Watershed Information Update

Shared on May 17th, 2018 by Dan Sebert, National Watershed Coalition: www.watershedcoalition.org

I wanted to give you a quick update on a couple of things that are going on.

First..activity on the farm Bill, For a quick update I have pasted a paragraph from the NACD Farm Bill task force below:

The House is in day two of consideration of their Farm Bill. 51 amendments were made in order and some of the more non-controversial ones were passed by  voice vote last night. There are only a handful of amendments that touch on issues we pay attention to which I outline below. The House leadership is still very concerned that some of what they see as “poison pill” amendments may still pass (reforms to the sugar program and crop insurance program). If these do pass the House, Chairman Conaway has indicated that he will work to defeat the bill rather than have them included in a final House bill and set precedent. Even if they don’t pass, it still isn’t 100% clear that this Farm Bill can pass the full House since they are still relying on only Republicans for support with Democrats still holding out due to SNAP concerns. Final vote on H.R. 2 is scheduled for tomorrow.”

Our Watershed interests are intact in the House bill and do not appear to be threatened by specific amendments. There have been a couple of Watershed Program related amendments being “shopped” by non NWC advocates in some Congressional offices but at this time it does not appear that we will see those advance. If they do, we will let you know. Those revolve around more funds (targeted to some specific projects we believe) and some modifications of PL 566 criteria  (to make said specific projects eligible)..

Bottom line is our suggested RCPP reforms are intact and our desired Farm Bill Watershed funding remains intact. You will note that the lack of agreement on SNAP issues presents a hurdle in the House.

When the Farm Bill picture on the Senate side clears a little we will update you.

Second…The last few days brought us an Administration (OMB) driven rescission order that told NRCS to return about $107m in Hurricane Sandy EWP funds that remained unspent and were not available to NRCS for reallocation for other purposes and to return $50m in 2017 appropriated Watershed Ops funding. In brief, this has created a stir for sponsors in several states that have active 2017 funded projects where funds are being pulled back by NRCS. NRCS has indicated they will replace most of the funding with 2018 funds and that work can proceed in about 45 days or so…This has put sponsors and NRCS in a difficult position in several States from MA, AR, TX and beyond. Our advice has been diligence and a careful analysis of the project documents that enable funding to make sure those are being followed. On the optimistic side…there are 2018 funds available to replace 2017 funds at some level.

From the 30,000 ft view there has been more than $600m in Watershed funding in circulation the last 4-6 years..so $50m taken back is not the end of the world or the end of the program..there is 500m in the House version of the current Farm Bill and additional funding in the drafts of the 2019 Appropriations Bill. So things are “ok”..compared to our journey over the last 10-12 years. If you still want to cuss, don’t cuss Congress..this is OMB/Administration driven.

We are monitoring DC activities that impact the Watershed Program quite closely.

We are also working on several deliverables from our NRCS Agreement and working with NASCA on 2019 meeting locations and plans. The icing on the NWC cake of late is the opportunity to work with and respond to project sponsors daily, speak with Watershed groups in Texas and New Mexico as well as work directly with SC project sponsors to analyze maintenance and repair needs.