Countdown to Nationals

Greetings from the National Grange youth department. I hope you are making plans to attend some of the youth activities at the 2015 national session in Lincoln, Neb.

The National Youth Ambassadors and I have been hard at work with members of the host committee to deliver an action-packed set of youth days.

Things kick off on Wed. Nov. 11 as the state youth ambassadors, young couples and National Youth Officer Team arrive at the Cornhusker Hotel. The youth will attend session, plus participate in mixer games to get things started.

Thursday is when the youth will get to take in the sights of Lincoln. We will visit the Nebraska State Capitol and learn about the state’s unique legislative branch. Unlike many states, Nebraska has a unicameral, rather than a bicameral (two body), legislative branch. Since we are in the “Cornhusker State,” the youth will swing by the University of Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium. After lunch, our youth tour will conclude at People’s City Mission for the community service project.

The evening’s dinner will take place at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s East Campus. During the bus tour there, we will pass through the campus, and youth will be able to see many of the university farms and it’s connection to the land-grant mission for agricultural research. The dinner speaker will be Dr. Tom Field, who heads up the College of Agriculture’s Entrepreneur Program.

The night will cap off with the annual youth costume party and dance. This year’s theme is “ultimate sports fan.” Everyone is encouraged to rock out their gear promoting their favorite football, baseball, basketball, hockey, or sports team.

Friday morning the National Youth Officer Team will open the day’s session. There will be workshops offered in the morning by National Membership Director Joe Stefenoni on Grange growth. The afternoon workshops will be presented by University of Nebraska professors and focus on Social Media 2.0 and how to use the next generation of social media platforms to promote the Grange.

The Youth Ambassadors and Young Couples will be recognized at the Evening of Excellence and the 2015-16 National Grange Youth Ambassadors and Outstanding Young Patrons will be selected.

Saturday morning is contest day for the youth department. The Grange Parliamentary Procedure contest and Grange Jeopardy Contest will fill the morning’s activities. Youth teams will show their meeting management skills conducting the basic business of a Grange meeting. This program is sponsored by the North Carolina State Grange.

The Grange Jeopardy Contest follows the same format at the television show where several Grange youth from each region will compete to win a tablet, sponsored by DCI Communications.

Youth events are open to all ages and I would encourage you to stop by and support the Grange youth and young adults.

See you in Lincoln!

 

USDA to Provide $332 Million to Protect and Restore Agricultural Working Lands, Grasslands and Wetlands

WASHINGTON – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack  announced that U.S. Department of Agriculture is making available $332 million in financial and technical assistance through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) on March 31.  USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will accept ACEP applications to help productive farm and ranch lands remain in agriculture and to protect the nation’s critical wetlands and grasslands, home to diverse wildlife and plant species.

“USDA helps farmers, ranchers, private forest landowners and partners to achieve their conservation goals using our technical expertise, Farm Bill funding and sound conservation planning,” Vilsack said. “Conservation easements are an important tool to help these landowners and partners voluntarily provide long-term protection of our nation’s farmland, ranchland, wetlands and grasslands for future generations.”

The 2014 Farm Bill consolidated three previous conservation easement programs into ACEP to make it easier for diverse agricultural landowners to fully benefit from conservation initiatives. NRCS easement programs have been a critical tool in recent years for advancing landscape-scale private lands conservation. In FY 2014, NRCS used $328 million in ACEP funding to enroll an estimated 145,000 acres of farmland, grassland, and wetlands through 485 new easements.

In Florida, NRCS used ACEP funds to enroll an additional 6,700 acres in the Northern Everglades Watershed, supporting the restoration and protection of habitat for a variety of listed species, including the Wood Stork, Crested caracara, and Eastern Indigo Snake. The Nebraska Land Trust plans to use ACEP to enroll more than 1,400 acres of native grazing lands that also include grasslands and woodlands that provide critical habitat for Nebraska’s bighorn sheep and elk.

ACEP’s agricultural land easements not only protect the long-term viability of the nation’s food supply by preventing conversion of productive working lands to non-agricultural uses, but they also support environmental quality, historic preservation, wildlife habitat and protection of open space. American Indian tribes, state and local governments and non-governmental organizations that have farmland or grassland protection programs are eligible to partner with NRCS to purchase conservation easements. A key change under the new agricultural land easement component is the new “grasslands of special environmental significance” that will protect high-quality grasslands that are under threat of conversion to cropping, urban development and other non-grazing uses.

Wetland reserve easements allow landowners to successfully enhance and protect habitat for wildlife on their lands, reduce impacts from flooding, recharge groundwater and provide outdoor recreational and educational opportunities. NRCS provides technical and financial assistance directly to private and tribal landowners to restore, protect and enhance wetlands through the purchase of these easements, and Eligible landowners can choose to enroll in a permanent or 30-year easement; tribal landowners also have the option of enrolling in 30-year contracts.

ACEP applications may be submitted at any time to NRCS; however, applications for the current funding round must be submitted on or before May 15, 2015.

To learn about ACEP and other technical and financial assistance available through NRCS conservation programs, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted or your local USDA Service Center.