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Minutes - February 21, 2013

Summary of State Technical Committee Meeting

February 21, 2013

Welcome - Mark Smith, State Resource Conservationist

Group Introductions – Terry Cosby, State Conservationist

NRCS Updates – Terry Cosby, State Conservationist

  • NRCS will have a 5 percent reduction in budget (sequestration).  In 2014, we will have an 8 percent reduction.  No NRCS employee will lose their job.  Some agencies within USDA will be more affected than others by the sequestration. We did have a soft hiring freeze; it has been lifted. 
  • Congress is questioning vehicle fleet.  We will not be buying vehicles this year.
  • Sign-ups are going well.  NRCS received an extension of the Farm Bill this year.
  • Rich Sims, Regional Conservationist for the Northeast, will be in Ohio next week.  Rich will be attending the Federation meeting and touring sites in Ohio.   Terry has worked with Rich for many years.
  • New Farm Bill will take effect next year.  We are still operating under the 2008 Farm Bill.

Program Information/Updates - Dot Harris, Assistant State Conservationist for Programs

Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)

  • Reviewed EQIP notes sent out through email. 
  • There are several different ways a person can apply for EQIP.  We have set up subaccounts for people who want to apply for EQIP.  Each subaccount is based on location within the State, types of operation, and conservation practices they want to enroll. All the subaccounts are listed in the NRCS program notes sent out by email. 
  • Funding for general EQIP this year is $6 million.
  • National Initiatives - Organic, Seasonal High Tunnel, Air Quality, On-Farm Energy, and Water Quality.  Funds come to Ohio through our National office.
  • Overall we have $13 million available statewide for all the different subaccounts.  Six million dollars is available for special initiatives and non-national initiatives.

Conservation Stewardship Program (CStP)

  • National funding is very limited.  No decision yet on whether there will be a sign-up this year.  If there is a sign-up, it will be targeted to high priority watersheds.

National Water Quality Initiative (12-digit watersheds, maximum of 3 per State)

  • Currently working with EPA in reviewing 2012 watersheds and for possible new watersheds in FY 2013.
  • Subcommittee will need to meet to discuss 2014 approach on the way we spend our dollars.  Should we continue on a watershed basis/focus or random approach?  What is the best approach?  What will get the most results?

Conservation Activity Plans (CAPs)

  • These are management plans development by Technical Service Providers which will be offered in Ohio this year.  A person can sign up for a contract to develop one of these management plans and get funding.  (CAPs are listed in notes sent out through email).

Program (Easements) Information/Updates - Barb Baker, Assistant State Conservationist for Natural Resources

Wetland Reserve Program (WRP)

  • No sign-up this year.
  • Ohio will continue to service prior year WRP contracts through surveying, closing, and restoration contracts.
  • Restoration dollars – We have $2 million to use this year.  We have a backlog of easements to close and restoration to be done.  It will be a good opportunity to get caught up. Working on engineering plans.  We will obligate dollars in April/May.

Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP)

Continued authorization for new enrollment through September 30, 2013.  Six application period deadlines have been announced: January 31, February 28, March 29, April 30, May 31, and June 28, 2013. Applications will be ranked and funded until all funds are expended.  Matt Harbage, FRPP Program Manager for NRCS, is working hard to outreach to cooperating entities. 

Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative (GLCI)

We have money left over from last year to spend on the Phosphorus Priority Area of the Blanchard watershed.  Expecting to get new money for the Phosphorus Priority Area.  Sequestration has had an effect. 

 Farm Service Agency - Brandi Koehler

  • Currently there is a sign-up for Direct Encounter Cyclical Program. 
  • Secretary announced that FSA will offer a CRP General Sign-up; May 20 - June 14, 2013.
  • Continuous CRP signup – no applications since last September.  We are operating under an extension.  Authority for CRP has not fully been reinstated.  We are waiting on funding from OMB. 
  • Item of Action:  Proposal for Plant Material Removal under CRP Mid Contract Management.
  • The advisory committee, which consists of NRCS, U.S. Fish & Wildlife, ODNR, Pheasants Forever, and Environmental Defense, developed the proposal for Plant Material Removal.
  • New activity for Plant Material Removal consists of:
  • Plant material removal to 4 inches (which means cut grass and remove cut grass to expose soil).
  • Item will be available in Toolbox.
  • Partnerships will help with site assessments.
  • Used in conjunction with another practice.
  • Conducted one time during contract period.
  • Only after nesting - July 16 – February 28.
  • Removed material cannot be sold.
  • No penalty.
  • Cost-share will be available ($22.35 an acre currently).
  • Spot checks of 10 percent will be done by committee.

The group concurred and approved with the advisory committee’s recommendation for Plant Material Removal under CRP Mid Contract Management. 

The FSA State Committee will need to approve.

Conservation Certainty Program – Mark Smith, State Resource Conservationist

  • This is a new State program.  We can make it and shape the way we want.
  • Certification program for good stewardship? 
  • Think of the concept and if we need it.
  • It will take staff and dollars.
  • Leadership - who should take the lead? 
  • Does the group think we should have this? 

Presentation of Tile Drainage/Ohio Phosphorus Issues -  Kevin King, USDA-ARS

Other Business/Next Meeting Date

Topics for future meetings:

  • 12-digit watersheds.
  • Dave Brandt - speak to group.
  • Cover crop.

Upcoming Events:

  • Tillage Conference, Ada, Ohio - March 5-6, 2013.
  • Dave Brandt’s Field Day – April 10, 2013.

Next tentative meeting:

  • June 13, 2013 – London Service Center.