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FY19 Minutes

State Technical Committee Meeting Minutes

 

Date:  January 9, 2020
Time: 9:00 a.m.
Location: Mississippi Cattlemen’s Association, Jackson, MS

 

9:00 a.m. - Welcome by Kurt Readus, State Conservationist, NRCS 
The State Technical Committee Meeting was called to order and the agenda was reviewed.  Mr. Readus welcomed the attendees and presenters at this meeting.  He thanked the MDEQ for their assistance with watershed assessments.  The assessments are utilized to justify the financial assistance that goes along with our conservation program initiatives.

Farm Bill rules process update; at the end of the public comment period for EQIP, CSP and ACEP.  
All comments are encouraged, please make positive comments as well.

Roddric Bell, Regional Director, Risk Management Agency (RMA)

2019 had extensive rainfall and flooding in backwater areas that impacted the RMA 2018 Farm Bill implementation. The 2018 Farm Bill makes several improvements to existing insurance products, speeds the creation of new products, and through new outreach and compliance requirements strengthens the integrity of the program.
Highlights
Specialty Crops – Hemp
1. Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) is allowed to offer policies for industrial hemp.
2. Insurable under Whole-Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) for 2020 crop year.
3. FCIC approved a stand-alone Hemp Policy on 12/19/19.  It does not affect Mississippi, currently no state policy.
New Policy features -
1) Enterprise units will allow growers to include land across county lines.
2) Underwriting rules cap individual Actual Production History (APH) declines at 10% when due to insurable causes of loss.
3) Administration fees – increases catastrophic coverage fees from $300 to $655.
4) New research and development reports to congress. 
              Rice irrigation practices – Alternate Wetting Drying (AWD) and Furrow Irrigated Rice will be insurable
               in 2020.
              Tropical Storm or Hurricane Insurance – Initial draft version is under agency review.
5) Study on corn, cotton, soybean production on batture land in Lower Miss. River Valley.  Met with producers affected by flooding.
Coarse Grain Policy Change for Double Cropping-
Allows more flexibility to choose Enterprise Units (EU) or option units (OU), by Following Another Crop (FAC) or Not Following Another Crop (NFAC) in select grain sorghum and soybean counties. Producers can better manage unique risks and insure FAC and NFAC units separately.

Livestock Changes - Increase to 2 million expected revenue limits for livestock and nursery limits.  Operations over 2 million can purchase WFPR, and revenue will be counted as revenue-to-count.
2019 Prevented planting –Nationally, 4.28 billion in claims have been paid out as of 12/30/19 for the 2019 crop year.  Four billion is associated with flood and excess moisture as causes of loss.  
Our state had 724,819 in loss acres, $130,384,595 indemnity.   Corn, followed by cotton, were the top two crops with the most loss acres.   Reviewed counties and prevented planting crop state maps.
Compliance plans – Grain crop premiums are higher in MS, LA, AK due to loss cause ratio.  We have more losses in our area, compliance teams are in the field.  We want growers to get the fairest premiums possible and to ensure the program is working as intended. 

Bobby Carson, Director, FSA   
Implementing the 2018 Farm Bill as it is written by congress is important.   CRP program is open until Feb. 28, 2020, there are some issues with GIS feature. 

CRP signup periods applicable for FY2020:

General CRP Signup 54 for competitive offers began December 9, 2019 and will conclude February 28, 2020. 

The CRP Grasslands signup period will follow the general signup and run from March 16, 2020, to May 15, 2020. 

Continuous CRP Signup for re-offers of expiring CRP land will begin April 1, 2020 and conclude August 21, 2020.

Also, offers containing new land for Continuous CRP Signup were accepted beginning December 9, 2019.  Offers for CRP through the Mississippi Delta CREP Agreement are also being accepted on a continuous basis subject to the applicable acreage limitation.

Market facilitation program is in response to the Chinese tariffs, these payments have been huge to growers in Mississippi and nation-wide.  FSA works closely with NRCS and RMA and thanks to the staff for their help.

Patty Roberts -  FSA, Conservation Compliance GIS Division

The GIS divisions work to implement the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), ensuring that all counties are implementing the program in the same way.  Ensuring a consistent message is provided to the state’s landowners and producers.

More than 960 contracts expired from CRP on 9/30/19, which included 36K acres, and 16K of these acres are enrolled in environmental priority practices.   Sign Up (SU)52 period was June 3 – August 23.  One year extensions were announced for some General CRP contracts.   Statewide total enrollment acres are 591,014.   CRP payments issued in Mississippi $44.4M, average statewide dollar per acre rent $75.10.

