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New Jersey State Technical Committee
Minutes of December 4, 2012

Those in Attendance: Andrew Burnett, NJ Div. of Fish & Wildlife Audrey Moore, US EPA Region 2 Charles Roohr, NJ SADC Christine Hall, NRCS Dave Clapp, NJDA Dean Collamer, Growmark FS Elizabeth Ciuzio, USFWS Eric Schrading, USFWS Joe Dunn, Morris SCD John Cecil, NJ Audubon John Parke, NJ Audubon Kathy Hale, NJWSA Kristina Heinemann, US EPA Region 2 Lauren Rega, NRCS Liz Thompson, NJ Farm Bureau Marie Banasiak, NJ Farm Bureau Nancy Coles, FSA Paul Hlubik, FSA Richard Shaw, NRCS Sheila Hall, Morris SCD

Welcome:

Carrie Mosley, State Conservationist, welcomed everyone to the last 2012 State Technical Committee meeting at 10:15 am. Carrie is the new State Conservationist for New Jersey. She has a history working with NRCS in Montana, Idaho, and Arizona. She has been responsible for managing State Technical Committee meetings in Montana and understands how valuable the State Technical Committee is to NRCS.

Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Status - Carrie Mosley

It has been an interesting year for NRCS with a pending Farm Bill. There are a lot of unknowns this year. We are currently operating under a continuing resolution that goes through March. NRCS received continuing resolution budgets, so we now know the money that we will be receiving through March. There is a reduction to the budget for the continuing resolution. Some programs are not authorized until an action is taken. Those programs include CRP, WRP, GRP, and HFRP. In the meantime, we will be moving forward and proceeding with the programs that remain such as WHIP, EQIP, AMA, AWEP, and FRPP. Our FRPP dollars remain comparable to previous years. EQIP has been the hardest hit program for reduction.

The payment schedule will be finalized and available by the end of the week. Ranking will be uploaded this week and the ranking will happen in January. We will continue to move forward with the hiccups and proceed as we can.

Paul Hlubik asked how much EQIP has been reduced. Carrie Mosley indicated that EQIP has been reduced to about 80% of the prior year funding level, which equates to about a million less.

A question was posed about WHIP – Working Lands for Wildlife. The Working Lands for Wildlife program is continuing to move forward.

September meeting minutes review and acceptance – Christine Hall

Christine Hall requested comments and acceptance on the September Meeting Minutes. Elizabeth Ciuzio’s comments were received about the WRP – GARC and will be incorporated into the September Minutes. The minutes with the proposed corrections were reviewed and accepted.

Old Business

Program Subcommittee Update – Christine Hall

The screening criteria and state criteria for ranking of EQIP were finalized. We reprioritized some of the questions to standardize the total points. We are still waiting for guidance on the National Water Quality Initiative. Since the programs subcommittee asked about the wildlife related practices and what funding pool they would be ranked in, we have since renamed the forest funding pool to forest and wildlife and there will be wildlife specific ranking questions added there.

            Action: NRCS will rename the Forest funding pool to Forest and Wildlife funding pool and add wildlife related ranking questions for EQIP ranking 2013

There are two vacant positions: State Resource Conservationist and the Assistance State Conservationist for Programs. It may be a few months before we have an idea of who the selection will be.

CRP, CREP, SAFE Activity – Nancy Coles

There is no reauthorization for the CRP program as of October 1st. There is no approval for new offers or contracts. We can continue to make payments on sign-in and incentive payments, rental payments, and cost-share payments that are already in the works. CRP costs are estimates, but we are unable to pay more than what was estimated at this time.

As of November 2012, CRP has 320 practices enrolled with 299 contracts and annual rental payments of $172, 544. The number went down because some of the contracts have expired. The contracts are either 10 or 15 year contracts. There is some reluctance to re-enroll the program. The heirs are not obligated to continue with the contract. We encourage them to continue to participate in the program, but they are not required to.

The average rental rate is $74.73.

By the end of September, 14 contracts were enrolled in CREP. Practices for CREP include Grassed Waterway, Filter Strip, and Riparian Buffers. There has been no interest in contour buffer strips. CREP is limited to environmentally sensitive lands, which is why the contracts are typically small with an average of around 3.7 acres and the average rental rate is higher at $136.10.

The SAFE program ended at the end of the fiscal year with 55 contracts, 2 are pending until we are authorized to act on them. The Agricultural Heritage and Habitat Conservation Plan areas have 6 contracts totaling 116.7 acres. The Grassland Habitat Restoration Management area has 37 approved contracts at 354.9 acres. The Raritan-Piedmont Wildlife Habitat Partnership area has 12 approved contracts totaling 176.5 acres.

On October 8, 2012, new acreage for SAFE was authorized. The anticipated increases are 150 acres for the Ag Heritage area, 250 for Raritan-Piedmont, and 350 for the Grassland area. All three project areas were increased. Thanks to everyone on the committee for helping to get the acreage increased.

Since October 1, CRP has issued $199,711. The ECP program has issued $73,049. GRP has issued $21,724. Two new contracts were added to GRP in 2012.

A question/comment was raised regarding sign-up issues. It was recommended that FSA have better information on the website and on fact sheets for the program. The fact sheets are more applicable to how partnerships are involved and less clear for what is required for producers. The producers want to see how the program works. Also, there is a disconnect between the tax assessor and farmland preservation that often gets in the way of sign-up. Is there a way to put information on the website for soils information and farmland preserved parcels being eligible for the program? Perhaps post a link on the website for where this information is available.

Joe Dunn expressed that the issue is with the 1964 statue in NJ being based on the old SCS programs and there has not been any new updates. The definitions aren’t dovetailing with the new NRCS. There are meetings now to discuss how the definitions can be modified. They are trying to define what is and what isn’t classified as farmland assessment.

WRP Program status & FY13 Rate Cap - Christine Hall

At this time, we are unable to accept new applications, but we are continuing to work on the ones that were accepted last year. We closed on 81 acres in Sussex County in November. This brings the state total to 15,634 acres now. We are also actively working on closing two new parcels, one in North Jersey and another in South Jersey.

We would like to continue our discussion on the Geographical Area Rate Caps (GARC) in anticipation of the WRP program. For WRP, we have different means that we could use to compensate the landowner. To simplify the process in NJ, we establish a rate cap. This is the amount that the producer would get paid to enroll their land in WRP. Per the guidance from NRCS headquarters, we conducted a market survey. In the past, the market survey contractor looked at recent sales. This year, we sent examples from other states and got a more thorough market survey report. We had them look at Warren and Hunterdon, Ocean and Burlington, and Salem and Cumberland. The Ocean/Burlington and Salem/Cumberland rates were so similar we decided to combine those and have a North and South Jersey rate. The rates are for cropland, wooded, specialty cropland (cranberry), and bog turtle. We have still not submitted our rate proposal to headquarters so it is still open to discussion. In south Jersey, we decided to pay about 90% of the average rate for cropland, which is now $3500. The data does not support the $4000 rate.

We would like to have more discussion of how we would like this to be done for future years. Right now we are looking at paying 90% of the value for cropland and 50% of the value for forestland. Some questions that we may have for future years: Where should our focus be? Are these rates reasonable? Are there other areas that we should be focusing on? Are we getting the projects that we want?

