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2011 Meeting Minutes State Technical Committee

New Jersey State Technical Committee

Meeting Minutes

Meeting minutes are available in Adobe Reader format and also below.

Minutes from December 7, 2011 (98 kb)
    - Seasonal High Tunnel System for Crops Practice Standard (93 kb)
    - December 2011, FSA Status Report (103 kb)
    - Franklin Parker Preserve Presentation (6 mb)
    - WRP Presentation (1.2 mb)
Minutes from September 14, 2011 (50 kb)
Minutes from June, 8 2011 (105 kb)
Minutes from March 10, 2011 (98 kb)

Meeting Minutes - 2010
Meeting Minutes - 2009


New Jersey State Technical Committee Minutes - December 7, 2011

Those in attendance: Janice Reid – NRCS, Larry Katz – Rutgers Cooperative Extension, Brian Zarate – NJDEP-Division of Fish and Wildlife-ENSP, Mackenzie Hall – Conserve Wildlife Foundation, Dave Clapp – NJDA, John Parke – NJ Audubon, Kathy Hale – NJWSA, Audrey Moore – USEPA Region 2, Nancy Coles – FSA, Mike Westendorf – Rutgers Cooperative Extension, Marie Banasiak – NJFB, Liz Thompson – NJFB, Christine Hall – NRCS, Brad Smith – TNC, Kim Korth – NJDEP-Division of Fish and Wildlife, Sam Conard – Somerset County Farmer, Betsy Clarke – NRCS, Charles Rhoor – NJDA - SADC, Justine Cook – NOFA – NJ, Fran Grasso – NRCS, Barb Phillips – NRCS, Lauren Rega - NRCS, Kristina Heinemann (via phone) – EPA, Kathleen Hitchner - NJDEP, Don Pettit – NRCS, Amy Hansen – NJCF, Dominick Mondi– NJNLA, Elizabeth Ciuzio - USFWS

Welcome:

The meeting was called to order at 10:05am by Don Pettit, State Conservationist. Don welcomed everyone to the meeting and introductions were made.

Minutes:

Nancy Coles found minor typing errors in the September minutes. Christine Hall sent out the corrected minutes before the meeting. The September minutes were reviewed and accepted.

NRCS/USDA 2012 Budget Status:

President Obama signed a minibus for FY 2012 which includes the USDA budget for 2012. The state allocations have not yet been distributed. The minibus suggests an overall cut of about 15 percent in funding. Decisions are still being made to determine where the cuts will occur. The allocation formula has changed for this fiscal year. In previous years, we received our allocations and then made budgetary decisions. This fiscal year, each state sent in a budget request based on natural resource needs identified in the State Resource Assessment.

Don Pettit and Janice Reid will be attending the 2011 New Jersey Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards Ceremony in Trenton. Two projects funded by NJ NRCS will be recognized. In the Healthy Ecosystems Category, the New Jersey Conservation Foundation was awarded for their WRP funded wetlands restoration project at the Franklin Parker Preserve. In the Land Conservation Category, the New Jersey Audubon was awarded for their CIG funded Support Agriculture Viability and the Environment (SAVE) Initiative.

Old Business:
Outreach Subcommittee Update

Barb Phillips reported that the USDA discrimination information continues to be a priority for all USDA agencies to spread the word regarding the Hispanic/Women’s farmer discrimination claims. An adjudicator will be assigned for this case and will be responsible for distributing more information about the claims process.
The outreach subcommittee will be meeting in January to regroup and discuss opportunities to promote the EQIP initiatives.

The outreach subcommittee will be working on developing the media lists and contacts to better get the word out about program opportunities and to reach potential applicants.

In addition, we have agreements with three Soil Conservation Districts (Morris, Mercer and Gloucester). These districts will be hosting workshops during the winter months on topics such as soil quality, water quality/quantity, and energy conservation. Each workshop will also feature an intro to USDA and training on how to apply for NRCS programs.

We are also getting involved in social media and have created a twitter account. We have posted one ‘tweet’ on the wetlands restoration construction event at Duke Farms. NRCS NJ already has 13 followers on twitter after one post. Increasing our presence in social media outlets is another project that the outreach committee may get involved in to help increase awareness to potential customers that we would not necessarily have contact with.

Don Pettit reiterated that extending our outreach helps to ensure we are meeting the historically undeserved groups. We want to publicize our information to people that would not normally walk through our doors. If we provide our information through multiple media outlets, we expand our outreach to more potential customers.

For more information about the outreach subcommittee, contact Barb Phillips.

CRP, CREP, SAFE, GRP Activity

Nancy Coles gave an update of the Farm Service Agency programs (CRP, CREP, and SAFE). See attachment for more information. Nancy reminded everyone that GRP is a continuous sign up, but the application closing date for FY 2012 will be Friday, December 30, 2011. There is a NJ Fact Sheet available on the NRCS website at http://www.nj.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/grp/index.html.

John Parke commented that there is a need for more web information regarding SAFE. He recognizes that SAFE is a program that could benefit from more outreach, but finds it difficult to obtain program information on the FSA website. Nancy Coles said she would bring the suggestions for more web content for SAFE back to the FSA web designers.

WRP Easement Acquisition Status

Janice Reid reported the WRP easement status. Although not official, we will be funding and ready to close on 4 WRP easements in December 2011.

  • 29.5 located in Salem County

  • 41.8 acres in Salem County

  • 76 acres in Cumberland County

  • 41.1 acres in Burlington County

All of the landowners expressed interest to close this calendar year if we were able to and it looks like we will be able to accomplish that. The new state total will be 4381.7 acres in WRP. The deadline for FY 2012 is December 30th.

John Parke asked a question regarding the rule that requires an applicant to own the property for 7 years prior to enrolling in WRP. Janice mentioned the 7 year ownership rule can be waived depending on the individual circumstances. The landowner needs to be able to prove they did not purchase the property in order to be able to enroll in the program. The WRP manual provides guidance on the requirements.

The sign-up for WRP is continuous. We have the opportunity to fund applications after the cut off if we have additional funds. We are receiving additional applications, which is likely due to the increased outreach for the program through the help with our partners.

NJ CIG Recipients

Christine Hall reported that all contracts have been signed. Of the 8 applications, we had 4 applications that the committee wished to fund. One of the applicants opted out and we were able to move forward with 3 projects.

