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OFFICE OF SOIL AND WATER CONSERVATION

STATE SOIL AND WATER CONSERVATION COMMISSION

MARCH 24, 2015

1:15 PM

5825 FLORIDA BOULEVARD

VETERANS AUDITORIUM

BATON ROUGE, LA

PROCEEDINGS/MINUTES

CALL TO ORDER

Chairman Skains called the regular monthly Commission Meeting to order at 1:15 P.M and gave the invocation and then led in the Pledge of Allegiance.

ROLL CALL

The roll was called by Ms. Laura Edwards.

Members and Alternate Members present: Mr. Reggie Skains, Chairman; Mr. George Guillory, Vice-Chairman; Mr. John Compton, Secretary/Treasurer; Mr. Randell Fletcher; Mr. Ed Yerger; and Dr. Rogers Leonard.

Members absent: Mr. Ruben Dauzat

A quorum was present.

Others Present: Ms. Sarah Haymaker, USDA-NRCS, Asst. State Conservationist; Mr. Brad Spicer, LDAF/SSWCC Executive Director; Mr. Joey Breaux, LDAF-OSWC; Mrs. Laura Edwards LDAF-OSWC; and Ms. Caitlin Lambert, LDAF-OSWC.

APPROVAL OF THE MINUTES

Chairman Skains asked for public or Commission member’s comments regarding the Commission’s February 24, 2015 minutes and there were none. Chairman Skains said, if there were no comments, then he would call for a motion to approve the minutes of the February 24, 2015 State Commission Meeting as mailed.

Motion: Mr. Guillory made a motion to approve the minutes as mailed of the February 24, 2015 State Commission Meeting. The motion was seconded by Mr. Compton and passed unanimously.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

Chairman Skains said they would now take up Unfinished Business and requested Mr. Spicer to report on the items listed on the agenda.

NRCS/OSWC Farm Bill Cooperative Agreement

Chairman Skains asked Mr. Spicer to review the Farm Bill Agreement with the Commission. Mr. Spicer said the Farm Bill program is up and running and the districts have earned fifty-eight percent of the total allocation. He said even with a late start six districts have already earned one-hundred percent of their allocations. He said a couple of districts are not earning any of their funds and we will watch those districts closely and if necessary redistribute any unused funds to other districts with larger Farm Bill Program workloads.

State Funding

Chairman Skains asked Mr. Spicer to review this item with the Commission. Mr. Spicer said there are some news articles in Correspondence that will cover this item in more detail.

District Supervisors Election – June 13, 2015

Chairman Skains asked Mr. Spicer to report on this item. Mr. Spicer said a summary of the actions required for the annual Supervisors Election and a list of supervisors whose terms will expire June 30, 2015 are in the Commissioners’ folders. He said the OSWC emailed the State Commission approved packet of election materials to the districts in early March and the nomination period is set for April 1, 2015 through April 30, 2015. Mr. Spicer said a district that receives more than one Nominating Petition will be required to hold an election on June 13, 2015, the second Saturday in June as required by State Law. He said we will not know until all of the Nominating Petitions are received if any of the districts will be required to hold an election.

Ethics Reminders

Chairman Skains asked Mr. Spicer to report on this item. Mr. Spicer said included in the Commissioner’s packets is a reminder of the annual Financial Disclosure Form to be submitted to the Ethics Board by May 15th, a copy of the Tier 2.1 Form 417 and Frequently Asked Questions that will help in completing the form. He said most members will use the Tier 2.1 Form 417 unless they serve on another board that requires completing a higher Tier form. Mr. Spicer said when Commissioners are mailing forms to the Ethics Board, they should use certified mail so as to have a receipt for proof of mailing or if the form is faxed, keeps the sheet showing the fax was received.

Mr. Fletcher asked Mr. Spicer if the attendees would get a certificate to turn in showing that they went to the January one-hour Ethics training seminar at the LACD Meeting with their Tier 2.1 Form 417. Mr. Spicer said the January Ethics seminar was a different type of session; it was a training session and the Ethics Training Attendance Certificate will not need to be turned in until the end of the year. Mr. Fletcher asked if they will eventually send the attendees a certificate. Mr. Spicer said if you signed in with your driver license, then they will have your name in their system that you attended the training session on that date but you will not get a certificate unless you request one. He said the names of the attendees will just be shown on the Ethics website. Chairman Skains said the Ethics Training Attendance Certificate is printed when you take the training online before December 31st and then you submit it as proof but they do not give you one when you attend a live seminar.