Carrie Mosley asked the State Technical Committee from their perspective, what are the key wetlands that they would like to see restored?

Discussion ensued regarding the push for bog turtle to be a component of WRP. The committee pushed for the WREP proposal and feels that as far as endangered species go, this is an important part. PA has been used as a good example of incorporating Bog Turtle as WRP. Cropland is important to highlight WRP restoration. There are other programs that help forestland, so they like targeting cropland and bog turtles. Sometimes the restoration projects in forestry are important, but they already have some value for wildlife as they are.

Elizabeth Ciuzio added that the way regulations are now there are more tools available for restoration on cropland. It is more difficult to restore forested wetlands.

Christine Hall mentioned that we will be looking at the market survey every year and we would like some discussions in the future of how we would like the market survey conducted. For example, we could include more counties in the data collection.

                Action: For the 2014 WRP Market Survey, NRCS will convene a subcommittee to discuss how we would like the survey developed.

A comment was posed that we could split the state into 6 areas. The appraiser may be able to use the data from NJ farmland preservation.

Some key notes to remember:

  • We cannot pay 100% of the fair market value
  • The specialty crops rate is only applicable to cranberry and blueberry
  • Cropland and pasture are combined.

 

590 Nutrient Management Standard - Carrie Mosley

The Nutrient Management standard has been around for a number of years and is a key practice that NRCS promotes and administers across the country. The national office issues broad, generic standards that each State then has the ability to modify the standard to fit their needs. The national standard changed in two key areas 1) when we make nitrogen recommendations based on the nitrogen content of the soil and 2) the application of manure on frozen soils. The state standard did not change much based on the new national standard.

Kristina Heinemann made some recommendations for the standard and Fred is incorporating those changes. For those that were interested in the changes, the draft standard was distributed after the meeting. The deadline for NJ to submit the standard is the end of the month and we believe we are on track to meet that deadline.

                Action: NRCS will incorporate State Technical Committee recommendations into the 590 standard prior to submission

Kristina Heinemann asked if there is a process that the standards are reviewed. Carrie was not aware of a formal process, but they are likely reviewed. We are able to add additional clarification to the national standards, but we cannot take anything out.

State Technical Committee Survey - Christine Hall

Discussion on the survey was tabled for the next meeting due to the time constraints.

New Business

Hurricane Sandy Disaster Recovery - Paul Hlubik

Paul Hlubik discussed that since the storm was at the end of the season, it did not impact most crops, but it did impact many producers. Many producers suffered physical damage to properties, buildings, forestland, fields, etc. After assessing the damage, NJ FSA requested 2 million in Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) money for Hackettstown, Columbus and Freehold. They were told that more money is available if needed and requested. The fisheries and nurseries industry was one of the most heavily hit. Two hatchers that supply 70-80% of the oysters and clams in the state were wiped out in the storm. We need to act quickly with the programs that we do have available. FSA has an emergency loan program offering 2.125% with up to 7 years terms except on normal operating capital. They are working with growers through the state. Livestock fencing was the only fencing that was considered under ECP. They are hoping to get deer fencing included in the listing. They are also looking into providing some assistance to rebuild the framework for high tunnels.

Howard Henderson mentioned that the only disaster program that RD has is the Emergency Community Water Assistance Grant Program. This program is for rural communities that suffered damage to their water system. The grants can go up to 500,000, but that is only after FEMA and any other assistance has been subtracted. FEMA has been everywhere. They have a couple thousand employees in the state working on all different aspects of recovery assistance. The governor is the overall coordinating entity over and above FEMA. The governor actually directs the resources. Governor Christie has been very involved in this process.

As far as disaster funds, NRCS has the Emergency Watershed Program. These funds can be accessed fairly quickly where there could be a lot of damage in a watershed, such as debris removal to limit damage in the future. Before the disaster, we were allocated 500,000 dollars in case we needed it. We have not used any of this money at this time. These are disaster funds, but we could also use regular program funds to manage systems that are not in emergency situations. For example, this could be an opportunity for a producer to completely redo a system that was wiped out to have it redesigned to be better.

Outreach workshops – lessons learned - Shelia Hall & Joe Dunn

Three of NJ’s Soil Conservation Districts (SCD) were asked to provide outreach to get the word out about NRCS opportunities and programs, especially with the new initiatives. The idea was to find new ways to reach our underserved farming community. They decided to host 3 workshops over the course of the year in North, Central, and South New Jersey. They tried using alternative sources to promote the workshops and target a new audience to come into their local USDA office.

They learned that the venue was important for the workshops. The soil quality and composting workshop held at the Genesis Farm got people to come from the organic farming community, and also had some attendance from alpaca farmers which is a new group of producers in the state. They are looking for a lot of information and sources of funding.

In October, the Morris SCD offered a forest landowner workshop in the evening. This workshop had a larger audience. They were fortunate to have Joe Dunn provide a mailing list to target forestry professionals to disseminate the information to landowners.

Lessons Learned from the workshops:

  • Fall and evening meetings were more successful than those during the growing season
  • Offer food, a light meal
  • Have a diverse group of speakers from different agencies. (At the forest workshop, they had USDA technical, NJ Audubon, and district representation)
  • Allow enough time for participants to ask questions

What they learned was not successful:

  • Newspapers
  • Offering workshops in areas without many agricultural activities
  • Not sticking to the allotted time

 

They are working to coordinate another workshop for December 20th. This will be a round table capturing the new USDA programs. It will be a 3 hour evening workshop. They are working with Dan Mull in Hackettstown for this workshop.

Sheila suggested for the future to use non-traditional outreach such as blogging and twitter to reach non-traditional customers. Using social media can help maintain the relationship with the producers. At Evergreen Farm, site of a Mercer SCD workshop, the venue was very important. The producers were looking forward to the opportunity to tour the farm. It was tailored to things that producers were interested in learning about.

Urban Soil Conservation Opportunities - Rich Shaw

Due to the meeting running behind, Rich will present at the next meeting.

Open Discussion

Howard Henderson reported that rural development has been busy with the disaster efforts helping with housing and economic assistance in rural areas. He welcomed Carrie to NJ and expressed that it was nice to have new leadership.

Nancy Coles thanked Christine for helping with the technical standards for the role out of their Emergency Conservation Program (ECP). FSA has been knee deep in ECP trying to get the standards to match up with the ECP information. Some of the things that Paul did mention are still in the works to be cleared by Washington at this time. The selling of grain in the state can get tied up, the Farm Storage Facility Loan program has been active. Started at 1, now up to 20 in NJ. An individual loan could be as much as 500k. FSA can help build these storage facilities and then help with the commodity that goes in those bins.

Joe Dunne expressed that as a district, they have been involved in regulation on construction projects, but they are trying to make a shift back to their more traditional roles, forestry and education, as development activities in NJ are reduced.

Sheila Hall reminded everyone that the last outreach workshop will take place on December 20th at the Morris County Cultural Center.

