State Technical Committee Meeting Minutes
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Minutes of March 22, 2016, meeting of the New Jersey State Technical Committee - Approved June 16, 2016
March 22, 2016, 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM, Somerset, NJ
- David DeFrange, Copper Creek
- Jim Simon, ISLES
- Mitchell Jones, Mountain Top Farm/ State Board of Ag
- Steve Eisenhauer, Natural Lands Trust
- Brittany Dobrzynski, NJ Audubon/ NRCS Partner Employee
- Helen Heinrich, NJ Farm Bureau
- Liz Thompson, NJ Farm Bureau
- Desiree Dunn, NJACD
- Frank Wu, NJDA
- Andrew Burnett, NJDEP Div Fish & Wildlife
- Kath Hale, NJWSA
- Pat Huizing, NOFA-NJ
- Mark Keating, NOFA-NJ
- Marcus Gray, North Jersey RC&D
- Don Knezick, Pinelands Nursery
- Mike Westendorf, Rutgers Cooperative Extension
- Elizabeth Pyshnik, Rutgers University
- Ethan Schoolman, Rutgers University
- David Clapp, SADC
- Brian Cowden, Urbani Fisheries/ Trout Unlimited
- Kristina Heinemann, US EPA Region 2
- Audrey Moore, US EPA Region 2
- Elizabeth Freiday, US FWS
- Nancy Coles, USDA-FSA
- Joseph Henry, USDA- RD
- Jake Hunt, Windy Brow Farms
- Carrie Lindig, USDA-NRCS
- Christine Hall, USDA-NRCS
- Gail Bartok, USDA-NRCS
- Kaitlin Farbotnik, USDA-NRCS
- Fran Grasso, USDA-NRCS
- Lauren Lapczynski, USDA-NRCS
- Barbara Phillips, USDA-NRCS
Welcome & Introductions - Carrie Lindig
State Conservationist Carrie Lindig convened the meeting at 10 a.m.
The minutes from the November 18 had been distributed to the committee for review prior to the March meeting. Edits received were incorporated and the amended version was presented by Christine Hall for approval. Minutes were approved by consensus.
Action items from the November meeting were reviewed:
- Request for conservation priorities of Committee members is still active. No one had submitted anything in this regard, but several items raised at the last meeting were incorporated into March 22 meeting agenda.
- Signage for wildlife projects. Roadside signage identifying areas where NRCS-funded wildlife conservation is underway is being pursued. Beth Freiday said that USFW has some signage with partner logos including NRCS that could be used in the interim.
- WRE meeting held in December to get status updates on active projects.
2016 Farm Bill Programs Update - Gail Bartok, Assistant State Conservationist for Programs
A graphic of program dollars and contract distribution from FY2015, (Attachment #1 PPT, 228 kb ) requested at November meeting, was displayed. (Note: This graphic is included in FY15 Accomplishment report posted on About Us page of NJ NRCS website.)
Carrie Lindig noted that Farm Bill 2014 brought reduced funding to easements and an increase in EQIP funding. Gail noted we anticipate that additional conservation easements will still be accomplished in NJ in areas of Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) awards.
An overview of FY16 funding, that is program dollars received since October 1, 2015, was reviewed. (Attachment #2 - FY2016 Financial Assistance Program Data as of March 22, 2016, PDF 80kb.)
Items of note included:
- NJ has received 15 applications for 2016 AMA applications: 10 for cropland and 5 for livestock operations. These are being ranked and costs calculated now.
- CSP signup ends on March 31. Nine applications have been received and recorded so far.
- From the RCPP FY15 regional agreement Delaware River Watershed Working Lands, 68 applications are being ranked for RCPP-EQIP funding in NJ and PA held their own signups.
- EQIP fund pool and distribution of funding by service center offices and the funds that were left to expend are enumerated on the handout.
Gail reported that NRCS NJ just received Future Direction Funding for Equine Operations. The opportunity for NJ equine operations has been expanded beyond the original three NJ Counties that were requested to all 21 counties in New Jersey. Sign up will close third Friday in June, and existing applications from equine operations that are eligible will be supported by this funding pool.
Kristina Heinemann asked about the absence of applications for NWQI. Fran Grasso assured her that NRCS will have the applications and expend the funding allocated for NWQI. She noted that with the work load in NRCS offices, it was possible that applications could have been received, but not yet entered into the NRCS reporting system.
