Skip Navigation

May 23, 2017


NRCS State Technical Committee
10:00am Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Arkansas River Room, Little Rock, AR

Agenda (attached)

Members present: (Sign In Sheets attached)

Meeting called to order– Amanda Mathis, NRCS Assistant State Conservationist – Partnership Coordinator
Welcomed everyone to the meeting and thanked them for coming. Reviewed agenda.

Opening Remarks – Mike Sullivan, Arkansas NRCS State Conservationist

  • Mr. Sullivan welcomed everyone to the meeting and thanked them for coming.
  • Reported on visit with the USDA Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Purdue and his verbal commitment to agriculture and the landscape.
  • Reported on the proposals received by NRCS through their open call for proposals (29 eligible proposals).
  • Final decision will be made on proposals within a few weeks.
  • Strike Force Initiative – working on accelerating programs in poverty stricken areas. Currently evaluating the program and its impact. Asked the group to share any feedback with NRCS regarding this program which might be helpful going forward.

USDA Response to 2017 Flooding – Mike Sullivan, Arkansas NRCS State Conservationist and Dianne Colvard, Farm Service Agency

  • Flood of 2017 has had a significant impact on our agricultural industry and landowners
  • Secretary of Ag, Sonny Purdue and Governor Asa Hutchinson have committed to
  • provide assistance to landowners, farmers, ranchers, producers as funding is made available
  • Emergency Watershed Program – provided to help with removal of debris and sediment from the waterways. 25% cost share from a local sponsor is required to be eligible for 75% federal dollars
    • o Report any potential issues to Walt Delp, NRCS State Engineer
  • FSA has a number of programs that are available to provide assistance to those impacted
    • Emergency Conservation Program – 21 counties have asked for assistance(75% costs share) Offers four practices under this program but most common are requests for debris removal and fencing from cattle producers.
    • Emergency Forestry Program
    • FSA local offices will be doing environmental evaluation with 120 days to request
    • Waiting for a Presidential designation
    • Producers with destroyed or damaged EQIP practices are asked to talk to their local office early to address problems

NRCS Subcommittee Reports

  • Forestry Subcommittee – George Rheinhardt
  • CRP has changed
  • Asked Headquarters for some new practices and they were approved for mid-management work
  • Statutory cap on CRP – 24,000,000 acres cap
  • No more general sign-ins for CRP or CCRP
  • Acres have to rotate out before new contracts can be added as of May 3, 2017
  • FSA will accept offers on October 1, 2017
  • Contracts that expire on Sept 30th need to be re-applied prior to October 1
  • “First come, first serve” based on when offers are received
  • Plans must be done by July 2017
  • Program will not be able to address the acreage like in previous years unless changed in 2018 Farm Bill
  • Western Arkansas Woodland Restoration
    • Continues but not to the level as in previous year
    • One more year within this program (3 year program)
    • $6 million in FA dollars as well as other funding avenues
    • 482 contracts forest landowners benefitted from program
    • Prescribed burning, forest stand improvements, etc.
    • CSP (Conservation Stewardship Program) has included forestry with the reorganization and rules so it is a good fit for forestry landowners
    • Ranking process similar to EQIP
  • Recommendation #1
  • 1. Forest stand improvement – allow use of containerized pine seedlings and place a cap on containerized pine seedlings to be planted (545 seedlings per acre)
  • Recommendation #2
  • Update 612 specification to allow hardwood planting be 12 foot rows rather than 10 foot rows for ease in maintenance
  •  Recommendation #3
  • Forest stand improvement – kill invasive species rather than cut back
  • AGFC can identify which trees may be allowed to sprout
  • Hinge cutting – put verbiage to limit the amount which is cutting a tree half off
  • Standard will be chemical rather than cutting for permanent impact

 

