Newsletter Highlights:
  • NACD Features Winkelman NRCD in eResource
  • Opportunities to Educate on Agriculture and NRCDs
  • 2019 AACD Winter Meeting
  • USDA Invites Input on Environmental Quality Incentives Program Rule
  • AZ Society for Range Management Winter Meeting
  • Beginning Farmer and Rancher Workshop Dates
Arizona Association of Conservation Districts
December 2019 Newsletter
NACD Features Winkelman NRCD in eResource
NACD features Winkelman Natural Resource Conservation District (NRCD) in Kearny, Ariz. Winkelman NRCD saw the petition to list the Sonoran Desert tortoise (pictured above) as an endangered species in 2008, the district recognized this as an imminent threat to its customers and its local economy.

After the district coordinated with other organizations and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), it was later determined that the Sonoran Desert tortoise was a distinct population segment and warranted listing, and that livestock grazing was not a threat to the species' survival. The district helped create the best management practices that protected grazing in the tortoise's habitat, as well as create a Candidate Conservation Agreement for federal lands and a Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances for private landowners.

After litigation requesting a final decision, the USFWS determined the tortoise did not meet the definition of a threatened or endangered species and removed it from the candidate list. Winkelman NRCD and the Arizona Association of Conservation Districts worked with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), USFWS, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Arizona Game and Fish Department for several years on the species’ conservation.

To read the rest of this article, check out the Fall 2019 edition of The Resource on NACD's website .
Opportunities to Educate about
Agriculture and NRCDs
The AACD is continuously looking for ways to further the goals of the NRCDs, including ways to educate the public about how vital agriculture is to society, and about how you, the farmers,ranchers, and other conservation-minded volunteers, dedicate time and energy into conserving agriculture, soil, wildlife, water, etc. As part of these efforts, AACD and Executive Committee members hosted a farm and ranch tour last week for the ASU Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems Food Policy and Sustainability Leadership class. Twenty-one class participants from around the country enjoyed two days of learning about the importance of farming and ranching, what agricultural producers endure, as well as other vital conservation topics. Most participants have an existing career, while the majority had a good knowledge base as it relates to agriculture. Regardless of background, and based upon questions asked throughout the class, it was apparent that they expanded their existing knowledge during these outings.

On the first day of class,December 5th, Mark Kuechel, 1st VP for the AACD and Chair of the Yuma NRCD, showed the class around Kuechel Farms, talked about what it takes to be a farmer, and the obstacles farmers must deal with on a daily basis. Sheryl Christenson, AACD Education Committee Co-Chair and Chair of the Laguna NRCD, as well as Bobbie McDermott, AACD Cropland Committee Chair and a Supervisor of the Yuma NRCD, were also present to reiterate the importance of agriculture, discuss water issues in Yuma, and emphasize how producers diligently work to produce safe food for all. Then Chase Tew from Duda Farms graciously escorted the attendees around some of Duda’s growing fields, where the class heard more about food safety and labor challenges, and observed migrant workers in action. 

Two days later, the class next met at Tina Thompson’s ranch near Willcox. Tina, 2nd VP for the AACD and Supervisor of the Willcox-San Simon NRCD,enlightened students about NRCDs, the AACD, ranching operations, how ranchers conserve grass, soil, and wildlife, and how they are working to maintain and enhance the ecosystem of their own accord. It was also emphasized that most agricultural producers are “land rich and cash poor”, which means they simply cannot install all of the necessary conservation methods on their working landscapes without some financial assistance. Additionally, Tina’s son Cory was on hand to educate attendees about the truth behind misconceptions regarding ranchers.Finally, students had a chance to traverse the Thompson’s ranch and see the cows up close. 

Overall, it was a great two days full of learning about agriculture and the imperative work you all do to ensure that Arizona conserves its agriculture and limited natural resources. Keep up the good work!

If there are other opportunities to educate the public (e.g. speak to a group, give a tour, etc.), please contact Sharma Torrens at or 602-540-5331.
2019 AACD Winter Meeting

Board of Director's Meeting January 28th!
Have a voice and vote on your company's 2020 Annual Plan of Work. 

