Conservation at the Forefront of TSGRA Annual Meeting
story by Jaime Tankersley
The Texas Sheep and Goat Raisers Association (TSGRA) welcomed over 260 ranchers, government and agriculture industry professionals to their 98th annual convention in Kerrville, July 25-27.
This year’s meeting focused on marketing strategies, predator management, weather modification, and federal program education.
Discussion opened Friday morning for the business segment of the event, with much of the talk centered on the Southwestern Gray Wolf’s threat to the industry. USDA-Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) both had a chance to address convention attendees and explain technical and financial program highlights and what has been accomplished in the state.
“In the past four years, over a billion dollars in investments have been made in Texas through our agency,” said Judy Canales, FSA State Executive Director.
This assistance aided in the development of small farming and ranching operations, assisting veterans, and matching farm operation loans for thousands of producers.
The TSGRA Education and Promotion Committee welcomed NRCS District Conservationist Dandy Kothmann, who offered an agency update.
“We continue to operate under the 2008 Farm Bill, so with that, our financial and technical assistance programs have seen little change in the past few years,” Kothmann opened.
One of the agency’s key programs that targets agriculture production and environmental quality is the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). EQIP offers a variety of conservation practices such as: plant health condition assistance, brush management, grazing management, and water development.
Kothmann stressed the importance of a conservation plan and technical assistance. The process for owners and operators is voluntary and one could work with a local NRCS office to establish their plan.
“Technical assistance is the bread and butter of our agency; this is what we utilize to address your personal resource concerns and build your blue prints for ranching success,” Kothmann explained.
A conservation plan consists of aerial maps, soil surveys, forage inventory, and outlines the treatment practices one wishes to utilize on their operation to improve productivity and preserve their natural resources.
The meeting wrapped up Saturday with speakers from the Hair Sheep Committee, Natural Resources and Environmental Rights Committee, Tax and Labor Committee, and luncheon keynote speaker, Bob Malone, Former Chairman of BP America and Sonora Bank President.
Additional information about NRCS and the technical and financial assistance available to agriculture producers can be found at www.tx.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/.