DMEA Backs Uncompahgrdemvealley Soil Health Project

Special to the Mirror

OLATHE–On Monday, September 10, at 9:30am agricultural leader, John Harold hosted a gathering of members of the Uncompahgre Soil Health Project thanking the Delta-Montrose Electric Association (DMEA) Board of Directors for a $20,000 donation which will help secure a 1.35 million dollar Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI) federal grant for the project. The event was held at John Harold’s farm in Olathe where a sustainable cover crop of soil-renewing plants such as “hairy vetch,” and “winter rye” was alive and growing. The event featured comments from several key project members and a check presentation by several DMEA board directors.

DMEA presents $20,000 to the Soil Health Project. Back Row: Dan McClendon, DMEA General Manager; Brent Hines, DMEA Board Director, Marc Catlin, MEDC Board (Agriculture Representative) Front Row: Bill Patterson, DMEA Board Director; Kari Linker, Regional Development Director, Colorado Office of Economic Development & International Trade; Sarah Carlquist, Assistant to the Delta County Economic Development Board; Sandy Head, Executive Director at Montrose Economic Development Corp.; and John Harold, Olathe farmer and member of the Soil Health project.

The Uncompahgre Valley Soil Health Project is a farmer-lead effort focused on agriculture sustainability in Delta and Montrose Counties. The critical need being addressed by this project is the future sustainability of agriculture in our area. Farmers have correctly determined the risks.

In 2011, a Colorado 501(c)3 nonprofit organization , called Painted Sky Resource, Conservation and Development Council (Painted Sky RC&D), which held a major federal 3-year grant approved by the Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) within the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) was about to close upon the completion of its local Hartland Diversion Dam Modification Project. This grant, which provided incentive funding for farming practices and achieved soil health and water quality improvement goals was at risk of being lost. On December 8, 2011, Delta County Economic Development (DCED) accepted the transfer of a 1.35 million dollar Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI) grant from Painted Sky RC&D. On February 1, 2012, DCED signed into a partnership agreement with the NRCS to act as the project administrator for this grant. Montrose Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) got on board on March 30, 2012 by entering into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with DCED. This is a first-ever partnership between to two organizations with the mutual understanding of the importance of sustaining agriculture in both counties.

On May 22, 2012, Delta County Economic Development and Montrose Economic Development Corporation approached the Delta Montrose Electric Association (DMEA) Board of Directors seeking funding for the administration of the CCPI grant and the sustainability of the Soil Health Project. The DMEA Board of Directors awarded $20,000.00 to the project.

This donation on behalf of DMEA shows tremendous amount of community support for the project and our local agricultural community. This investment will be restricted to the successful implementation of the Soil Health Project and not be used for general administrative or other organizational expenses. It may cover any or all of the costs of the following:• A project consultant to directly administer the requirements of the NRCS/CCPI grant. This part time consultant is tasked to administer the requirements of the CCPI agreement between DCED and NRCS. • Specific activities which lead to on farm research, agriculture related economic development, and soil health related community outreach and education. • Additional fund raising to implement other elements of the soil health project such as: research, economic development, demonstration farm, community outreach and education. • Collaborative assistance to DMEA in planning for and developing new innovative infrastructure which will extend/generate electrical power to farmers for irrigation technology. • Administrative and technical support to the soil health leadership group. • Educational opportunities about sustainable agriculture with federal, state and local governments. • Recognition for DMEA as the major private investor/partner for the Soil Health Project.

This project will not just benefit one organization, but a community as a whole. By implementing these practices, producers will improve soil quality and in turn water quality through reduced and leaching of nutrients pesticides, and sediment. By diversifying crop rotations with multiple species, the producers are likely to experience less pest pressure as well as reduced requirement for synthetic inputs. These practices have the potential to improve crop yield and farm profitability. The grant will serve an estimated 50-75 row crop producers, improving 15,000 to 18,000 acres and up to 78 percent of all lands cultivated for row crops in the lower Uncompahgre Valley. Also recognized is the substantial role that our local fruit growers play in our counties. In Delta and Montrose Counties, approximately 3,000 acres (2,743 are located in Delta County) are dedicated to our local fruit growers adding another vital contribution to the overall financial health of our local agricultural community.