March 7, 2011
USDA is getting ready to submit to Congress a national appraisal of the status of soil, water, and related natural resources on non-Federal land. The appraisal is part of USDA’s implementation of the Soil and Water Resources Conservation Act (RCA), which authorizes USDA to assess the status of the country’s natural resources, evaluate current policies and programs, and develop a national conservation plan in response to its findings.
The purpose of the RCA is to “ensure that USDA programs for the conservation of soil, water, and related resources are responsive to the long-term needs of the Nation.” The appraisal is due at the beginning of 2011 and the national conservation plan at the beginning of 2012. Both are intended to feed into the process of writing the next Farm Bill. Re-authorization and re-invigoration of the RCA process, which nearly expired, was an NSAC priority in the last Farm Bill.
Over the next month, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), in partnership with the Farm Foundation and American Farmland Trust, will hold five public meetings to gather input on 1) the status of natural resources, 2) resource conservation and degradation trends, 3) emerging conservation challenges and opportunities, and 4) long-term impacts of policies on natural resources, and, in turn, food, fuel, and fiber production.
While the RCA process covers a wide range of natural resource issues, the regional meetings will focus specifically on:
At each meeting, panelists from academia, USDA, state departments of agriculture, the non-profit sector, and private industry will present and answer questions on these three natural resource concerns.
The meetings will be held at the following times and locations (links will take you to the registration page):
Information gathered at these regional meetings will become part of a national conference, the National Agricultural Landscapes Forum, to be held April 7-8 at the Marriott Metro Center, Washington, D.C. Following the national forum, USDA will begin to draft a national conservation plan based on its national appraisal and input from public meetings. USDA must submit the conservation plan, including recommendations for programmatic changes, to Congress by January 12, 2012.
For more information, including meeting agendas, directions, and hotel information, visit the Farm Foundation’s website here. For more information about the RCA and its implementation, download the RCA information sheet or visit USDA’s RCA page here.