The first CIG project was awarded to Spectrum BioEnergy to demonstrate the feasibility of using small-scale anaerobic digestion technology to convert horse manure into energy and soil nutrient. This project was awarded $44,160.

The second project funded was to the Atlantic County Board of Agriculture to monitor, evaluate, and demonstrate to NJ farmers the potential impacts of seasonal high tunnel systems on nutrient, pest, and irrigation management. This project was awarded $75,000.

The third CIG project was awarded to Rutgers University to determine soil quality improvement with leaf wastes combined with cover crops, rotations, and reduced tillage. He will be producing a guide to improve soil organic matter with conservation practices. This project was awarded $67,375.

As these projects move forward, if there is any interest we can see if any of the grantees would be willing to present at our meetings. The hope is that we can use the technical information obtained through the CIG grants. The goal is to fund projects with transferable information for our technical guides and practice standards to improve how we do business.

Our goal is to announce the FY 12 NJ CIG program in January after the national CIG program announcements.

A question was raised regarding the Seasonal High Tunnel Systems. Don Pettit explained that to a casual observer, the seasonal high tunnel system might look like a greenhouse. However, the plants are grown in the soil, not in containers and the covers are removable. It extends the growing season by warming the soil on both sides of the growing season. The purpose of the CIG grant is to study the effects of seasonal high tunnels for conservation benefits. For example, are we reducing our use of pesticides? Visit the NY NRCS website for more information about the conservation of seasonal high tunnel systems: http://www.ny.nrcs.usda.gov/technical/practices/pc798.html

New Business:
2012 EQIP Initiatives – Outreach needs

Janice Reid reported that the National Initiatives have officially been announced by headquarters. The national initiatives applicable to NJ are organic, energy, and seasonal high tunnel. The application cut off dates are February 3, March 30, and June 1. The sign-up windows are very tight. NRCS has a 10 day turn around to visit the farm, develop conservation plans, write up the contract, complete the ranking, etc. please stress the importance to potential applicants to be sure that they have all eligibility information ready at the time of application or the application will be rolled into the next sign-up period.

There will be no NJ specific information regarding these initiatives. The NJ website will link to the national initiative websites when they become available. The practices for each initiative were decided nationally.

The energy initiative will not only cover the Agricultural Energy Management Plans, but will also be focusing on practices that may have been recommended by an energy audit. Farmstead Energy Improvement recommendations must be from an Agricultural Energy Management Plan or Energy Audit completed to ANSI/ASABE S612 Standards.

The payment for the seasonal high tunnel practice is limited to 5% of 1 acre or 2,178 square feet. This is the maximum for any farm operation. However, the related conservation practices may be applied to other seasonal high tunnels on the farm. For example, nutrient management is eligible on all seasonal high tunnels on the farm. The payment rate for the scenario(s) for the seasonal high tunnel practice is nationally determined and has not yet been announced.

There is a concern regarding impervious cover with seasonal high tunnels. The CIG project will hopefully determine more information regarding the conservation impacts of this farming practice.

NRCS does have specifications to determine the proper use of a seasonal high tunnel. (See the attached interim conservation practice standard.)

Another concern mentioned is that not all seasonal high tunnel products are appropriate for use in NJ. Perhaps Rutgers can develop a fact sheet for the standards and specifications for the type of seasonal high tunnels that work best in NJ cropping systems and climate.

The group discussed opportunities to promote these initiatives. A poster was displayed at the New Jersey Farm Bureau Meeting. NRCS is on the agenda for the Vegetable Growers and NOFA conventions. Information will also be displayed at these conferences. There was also discussion of having joint FSA and NRCS “What’s new” meetings to promote program offerings and changes.

One suggestion was to have meetings/field days with the CIG participant to see how the site evaluations for seasonal high tunnels were conducted and how the seasonal high tunnel functions.

As a reminder, these initiatives do not hinder the allocations for regular EQIP funding. The funds for the initiatives are in addition to the regular EQIP funds. The regular EQIP sign-up is December 30.

Clarification of 2012 land eligibility policies

Janice Reid distributed an updated fact sheet on the eligibility requirements and applying for financial assistance programs with NRCS. The fact sheet is also available online at http://www.nj.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/financialassistance.html. In the past, NRCS had an eligibility requirement that a producer had to produce $1000 of agricultural products to be considered an agricultural producer eligible for funding. Nationally, there has been some discussion and it has been determined that there is no minimum requirement in statute. This has been removed from the EQIP manual, but is still a requirement for consideration in AMA. To be eligible for NRCS funding an applicant must have a resource concern present, an interest in an agricultural operation, and control of the land.

A question was raised regarding contract requirements. If a dairy farmer puts a manure storage structure in with NRCS funds, what happens if a few years down the road, the farmer decides to sell the dairy cows? Janice Reid responded that it is written into the contract that the producer is required to maintain the structure for the life of the contract for the purpose of the contract. In this case, the farmer would be in violation of the contract and NRCS would have the authority to request cost recovery depending on the circumstances.

Janice Reid also mentioned another significant change in EQIP policy with respect to fencing. In NJ, we had promoted the use of prescribed grazing techniques for feeding livestock. Our recommendations often include expanding the grazing area to meet the livestock needs. The exterior fence to expand pasture into land that was not previously grazed is no longer eligible for funding under EQIP. It is now considered a change in land use. Interior fencing to divide paddocks is eligible.

In addition, fence for the purpose of wildlife exclusion is not eligible under EQIP. Therefore, deer fencing is no longer an eligible practice for organic producers.

WRP – Bog Turtle Initiative Potential

Betsy Clarke presented a PowerPoint regarding the initiative potential for Bog Turtle under the WRP program (available at http://www.nj.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/state_tech_comm/meeting_minutes.html).

Typically participants in WRP are either not interested in farming the land, or the land is marginal and not productive farmland. Bog turtle sites can be small areas that can have great habitat potential. It was suggested through the presentation that a specific bog turtle initiative be considered for the WRP program. It is important that bog turtle habitat is supported for the long-term.

An inventory of NJ’s known bog turtle sites is underway to determine what areas have potential for restoration practices. This inventory could open up a list of potential applicants that may be interested in participating in WRP. Landowners have three choices in WRP: Restoration cost share agreements, 30 year easements, and permanent easements.