  •  Wildlife Forestry Subcommittee – James Baker, NRCS State Biologist
  • o Streambank Stabilization – practice is expensive, need to ensure funds are targeted in areas where stream assessments have been completed.
  • Recommendation #1
  • Form an Ad-Hoc committee to review and prioritize these practices in coordination with TNC/other Stream Assessments
  • Safe Harbor Agreements – USFWS
    • To work with endangered species or candidates for endangered species. Landowners within these designated area are eligible for agreements and it provides some protection for landowners from federal regulation
  • o Recommendation #2
  • Landowners in Upper Little Red River and Upper Saline, Ouachita, etc. should receive increase ranking points within these area if they are willing to enter into a Safe Harbor agreement
  • Working Lands for Wildlife
  • Northern Bobwhite Quail is the species that was selected due to partnerships that are available with AGFC (10 areas spread around the state
  • Concept is to focus funds on these areas and landowners who live adjacent to these AGFC management areas
  • Headquarters approved the concept but no funds initially
  • $400,000 from EQIP but only funded small number of contracts
  • Recommendation #3 – Bobwhite Quail
  • Screen applications and focus on these identified areas
  • Ad hoc committee will work on developing a new screening tool to address this goal

    Recommendation #4 – Monarch Butterfly
  • Make sure that NRCS is coordinating their efforts with other conservation partners to leverage the funding and resources to strengthen partnerships
  • Pollinator Initiative fits well with the Monarch Butterfly Task Force
  • AG&FC will be hosting Quail 101 course on Aug 3rd- conservation staff are encouraged/welcome to attend.


    Grassland Subcommittee – Helen Denniston, NRCS, State Resource Conservationist
  • Recommendation #1
  • State Grazing Specialist needs more flexibility regarding the payment rates for enhancement and creating the scenarios.
  • Recommendation #2
  • More flexibility in the enhancement options
  • More training for partners to include CSP and pollinators
  • Recommendation #3 – Pasture Aeration – the aerator conservation practice does not provide the long term resource conservation benefits therefore the committee does not recommend producers be encouraged to utilize this practice with payments
  • Recommendation #4 - PL566 Dams - the committee does not recommend goats as a means of watershed maintenance and would not recommend it funding as they did not feel it was sustainable
  • Recommendation #5
  • Continue funding for training for livestock/pasture management for staff, partners and producers
  • Develop grazing management/forages programs to serve as a guest lecture series at colleges & universities
  • Training to target beginning ranchers regardless of age in partnership with other livestock industry partners & universities
  • Recommendation #6 - Watering Facilities Training is needed to address maintenance, utilization, placement and other issues that producers are encountering.
  • Recommendation #7 for Giant Miscanthus
  • The bio-fuel initiative did not develop and many producers that got into this FSA program now have a growing program
  • Producers need assistance in how to rid their land of this species
  • Recommendation #8 – the committee asked that annual cover crop practice be considered for adoption to allow producers additional options to address resource concerns which have resulted from natural disasters, pasture failures, etc.
  • Outreach - More needs to be done in the southern part of the state as staff schedule allows
  • National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Environmental Stewardship Award 2017 Nominee
  • Brent & Carol Fry, Osage Creek Farms Green Forest in Carroll County, were the regional nominees from Arkansas

Western Arkansas Woodland Restoration Partnership Award – U.S. Forest Service Norm Waggoner presents
Partners impacted 13,000+ acres as well as 7,000 urban interface acres
Partners included:

  • U.S. National Forest – Sherrie Hamilton is the new supervisor
  • NRCS – Mike Sullivan
  • Arkansas Forestry Commission – Joe Fox
  • Arkansas Game & Fish Commission – Ted Zawislak
  • National Wild Turkey Federation
  • The Nature Conservancy – Scott Simon
  • USFWS – Melvin Tobin
  • Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission – Bill Holiman
  • Association of Conservation Districts – Martha D. Manley
  • Arkansas Natural Resources Commission – Adrian Baber
  • Central Hardwood Joint Venture
  • Central Arkansas Water

NRCS Alternative Crops Subcommittee – Keith Scoggins, NRCS Acting State Agronomist
Good attendance from a diverse group on size and scope of alternative crops

Recommendations

  • a. Request for a conservation practice for injection of fertilizer for microirrigation
  • b. Support funding for conservation districts to help small producers with mulching equipment
    • i. Delta Plastics will recycle mulch and drip tape
  • c. Training on mulching, types, usage, payment rates
  • d. Partnership efforts to be encouraged

