Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Future of RC&D

Expand Messages
  • Malcolm Dell
    At our last Council meeting, guests included the three north central Idaho representatives for Senator Larry Craig, Senator Mike Crapo, and US Congressman
    Message 1 of 2 , Apr 3, 2006
    • 0 Attachment
      At our last Council meeting, guests included the three north central Idaho representatives for Senator Larry Craig, Senator Mike Crapo, and US Congressman Butch Otter (who will probably be our governor after the next election, since Kempthorne is headed for Department of Interior.)
       
      We had invited the trio to come and talk about the current budget situation, as all three of our Congressional representatives have been staunch supporters of RC&D and rural development initiatives.
       
      Here is a summary, subject of course, to wide swings in political realities, which may or may not create additional changes:
      • Money is on another flat budget for RC&D, no increase or decrease. Reps could not answer why some states lost program assistants last year, in spite of a flat budget. (Did not happen in Idaho, so was not on their radar.)
      • Plan to sell two million acres of national forest land to fund (continuation of) what is now billed as Secure Rural Schools (SRS)  is DOA (dead on arrival). Not sure what this means for the SRS program, but alternative funding options are already surfacing in Congress. This is a program near and dear to those of us in the West who used to get significant Forest Service timber receipts for support of schools.
      • Interest in rural economic development seems to be on the upswing in Congress, more than recent years, but unclear how that will play out, so there are many opportunities to play with potential outcomes and directions.
      • Senator Larry Craig (Senator Crapo a co-sponsor) submitted a bill to Congress last week to fund specialty crop block grants to states at $70 million for 2007. This compares to $7 million in 2006, and to the $160 million windfall in 2002, which had a big impact in Idaho and many other states. Personal comments from Crapo's agricultural rep by phone (after the meeting), indicate that specialty crops generate half of US crop revenue, but get only a fraction of the support of program/commodity crops. There will be a big discussion on this issue in Congress, and this would be a good time for Council members to chime in with their members of Congress to support non-program crops.
      The most interesting comment at the session, was one by Senator Crapo's local liaison, Mitch Silvers. He said that Crapo's office had investigated some of the reasons for OMB's now annual attack on RC&D. He indicated, if I understood correctly, that some of the original enabling legislation for RC&D in 1962, is providing part of the justification for OMB's desire to get rid of RC&D. His brief explanation was that the original legislation intended RC&D as more of a temporary fix for conservation and rural development issues. (And of course, we know now that conservation issues and rural development problems are growing, in spite of our best efforts.)
       
      Mitch suggested that the RC&D -- since we DO have the attention of Congress right now -- use the opportunity of the 2007 Farm Bill to amend the original enabling legislation, in order to more clearly, and permantly, define the role of RC&D. Otherwise, this annual fight is likely for another several years.
       
      The original enabling legislation was also cited by our State Conservationist a year ago, to disallow Council members from riding in NRCS/federal vehicles, even as Earth Team volunteers. He said that the original legislation created a different situation than for soil & water conservation district volunteers. With my declining memory, ravaged by half-zeimers (:-), I can't remember the exact explanation, but perhaps someone can shed some light on that discussion. As I recall from multiple posts a year or so ago, in some states, RC&D volunteers can, and in some states can't, ride in government vehicles, according to the interpretation of risk management by their state conservationists.
       
      Anyway, this means there are at least two reasons to identify the problems with the original enabling RC&D legislation, and develop a strategy to bring back to Council members nationwide, for addressing these deficiencies. We need to understand the exact wording issues -- as council members -- and coordinate discussions at the council, state, regional, and national levels. I assume NARCDC has this on their radar, but are up to their yingers in alligators with the current budget issues.
       
      Unfortunately, we are already behind the 8-ball with the 2007 Farm Bill, as a lot of input has already been absorbed and summarized by USDA. We need to act fast and focused to turn this around. As grassroots members of the conservation community, Council members are used to creating sustainable solutions, and this is clearly a case where targeting the 2007 Farm Bill might create a more sustainable solution to our own existence.
       
      Please forward this message to email accessible members of your Council, as a message from one Council member to another.
       
      Malcolm Dell
      Member, Clearwater RC&D Council, Idaho
       
       
    • Malcolm Dell
      CLARIFICATION: I had an interesting couple of conversations today, as a result of my post, which skimmed a lot of topics with not a lot of depth, due to my own
      Message 2 of 2 , Apr 4, 2006
      • 0 Attachment
        CLARIFICATION:
         
        I had an interesting couple of conversations today, as a result of my post, which skimmed a lot of topics with not a lot of depth, due to my own lack of understanding. I did want to make a couple quick points...
         
        With regards to this part of my post:
         
        <begin snip>
        The original enabling legislation was also cited by our State Conservationist a year ago, to disallow Council members from riding in NRCS/federal vehicles, even as Earth Team volunteers. He said that the original legislation created a different situation than for soil & water conservation district volunteers. With my declining memory, ravaged by half-zeimers (:-), I can't remember the exact explanation, but perhaps someone can shed some light on that discussion. As I recall from multiple posts a year or so ago, in some states, RC&D volunteers can, and in some states can't, ride in government vehicles, according to the interpretation of risk management by their state conservationists.
        <end snip>
         
        First let me say that our State Conservationist Richard Sims, and State RC&D Coordinator, Bob Tribelhorn are HUGE supporters of RC&D. My post may have been mis-interpreted by some that I was SC bashing. The information we got a year ago when we lost some of our co-riding privileges in Idaho was due to interpretations by the risk management counsel to the SC. Mr. Sims chose not to stick his neck out, and I would make the same choice he did, as most of you would, in that situation. Also, the issue is MUCH more complex than my comments would indicate. Issues such as Earth Team vs. Council officer vs. Council member; interpretation of "official business" and driver "discretion" as to whether an activity constitutes official business, etc.. Is travel to the airport to attend an association meeting or travel directly to the meeting, "official business"? 
         
