NACD CEO addresses Wyoming convention
Lander – “I understand where the real value is in conservation districts – the local level,” said CEO of the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) John Larson. “I look around this room and see a bunch of committed people who serve on their district boards because it is the right thing to do.”
Larson, who started as CEO in August of this year, addressed attendees at the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts (WACD) and Society for Range Management Joint Convention on Nov. 16.
“When I looked at the challenge of being your CEO, I had to weigh in on a couple of things,” explained Larson. “It was my 15-year-old daughter who said, ‘Dad, you’re being selfish. Think of the ability you have to share with people who are decision makers on Capitol Hill.’ With that, I took on this challenge. We’re the ones who take the good work you do and make it into policy for federal agencies.”
Larson updated the WACD on issues being addressed in Washington, D.C.
“I don’t have a lot of specifics to share on exactly what’s happening in Washington, D.C.,” said Larson.
As far as Farm Bill legislation is concerned, Larson said, “My crystal ball is broken.”
While staff at NACD are working hard to maintain the conservation component of the legistlation, he noted that discussions on Capitol Hill say that legislators involved in the Senate and House Agriculture Committees anticipate having a Farm Bill out soon, but, if the Farm Bill isn’t passed before 2012, the election year could prevent passage of the bill until 2013.
Additionally, budget cuts are expected for the bill, and Larson said a 10 percent cut wouldn’t be too bad, but much more could be harmful.
“I don’t think the Farm Bill will be well received on the floor because there is a lack of understanding,” said Larson. “We need to promote the necessity of society supporting some of the burden of food production.”
A Western Issues Specialist with the NACD will also be hired soon, as Larson is currently in the process of conducting interviews, with the hope of selecting a candidate before December to work towards the policy interests of the western U.S.
“Staff in Washington, D.C. are working hard to track everything going on and looking at the opportunities to make sure we are in the right place at the right time,” said Larson. “We have to work hard to make sure that people understand and we engage in our local communities. It makes for much better decisions that people can buy in to.”
For policies implemented at the state and local levels, Larson encouraged conservation districts to implement ideas in a non-regulatory, voluntary way that uses incentives to promote the programs.
“Research has shown that you get a higher level of stewardship by using those methods,” noted Larson. “The ability for locals to make decisions is valuable.”
“The thing that I have learned is that the local level is where to get conservation done,” added Larson. “We can do all the planning in the work, but if we don’t get to implementation, it’s just planning.”
Larson has also been working to further develop the relationship with the Natural Resources Conservation Service at the National level.
“When I first got to Washington, D.C., I met with the chief of the NRCS, I told him that our relationship should be more than just partners – it’s more like family,” said Larson. “As in any family, we will work on the things we agree on and the things we don’t, we’ll have to agree to disagree. The key is communicating.”
Larson continued that communication limits the ability of the groups to work effectively and efficiently, but notes that currently the partnership is strong.
Communication doesn’t end with partner organizations, however, and Larson emphasized the need to communicate between conservation districts and the NACD.
“This is your national association,” Larson told members at the convention.
With an emphasis on conveying state issues to the national association, Larson noted, “I can only advocate from which I know. If I’m not hearing from you, then I don’t know.”
Larson said that as part of his goals as part of the NACD, he wants to meet with people to understand the issues and talk about what people want to see happen.
“We are going to represent you the best the we can. If you have some ideas, send them my way,” added Larson. “We are engaged and ready to go.”
Saige Albert is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.