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State Technical Committee Meeting Minutes

Meeting Minutes

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DRAFT Minutes of November 18, 2015, meeting of the New Jersey State Technical Committee

The State Technical Committee met on November 18, 2015. Those in attendance included:

  • Amy Hansen, NJCF (by phone)
  • Audrey Moore, US EPA Region 2
  • Kristina Heinemann, USEPA Region 2
  • Bill Angstadt, Growmark FS
  • Brian Cowden, Urbani Fisheries
  • Kathy Hale, NJWSA
  • Bonnie McDevitt, NJWA
  • Eric Schrading, USFWS
  • Brian Marsh, USFWS
  • Bruce Eklund, NASS
  • David Clapp, SADC
  • Desirée Dunn, NJACD
  • Don Donnelly, NJ Audubon
  • Helen Heinrich, NJ Farm Bureau
  • Andrew Burnett, NJDEP F&W
  • Jon Klischies, NJ Forest Service
  • Kathleen Hitchner, NJDEP
  • Sharon Petzinger, NJDEP F&W, ENSP
  • Michael Westendorf, Rutgers Cooperative Ext.
  • Pat Huizing, NOFA-NJ
  • Steve Eisenhauer, Natural Lands Trust
  • Carrie Lindig, USDA-NRCS
  • Gail Bartok, USDA-NRCS
  • Fran Grasso, USDA-NRCS
  • Lauren Lapczynski, USDA-NRCS
  • Chad Cherefko, USDA-NRCS
  • Christine Hall, USDA-NRCS
  • Kaitlin Farbotnik, USDA-NRCS
  • David Lamm, USDA-NRCS
  • Barbara Phillips, USDA-NRCS

Welcome & Introductions - Carrie Lindig

Carrie (Mosley) Lindig convened the meeting shortly after 10 a.m. She explained that she is now using her married name, Carrie Lindig, but said her former email address will continue to work for a while. Her new email address is carrie.lindig@nj.usda.gov.

The federal fiscal year ended on September 30, so the agenda for this meeting includes FY15 wrap up and FY 16 projections.

Minutes

The June 17, 2015, meeting minutes were presented by Christine Hall. Since there were no comments, they were approved by consensus as presented.

Farm Bill Programs – Year in Review

Gail Bartok presented a summary of FY15 conservation program funding.

NRCS NJ obligated approximately $10 million for conservation practices.

  • Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) – Agricultural Land Easement, $ 4,459,884 for one contract, a Grasslands of Special Significance
  • Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) – Wetlands Reserve Easement, $587,600, for 3 pre-approved applications
  • Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA), $242,299 for 12 contracts
  • Conservation Stewardship Program  (CStP), $86,520, for 8 contracts
  • Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), $4,358,283 for 207 contracts
  • Regional Conservation Partnership Program – EQIP, $331,104 for 9 contracts

Applications for conservation activity plans, the soil health initiative and those submitted by socially disadvantaged producers are automatically funded. All livestock applications were funded, and these represented 20% of applications. The national target is 60%.

The top 10 conservation practices funded by planned amount were: Cover Crop, Irrigation Water Management, Forest Stand Improvement, Conservation Cover, Brush Management, Early Successional Habitat Development and Management, Structure for Wildlife, Mulching, Pasture and Hay Planting, Irrigation, and Micro-irrigation.

New funding pools for High Tunnel and Aquaculture will be offered in 2016. District Conservationist Nicholas Saumweber held an outreach meeting for aquaculture producers and reported 6 new applications for the Aquaculture Initiative. NRCS staff will reach out to community garden groups to promote high tunnel opportunities.

COMMITTEE ACTION ITEM: NRCS sets allocations between programs, and adjusts as applications come in. State Conservationist Carrie Lindig asked if there were other priorities in New Jersey to be addressed and invited the attendees to contact NRCS if they knew of any.