Carrie Lindig responded to questions about NJ growers and the Resources Stewardship Program that had been discussed in November. Campbell’s Soup Company has encouraged the four remaining Jersey growers who supply them with produce to work with NRCS to assess their operations with Resource Stewardship tools. Funds have allocated for this and the process is still ongoing to get this done this year.
EQIP funds will be coming to address Climate Change. Once received, these will be allocated for practices that address climate change.
Christine Hall explained that funding pools help direct funding to particular practices. For example, by having a High Tunnel funding pool, similar projects are ranked and contracted. This allows for more high tunnels being funded than if they were competing with projects with a wider scope.
Opportunities for farmland preservation continue through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). The ACEP Agricultural Land Easement (ALE) provide 75% of the appraised value to preserve Grassland of Special Significance. Preservation of other farmland is covered at 50% of the appraised value. The Wetlands Reserve Easement (WRE) allocations are used for both bog turtle projects and regular wetland restoration easements.
New Jersey will also receive additional easement funds in the focus areas for RCPP. A special sign up for these easement funds is anticipated for the focus areas, with partner input for ranking criteria.
CRP, CREP, SAFE Activity- Nancy Coles
Nancy reviewed her report Conservation and Emergency Program Status Report (3/22/16) for FY 16 (Oct – Feb) (Attachment #3, PDF 260kb). She emphasized that the new farm bill reduced CRP acres, and noted that we must enroll more acres to show NJ needs the program. These are normally 10 year contracts. Some practices can qualify CREP contracts for 15 years.
Stafford funds augmented emergency funding after Sandy. There were 219 applicants (ECP 92) for $4.2 million EFRP available after Sandy. NRCS has assisted with the work related to the $218K payments made so far. Funding primarily went to forest landowners in north Jersey and parts of Burlington and Camden Counties.
She added that an additional $41K in ECP funding was allocated last week to assist one applicant who signed up after damages from 2015 high winds.
The Grassland Reserve Program has “sunset.” CRP-Grasslands sign up ended Nov 20. Next sign up ends this summer sometime. Farm Bill 2014 funds these projects through CRP, and the Bill blended five programs under the umbrella of CRP.
When land is sold, if new owner does not want to continue in program, the original contract holder has to pay back funds. FSA advises contract holders to put continuation of contract (successions) in sales agreement.
Regional Conservation Partnership Program Update, Carrie Lindig
Carrie Lindig noted that conservation programs have transformed since she started with the agency in 1988. Increasingly, we are adding opportunities for partners outside of NRCS to merge resources and efforts with NRCS conservation and easement programs to expand work in their area of focus. RCPP came out in the 2014 Farm Bill, was rolled out in FY15. Two NJ projects combined William Penn funding with NRCS EQIP and ALE in the first round.
A map showing RCPP areas (and other NRCS NJ initiatives) was displayed. (Attachment_4 PDF of map, 484 kb)
In FY16 the New Jersey Water Supply Authority was awarded RCPP funding. Kathy Hale of NJWSA explained their proposed project:
- The project will focus on one to two ACEP-ALE easement in NJWSA focus area of South Branch and Lockatong and Wichecheoke. Hunterdon Land Trust is partnering with NJWSA in this effort.
- Conservation Practice Implementation will include the hiring of a partner employee to work out of the NRCS Frenchtown office
- Cost share from NJWA and RCPP-EQIP funds will be available to growers in that area
Proposals for the FY17 RCPP round are due May 10. Visit Grants.gov for info. Groups rather than individuals must apply for the program. Funds are federal funds, and NRCS program requirements apply. Christine Hall noted that partners can request that there be exceptions granted for RCPP awarded monies, but the decision to implement any changes are NRCS’s to decide. Talk to Carrie Lindig, Christine Hall or Gail Bartok if you are interested in RCPP.
Resources Stewardship Evaluation Update, Carrie Lindig & Kaitlin Farbotnik
Carrie Lindig introduced Resources Stewardship Evaluation as a revamp of what NRCS already does. Kaitlin Farbotnik, NRCS Conservation Agronomist, presented the new Resources Stewardship Evaluation Tool (Attachment #5 PPT, 280 kb). The web based tool should be released in 2017 for others to access. The tool collects basic info from producers, like their crop history, irrigation data, nutrient and pesticide management, habitat for aquatic life, etc. This provides an overview of operation and stewardship and provides planning criteria for the next level of management. Tool has sequential map to guide you through assessment that leads to evaluation in a bar chart, providing a visual presentation of conditions, to facilitate better communication between the planner and the producer.