In the past, NRCS has done work for Bog Turtle habitat restoration under WHIP due to the costs associated with acquiring easements for the small sites under WRP. Don Pettit suggested a subcommittee meet to discuss further the opportunities and obstacles of establishing a Bog Turtle Initiative in WRP.

WRP Restoration Completed at Franklin Parker Preserve

Betsy Clarke presented a PowerPoint on the restoration work at the Franklin Parker Preserve (available at http://www.nj.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/state_tech_comm/meeting_minutes.html). NRCS entered into a WRP agreement 6 years ago with the New Jersey Conservation Foundation for the Franklin Parker Preserve project. At 2,190 acres, this project is the largest WRP easement in the state of NJ. The estimated easement cost was $5 million at the time for restoration and easement.

Open Discussion:

Brian Zerate - he would like to see a Bog Turtle Initiative move forward in NJ.

Mackenzie Hall - reiterated Brian’s comments

Dave Clapp - announced that NJDA is looking for partners to collaborate on animal waste projects. They are looking for a better way to write and implement plans. They have been in touch with Rutgers and North Jersey RC&D already. If you have ideas please send them to Monique Pursell or Dave Clapp.

John Parke - wanted to make sure that everyone is aware of the Common Waters funding June deadline for projects in the Paulins Kill and Upper Delaware Watersheds. The money that is available is not specifically for forests, but is heavily weighted for forests. This could be used as extra funding for EQIP applicants. For more information contact Eric Olsen at The Nature Conservancy office in Chester, NJ.

Kathy Hale - The agricultural mini-grant program is expected to roll out in early 2012. This will provide extra funding to agricultural producers in several subwatersheds in the Raritan Basin.

Amy Hansen- inquired about the status of the soil standard. However, the NRCS staff involved in that initiative were not present at the meeting so no update could be provided.

Audrey Moore & Kristina Heinemann – mentioned the extended EPA rule deadline for the Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) for storage of oil on farm. Audrey asked whether the committee would be interested in a presentation or longer discussion on the SPCC rule. EPA can certainly provide more information at a future meeting. The original compliance deadline was November 2011, and has now been extended to May 10, 2013. There is a need to prepare an SPCC plan for facilities that store, transfer, or use oil. There are various size threshold requirements to develop a plan. NY NRCS has a program for SPCC, but there may not be many farms that fall under this rule in NJ. More information is available at http://www.epa.gov/osweroe1/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/nj/technical/stc/minutes/?cid=spcc/spcc_ag.htm. a fact sheet was handed out at the meeting. janice reid suggested this information can be discussed at the “what’s new” meetings with fsa and nrcs.

Audrey also mentioned that a NJDEP Pesticide Application Discharge Permit may be required to apply pesticides for certain applications. (A handout distributed).

Nancy Coles – A handout of FSA accomplishments was passed around on behalf of Paul Hlubik.

Mike Westendorf – 1) The deadline for producers to develop Animal Waste Management Plans under the new state rule is March. There is a final push for education on this. 2) If a producer has a CNMP and expands their operation, at some point they need to redo their CNMP. It is the producer’s obligation to pay for the CNMP to be rewritten.

Liz Thompson - There is a 100 page policy book for 2012. The document is public and shared with legislators. The document is available online at www.njfb.org

Brad Smith - The Nature Conservancy (TNC) recently completed a project funded through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation that looked at prioritizing projects for conservation in the four-state Delaware River Watershed. TNC will be meeting with NRCS staff next week to review the results of the project and discuss ways to use this information.

Kim Korth - Conservation Resources Inc. announced the availability of grants in the Raritan Highlands Area. It is mostly for forest health, wildlife habitat, and grassland practices that promote habitat and water quality.

Larry Katz – Regarding the “fertilizer law”, Rutgers now has their training program up on the website. This education program is primarily for landscapers to understand and comply with the law.

Announcement: The Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Essex County, Roseland received 2011 Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards Honorable mention in the Healthy & Sustainable Communities Category. This project created a sustainable landscaping and stormwater management training program for military veterans.

Dominick Mondi – The Nursery and Landscape Association will have their convention January 24-25, 2012. Jim Murphy will be presenting on the fertilizer law at the conference.

Chuck Rhoor – The State Ag Development Committee (SADC) will meet on 12/8 to discuss medical marijuana. Rutgers Cooperative Extension will not be providing any support to these growers as Rutgers receives federal support. Positions have been advertised and four new staff will be joining the SADC, including a Chief of Stewardship who will be dealing with post-closing issues.

Justine Cook - NOFA is planning their conference for the end of January and is looking for participants for their Advanced Growers Seminar. This panel discussion and Q&A session will include representatives from state and federal agricultural agencies and is geared towards the more experienced farmer.

Kathleen Hitchner – Much of the 319 grant funds will be going to the Barnegat Bay to support the governor’s 10 point plan. Previous 319 grant funds were used to support the award winning project that Larry Katz mentioned in Essex County. Other 319 funds will be supporting an agricultural grant program in the Upper Cohansey similar to the mini-grant program Kathy Hale discussed.

Beth Ciuzio – Several partners attended a Bog Turtle Recovery meeting held in Pennsylvania. This is where we learned about the efforts in PA and MD utilizing NRCS programs. The NY Times published a piece on bog turtles and farmers (Nov 14th Farmers Find Rewards in Helping Bog Turtles).

Next Meeting Date:

The next meeting is planned for March 14th at 10:00 a.m. in the NRCS State Office in Somerset.

The meeting was adjourned at 12:46.


New Jersey State Technical Committee Minutes September 14, 2011

Those in attendance: Amy Hanson, NJCF; Barbara Phillips, NRCS; Bob Frieberger, Grain & Forage Assoc.; Brad Smith, TNC; Charles Roohr, NJDA; Christine Hall, NRCS; Dave Clapp, NJDA; Dominck Mondi, NJ Nursery & Landscape Assoc.; Don Pettit, NRCS; Fran DeFiccio, NRCS; Janice Reid, NRCS; John Gibbons, NJASS; Ken Klipstein, NJWSA; Kristina Heinemann, USEPA; Liz Thompson, NJFB; Maria Collazo, NRCS; Marie Banasiak, NJFB; Mike Westendorf, NJAES; Nancy Coles, FSA; Sam Conard, Farmer; Tim Dunne, NRCS

WELCOME:
The meeting was called to order at 10:00am by Don Pettit, State Conservationist. Don welcomed everyone to the meeting and introductions were made.

