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Minutes of March 2013 STAC Meeting

Minutes of March 2013 Montana State Technical Advisory Committee Meeting

Introductions

Jerry Schaefer (NRCS) opened the meeting at 10:04 a.m. and turned it over to Joyce Swartzendruber (NRCS) for introductory comments. Joyce reviewed the government sequester situation, the fact that there is not a 2013 federal budget, and that the continuing resolution expires on March 27, 2013. Joyce stated that NRCS in Montana is planning for a possible 5.5% budget cut. She also discussed that there are no plans for a 2013 Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) sign-up.

Question: Joyce was asked if there was a chance for a CSP sign-up if the budget issues are resolved. Joyce replied that CSP is awaiting the new farm bill. She also mentioned that the NRCS all-employee safety meeting in Montana has been cancelled. NRCS will explore other options for delivering training and that NRCS had installed a video conferencing system in all of the area offices in the state and that NRCS will be adding more systems, including the soil survey offices in Havre and Dillon plus five more in remote field offices around the state.

Jerry then discussed the NRCS soil health initiative. NRCS at the national level is establishing a soil health team of three people to further the soil health initiative. There will also be two people at each of the three NRCS regional technology centers to provide assistance to states on soil health. Last year 2,100 Montana producers attended a soil health workshop. If anyone is interested in a soil health presentation or demonstration contact any NRCS office. Jane Holzer expressed appreciation for NRCS’ efforts in this arena.

CSDI Strategic Roadmap, February 2013

Erik Suffridge provided an update on the NRCS Conservation Delivery Streamlining Initiative (CDSI)

There are three primary aspects to the NRCS CDSI: Client Gateway, Conservation Desktop, and Mobile Planning Tool. Each of these three are described below:

Client Gateway. Producers’ can access NRCS records to view their own plans or contracts, sign-up for programs, request technical assistance, and complete online resource self-assessments. The first version is scheduled to be fully implemented nationwide by October 2014. Version 2 is set for October 2015 and is a more complete tool than version 1.

Conservation Desktop (CD). Version 1 is a test version and will not be released nationally. State testing is scheduled to be completed in February 2013. Version 2 is set to be out in November 2014 with version 3 and 4 set to be out by November 2015 and 2016, respectively. CD “will implement a streamlined science-based planning process through a geospatial, land-unit centric, user interface.” It will interact directly with ProTracts for program management. Version 1 contains a lot of agency resource inventory planning tools, such as NEPA documentation, cultural resources, animal inventory, and other resource-based inventory tools. Versions 2 and 3 will increase the tools available. Version 4 (November 2016) will replace ProTracts.

Mobile Planning Tool (MBT). The MBT “will enable Agency field personnel to complete many tasks in the field that they would normally require a drive back to the office to complete.” Version 1 supports the resource inventory, resource assessment, and practice certification tasks. National deployment is scheduled to be completed by September 2015 with national training in the summer of 2015. Version 2 will add more science and technology tools to version 1 and will be deployed by September 2016.

Programs

Tim Ouellette provided an update on the state of NRCS conservation programs. Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) are the two programs that NRCS is primarily working on now.  The Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) and the EQIP National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI) funds are pending action based on the budget situation. For NWQI, three watersheds initially sought approval, but only two provided the necessary follow-up information. Those two are Sage Creek and Pipestone. FRPP had 12 applications and EQIP had 1,838 (see attached spreadsheet for more information on EQIP).

Question: Tim was asked for specifics on the EQIP organic and seasonal high tunnel applications. Tim responded and has provided specific details in the attached spreadsheet.

Question: Tim was asked about the on-farm energy initiative. Tim responded that there was some interest, but since no one in Montana is certified to work on these as a Technical Service Provider (TSP) (the three TSPs listed as available in Montana are from Vermont and Colorado), NRCS is requiring that interested producers get a commitment from one of the out-of-state TSPs that they are willing to come to Montana to do the work for the TSP rate. With no commitments forthcoming, NRCS deferred these applications to 2014. The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) representative indicated that they are seeking TSP certification for one of their employees.

Question: Jerry was asked about the regional cost list process, which he explained.

Question: Tim was asked about the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP). Tim stated that it expired with the 2008 farm bill, but was partially extended with the Taxpayer Relief Act and NRCS has enough funds to work on restoration activities for existing easements, but not enough funding to accept new applications.

Question: Tim was asked about the budget situation and its impacts on tribal allocations of program funds. Tim stated that tribal funds, such as those from EQIP, come off the top and are not impacted.

NRCS Programs Update (March 2013)
Fund Code # Applications # Funded Requested Funded Payments
AFO/CAFO 38 16 $2,030,710.55 $1,057,930.08  
BFR and SD - non tribal 57 5 $2,847,470.45 $283,088.00  
Fire Recovery 83 53 $2,868,923.54 $1,889,525.54 $144,243.00
FY13 Certified Organic 2   $162,097.18 0  
FY13 Organic Transition 11 7 $87,460.00 $85,318.00  
FY13 Seasonal High Tunnels 33 14 $172,602.40 $91,514.60  
SGI 37 11 $2,648,421.44 $2,326,081.44  
Fund Code Subtotal 261        
County 1577 124 $17,666,064.14 $5,934,124.00  
Total for State 1838 230 $28,483,749.70 $11,667,581.66  

Easements
Programs New Easements
FRPP 3436976
GRP 0
WRP 0

 

New Programs

  • American Great Outdoors
  • NWQI
  • WHIP Working Lands for Wildlife

Farm Services Agency (FSA) Updates

Val Bickwermert and Heidi Brewer provided FSA updates on the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and on State Acres for Wildlife Program (SAFE) (see the attached FSA summary information).