John Parke shared that NJ Audubon Society is playing a leadership role in the Raritan Piedmont Habitat Partnership. They are helping to promote the programs conservation programs and have a mini-loan program to help get conservation projects completed. NJAS has been very active with forestry activities. The completed a large plan in Plainsboro for forest stewardship. The Support Agricultural Viability and the Environment (S.A.V.E.) project is looking for more producers anywhere across the state interested in growing sunflowers for birdseed under the SAVE label. NJAS is looking for people that have more than 20 acres. If you have less than 20 acres the deer eat everything. The sunflowers also need to be a rotation.

Liz Thompson reported that NJ Farm Bureau elected a new president, Ryck Suydam. Rich has been president for 10 years and hit his term limit. Ryck is an 11th or 12th generation farmer in Somerset County. It will be interesting to what changes with the new leadership. Most of their members are “traditional” farmers, but they expect to see membership change and are happy to do outreach and help promote events. NJ Farm Bureau sends out a printed newsletter to over 7000 people. They would be happy to help promote certain items in the newsletter.

Eric Schrading stated that the US Fish and Wildlife Service is looking at cuts on a number of programs. They are also operating under a Continuing Resolution budget. Partners for Fish and Wildlife is static. They are looking at how the cuts will impact staffing and projects in the future. The Musconetcong River projects were nominated for a Coastal America award. An award ceremony will take place this spring and NRCS staff will be invited to attend.

Chuck Roohr posed a question asking who the new contact for FRPP is. Until Janice Reid retires, she will continue to be the FRPP contact person for current FRPP contracts. Any new fiscal year 2013 applications will be directed to Christine. Once an acting is named this may change. The SADC solar regulations comment period has ended. Up to this point, only roof top systems were approved. Regulations will now allow for 1 acre or 110% of last year’s energy demand either on the land or on the roof. There were no major comments that required major changes. The adoption schedule should be in January or February. It will go into the register and be official at that time.

Much discussion ensued regarding what is classified as cropland on preserved land. A subcommittee was created to discuss the tax issues and ensure clarification. An ad hoc committee was formed to review the conflicting rules and discuss training needs. The committee is comprised of: John Parke, Liz Thompson Joe Dunn, Kathy Hale, Eric Schrading and Chuck Roohr.

        Action: NRCS will coordinate a meeting of this committee

Kathy Hale reported that the Raritan Basin Mini-Grant program was finally approved by DEP. The application program will align with the watersheds in NJ NRCS’s Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP). They will do a soft roll-out in the first sign-up period and then will do heavier outreach during the second sign-up period.

Dave Clapp had previously reported that NJDA awarded three grants to different groups as part of the animal waste management grant (North Jersey RC&D, Wallkill Watershed, and RCE of Salem). The Wallkill Watershed grant is not going to go forward. NJDA received funding from NRCS to address the backlog of conservation plan requests for preserved farms. Dave also offered thanks to NRCS for continuing to support the Conservation Assistance Program (CAP) employees that are employed by the SCDs and jointly funded by NJDA and NRCS.

Dean Collamer said the nutrient management subcommittee in PA worked with Mark Goodsen, PA NRCS. They have quite a few field crop experiments underway and the last experiment should be harvested soon.

Kristina Heinemann asked what the status of the National Water Quality Initiative is. Christine Hall said that we received an allocation in our budget for the NWQI, but we have yet to hear any guidance. Kristina gave thumbs up on the Ken Burns documentary on the Dust Bowl.

Andrew Burnett from the Division of Fish and Wildlife expressed interest in participating in the State Technical Committee. He passed out brochures on Bobwhite Quail in NJ. He is the State Quail Coordinator. The Division used to have a private lands biologist, but now Andrew is doing that work. Results of the 2012 Quail Action Plan Landowner Survey were shared with the group.

Next Meeting Date

March 13, 2012 from 10:00 to 1:00 at the NRCS office in Somerset

Adjourn

Meeting adjourned at 12:45


New Jersey State Technical Committee Minutes - September 12, 2012

Those in attendance: Audrey Moore, USEPA Region 2, Barb Phillips, NRCS, Bob Ericksen, National Wild Turkey Federation, Christine Hall, NRCS, David Clapp, NJDA, Dean Collamer, Growmark FS, Dominick Mondi, NJNLA, Elizabeth Ciuzio, USFWS, Eric Schrading, USFWS, Fran Grasso, NRCS, Fred Kelly, NRCS, Gail Bartok, NRCS, Janice Reid, NRCS, John Cecil, NJ Audubon, John Gibbons, USDA, NASS, Justine Cook, NOFA NJ, Kathleen Hitchner, NJDEP, Kathy Hale, NJWSA, Kristina Heineman USEPA Region 2, Lauren Rega, NRCS, Liz Thompson, Farm Bureau, Mike Westendorf, RCE, Nancy Coles, FSA, Nancy Paolini, NRCS, Sam Conard, Farmer, Steve Eisenhauer, Natural Lands Trust

Welcome:

Janice Reid welcomed everyone at 10:05. Janice is hopeful that NJ NRCS will have a new State Conservationist for the next State Technical Committee meeting in December.

The June meeting minutes were emailed prior to the meeting and a few copies distributed. The minutes were reviewed and accepted as presented.

Old Business
Programs Subcommittee Update

Janice Reid reported the program funds for FY 2012. We ended receiving some extra money in AMA of around $218,000. With that, we were able to obligate 11 contracts.

In EQIP, we received $4.6 million with 206 contracts obligated. This is almost twice the contracts we typically have. Due to contracting changes and the national initiatives, we have more, small contracts. This is not what we’d like to see as it takes a lot of time to manage the contracts and we’d like to see our people out in the field as opposed to managing contracts in the office.

In WHIP, we ended up with a little over $207,000 dollars. We wanted to acknowledge out partners in helping us provide outreach for the new Working Lands for Wildlife Initiative with such a short turn around for the bog turtle and golden winged warbler. Our partners really stepped forward in helping with our outreach. We ended up with 10 signed contracts, 5 for each species.

In AWEP, we had a little over $60,000. Next year we will be trying something different with AWEP to hopefully increase sign up in the program. The sign up period for AWEP will be held concurrent with the general EQIP sign up. In the past, we have had the sign up after the general EQIP.

Compared to the other programs, with CSP we only obligate funds one year at a time. With the other programs, we obligate the entire contract up front. We have a total of 42 CSP contracts for $278,000 dollars.

Easement Programs:
For FRPP, we received an additional $1.1 million to bring the total to almost $8.9 million. We were able to fund 26 parcels with 3 entities. In WRP, we had over $1 million for new acquisitions, and obligated just over $200,000 for restoration contracts.

The program subcommittee meeting met in July. The committee recommended no changes to our fund pools and ranking unless there are significant changes to the farm bill. Nationally, our programs are becoming more regionalized year after year. The initiatives are a good example. This is all related to the agency trying to get a clean audit and consistency from state to state.
Last year, 15 payment schedules were regionalized. This year, we are required to regionalize all payment schedules for the FY 13 program year.

Lauren Rega indicated that more details will follow on how the regionalized payment schedules will be implemented. The costs are developed nationally using metadata and cost analysis, but have been individualized for each state. However, the scenarios will be determined by each region. Our region is the mid-Atlantic region and consists of NY, NJ, MD, DE, and PA.

