|By NANCY VORIS
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Soil and water conservation in Indiana is moving forward with a strategic plan designed to make the most of the state’s precious resources.
“Outside of our children, Indiana’s soil and water resources are our most valuable assets,” said Bob Eddleman, Indiana’s State Soil Conservation Board chairman. “We owe our very existence to six inches of topsoil and the fact that it rains.”
Eddleman announced the strategic plan on Thursday at the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation District’s Annual Legislative Breakfast. He was joined by USDA Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Conner and Indiana Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman.
The plan is the culmination of meetings last year by members of the Indiana Conservation Partnership, which include:
•Indiana Assoc. of Soil and Water Conservation Districts
•Indiana State Department of Agricul-ture’s Division of Soil Conservation
•State Soil Conservation Board
•Natural Resources Conservation Board
•Purdue Cooperative Extension Service
Titled 20/20: The Indiana Conservation Partnership’s Vision for the Future, the plan is designed to help the Partnership utilize and leverage their time and resources to create and take advantage of future opportunities.
“Sound conservation policy and practices are crucial to the future of Indiana agriculture,” Skillman said.
“I applaud the Partnership for taking a team approach to strengthen our direction in land conservation. This sends a strong signal to Congress that Indiana believes this must be a major focus of the 2007 federal farm bill.”
The Partnership has already taken steps toward cooperation. The restructured Indiana State Department of Agriculture’s Division of Soil Conservation field staff, under the leadership of Tammy Lawson, now works with NRCS field staff to deliver technical assistance at the local level.
Director of Agriculture Andy Miller said the restructuring has re-energized the Indiana Conservation Partnership. He said the partnership will work with one primary objective: to improve Indiana’s water quality and preserve its natural resources.
“Hoosier landowners will soon see the benefits of this coordinated conservation effort,” Miller said.
Elements of the strategic plan are:
•The delivery of financial, technical and educational assistance to local levels
•An accountability system that tracks resource-driven results
•Utilizing the latest technology to deliver and measure conservation
•Outreach by communicating success stories, educating Hoosiers about conservation and attracting resources to carry out the plan
•Drawing on additional sources of local, state and federal funding opportunities
“Protecting the state’s natural resources most importantly safeguards our drinking water,” said Gene Weaver, IASWCD president. “The emphasis this plan places on Hoosiers’ quality-of-life also sets a sound base for strong economic development.”
Published in the January 25, 2006 issue of Farm World.