How is the new Farm Bill going to effect your operation?
Come find out January 28th with some one on one time with your State Conservationist, Keisha Tatem!

Legislative Day, January 29th!
Spend time with Jackie Thomas, NRCD Program Manager!
Please email, call, or text Brooke Gladden your name to register for the AACD Winter Conference. Registration is free of charge! We simply need your name to make appointments with legislators and to provide lunch. Thank you!.

Brooke Gladden 
(520) 668-3348
USDA Invites Input on Environmental Quality Incentives Program Rule
Media contact:  Valentino Reyes

USDA Invites Input on Environmental Quality Incentives Program Rule
Public comments will be accepted until February 18, 2020.

PHOENIX, December 16, 2019  – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) seeks public comments on its interim rule for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), USDA’s flagship program that helps producers plan and implement 150-plus conservation practices on working lands. The rule – now available on the Federal Register – takes effect upon publication and includes changes to the program prescribed by the 2018 Farm Bill.

“The Environmental Quality Incentives Program gives Arizona’s agricultural producers and landowners the tools they need to improve their agricultural operations while conserving natural resources,” said Keisha Tatem, NRCS state conservationist in Arizona. “The 2018 Farm Bill further strengthens this popular conservation program to enable NRCS to better support locally-led conservation efforts while also expanding producers’ ability to address significant resource concerns.” 

NRCS will make available $1.2 billion nationwide for interested producers in fiscal 2020. The signup periods for EQIP in Arizona will be announced in the coming weeks. 

Changes to EQIP include:

  • Creating incentive contracts and payments for incentive practices to better support locally-led conservation needs.
  • Requiring NRCS to offer an advance payment option for historically underserved producers. 
  • Raising the payment cap for producers participating in the Organic Initiative to $140,000 for contracts entered into between fiscal 2019 through 2023.
  • Expanding the Conservation Innovation Grant program, which is funded through EQIP, to include opportunities for On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trails and Soil Health Demonstration Trials.

The 2018 Farm Bill created incentive contracts, which address up to three priority resource concerns within targeted watersheds and other high priority landscapes. While typical EQIP contracts last five years, these contracts last five to 10 years. 

The Farm Bill also enabled increased payments for priority practices, through which NRCS can designate up to 10 practices in each state to receive the higher rates. 

Submitting Comments

NRCS invites comments on this interim rule through Feb. 18, 2020. 

Electronic comments must be submitted through  under Docket ID NRCS-2019-0009. All written comments received will be publicly available on      

NRCS will evaluate public comments to determine whether additional changes are needed. The agency plans on publishing a final rule following public comment review.

Applying for EQIP

NRCS provides producers with financial resources and one-on-one help to plan and implement conservation practices through EQIP. 

Popular EQIP practices in Arizona include brush management, prescribed grazing, irrigation efficiency improvement, and practices related to water quality improvement. Implementing conservation practices can lead to cleaner water and air, healthier soil and better wildlife habitat while improving agricultural operations. 

EQIP applications are accepted on a continuous basis. If a producer’s application is funded, NRCS will offer an EQIP contract for financial assistance for the cost of implementing the practices. Payment rates for conservation practices are reviewed and set each fiscal year. 

For more information on how to sign up for EQIP in Arizona, contact your  local NRCS field office.  
 Arizona Section of the Society for Range Management (AZSRM) winter meeting invitation, Jan. 22-24, 2020 Wickenburg
Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program
AACD Members

225 S. Railroad AVE.
P.O. Box 220
Willcox, AZ 85643
Office: (520) 384-4688
Fax : (520) 384-3489
Be Sure To “Like Us” on Faceboo k

Lamar Smith
(830) 719-5978

Bill Dunn
(520) 384-4688

Daric Knight
(928) 521-9897
Arizona Association
of Conservation Districts
7467 E. Broadway Blvd
Tucson, AZ 85710
Have a story you would like to share in our next newsletter?

Contact: Brooke Gladden
(520) 668-3348
"To support Conservation Districts in providing conservation leadership and education to address local conservation priorities in partnership with landowners, federal and state agencies, tribal & local governments and other partners"