During NACD’s 73rd Annual Meeting, Feb. 2-6, 2019, in San Antonio, Texas, meeting attendees will have the opportunity to hear from prominent leaders in conservation about the challenges, advancements and emerging strategies related to natural resources management.

On Tuesday, Feb. 5, the general session will feature a soil health panel with representatives from companies working to advance soil health on all landscapes. NACD is pleased to announce that Soil Health Partnership Executive Director Dr. Shefali Mehta will be joining the annual meeting speaker lineup as a panelist.

Mehta received her Ph.D. in agricultural and applied economics, and a master’s degree in statistics, from the University of Minnesota. Mehta is the co-founder and CEO of an agricultural technology start-up, Ceres Wave, and also founded and leads Open Rivers Consulting Associates. She is a past Vice Chairwoman of Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, and serves on other boards, including those at the Minnesota Invasive Terrestrial Plants and Pests Center, the School of Statistics at the University of Minnesota, and Compatible Technology International.

Mehta will join Dr. Wayne Honeycutt, president and CEO of the Soil Health Institute, to discuss emerging issues and resources for soil health, as well as partnership opportunities for conservation districts. Additional soil health presentations will be provided during the 16 annual meeting breakout sessions.


On Nov. 2, NACD Director of Development Laura Demmel and South Central Region Representative Keith Owen participated in the Agriculture Future of America (AFA) Opportunity Fair, held in conjunction with the AFA Leadership Conference, in Kansas City, Mo. The AFA Leaders Conference offers college students personal and professional development opportunities matched to their year in college. Over 800 delegates from nearly 40 states and 100 college campuses attended the meeting.

Demmel and Owen discussed the NACD internship program, as well as the 2019 NACD Annual Meeting’s Conservation Careers Workshop. NACD, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), is seeking up to 10 highly-qualified students to attend a two-day conservation career workshop at NACD’s Annual Meeting. During the workshop, participants will learn about conservation careers, develop professional skills, and create outreach plans with the National Conservation Partnership which includes NRCS, state conservation agencies and conservation districts.

Students selected for this highly competitive opportunity will receive travel expenses to attend the 2019 NACD Annual Meeting to learn more about careers in conservation and to develop a plan for sharing information on their respective campuses. Upon successful completion of the conservation career workshop, students will leave the event with the information, knowledge and professional contacts needed to hold a successful conservation career outreach event on their campus during the Spring or Fall 2019 semester.

Complete the application online or contact to learn more. Applications should be received by Nov. 30, 2018 and finalists will be notified in early December 2018.


In January 2018, Ohio’s Brown County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) received a technical assistance grant from NACD and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) designed to add capacity at the local level to provide more assistance to landowners. This technical assistance grant came at a perfect time for Brown County SWCD.

Brown County SWCD hired Chris Rogers to serve as its conservation technician more than 25 years ago, which eventually led him to become the district manager. Due to budget cuts, Brown County SWCD was unable to hire a replacement conservation technician, so Rogers was wearing both hats and that slowed progress. Rogers wrote a job description and waited patiently for the right applicant. In late spring, the district hired John Brown, an environmental engineering technologies graduate who had interned with neighboring Clermont County SWCD.

According to Rogers, Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) participants are thankful that time delays have been reduced.

“The EQIP backlog is being whittled down and we are really moving forward in our programming,” Rogers said. “There is no longer a concern about how we are going to see these contracts and projects through from start to finish. Planning, design and construction are also moving forward, which has more customers coming in our doors to get information about EQIP or to sign up.” Read more on this success story on NACD’s blog.


The Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA)’s soil health stamp proposal is closer to becoming a reality. Ideas for future United States Postal Service (USPS) stamps have to be reviewed by the Citizen’s Stamp Advisory Committee, which receives thousands of proposals for new stamps each year. ISDA’s proposed soil health stamp has been moved onto the “additional review and consideration” category, the first step in the three-year process that proposals must go through to become a USPS stamp.

Thanks to the conservation districts, state associations and individuals who supported the proposal with organizational letters or the online general letter. The ISDA proposal was submitted with 70 separate letters of support and over 700 individual signatures, representing 44 states and two territories, emphasizing the national significance of improving our soils.


The New Hampshire Association of Conservation Districts (NHACD) held their annual meeting in Manchester, N.H., last week. Meeting attendees heard sessions about invasive plants, soil health practices, the maple syrup industry and the importance of biomass in New Hampshire. Shawn Jasper, New Hampshire’s new Commissioner of Agriculture, and Brad Simpkins, director of the New Hampshire Division of Forests and Lands, provided keynote addresses. NACD Northeast Region Representative and Policy Specialist Eric Hansen gave attendees an overview of NACD’s services and provided a federal policy update.

During the meeting, NHACD hosted a district supervisor training. Session to help supervisors better understand their important role and empower them to be more active in their districts. NHACD plans to follow this session with more training throughout the coming year.


From Oct. 23-26, NACD South Central Region Representative Keith Owen attended the 12th biennial Longleaf Alliance meeting in Alexandria, La. The Longleaf Alliance was established in 1995 to coordinate partnerships interested in managing and restoring longleaf pine forests for their ecological and economic benefits.

The meeting brought together private landowners, forest industries, state and federal agencies, conservation groups, researchers and other enthusiasts to discuss and share knowledge on Longleaf Pine management and conservation.

The meeting included several tracks on prescribed fire as a management tool and a field day with a visit to Evangeline National Forest and the privately managed lands of Louisiana Association of Conservation Districts President David Daigle. Daigle also received the Longleaf Alliance's Landowner of the Year Award for his efforts to restore and maintain longleaf ecosystems through prescribed fire and grazing without the use of chemical control of native brush.

Matt Griggs owns and operates the family farm Griggs Farms LLC with his wife Kelly, his sister Jocelyn Griggs Bundy, and his brother-in-law Eric Bundy in western Tennessee. The Griggs operation consists of 1,600 acres of continuous no-till corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton and cereal on both owned and rented land. The land is 100 percent continuously covered – even in the dead of winter.

Griggs was driven toward soil health practices when faced with the landscape’s challenge of water management. While his part of the state averages 52 inches of rain a year, it might not always come at the right time, and the land is not conducive for irrigation. Griggs is building his soil organic matter to increase infiltration rates and storage capacity in his soils, and also to reduce erosion on his cropland. This helps the cash crops have the moisture they need throughout the year, especially in dry summers.

The soil health system Griggs manages includes a combination of practices such as terracing, contour farming and water retention basins, but he credits the improvements on his land to the use of cover crops. Griggs has documented a 600 percent improvement in infiltration rates behind cover crops.

More information on Griggs Farm LLC is available on their website, through Matt’s profile on the NACD website, on the Tennessee Association of Conservation Districts website as a Soil Health Hero and in a video from NRCS in their “Unlock the Secrets in the Soil” series.

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