So here’s the question: Does the state NRCS office where you live still see grazing as a priority? And how will those priorities affect you and your fellow graziers?
In Vermont, where I used to work, there is a very strong relationship between NRCS and the Vermont Grass Farmers Association. [Full disclosure: GLCI funds covered a good portion of my salary as Pasture Program Coordinator then, and until recently, covered a fair portion of the current Pasture Program Coordinator.] The Vermont NRCS office provided enough funding to help the Pasture Program supplement NRCS field offices in technical assistance and in developing a healthy schedule of pasture workshops and a large, well-attended annual grazing conference. Over the past few years, though, the financial support from VT NRCS dropped off. With Chief White’s parting words, it has stopped cold. Since those NRCS d
ollars were used to leverage an equivalent amount of other, outside funding, the VT Pasture Program took a huge hit, and the funding to plan events is gone. This means that the educational tool farmers and ranchers most prefer – pasture walks and tours of places to see how new practices are being implemented – will likely be discontinued.
In state NRCS offices around the US, there is a financial crunch. Some states are wondering if they will be able to keep the lights on and retain all their employees. Other states are in somewhat better shape. They have been watching the bottom line and are able to keep up with the changes. Not only do some places have different financial pressures, but in some places, grazing may be more important than in others, so that support for educational opportunities like pasture walks and grazing plan assistance may still be provided.
If you are concerned about what is going on in your state, the best thing to do is to talk to your state conservationist. Better yet, ask them how things are, and just listen. Then ask what you can do to help. How can you help them so that they can help you? Show them why grazing is so important in your state, if you think they don’t already know. Show them how helping grazing can help steward the land.
Don’t just show NRCS how important grazing is. Show your community, your congressional delegation, your local press. Teaching our communities about why grazing management is a great option to take care of the land is key to making it a priority.
The financial challenges being faced by NRCS are a direct result of what we tell our elected officials we want. The solutions will be based on priorities. It is up to all of us to help them set priorities and to participate in making them happen.
Here is a link to the GLCI’s Strategic Plan for 2012 – 2015. You can also visit the GLCI’s website to learn more about what they do. Last but not least, check out our Events Calendar. We don’t know where the funding comes from for these events, but they may be supported in whole or in part by GLCI via NRCS.