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State Technical Committee Meeting Minutes

Meeting Minutes

New Jersey State Technical Committee

State Technical Committee Meeting minutes are available in Adobe Reader format.

________________________________________

Draft Minutes of December 19, 2019 meeting 

 

pdf document (455 kb)

 

 

Natural Resources Conservation Service

New Jersey State Technical Committee

220 Davidson Avenue 4th Floor, Somerset, NJ 08873

Meeting Date: Thursday, December 19, 2019
Meeting Location: Somerset, NJ


The meeting was convened by NRCS State Conservationist Carrie Lindig at 10:03. Opportunity at NRCS to discuss program implementation, receive feedback, and recommendations for New Jersey. Congress reauthorized the Farm Bill in December 2018. NRCS is in the process of developing proposed rules for all programs to reflect changes in the Farm Bill. EQIP and CSP rules are currently out for comment. We encourage you to go to the federal register and make comments.

Those present included:

Elizabeth Matseur, New Jersey Audubon

Kristen Meistrell, New Jersey Audubon

John Parke, New Jersey Audubon

Mike Westendorf, Rutgers Cooperative Extension

Sharon Petzinger, NJ Fish and Wildlife

Bill Angstadt, Growmark FS

Bridgett Hilshey, North Jersey RC&D

Christian Bench, North Jersey RC&D

Laura Tessieri, North Jersey RC&D

Karen Rutberg, Greater Newark Conservancy

Kathy Hale, NJWSA

Beth Freiday, USFWS

Kristina Heinemann, US EPA R2

Kurt Bond, Quail Forever

Austin Damminger, Quail Forever

Audrey Moore, USEPA Region 2

Adrian Hyde, NOFA-NJ

Nagisa Manabe, NOFA-NJ

Nancy Coles, USDA-FSA

Bob Nyman, USEPA

Michael Flood, US EPA Region 2

Cindy Roberts, SADC

Larry Elworth, CAP LLC/NFWF

Virginia Lamb, NJ Composting Council

Dave Clapp, SADC

Erin Landis, The Watershed Institute

Mitch Mickley, NJWA

Betsy McShane, NJ NRCS

Nick Saumweber, NJ NRCS

Edwin Muniz, NJ NRCS

Fran Deficcio, NJ NRCS

Lauren Lapczynski, NJ NRCS

Gail Bartok, NJ NRCS

Christine Hall, NJ NRCS

Carrie Lindig, NJ NRCS

Kaitlin Farbotnik, NJ NRCS

Liz Thompson, New Jersey Farm Bureau, On the phone

Tina Notas, D&R Greenway, On the phone

Brittney Dobrzynski, NJ Audubon, On the phone

Danielle Bara, NJ Audubon, On the phone

Cali Alexander, NOFA, On the phone

Janis Rega, USDA RD, On the phone

10:10  June Meeting Minutes review and acceptance: Correct minutes as needed & review action items - Christine Hall, NRCS

No changes or action items

10:12  2019 Program year in review: Discussion on what projects were funded last year - Gail Bartok, NRCS

Easements: NJ NRCS sent back quite a bit of ALE money. We funded all ALE applications that were received. Beth Freiday asked why money was sent back. Gail expressed that we are encouraging partners to submit applications to create a backlog. Cindy Roberts explained that it is hard to sell the program when there is so much uncertainty.

There was a nice distribution of WRE parcels across the state. 2 in Salem (1 RCPP), 1 in Hunterdon, and 1 in Sussex County. There is around 200k remaining in the SADC Whole Farm Trials RCPP for WRE easements in Salem County

Financial/Working Lands Programs: We turned back some money in AMA. It will be offered in North Jersey in FY 2020. CSP - Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative is new with the 2018 Farm Bill. It was announced in May and will be offered again.

A question was asked about whether NRCS was still getting a lot of high tunnel applications or if we are exhausting the market. Gail said we are still getting a lot of applications and funded about half of them last year.

Larry Elworth asked: What is the Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA) allocation for NJ in FY20?

Action – NRCS will look that up number and report back.

While the rules are being developed, we do not have the authorization to enter into new agreements and contracts.

