What is in this article?:
- Farm bill and sequestration impacting conservation programs
- Sequestration cuts
- NRCS Chief Jason Weller makes two-day stop in Arkansas.
- Tours projects, meets with those in NRCS programs.
- Promotes new farm bill, explains impacts of sequester cuts.
NEW NRCS CHIEF Jason Weller, right, toured Arkansas in late August. At a stop outside Marianna, he heard about hoop house technical assistance from Julius Hancock, farm manager for the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff Farms.
After hearing presentations this morning, one of the concerns these folks have is continued funding. Assuming the 2008 farm bill is extended again, will the sequestration cuts jab these programs?
“Yes. There is a bit of double jeopardy for us.
“The farm bill funds us, it funds all these things we’re doing. Whether it’s through individual contracts or through agreements with organizations or universities, the farm bill allows that to happen.
“With no farm bill it makes it very difficult to provide such assistance. It’s crucial for the USDA and for our partners in the Delta region to have a new farm bill.
“Then, there is sequestration, which is a fancy word for a budget cut. Under current law, we’re looking at another sequester (in 2014). As an agency, we were cut $250 million. If you cut any organization at that magnitude it has an impact to provide assistance to producers.
“That means fewer boots on the ground – fewer conservationists, professionals, foresters, agronomists, engineers, soil technicians. We can’t maintain that presence and so services will be hit.
“Ultimately, the vast majority of NRCS money is actually spent with producers, farmers and ranchers. So, those sequester cuts are impacting our ability to provide good service and assistance.’
Have you seen anything on your tour that needs to be funded that isn’t yet? Anything pitched that is a good idea?
“Absolutely. That reflects the leadership here in Arkansas but also the strong partnership with the agricultural community at all scales. We also have a very good relationship with the university network here in the state.
“We can’t keep up with demand here in Arkansas. That’s a good indicator that people know the value of these investments here. Basically, there is hundreds of millions of dollars in applications here but we don’t have the money to fund them. That’s from small farms to large farms to watershed development to many other things.
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“Then, there are organizations like those we’re meeting with today. They’re doing fantastic work and making a real difference in small Delta communities. I’d love to be able to come in and help assure there’s enough technical assistance to allow them to expand their work.”
“I’d ask folks that haven’t worked with us to give us a try. (NRCS) has professionals in every county in Arkansas who can provide expertise and are available to help producers.
“Visit our website or, more preferably, our field offices. Sit down with us and we’ll figure out what will work on your operation. That’s the key – working in a partnership on a voluntary basis.”