NEW BUSINESS

NRCS State Conservationist Report

Chairman Skains asked Ms. Sarah Haymaker. NRCS Acting State Public Affairs Specialist, to give the NRCS report. Ms. Haymaker handed out three items to the Commission members: (1) Conservation Investment Report that were provided to the Louisiana Legislators during the partnership’s visit last week to Washington, D.C. showing a summary of the work done in Louisiana in 2014. (2) copies of the Louisiana Conservation Update that featured a landowner in Natchitoches SWCD that got enrolled in the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program under the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) to restore habitat on the banks of the Red River; and (3) FY 2015 EQIP General FA Field Office Allocation Budget report. She said you will notice the funding figures in the Conservation Investment Report are less than in years past, but the NRCS budget was reduced last year.

She said one of the NRCS’s new efforts is promoting International Year of Soils and there is an article written by an Earth Team volunteer Ms. Aston Ebarb that recently applied for graduate school in mass communications at Northwestern University. She said Ms. Ebarb has been working in the NRCS Public Affairs Section in the State Office for the past few months while attending Northwestern and she will be contributing a monthly article that goes toward the International Year of Soils. She said the International Year of Soils was declared by the United Nations as a Food and Agriculture Organization by the King of Thailand, so it is a great opportunity this year to talk about soils. She said in the first week of April there will be Soil Health Workshops held across the state. She said they will be held on April 7th at the Red River Research Station in Bossier City; on April 8th at the DeWitt Livestock Facility in Alexandria and on April 9th at the Pointe Coupee Multi-Use Center in New Roads. She said Mr. Ray Archuleta from North Carolina will be putting on those workshops and we ask that you encourage your neighbors and customers in your district to attend.

Ms. Haymaker passed out the 2015 EQIP Funding Report and said she was not sure how it was done in the past, but this is our 2015 EQIP General Funding Report and NRCS has received all their funds and they have been distributed to the field offices in the districts. She said this is a breakdown of the total funds, which was 15.9 million dollars and on the report you can see where the money has gone by initiative and on the second page, by Field Offices. She said the way the Field Offices are funded is by a formula that includes a base allocation, amount of work done in the past, resource concerns and a bonus if their resource concerns are part of the State’s top priority resource concerns, but the formula is based primarily on the amount the Field Offices are able to contract and obligate in the recent past and the level of the workload. She said that money is subject to move around, so if a district is out of applications and are able to fund all of their applications, then that money can be moved to another district. She said NRCS will monitor the funding and reallocate funds as needed. She said they held a very small amount in reserve in case an office needs an extra thousand dollars here and there to finish out a contract. Ms. Haymaker asked if anyone had any questions on the allocations and there were none.

Ms. Haymaker said another item they wanted the Commission to be aware of was that they had five District Conservationist positions open and they have made the following selections to fill the vacant positions: Ms. Sarah Trichel from the Mansfield office to the Minden Field Office; Mr. Rodney “Jay” Crawford from Lake Providence to the Jonesville Field Office; Mr. Erin Robinson from the Bastrop Field Office to the St. Joseph Field Office; Mr. Kody Meaux from the Ruston Field Office to the Crowley Field Office; Mr. Jerry Hall from Addis to the Denham Springs Field Office. She said that those selections created five more vacancies in those field offices and the openings were announced last week and will be closing the announcement period at the middle of next week and will start the selection process again to fill those vacancies. She also said, they announced last week eight soil conservation technician positions that they have been trying for some time to get advertised but they have to go thru another process because they are not for current employees so there are vacancies for entry level positions in the Addis, Bastrop, Franklinton, Leesville, Mansfield, Minden, New Roads, and St. Joseph Field Offices. She said if you know anyone in your community or a district technician interested in federal employment or someone that is farming part-time that wants a full-time federal job please encourage them to look into that and apply at the website . Mr. Fletcher asked the education qualifications required and the starting salary and Ms. Haymaker replied no college is required, only completing high school or GED and she thought the salary for grade levels 5-6 positions began in the low $30s for the level 5, depends on the level of experience. She said if they are entering in a higher grade and it is 90% field work, so if individuals are currently doing survey and design work, that would really be good experience and would be a fantastic applicant.

Ms. Haymaker said that ended her report and asked if anyone had any questions and there were none. Chairman Skains thanked her for the report.

