A USDA/Local Council RC&D Program was established in the Agriculture Act of 1962 requiring establishment of local RC&D Councils. Responsibility for the administration of the program placed within the Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Successive Farm Bills provided for the further development of the program, including deepening the partnership between RC&D Councils and the NRCS. Although the 2011 budget zeroed out the USDA funding for the RC&D program the partnership with USDA remains strong in Minnesota because of the recognized effectiveness of the RC&D Councils in addressing local and regional needs.
In mid-April, 2011, Congress zeroed out the budget for the USDA Resource Conservation and Development Program (RC&D). This action lacked any warning, and the next day USDA immediately pulled all staff from supporting the program, began closing offices and terminating agreements. Obviously this was a major blow to the RC&D Councils across the nation. A major blow, but not a death blow!
RC&D Councils remain active in Minnesota. While life was much easier with the USDA support, these Councils still have important work underway and a plan for the future. The loss of funding has created an opportunity to reinvent the RC&D nonprofit movement. We had a choice of throwing in the towel, or taking a look at how we can be even more effective at solving the local problems we have prioritized.
Why? It doesn’t matter if you’re as big as the United Way, or as small as the local garden club, if what you are doing is important enough - someone else will step up if you step down. But, why would we choose to lose the local leadership and collaboration that has developed over the last 50 years? Why would we dissolve the opportunity for County Commissioners and SWCD Supervisors to sit down together and discuss issues at an area level? We have accomplished a great deal across Minnesota, and many of us believe we can continue to “make things happen” in the future.