MACD, District Staff, and Partners Attend National Association of Conservation Districts Annual Meeting in New Orleans.

MACD, District Staff, and Partners Attend National Association of Conservation Districts Annual Meeting in New Orleans.

Last week, February 11-15, 2023; Michigan was well represented at the National Association of Conservation Districts' Annual Meeting down in the "Big Easy," New Orleans.

The week was filled with training sessions, meetings, networking opportunities and various discussions about what's on the horizon for America's Conservation Districts. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, NRCS Chief Terry Cosby were some of the keynote speakers, and the repeated themes expressed by many speakers throughout the week was that this is the moment for Conservation Districts. The historic investment into the Farm Bill Conservation Title programming via the Inflation Reduction Act represents the largest investment in conservation in a lifetime. The need for delivering conservation on the ground to underserved populations and new customers we haven't reached in the past is greater than ever.

Secretary Vilsack during his keynote address. Photo Credit: NACD

In addition, two resolutions were introduced by the North Central Region (of which, Michigan is a member) where our Michigan delegation played a critical role. One resolution drafted by MACD President Jerry Miller (Kent CD), called for ending the use of "Conservation Tillage" in all future NACD documents, as any form of tillage is tillage. As many of you may be aware, this resolution passed at Michigan Association of Conservation District's 2022 Annual Meeting, and was submitted to NACD's North Central Region. In addition, a resolution co-drafted by MACD Executive Director / Chair of Genesee Conservation District's Board of Directors - Dan Moilanen called for the creation of a new "Urban Conservation Program" within the new Farm Bill, versus trying to apply CSP/EQIP to urban communities. Both resolutions passed during the NACD Board of Directors meeting, and will be added to NACD's policy book and Farm Bill Advocacy Plan, as lobbying efforts in Washington D.C. continue over the coming months.

MACD President Jerry Miller and NACD Past-President Tim Palmer during the NACD Parade of States. Photo Credit: NACD

Moreover, Michigan was well represented among national-level committees and organizations. Shiawassee Executive Director and newly elected President of the National Conservation District Employees Association (NCDEA) Melissa Higbee graced the main stage multiple times throughout the meeting, Leadership Luncheon, and Appreciation Banquet. Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Conservation Programs Manager and National Association of State Conservation  Agencies (NASCA) Treasurer, John Switzer represented Michigan in multiple NASCA meetings. Dan Moilanen also represented Michigan during the newly formed Association of Conservation Executive Directors (ACED) meeting, that represents State Associations of Conservation District Executive Directors.

NCDEA President Melissa Higbee. Photo Credit: NACD

Lastly, newly elected NACD Officers took their oaths of office, including NACD President Kim LeFleur. LeFleur has served in several leadership roles at NACD since 2007, including as a board member, executive board member, and most recently as an officer as NACD’s First Vice President and President-Elect. She also serves as the Board Chair of the Plymouth County Conservation District. LaFleur is the State Advisor and Program Director for the Massachusetts FFA Association, which is part of the nation’s largest agricultural youth leadership development organization. 
President LaFleur is the first woman to serve as NACD President, saying in her opening address, "I am not the first woman qualified to do this job, I am just the first one given the opportunity." Her address touched on the need for continued efforts to bring everyone from all backgrounds to the table.

NACD President Kim LaFleur. Photo Credit: NACD

All of Michigan's delegates expressed feelings of being energized, with new ideas on how we can collectively take on the challenge of expanding conservation implementation on the ground throughout Michigan.

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