Steamboat Springs The new year promises to bring lots of changes for all USDA Service Centers. Unfortunately, we do not know what any of those changes will be until the new Farm Bill is signed. Government employees optimistically hope the bill will be signed shortly after the first of the year.
I should know better than to say that, because I have worked for the agency for more than 10 years and nothing ever seems to happen when it should. I am an optimist by nature - a-glass-is-half-full type of person, so I continue to hope for the best.
I would love to be able to tell you what is happening with this new Farm Bill, but unfortunately my status within this organization does not make me privvy to such information. So I will tell you what I do know, and, of course, it is all subject to change with the new year and the new Farm Bill.
The 2007 Farm Bill was extended until the end of the year. Its sunset date is Dec. 31, 2007. Only certain programs were extended. They include the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and our Conservation Technical Assistance. CTA is basically what we do every day. We answer certain technical questions and will provide you with our services free of charge if we have time to fit you in. Basically, CTA funds keep us employed. Program work does take priority, and currently we are busy trying to get all the information put together and paperwork ready so we can have a contract signed and obligated by Dec. 31 for EQIP.
This probably doesn't make any sense to you, so basically we are trying to obligate money before they take it all away after the end of December. What will happen to the money that wasn't obligated? This is a very good question, and I don't have an answer. Here is what I hope they will do, and by no means does this mean it will happen. I hope they allow the states to keep their allocated amounts. The states, in turn, will come up with some ideas on how to spend the money. Some may choose to have another short funding period, but others may take the opportunity to use the funds in untraditional ways by requesting proposals to address natural resource needs. I believe that if Colorado is allowed to keep its money, it will open up a request for proposals. It's a great way to address resource needs that may be getting missed by the established programs.
One such proposal that has been very positive for Routt County was the Invasive Species proposal. In Routt County, we have treated more than 5,000 acres with the money that was set aside specifically for that purpose. This program is providing private landowners with cost-share incentives to control their noxious weeds. Chemicals for weed control are not cheap, and with the help of this assistance, more weed acres are being treated - and hopefully the spread of noxious weeds is not happening as fast.
What will the resource issues be in 2008 that will request proposals? That I am not certain about either, but I can say it is a great time to contact me and let me know what issues you think need to be addressed, not only within Routt County but within the watershed itself. Right now, we, as citizens, have a wonderful opportunity to provide the state office with input, so if they do have the option to solicit proposals, they will already have some great ideas from which to choose. I encourage anyone to contact me with any ideas that will help our natural resources. If we don't present them with the issues and educate them, they will never know they existed.
Once I know more about the new Farm Bill and the programs it entails, we will spread the word. The only constant in life is change, so please stay tuned.
Jazwick is a district conservationist. She can be reached at 879-3225.