MINUTES:
Both the March and June meeting minutes were reviewed and accepted. Janice Reid pointed out that the date on the June meeting minutes was the March date and it had already been corrected.

NRCS/USDA BUDGET STATUS:
Don gave a brief update on the status of the budget. He mentioned that both the House and Senate have passed 2012 budget bills; both have cuts to USDA but the Senate bill is more favorable with a $43 million cut, resulting in a $19.7 million budget. There is no watershed rehabilitation program included in either version. It is expected that a continuing resolution will be passed before October 1.
Don also spoke about the effects of Hurricane Irene. NRCS staff has been evaluating the damage from the hurricane for the Emergency Watershed Program. Limited funds for exigency work (issues with an imminent threat to public safety) have been provided to affected states. Non-exigency situations are also being evaluated and will be submitted for approval at a later time.

OLD BUSINESS:
PROGRAM SUBCOMMITTEE UPDATE

New Policy Recommendation: Janice presented the new 2012 EQIP Pre-Screening. NJ would like to institute a policy to address those applicants that have a terminated contract. Any applicant with a terminated contract within the last 3 years would not be eligible. If the applicant feels that they should not be prohibited from submitting an application, because the reason for contract termination was out of their control or for another valid reason, they may send a request in writing to the State Conservationist to explain the situation and request relief from the policy. Reference information for setting this policy is from EQIP Contract Appendix, Section 14 D 1(d).

OUTREACH SUBCOMMITTEE UPDATE
Barb Phillips reported that the committee is working on outreaching to underserved groups who may be interested in CSP and WRP. That work continues.
Barb also reminded Committee members that the Google calendar is available and should be used to post partner meeting and important deadlines. Using the calendar will help avoid scheduling conflicts, help keep everyone informed of each other’s activities, and provide opportunities for cross training or outreach activities.
Barb mentioned that NRCS will be participating in the New Jersey Vegetable Growers Association meeting and the NJ Plant Show to be held in January (both meetings are being put on by multiple groups this year).

FSA PROGRAM UPDATE
Nancy Coles gave an update of the Farm Service Agency programs – CRP, CREP, and SAFE. (see attachment)

WELL-HEAD PROTECTION PRACTICE
Kristina Heinemann followed up on an idea she expressed at the last meeting by providing information about how Indiana is promoting well head protection (WHP) through CRP. Nancy Coles discussed how several states in the Midwest have received approval to include additional eligible land in their WHP program; NJ would be limited to cropland within a 2,000 foot radius around the well head. NRCS looked at the data available from NJDEP on well head locations, overlain by cropland acres. The preliminary indication is that there is very limited overlap, meaning little eligible land.
STATUS OF 2011 FARM BILL PROGRAM FUNDS & OBLIGATIONS
Fran DeFiccio presented a handout of the status of 2011 Farm Bill program funds & obligations. She covered the number of applications in EQIP, WHIP, AMA, and AWEP. (see attached)

WRP PROGRAM STATUS
Janice gave an update of the WRP program. All 2010 funded easements are now closed and restoration is being planned. Four offers were made and accepted for 2011. Restoration at the Duke site, which closed in 2010, is set to begin shortly. She also presented the Restoring America’s Wetlands: A Private Lands Conservation Success Story, which includes a story from New Jersey.

NJ and NATIONAL CIG UPDATE
Christine Hall gave an update of the current NJ and National Conservation Innovation Grants. There were 52 national CIG awards; 10 of these were in the Mid-Atlantic and one (Sure Harvest) will include at least one site in NJ being used to develop a sustainability index for specialty cropland. In the statewide competition, we had 8 applications this year. After the peer review committee met, four of these were recommended for funding. One of the four determined they could not meet our requested revisions to their proposal and therefore 3 state CIGs will be funded this year. Once the awards are official, information will be posted on the website.

NEW BUSINESS:
FRPP STATE PLAN
Don reviewed the 2012-2015 FRPP state plan; it has been placed on the NJ NRCS website. The plan calls for NJ requesting $9 million per year in FRPP to protect 1800 acres, with 1100 acres being prime & important soils. Overall, NJ expects to preserve through the state and non-profit programs upwards of 8,000 acres per year with an average value of just under $10,000 per acre.

WRP 2012 GEOGRAPHIC AREA RATE CAP
The committee reviewed the results of the 2012 market survey update and noted the decline in land values found. All values are still above our 2011 Geographic Area Rate Cap (GARC), and the committee felt that the importance of the potential sites to wildlife habitat in the target areas of Burlington, Ocean, Cumberland and Salem counties in meeting the goals of the state wildlife action plan were important enough to justify the maintaining the GARC rates as is.

GRP 2012 GEOGRAPHIC AREA RATE CAP
NJ has not had any applicants for GRP easements since 2004. Because of this, we have determined that an annual market analysis is not practical, and have used “80% of the appraised value” as our GARC. Experience from other states, however, has led to a recommendation that we set a maximum cap on the value that would be offered. The committee reviewed NASS data that showed a decline in the pasture land value from $16,800/acre in 2007 to $13,900/acre in 2011. It was noted that these values are higher than those in the WRP market analysis, however WRP targets more marginal land that has a lower development value.
After some discussion, the committee determined that $10,000 was a reasonable cap to use for potential applicants of high value grasslands, while maintaining the 80% of appraised value as the GARC for lands of lower value.

NEW OPPORTUNITIES IN 2012
Don mentioned that high tunnels have been offered and paid for in other states. An interim standard was developed three years ago for this practice. All states may be mandated to offer this practice in FY 2012.

2012 PAYMENT SCHEDULES FOR EQIP, WHIP, and AMA
Fran explained that NRCS uses payment schedules scenarios to describe how conservation practices are implemented in typical situation and to support payments to program participants. In July a decision was made to nationalize and automate payment schedules with the primary objective of achieving more consistency in scenarios and costs across states. NJ was included in an 11 state region spanning from Maryland to the New England states. It was decided to split that region in two and now NJ is with Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New York. Fifteen practices are in the process of being reviewed and a maximum of 8 scenarios must be agreed on. The 15 practices chosen were based on the most implemented practices nationwide. They are: Fence; Brush Management; Nutrient Management; Pipeline; Pest Management; Cover Crop; Trough or Tank; Forest Stand Improvement; Heavy Use Area Protection; Shallow Water for Wildlife; Prescribed Grazing; Pasture & Hayland Planting; Irrigation System, Sprinkler; Pumping Plant for Water Control; and Wildlife Upland Habitat Management. Other practices remaining for FY 2012 will use the existing FY 2011 payment schedule. There may be changes submitted for practices other than the 15 mentioned but they must meet the same criteria as those currently being worked on.