NRCS Soil Health Subcommittee – Keith Scoggins, NRCS, District Conservationist
SARE grants have been approved to work on soil health which demonstrates the interest of multiple entities and producers in the state

Recommendations

  • Offer a soil health management plan that is more comprehensive focused
  • Start YouTube videos for Mob grazing and showcasing soil health champions
  • Develop producer cover crop training and consider attaching to EQIP contracts that include cover crops.
  • Key staff should visit Auburn, AL and Stoneville, MS
  • Robby Bevis will be nominated as the 2017 Soil Health Champion
  • Southern Agriculture Cover Crops, Soil Health and Water Management conference planning committee will be meet on May 30,2017.

NRCS Water Quantity Subcommittee – Charolette Bowie, NRCS, State Irrigation Engineer

Recommendations

  • a. Working on the gap in the design of the horsepower of the engine and the horsepower that can actually be purchased to incorporate this into the NRCS practices
  • 2) Overview of Latest Water Management Engineering (WME) Conservation Practice Standards – Practices that have been updated include: 449, 447, 608, 607, 442 & 441
  • a. Need to add language that state flow meters are installed per manufacturer’s specifications
  • b. Look at adding the AWD to the practices available
  • 3) IWM Equipment
  • Flow meters and surge valves – discussion was held regarding the implementation of portable equipment versus permanent
  • Flow Meter, water level float, surge valve could possibly be included in future agreements
  • 4) Outreach - How to get farmers on board?
  • Combination of avenues to reach farmers
  • Farmer-led field days
  • Economic Benefits
  • How can they conserve all resources, including themselves?
  • Help them understand it is a holistic activity
  • Must build trust and rapport with the farmers
  • 5) Seeding and Mulching of Spoil embankments such as reservoir levees but if a tailwater pit is excavated the excavated material is piled alongside it and left without vegetation. Erosion becomes an issue
  • Recommendation- Asked that the seeding and mulch be recommended as policy for these spoil piles with the option to not seed and mulch if there are plans to use the material at a later date.

NRCS Energy Subcommittee – Shanon Griffin, NRCS, Water Management Engineer

Recommendation #1
TSPs recommend that we focus on producer converting from old technology to new
technology then they qualify based on that conversion rather than “life span”
Fire Retardant Foam is currently not meeting the NRCS specs so producers should
hold off until an approved product is available if possible.
Recommendation #2 is to seal the curtain area and above with approved foam
insulation
a. $1.50 - $2.00 per square foot is approximate costs
Payment schedule to be adjusted to match the cost of the foam insulation and fire
protection due to the lack of 10 pound foam that meets ASABE specs.
Recommendation #3 - No changes to the current slate of conservation
practices at this time
 

NRCS Water Quality Subcommittee – Teri Nehls, NRCS, Water Quality Specialist
Recommendation #1

  • Utilize the currently existing advisory groups that are in place
  • Increased focus on cover crops and no-tillage during outreach activities
  • Provide more support to local conservation districts to promote and hold outreach/education activities

Recommendation #2

  • Conservation partnership be utilized to address the multiple issues that will come from increased poultry presence in the NE Area
  • AACD, ArFB, U of A Division of Agriculture, NRCS, ASU, USFWS, AGFC, Arkansas Agriculture Dept., ANRC, Certified Crop Advisors, and others as issues arise
  • Row Crop Phosphorus Index must be completed as part of this process – Dr. Andrew Sharpley is the Chair of that project
  • Identify what conservation practices (BMPs) would be applicable for a conservation system; conservation practices that might interact positively to address the resource concerns

Recommendation #3

  • Place greater emphasis given to buffer strips along the stream in the ranking system and funds should be designated to provide an incentive to implement the practices

Recommendation #4

  • Greasy Creek, Fulton County would be another good watershed for planning because it is at the head of the watershed, research is currently on-going so it would be a good 12-digit HUC to consider in the future

Recommendation #5

  • Outreach and education with producers in the NE Area due to the increase in poultry operations currently and in the future on conservation practices that might help mitigate nutrient loss and/or minimize losses