Several roll-out teleconferences and new information are scheduled in the upcoming weeks. The programs subcommittee meeting will meet October 4th in Columbus at 9:00 to discuss any changes needed.

Outreach Subcommittee Update
Barbara Phillips reported that the subcommittee met on August 1st.

  • The Hispanic and Women farmers claim process will be open September 24, 2012, through March 25, 2013. More information will be forthcoming.

  • Two workshops are on the schedule: Cover Crop for Soil Health in the Coastal Plain on October18th at the Cape May PMC, and pasture seeding training on September 19 at the Snyder farm.

  • Three districts with outreach agreements with NRCS have been working on developing workshops for those that may not be familiar with USDA programs. A seminar for forest landowners will be held on October 2nd. Another workshop on specialty crops is being planned at an Asian Pear farm.

  • A national soil health initiative will be emerging in the next several months, and a lot of print and audio visual products are being developed for this effort. Wetlands restoration training is on hold until we determine an appropriate time.

A series of energy fact sheets were developed with an agreement through Rutgers. The fact sheets were made available at the meeting and can be downloaded from the NRCS NJ website at: http://www.nj.nrcs.usda.gov/technical/energy/index.html.
 

New CRP, CREP, SAFE Activity
Nancy Coles distributed a status report on CRP, CREP, and SAFE. There are currently 309 contracts with 330 practices and 2, 448.1 acres in CRP. Rental rates average d alittle over $72 with total annual rental payments of $183,050.

CREP – The average contract size is 3.7 acres. The contracts are very small because we are trying to address the very sensitive lands and take them out of production. The average rental rate is also a little higher at $136.30.

SAFE – There was little activity in SAFE since the last report. Another contract was added to the Ag Heritage project area. There has been no activity in the grassland habitat project area. The Raritan Piedmont has not had any movement going forward either. We have no heard anything regarding increasing acreage in the Raritan Piedmont. To date, $606,944 has been disbursed to the farmers’ hands this year. That includes rental payments. There is rumor that CRP acreage will be decreasing in future years.

There is discussion nationally that CRP could be opened up to haying and grazing in the event of a drought or other extreme situation. Environmental groups would need to sign off that the acreage could be opened up to feed livestock if there is an extreme situation. There is a 25% reduction in the rental payment if they decide to graze. This usually is opened up to the practices with cool and warm season grasses and permanent wildlife habitat. This was brought up to discuss a what-if scenario and to let the groups know that this is a possibility for the future if New Jersey were to experience an extreme drought situation.

GRP to date has $55,371 with the majority in rental payments. We picked up 2 contracts for 24.5 contract acres. This is a joint program with FSA and NRCS.

Haying and grazing fact sheets are available on the FSA website if you’re interested in more information.

Status of the National Water Quality Initiative
When we last met, we were working on the new national water quality initiative. We worked with several of our partners to identify the watersheds for the initiative. We ended up selecting Upper Cohansey River, Upper Salem River, and Upper Alloway Creek watersheds.

23 applications were received for the initiative, which resulted in 7 contracts - 4 contracts in the Upper Cohansey and 3 in the Upper Salem. The contracts totaled $287,000, which was above the 5% of our total EQIP funds. The main practices were cover crop, irrigation water management, and irrigation practices that would be water conserving. The time of year was definitely a problem along with the short turnaround of ten business days from application deadline to contract deadline. With the early, warm weather, many producers were not available.

We received very positive feedback from the Cohansey Area Watershed Association. There was a lot of local media outreach. Thank you to everyone that helped to pull together the information in such a short timeframe.

A question was posed about the monitoring portion of the initiative. It is unfortunate that DEP does not have enough money to support the 319 funding requests that it receives, so the monitoring portion of the initiative has not been finalized.

Christine Hall mentioned that she received a call from Bill Rawlyk, with the Open Space Institute, to help identify geographic areas for protection of open space and farmland. He would like to talk to us about proposing the Upper Cohansey River, Upper Salem River, and Upper Alloway Creek watershed as part of a funding request he is developing for submission to the William Penn Foundation.
 

WRP Program Status
Janice reported that we were able to make 4 offers this year for new acquisitions. This year, 2 offers are being made in warren, one in Sussex, and one in Cumberland. It is positive to see acquisitions being made in North Jersey as the majority of our applications have been in South Jersey. Thanks to Beth Ciuzio for her outreach because a lot of those contracts have been the result of her efforts through an agreement with NRCS.

NJ and National CIG Update
If you recall, we changed the way we did CIG this year by requiring a pre-proposal that we would review first before requiring a full proposal be submitted. We had received 8 pre-proposals, 7 were asked to submit a full proposal, 6 actually submitted proposals that were peer-reviewed and rated. 4 were recommended for funding and we’re currently moving forward. The results of the national CIG were just announced last week. We were unable to announce the state CIG until after the national component was announced. About $155,000 will go out for the 4 contracts that we are working on.

Janice passed around several thank you posters that were distributed to the farm that we visited at the June meeting. She also distributed information provided by Jack Rabin on leaf mulching, which was actually a CIG grant on the soil health benefits of leaf mulching.

590 Nutrient Management Standard
At the June meeting, Fred Kelly spoke about the new 590 nutrient management standard being developed. We have until the end of the calendar year to get our state standard in line with the new national standard. The draft standard was sent out along with a brief summary regarding significant changes to the standard. Fred discussed specific changes being proposed to the NJ standard and is welcoming comments and input from the committee. Please contact Fred by November 1st if you have any comments.

State Technical Committee Survey
Christine Hall thanked everyone that responded to the survey. We received 27 responses. The survey indicated that most people felt the abbreviations and acronyms are confusing. The meetings are held at the right frequency. We will be talking more at the December meeting about the content and training. We rely on our partners to get our message out and it is important that our partners understand the programs and opportunities that are available. Thanks again to everyone for completing the survey.

New Business
Conservation Delivery Streamlining Initiative

Nancy Paolini discussed the updates on the Conservation Delivery Streamlining Initiative. The national office wants us to keep you up to date on the initiative. The current software program that our field staff uses, Customer Toolkit, is quickly becoming out of date and we will be making a switch to a new program called the Conservation Desktop. At this time, the field has to use several programs to input and manipulate data and it is very inefficient. The new software will streamline the process and allow data to be collected and entered once. The program will also be more communicative with other programs.

Testing for the new software is scheduled for this year. The full release is slated to take place by October 2013. In the interim, we are working on fixes to make the current program compatible with Windows 7.

The incentive of this new program is to get the field staff back in the field. We will be using “toughbooks”, which are durable laptops, to be used out in the field for data collection.. NRCS looked at all the steps in the planning process and developed a new system that combined processes and eliminated duplicative processes. Pilot states will be testing the process and program in the next year. NJ is not one of the pilot states.

WRP 2012 Geographic Area Rate Cap
Every year we are required to set a GRP and WRP geographic area rate cap (GARC). We only set a WRP GARC since we get so few GRP. We base our GARC on the actual appraised values. When we make an offer, it is based on the lowest value (appraised value, GARC, Landowner Value). The GARC is established through a market survey. This time we spent more time with the appraiser to ensure that our needs were met in the survey report. The values are lower than previous years, but all real estate values have gone down. A summary of the report was sent out. The discussion is to split the rates between north and south jersey. We can split by municipality or by county. We’re looking for feedback on what the best split would be.