Updates to handbooks and materials are forthcoming to incorporate the Farm Bill 2018 provisions and changes.
General CRP signup 54 is December 9 – Feb 28.  Continuous CRP Signup 53 set for December 9 – Aug. 21.
In fiscal year 2020 approximately 2,200 contracts in CRP are expiring on 9/30/2020.  107K acres, 14K acres are enrolled in environmental priority practices.
 
Dr. Martin Locke, Director, National Sedimentation Laboratory

National Center for Alluvial Aquifer Research (NCAAR) is a joint center between ARS and MSU. Cooperative agreements were created to provide scientists to work on the research projects.  Our projects pertain to problems we are trying to address; monitoring and managing water use in agricultural production, conservation management, modeling agricultural management and process, and surface water storage. 

Drew Gholson, Assistant Professor & Irrigation Specialist, Delta Research and Extension Center
 

I want to provide through this presentation information about our faculty members, their positions, and the topics they are interested in.   This information is in the slide presentation.   Focus is producing research focused on conservation sustainability, and resources for agriculture and increasing profitability, conserving water and protect water quality.
Bringing in the economic aspect to put it into the producer’s hand through adoption.   Practices to implement are a collaborative effort. Review of positions that were filled at the center and the topics of research and practices each are involved in.  Contact Drew with any ideas or projects.

Delaney Johnson, State Soil Scientist, NRCS   
 

Review of tools and technology currently available for use. 
NRCS website highlights components of soil, water, air, plants and animals, energy, and people.
Feral swine population information, soil technology information for landowners and development planners.   We have mobile APP for “soil web” to access soil data.  Data can be used in agriculture, forestry, and urban interpretations for roads, tax, or land sales and purchases.  We have a broader responsibility and mission for conservation. 

NRCS and MSWCC have a five-year study to collect data for the development of Ecological Site Descriptions (ESD).  Ecological site descriptions can guide conservation planning decisions; they are based on science.  The land unit will have assessments of hydrologic, climate, soils, wildlife, and habitat to generate one ecological site description to be the footprint for the rest of the state.  It will demonstrate what is the best use if the land area was to be changed, modified, or used for something different than its current use.

This data is utilized in our initiatives to enhance the locally driven process to better address important conservation goals that transcend localities. 

We are available to assist our customers; our 2019 Annual Report provides contact information and achievements in the soil science department.

 

James Curtis, Assistant State Soil Scientist, NRCS

FEMA Flood mapping – reviewed and discussed handouts.
LiDAR elevation map, we have statewide data coverage, some areas do not have the best standard available, areas are being flown again to get the best standard for elevation point(s). It may take 1.5 years to complete this 10-million-dollar project.  
High-resolution imagery map – We partner with DEQ, and this is the newer data that is currently available.  Three underlined counties will be flown in 2020, in leaf-off conditions.  Four band imagery with the fourth band being near infrared, this helps us in hydric soil condition determinations.  

Stephen Champlin, MDEQ

Projects MDEQ is involved with include FEMA flood mapping for flood insurance, using LiDAR and high-resolution imagery tools to produce these maps, and working to update mapping. Reviewed map legend of counties where mapping status is complete, preliminary, and where mapping is underway.  Discussion of Risk Mapping, assessment and planning slide, review of the county status as noted in the legend.   
Ongoing levee analysis and mapping procedures projects include; Pearson Levee (Pearl), Potacocowa Creek Levee (Carroll Co.), Abiaca Creek Levee (Carroll Co.) and Greenville Harbor Levee.   This data is available on the MDEQ website, also have incorporated various layers that can be turned off or on pertaining to the flood map viewer.  Building footprints are also available and have elevation points noted.  The Mississippi Digital Earth Model (MDEM) is a collection of high accuracy GIS data, which includes seven core data layers.  Seventy-nine counties currently have Hi-Res Ortho imagery.  Additional counties will be added in 2020.  Local-scale 1:4,800 hydrography project lacks approximately 10,818 square miles for state-wide coverage of this data. This data is incorporated in the national NHD set with USGS.