The committee discussed how people in our communities learn about NRCS programs:

  • Carrie Lindig explained that NRCS has partner agreements with organizations, by which we are able to share staff. Many of these employees have expanded our reach with landowners NRCS may have not otherwise have reached. It was noted that in the past we had a Golden Winged Warbler workshop in Sussex County, set up by Don Donnelly, who provides forestry technical assistance through a partnership agreement with NJ Audubon.
  • Christine Hall pointed out that NRCS is always happy to meet with partners to develop workshops, etc., and to develop strategies to get more conservation on the ground in New Jersey. 
  • Don Donnelly asked if we could get signage at projects like we used to have for WHIP-funded projects.

NRCS ACTION ITEM: Barb Phillips will reach out to other NRCS Public Affairs Specialists to learn what NRCS is able to do with creating signage for projects that NRCS has funded or partnered on.

  • Sharon Petzinger mentioned some forestry clearing activities are frowned upon by some neighbors, and promo/education outreach would be helpful.
  • Kaitlin Farnotnik noted that NRCS goes to meetings and events to explain our conservation programs, and our partners can notify us about meetings we should attend to present our opportunities.
  • Steve Eisenhauer regularly sends out NRCS brochures to constituents.
  • Desiree Dunn asked if NRCS brochures and fact sheets are available digitally

NRCS ACTION ITEM: Barb Phillips will send Desiree link to brochures and fact sheets.

  • The top three of the Top 10 practices for FY2015 were the same in FY2014 – by number of practices, not dollar amount. A graph would be a good way to show this.

NRCS ACTION ITEM:  Create and publish graph with FY 15 accomplishments.

Further discussion: 

Kathleen Hitchner asked how results of CIG granted projects are gathered. She helps with ranking, and would like to see the results of the funded projects. Mike Westendorf presented results of a previous CIG grant at a State Technical Committee meeting several years ago. He suggested having what Rutgers call “lightning presentations,” a 5-minute project presentation on what you did and what you found. Some CIG projects have shown the proposed innovation not to be viable, which is also a benefit of the grant program.

NRCS ACTION ITEM:  NRCS staff will explore different options for sharing results of CIG projects funded in New Jersey.

Eric Schrading asked about Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE) appraisals/ranking with regard to mortgages. Properties with mortgages are ranked lower, despite amount owed. Brian Marsh noted that this would be significant when the environmental value of the proposed easement is high. Lauren Lapczynski explained that there are program eligibility requirements established in NRCS national policy, based on three pillars: title, land eligibility and landowner.

COMMITTEE ACTION ITEM: WRE Ranking meeting on December 11 – You are welcome to attend, call in, or send comments to Lauren Lapczynski (732-537-6046).

The group then discussed using market appraisals instead of doing individual appraisals for the WRE program. Using market appraisals would speed up the process and make it easier to “sell” the program to landowners, but it is estimated that a market appraisal of the entire state could cost $30K. Gail Bartok said we might be able to decrease the cost by targeting certain geographic areas and having a market analysis done for those specific areas. Individual appraisals would then be done for parcels in areas where no market analysis was available.

Gail announced new Farm Bill brochure based on 2014 Farm Bill had been released and there were copies available at the meeting for those who wanted them.

Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) Update - Carrie Lindig

Carrie Lindig explained that RCPP is not a new program, but rather a way to bundle existing programs and earmark it for your area. 7% of EQIP money is set aside for RCPP, and partners already at work in the project area can receive a one-to-one funding match from NRCS for conservation implementation in their areas.

Last year was the first year for the program. New Jersey was part of a national award of $13 million for work in the Delaware Watershed. The William Penn Foundation and partners selected several priority watersheds (“clusters”) within the Delaware watershed. Their funding presented opportunities for partners who work in these priority areas.

Two state proposals from New Jersey under are under consideration for FY16. No national applications involving NJ were submitted for FY15.

Each state has been guaranteed that one RCPP proposal will be funded, and Carrie Lindig will push for two, especially since we don’t have a national one in the pool this year. She should be able to announce RCPP awards at the next Committee meeting.