Correspondence

Chairman Skains asked Mr. Spicer to review the correspondence. Mr. Spicer said the first item is an email from the Calcasieu office stating that Mr. George Dauzat is back in the Rapides Medical Center, Room 417 if anyone wishes to check on him. He said he checked on him that morning and he was doing better but they needed to keep him in the hospital for observation.

Mr. Spicer said the next item is an LDAF memo regarding impending layoffs and closure of the LDAF nurseries. He said Civil Service requires any department contemplating a layoff to have a plan. He said this memo was sent to all LDAF offices outlining the process to be used to layoff, relocate or terminate employees. He said it would apply primarily to seedling nursery employees, in the listed parishes. He said that is where we currently are with recent budget cuts and after we encouraged employees to take early retirement; now we are actually down to terminating employees. Chairman Skains asked if it is definite that the nurseries will be sold and if so, what about the equipment and stock. Mr. Spicer said the Department is looking at both selling and leasing them, as a matter of fact he said he had two calls from individuals that wanted to lease them, but that will be handled by the Commissioner and Mr. Wade Dubea, Assistant Commissioner of the Office of Forestry and he is not sure about selling the equipment and there was no live stock, only seeds. He said the Office of Forestry will no longer be able to sell the packets of tree seedlings at their annual tree sales, which was helping for many years to replant trees throughout the state.

Mr. Spicer said this next letter was requested by the Avoyelles SWCD so they could use the carbon sequestration fund account to pay the district’s share of salary and benefits of a district employee hired as a Program Support Specialist to assist the USDA NRCS DCs.

Chairman Skains asked for comments from the public or Commission members and there were none; he asked for a motion to approve the Avoyelles SWCD to use the carbon sequestration funds to pay the salary and benefits of a district employee hired as a Program Support Specialist to assist with Farm Bill work.

Motion: Mr. Fletcher made a motion to approve the Avoyelles SWCD to use the carbon sequestration fund account to pay the salary and benefits of a district employee hired as a Program Support Specialist to assist the USDA NRCS DCs. The motion was seconded by Mr. Compton and passed unanimously.

Mr. Spicer said this next item is a letter from the Turrentine Insurance Agency stating that before districts enter into agreements or contract that require a specific insurance certificate that they review their coverage to be sure that is the only type of insurance required for that contract.

Mr. Spicer said the next item is a newspaper article regarding the Sabine and LACD Auxiliary Poster Contest Winners written by Ms. Aston Ebarb, a former four-time poster winner herself.

Mr. Spicer said the next several items are news releases regarding: USDA designates Natural Disaster Areas due to high winds and tornado damages in 2014 and applications will be accepted until March 28, 2015 or September 13-15, 2015 or October 1, 2015 all depending on the date of the damages and losses; NRCS will host Soil Health workshops around the State on April 7th in Bossier City, April 8th in Alexandria and April 9th in New Roads; LDAF will receive applications for 2015 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) no later than May 11, 2015;Secretary of State Tom Schedler said that Governor Jindal did not fund a presidential preference primary this year due to the 1.6 billion dollar shortfall in the upcoming FY15-16 state budget and in the same article regarding the huge deficit in the budget and huge cuts up to 39% to elected officials departments, Representative Morris recommended that Commissioner Strain have t-shirts made for his employees saying “I’m not a boll weevil” referring the state’s cotton crop scourge for decades; two news articles regarding the fear of the H5H2 avian flu detected in turkeys in Arkansas and Missouri knowing this virus mutates and can kill a producer’s chicken or turkey flock in two days and the second news article regarding watching migratory birds in the Mississippi flyway; the AgCenter’s Central Louisiana Forestry Forum with more than 150 timber landowners participating and one alternate timber market – woody biomass - wood pellets shipped to Great Britain or other European Union countries that use the pellets to generate electricity; another news article stating that agencies are pushing for more fees to stay in their budgets to offset their cuts due to this massive 1.6 billion shortfall coming in FY 15-16 budget; Commissioner Strain said shipping is up and Louisiana is exporting more oilseed and grains from its five ports, even with more grains staying in the USA; and the last news article regards prescribed burning as reasonable land management tool.

