Conservation districts celebrate 62nd Stewardship Week!

Since NACD established Stewardship Week in 1955, the event has grown to be one of the world’s largest conservation-related observances. This year’s theme – “Healthy Soils are Full of Life!” – celebrates the importance of conservation from the ground up.

Celebrations are being held across the country throughout the week. In Texas, the Atascosa County SWCD held an educational luncheon for local ministers, where they distributed soil stewardship materials for the county congregations, and their county judge signed a soil stewardship proclamation. Noble SWCD in Caldwell, Ohio, organized public service announcements about Stewardship Week that are being played on local radio stations. Boone County CD in Arkansas will be distributing pine tree seedlings to third graders and sunflower seeds to second graders in every school in the county.

Tomorrow, NACD’s Stewardship and Education Coordinator Diana Blackwood and Northeast Region Representative and Policy Specialist Eric Hansen will visit Delaware for the Soil Stewardship Awards, where Governor John C. Carney Jr. will honor a local winner of the national poster contest.

NACD will close out the week with its own celebration at the USDA People’s Garden in conjunction with the opening day of the USDA's Farmers Market in Washington, D.C., where we will quiz attendees on soil health and host a very special guest from NRCS – Sammy Soil (pictured above)! If you still need materials to plan a Stewardship Week event in your district, please click here to access this year’s free downloadable materials.

Washington, D.C., update from NACD

Yesterday morning, Congress released text of an omnibus appropriations bill to fund the federal government through the end of the current fiscal year (FY). Several voluntary conservation programs are funded through the annual appropriations process.

NACD is generally pleased with Congress’ proposed FY17 funding levels. Of particular note is $864.474 million in funding for Conservation Operations, which includes Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA), an increase of $13.6 million. Both the House of Representatives and Senate are expected to pass the bill later this week, with the president expected to sign it into law by Friday.

NACD will now shift our focus fully to the FY18 appropriations cycle. Stay tuned to eResource for more details on how NACD is working along with our grassroots members to ensure robust funding for conservation programs in FY18.

Which voluntary conservation programs have you talked to your lawmakers about?

The Michigan Association of Conservation Districts (MACD) has taken their call for conservation funding to the ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow.

During an April 19 meeting in Hemlock, Michigan, held by Stabenow’s staff, Jerry Miller, a member of Kent Conservation District’s board and the vice president of MACD, told the staffers, heads of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and members of several other natural resource organizations, just how important the farm bill’s Conservation Title is.

In his testimony, Miller (pictured above) said:

  1. Farm bill dollars are an investment in the nation’s local infrastructure that help put vital conservation practices to work nationwide.

  2. Congress should minimize paperwork for farmers who use cost-share assistance to implement conservation practices. The SAM and DUNS reporting requirements are time-consuming and unnecessary for farmers to complete. In our district, there have been farmers who have declined to participate in farm bill programs because of them.

  3. There needs to be greater flexibility in farm bill conservation programs so that states can tailor their projects to meet local soil and water resource needs. The 2018 Farm Bill gives Congress the opportunity to consider implementing different models for allocating conservation program funds that work best for states and individual conservation districts.

MACD will also submit testimony advocating for a strong farm bill in preparation of a May 6 hearing in Frankenmuth, Michigan, held by Stabenow and the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Pat Roberts of Kansas.

How are you and your district or state association working to educate your members of Congress? NACD invites you to use the resources on our Grassroots Advocacy webpage to contact your representatives about what’s at stake.

Daniel Unruh of Princeton, California

The NACD Soil Health Champions Network continues to grow and expand to include more soil health advocates from across the country. Currently, the Network includes soil champs from 40 states, and we hope to have more join soon. Most recently, California was added to the list of participating states with the induction of Princeton walnut farmer Daniel Unruh.

Originally from South Dakota, Daniel moved to California in 2006, and in 2010, helped his father-in-law establish a 190-acre walnut orchard. The orchard has since been passed on to Daniel and his wife to manage. Daniel uses cover crops as a tool for soil health to battle compaction, control pests, and retain soil moisture in an area prone to drought.

To get to know a bit more about Daniel, his operation, and how he is using cover crops, check out his profile online. 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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