CRP, CREP, SAFE Activity– Nancy Coles was absent, but her report was distributed. Christine Hall compared the current report to the report from the February meeting and noted there were 308 Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts statewide, up five from the last written report from February 2015. The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) contracts were up 15 from Feb 2015. There was an increase of two State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) applications over the February numbers. Direct questions to Nancy Coles.

Conservation Effects Assessment Project - Bruce Eklund, NJ NASS

The Conservation Effects Assessment Project is NASS’s cooperative project with NRCS to survey NJ farmers (and PA farmers) to get an overview of on-farm conditions and practices. This survey is usually conducted every seven years and uses Natural Resource Inventory (NRI) points. Already underway, Stage 1 has been completed. Enumerators have looked at selected NRI points and determined if those locations were eligible for the data collection. Now in Stage 2, data collection has begun and will continue into February. The purpose of the survey is to get a better understanding of conditions, conservation practices in use, and effectiveness of NRCS programs. The results should be useful for decision makers.

Farmer buy-in is needed for this survey to be successful, and participation is voluntary. Bruce noted that people need to hear something 5 times before it becomes familiar, so he asked State Technical Committee partners to promote the CEAP survey with farmers and organizations they know. The actual survey is accessible online. Bruce will email everyone with the info so they can promote.

The survey can take a few hours. Enumerators visit the farm and go through the survey in person, and producer needs to have access to farm records.

  • Attachment 3: NASS Handouts(PDF, 093 kb) – first page of publications shared by Eklund at the meeting: Cranberry Highlights, Farm Economics, Farm Demographics, 2014 New Jersey Fruit and Vegetable Crops Statistics & National Rankings, Aquaculture, and New Jersey County Profile.

Christine Hall reported that when the CEAP report on the Delaware Watershed was presented via webinar, the lead report author Dr. Lee Norfleet seemed to indicate that we could get data specific to NJ. The report showed that soil erosion from cropland was not a huge problem, but PA state laws regulate that farms only have cropland erosion rates at “T,” the tolerable level. NJ does not have such a regulation, so our erosion rates may be higher, but when averaged with PA in the CEAP report it appears to not be a problem.

NEW BUSINESS

2016 ACEP Geographic Area Rate Cap (GARC) - Lauren Lapczynski

Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE) applications were carried over into FY16. Since we were unable to make offers in 2015, we do not know if the 2015 GARC was successful and attractive to landowners. Lauren proposes that last year’s GARC be maintained for FY 16 with the GARC at 90% for all general applications and 95% for bog turtle applications.

WRE ranking will be discussed at the December 11 meeting previous mentioned. ALE ranking is proposed to remain the same as 2015. National has set a January 15 sign-up deadline for ACEP (ALE and WRE). An announcement on Friday is anticipated.

(Post-meeting note: See USDA-NRCS Press Release USDA Announces $350 Million Available to Help States, Private Partners Protect and Restore Grasslands, Wetlands and Working Lands)

NJ EQIP Initiatives for 2016 - Christine Hall

EQIP will include Golden Winged Warbler and Bog Turtle, energy audits, organic (more applications are wanted), and soil health (in 3rd year with cover crop focus) initiatives.

New for 2016

  1. High Tunnel fund pool within EQIP with next deadline in March.
  2. The Aquaculture Initiative has a November 20 deadline. Limited opportunity for outreach with finfish producers so far, but assistance from Gef Flimlin will be sought. More meetings about how to tweak the Initiative for NJ producers will be planned.

Eric Schrading asked if the Aquaculture Initiative pays for moving a facility to an environmentally better location. Lauren Lapczynski said not at this time. NRCS can’t pay for boats. At least 3 or 4 producers are considering moving their operation to a less sensitive area, but moving cost is prohibitive. Lauren said that kind of a move might fall under the “rack replacement” payment option, but switching from intertidal to subtidal would involve a boat and won’t be eligible.