A question was posed about how bog turtle fits in with the GARC. A follow up meeting on the GARC for those that are interested in further discussion can be arranged.

Field Office of the future
A hand out was distributed summarizing the field office of the future task. The task detailed how we will continue to deliver conservation by proactively looking towards the future in the event of budget cuts. Maria Collazo, Gail Bartok, and Christine Hall headed the project. They looked at several situations such as loss of technology, labor, offices, etc. They ran the scenarios to determine how we could make changes and what steps to take. They are looking for a focus group of 2-3 people from the State Technical Committee to provide input and continue to work proactively on this project. Dave Clapp and Audrey Moore volunteered to help with this.

A question was posed asking if retirements were incorporated. The plan recognized retirements, but they were not directly addressed as a situation in the plan.

Local Work Group Report
NRCS values input from Local Work Groups. As the Farm Bill has changed over the years and National Initiatives have become more common, the Local Work Groups in NJ have not convened in recent years. NJ NRCS worked with the NJ Association of Conservation Districts to conduct an online survey and assessment to evaluate the current soil, water and related natural resource issues and concerns. A summary report of this survey was distributed and will be discussed in more detail at the next meeting.

Open Discussion

Liz Thompson – The Farm Bureau is preparing for their annual meeting. It is scheduled to be held on November 12 and 13. Let Liz know if you are interested in having a display. They are still lining up speakers for the event.

Mike Westendorf – They are planning to host 2 twilight meetings on feed management for horse farms on October 4 and 16. One will be held in the south and one in the north and will show results and recommendations. A training day will also be hosted on December 1 for technical people to focus on mostly horses. More information to follow.

Fred Kelly reminded everyone that the cover crop field day will be held on October 18 at the Cape May PMC. The training will emphasize cover crop “cocktails” or blends of different crops for specific benefits. There will also be a portion on leaf mulching. There is a $10 registration sign up and the deadline to sign up is October 5. The field day will be worth 6 CEUs.

Kathy Hale – Provided an update on the Ag minigrant programs. They keep going back and forth with edits and hopefully will be finalized soon.

John Gibbons – NASS is gearing up for the new Ag Census. The census covers everything from horses to organic production. John passed around information on the census. John also noted that the Trenton office will continue to be open.

Dave Clapp - Three grants were awarded as part of the animal waste management grant. One was awarded to the Wallkill River Watershed to develop an outreach and assistance program. Another was awarded to the North Jersey RC&D for a regional on-farm composting facility for equine owners. The third was awarded to the Rutgers Cooperation Extension of Salem for conducting Whole Farm Nutrient Mass Balance and Precision Feed Management Program plans for the livestock and dairy industry.

Kristina Heinemann – An EPA online tool was developed to promote source water protection. Kristina will send out the link when it goes live. It compiles resources together. It indicates there is not a lot of overlap in NJ with Agricultural land and source water pollution.

Audrey Moore – The pesticide AZM is cancelled on blueberries. EPA has extended that producers can use their current supply of AZM until September 30, 2013. They cannot purchase more after 9/30/2012...

Bob Eriksen – The long leaf pine initiative is renewed. They were signed as a partner on the golden winged warbler for developing plans. There will be a training next month in PA. 26 biologists are certified TSPs in wildlife and forestry.

Janice Reid – The bog turtle and golden winged warbler should continue next year in the working lands for wildlife initiative. New species may be added.

Kathleen Hitchner – The Neshanic ag mini-grant program that Kathy Hale referenced will serve as a model for future 319 grants in ag-dominated watersheds. The need for more 319 funding continues. New Jersey identified a need of 17 billion dollars to address the State’s nonpoint sources of pollution in EPA’s Clean Watersheds Needs Survey, but we only received $2.6 million in 319 funding, down from $3 million in previous years. The need in New Jersey is the highest nationally, but NJ is not the highest in 319 funding received.

Dean Collamer – Mentioned he was representing Bill Angstadt. They have worked with the PA nutrient management subcommittee and he’s happy to be part of the NJ meeting.

Eric Schrading – The Musconetcong River Restoration Partnership has been nominated for a Coastal America Award. The award ceremony will be held in the fall hopefully the new State Conservationist can attend.

Janice Reid – A fact sheet was passed around on the soils department and how they can help landowners. The soils group has Ground Penetrating Radar equipment and a hand-held soil analyzer that can determine heavy metals in the soils. They are available to go out and help landowners.

Next Meeting Date
The next meeting will be held on December 4th, at 10:00 a.m. in the Somerset State Office.

The meeting was adjourned at 12:28.
 


New Jersey State Technical Committee Minutes - June 13, 2012

Those in Attendance: Janice Reid, NRCS, Christine Hall, NRCS, Tim Dunne, NRCS, Fran Grasso, NRCS, Fred Kelly, NRCS, Mona Peterson, NRCS, MaryBeth Sorrentino, NRCS, Barbara Phillips, NRCS, Joye Nagle, NRCS, Lenora Jordan, NRCS, Chanel Wright, NRCS, Bill Angstadt, Growmark, FS, Liz Thompson, NJFB, Marie Banasiak, NJFB, Ben Casella, NJFB, Eric Shrading, USFWS, Charles Roohr, SADC, Cindy Roberts, SADC, Jeff Everett, SADC, Gail Harrje, SADC, Brad Smith, TNC, Steve Eisenhauer, NLT, Nancy Coles, FSA, Torrey Reade, FSA, Jean Lynch, NJAS, Kathleen Hitchner, NJDEP, Lynn Fleming, NJDEP, Dave Clapp, NJDA, Tim Fekete, NJDA- SSCC, Justine Cook, NOFA-NJ, Jack Rabin, RCE, Gladis Zinati, RCE

Welcome:

The meeting was called to order at 11:30 a.m. Janice Reid welcomed everyone and expressed appreciation to the Muzzarelli and Muth farms and the Gloucester County Extension office for allowing us the opportunity to have a State Technical Committee conservation tour.

Janice opened the meeting with remarks on the movement on the new Farm Bill and the NRCS budget.

The March meeting minutes were reviewed and accepted.

CRP, CREP, SAFE, GRP Activity
Nancy Coles provided the quarterly update report on FSA conservation programs. Jointly, FSA and NRCS selected four ranked 2012 GRP applications for funding. FSA is currently working with these GRP applicants to complete and approve their contracts. Nancy thanked everyone for the support letters that were written for additional acres for the SAFE program. Notice CRP-715 announced the opportunity for a new initiative. This will allow producers to do pollinator habitat (CP42) without competition for CRP. The Signing Incentive Payment (SIP) rate has increased to $150 per acre for CP42, as well as conservation practice installations for wetland restoration (CP23 & CP23A) and habitat buffers for upland birds (CP33).