Rogerick Thompson, Ecological Sciences, NRCS

Forestry resource concerns normally take three approaches, Longleaf Establishment, Pasture/cropland conversion, and Reestablishment.  The practices that dominate financial assistance through our programs are: 
Tree/Shrub establishment, Forest site preparation, Forest stand improvement, Firebreak and Prescribed burning.
Sustaining forest health is important and provides additional planning opportunities for these practices.  In addition, this is major concern of the forest stakeholders.  We will need additional input from stakeholders to identify priority areas in the event we are able to identity eligible counties.    Additional requirements may be added to our program guidelines.

National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI) and MS River Basin Initiative (MRBI)
NWQI – 46 states can participate for funds; MRBI – 13 eligible states
Criteria similarities include- HUC 12 level assessments, available technical capacity, and identification of critical source areas.
NWQI requirements include- 303D-TMDL-Threatened-Critical (SWPA), watershed plans and goals, technical capacity and producer interest, and measure progress.  Monitoring is required.   NRCS is currently in an agreement with MSWCC to assess 27 MRBI and 5 NWQI watersheds.  National CTA funding for completing assessments has changed; 50K per assessment and states can’t receive more than 150K dollars.  We are pursuing 32 assessments in 2020, which was approved prior to the new CTA funding limitations.

Mr. Readus was intentional with ensuring we were positioned to continue addressing resources via MRBI and NWQI.  When the 32 assessments were brought up and we realized that assessment changes were forthcoming, it was exciting to know Mr. Readus made the commitment to resources and producers.  Through our partnerships with MDEQ, it allows us to work together on the challenge of completing these 32 assessments. 

Natalie Segrest, MDEQ 
MDEQ has been working hard to show large scale successes on the ground and how we work with our producers.   Producers are our biggest conservationists; the success stories are important to share practices our agencies use in partnership with the landowner.  Structural and non-structural practices will be published that demonstrate water quality improvement in streams. 

Jason Keenan, NRCS Assistant State Conservationist, Easements
Last year we had 311 applications and 18 new easements were funded.  The 2018 Farm Bill has provided more funding for easements.  We are fourth in the nation for enrolling new easements.  Last year 3,800 acres were enrolled and two 30-year conversions.  We obligated some of the last Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) dollars to do restoration work on old easements.  ACEP rule has been posted to the Federal Registry, changes include increase in the acreage cap per county on wetland reserve easements from 10% to 15%.  With CRP we still must maintain the 25% cap.

ALE changes, entities that come to us can purchase a piece of property, protect it with our program, as long as they are going to sell it to a qualified individual in a short time frame.  More flexibility in easement management for the state pertaining to restoration and management. There is a wetlands subcommittee, if you are interested in joining, please advise. 


Waiting on funding for this year’s announcements but encourage applications to submitted now.  All prior applications do not rollover, landowners must submit a new application.   We currently have 70-80 applications.
Landowner guides have been created for our partners to distribute. 
Additional copies can be obtained by contacting, Jason Keenan.   Timber management guide is also available that discusses mature timber management on older easements.  A “How WRE Works” booklet has been developed to explain the program and processes involved with it.
Ranking forms for WRE and FPE have been updated. 
There were no changes to other ranking forms. 
Awaiting final approval for GARC payment rates.   These will be published when received.  If rates have decreased, it generally indicates that historical sales data for property was not available or was insufficient for rate factoring to justify the rates.

Audience comment - Would like NRCS to consider land areas, along the river between Vicksburg and the Louisiana state line in the Delta GARC area rates for next fiscal year.

 

Clarence Finley, NRCS, Assistant State Conservationist, Programs

2018 Farm Bill highlights - Demonstrates support through continued or elevated funding, provides for the opportunity to address the natural resource issues facing the nation’s farmers and ranchers voluntarily, provides for continued engagement of partners to expand resources available to our stakeholders.


Changes include:
NRCS to simplify and better target its program, demonstrate how to work better on private lands, and improve customer service.   Conservation outcomes and benefits will be the focus of our programs.  Expand opportunities and improve soil health. 


Areawide Conservation planning approach NRCS uses pertaining to the Feral Swine Eradication pilot program.  We are part of a 75-million-dollar national initiative to pilot priority areas within our state.  The counties eligible are; Issaquena, Sharkey, Warren, and Yazoo in the MS South Delta Feral Swine Control Pilot Project.

Source Water Protection- Source water protection (quality and quantity) should be considered in all conservation planning/programs, encouraging water quality and water quantity practices that protect source water while also benefitting agricultural producers.
   -NRCS shall collaborate with community water systems and the State Technical Committees to identify priority areas
   for source water protection within each state.
   -Water quality and water quantity practices that protect source water may have increased payment rates (not to
   exceed 90%).
   -In each FY from 2019-2023, at least 10% of funding from each conservation title program except CRP must be
   devoted to supporting source water protection.