Kaitlin Farbotnik commented that we do have a payment option for Aquaculture Ponds this year. If an existing aquaculture pond system has excessive seepage or frequent release of nutrient-laden water or potential loss of non-native aquaculture production fish species to the native environment, we can fund construction of a new pond to address those concerns.

An aquaculture producer meeting was held in Cape May yesterday and this new initiative was promoted. A second signup for the Aquaculture Initiative could be scheduled if warranted.

National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI) for 2016 - Christine Hall

Targeted area for the NWQI in NJ has been three watersheds in south Jersey, 1) Upper Cohansey, 2) Upper Alloway, and 3) Upper Salem. There is still tremendous interest in the area, and it will take time for the measures being taken to improve water quality to show results.

Kathleen Hitchner noted that this has been a great cooperative effort, pointing to the Upper Salem official monitoring watershed and the NJ DEP Division of Water Monitoring and Standards monitoring plan designed for 3 years - May to October with 2015 being the first. Concurrently, a 319 project under the direction of Rutgers has led to 6 farms being converted to no-till over 50% of cropland, and Rutgers Cooperative Extension, Chris Obropta sees improvement this year based on pre-monitoring. Christine Hall asked if data will be available to review, understanding there will be privacy rules to follow. It would be helpful in assessing practices and their efficiencies. Hitchner expects the monitoring data to be ready to share this winter.

Steve Eisenhauer noted that Princeton Hydro is doing monitoring for Natural Lands Trust in the area, as well.

Action Item for Committee: With so many partners at work in the area, it was mutually agreed that Kathy Hale, Pat Huezing, Kathleen Hitchner, Steve Eisenhower, and Christine Hall would work to coordinate their activities in the area. Mike Westendorf suggested they plan a field day when tillage would be visible.

Might the area ever be de-listed and no longer be considered impaired? Every 2 years the list is reviewed. Specific data is sometimes acceptable to EPA to de-list a stream. Christine Hall mentioned that the $1000 Flood Hazard permit fee is prohibitive to many producers; Hitchner says there might be something that could be done to help with this.

NJ and National CIG update - Gail Bartok

The purpose of the Conservation Innovation Grant program (CIG) is to encourage the development of new and transferable technology. The program is run on both a national and state level. Normally a January announcement is made for the National CIG; then the state announcement can follow. There is a $75K cap for state CIGs and a $1 million for national CIGs.

Rutgers has received three NJ CIG awards in 2015, related to bats, blueberry soil health and energy use metrics for commercial greenhouses. A fourth award went to Freehold SCD for open space management in Monmouth, Middlesex, and Mercer Counties.

Discussion:

Bill Angstadt commented that CIG and RCPP present partnership opportunities for State Technical Committee members. Collaboration for a national CIG is worth considering he said, since it offers up to $1 million and can be used for partner expenses. RCPP funds have to go to producers and has no administrative offsets. He encouraged committee members to think about what each organization can do as a partner. He said that beginning farmers/small farmers is one area that has potential. Source water protection is another one.

Steve Eisenhauer commented that CIG and RCPP work could be supported with more funding from other sources. He noted that William Penn funding is being used a lot outside of NJ. An RCPP with NJ-focused projects would be good. Healthy forest initiative has never been funded in NJ.

NRCS Practice Standard Revisions Christine Hall / Dave Lamm

A handout with standards that are coming up for revision was distributed (Attachment 5). Comments on these standards are welcome. NJ standards are tied to national ones, and must be at least as strict as the National. There are some new standards this year. We have a year to update ours, but will try to accelerate that timeline so we can offer them this year.