Supervisor Resignations/Appointments and Reappointments

Chairman Skains asked Mr. Spicer to report on the supervisor resignations and appointments. Mr. Spicer said there were two requests to waive the required 66 2/3% attendance of these supervisors: Boeuf River SWCD, Mr. Dustin Morris, appointed supervisor and the Tensas Concordia, Mr. Andy Anders, appointed supervisor. Mr. Spicer said both districts wish the Commission to waive their supervisor’s attendance because their supervisors are active and valuable assets to their district. Chairman Skains called for a motion to waive the required 66 2/3% attendance of the supervisors in Boeuf River SWCD, Mr. Dustin Morris, appointed supervisor and in Tensas Concordia, Mr. Andy Anders, appointed supervisor.

Motion: Mr. Yerger made a motion to waive the required 66 2/3% attendance of the supervisors in Boeuf River SWCD, Mr. Dustin Morris, appointed supervisor and in Tensas Concordia, Mr. Andy Anders, appointed supervisor. The motion was seconded by Mr. Compton and passed unanimously.

Mr. Spicer said there were three resignations this month, Mr. John R. Janes, elected position, West Carroll; Mr. Jake Ardoin, appointed position, Evangeline SWCD; and Mr. Walter Tortorich, elected position, Evangeline SWCD.

Motion: Mr. Guillory made a motion to approve the resignations of Mr. John R. Janes, elected position, West Carroll; Mr. Jake Ardoin, appointed position, Evangeline SWCD; and Mr. Walter Tortorich, elected position, Evangeline SWCD. The motion was seconded by Mr. Compton and passed unanimously.

Mr. Spicer said the respective conservation districts are requesting the State Commission to appoint the following supervisors to a new term in office:

Dugdemona SWCD, Mr. Billy Gaines, reappointed to fill his expired appointed position. Term will begin March 25, 2015 and will expire on March 25, 2018.

Evangeline SWCD, Mr. Walter Tortorich, appointed to fill the vacant appointed position of Mr. Jake Ardoin. Term will begin March 26, 2015 and expire on March 26, 2018.

Evangeline SWCD, Mr. Ike Morein, appointed to fill the vacant elected position of Mr. Walter Tortorich. Term will begin March 26, 2015 and expire on June 30, 2016.

St. Martin SWCD, Mr. Curry Albert, reappointed to fill his expired appointed position. Term will begin March 26, 2015 and will expire on March 26, 2018.

Tensas-Concordia SWCD, Mr. Andy Anders, reappointed to fill his expired appointed position. Term will begin April 24, 2015 and will expire on April 24, 2018.

West Carroll SWCD, Mr. Samuel Ashley, appointed to fill the vacant elected position of Mr. John R. Janes. Term will begin March 24, 2015 and expire on June 30, 2015.

LaSalle SWCD, Mr. Sammy Franklin, reappointed to fill his expired appointed position. Term will begin March 28, 2015 and will expire on March 28, 2018.

Chairman Skains asked for comments from the public or Commission members and there were none; he asked for a motion to approve the resignations, appointments and reappointments.

Motion: Mr. Fletcher made a motion to approve the appointments and reappointments of supervisors Mr. Billy Gaines, appointed position, Dugdemona SWCD; Mr. Walter Tortorich, appointed position, Evangeline SWCD; Mr. Ike Morein, elected position, Evangeline SWCD; Mr. Curry Albert, appointed position, St. Martin SWCD; Mr. Andy Anders, appointed position, Tensas-Concordia SWCD; Mr. Samuel Ashley, elected position, West Carroll SWCD; and Mr. Sammy Franklin, appointed position, LaSalle SWCD. The motion was seconded by Mr. Guillory and passed unanimously.

2015 Legislation

Chairman Skains asked Mr. Spicer to review this item with the Commission. Mr. Spicer said in the pre-filed bills he has reviewed included decreasing the required set-backs on the New Orleans Levee that has been an issue ever since Hurricane Katrina. He said the landowners’ back yards are only 30’ deep and the Corps will not allow structures on servitude of the levee and the landowners are trying to reduce the 15’ to 9’. Mr. Spicer said the Coastal Protection Annual Plan is acted on each year by the Legislature to approve or disapprove it, but it cannot be changed by the Legislature. He said another pre-filled bill is to clarify the definition of a natural drainways. He said the last bill is about a special retirement payment for the one state trooper that made the news last year; he said this bill if passed would repeal the special treatment included in the bill passed in the 2014 Session. Chairman Skains said there were some new appointments to the Appropriations Committee, one being my Representative, Mr. Robert Shadoin and of course we have Chairman James Fannin and Charles Chaney that we spend a lot of time with in the past and we need to concentrate a lot of our time with them this year too. Mr. Spicer said they are working on arrangements for LACD representatives to attend the Rural Caucus Luncheon.