On February 16, 2013, the Secretary announced that there will be another CRP General Signup. CRP Signup begins May 20, 2013 and ends June 14th.

CRP was not reauthorized as of October 1, 2012 because a new farm bill had not been approved. CRP was
reauthorized on January 2, 2013, when the Congress extended the 2012 farm bill for a year.

The Environmental Benefits Index (EBI) is the same as it was for General Signup 43, which occurred in the spring of 2012. The cropping history requirement that the acres be planted or considered planted 4 of the 6 years 2002 through 2007 to be eligible land is also the same.

The FSA State Office is in the processing of reviewing soil rental rate proposals for Signup 45.

CRP Continuous Signup is still not available due to funding and software issues. County Offices cannot take applications for continuous signup at this time. However, the national office expects Continuous Signup to become available sometime next month.

In addition to regular continuous CRP signup, Montana will also be able to accept applications for the 11,800 acres if received for the State Acres for Wildlife Program (SAFE) on October 1, 2012, which included:

4,400 acres for the SAFE Pheasant Winter Cover Area
(Daniels, Dawson, McCone, Richland, Roosevelt, Sheridan & Valley counties)

5,900 acres for the SAFE Prairie Pothole (for Ducks) Area
(Blaine, Cascade, Chouteau, Daniels, Glacier, Hill, Liberty, Phillips, Pondera, Roosevelt, Sheridan, Teton, Toole, & Valley counties)

1,500 acres for the Southeast Montana Sagebrush-Grassland Restoration SAFE Area (Carter, Fallon, and Powder River). NRCS’ Sage Grouse Project Area was added to the SAFE Area in 2012 and the following counties were added: Fergus, Garfield, Golden Valley, Musselshell, Petroleum, Rosebud and Treasure.

2013 Expiring CRP Acres by County
County Expiring CRP Acres County Expiring CRP Acres
Beaverhead 0 Meagher 0
Big Horn 2569.5 Mineral 0
Blaine 25556 Missoula 0
Broadwater 2220.1 Musselshell 3020.4
Carbon 400.6 Park 956.5
Carter 0 Petroleum 864
Cascade 10111.3 Phillips 28655
Chouteau 32267.4 Pondera 8860.7
Custer 126.7 Powder River 142.5
Daniels 6650.1 Powell 24.9
Dawson 4284.1 Prairie 2116.8
Deer Lodge 0 Ravalli 0
Fallon 605.3 Richland 15347.5
Fergus 5762.3 Roosevelt 27625.2
Flathead 89.2 Rosebud 3089.5
Gallatin 1700.4 Sanders 101.5
Garfield 3412.8 Sheridan 17723.6
Glacier 5954.3 Silver Bow 0
Golden Valley 2038.2 Stillwater 3567.3
Granite 0 Sweet Grass 178.5
Hill 48807.1 Teton 10663.3
Jefferson 0 Toole 21789.1
Judith Basin 5492 Treasure 0
Lake 10 Valley 23117.7
Lewis and Clark 598.9 Wheatland 6144.4
Liberty 25411.4 Wibaux 130.5
Lincoln 0 Yellowstone 1934.1
Madison 0   366124.4
McCone 6003.7    

 

2012/2013 Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) FIRE Funds
County Funds Requested Sent To CEDP Approved/Disapproved Funds Allocated    
Glacier $500,000.00          
Rosebud $50,000.00   Approved $50,000.00    
Powder River $200,000.00   Approved $200,000.00    
Rosebud $800,000.00   Approved $726,265.00    
Powder River $800,000.00   Approved $1,873,735.00    
Treasure $100,000.00   Approved $95,000.00    
Custer $50,000.00   Approved $32,500.00 took 32,500 from Custer and gave it to Cascade.  
Jefferson $40,000.00   Approved $26,000.00    
Big Horn $400,000.00   Approved $261,765.00    
Cascade $91,900.00   Approved $59,735.00 Requested Addnl funds on 10/16/2012 $21,811.00 added $32,500 from Custer to Cascade
Rosebud $2,000,000.00 8/13/2012 Need Application funding count      
Madison $60,000.00 9/7/2012 COF withdrew request      
Park $250,000.00 10/11/2012 Approved      
Ravalli $5,000.00 10/11/2012 Approved      
Musselshell $100,000.00 10/12/2012 Approved $200,000.00    

Question: FSA was asked if they could provide a list of CRP acres expiring by county. FSA agreed to provide this (see the attached document which shows all of the expiring CRP acres in Montana in 2013).

Closing

Question: Jerry was asked if there were any plans to hold a meeting of the Tribal Conservation Issues sub-committee of the State Technical Advisory Committee (STAC). Jerry informed the group that the new Assistant State Conservationist for Operations, Jerry Shows, would oversee those efforts. Jerry was not available for this committee conference call, but the expectation is that there would be a meeting in conjunction with the next STAC meeting.

Jeff Schazenski, with NCAT, announced that NCAT was sponsoring a pastured poultry workshop tour in Great Falls in March.

Jerry discussed with the group the potential to meet in Great Falls in late June and that a soil health tour would be planned.

Jerry adjourned the meeting.