(NACD) — The National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) sent a letter to Congress requesting additional funding and legislative support for the nation’s nearly 3,000 conservation districts in the next stimulus bills.
“Conservation districts are the backbone of delivering conservation in America,” NACD President Tim Palmer said. “Unfortunately, as with many small businesses, many conservation districts are currently struggling to continue supporting their communities given the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.”
In the letter, NACD requests Congress expand the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) to include relief for state and local public-sector entities such as conservation districts that are currently ineligible for the refundable tax credit and payroll assistance programs created under these laws.
Given the state of local economies and the ever-present need for customer service to the nation’s farmers and landowners, NACD also requests that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) be authorized to substantially increase the amount of direct hiring authority available to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). NRCS receives funding through the annually appropriated Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA) program, which facilitates conservation planning, farm bill program implementation and partnership agreements. In the letter to Congress, NACD requests an additional $75 million in a future stimulus bill for the CTA program to support field offices in local communities and to boost conservation practices that improve our nation’s resources while mitigating future natural disasters.
The letter also includes requests related to critical infrastructure investments for the Watershed Operations and Flood Prevention, Watershed Rehabilitation and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 319 Nonpoint Source Grants programs.
“Conservation districts stand ready to work with producers to support our nation’s food system and protect our natural resources during this quickly-evolving crisis,” Palmer said. “It is imperative that Congress provides support to these vital community entities to ensure they can continue to operate in partnership with America’s farmers, ranchers and forestland owners.”
Source: National Association of Conservation Districts