On Thursday November 8, Jill Auburn attended the NRCS State Technical Committee (STC) meeting in Richmond. Although normally scheduled quarterly, the last meeting was held in March, as NRCS is still awaiting a new Farm Bill which will shape conservation programs and funding. The role of the STC is to provide technical guidance and input on administration of conservation programs under the current Farm Bill.
With the 2014 Farm Bill now expired and no new farm bill yet in place, NRCS programs have been suspended with the exception of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). NRCS folks at the meeting expressed the expectation that either a new Farm Bill or an extension of the 2014 bill would be passed in the near future.
The November 8 meeting opened with presentations on the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP), on recent research into nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) loading into the Chesapeake, and a Lancaster County, PA study on the economic and ecological benefits of removing sediment from historic mill dams. The VA Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) will hold meetings on Nov 26, 28, and 29 to gather input from Chesapeake Bay watershed Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) on the WIP (for details, visit
https://www.deq.virginia.gov/ConnectWithDEQ/PublicCalendar.aspx and enter WIP in search term box and Nov-Dec 2018 for search dates). Results of the PA study on mill dams will be posted next month at , http://www.bsr-project.org/.
NRCS and partner representatives shared program and activity updates. The VA NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) program has focused on soil health, though attendees were encouraged to provide input on other priorities for future funding. When it was her turn to speak, Jill described VABF’s new policy team and announced our Conference in January.