December 5, 2017
Dear Conservation District Leaders:
Over the last 6 months, NACD has communicated to you updates related to Secretary Sonny Perdue’s efforts to reorganize the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). As previously communicated to you by NACD, we are closely watching these changes taking place at USDA, and I have twice sent public comments on behalf of our nation’s 3,000 conservation districts expressing our concerns.
While NACD has provided public comments to the Secretary and I have been joined by NACD staff in a handful of meetings with USDA, I felt it was important that the Secretary hear directly from myself, as well as the other non-federal partners of the conservation delivery partnership so that we could gain a better understanding of the direction and goals the Secretary has for this reorganization. It’s also important to let him know where our concerns lie and be sure he is aware that we share the same ultimate goal of ensuring that the customers we both serve, our nation’s farmers and ranchers, continue to receive the conservation delivery they need to protect our nation’s natural resources.
Last week, I was able to meet with Secretary Perdue to communicate this message. Joining me were National Conservation District Employees Association (NCDEA) President Tim Riley, National Association of State Conservation Agencies (NASCA) President Marc Cribb, and National Association of Resource Conservation and Development Councils (NARC&DC) President William Hodge. Secretary Perdue expressed to us that he has no intention of having the mission of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) change and at the local level, we shouldn’t see any changes to the way things operate.
Additionally, the Secretary expressed that NRCS and conservation delivery will continue to depend on conservation districts across the country in order to get the work of conservation delivery accomplished. The goal of the reorganization, according to the Secretary, is to synchronize the agencies within the new Farm Production and Conservation mission area because of the outward-facing, customer-focused missions of NRCS, the Farm Service Agency (FSA), and the Risk Management Agency (RMA). The Secretary also expressed his strong desire for communication between the partnership and USDA as this process moves forward, and we expect to take him up on this offer. He stated that he hoped our meeting would be part of an ongoing process, not just a single one-off episode. The partners have taken him at his word and recently followed up with the Secretary with a letter to continue articulating the value of the partnership and our concerns with the reorganization.
The partner leaders asked for a meeting with the Secretary because of the concerns and worries you had expressed over the last six months. Although we were pleased to hear that the goals of this reorganization are not to erode the partnership or NRCS’s ability to serve our nation’s landowners, the partner leaders expressed that it is the uncertainties and lack of details of exactly how this reorganization will look when fully implemented that give us and our members concerns. NACD will continue to closely monitor these changes to ensure things are moving in the direction expressed by the Secretary.
We continue to rely on you, our members at the local level, to communicate with us your perspectives and concerns as more information is made available.
Brent Van Dyke
National Association of Conservation Districts