        If I recall (and again, this has been over a year, and I have not re-investigated) was not that the enabling legislation was directly problematic, but it did not allow for a "memorandum of understanding", similar to that which the NRCS relationship with SWCD's enjoys. The solution of course, is that we would address this relationship issue in the 2007 Farm Bill, or that a consistent interpretation at the federal level for this particular issue is needed. While I commend the NRCS leadership for allowing decentralized decision making at the state level, this is one issue where a broad stroke is needed.
         
        And maybe the situation has already self-corrected, and I did not hear about it, and if so, I apologize. Can someone shed official light on the current status of the issue?? (Idaho RC&D Association is currently meeting in Boise, so Idaho folks might be a bit out of the loop for a couple more days).
         
        ======
         
        With regards to the "permanence" of RC&D... while the 2002 Farm Bill did grant a level of permanence to RC&D, the Crapo representative still felt some of the enabling legislation was problematic and that 2007 represents an opportunity to fix any deficiencies. And I appreciate that suggestion.  I have also heard from others, in the RC&D circle, who say that the real issue -- since OMB is coming up with a different excuse every year to eliminate us -- is just doing the bidding of the current admistration, and will continue to do so, regardless of what Congress does. I think both perspectives have merit, or are at least worth investigating further.
         
        In the meantime, a good NARCDC fundraiser would be an OMB dart board, with each "pie" on the dart board representing a reason OMB thinks this RC&D extended family and it's outputs do not have value. And or course, head(s) of relevant personnel in the center.
         
        Malcolm Dell
        ----- Original Message -----
        Sent: Monday, April 03, 2006 8:33 PM
        Subject: [NARCDC] Future of RC&D

        At our last Council meeting, guests included the three north central Idaho representatives for Senator Larry Craig, Senator Mike Crapo, and US Congressman Butch Otter (who will probably be our governor after the next election, since Kempthorne is headed for Department of Interior.)
         
        We had invited the trio to come and talk about the current budget situation, as all three of our Congressional representatives have been staunch supporters of RC&D and rural development initiatives.
         
        Here is a summary, subject of course, to wide swings in political realities, which may or may not create additional changes:
        • Money is on another flat budget for RC&D, no increase or decrease. Reps could not answer why some states lost program assistants last year, in spite of a flat budget. (Did not happen in Idaho, so was not on their radar.)
        • Plan to sell two million acres of national forest land to fund (continuation of) what is now billed as Secure Rural Schools (SRS)  is DOA (dead on arrival). Not sure what this means for the SRS program, but alternative funding options are already surfacing in Congress. This is a program near and dear to those of us in the West who used to get significant Forest Service timber receipts for support of schools.
        • Interest in rural economic development seems to be on the upswing in Congress, more than recent years, but unclear how that will play out, so there are many opportunities to play with potential outcomes and directions.
        • Senator Larry Craig (Senator Crapo a co-sponsor) submitted a bill to Congress last week to fund specialty crop block grants to states at $70 million for 2007. This compares to $7 million in 2006, and to the $160 million windfall in 2002, which had a big impact in Idaho and many other states. Personal comments from Crapo's agricultural rep by phone (after the meeting), indicate that specialty crops generate half of US crop revenue, but get only a fraction of the support of program/commodity crops. There will be a big discussion on this issue in Congress, and this would be a good time for Council members to chime in with their members of Congress to support non-program crops.
        The most interesting comment at the session, was one by Senator Crapo's local liaison, Mitch Silvers. He said that Crapo's office had investigated some of the reasons for OMB's now annual attack on RC&D. He indicated, if I understood correctly, that some of the original enabling legislation for RC&D in 1962, is providing part of the justification for OMB's desire to get rid of RC&D. His brief explanation was that the original legislation intended RC&D as more of a temporary fix for conservation and rural development issues. (And of course, we know now that conservation issues and rural development problems are growing, in spite of our best efforts.)
         
        Mitch suggested that the RC&D -- since we DO have the attention of Congress right now -- use the opportunity of the 2007 Farm Bill to amend the original enabling legislation, in order to more clearly, and permantly, define the role of RC&D. Otherwise, this annual fight is likely for another several years.
         
        The original enabling legislation was also cited by our State Conservationist a year ago, to disallow Council members from riding in NRCS/federal vehicles, even as Earth Team volunteers. He said that the original legislation created a different situation than for soil & water conservation district volunteers. With my declining memory, ravaged by half-zeimers (:-), I can't remember the exact explanation, but perhaps someone can shed some light on that discussion. As I recall from multiple posts a year or so ago, in some states, RC&D volunteers can, and in some states can't, ride in government vehicles, according to the interpretation of risk management by their state conservationists.
         
        Anyway, this means there are at least two reasons to identify the problems with the original enabling RC&D legislation, and develop a strategy to bring back to Council members nationwide, for addressing these deficiencies. We need to understand the exact wording issues -- as council members -- and coordinate discussions at the council, state, regional, and national levels. I assume NARCDC has this on their radar, but are up to their yingers in alligators with the current budget issues.
         
        Unfortunately, we are already behind the 8-ball with the 2007 Farm Bill, as a lot of input has already been absorbed and summarized by USDA. We need to act fast and focused to turn this around. As grassroots members of the conservation community, Council members are used to creating sustainable solutions, and this is clearly a case where targeting the 2007 Farm Bill might create a more sustainable solution to our own existence.
         
        Please forward this message to email accessible members of your Council, as a message from one Council member to another.
         
        Malcolm Dell
        Member, Clearwater RC&D Council, Idaho
         
         
      Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.