Status of Funds and Initiatives

  • AMA: $150,059.74 allocated; $133,964.56 obligated (8 contracts)

    • balance is $16,095.18 (not enough for next contract)

       

    • will be requesting additional funds this week

  • AWEP: contracting is underway this month
  • CStP: $196,935.00 obligated to date for 23 contracts (2010-2012
    • 9 new 2012 contracts obligated as of 6/6 for $83,981.00
    • 14 existing contracts (2010 & 2011) obligated for $113,984.00; $112,954.00 in payments made
  • EQIP: $4,847,428 allocated; $3,942,268 obligated (177 contracts)
    • balance of $905,160 to be used for
    • 1) 3rd round organic and seasonal high tunnels (~$145,000)
    • 2) CIG ($216,832), and
    • 3) NWQI (~$450,000)
  • WHIP: just received $238,000 for WLFW bog turtle and golden winged warbler; accepting and reviewing applications now
    • Thanks to our conservation partners for assisting in outreach!
  • FRPP: received an additional allocation of $1.16M
    • Updating 3 agreements with entities to obligate remaining funds
    • Funding 22 parcels (1419 acres)
  • WRP: We’ve obligated just over $500,000 towards one new easement, restoration on 2 existing easements, and due diligence on new applications.
    • We have the potential for over $2M in obligations; however we only have $1,129,800 in available funds.

NJ Conservation Innovation Grants 2012 Full-Proposals
We received eight pre-proposals for the NJ Conservation Innovation Grants. After reviewing the pre-proposals we invited all of the applicants to participate in a review meeting. Of the eight, six were asked to submit a full proposal. Five full proposals were received. A peer review panel will meet this month to review the full proposals and make recommendations for funding.
 

Wetland & Riparian Restoration on FRPP Land
NRCS met with SADC staff in South Jersey to discuss the issue of wetland and riparian restoration on preserved farms. The result of this meeting was an agreement that SADC and NRCS would begin to look at these on a case by case basis. Charles Roohr commented that SADC will be very cautious when approving these. He also added that the SADC is now aware of the situation and can direct applicants to NRCS before they preserve the farm. Eric Schrading felt that was a good compromise to the situation. New staff members with the SADC were introduced and contact between these staff members and NRCS staff was strongly encouraged to facilitate this dialogue.
 

Customer Satisfaction survey
Christine Hall reported that a customer satisfaction survey has been developed for State Technical Committee members. All are encouraged to complete the survey online.

Nutrient Management Standard Update
Fred Kelly reviewed the proposed changes to NRCS practice standard 590 Nutrient Management that will go in to effect in 2013. Fred would like people to contact him with comments on the issue of spreading manure on snow covered ground issue. Fred can be contacted at fred.kelly@nj.usda.gov.

Open Discussion
Jack Rabin reported that he is finishing a website on composting.

Barb Phillips reported that the outreach committee would be meeting soon.

Nancy Coles stressed how important crop reporting is.

Liz Thompson reported that Farm Bureau was asked which Farm Bill programs NJ farmers utilize the most.

Kathleen Hitchner was happy to participate in National Water Quality Initiative.

Bill Angstadt stated that a new tool will be available for use by farmers to assist in nutrient management planning.

Eric Schrading has been working with NRCS on Working Lands for Wildlife and reported that it is going very well. Question for NRCS: is bog turtle funding available for WRP? Janice responded that it depends on whether or not there is a WRP program in 2013.

Chuck Roohr announced that all four positions with SADC have been filled and introduced the new staff members. Jeff Everett, Chief of Stewardship was formerly an NRCS employee. Jeff manages all post-closing issues as well as the Right to Farm program. Cindy Roberts is the Regional preservation coordinator for southern NJ (Camden south). Jessical Uttal is the in house title policy reviewer. Judith Andrejko Esq. is the in-house attorney replacing Cassandra McCloud. In addition to the new hires there was a bit of an office restructuring which provided the new regional coordinator jobs: 1) Stephanie Miller is handling all new acquisitions for North Jersey, 2) Dan Knox is the coordinator for the central part of the state and 3) Gail Harrje is working on the processing of applications and scoring statewide.

Justine Cook informed the group that the NOFA NJ winter conference will be in Burlington County in 2013.

Tim Fekete commented on animal waste that comment period is open.

Ben Casella commented that he covers labor issues for Farm Bureau.

Next Meeting Date
The next meeting will be held in September at the NRCS State Office; exact date to be determined.

The meeting was adjourned at 1:15 PM.


 
New Jersey State Technical Committee Minutes - March 12, 2012

Those in attendance: Janice Reid, NRCS, Christine Hall, NRCS, Tim Dunne, NRCS, Fran Grasso, NRCS, Maria Collazo, NRCS, Lauren Rega, NRCS, Dan Mull, NRCS, Donald Pettit, NRCS, Bill Angstadt, Growmark, FS, Liz Thompson, NJFB, Marie Banasiak, NJFB, Ken Klipstein, NJWSA, Eric Shrading, USFWS, Charles Roohr, SADC, Bob Frieberger, Monmouth Co. Farmer, Amy Hansen, NJCF, Kristina Heineman, US EPA Region 2, John Gibbons, NASS, Bob Erikson, NWTF, Eric Olsen, TNC, Steve Eisenhauer, NLT
Nancy Coles, FSA (via videoconference), Paul Hlubik, FSA (via videoconference), John Parke, NJAS, John Cecil, NJAS, Beth Ciuzio, USFWS
 

Welcome:

Donald Pettit welcomed everyone at 10:05 a.m. Don opened the meeting with remarks on the initial movement on the new Farm Bill. The senate has a goal to complete the senate version by Memorial Day. This will likely be a busy time as decisions are made for the new farm bill.

The December meeting minutes were reviewed and accepted.
 

Outreach Subcommittee Update:

The outreach subcommittee meeting was held on January 17th. They had an extremely productive meeting. The outreach subcommittee wanted to remind everyone about the partners Google Calendar, which lists partner events throughout the state.
The outreach subcommittee will be focusing on outreach for the Conservation Stewardship Program. It was decided that they will focus on success story fact sheets with farmer input. The subcommittee set a deadline for June 30th to find willing participants.

Several outreach meetings were scheduled through the conservation districts for this week. Unfortunately, due to low sign-up participation, they are being rescheduled. It was suggested that the time frame was not a good time of day for producers to be able to meet and that producers may be overwhelmed by meetings this time of year.

The USDA has to comply with the Plain Writing Act of 2010, which requires the federal government to write all new publications, forms, and publicly distributed documents in a "clear, concise, well-organized" manner. Several articles have been updated and we are interested in volunteers from the State Technical Committee to review the documents for clarity and provide feedback. Liz Thompson volunteered to review documents. If anyone else is interested, please contact Barb Phillips.


CRP, CREP, SAFE, GRP Activity

Nancy Coles provided the quarterly update report on FSA conservation programs. In the Conservation Reserve Program, the practice CP 25 (Rare and Declining Habitat) was added and 31.4 acres were enrolled. To date, 317 practices have been enrolled in 295 contracts. The annual rental payments are $174,190.

A new contract was added to the CREP program in FY 2012. The average contract size is small due to the highly sensitive lands that are the focus of the program. The average rental rate is $135.70/acre.

