Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District

We inspire and partner with our community to protect the natural resources and agricultural future of our District.

Continuing Resolution Passes House, Agriculture “Minibus” Stuck

Earlier this week, the House passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) for spending bills that have not yet been passed, which would extend government funding levels from fiscal year (FY) 2018 through December 7 of this year. The CR was passed as part of a “minibus” spending bill package (H.R. 6157) that included FY 2019 funding for the Department of Defense and the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. In addition to the two funding bills that have been passed, there are ten other annual funding packages that are still awaiting congressional action.

The Defense and Health and Human Services minibus package passed on the floor of the Senate last week. The CR was added to the minibus in order to increase the likelihood that a complete funding package could pass the two chambers and be signed by the President before September 30, thereby avoiding a partial government shutdown.

As we have previously reported, the agriculture spending bill for FY 2019 was included in a different minibus along with three additional bills – Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies; Financial Services and General Government; and Housing and Urban Development. The House and Senate already passed the first minibus for Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veteran Affairs, and it was signed by the President earlier this month.

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Source:  National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, September 28, 2018

USDA Releases Standard Indicators and Laboratory Procedures to Assess Soil Health for Public Comment

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is releasing a set of standard indicators and associated laboratory procedures to assess soil health. These measures – recommended through a multi-organizational collaboration among soil health experts in the federal, university, public and private sectors – are being developed to improve conservation planning and implementation across the United States.

The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has posted a draft Technical Note detailing these soil health indicators and associated laboratory methods in the Federal Register offsite link image     for public review and comment. NRCS is accepting comments on this Technical Note through December 13, 2018.

“We are committed to supporting our nation’s farmers, ranchers, and foresters as they work to build healthier soils across their operations,” said Bill Northey, USDA’s Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation. “Standardized measures give us consistency in scientifically assessing soil health and will improve our ability to evaluate soils across the United States using methods that are objective and actionable.”

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Source:  USDA NRCS Public Affairs (202) 720-3210

Sonoma County launches public input campaign on new septic system rules

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Sonoma County is launching a series of public meetings Wednesday to gather public input as it prepares to update rules for the estimated 45,000-plus septic systems in the unincorporated areas.

Wednesday’s meeting will be held at 6 p.m. at the Petaluma Veterans Memorial Building, the first of five such gatherings planned in the coming weeks for each of the more rural quadrants of the county.

The campaign comes after the Board of Supervisors asked state regulators in May for a six-month extension on creating new septic system policies, following a series of concerns raised by rural homeowners. The county has been working in good faith with the state since then, county officials said this week.

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Source:  JD Morris, The Press Democrat, Sept. 25, 2018

Farmers thought they had 20 years to use groundwater as they wished – maybe not anymore

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California farmers are laboring under a daunting edict: They must stop over-pumping groundwater from beneath their ranches. The saving grace is that state law gives them more than 20 years to do it.

Now, however, a landmark court ruling could force many farmers to curb their groundwater consumption much sooner than that, landing like a bombshell in the contentious world of California water.

For the first time, a California court has said state and county governments have a duty to regulate groundwater usage when it’s clear that the pumping drains water from adjacent rivers.

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Source:  Dale Kasler, Sacramento Bee, September 17, 2018

Note to Congress: Be Responsible, Don’t Let the Farm Bill Expire

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This month, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has been drawing attention to a set of programs that run out of funding at the end of this fiscal year, and that will cease to fund new projects and applicants if no new funding is provided. These “tiny but mighty” programs are some of the most innovative, far-reaching programs in the federal farm bill, and include technical and financial assistance for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, local and regional food system development, healthy food access, rural development, agricultural research, organic farming, and more. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) is urging Congress to fund these programs as part of a full farm bill reauthorization, or, if a temporary extension of the current farm bill is necessary, as part of that extension.

Recently, however, increased attention has been given by some in Congress to simply allow the current farm bill to expire without bothering to pass a short-term farm bill extension. This discussion is happening because at this point, it does not appear that negotiations between the House and Senate on a new farm bill will reach a conclusion before the end of the month when the current farm bill expires.

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Source:  National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, September 14, 2018

What’s at Stake: Local and Regional Food Programs

Editor’s Note: The 2014 Farm Bill expires on September 30th. If the next farm bill is not finalized before that date, numerous “tiny but mighty” farm bill programs that support family farmers and food-producing communities will effectively shut down in terms of new funding and grant opportunities for fiscal year 2019. These workhorse programs, which have small price tags but big impacts, touch nearly every part of the American food and farm sectors. This is the second post of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s “What’s at Stake?” series, which highlights soon-to-expire farm bill programs and details what their absence could mean for farmers and communities nationwide.

What’s Next?

Though the 2018 Farm Bill Conference Committee is actively working on negotiating the draft farm bills from the House and Senate, there are very few working days left before the last farm bill expires (September 30). Family farmers and advocacy organizations like NSAC are fighting to protect local and regional food programs in the next farm bill, but we are also preparing for the possibility that the farm bill will not be passed on time – in which case the 2014 Farm Bill would have to be extended. Under an extension scenario, tiny but mighty programs like FMLFPP and FINI are not automatically funded; in fact, USDA would be unable to make any new awards unless Congress provides new funding. NSAC is therefore working with our members and allies to ensure that these critical programs are funded should we be faced with an extension.

Between the House and Senate draft farm bills, the Senate’s bill is the clear winner when it comes to supporting local and regional food systems. As mentioned above, the Senate bill creates a new program called the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP), which combines FMLFPP with the Value Added Producer Grants (VAPG) program and several other related initiatives. LAMP streamlines and amplifies the most effective components of these two programs, while also maintaining their core functions and benefits.

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Source:  National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, September 10, 2018