OPEN DISCUSSION:
Dave Clapp – Monique asked Dave to mention that the state cost share program is out of money.

Bob Freiberger – Mentioned that the life span of a hay planting is too long. The old ACP had a lifespan of 5 years, now the lifespan is 10 years.

Dominick Mondi – appreciative of the invitation to participate as now approximately 600 nursery growers in the association will receive information on the programs presented.

Amy Hanson – Amy mentioned that she heard that the USDA programs may be combine and asked for input. Don said that he has no details on that.

Kristina Heinemann – mentioned the upcoming EPA rule deadline for the spill prevention and counter measures for storage of oil. Storage threshold rule to be completed by 11/2011.

Nancy Coles – mentioned that Paul Hlubik, FSA State Director, participated in a Meet & Greet at the NJ State fair. Information can be found at: www.countyfolks.com

Brad Smith – TNC continues to have an interest in the CIG program for NJ.

Mike Westendorf – is working with the DC’s on CNMP’s. He encourages applicants to look at the TSP web-site. NJ Department of Agriculture & DEP changed rules on farm composting and hopefully materials will be available soon.

Marie Banasiak – reported that some farms were impacted by hurricane Irene and Farm Bureau has told those farmers to work with their local extension office.

Liz Thompson – mentioned that the annual Farm Bureau convention will be held November 14th & 15th at the Westin off of Rt. 1. FB is starting to work on policy for that meeting.

John Gibbons – mentioned that the data layer used for cropland in our well head analysis may not be as accurate as we think; it might be worth looking at again.

Ken Klipstein – joked that it looks like we will have plenty of water in the reservoirs going into next season after this fall’s rain. He also mentioned that Tim Dunne did a great job at a recent meeting he attended explaining NRCS programs.

Barb Phillips – mentioned the ongoing Women’s and Hispanic claim process.

Chuck Roohr – mentioned that the governor signed an appropriation bill for farm land preservation. He thanked NRCS for the tremendous help the department has received dealing with some issues in the central part of the state. He also requested a fact sheet for the NRCS impervious cover regulation.

Christine Hall – reminded everyone that the Clinton office has closed and the updated contact information for the employees that were there can be found on our web page.

NEXT MEETING DATE:
Wednesday, December 7th @ 10:00 am in the NRCS State Office.
The meeting was adjourned @ 12:30 pm.


New Jersey State Technical Committee Minutes Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Those in Attendance: Mike Westendorf, NJAES Laura Gladney, NJAES Charles Roohr, NJDA Stefanie Miller, NJDA Brad Smith, TNC Eric Schrading, USF&WS Elizabeth Ciuzio, USF&WS Nancy Coles, FSA Paul Hlubik, FSA Barbara Phillips, NRCS Tim Dunne, NRCS Dan Mull, NRCS Janice Reid, NRCS Don Pettit, NRCS Fran DeFiccio, NRCS Lauren Rega, NRCS Christine Hall, NRCS Howard Henderson, RD Kristina Heinemann, USEPA Kathleen Savino-Foley, USEPA Shandreel Anderson, USEPA Ken Sickman, Morris County SCD Lori, Jenssen, NJ Forestry Assoc. Troy Joshua, NJASS Kathleen Hitchner, NJDEP Nick Zripko, NJDEP Harold Nebling, NJDEP Liz Thompson, NJFB Marie Banasiak, NJFB Nicole Goger, NJFB Kelly Munz, Centenary College

The meeting was called to order at 10:24 a.m. Donald Petit welcomed everyone and expressed appreciation to the Centenary College Equestrian Center and Alstede Farms for allowing us the opportunity to have a State Technical Committee conservation tour. He expressed excitement for the tour and the ability for everyone to see what NRCS and our partners are doing to get conservation on the ground.

March meeting minutes review was deferred to the next meeting.

NRCS/USDA 2011 Budget Status

NRCS along with other USDA agencies saw a significant impact in the FY 2011 budget. NRCS involvement with the Resource Conservation and Development Councils (RC&D) has been defunded. NRCS is currently working on an orderly close-out of the program. RC&D, as a non-profit organization, can provide a way for local residents to work together and actively solve environmental, economic and social problems within the community. New Jersey has two RC&D Councils (North and South). NRCS provided a coordinator to oversee the organization of RC&D projects along with office space and supplies. The RC&D councils will still exist, but NRCS will no longer be involved.

In addition to the RC&D program, the Small Watershed Projects program was defunded. New Jersey has not recently been involved in this program. The Dam Rehabilitation program was funded through the 2011 budget, but there is speculation that the program may be defunded in 2012.

Because the budget was not received until mid-year into the FY 2011 budget, the cuts were amplified over a 6 month period. We must submit our budget for remainder of FY 2011 within the next week.

NJ NRCS has begun making reductions in our budget in anticipation for potential reductions in 2012. We are making reductions and trimming costs such as travel and supplies. All attempts will be made to not reduce the workforce. Because we are anticipating more cuts for next year, we are trying to minimize our costs now.

We are fortunate to have good partnerships that share personnel costs. These partnerships are a win-win, and we would like to continue to have those partnerships.

A Buy-Out program was offered to those affected by defunding and a department-wide early-out program was also offered. There is speculation that an early-out program will continue with expected cuts in the FY 2012 budget.

In addition, we are closing the Clinton Field Support Office. This office housed 4 RC&D employees, 1 NRCS RC&D coordinator, 3 NRCS technical specialists, and 3 Rural Development employees. The NRCS employees will be dispersed to other field offices. This move will save overhead expenses and prevent reductions in our workforce.

Howard Henderson echoed Don’s concerns for this year’s and next year’s budgets for RD as well.

Old Business
CRP, CREP, SAFE, GRP

Nancy Coles handed out a status report on CRP, CREP, and SAFE as of the end of May 2011.

Total CRP contracts increased by 22; including 23 new practices and 171.5 acres. Rental payments increased by $14,000.