The national team is working on this and they have been very responsive to feedback, Kaitlin said. Christine Hall said that we are hoping future versions of the tool will allow states to import their state specific wildlife habitat guides, rather than using the national habitat guides.
Pros of the Resources Stewardship Evaluation Tool
- Much simpler than tool currently in use.
- Provides a way to show current status of operation and where conservation practices will move conditions
- Will enable and encourage overall planning for multiple resource concerns
Cons of the Resources Stewardship Evaluation Tool
- RUSLE may disagree with outcome of Resource Stewardship Assessment, so NRCS is working out the bugs.
- Good tool to communicate with producer, but conservationist needs to know what is behind low scores
- Doesn’t break out areas of work, for example, good work on wetlands would be overshadowed by lack of work on stream
Testing on crop land is underway, and a lot of NJ crops are not included. They will be looking at the tool for use with pastureland late spring. Forestry is to be added in 2017.
The CDSI – Conservation Delivery Streamlining Initiative – will be coming and will tie to this tool.
Mike Westendorf asked how this will impact NRCS planning. Kaitlin say the planning criteria has not changed yet and it may not. The tool will help producers talk to landowners they rent from. The tool provides a farm overview, and does not replace our traditional methods.
Carrie said that Campbells sees this as a way to prove their growers are growing “green” and will help them meet Walmart requirements to distribute their goods.
The tool currently includes a very general national wildlife habitat assessment and that is why we are pushing for a state module for wildlife, Christine Hall said. Kaitlin Farbotnik can share questions for review and comment to anyone who wants to see them.
Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) and new funding available - Gail Bartok
Gail Bartok said NJ has about a dozen active Conservation Innovation Grants in place now. They are funded with EQIP funds. The current program has been announced nationally and is offering a higher cap for projects ($2million). The national program has eliminated the pre-proposal step this year; full proposals must be submitted by the May 13 deadline.
There will be a cap of $75K per agreement for the state program, and NJ will hold to pre-proposal model. Pre-proposals for NJ CIGs are due May 13. Full proposal will be due in June 14. The RFP will be posted soon and Committee will be notified.
NJ NRCS has allocated $214K this year for the state CIG.
Conservation Innovation Grant Project Showcase - Susan Brookman, Invasive Species Strike Force
Susan Brookman, Invasive Species Strike Force presented the smartphone app her organization created as part of a 2013 CIG grant. (Attachment 6: Applying New Technologies, PPT 5.47 MB) The app was designed to make tools to identify, report and manage the presence of invasive species. It is intended to reach stakeholders who had not been active with management of invasive species. In past few people were motivated to survey species we deal with. The free app makes it much easier. Since more people are using it, the number of people submitting data has expanded.
Ms. Brookman opened the app on her iPad and passed it around for members to see it. It is also available for Androids.
Screen shots of app showed that the user will get tips to help identify the vegetation of concern. You can upload photos to a queue and send later, which is helpful if you are in an area without Internet access. The app lists most common invasives in NJ, but you can sort by scientific or common name, get a description page of the species and info on how to control it.
The “my species” section lets you add 5 or 10 that you are most concerned about so you don’t have to scroll through 200+ species. There are also maps in the app to help you locate the invasives. You can send in a report to the Strike Team. This takes a few minutes, but most of it is done through drop down menus.
Strike team experts confirm ID – you send photos. If it is not an invasive, they tell you, so that you know. You can also submit images to get ID for what you don’t know. Last check, 463 users of app collected more than 1000 data points.
Another tool developed by the Team is IPCConnect.org/newjersey. This helps people know what is being done to manage invasive. This app will work best in Chrome, Firefox and Safari. Also uses drop down menus for reporting, it will tie species found on your property, and you can enter work done/chemicals used, etc. and related costs.
This feature has been in use for nearly 2 years. Brookman said they would like to increase use and outreach has been more challenging than they anticipated.
NJ Invasive Species Strike Team started in 2011. They do public education, and Ms. Brookman invited committee to contact her with ideas. She also invited members to a conference being planned at Duke Farms. Details will be on the NJ Strike Team website.
Q & A: Can users keep files? You can go online to Njisst.org you can get map on the web and get data they have.
Dave Clapp asked about privacy: Point identifying invasives reported goes with photo, but you can label it Private Property. Use of website has privacy requirements
Equine Education and Outreach Project - Mike Westendorf, Rutgers
Mike explained his new project with NJ NRCS. The project has three areas of focus:
A special funding allocation from NRCS supports this project. Three workshops will be held in New Jersey in central part of State, Hunterdon, and Salem Counties.
