It was a year of upheaval for the Barton County Soil Conservation District, and this was evident when the district held its 66th-annual meeting Saturday night at the Barton Community College Student Union.
“Change was the theme,” District Manager Pam Tucker said, referring to the most recent meeting of the Kansas Association of Conservation Districts. This marked the first full year since the State Conservation Commission, which oversees the Barton County district, had been placed under the Kansas Department of Agriculture.
The SCC works with the 105 local conservation districts, 88 watershed districts, other special purpose districts, and state and federal entities. The SCC administers the Conservation Districts Law, the Watershed District Act and other statutes. The agency budget is financed through the Kansas State Water Plan Special Revenue Fund, State General Fund, and fee funds.
Tucker and her counterparts opposed the change, fearing the local offices would lose their voices at the state level. But, now they are dealing with it.
“Funding is going to be tighter,” she said. “We are going to have to work smarter.”
There was more. “There is a lot that is very up in the air,” said Lynn Peterson, USDA Farm Service Agency representative.
The new federal Farm Bill has yet to be finalized, leaving a uncertainty with many farm conservation programs, he said. “It is very much in limbo.”
Peterson also said having less money work with has been an issue. “We’ve had to become more creative.”
Next, members said farewell to Gregory Bauer, the retiring Natural Resources Conservation Service’s supervisory district conservationist out of the local field office. He has served the NRCS for 32 and a half years, 10 of those in Great Bend.
Also during the meeting, the three Barton County Soil Conservation District conservation award winners were announced for 2013. The winners were: Kenneth and Cynthia Bitter, Soil Conservation; Dale Unruh and Roland Schmidt, Water Conservation; and Great Bend Feeding Inc., Water Quality.
The awards are often referred to as Banker Awards since they are sponsored by the banks in the county, said Shane Dicks of Community Bank of the Midwest who presented the honors. The banks also sponsored the evening meal.
In addition, the Barton County Soil Conservation District Poster Contest winners were announced. Present were: Third-grade first- and second-place winners Chloe Kochersperger and Grace Hopkins, both of Ellinwood Elementary School, teacher Lisa McMullen; fourth grade first-and second-place winners Isabella Detello and Gina Detello, both of Central Kansas Christian Academy, teacher Jane Their; and sixth grade second-place winner McKayla Williams, of Central Kansas Christian Academy, teacher Lori McLeland. Not attending the meeting were: third grade third-place winner Heratio Baker, Ellinwood Elementary, teacher McMullen; fourth grade third-place winner Holt Hanzlick, Lincoln Elementary School, teacher Jeb Detter; sixth grade first-place winner Bryce Baker, Ellinwood Elementary, teacher McMullen; and sixth grade third-place winner Jackie Scheuerman, Ellinwood Elementary, McMullen teacher.
The first-place entries will advance to the Kansas Association of Conservation Districts statewide contest.