One standard that elicited much discussion was Forest Stand Improvement. Don Donnelly inquired about the wording under “conditions where practice applies” relating to “all lands where the quantity and quality of trees can be enhanced.” Why “and” rather than “or”? Many Forest Stand Improvement projects reduce the quantity of trees. Sharon Petzinger asked if state-specific data will be discussed with partners. Once all comments are received from partners on this standard, Kaitlin will send the standard out again for final review. Our goal is to finalize standards by December for NRCS field staff.

Jon Klischies, NJ Forest Service, asked how much interest we expect in Denitrifying Bioreactor standard. This could open door for the Marketing Utilization Specialist who could help find ways to develop the market for wood chips. Also, Chris Obropta and his staff will be doing a project with NRCS to evaluate Drainage Water Management. This work could also lead to a demand for wood chips. (Woodchips have also been used as a treatment media in other systems such as for the treatment of milkhouse waste water. These systems have been more popular in the New England States than in New Jersey.) Kristina Heinemann suggested that this could tie to William Penn interests in the region. Christine Hall noted that when a conservation practice is also tied to a production benefit, it’s easier to sell to farm operators.

Lamm says new NJ standards will be out as soon as possible, especially for the practices that have approved payment scenarios in place. Until a practice has been adopted in a State, it cannot be made available for program assistance. NJ can revise standards at any time. Contracts that are written are tied to standards that exist at time of contract. Old versions of the standard are archived on the electronic Field Office Technical Guide.

Nutrient Management Standard – Phosphorus Index Update - Kaitlin Farbotnik

A meeting will be held December 9 to discuss revision of P-Index portion of the NRCS NJ Nutrient Management Standard. We want to get it right. NRCS program rules allow for expansion of livestock operations, including grazing operations. The P index is included in NJ state level guidance establishing how much expansion can be supported with NRCS funds. Our P-index is stricter than that used by PA and MD. Screening criteria will be reviewed and created so that tool is run on fields where it makes sense to use it. The revision is intended to result in more uniform use of the index. Those interested in attending or listening in on December 9 at 1:30 p.m. should contact Kaitlin Farbotnik.

Partner Agreements for FY2016 - Chad Cherefko

Carrie announced Chad Cherefko’s new role as Assistant State Conservationist for Field Operations.

NRCS does Cooperative and No-money agreements. Chad gave some examples of what NRCS is doing with partners, and invited the State Technical Committee partners to offer recommendations for additional agreements, by emailing or calling Chad Cherefko. Helen Heinrich asked about matching funding. Chad explained that not all agreements require matching funds but for those that do there are several options depending on the nature of the agreement. Partners do not need an official agreement to work collaboratively with NRCS, but it can help formalize the working relationship. Agreements are one way that partners can work together to achieve things that they may not otherwise be able to do alone.

Resources Stewardship Update - Carrie Lindig

The Resources Stewardship Program impact NRCS’s technique for conservation planning. Historically, conservation plan implementation has been and is voluntary. Landowner can pick and choose. The Resources Stewardship Evaluation uses tools that have been normalized to assess conditions according to water quality stewardship, phosphorus to surface water, etc. This approach will help recognize a good steward – and could be a potential marketing tool. The process also helps identify problem areas.

Chad shared a story about rented land that was put in a conservation easement that essentially restricted traditional row cropping agriculture, and as such would exclude the farmer currently renting the farm. The RSP tools were used to show land could be used for hay production, and still meet the objective of the easement, allowing the farmer to continue using the land, but under a different crop.

Resource Stewardship tools are being piloted out of our Frenchtown office. NRCS employees will use this tool in selected areas in 2016.

Christine and Carrie have been in conversation with Campbells about the Resources Stewardship Program. Walmart requires that their vendors be working toward sustainability targets that thye have set. Campbells is buying from 4 carrot and potato growers in New Jersey. They want those four growers to participate in Resource Stewardship evaluations in order to show a baseline of environmental stewardship and outline potential improvement to their operations. NRCS is also soliciting contact with Progresso and Goya.

Eric Schrading asked how the benchmark is being established for the Program. It is being set nationally. It is expected that the benchmark may have some modification in each State.