The events may be called Equine, Wine and the Environment, but Dr. Westendorf assured State Conservationist Lindig that NO NRCS funding will be used to buy wine! EQIP will be explained by NRCS representative at these meetings. The focus of the summer sessions will be waste management. In the fall, the meetings will focus on equine nutrition. Webinars will also be produced with input and assistance from Dr. Carey Williams. Web based info will also be developed.
Mike Westendorf asked that partners promote the workshops.
Conservation Needs & Opportunities - Christine Hall
Christine revisited map of NJ NRCS projects to generate discussion about where NRCS is working and asked where we could or should be working. Discussion topics were posed such as:
- Geographic areas of focus for NRCS work
- Are there regions, natural resource needs, or types of ag we should be focusing on?
- Is there a need we are not meeting?
- Are there ag sectors we are not serving?
- Why not? Practices inappropriate for needs?
- No outreach?
- Payment not worth it?
NRCS can add/develop/propose new Conservation Practice Standards or payment scenarios. For example, we developed a new payment scenario for oyster growers to increase the height of their rack and bag systems to help red knot, an endangered bird species.
Dave DeFrange has a farm/ nursery operation and said he heard about NRCS from other farmers. He reached out to NRCS because he could do so casually. He appreciated that he got questions answered, and also was directed to appropriate resources so he could do research himself. He noted that NRCS technical assistance is free. Government contracts only come into play for financial assistance.
Chad Cherefko asked how NRCS can do a better job to get to farmers.
- Initial contact is critical, said DeFrange. Maybe you should simply advertise that you can call with your questions. Another idea that was offered was to be sure to attend board of ag meetings, and maybe create “open house” events for farmers to come with questions.
- Education – get conservation in curriculum to educate the future designers
- Field days are beneficial and invite other groups to participate to meet farmers.
- Local work groups – were designed to discuss hot topics
- Mitchell Jones suggested that NRCS go to growers meeting and talk about what you can do to keep them productive and be sustainable, like erosion control that supports production.
- Hold on-site visits of farms where practices are implemented.
- County Board of Agriculture meetings – NRCS should be there, and it would be helpful if you asked producers if you can talk about what they are doing.
- Liz Thompson pointed out that summer meeting of State Tech Committee reveals a lot about what NRCS does. That would be great with farmers. Perhaps invitations could be issued for these tours to a broader audience.
The Committee was asked to call or email with ideas/ info on our programs and our customers’ satisfaction.
Upcoming Training Opportunities - Christine Hall
Training is being prepared for new employees and partners, (Attachment_7: Upcoming Training Opportunities, PPT 1.8 MB)
Conservation planning training has three levels
1. Awareness – 2 day in early June 7 and 8 or 8 and 9
2. Assessment – 3 day in the fall with pre-requisite homework and Level I completed
--Carrie says this may be required for SCDs doing our monitoring or helping with Resource Assessment data collection
3. Certified Conservation Planner – under revision with NRCS NHQ
--Not a TSP training but similar
--Could this benefit Nutrient Management Planner Certification – C Hall will look at getting CEUs for this training.
A survey will be circulated to partners and to State Tech Committee members to assess interest in receiving training, and what types and level of training are needed.
Summer Meeting Options - Carrie Lindig
The summer meeting will be a tour. Past meetings included tours of Jim Laine’s spelt fields & a livestock operation with grazing and proposed waste management (2015), irrigation, greenhouse operation erosion control (2014), Duke Farms (2013), high tunnels and soil quality (2012), and equine manure management (2011).
Some potential sites for the next meeting were discussed.
Audrey Moore announced that she is being re-assigned to work with lead issues. Since she won’t be working with pesticide issues any longer, she will no longer be attending the NJ State Technical Committee meetings.
NOFA NJ announced an April 6 Organic Initiative with farm tour at Smiley Dog Farm, Pemberton. There is no charge. Registration is appreciated, but not necessary.
ISLES.org event in Trenton with Howell Farm on April 5 – Community Garden Plow
NJWSA – Abstracts due May 2 for regional American Water Resources Association (AWRA) conference
NJACD - Aug 14-16– Northeast Regional NACD meeting to be held at the Stockton Seaview in Galloway, NJ.
Next Meeting Date set for June 16
12:50 PM, Adjourned
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 June 22, 2016