Conservation Planning Policy Changes – Helen Denniston, NRCS

  • 1) Improve and standardize the training for NRCS employees, conservation partners and others for certification
  • 2) Apprentice Planner must have 16 courses (Ag-Learn, on-the-job training, and in person courses)
  • 3) Certified Planners must take an additional 18 courses
  • 4) Three year transition period but it will be quite rigorous for employees/partners

Feral Swine Project Evaluation – James Baker, NRCS

  • Reported on the progress of the 3 year pilot program (8 counties in original pilot project)
  • Partnership included:
    • NRCS, APHIS, AGFC, AACD, Districts,
    • Practices included cameras and feral swine traps
    • Management is focused on getting the whole sounder not just shooting at random
    • Technical assistance is one of the most critical components of this effort

Recommendation

  • Need more technical assistance in the form of manpower (at least 4 four technicians are needed to provide the support landowners will need)
  • Goal is two traps per county
  • Selection of counties should be based on:
    • County interest
    • Current manpower and their location
    • Ashley County and Sebastian/Scott Counties
    • Newton County is being considered
    • Drop Chicot and Pope
    • Izard County has suffered a big increase in feral swine
  • Feral Swine Eradication Task Force may provide some partnership opportunities
  • Program Updates (See handouts)

Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) – Corey Farmer, NRCS

  • $42 million for 2016
  • 3,552 active contracts
  • FY18 EQIP & CSP Implementation Timeline (Draft)
  • Application deadline is November 17, 2017
  • More funding will be provided for select priorities

Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) – Corey Cornelious, NRCS

  • Participation remains strong
  • Evaluation tool – Conservation measurement tool has been changed
  • Conservation Evaluation Activity Tool is the new tool
  • 2–4 hours to evaluate one application
  • Renewal contracts will still have to meet the two resource concerns to meet the threshold but the process should not be as long for the renewal contracts

Regional Conservation Partnership Program - Dianne Schlenker, NRCS

  • (Handout)
  • 10 current projects

Mississippi River Basin Initiative – Dianne Schlenker, NRCS (Handout)

  • 7 projects - $4,524,023
  • 360,387 sacks of fertilizer has been saved
  • $1 federal dollar has a return of $1.57 added to the economy
  • Input needed on what the producer contributes
  • Special event to share success of project is being planned for July 2017

Agriculture Conservation Easements Program (ACEP) – Marilyn Ott, NRCS

  • All funded applications ranked very high for this year’s evaluation
  • 27 easements selected for 2017
  • Funding Obligated for 2017 - $33,700,000 million
  • New GARC is being developed

FY 2018 Locally Led Process Feedback – Kenneth Lee, NRCS

  • In October 2017 a report will be provided on the recent locally led work group
  • 152 total projects
  • 75% were pasture
  • Cropland use
  • Forest use
  • All land uses
  • Screening tools were used by districts
  • Lafayette County wants center pivots – can Arkansas participate?
  • Feral Swine was mentioned by several
  • Sebastian County
  • Urban practices such as rain gardens9
  • High tunnel hoop houses
  • Scott County – no more poultry houses hook onto city water. Can they use ponds?
  • Eradication of giant Miscanthus practices
  • Wants more input from districts regarding practices that they might want to try
  • Deadline to remain March 30, 2018

Open Discussion

  • October 3, 2017 is the scheduled date for the next State Technical Committee, location TBD.
  • Farm Service Agency Acting Chairman Clayton Parr and Mike Sullivan gave a brief overview of the USDA Reorganization
  • NRCS and FSA (individual missions to stay the same) but what actions can be taken to better serve the client by working together
  • Farm Production and Conservation is the new identifier to better serve producers

Closing comments

  • Mike Sullivan said they would review the recommendations and seek clarification when needed but hope to move forward to developing a path forward based on the Subcommittee recommendations
  • Waiver process in place to start hiring staff – workload is heavy and need to fill 60 positions
  • Secretary of Ag Perdue – growing better together regardless of the resources we are given (President’s Budget includes some cuts)
  • Asked to complete the STC meeting evaluation forms and return to NRCS Meeting adjourned at 2:00pm
  • Respectfully submitted by Debbie Moreland, Acting Secretary

May 23, 2017 STC Full Meeting Packet (PDF, 2.2 MB)