NACD from Capitol Hill: Update on appropriations

Last week officially kicked off the appropriations cycle for the legislation that funds USDA (including NRCS) and the many conservation programs districts use across the country. The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture sent its draft Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 bill to the full committee last Wednesday. NACD is focused on three areas of this bill:

  1. Funding for the Conservation Operations account, which includes funding for USDA’s Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA) program,

  2. Funding for the Watershed Programs, and

  3. Mandatory funding for farm bill conservation programs.

Despite President Donald Trump’s FY 2018 budget request to reduce CTA funding by almost $100 million, the House subcommittee funded the full Conservation Operations account at $858.9 million, slightly under the final FY 2017 figure and slightly over what the House passed in its Agriculture Appropriations FY 2017 bill.

The House subcommittee also rejected the president’s request for no new funding for the Watershed Operations and Watershed Rehab program, although it did allocate less funding for the program compared to FY 2017 levels. Perhaps most importantly, the subcommittee’s FY 2018 draft legislation does not include any reductions to EQIP or CSP – two mandatory farm bill programs that are regularly proposed for reduction during the appropriations cycle. NACD was pleased with the subcommittee’s decision to not continue this practice and looks forward to working with the full House Appropriations Committee, as well as their Senate counterpart, as the appropriations cycle continues.


The NACD Urban and Community Resource Policy Group (RPG) gathered June 23-25 in Nevada to discuss how NACD can best assist the nation’s conservation districts around urban and community conservation (U&C) considerations. The RPG also reviewed current U&C policy, identified potential U&C webinar topics, and brainstormed potential funding for future urban agriculture conservation (UAC) grants.

The highlight of the meeting was a trip to the Zion Garden Park (pictured), a 2016 UAC grant project sponsored by the Conservation District of Southern Nevada. The members barely noticed the 115 degree weather as they toured 50 new garden beds, permeable paved walkways, and a wrought iron fence paid for with leveraged funds. During both the tour – which was hosted by the Zion United Methodist Church – and RPG meeting, Amber Bosket, a volunteer UAC project coordinator and CDSN board member, and Corrie Bosket, an extension coordinator for conservation issues, shared valuable information with the RPG.

Cody and Deanna Sand of Ashley, North Dakota

Cody and Deanna Sand, along with their children Bailey, Desa, and Baxter, own and operate a 2,300-acre cow/calf operation in Dickey and McIntosh Counties in North Dakota. Cody and Deanna are third generation ranchers who purchased their ranch from Deanna’s parents in 2001 after renting it for two years. It took until 2012 though, the couple says, before they started making strategic decisions about soil health management – and reaping the rewards. The Sands’ transformation story started with a Holistic Management Course in Bismarck and was later chronicled in May of 2016 as part of a series published online by “On Pasture.”

The Sands wanted to make operational changes immediately, but they couldn’t change their calving season from March/April to May/June because the cows were already bred for the year. To help pay off some of their debt, they began selling off the equipment they no longer needed as part of their new management system. They also changed up their grazing routine by putting all their cattle into one herd and rotating them between parcels – a change that helped shift their under-stocked and over-grazed operation to a system with improved soil health and forage density. As a science fair project, their daughter Desa proved that the grazed pastures are now in better shape than the ungrazed acres.

While more changes to their operation need implementing, they say, one thing was clear to the Sands – change is a process. “Each year, we might have a situation that leads us to make a different management decision,” Deanna told NACD. “Being open to change and not putting yourself in a box is very beneficial. Nothing is perfect all the time, and holistic management is looking and managing for everything as a whole.” To hear more directly from Cody and Deanna on their operation’s amazing transformation, take a look at a presentation they gave called “Change: It’s not a 4-letter word” at the 2015 North Dakota Grazing Land Coalition Meeting (starting at 8:50 in the video). Also, be sure to visit the Sands’ Soil Health Champion profile online at NACD’s website.

If you or someone you know is interested in soil health and would like to become a member of this growing, progressive network, please contact NACD North Central Region Representative Beth Mason at or 317-946-4463 for more information.

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