National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) March 20-21, 2017 Fly-in Washington Conservation Partnership Team (Team) Activities Summary

Mar 27, 2017 by

NACD held its annual fly-in on March 20 and 21 at our Capital (NACD summary information at http://www.nacdnet.org/news-and-events/spring-fly-in/). Washington state was represented by Mark Clark (Washington State Conservation Commission[WSCC]), Lynn Brown (WSCC), Roylene Rides at the Door (Natural Resources Conservation Service [NRCS]), Wade Troutman (Foster Creek and NACD Executive Board), Michael Crowder (Benton and NACD 2nd VP), and Doug Rushton (Thurston and WACD national director).  Lori Gonzales (WSCC), with assistance from Bob Schroeter (WACD) and Rich Innes (Meridian Institute in WA DC) worked diligently and set up 14 meetings for the Team with WSCC staff assembling informative packets for us to leave with our DC contacts.

Meetings –  Congressional.  Due to timing and logistics, we split up the various meetings and Mr. Innes came with us to several. We also attended the NACD legislative breakfast (3/21) where we heard senior Kansas Senator Pat Roberts explain things were a little confused in Washington currently, with the new administration coming in, along with budget  and health care discussions – not to mention confirmation hearings (one for Secretary of Agriculture candidate Perdue on 3/23). The NACD reception (pm on 3/21) was well attended and featured speeches by Chair of House Sub-Committee on Conservation and Forestry Frank Lucas and Ranking Member Marcia Fudge.

We met with Astor Boozer and Jeff White (NRCS Regional Conservationist – West and Acting director Financial Assistance Programs Division, respectively), Acting Farm Services Administrator Beyerhelm (FSA);  Herrera-Beutler staff, Reichert staff; Newhouse and staff; DelBene and staff; Heck and staff; Kilmer and staff;  McMorris-Rodgers and staff; Larsen and staff; and staff from Sens. Murray and Cantwell.  We met with 10 of our 12 congressional delegations, plus NRCS and FSA.

Meetings – NACD.  NACD Executive Committee member Wade Troutman (Foster Creek CD) and NACD second VP Michael Crowder (Benton CD) attended the NACD Executive Board Meeting and attended the Agri-Pulse reception at the National Press Club the evening of 3/20. Further, Crowder met with Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior Scott Cameron with NACD Officers; with the Chief and Deputy Chief of Migratory Birds for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and with the Acting Chief of the NRCS Leonard Jordan, along with all NRCS Regional Conservationists – a lot of discussion on Conservation Technical Assistance.

Messages. For each member, we proceeded from the general to the specific.  Starting with explaining NACD priorities; we’d like to see FY 2018 appropriations at $865 million for conservation technical assistance, funding for watersheds, state and private forestry and non-point pollution.  We’d like to see modification of SAM/DUNS eliminating onerous registration and reporting; natural resource management efforts (fire fix, local engagement for ESA, invasives); and retain locally based, incentive drive voluntary programs as they support rural communities, by creating jobs and food security ultimately supporting national security.

NRCS emphasized the value of the partnerships and how leveraging funds increases effectiveness. Ms. Rides at the Door described how 52% of our state is covered by the “new” Regional Conservation Partnership Program – which leads the nation in the Program.   The $48 million in NRCS investment is couple with an additional $88 million in partner dollars. The WA tribal partnerships were highlighted and the expansion to NACD establishing a national Tribal committee. NRCS would like to see changes in the SAM/DUNS system so as to not hinder farmers and have administrative parity in USDA agencies.

Mark Clark described WSCC and CD programs and the successes around the state ranging from targeted shellfish efforts, fire efforts, improving staff technical skills with the Center for Technical Development, how the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) has benefitted our iconic salmon, benefitted local economies by creating jobs and leveraging dollars – as well as improving the environment.  Each delegation was given the WSCC annual report which highlight WSCC efforts as well of those of each district in the state.

The Farm Bill is being worked on right now, but is not the main focus of Congress at this point – health care has sucked the oxygen from the room!

Summary: Our messages were well received, but there was some trepidation due to all the uncertainties in Washington DC at present. We need to stay engaged with our delegation as the processes unfold. Tours were offered to the delegations.  We suggested our delegation coordinate on supporting our former state conservation Leonard Jordan to be appointed Chief of NRCS.

Respectfully submitted: Doug Rushton, National Director, Washington Association of Conservation Districts

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