|Leaders of the Maine Association of Conservation Districts (MACD) believe that their conservation partnerships with landowners will continue to strengthen, despite budget cuts proposed by the Bush Administration.
MACD President Steve Hobart, of Blanchard, and MACD Executive Board members Tony Carroll of Limerick and Marianne Hubert of Vassalboro, visited Washington April 3-5 and met with U.S. Representative Tom Allen and with key staff members from the offices of Senator Snowe, Senator Collins, and Congressman Michaud.
"We basically advised our delegation that the 2002 Farm Bill is working very well for Maine and New England," Hobart said. "This past year, the funding for USDA conservation programs in Maine increased by 45% over 2003, enabling 320 landowners to upgrade their nutrient management and further protect Maine's lakes, ponds and streams."
Maine's conservation leadership team meets with Mike Brownley of Congressman Michael Michaud's office (center) during the recent National Association of Conservation Districts Legislative Conference. To Brownley's left are Maine Association of Conservation Districts (MACD) Executive Director Bill Bell and MACD Executive Board Member Marianne Hubert. On the right, MACD President Stephen Hobart and MACD Executive Board Member Tony Carroll.
The Maine conservation leadership group, which also included MACD Executive Director Bill Bell and former Maine State Senator Marge Kilkelly, who now directs the Northeast States Association for Agricultural Stewardship, spoke to the congressional delegation about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's funding for clean water in Maine.
Hobart said he was very proud to have been able to advise the Congressional delegation that Maine in 2003 and 2004 led the nation in the percentage of Farm Bill funds which went towards the actual installation of conservation practices, and also in the number of conservation contracts with producers which addressed national priorities. "For this reason," Hobart continued, "Maine has become one of the very few states to have received special 'bonus' funds from Washington for conservation during each of the past two years."
Members of the conservation leadership group were impressed with the level of attention shown by Maine's congressional delegation.
It was very satisfying to observe the strong interest of our Maine congressional offices in the Maine DEP report, just published the previous week, showing how federal funds are put to work by our conservation districts back home," Hubert said. "The funds are used to put conservation practices on the ground, particularly in Kennebec County, and the congressional staff reviewed the report page by page."
"Not only was it valuable to meet with Representative Tom Allen, but it was very encouraging to find his staff person, Matt Nelson, so well versed in agricultural programs," Carroll agreed. "The nutrient management structures which York County farmers are installing are having a definite and beneficial effect upon water quality in our region, and it was important to be able to relate this to our delegation."
Hobart commended USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service and Maine DEP for their partnership work with Maine's Soil and Water Conservation Districts and landowners.
"Despite the major reductions being proposed in other areas of the federal budget, our clean water projects in Maine are going to move forward," he concluded
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