A question was asked regarding Working Lands for Wildlife – Will we get money for Quail or Black duck? Gail Bartok and Fran Deficcio explained that the Bog Turtle and Golden Winged Warbled WLFW money are distributed nationally and the Quail and Black duck are taken from the NJ allocation for EQIP. We will offer black duck and quail again this year. Historically, we do not get money for bog turtle because we have not funded any applications. However, golden winged warbler interest and funding has been increasing every year.

A sign up for EQIP for FY 2020 closed on August 30th. We received 453 applications. The field offices are working on the conservation planning now for those applications so we can hit the ground running when the guidance is published.

10:35  2020 Program Changes: Discuss changes and challenges for 2020 - Gail Bartok and Christine Hall, NRCS

New Farm Bill Rules – Gail Bartok:

Cindy Roberts asked when we can have a sign-up? Gail Bartok explained that it is likely after the comment period for when the ACEP interim final rule is released, but we are waiting additional guidance

A question was asked about the percentage increase of RCPP funds available.

Action – NRCS will have to look that up and report back.

EQIP purpose change – The Farm Bill included language regarding addressing new or expected resource concerns and drought resiliency. Beth Freiday – Is that a nod to climate change? Christine – per our national headquarters staff, the intent behind this change related to land coming out of CRP contracts that if plowed with no conservation measures in place would result in terrible erosion problems.

Beth Freiday – Will we need to delineate High priority areas? Gail – Yes

RCPP? What is changing? Answer – Nick will be talking about RCPP later in the meeting.

David Clapp – What is soil remediation? Answer – we will cover this later in the meeting.

Larry – New vs Existing resource concerns? New irrigation for say blueberries… Does this language change mean you could put in new irrigation on previously unirrigated land? Gail – No, you still need to have the history of previous irrigation on the land to be eligible for irrigation improvements

CART – Conservation Assessment Ranking Tool – Christine Hall:

The Conservation Assessment Ranking Tool (CART) is a new assessment and ranking tool for NRCS that will streamline conservation assessments and integrate GIS products. It will integrate our current systems and processes that are running separately.

Mike Westendorf asked if TSPs will have access to CART. Christine Hall said that at this time no, but we believe that they will be able to in the future.

Christine asked for volunteers that want to be involved in developing the ranking priorities for this year’s program funding. 

Action:  A list was circulated, and the following people volunteered to help with the customization of CART ranking for NJ’s priorities:  Larry Elworth, Dave Clapp, Mitch Mickley, Laura Tessieri, and Kathy Hale. Anyone else who wants to help with this should contact Christine by January 15th.

A question was asked if RCPP projects will still have their own ranking. Christine explained that yes, they will, but we may need to revisit the RCPP ranking questions with the new functionality.

Bill Angstadt asked if the assessment questions are national. Christine Hall explained that the assessments are nationally developed, but many pilot states were involved in refining the assessment. NJ conservation planners will have the ability to override the CART assessment results when the planner can identify through observation or other assessment method that planning criteria has or has not been met.

Source Water Protection Areas – Christine Hall:

The new Farm Bill includes provisions for the protection of Source Water Areas.  The first task is to develop the geographic priority areas for source water protection in NJ. Currently NJ NRCS is using the “Water Source Area” mapping found on the NJ GeoWeb, but this can be modified. Part of the question is can NRCS do anything to impact the water quality in a given area based on agricultural impacts. We want to use this strategically to incentivize areas that may need the extra funding to adopt conservation practices. The chosen priority areas will receive 90% payment rates for the priority practices that we select.

Larry Elworth asked if this percentage increase is for the entire cost or the difference? Christine explained that there is no separate pool of money. It will be the entire practice for those that are implemented within the priority areas.

Action:  A list was circulated, and the following people volunteered to help with the development of the source water priority areas and practices:  Michael Flood, Kristina Heineman, Mitch Mickley, Laura Tessieri, and Kathy Hale. Anyone else who wants to help with this should contact Christine by January 15th.

10 Practices for Priority Funding – Christine Hall:

There is another opportunity to increase percentage rates anywhere in New Jersey for up to 10 practices. Christine asked what are the practices that could really benefit from the additional monetary incentive for adoption? What are the practices that we are not doing a lot of that we want to encourage participation?