Chairman Skains said the Area IV Meeting held in Jefferson Island was very well attended by approximately 150 individuals, including Senator Fred Mills and Representative John Guinn and one other legislator. He said they had a good visit with the legislators and they understand our conservation issues and agreed to help us.

NACD Fly-In

Chairman Skains asked Mr. Spicer to review this item with the Commission. Mr. Spicer said the trip to Washington D.C. was the most productive trip that he has participated in recent years. He said they were able to visit with all the delegation except for Senator Cassidy and Representative Richmond. He said in addition in all eight offices the legislators and staff were interested in our concerns regarding NRCS funding as well as funding for the Watershed Maintenance Program and for Section 319 funding. Mr. Spicer said they were also pleased that they got to spend considerable time with both of our new Congressmen Graves and Abraham and that both of them stated that they strongly support the Farm Bill funding and that they have a strong interest in Louisiana agriculture. Mr. Spicer thanked Mr. Skains for setting up the delegation meetings schedule and for getting them an invitation to attend a special welcoming function for newly elected Congressman Abraham. He said during the Abraham function they got to visit with Congressman Scalise as well as Senator Vitter and others. He said the NACD Program was also very informative.

Chairman Skains said at the function Tuesday night the House Majority Leader Kevin McCarty and the House Majority Whip Steve Scalise were there, along with Senator David Vitter and others in a small group and we had a chance to visit with them a long time and then on Wednesday night at the other NACD function we had everyone there that participated in the NACD Fly-in. He said the states were supposed to invite their Congressmen and their staff but Louisiana and Pennsylvania were the only states that had legislators attend. He said Dr. Ralph Abraham stayed for a long time and later the Congressman Thompson from Pennsylvania came in and both Congressmen Abraham and Thompson addressed the group. He said Dr. Abraham and his wife stayed a long time and visited with them. He said he and Brad also had a good meeting with the Ag Sub-Committee staff and that no-one else had been by to see them except the Louisiana people. Chairman Skains said they had good meetings everywhere with all the staff and the legislators. He asked if anyone had any questions and there were none.

OTher Business

Chairman Skains asked Dr. Leonard if he had any more comments for the Commission. Dr. Leonard said he had a couple of things for the State Commission. He said Dr. Dearl Sanders, Wheat Specialist, is retiring and his retirement function will be this Friday in Clinton, Louisiana. He said Dr. Sanders will not be replaced and this position will not be filled; some other people will be doing double-duty. He said the AgCenter has two field days scheduled; one is a High Fence Deer Management Field Day on the 22nd of April at the Idlewild Research Station and a Wheat and Oat Annual Field Day in Winnsboro at Macon Ridge is also on the 22nd. Dr. Leonard said that was all he had today.

Chairman Skains thanked Dr. Leonard for his report and asked if anyone had any questions; there were none.

Chairman Skains asked Ms. Lambert if she would like to say anything and she replied no. He said they were glad to have her at the meeting.

Mr. Spicer asked if any of the Commission members would be interested in visiting the ADM Port Facility north of New Orleans in conjunction with the April meeting and the Commission members replied yes, if the details could be worked out to include a visit to the ADM Port Facility in conjunction with the April SSWCC meeting. Mr. Yerger said he could not be there for the April meeting as he would be in St. Cloud, Minnesota. Mr. Spicer said he would make some calls and let the members know in a few days.

Chairman Skains asked if there was any other business or comments from the Commission or the public and there was none.

Next meeting

Chairman Skains said the next State Commission Meeting is scheduled Tuesday, April 28, 2015 at 1:15 P.M. at 5825 Florida Boulevard, Veterans Memorial Auditorium, Baton Rouge, Louisiana depending on the efforts to meet in St. Charles Parish.

PUBLIC COMMENTS

Chairman Skains asked if there were any other comments from the public and there were none.

ADJOURNMENT

Chairman Skains said if there was no other business or comments from the public or Commission members, he will accept a motion to adjourn.

Motion: Mr. Guillory made a motion to adjourn at 2:13 P.M. The motion was seconded by Mr. Yerger and passed unanimously.

/s/ Reggie Skains______

Reggie Skains, Chairman

State Soil and Water Conservation Commission

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