Review of the Conservation Title of the Farm Security Act and Rural Investment Act - "...nowhere in the enabling legislation [for the Grassland Reserve Program] is drought mitigation mentioned as a purpose of the program."


(Note: See Page 108 of 125, specifically. Explanations for acronyms have been added. The programs questioned, regarding having been implemented in only the Western States, have arrived in the Midwest -- or at least in Ohio.)


June 4, 2003


Hearing before the Subcommittee on Conservation, Credit, Rural Development, and Research, of the Committee on Agriculture, House of Representatives, One Hundred Eighth Congress


Serial No. 108-7


Page 108 (Excerpted from the Statement of Bill Wilson from Kinta, Oklahoma, which begins on page 104 and ends on page 109. "I am first vice president of the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) and have served as a district official for the Haskell County Conservation District since 1980. I am also a founder and past chairman of the National Watershed Coalition.")


"We also urge the administration to expedite the Conservation Security Program (CSP) rule-making process in order to get a rule in place and begin implementing this innovative new program this fiscal year. The final rule that governs the program should be developed to ensure that stringent standards be adhered to in order to ensure that program funds are well spent and fully accounted for.

Conservation districts fully support the farm bill's expanded Technical Service Provider (TSP) initiative as a way to increase the delivery of technical assistance to producers nationwide. But, we need to take care to ensure that the proper standards and training are in place so that producers will continue to receive the quality technical assistance needed to properly conserve and protect the resource base. We also need to recognize that it will likely take years, not months, to get the initiative up and running at its full potential. Regardless of the scope of the TSP initiative, it remains critical that we maintain a strong, fully funded Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) cadre of field technical staff and the infrastructure needed to fully support it. This will be necessary to ensure that the agency maintains a sound Field Office Technical Guide, solid use of research and progressive national standards.

We note that in USDA's notice of availability of funds, the Environmental Quality Incentive Program's (EQIP's) Ground and Surface Water Conservation (GSWC) provision is being implemented only in the 17 Western States. The purpose of the GSWC is to provide cost-share, incentive payments and loans to producers to carry out eligible water conservation activities such as improving irrigation and water storage measures. These activities are needed in all States, not just in the West, and we urge the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to keep this in mind in future program years to ensure that all States with needs have access to these important funds.

Conservation districts have similar concerns over the way in which new Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) is being proposed for implementation. Again, in the notice of availability of funds, NRCS announced that the GRP would be implemented in four drought-affected areas in the Western United States. It was our understanding that the GRP was to be a national program and nowhere in the enabling legislation is drought mitigation mentioned as a purpose of the program. We would like to make certain that for future years USDA implements the GRP nationwide following the established purposes of the program."