Action:  A list was circulated, and the following people volunteered to help with the development of the 10 priority practice list:  Michael Flood, Audrey Moore, Austin Damminger, Kurt Bond, Dave Clapp, Kristen Meistrell, John Parke, Kristina Heineman, Mitch Mickley, Mike Westendorf, Sharon Petzinger, Laura Tessieri, Christian Bench and Kathy Hale. Anyone else who wants to help with this should contact Christine by January 15th.

Larry Elworth: Does it have to be prioritized or just a list of up to 10 practices? Christine: Just a list

David Clapp: How does the foregone income play into the % incentives? It might be something to look into if we are already contributing a greater percentage with foregone income for certain practices. Lauren Lapczynski explained that the % rates are based on cost categories and practices that include foregone income (income lost from the land being taken out of production) already include 100% for that category and the % rate may be over 75% already.

Larry Elworth: Will this higher cost be for all implementations of these practices? Christine: It is my understanding that yes it will be for all implementation of these practices so we need to be thoughtful about what practices should be included on the list.

The list below reflects an initial effort to identify some of these potential priority practices for New Jersey based on feedback from NRCS field staff and technical specialists:

Conservation Practices

Diversion (FT) (362)

Grassed Waterway (AC) (412)

Terrace (FT) (600)

Contour Buffer Strips (AC) (332)

Contour Farming (AC) (330)

Lined Waterway or Outlet (FT) (468)

Waste Storage Facility (NO) (313)

Stripcropping (AC) (585)

Windbreak/Shelterbelt Establishment (FT) (380)

Critical Area Planting (AC) (342)

Amending Soil Properties with Gypsum Products (AC) (333)

Conservation Cover (327)

Herbaceous Wind Barriers (AC) (603)

Restoration of Rare or Declining Natural Communities (643)

Vegetative Barriers (FT) (601)

Cross Wind Trap Strips (AC) (589C)

Filter Strip (AC) (393)

Integrated Pest Management (AC) (595)

Residue and Tillage Management, Reduced Till (AC) (345)

Structure for Water Control

Underground Outlet

Wetland Enhancement (657)

 

11:42  NRCS Easement Changes, Gail Bartok and Lauren Lapczynski, NRCS

Gail Bartok mentioned that the ACEP rule is not published yet. We should see it early in the new year.

Lauren stressed the benefit of having a Geographic Area Rate Cap is the ability to outreach for parcels based on a set rate. ACEP Rule is in progress. She encouraged everyone to provide comments. Positive comments are important to ensure that changes are preserved in the final rule.

As you can see, locally led conservation is highlighted in the new Farm Bill and we are asking for volunteers for a lot of topics on New Jersey policies. Lauren solicited for volunteers to provide comments on wetland restoration priorities in New Jersey.

Action:  A list was circulated and the following people volunteered to help with the development of wetland restoration priorities in New Jersey: Michael Flood, Audrey Moore, Kristina Heinemann, John Parke, Mitch Mickley, Sharon Petzinger, Laura Tessieri, Beth Freiday. Anyone else who wants to help with this should contact Lauren Lapczynski by January 24th.

 

11:49  Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), Nick Saumweber, NRCS

Status of NJ RCPPs

  • New Jersey did not get any renewals. Renewals were very competitive
  • All annual reports were submitted.
  • No New Jersey applications submitted in December for the FY20 RCPP
  • CCAs are designated by congress. New Jersey does not have any.
  • New RCPP projects and partners should begin developing their proposals now.  Review the FY 2019 application package for information on how to get started.

12:08  Conservation Innovation Grants, Christine Hall, NRCS

Conservation Innovation Grants have been around since 2004.  Prior to the 2018 Farm Bill, there used to be a state component and a national. The maximum grant award for a state CIG was 75k and states have the option to offer CIG or not. 

In 2019 NJ NRCS offered a state CIG competition and two projects were selected for funding. North Jersey RC&D for evaluation of short season cash crops to facilitate cover crop establishment and Groundwork Elizabeth for an urban agriculture demonstration.

A question was asked about the new provisions for urban agriculture in the Farm Bill. Carrie explained that it was assigned to NRCS and an acting position was filled. It is currently in the formation process nationally.

