The 2008 farm bill (Food Conservation and Energy Act of 2008) became law on May 22, and included a strong conservation component that translates into millions of dollars in technical and financial assistance for California farmers, ranchers, forest managers and organizations to protect natural resources on private lands.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in California will host a State Technical Advisory Committee (STAC) meeting on Aug. 4 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. to continue a public dialogue on priorities and procedures appropriate for implementing conservation programs in the Golden State in 2009.

The meeting will be held at the USDA Lyng Service Center, Room 229, 430 G Street, Davis, CA 95616.

“California agencies, legislators, agricultural and conservation interest groups worked very hard to give voice to California needs and perspectives in this legislation,” says Ed Burton, State Conservationist for NRCS in California.

“Now the legislation is law, and although we are still in the rule making process at the national level, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and begin planning for the conservation farm bill programs for 2009,” Burton says. “We invite interested groups and individuals to actively partner with us as we begin implementation processes for this new farm bill legislation.”

The meeting will begin with a brief synopsis of the farm bill’s conservation title and information on the 2009 timeline for applications for farm bill programs. NRCS will then move to discussions on prioritizing the state's numerous natural resource needs; on the appropriate cost share percentages for beginning and limited resource farmers; on appraisal procedures for conservation easement programs; and on priorities for conservation innovation grants.

The 2008 farm bill included and increased funding and/or acreage allocations for a lengthy list of conservation programs, including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program, Conservation Security Program (now the Conservation Stewardship Program), Wetlands Reserve Program, Grasslands Reserve Program, and the Farmland Protection Program among others.

“These programs offer financial assistance to complement conservation planning and technical assistance,” says Burton. “These programs can help landowners plan and implement stewardship to achieve long-term improvements in productivity and sustainability of the land while complying with or getting ahead of regulations.”