CREP contracts now total 167, including 4.7 acres of waterways and 32.9 acres of filter strips. The average contract rate has increased $1.10 perhaps due to better soils.

SAFE is separated into three project areas. The Heritage project area increased by 43.3 acres and has an offer of 24.2 acres. The Grassland project area now has 297 contracted acres, up by 109.3 acres. The Raritan-Piedment area has increased by 45 acres (through 3 contracts). There are currently 4 offers to be contracted. If all offers are accepted, then approximately half of the project area will be contracted. CP38E-1 and CP38E-2 were added to the practice list.

Total CRP payments issued to date (not included cost-share) is $362,881.12.

GRP payments issued in 2011 to date for prior year contracts totaled $28,679. Payments on prior year contracts occur on the anniversary date of the contract so not all 2011 payments have been made. For 2011, FSA is working on 7 new contracts totaling $87,871.

A question was posed about whether well-head protection would be a feasible practice in NJ. Janice Reid responded explaining that the practice applies to where farming is done up to and could be affecting a public water supply, and does not appear to be a common practice in NJ.

New Business
State Resource Assessment

Tim Dunne gave an overview of the quick, intensive State Resource Assessment (SRA) Project. Fortunately for the project, Christine Hall was available to contribute to the SRA and played a critical role in completing the project. The purpose of the SRA is to help National and State Leadership have guidance on resource objectives. The findings will potentially help with funding and priority area decisions.

The SRA focused on nine major resource concerns. Under those nine major resource concerns, 31 natural resource concerns were identified. For example, under the major resource concern soil quality, there are three natural resource concerns: 1) Sheet, rill, and wind erosion, 2) Concentrated flow erosion, 3) Excessive bank erosion from streams, shorelines, or water conveyance channels. Of the 31, New Jersey chose 20 natural resource concerns that we felt were relevant to NJ conditions.

For each natural resource concern, we had to overlay that information with the different land uses: cropland, pastureland, forestland, and other associated agricultural land. We want to extend our appreciation regarding all the assistance that other organizations were able to provide, especially under such short notice.

We produced 20 maps to depict where the resource concerns are located. The maps depict a new emphasis on forestlands. The goal is to determine areas that are at risk and overlay that information with work that has been done and what needs treatment.

The STC survey ranked what natural resource concerns were most important for each land use. Thank you for all of the responses. We received 34 responses with the survey. The top three natural resource concerns for each land use are:

  • Cropland: Soil Erosion, Water Quality Degradation, Soil Quality Degradation

  • Pastureland: Water Quality Degradation, Soil Quality Degradation, Degraded Plant Condition

  • Forestland: Degraded Plant Condition, Inadequate Habitat for Fish and Wildlife

  • Other Associated Ag Land: Water Quality Degradation, Inefficient Energy Use, Soil Erosion

All information regarding the NJ SRA can be found on the New Jersey NRCS website at http://www.nj.nrcs.usda.gov/technical/sra2011/index.html. The SRA is likely to continue in following years and may be part of the funding formula. It could change how we do business by focusing our efforts on areas of concern.

Next Meeting Date

The next meeting will be held on September 14, 2011, at 10:00 a.m. in the Somerset State Office.

Conservation Tour

Kelly Munz led a short tour of the Centenary College Equine facilities, including the new waste storage facility and access road. Attendees then moved to Alstede Farms in Chester, where Kurt Alstede provided wagon tour of the farm’s fields and conservation practices. The meeting adjourned at 2:45 PM.


New Jersey State Technical Committee Minutes Thursday, March 10, 2011

Donald Pettit welcomed everyone at 10:00 a.m. Donald Pettit introduced himself and explained his background prior to New Jersey. Introductions were made.

Those in Attendance: Amy Hansen, NJCF Audrey Moore, USEPA Region 2 Brad Smith, The Nature Conservancy Charles Roohr, SADC Christine Hall, NRCS Craig Chianese, NRCS Dan Mull, NRCS David Clapp, NJDA Donald Pettit, NRCS Elizabeth Ciuzio, USFWS Fran Grasso, NRCS Gail Bartok, NRCS Howard Henderson, RD Janice Reid, NRCS Justine Cook, NOFA Karen Sykes, US Forest Service Ken Klipstein, NJ Water Supply Authority Kristina Heineman USEPA Region 2 Lauren Rega, NRCS Liz Thompson, Farm Bureau Marie Banasiak, Farm Bureau MaryBeth Sorrentino, NRCS Nancy Coles, FSA Nicole Ciccaglione, NRCS Paul Hlubik, FSA Sam Conard, Farmer Sam Garrison, NJ Forestry Association Tim Dunne, NRCS Troy Joshua, NASS

December meeting minutes were reviewed and accepted with two corrections. Troy Joshua works for NASS not NJAS. Nancy requested the word “funding” be added to the 2nd paragraph under CRP (Old Business). The changes were noted.

NRCS/USDA 2011 Budget Status

Don informed the group that no official budget has been passed by Congress. Another continuing resolution was extended until the 18th, but no final verdict has been reached concerning the FY 2011 budget. NRCS programs that may see potential negative impact are the watershed programs and the RC&D program. Farm bill programs may see an increase in funding. At this time, it is all speculation until the budget is passed.

Paul Hlubik discussed the issues with the FSA programs regarding the FY 2011 budget. Some of their programs are hindered by the continuing resolution. FSA is looking at the differences between the current budget proposals to look at overlapping areas and see the possibilities of what could be impacted. FSA is taking action to move in those directions. Funding for conservation loans may be reduced. All of the agencies and service centers have been proactive in New Jersey at developing efficiencies and should easily adapt to any changes.

Howard Henderson spoke positively that fortunately, Rural Development’s agricultural programs are value added programs and funding will likely continue. The housing programs will likely be impacted, but overall, agricultural programs will probably be maintained.

Troy Joshua mentioned that NASS has been working on efficiency. NASS is reducing the number of people in field offices. Data collection using technology and efficiency is becoming more streamlined. Some studies have been cut, namely the studies on aquaculture and sheep and goats. NASS is trying to streamline data through efficiency without cutting studies.