The SAFE program has 46 contracts approved for a total of 614.8 acres enrolled with 5 pending offers of 102.2 acres. In the Grassland Habitat Restoration and Management Area is at 88% enrollment. The Raritan-Piedmont area is at 70% enrollment. The Raritan-Piedmont area is in need of 90 more acres for this project area. Nancy Coles mentioned that although we are able to meet the cap for the area, there may be an opportunity for additional funding for more acreage in those project areas. So, we should be encouraging sign-up even as we reach the cap for the project area.

To date for FY 2012, $369,387 CRP payments have been issued in CRP.

Paul Hlubik mentioned that there will be some upcoming changes to the CRP program. Last week Secretary Vilsak announced initiatives in the continuous CRP program. It will enroll additional acres in pollinator habitat, wetland restoration, and the SAFE program. It will provide some additional incentives for participation in the CRP program.

Also, there will be additional funding for the HEL lands with a higher index.

The general sign-up for CRP started on Monday.

The GRP allocation is forthcoming with a preliminary ranking report. Funding is very low. Nationally, there is talk that there is more demand for rental money than available because we have a requirement to devote a certain percentage of the money to easements. So the rental contract money is somewhat limited. We have our request in for additional money. $29,695 was distributed for rental payments in FY 2012.

Bog Turtle Initiative WREP Proposal Submitted

Christine Hall provided an update on the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Program proposal. The traditional WRP program looks for wetlands restoration on lands that been farmed and drained. The WREP program is for partners to submit a proposal for priority areas. Last year, we discussed bog turtles and how we could provide additional restoration for these species. Conserve Wildlife Foundation submitted a proposal to enroll 84 acres in WRP at an overall project cost of $1,104,000. Typically, WRP allows a 2:1 acre ratio for buffers around the wetland restoration acres. However, with this proposal we are looking at a 5:1 ratio of a buffer area, which along with a higher proposed easement payment rate, explains the increased cost. We reviewed the proposal and forwarded it to NRCS national headquarters where the funding decision will be made by March 30th. The bog turtle recovery plan is the basis for the proposal. In the plan there is a map indicating bog turtle areas. Anything that was identified in the recovery plan could be eligible for inclusion in the project area.
 

New Business
2012 WHIP Status

When we received our initial state allocations, WHIP had no money. Last week, it was announced that NRCS will be working with the Department of Interior for the Working Lands for Wildlife. For this initiative they identified 7 at-risk species that are either threatened or endangered or heading to a T&E listing.

The goal of this initiative is to empower landowners to continue working their lands while they conserve wildlife areas. Two thirds of the federally listed species are on private lands. Conservation on these lands typically generates a lot of outdoor recreation and economic benefit. There is 33 million dollars available nationally for this effort. In New Jersey, we have two species that are eligible: the bog turtle and golden-winged warbler. Tim Dunne provided fact sheets on the species.

There will be a list of core and supporting practices to support conservation of these species.

The golden-winged warbler has a very limited range in New Jersey. They inhabit high elevation areas. We have begun working with the GIS specialist to determine the high elevation areas in North West NJ overlain with forested farmland tax assessed properties to target our outreach to eligible participants. We anticipate there will be a limited number of properties that will meet these eligibility criteria.

There are a number of species that thrive on this early successional habitat that would benefit from these practices in addition to the golden-winged warbler. It really has a far reaching habitat benefits. We will likely use that to target landowners with multiple interests.

The ranking system still has to be developed. Whether or not the species is currently present may have an impact in the pre-screening criteria. This may be more applicable for the bog turtle.

Typically the small wooded acreage for golden-winged warbler (2-5 acres) is selectively harvested to create the early successional habitat. This could also provide an economic benefit to the landowner.

The program dates should be announced soon as the funding obligation deadline in July is fast approaching. We may be asking the State Technical Committee for help with promotion. It is encouraged that we have some press events with our partners.

The question was raised about how creating these small early succession habitat patches will negatively impact other species. What is the net benefit? Tim Dunne explained that we have a process through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to determine the positive and negative effects for altering the habitats to determine the appropriate course of action. There may be positive effects for the golden-winged warbler versus a negative impact for other species that may not prefer the same habitat. This is why we are looking towards expanding on areas around already disturbed areas such as rights of ways for power lines. This would minimize the overall disturbance, but have a positive impact for the target species.

The three main goals of this effort are to 1) Restore populations of declining species, 2) Protect the economic viability of rural production and 3) Protect landowners from regulatory actions if they are voluntarily participating in this program.

Please visit our website for additional information on this program http://www.nj.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/whip/WLFW.html

EQIP Initiatives, Status of Applications and Contracts

NRCS had three new EQIP initiatives for FY 2012: Organic, Energy, Seasonal High Tunnel. There were three application cut-offs for these initiatives, February 3, March 30, June 1. We’ve only received 7 organic applications to date. We could use additional help to get organic applications in. The ranking score is 150 out of 1000 points for the second round. It is pretty low and pretty easy to get funded.

We had an overwhelming request for the energy and seasonal high tunnel initiatives. Nationally, they set aside $3 million in energy and received $27 million in requests. Locally, we received $200,000 in requests and were able to fund 4 of those applications (three energy audits and 1 implementation project). Don Pettit made the decision in NJ to take some of our regular EQIP allocation and put it towards funding the other two implementation applications.

For seasonal high tunnels, we were able to fund 37 of 39 applications.

For the second and third rounds for Seasonal High Tunnel and Energy, there is no more federal money being held nationally. The funds were exhausted at headquarters. In NJ, we are still accepting applications and may decide to fund additional applications with our NJ money.

We had one technical service provider (TSP) certified to write transition to organic plans in NJ. They were from Connecticut and decided it was not cost effective for them to come to NJ. However, we are still accepting applications for contracts. We are working on developing TSPs for Organic Agriculture. NOFA-NJ held a session trying to recruit and train TSPs and will be following up in April with 4 or 5 individuals that expressed interest in becoming TSPs.

For the energy initiative, we would really love to see more people applying for the Agricultural Energy Management Plan CAP (energy audit). In order to move forward with funding next year for implementation, it will be required for producers to have a completed audit.

It was nice to see that our extensive outreach on these initiatives was successful.

EQIP Water Quality Initiative

Don Pettit mentioned that there is a pending EQIP National Water Quality Initiative that is still in development. There has been no official announcement and we won’t have any specifics until the announcement is made. We were asked to set aside 5% of our EQIP allocation for this initiative. We are working with EPA on the national level with this. We will likely use EQIP practices currently in our program portfolio. This initiative may involve some monitoring as well. At some point, we will be looking for your input and feedback on the watersheds and the ranking questions to make funding decisions.

We will likely be communicating through email and perhaps have a subcommittee meeting. If you have a particular interest, contact Janice Reid that you’re interested in being involved.

NJ Conservation Innovation Grants 2012 Pre-Proposals

We put out the announcement for the NJ component for the Conservation Innovation Grant in January. Our format changed this year. We asked participants to send a pre-proposal first. We held a workshop in February that was well attended (15-20 people). The pre-proposal deadline was March 2 and we received 8 pre-proposals. We will not be able to fund all 8. We contacted all 8 of the applicants to have review meetings this afternoon. By March 21, we will let those 8 know whether or not they are selected to move forward with submission of a full proposal. Full proposals will be due to the NJ NRCS State Office by April 27th. We cannot notify them on who is funded until after the recipients of the national CIG component are announced.
Information was also passed around for a workshop in June. This field day on native seed production is being offered as part of a previous year CIG grant project with the Delaware & Raritan Greenway.
 

