USDA natural resource forum in IL closest to ND?

From Fargo, it’s either a 9 1/2 hour drive to Rock Island, Ill., or nearly 13 hours to Fort Collins, Colo., if you want to tell the top U.S. Department of Agriculture brass what you think of federal natural resource policy. But if your’e from Bismarck, it’s closer by an hour to go to Fort Collins.

Regardless, my friends at the Farm Foundation sent out a news release, announcing the first in a series of six regional meetings seeking public input on natural resource policy issues will take place Thursday, March 3, at the Olin Technology Center on the campus of Augustana College, Rock Island, IL.

Here’s what they say:

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This Midwest regional meeting, which will be 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., is open to anyone with an interest in natural resource conservation policy issues.

As required by Congress in the Soil and Water Resources Conservation Act, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is to gather public input on natural resource conservation policy issues.  The overall goal of this effort is to improve delivery of conservation services to landowners and communities, as well as to expand participation in conservation programs.

At each regional forum, discussion will focus on three broad topic areas: water security, climate variability and landscape integrity.  A panel of invited speakers will present comments, followed by open discussion with forum participants.

Providing perspectives on water security at the Rock Island meeting will be Craig Cox of the Environmental Defense Fund, and David Saxowsky, North Dakota State University.  Discussing climate variability will be David Miller of the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, and Gary Lemme of South Dakota State University. Landscape integrity issues will be the topic for Martin Adkins of the Iowa NRCS, Dean Lemke of the Iowa Department of Agriculture, and David Mowers of AIM for the Heartland, Toulon, IL.

There is no fee to attend the regional meetings but registration is requested  To register, go to www.farmfoundation.org and follow the link from the item on the home page.

The purpose of the RCA, which provides broad strategic assessment and planning authority for USDA, 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 overall goal to improve delivery of conservation services to landowners and communities, and to expand participation in conservation programs.  USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) is the lead agency working on the RCA and is collaborating with nine other USDA agencies:  Agricultural Research Service, Economic Research Service, Rural Development, Farm Service Agency, Forest Service, Risk Management Agency, National Institute for Food and Agriculture, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Input is sought on specific natural resource conservation issues and economic and public policy issues related to agriculture and rural America, including: 1) natural resource status and trends; 2) emerging challenges; 3) emerging opportunities; and 4) long-term impacts on natural resource conditions and food, fuel, and fiber production.

A panel of nationally-recognized thought leaders in soil and water conservation and agricultural landscapes has been appointed to contribute to the regional and national meetings.  Members are: Roger Allbee, former Vermont Secretary of Agriculture; Varel Bailey, Bailey Farms, Inc., Anita, Iowa;  Craig Cox, Environmental Working Group; Otto Doering, Purdue University; P.J. Haynie, Haynie Farms, Hague, Va., and National Black Grower’s Council; Teresa Lasseter, Moultrie, Ga.; A.G. Kawamura, former California Secretary of Agriculture; Pat O’Toole, Ladder Ranch, Wyoming and Family Farm Alliance; Ross Racine, Intertribal Agriculture Council; Charles Stenholm, Olsson, Frank, Weeda Terman Bode Matz PC; and Sara Wyant, Agri-Pulse Communications.

Information from the six regional forums will feed into a national agricultural landscapes conference planned April 7-8, 2011, at the Marriott Metro Center, Washington, D.C.   The other regional forums will be:

March 10, Bouck Center, State University of New York, Cobleskill, N.Y. 

March 10, Lory Student Center, Colorado State University, Ft. Collins, Colo.

March 15, Polytechnic Campus of Arizona State University, Mesa, Ariz.

March 18, Portland State University, Portland, Ore., and March 22, 4-H Center, Columbiana, Ala.

Details on each of the forums are available on the Farm Foundation Web site, www.farmfoundation.org.

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