During the recent National Association of Conservation Districts Annual Meeting, regional meetings also took place to address the biggest issues in specific corners of the country. Leading the way for the Northeast Region were Chair Denise Savageau of Connecticut and Vice Chair Cliff Lane of Pennsylvania.

Kim LaFleur of Massachusetts, newly elected president of NACD, noted, “We’re at an incredible point in time talking about brining inclusivity to the table. How do we widen the circle and get more voices to influence conservation?”

Savageau responded by saying NACD needs to build better outreach for staffing to represent the diversity of all the people the organization serves in the region.

“The Northeast is very focused on climate change,” Savageau added. “Resiliency needs to be on equal footing with carbon sequestration. The adaptation of those practices needs to be expanded. The Northeast doesn’t have those big fields for big payments but we still need impactful practices. It needs to be a conservation system, not just one or two practices.”

Resiliency is important for all our small farms, she told Country Folks. There’s also a big focus on watersheds in the Northeast. “We’re all concerned about the changes in weather – and both the water quality and quantity. We’ll have drought and then flooding with nutrient washouts. We’re also looking at the changes in temperatures – we don’t know what these changes will mean for crops.”

The key to dealing with these issues is strong partnerships. An NRCS report at the meeting mentioned that federal funding will be used for a push to fill vacant staff positions – and it will be important to get those new NRCS agents out on to farms to get production ag education, to build that relationship and that trust with producers, instead of just focusing on conservation work.

“The big movement is toward looking at regional agriculture and the local food supply,” Savageau said. “We need to grow it right and keep it sustainable. The goal is to modernize the whole Northeast agriculture and conservation system.”

To bring the region’s concerns directly to its lawmakers, NACD is hosting its annual Spring Fly-in on March 22 and 23. More information on that can be found at nacdnet.org/news-and-events/spring-fly-in.

by Courtney Llewellyn