Another objective of the program is to obtain scientific, specific, objective info that the operator might be able to use. Mike Westendorf mentioned that something like this exists for horse operations.

Dave Lamm noted that NJ farmers who are good stewards have historically been honored by our Soil Conservation Districts with annual awards to deserving farmers within their districts.

Program Outreach Training Session - Christine Hall

Christine Hall reviewed the purpose of the partner training scheduled for December 8th. Please promote the training with your staff and others who should attend. Register if you have not done so. (Agenda)

OPEN DISCUSSION

Helen Heinrich: Farm Bureau – Clean Water Council Hearing will take place on December 11th. The theme is Moving beyond the Barnegat Bay Watershed: Using Partnership to improve water quality. They are looking for partners to testify on December 11 at 9 a.m. in the DEP hearing room and share how they are working to improve water quality in New Jersey. The next focus area for the state will be the Raritan Basin. Written testimony will be accepted for 30 days after the 11th if you can‘t come on the 11th. Helen Heinrich suggested NRCS invite Clean Water Council to attend State Technical Committee meetings.

Eric Schrading: US Fish & Wildlife Service announced that US FWS is moving in 8 days! New location is on their website.

Audrey Moore: US Environmental Protection Agency announced two items:

  • EPA Worker Protection Standards Final Rule: The WPS Final Rule was published in the Federal Register on November 2, 2015. Here is the link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-11-02/pdf/2015-25970.pdf.

The final Rule becomes effective January 1, 2016. Compliance is not required with most of the new requirements until January 2, 2017, and compliance with certain requirements is delayed until January 1, 2018.

For further information, go to the EPA worker safety web site: http://www2.epa.gov/pesticide-worker-safety

  • Pesticides Certification & Training proposed Rule: EPA has received and considered a number of requests to extend the public comment period on the proposed changes to the certification of pesticide applicators rule.

EPA will grant a 30-day extension to the public comment period on the proposed changes to the certification rule. Comments must be submitted no later than December 23, 2015. Comments can be submitted via www.regulations.gov under docket number EPA-HQ-OPP-2011-0183.

Kristina Heineman, US Environmental Protection Agency, shared information on the Technology Challenge relating to nutrient recycling. Prize money is available for successful technology. Potential for coupling anaerobic digestion with nutrient capturing technology.

Jon Klishies, NJ Forest Service – Jon offered copies of the new NJ Forest Service publication, My Healthy Woods for NJ Forest Landowners. The book is intended to be a resource for woodland owners who do not have a management plan or for those with a plan to spark their imagination to get more done. Contact Jon Klishies if you are interested in having more of these books.

NEXT MEETING DATE

The NJ NRCS State Technical Committee will convene again sometime the end of February, 2016. Date to be announced.

1:00 PM Adjourn


Acronyms
ACEP - Agricultural Conservation Easement Program
ALE - Agricultural Land Easement
AMA – Agricultural Management Assistance Program
AWEP – Agricultural Water Enhancement Program
CAP – Conservation Activity Plan
CIG – Conservation Innovation Grant
CRP – Conservation Reserve Program
CREP - Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program
CStP – Conservation Stewardship Program
EQIP – Environmental Quality Incentive Program
FRPP – Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program
FSA – Farm Services Agency (USDA)
GRP – Grassland Reserve Program
HFRP – Healthy Forest Reserve Program
NASS – National Agricultural Statistics Service (USDA)
NIPF – non industrial private forestland
NFWF – National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
NWQI – National Water Quality Initiative
NRCS – Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA)
RCPP- Regional Conservation Partnership Program
RD – Rural Development Agency (USDA)
SAFE – State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement
TSP- Technical Service Provider
USDA – United State Department of Agriculture
WHIP – Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program
WLFW – Working Lands for Wildlife
WRE - Wetlands Reserve Easements
WRP – Wetlands Reserve Program

 

 

This page last updated November 6, 2015.