwerker of the University of Maryland.

Dr. Handwerker - We are focusing on small farmers, subsoil trials and training grants.

Lisa mentioned that Dr. Handwerker has done significant work on urban high tunnels.

Meeting adjourned at 11:25.