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Conservation Quarterly

State Budget Conditions Still Impacting RCD Operations

Jeanette Wrysinski, Senior Program Manager

Volume 12 Issue 2 Spring 2009

tate lawmakers may have passed a budget in February, but the Yolo County Resource Conservation District (YCRCD) has seen only incremental progress toward resumption of suspended projects. On December 17 2008, the State of California suspended over 5,000 bond-funded projects across the state, and by the time the stop-work news trickled down and came into focus, the impact was pretty grim for many RCDs, businesses, and non-profits across the state, including the YCRCD. For the YCRCD, over 85% of projects representing over $1.5 million for Fiscal Year 2008-2009 were affected. A significant fraction of this total goes to pay vendors throughout Yolo County that supply materials and provide a variety of services. Compounding the effects of the freeze was the fact that the state already owed the YCRCD and its vendors reimbursement for work completed as far back as summer 2008. These payments were held back because of the long delay in finalizing the state budget last year. In response to the December stop-work order, the Board of Directors decided to severely limit all expenditures and cut staff time to 50% until the budget freeze is lifted. Based on the YCRCDs financial position at the time and projected costs, this was a way to preserve basic operations and retain staff so that the District could power up again quickly once the spending freeze was lifted. The situation has presented financial and professional challenges for every staff member. It has been difficult for staff to see time-sensitive work, such as timely weed spraying or seasonal workshops and native plant installation, go untended. YCRCD employees tend to be personally committed to each of their projects, largely due a desire

to improve our local and regional natural resource conditions, but also due to close, long-term working relationships with farmers and other land owners and managers that theyve known for years. The YCRCD receives a very minimal amount of tax based funding - just under $12,000 each year. Our many programs and activities are supported largely by grant funds and contracts, and over 85% of these have been affected by the States stop-work order. These include programs and projects covering ag water use efficiency, ag water quality, watershed coordination, invasive weed control, education and outreach, erosion control, and pollinator and wildlife habitat restoration. We have developed quite a bit of expertise over the years in all of these areas and pride ourselves on being a readyresource for any landowner needing assistance. Unfortunately, many of these valuable services and programs are currently supported through voter-approved propositions funded by General Obligation bond sales, and these have stopped cold since the state spending freeze order.
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In This Issue:
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State Budget Impacts RCD Operations Executive Directors Message The Science of Compost Use in Agriculture

Yolo County Resource Conservation District

Also included: Annual Dinner Registration and Publication Flyer!

Yolo County Resource Conservation District

MISSION The Yolo County Resource Conservation District commits to protect, improve and sustain the natural resources of Yolo County. CONSERVATION QUARTERLY The Conservation Quarterly is a quarterly publication of the Yolo County Resource Conservation District (YCRCD), a governmental subdivision of the State of California organized under Public Resources Code Division 9. RCD FUNCTION To make available technical, financial and educational resources, whatever their source, and focus or coordinate them so that they meet the needs of the local land managers with conservation of soil, water and related natural resources. Our projects reflect a cooperative effort with our partner agency, the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). BOARD OF DIRECTORS Blair Voelz, Chairman Garth Williams, Vice-Chairman David Gilmer Ali Pahlavanian Bob Milbrodt Julio Hernandez John Reyes ASSOCIATE DIRECTORS Jim Mayer, Rudy Lucero, Rachel Long, Greg Giguiere, Gio Ferrendelli YCRCD STAFF Dan Efseaff, Executive Director Jeanette Wrysinski, Senior Program Manager Sue McCloud, Financial Manager Sheila Pratt, Administrative Assistant Mark Lane, Water Lab Manager John Reynolds, Revegetation Specialist Tanya Meyer, Vegetation Management Specialist Diane Crumley, Education Coordinator Heather Nichols-Crowell, Watershed Coordinator Chris Robbins, Watershed Coordinator NRCS STAFF Phil Hogan, District Conservationist Wendy Rash, Soil Conservationist Ha Truong, Agricultural Engineer Nick Gallagher, Rangeland Management Specialist CONTACT 221 West Court Street, Suite 1 Woodland, CA 95695 Phone (530) 662-2037 ext.117 Fax (530) 662-4876

Spring 2009
Dans Message: Greetings!

n December 17 2008, the State of California suspended over 5,000 bond-funded projects across the state, and by the time the stop-work news trickled down, the impact was pretty grim for many RCDs, businesses, and non-profits across the state, including the Yolo County Resource Conservation District (YCRCD). In this issue of the Conservation Quarterly, we provide a taste of the projects that have been suspended and a little on the ripple effect that it has had. Although this has resulted in considerable hardship to our understanding vendors and staff, I have been struck by the commitment and support that our partners, Board, and staff have demonstrated to help us survive. For example, when they heard of our 50% cut in staff time, one of our multitalented farming families brought in bags of citrus, eggs, and vegetables (which soon disappeared from our lunch table), and several of our sister organizations have found billable projects for our staff. While it looks like it may be a long thaw until our projects regain their full strength, there is room for optimism. The YCRCD is busy reinventing itself, building on our reputation for innovation, diversity of programs, and extensive experience in building positive, collaborative partnerships. We have been busy developing new projects and ideas, and several of these are beginning to bear fruit, which we will share with you in future newsletters. We call for your help, too. On June 10th, we will host our annual dinner. Though usually the event focuses on supporting a student to attend Range Camp, we are broadening our appeal this year to help support the general operations of the YCRCD. Especially in this time of need, we are very appreciative of your participation, sponsorship, and donations (oh yes, did I mention that donations to the YCRCD are tax-deductible?). I am grateful for your support and we are ready to reinvigorate the YCRCD to ensure that we not only survive but thrive in the coming years.

