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Big Coulee landscape south of Ryegate, Montana, in Golden Valley County.

Montana State Technical Committee

State Technical Committees serve in an advisory capacity to the Natural Resources Conservation Service and other USDA agencies on the implementation of the natural resources conservation provisions of Farm Bill legislation.

Chaired by the NRCS State Conservationist in each state, these committees are composed of representatives from federal and state natural resource agencies, American Indian Tribes, agricultural and environmental organizations, and agricultural producers.

The committees meet regularly to provide information, analysis, and recommendations to appropriate USDA officials, who strongly consider their advice. Individuals or groups wanting to participate as members on a State Technical Committee may submit requests to the State Conservationist explaining their interest and relevant credentials.

Gallatin River flowing near Bozeman.

Montana State Technical Committee Meeting

The next meeting of the Montana State Technical Committee is scheduled for April 11, 2023.

Kyle Tackett

Assistant State Conservationist for partnerships

Montana State Technical Committee Meeting Minutes

For copies of presentations or handouts, contact Kyle Tackett, Assistant State Conservationist for Partnerships.

Members in attendance via in person or on TEAMS at the November 1, 2022, meeting:

  • Tom Watson, NRCS, State Conservationist
  • Kyle Tackett, NRCS, Assistant State Conservationist for Partnerships
  • Kelley Barkell, NRCS, Assistant State Conservationist for Programs
  • Justin Meissner, NRCS, Assistant State Conservationist for Easements
  • Kale Gullett, NRCS, State Resource Conservationist
  • Keri Bilbo, NRCS, Assistant State Conservationist for Field Operations
  • Noel Waterman NRCS, Executive Administrative Assistant
  • Jeff Schahczenski, National Center for Appropriate Technology/ ATTRA
  • Bob Sanders, Ducks Unlimited
  • Cody Pugh, Ducks Unlimited
  • Stacey Barta, Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation

Opening Remarks

Tom Watson, NRCS State Conservationist

Look into having the November meeting in conjunction with the Montana Association of Conservation Districts (MACD) meeting for better participation.

Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) – one of the largest conservation investments of our generation. This Legislation moves NRCS from a $4.5 billion dollar agency to an $8.5 billion dollar agency. Legislation signed in late August and the agency is working diligently to deliver this seamlessly with the current programs we administer. IRA is about outcomes rather than outputs. In Montana, we will be delivering the EQIP component of IRA through Montana Focused Conservation. Montana is the largest ALE state regarding easements.

Jeff announced he received a grant and Montana is one of the four states chosen. The Building a Resilient Future: Organic Academy Road Show will be held in Billings on Dec. 6-7, 2022, at the Billings Hotel and Convention Center. Open forum on the evening of Dec. 6, open to the public with a forum of agencies.

Jeff also announced that NCAT Soil for Water received $31 million dollars to a non- profit to use here in Montana and nationally.

Easements – WRE Partnership Project Proposals and ACEP ALE Priorities for FY23

Justin Meissner, NRCS,  Assistant State Conservationist – Easements

WRE Partnership Project Proposals: NRCS will take the applications. The Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE) are a slow process, two years from application to close. Great opportunity for wetlands here in Montana for leveraging resources for high priority wetland protections, improving wildlife habitat and eligible lands.

Opportunity to work with Ducks Unlimited on this. It is on the partner to put the proposal together. Great opportunity to start on next year and must have landowner interest.

Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) - Agricultural Land Easement (ALE) Priorities for FY23: Used to prioritize the ALE applications; soils based, threat of conversion, and wildlife connectivity. Land trusts are working on application packets for 2023, which are due by Dec. 31, 2022. Justin is open to questions and discussion and wants to start the conversation for 2024.

Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG)

Kelley Barkell, NRCS, Assistant State Conservationist for Financial Assistance Programs

Three programs offered are National CIG Classic, National On-Farm Trials (newer) and Montana State CIG.

Input on priorities is what Kelley is needing and asking for, please provide her some input. Hope to have state sign up in early spring.

State CIG is not in line with national timewise, waiting on national guidelines to announce our state deadlines. Will be announced through our normal communication trails. Not all CIGs are geared towards Historically Underserved. We (NRCS) need to do a better job in reaching out to these Historically Underserved entities.

NCAT is willing to partner on these. Armed to Farm is one of their biggest projects. Jeff will link Kelley with who she needs to be involved with.

Kelley’s goal to send out this presentation and some other information to pique some interest, comments, discussion or ideas.

Technology/Plant Materials Center/ Snow Update

Kale Gullett, NRCS, State Resource Conservationist

Presentation to be emailed out.

NRCS website modernization point of contact is Tasha Gibby at if you have some questions or see something not correct, please let Tasha know.

Stacey asked to have NRCS technical support on her grazing subcommittee. Tom requested a request letter for Kevin Derzapf, NRCS state rangeland management specialist.

Jeff offered specialists for Kale’s brown bag lunch presentations if he would like to utilize them. Jeff also asked for an update on how the workbook process is going, noted that biochar is still listed at 808, not 336. Kale, Kelley, and Keri have not heard any negative comments. The work book is being used and they are compiling suggestions to update the workbook for the future. There are challenges on how we use and receive the workbook due to potential issues with Personally Identifiable Information and getting it fillable and online. We were working on a fillable workbook that producers could print out and hand deliver or mail to their field office. At this time, it cannot be emailed to us due to security risks/challenges. Tom stated we have two more STAC meetings to show improvements and it will be brought back to the STAC for another
review. Kale said practices under 808 are overseen by the state soil scientist, not the technology staff. He was unsure why acres turned into cubic feet. Small acre scenario.

Community Ag

Kyle Tackett, NRCS, Assistant State Conservationist for Partnerships

Urban/community ag specialist has been selected. First subcommittee meeting was held. Already looking at new practices and we are learning as we go. What are some of the barriers? What are some outreach opportunities? How do we move from high tunnel to urban ag?

Subcommittee Updates, Questions, Discussion

Ducks Unlimited: Tom will be meeting with Maureen on Nov. 2, 2022.

Adjourn: 12:12 p.m.