Working lands for wildlife gopher tortoise initiatives will continue in the state.    The conservation planning side of NRCS will start at the front end with the landowner to develop a good comprehensive conservation plan up-front.   Working with our TSP providers and consultants will be key.
Farm Bill mandates STC meetings. Encourage participation in the STC sub-committee, sign up for sub- committee is available at the registration table.

Financial Assistance Program Division (FAPD) -

The 2018 Farm Bill authorized increased payment rates for certain high-priority practices and increased payment rates for practices that address source water protection

Mississippi is proposing the following EQIP practices for increased payment rates capped at 90%:

Cover Crop (340) – grasses, legumes, and forbs planted for seasonal vegetative cover resulting in many possible conservation benefits.

Residue Management (329) – limiting soil disturbance to manage the amount, orientation and distribution of crop and plant residue on the soil surface year around.

Riparian Forest Buffer (391) – an area of predominantly trees and/or shrubs located adjacent to and up-gradient from watercourses or water bodies, such as streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, and wetlands.

Well Decommissioning (351) – the sealing and permanent closure of an inactive, abandoned, or unusable water or monitoring well.

Riparian Herbaceous Cover (390) – grasses, grass-like plants and forbs that are tolerant of intermittent flooding or saturated soils and that are established or managed in the transitional zone between terrestrial and aquatic habitats.

Forage and Biomass Planting (512) – establishing, reestablishing, or interceding adapted and/or compatible species, or cultivars of herbaceous species suitable for pasture, hay, or biomass production.

Field Border (386) – a strip of permanent vegetation established at the edge or around the perimeter of a field.  The primary purpose is to provide early successional habitat buffers for wildlife to provide food, nesting cover and escape cover for quail and other upland birds in cropland areas. 

Filter Strip (393) – a strip or area of herbaceous vegetation that removes contaminants from overland flow.  They are established where environmentally sensitive areas need to be protected from sediment, other suspended solids, and dissolved contaminants in runoff.


EQIP:

New or expected resource concerns

Payments for Soil Remediation

Payments for Soil Testing

CNMP – Progressive Planning

Livestock Threshold from 50% to 60%   

Wildlife Threshold from 5% to 10%

Water Conservation and Contract with irrigation district…or similar entities

Organic contract limits increased to $140,000

Increases authorization to > $2 Billion by 2023
 

CSP
Acres to Dollars Program

Grows to $1 Billion by 2023

Streamline with EQIP
 

CSP-Grasslands

Land grass/idle 2009-2017

Addresses resource concerns related to grassland

$18/acre for 5-years

Withdraw with no penalty

CSP-Renewals
Adopting a higher level of conservation, will be more competitive.
First-Half of 5th year.

CSP-Classic
125% payment for Cover Crops
150% payment for Resource Conserving Crop Rotation
150% payment for Advance Grazing Management
Defines Management Intensive Rotational Grazing
1-time payment for Comprehensive Conservation Planning

Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) is now a stand-alone program. Requires establishment of a publicly available conservation practice database that provides a compilation and analysis of effective conservation practices for soil health, nutrient management, and source water protection.
-May use the Availability of Program Funding without regulation.
-Increases funding to $300 Million.
-Defines Partnership Agreement (Streamline the Program).
Our first RCCP sign up was completed last month. There are opportunities in this program to bring dollars into Mississippi. 

Voluntary Public Access – Is a new habitat incentive program under the Farm Bill.  It provides funding to State and Tribal Governments to create or enhance public access programs that encourage owners and operators of privately- held farm, ranch, and forest land to voluntarily make that land available for access by the public for hunting, fishing, and other wildlife-dependent recreation.

  • $50 million available in VPA-HIP funding

  • Projects Branch at NHQ will coordinate the review and selection of FY2020 projects

-   Projects managed at the State level.

Our 2019 annual report provides information on our accomplishments.  We rank in the top 3 for funding in the nation.  We rely on our partnerships to get conservation on the ground and we work together to help the farmer.