Wetland & Riparian Restoration on FRPP Land

Eric Shrading requested acknowledgement for wetland and riparian restoration on FRPP Land. FRPP funding helps with state purchases for farmland preservation. Under the FRPP program rules Wetland Restoration/Creation is permitted on protected farmland as long as it does not make up a large percentage of the preserved farmland. USF&WS has approached farmers that have wet, unproductive sites that they are not interested in farming due to the low productivity and would like to restore the wetlands. Some proposals were denied by the SADC and the CADB. They are requesting that wetland restoration be considered as a permitted practice on preserved farmland as long as it is not a large component of the farmland. This proposal is specific to farmland preserved with FRPP.

Chuck Roohr stated that the NJ Farmland Preservation legislation dictates that the preservation dollars do not allow the land to be utilized for anything other than agricultural production.

Discussion ensued over the difference between a grassed waterway on preserved farmland which is not in agricultural production compared to wetland restoration. It was suggested that a follow-up focused discussion occur to explore this further.
 

Open Discussion

Eric Olsen mentioned that The Nature Conservancy has a project where they have identified priority areas within Delaware River Basin. He suggested we consider this information as we select the watersheds for the new National Water Quality Initiative. The project is funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. More information is available at www.nature.org/drb
Bob Erikson mentioned that the National Wild Turkey Federation has been working on long leafed pine restoration. In the Northeast, they are a TSP certified in Fish and Wildlife Habitat Plans and are working on becoming certified to complete Forest Management Plans. They are working to get three forestry positions funded by NRCS in Maryland.

John Gibbons announced that they have an Agri-Ability survey out in the field with Rutgers. The survey is trying to quantify the number of disabilities on the farm in NJ. John Gibbons also announced that Troy Joshua accepted a position in Washington DC and John will be taking over as Acting Director. Also, expect the census of agricultural to be starting soon for the 5 year census.
Kristina Heinemann mentioned the Oil Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) Program rule compliance date was extended to May 2013. Any farm that stores, transfers, consumes oil or oil products may need to comply. There are fact sheets, websites, and technical specialists available to assist producers through EPA. More information is also available at http://www.epa.gov/osweroe1/content/spcc/spcc_ag.htm. Please be in touch if there are any events coming up where EPA could provide information.

Kristina also mentioned that the new 590 standard for nutrient management was developed nationally and the state standard will need to be updated soon. There is an additional requirement for concurrence from the state water quality agencies. Kristina would be interested in being involved in the process for developing the state standard. Tim Dunne mentioned that with the new standard we are required to work with EPA and state water quality agencies, but we are waiting on some additional information nationally.

Amy Hansen asked if there are any practices that specifically target carbon sequestration. Janice answered that there are a number of practices that benefit this, but it is not a targeted resource concern at this time. A number of our practices now have conditions for carbon sequestration. Tim Dunne mentioned that NRCS is working with Rutgers on increasing the soil organic matter through increasing legumes, cover crops, municipal leaves, etc.

Ken Klipstein mentioned this week’s round of outreach events for AWEP and the Ag Mini Grants funding in priority watersheds within the Raritan River basin. One of the participants at the outreach meetings has already applied.

Marie Banasiak said that March 21 there will be a meeting for questions regarding permit and management regarding irrigation water. The information is available on the website. The landscape project mapping was updated from DEP. They’ve applied the highlands methodology to the entire state. Lastly, the animal waste management rules implementation deadline is March 16.
Christine Hall mentioned that NRCS has been working with the Barnegat Bay Partnership as they develop their new strategic plan. USF&WS taking the lead on the Barnegat focused America’s Great Outdoors project and is looking at how they can get conservation on the ground in high priority areas until the funds are available for land acquisition in these areas. A meeting is in the planning stages to discuss this. The plan is to identify what kind of conservation programs exist that we could get resource protection on these lands, what are the gaps, what are the outreach needs, who are the landowners? The America’s Great Outdoors is a national initiative.

Bill Angstadt suggested that the Nitrogen risk assessment tool may require modification of nitrogen practices. This is something that should be discussed with the revised national 590 standard. Also, there is potential for outreach on the new 590 standard in NJ where a lot of work has been done on phosphorous placement. As we get to the point of outreach on 590, there may be several examples of good case studies. Perhaps this should be a topic for the next State Technical Committee.

Steve Eisenhauer mentioned some successful pollinator habitat work that the Natural Lands Trust has undertaken on their property.

John Parke commended Nancy Coles for getting some good information on SAFE and CREP posted on the FSA website. Regarding the issue of wetland and riparian restoration on preserved farms, John noted that those opposing this work are focusing solely on the “habitat” benefits of these practices. NJAS would be willing to help with any regulatory changes that would need to be made to allow this work on preserved farms. Also, John Parke announced that John Cecil will be the new Vice President of Stewardship in New Jersey.

John Cecil explained that he was the Director of the Important Bird Areas (IBA) Program for the National Audubon Society so he is familiar with the work and looks forward to participating in future meetings.
Chuck Roohr discussed the decision that was made on growing medical marijuana on preserved farmlands. The verdict of the meeting in December is that it is eligible as a crop on farmland, but it is not eligible for right-to-farm protection. The SADC just released its new digital monitoring form. Thanks to NRCS for the comments on the form. As of today, one of three positions is filled and the other three are selected and working through human resources. Hopefully by the next State Technical Committee meeting those positions will be filled.

Bob Frieberger asked how widespread the bog turtle presence is throughout the state. Tim Dunne answered that there are around 150 sites in NJ. The bog turtle has very strict habitat requirements. He also commented that with regards to the outreach meetings cancelled due to low registrant sign ups, that farmers are “meeting-ed out” by this time in the year.

Paul Hlubik mentioned that under the next CRP sign-up, carbon sequestration is a component that is being considered for the program ranking. There is a fact sheet on it and will be emailed. He also announced that the conservation loan program was funded this year. The direct loan program was not funded, but the guaranteed program was funded. In many aspects this may be a better program for farmers. These conservation practices require significant cash flow that may require a high upfront cost. If cash flow is the issue for getting the practice on the ground, then the conservation loan program may be able to help. It is for practices with a lifespan of up to 20 years and can fund up to $1,200,000. Several factors such as a fantastic credit rating, and low debt ratio can expedite the loan process.

Paul also mentioned that they have received approval from Washington to assist with the Southern Pine Beetle infestation on private forest lands. However, there is no funding available at this time and they are on a waiting list for funding. In regards to the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP), Paul thanked NRCS for the technical work preformed. There are dozens of counties around the state with applications. As we move forward, we are finding other issues and are trying to get them enrolled in other programs like EQIP and CREP.

Next Meeting Date

Don Pettit suggested that we have the summer meeting in the field like we did last year. It was suggested that we go to central or south Jersey this year. We are looking to the middle of June for this meeting.

The meeting was adjourned at 12:09.

This page last updated August 25, 2014