Old Business
CRP, CREP, SAFE

Nancy Coles handed out a status report on CRP, CREP, and SAFE. Nancy reported that the general sign-up for CRP will open on March 14, 2011 and run for 5 weeks (until Friday, April 15, 2011). CRP typically involves large acreage for wildlife habitat practices compared to the Continuous CRP programs, which are typically on smaller acreage. FSA plans to target the 14 retiring CRP contracts for re-signup. Three of the retiring contracts are continuous, but 11 of the contracts are in the general category.

Since 2005, CREP has brought in 158 contracts. Under SAFE, we currently have contracts for 33% of the 300 acres is in the Heritage area, 70% of the 400 acres in the NJ Grassland area, and 31% of the 300 acres in the Raritan-Piedment area.

FY 2011 CRP Payments issued (does not include cost share) is $335,026.12.

Nancy asked for input on a seeding mix that needs to be approved nationally for the CP42 Pollinator State Standard. She handed out two seed mixes for Northern New Jersey and Southern New Jersey developed with the help of Tim Dunne. Seeding mixes had to contain a minimum of 9 species of pollinator friendly plants which can include flowers, legumes, shrubs, etc. Trees are not eligible. More than 9 species are encouraged. The northern mix has 17 and the southern mix as 16. Committee needs to endorse the seed mix so that it can be sent for approval.

Sam Conard posed the question about the potential problem with milkweed being in the mix. Tim Dunne responded that the species mix should be proposed with guidance. Planners will need to be aware of planting near hayland. Milkweed can be taken out of the planting mix for those areas. Technical guidance and fact sheets will need to be distributed with the seed mix for planters. Not all species will need to be included in the mix, but they will need to meet specific requirements regarding bloom onset and other requirements.

Nancy expressed the purpose of the CP42 is for diversity of the pollinator species. It can be implemented on large acreage or a minimum of half an acre. They prefer block plantings, but can be in strips at least 20 feet wide. The average rental rate for NJ SAFE is about the same as general sign-up rates. SAFE is not competitive and is based on a first come first serve basis; once the acreage limit is reached, they are done. The committee approved the species list.

GRP

FY 2011 GRP available funding is $207,595. There were 8 eligible applications that completed ranking. FSA will be developing contracts soon. For existing GRP contracts, 2011 payments issued have been $27,275.

WRP Easement Acquisition Status

Janice reported that we had 3 WRP easements funded in 2010. Two closed on December 28, 2010; one for 326.57 acres in Atlantic County where restoration was completed under an earlier agreement; and the other for 22.95 acres in Hunterdon County. Restoration there will begin in 2012. The third application requested a delay of the closing. WRP has about $1.2 million this year with applications now being reviewed at the local offices.

Our 2011 Geographic Area Rate Caps (GARC), done by region (North, Central, South), were submitted for approval at the same amounts as last year. They were not approved; we need to provide additional justification of the habitat needs. This should be completed shortly so that we can make offers to landowners.

Results of our “How’re We Doing” questionnaire

Janice Reid reported the results from the “How’re we doing?” questionnaire. Janice commented that it was nice to see that everyone views the work positively. Comments were made that more work with landowners should be done offseason. To the best of their ability, contracting and planning is done in the fall and winter to not interfere with planting.

Donald Pettit thanked everyone for the positive feedback and for their dedication and commitment. Don expressed that the report is important to help NRCS work to simplify processes for landowners and for employees. There is a national streamlining initiative to try to get employees into the field to improve efficiencies by producing better computer programs to reduce the time spent entering information. Don expressed that NRCS takes this questionnaire very seriously and it helps dictate the way we do business.

New Business
CRP/CREP/SAFE Outreach

Paul Hlubik expressed concern regarding outreach for conservation programs. FSA has a very small staff in New Jersey. The public relations person covering NJ covers 16 states and is based out of Ohio. Maintaining a public presence and attending meetings are important outreach opportunities for most FSA programs. However, outreach for CRP/CREP/SAFE is a separate challenge. Somehow, they need to work with partnerships to encourage participation in the programs. Previous outreach efforts for SAFE were successful. CREP is the success story with the most potential.

Potential ideas that Paul discussed were to hold a media campaign, hold local meetings with producers, and establish a mobile conservation team. Paul suggested that NRCS and FSA employees work together when applicants come in the office, so both technical and administrative questions could be answered. Paul Hlubik is looking for ideas and commitments from the partnership.

A concern was mentioned about conservation programs/practices in correlation to the state Farmland Preservation program. Some practices are perceived to be contradictory to the farmland preservation deed. Charles Roohr will work with Dave Clapp and Tim Dunne on developing guidelines for determining what practices are eligible and not eligible and under what conditions.

Don Pettit suggested the idea of having an educational tour to educate the members of the state technical committee on conservation practices. There could be significant benefit for non NRCS groups to understand installed practices and operations.

Role of State Technical Committee in the New Farm Bill

Don Pettit reviewed the purpose of the State Technical Committee; to advise the State Conservationist and help him make decisions on programs by providing local input from diverse sources. The State Technical Committee determines the state resource concerns and provides input to standards and specifications. An important facet is the relationship between the State Technical Committee and the working groups. Under the new farm bill local working groups are considered a sub-committee. It puts the State Technical Committee in a position of monitoring the local work groups.

Several groups are invited to participate in the State Technical Committee Meetings, including USDA agencies, the Forest Service, Cooperative Extension Service, Association of Districts. Groups and/or individuals can become members by sending a letter expressing their interest and background.

Any recommendations coming from subcommittees need to be discussed at the STC meetings because the STC meetings are the public meetings.

Meetings can be also be requested by organizations if they feel it is appropriate. To do so, they should contact Don Pettit.

Janice mentioned how the programs subcommittee established the formula for resource concerns. The Resource concerns were weighted based on their relative importance in the State. The subcommittee had input on that formula. The subcommittee used statistical reports to determine the values.

WHIP State plan 2011-2015

Fran handed out copies of the new Plan and reported on the changes. The subcommittee met in February to discuss changes. They added a paragraph at the beginning of the plan stating what the plan is addressing. They added national priorities and added a habitat priority (woodland habitat). A section on species benefited was added under each habitat priority. The ‘practices to be emphasized’ list is a list of practices that could typically be used, but does not mean that they have to offer all of the practices on the list.

The State plan gives the broad guidance for how we should frame the WHIP plan in NJ. There are six habitat priorities. There are seven listed on the state fact sheet. The national guidance is broad. Guidance is more specific on the state level. The plan is the basis for setting up the program.

