May 14, 2021
The agenda for the 2021 Local Working Group meeting has been set by Hillsborough Soil and Water Conservation District (HSWCD) officials, which allows for broad input into decisions made concerning cost-share funds managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
"The purpose of the meeting is to prioritize what areas of conservation activity should be emphasized in the upcoming budget cycles," said Betty Jo Tompkins, HSWCD executive director. "This gives farmers, ranchers, agricultural educators, affiliated partners and the general public an opportunity to have a voice in the funding process."
Scheduled for May 27 at the Florida Strawberry Growers Association headquarters in Dover,
the Local Working Group meeting is set to run from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., at 13138 Lewis Gallagher Road.
The goal is to help determine local priorities for NRCS in the coming years. Funding pools are fixed for two NRCS Programs: Grazing and Cropland. A questionnaire asks attendees in person or via email to recommend two additional pools from a list that includes: Forestry, Water Conservation, Seasonal High Tunnel, Brush and Herbaceous Weed Control, Invasive Plants and more. The questionnaire asks also for recommended levels of investment in the selected funding pools.
There also is an opportunity to select eight FY 2022 Resource Concern Categories for Florida state priority. Questionnaire respondents can select from the following list: Air Quality Emissions; Aquatic Habitat; Concentrated Erosion; Degraded Plant Condition; Field Pesticide Loss; Field Sediment, Nutrient and Pathogen Loss; Fire Management; Inefficient Energy Use; Livestock Production Limitation; Pest Pressure; Soil Quality Limitations; Source Water Depletion; Storage and Handling of Pollutants; Terrestrial Habitat; Weather Resilience; and Wind and Water Erosion.
Again, local working groups provide recommendations to NRCS district and state conservationists on local natural resource priorities and criteria for conservation activities and programs, according to the NRCS web site. Membership includes such interests as "agricultural producers, owners/operators of nonindustrial private forest land, professionals representing agricultural and natural resource interests, and individuals representing a variety of disciplines in the soil, water, wetland, plant, forestry and wildlife sciences who are familiar with agricultural and natural resource issues in the local community."
Set to open the May 27 meeting are Tompkins and Andrew Brooks, vice chair of the HSWCD board or supervisors, who will welcome attendees and introduce Walter Albarran, NRCS area conservationist, and Leslie Diaz-Alvarez, NRCS district conservationist for Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. The two will give a PowerPoint presentation on the cost-share program.
Also set to speak, giving updates on programs, projects and activities, are:
- Kenneth Parker, executive director, Florida Strawberry Growers Association
- Stephen Gran, director, UF/IFAS Extension, Hillsborough County
- Dennis Carlton Jr., president, Hillsborough County Farm Bureau
- Matt Warren, environmental manager, Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (FDACS)
- Dennis Carlton, chairman, Hillsborough County Agriculture Economic Development Council
- Simon Bolin, manager, Hillsborough County Agricultural Industry Development
- Jeff Whealton, senior environmental scientist, Ag Team, Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD)
Click below for a copy of the Local Working Group Agenda for the May 27 meeting, as well as a copy of the three-page questionnaire, both for attendees and for those who cannot attend the meeting.Working Group Agenda and Questionnaire