Under the 2018 Farm Bill there are now three funding categories available for CIG:  1) “Classic” CIG, 2) On Farm Trial and 3) State CIG.  Classic CIG and On Farm Trial are completed nationally.  One soil health on-farm trial project was selected for funding in New Jersey with North Jersey RC&D.  Laura Tessieri explained that it is for three years with 25 farmers in northern New Jersey. They will evaluate three different ways to terminate cover crops: pushing the termination later, using roller crimpers, and grazing down cover crops. They will evaluate the economic and soil health effectiveness.

The national Classic CIG will have specific topics each year that will be eligible for project development. States can select their own state level specific topics to focus on.  Under the 2018 Farm Bill, the $75K cap for individual state CIGs has been removed.

New Jersey is not planning to have a competition for FY 20 but will resume in FY 21. There will still be a national competition for this year, but we do not know what the topic areas are yet.

12:19  National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI), Christine Hall, NRCS

Under this initiative, NJ NRCS has been working in the Upper Salem, Upper Cohansey, and Upper Alloway since 2012. The Upper Alloway has been removed for FY 20 because there is no watershed protection plan. All watersheds now need to have a plan to be included in the NWQI.

Action:  If anyone has watersheds that they would like to be considered for addition to NWQI in NJ they should let Christine know so that we could work to include them for FY 21.

 

Kristina – NJDEP is monitoring in the Upper Salem. What has the distribution of practices between the three watersheds been? Christine said Salem > Cohansey > Alloway.

Larry – Is there a change in financial assistance funding available for Salem and Cohansey based on us removing Alloway? Gail – We are expecting to get about the same amount for this year, but we do not know for sure yet.

12:25  New Soil Health Items, Kaitlin Farbotnik, NRCS

Kaitlin is looking for volunteers to discuss priorities for when, where, and how to implement practices that benefit soil health in New Jersey through the development of a soil health strategic plan. She is also looking for additional volunteers in the soil health focus group.

Action:  A list was circulated, and the following people volunteered to help with the development of a soil health strategic plan for NJ:  Virginia Lamb, Mitch Mickley, Bill Angstadt, Bridgett Hilshey, Laura Tessieri, Christian Bench, Karen Rutberg, Kathy Hale and Cali Alexander. Anyone else who wants to help with this should contact Kaitlin by January 15th.

Action:  A list was circulated, and the following people would like to join the NJ Soil Health Focus Group:  Virginia Lamb, Dave Clapp, John Parke, Mitch Mickley, Bill Angstadt, Bridgett Hilshey, Laura Tessieri, Christian Bench, Karen Rutberg, Kathy Hale and Cali Alexander. Anyone else who wants to help with this should contact Kaitlin by January 15th.

There is a meeting planned that will focus on cover crops and no-till in vegetable production systems. The meeting is geared for producers and is a joint effort by NRCS, Rutgers, and NJ Audubon. Details below:

Cover Crops in Vegetable Production Systems: Tools and Techniques for Building Soil Health to Maximize Profits

Date: February 25, 2020

Location: Ware Agricultural Office Complex, 51 Cheney Road, Woodstown, NJ 08098

Time: 9:30-3:00 (lunch provided)

Presentations will include:

•           Overview of Soil Health Benefits

•           Producer View: Experience with Companion Cover Cropping

•           Residual Pesticide Considerations in Vegetable Operations with Cover Crops

•           Producer View: Experience with Cover Crop Mixes

•           Equipment for the Effective Transplanting of Vegetables

•           Maximize Productivity by Maximizing Pollinators

•           Producer View: Experience with No-Tilling Pumpkins and Sweet Corn into Cover Crops

•           Weed Control in Vegetable Fields

•           Producer and Speaker Panel

12:41  No-till and cover crop workshops for agricultural service providers, Laura Tessieri, North Jersey RC&D

Laura explained that North Jersey RC&D received a SARE grant for professional development so that ag service providers can better meet the needs of crop farmers for no-till and cover crop technical assistance. It will provide a train-the-trainer opportunity for professionals to provide information about no-till and cover crop. They will be developing a booklet, providing webinars and conducting workshops to educate professionals. The information will provide professionals with the ability to talk to farmers on the use of cover crops and no-till. There will be sign-ups in 2020 for participants in the program. There will also be an opportunity for CEUs for participants in the program. Talk to Laura if you are interested in participating.