 

Scott Coleman, NRCS, State Agricultural Engineer
 

2020 EQIP updates:

Heavy use areas- This year, we will be offering a winter feeding station which provides a structure adequate to handle the weight associated with livestock feeding.
Roof runoff system - We will offer this gutter system on structures that we install, composters, and dry-stacks.  System will be offered to dairy operations to catch uncontaminated runoff roof water.
Building envelope improvement (672) – In FY 2020, we will offer Batt insulation and Spray Polyurethane Foam Insulation covered with 23/32” wood structural panel for poultry houses.  Must meet fire requirement of NRCS.
Spray foam master certification is required for individuals or companies applying the spray foam.

Ron Howard, Senior Technical Advisor/ Natural Resource Specialist, Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Team
Our team has direct communication with the USDA Secretary office relative to the BP Deep Water Horizon oil spill in April 2010.  There are multiple funding streams from this event:
Natural resource damage assessment, RESTORE Act and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

The settlement with BP was completed in 2015 for 8.8 billion dollars.  A government structure between State and Federal trustees was formed to determine the disbursement of these funds.  

Mississippi’s Gulf restoration works projects with USDA and NRCS to restore water quality. The upper Pascagoula water quality enhancement received 4 million in funding.  We have started outreach, developing restoration plans and contracts to start implementation to address nutrient and sediment runoff on agricultural land to restore water quality.  We still have an opportunity for funding to reduce sediment and nutrient load practices and restore water quality for landowner’s participation.   

RESTORE Act project – Gulf Coast Conservation Reserve Program; four gulf states participated, the focus is on habitat restoration.  On this project, we have done planning, outreach, and education, development of contracts, and obligation of contracts.   Eighteen projects have received over 40 million dollars.

The forestry piece of the RESTORE council opportunity for USDA to start developing project proposals, but projects have not been finalized.  

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation - Received funding and are able to leverage Farm Bill dollars in agreements to implement Farm Bill projects concentrating in gulf counties.   90 million in agreements, 45 million coming from NRCS.  There is an RFP listed for the lower MS Alluvial valley, focus is bottomland hardwood restoration.  It is on the National Fish and Wildlife website.  4 million available for non-profit, state, local, municipal government, educational institutions or Indian tribes. 

Round Robin
Mr. Readus thanked the agencies and attendees for working together and always being available to discuss funding project opportunities and directing opportunities for our state.   Forest stands on easements are 20- 25 years old.  In previous years we have not been able to use the funding to manage timber; working with our partners has enabled us to obtain funding for this project.  We can’t do what we do if we aren’t working together. 

The floor was opened to attendees to speak on potential and upcoming projects.

Conservation districts thanked Mr. Readus for their partnership and invite all to attend the MACD meeting on 1/22 to the legislative reception at the Hilton in Jackson, MS.

Mr. Mark Gilbert reminded attendees that there is funding to be used for the small watershed program(s). Wants to upgrade dams to high hazard status and is exploring remedial work for non-high hazard status funding. 
MS has over 500 structures that fall under this program.  Boards need to be active in your district.

Dale Jones – Thanked Mr. Readus for inviting him to the meeting and was interested in the Winter-Feeding stations, believes this will be exciting and important to our elderly and women farmers. He would like to volunteer to be a demonstration site for these stations.

Russell Bozeman – The first draft of the state forest action plan will be completed this month, by June should identify priority areas.  It will be a wealth of knowledge and useful in the state.   Working with congressional delegates, regarding Cogan grass and its eradication, has not seen funding, but expects it to come to the state.

Deborah Hendrix – Thanked Mr. Readus for doing a lot for this state and the farmers.  Acknowledged and thank Mr. Readus because he has a wonderful staff that does a great job, and that means a lot to her and the other women farmers that she knows. 

Cogan grass funding program, awaiting to announce applications once funding is received.

Dave Godwin - MFA is wrapping up two projects with NRCS in south MS.  Ready to help with forest health process.
Kurt Readus – Forest land small owners that have difficulty getting vendors out to do work the contract requires, we will send to MFA for assistance.  This will assist small landowners to keep contractually compliant.

James Cummings– Wildlife MS is excited about the first ALE project in MS.
Steve Brock – Lower MS Valley will start filming a video series to educate landowners on forest, wetlands. Have goal to complete by end of year.  Also plan to host landowner workshop of forest stands on easements in the delta area.

Carl Petrick, Forest Service -  Southern pine beetle epidemic is tapering off.  Big effort to assess condition of our land and share this with the public. To get more people involved with the programs we have available to implement.

Grant NACD on fire prevention, protection and wildfire, prescribed burning.   Will send meeting information to Laura Anderson to disseminate.  This one-day meeting will be held in Alabama. 

 

Meeting adjourned at 12:15 p.m.