Status of 2011 program obligations

Janice reported on the status of the 2011 program obligations. The contracting workload should be finished before the planting season starts. WHIP funds are at 99% obligated; we requested additional funds to fund six more applicants. AMA is 66% obligated; however, there will only be 2 contracts with the small amount of funding available.

EQIP is at 55% obligated. Some of the funding was earmarked for the air quality initiative. The organic initiative deadlines are set by the national office; no funds have yet been obligated. Additionally, we are waiting on several large contracts that need to be sent to the national level for approval.

FRPP decisions have been made, but have not been able to obligate the funds. The national template needed to be revised; we can sign no agreements until the revised template is received from headquarters.

NJ CIG Peer Review Panel

The CIG deadline is Friday. Janice is looking for volunteers to be on the review panel. Contact Janice if interested. Janice will review applications to make sure all required documentation is in the plans. In order to be on review panel, all members must sign a confidentiality agreement. Once signed, the proposals can be sent for review. Review will be done in March, then the peer review panel will meet to make their recommendations to Don for funding.

Cost Recovery Policy

Don Pettit discussed the cost recovery policy. Occasionally, action needs to be made on contracts that have not followed the requirements as set forth in the contract. Cancellation is a mutual agreement in the best interest of both parties. Termination is an adverse reaction from the agency based on ineligibility, land ownership changes, etc. The goal is to be as consistent and fair as possible when making the decision on how to end the contract agreement. In either case, there are options: 1) NRCS can ask for the money to be returned, 2) NRCS can ask for the money returned with interest, or 3) NRCS can request liquidation damages, which is a flat 10% of the value of the contract for costs such as technical assistance. There are certain conditions under which a cancellation can be approved such as a death or major illness, severe financial distress, natural disaster, or with input from the state technical committee.

Don reported that in 2010, we had about 700 contracts. Of that 700, 9 were terminated, 5 of them were terminated with no cost recovery, 4 were terminated with cost recovery. Cost recovery is an appealable action. One contract had the cost recovery waived based on appeal. One had the cost reduced based on request for reconsideration. The other two were either not appealed or were not adjusted. Ultimately the State Conservationist makes the call on what contracts are cancelled or terminated and what action is taken. Don Pettit stressed that the guidelines should be uniform throughout the state.

Open Discussion

Troy Joshua handed out the new 2010 publication on fruit and vegetable ranking statistics. Normally we are ranked number 2 in blueberries, but this year we dropped to number 4. The renewable energy project was published. 139 producers participate in on-farm renewable energy. New Jersey has the highest solar panel cost installation in the nation at around $113,000. Troy also has children’s coloring/activity books that are available with statistics about New Jersey. Send Troy an email if you would like to receive the coloring book in your area. Steve Peterson has relocated to Florida. His replacement is John Gibbons, who will be coming to State Technical Committee meetings in the future.

Paul Hlubik spoke on behalf of all USDA agencies for Secretary Vilsack. Secretary Vilsack feels very strongly that we would like to close the chapter on any negative history that we have had with discrimination. The administration and the Department of Justice have decided to be very proactive. They set up a process to move forward so that claimants can get up to 50,000 if they felt they were discriminated against and can document their discrimination. The number to call is 888-508-4429. Recommend that individuals call the phone number for advice.

Liz Thompson reported that the farm bureau is in the midst of hosting educational programs for electricity rates (working with Rutgers and RC&D) on how they can reduce energy costs. They held two forums already, one in South Jersey and another in Central. Another one is slated to be held in Hunterdon.

Amy Hanson requested info on the status of the soil health committee and asked if NRCS will be involved in setting standards for the soil health bill that just passed. Tim Dunne responded that NRCS is involved and Dave Lamm is a committee member.

Kristina Heineman discussed compliance with the oil spill prevention control and counter measure (SPCC) program. She is unsure how many farmers in NJ are affected. A fair amount of outreach has already been done. If there is an opportunity, someone can come speak about the requirements. There is plenty more information that can be sent out. An exemption has already been sent and should be finalized soon.

Kristina also reported that the pesticide general permit has been extended to October 31st, 2011. During April 9th to October, permits will not be required.

There was a pesticide education grant that went to Rutgers to explore the ideas of implementing IPM based tools to reduce pesticide in cranberries.

Beth Ciuzio mentioned a workshop that was done last week to spark interest in the Wetland Reserve Program, hosted by the South Jersey Land and Water Trust. There is a real interest in the Oldman’s Creek watershed. About 30 people attended. In terms of WRP, we received 7 potential contacts. Hopefully more contracts will come from the event.

Dave Clapp reported that only 278 animal waste management plans have been submitted under the state’s Animal Waste Management requirements. Dave stressed that if an opportunity is available to remind livestock producers that they should at least be following the basic requirements of the rule. They are now required to be following the basic requirements. They have already received some issues from the DEP hotline, and all further issues will now be forward to them to resolve.

Howard Henderson discussed installation cost factors of the renewable energy program. New regulations will be coming out the end of the month to simplify the application process for small $ applications. The emphasis is on new technology, less of an emphasis on grain dryers. Renewable energy program is for small businesses and agricultural producers. The rural area definition no longer applies to agricultural producers; if you are an agricultural producer, you no longer have to meet the rural designation.

Howard Henderson also mentioned the value added producer grant program. New regulations were issued last month simplifying the rules. If you add value to the crop you can get grant assistance; however proposals compete nationally.

Justine Cook thanked NRCS for the support with their conference held in January. Justine sends monthly e-blasts to around 300 organic farmers. Send Justine information if you would like it to be added into the monthly e-blast.

Sam Garrison announced that this year is the international year of the forest and there will be activities to celebrate forests. The NJ Forest Service is now putting together a program to celebrate the event. One of the major continuing issues with forests in NJ is the debate on the appropriate management of forests based on different interests. Sam recommended an educational one hour DVD that tells the story of what a forest can do for us and what a forest needs if we want them to produce and be sustainable over time. Copies of the DVD are available for a small cost.

Christine mentioned that there will be a pollinator workshop at the Rutgers Snyder Farm on Thursday April 21 from 9-4. More information can be found on the North Jersey RC & D website or the NJ NRCS website.

Next Meeting Date

The next meeting will be held on June 8th, at 10:00 a.m. in the Somerset State Office.