12:46  Pennsylvania 4R Alliance, Bill Angstadt, Growmark FS

The 4R alliance was started in Pennsylvania in 2012 with a PA NRCS CIG. In 2014, the Delaware Maryland 4R Alliance was developed. They merged to combine under one 501c for the Mid-Atlantic. Bill Angstadt asked if NJ NRCS wanted to consider being added to the MOU. There is potential for NJ to create a 4R Alliance that would work with farmers to promote systems that improve crop productivity through increased nutrient use efficiency and reduce losses of nutrients to the environment.

 

12:52  Farm Service Agency Program Update, Nancy Coles, FSA

 

There were significant changes to the SAFE program in the new Farm Bill. Some of it is now competitive. SAFE Grass and Tree practices have been moved to the general sign up. The SAFE buffer and wetland practices will remain under continuous CRP signup. There will be some prioritization for areas within the SAFE areas in the general sign up.

 

The soil rental rates are posted in the county offices. The general sign up is from December through February. The continuous sign up is going on now. Conservation planning will begin in April through September. The Grassland sign up will be from March to May 2020. The CLEAR 30 signup will be in Spring 2020.

Christine Hall asked if the soil rental rates are available online or at the local offices only? Nancy Coles said they are only available at the local offices, but they can be distributed to the State Tech.  

Action – Nancy will provide the soil rental rates to the committee.

12:48  New and Revised Conservation Practice Standards for 2020, Kaitlin Farbotnik and Dave Lamm, NRCS

Kaitlin gave a brief update on Conservation Practice Standards that are being updated.  The NJ variance request was approved by NRCS national headquarters for High Tunnels.  This variance allows for barriers to be installed in high tunnels in areas with contaminated soils.

The Nutrient Management and Pest management standards will be updated with significant changes.

Action:  A list was circulated, and the following people volunteered to help with the review and update of the Nutrient Management and Pest Management practice standards for NJ:  Larry Elworth, Audrey Moore, Kristina Heineman, Mitch Mickley, Bill Angstadt, Bridgett Hilshey and Kathy Hale. Anyone else who wants to help with this should contact Kaitlin by January 15th.

 

Due to time constraints the following updates will be sent via email:

  • Field Office Technical Guide (FOTG) Update, Christine Hall, NRCS
  • New Planning Criteria – LINK TO POWERPOINT
  • And the Carbon Farming Workshop topic will be covered after the meeting for those interested in staying late.

12:50  Open Discussion

2020 Soils calendar posters are available for distribution.  Contact Edwin Muniz if you would like a calendar or several of them.

Kristina Heineman – the Farm Ranch and Rural Communities committee is starting from scratch with new members.  A copy of the Federal Register notice was distributed.  They are looking for members. Also, take a look at EPA’s website for grant opportunities.  There are two RFPs that have been released including one for Environmental Education and one for Research on PFAS Impacts in Rural Communities and Ag Operations.

Kathy Hale - DEP released two RFPs last week 1) for harmful algal blooms which is due January 13th and 2) for the yearly watershed restoration grants which are due in February.

Audrey Moore – Reported that 10 biopesticides have now been approved for use on hemp.  Press release from EPA’s website

Next Meeting Date: March 2020.  Specific date/time to be determined.

1:07 adjournment​


USDA Acronyms

  • ACEP – Agricultural Conservation Easement Program

  • ALE - Agricultural Land Easements

  • AMA – Agricultural Management Assistance Program

  • CAP – Conservation Activity Plan

  • CIG – Conservation Innovation Grant

  • CRP – Conservation Reserve Program

  • CREP - Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program     

  • CSP – Conservation Stewardship Program

  • EQIP – Environmental Quality Incentive Program

  • GSS – Grassland of Special Significance

  • HFRP – Healthy Forest Reserve Program

  • RCPP – Regional Conservation Partnership Program

  • SAFE – State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement

  • WLFW – Working Lands for Wildlife

  • WRE – Wetlands Reserve Easements

 

This page last updated January 7, 2020