During the Reports session, Bob Richardson, Private Sector Co-Chair Elect and Rob DeClue, Public Sector Co-Chair Elect gave each sector’s report to the whole Consortium. Bob announced that the Private Sector had nominated Don Wild and Ken Miller to replace Clyde Bailey, whose term had expired, and Angus Johnson, who had to step down due to health reasons. Eric Noel was nominated to Chair the Stakeholder Action Committee. Rob reviewed the Public Sector’s ideas for continued funding of the Consortium. This included asking member land grant Cooperative Extensions each to donate \$1000 to \$2000. Submitting a Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) proposal to do pasture outreach work. Gathering agribusiness support was another idea. Depending on the level of funding, a less costly place to hold the annual meeting/conference was offered as a measure to reduce expenses.
Dr. Jim Dobrowolski, National Program Leader for Rangeland and Grassland Ecosystems, was the first USDA agency person to speak representing the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Jim said that China is fast catching up to the US in agricultural research spending. In the US, more research and development funding is done by the food industry than the agricultural industry. He asked that we get researchable items to him concerning pastureland issues. He then went over different grant programs where the Consortium could apply for funding. NIFA tends to favor large projects that will have big impacts. The SARE grant program, the AFRI Foundational Program priority areas - plant health or animal health, the Rangeland Research Program, Beginning Farmer and Rancher Develop-ment Program, and the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative were mentioned as possible funding vehicles. Currently, NIFA is led by Acting Director Chavonda Jacobs-Young.
In place of the ARS agency report, Mr. Bob Wagner from the New England Farmers Union, gave a presentation on their carbon credits program funded by a Conservation Innovation Grant. The New England Farmers Union seeks to be an aggregator of farms applying for carbon credits. For an individual farm, it would not be profitable to apply as an individual, because the fees to get annual carbon audits and verifications would exceed the return an individual farmer would get in payment for the farm’s carbon credits. Bob gave an example on how carbon credits are earned and expensed out on a farm switching from total confinement to a pastured cow dairy.
Mr. Dennis Thompson, National Rangeland and Grazing Lands Ecologist, gave the NRCS report by speaker phone. Both ARS and NRCS have severe travel restrictions so their National leaders could not travel to Latham. Dr. Jeff Steiner of ARS was called away to meet with the Department of Energy at his scheduled speaking time. Dennis had with him Mr. Mark Rose who administers EQIP. The peri-meter fencing policy was still under review for cost-share assistance under EQIP. They were aware of the Consortium’s concerns about it not being cost-shared for land use conversion from cropland to pasture. Dennis also conveyed his concern that the pastureland NRI was not funded for 2012. Pasture-land CEAP could also be in jeopardy due to the contraction of funding to NRCS in 2012.