Danial Efseaff Executive Director

Dan Efseaff started with the YCRCD in Summer 2008. Previously, he was a Restoration Ecologist with River Partners and specialized in implementing large scale river restoration projects and leading complex studies. Dan was raised on a farm in the San Joaquin Valley and attended UC Davis and CSU Chico.

Conservation Quarterly
Continuing Conservation Education: The Science of Compost Use in Agriculture
by Diane Crumley he YCRCD has continued its efforts in conservation education this year by collaborating with partners. With support from the CA Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB) and UC Riverside Cooperative Extension, the YCRCD organized a workshop held on April 15th at the Heidrick Ag History Center titled Understanding Compost Use in Agriculture. The workshop was attended by over 80 participants coming from the Bay Area to Modesto and included farmers, landscapers, commercial compost providers, conservation and resource professionals and UC researchers.

Spring 2009
Composting to improve soil quality has been used by farmers for millennia. However, until recently, compost users often received little technical guidance, and the product could be highly variable. Fortunately, recent research has contributed to major advances in the standardization of the compost industry, and its safety for a wide range of applications from agriculture to landscape and environmental enhancement.

Compost 101

The issue at hand

Dr. David Crohn from UC Riverside introduced workshop participants to compost basics including the methods and underlying chemical, physical and biological processes of transforming dead dirt to living soil. He reported on EPA studies demonstrating that heat generated during compost formation eliminates parasites and pathogens, and inactivates most weed seeds. Production standards state that compost must be maintained at 131 degrees Fahrenheit or more for three consecutive days to achieve this. Industry standards are available through participation in Seal of Testing Assurance (STA) protocols which provide data about product origin, processing history, and chemical and physical characteristics. A Compost Use Index (CPI)

According to Fernando Burton of the CIWMB, California residents send over 42 million tons of waste to landfills each year, with 30% of it being potentially compostable organic materials. In accordance with the 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act, the CIWMB has committed to reducing organic waste in landfills by 50% by the year 2020 and so are working to identify new markets for compost production and use.. To that end they have partnered with UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) to develop scientifically-derived compost specifications for selected agricultural crops to increase compost use by growers. These include tomatoes, strawberries, grapes, lettuce, blueberries, and avocados.

YCRCDs new compost workshop was well-attended by over 80 participants

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We have not been paid for work completed since October of 2008, and have been told to not work further on projects that: Remove noxious, invasive weeds from our local waterways and replace them with native plants that belong there, Do free evaluations for farmers of their water use efficiency and distribution uniformity, Bring students out to farms, creeks and conservation sites to participate in conservation and learn about working landscapes, Provide staff support to groups of landowners who want to work collectively on mutual problems such as flooding, sedimentation and weeds, Remove barriers to good conservation practice installation, such as permit simplification and Safe Harbor agreements, Determine how water and geology interact along Cache Creek to help improve placement of stabiliza-

tion and revegetation projects, Provide funding to pay for costly but important conservation projects, such as tailwater/wildlife ponds for native fish, riparian revegetation, and canal bank planting, Transfer our local expertise to neighboring counties, Bring together multiple conservation oriented organizations -local, regional and national.

We were caught off guard - as were many other RCDs, other special districts, and non-profits by the sudden stop in cash flow in the middle of contracted projects whose funding was supposed to be disconnected from state budget disputes. We and our Board of Directors continue to work hard to stay afloat, and must find alternate ways of continuing the important work that we do within Yolo County. We would appreciate any form of support you can provide, and look forward to working with you for years to come.

Conservation Quarterly
(CPI) has also been developed that serves as a short hand method for matching compost qualities and characteristics to specific crop nutrient or site needs. For more information visit

Spring 2009
crop mix. His yields are similar to conventional fertility approaches and he receives the added benefit of pollinators and other beneficial insects. Paul Mullers organic farm in Capay Valley serves the local food-shed in a variety of ways from providing a rich array of over 70 kinds of fruits and vegetables to Yolo County residents and Bay Area restaurants to hosting the widely attended Hoes Down Harvest Festival each October. Muller typically uses 8 to 10 tons of compost per acre compared to Lesters 2 to 3 tons, but his year-round production and crop diversity has different production requirements. He also uses cover crops on all his fields and remarked about the many ecological services these practices provide including sequestering more carbon and nitrogen, increasing the diversity and activity of soil microorganisms and reducing his losses from pests and disease. Participants gained a lot of valuable information from this 5-hour workshop, and the YCRCD is grateful for the support received from UCCE and CIWMB. For additional information and to view the Powerpoint presentations from the workshop visit the YCRCD website at

Hands-on experiences

Participants also heard from local compost suppliers Suellen Witham of Westside Spreading in Zamora and Stan Nader of Nortech Waste in Roseville. They discussed the real life experiences of working with the STA standards. UC Davis agricultural economics researcher Karen Klonsky presented cost estimates for the use of compost in maintaining soil fertility for a variety of crops including walnuts, almonds, alfalfa, tomatoes and corn. She examined direct costs associated with compost use (materials, transport, spreading) as well as the benefits derived from compost application that can lead to a reduction in fertilizer use. After lunch, well-known local organic farmers Russ Lester of Dixon Ridge Farm and Paul Muller of Full Belly Farms spoke in-depth about their experiences using a whole systems approach to soil health maintenance. Lester described his transition from conventional orchard farming to an organic, self-sustaining operation by first applying compost to the orchard floor and later maintaining cover crops. Lester said that he receives half of his annual nitrogen needs from compost and the other half from his cover

Find project progress reports, events, links, and updated conservation articles on the RCD website at If you would like to receive this newsletter electronically instead of by mail, please notify Sheila Pratt at

Yolo County RCD/NRCS Field Office 221 W. Court Street, Suite 1 Woodland, CA 95695

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