Initially, Indiana was behind in supporting soil and water conservation activities with significant state dollars compared to other states. The first significant support for soil conservation came after T by 2000 passed the Legislature and was implemented in 1986. Original funding was from the cigarette tax.
Exactly how much money does Indiana devote to soil conservation today, more than 33 years after T by 2000 began? T by 2000 later evolved into Clean Water Indiana.
Here is Indiana Prairie Farmer’s exclusive interview with Jordan Seger, during which he answers funding questions and explains what Hoosiers get in return.
Seger previously served as director of soil conservation within the Indiana State Department of Agriculture. Today, he’s ISDA’s deputy director, but he still works closely with the Division of Soil Conservation.
How much money does Indiana provide for soil and water conservation? The state provided approximately $5 million in fiscal year 2019 for all soil and water conservation activities. That breaks out into about $3 million from the cigarette tax, just under $1 million in general appropriations from the Legislature for Clean Water Indiana, plus about $1 million which goes directly to the Division of Soil Conservation under statute.
The cigarette tax portion is figured at 4.22% of total cigarette tax revenues. One-sixth automatically goes to Clean Water Indiana. The cigarette tax is the same funding mechanism originally set up for T by 2000. Actual dollars for soil conservation have decreased somewhat as fewer people smoke.
How is Clean Water Indiana money used? Nearly half of the roughly $4 million for CWI goes directly to Indiana soil and water conservation districts. Just over $500,000 supports district business activities, which are more behind the scenes, and about 40% goes toward what we call key program support.
Here’s a closer look: Under direct distribution to SWCDs, each district can receive up to $10,000 annually from the state, $1 for each dollar the district matches either from local government support or outside funding. Districts can also be reimbursed for training and skill improvement activities. Districts may apply for competitive CWI grants for a wide range of activities.
Key support includes the state share of funds for the federal Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program. This leverages state funds with federal dollars and can be used for planting grasses and trees on converted cropland. Funding in the key support category also funds worthy initiatives outside of SWCDs and supports the Conservation Cropping Systems Initiative to utilize soil conservation demonstration hubs. Today, it also supports the Southern Indiana Cooperative Invasives Management group. This program has spread across the entire state.
Who oversees distribution of funds? The State Soil Conservation Board plays a large role in overseeing funding. A committee within the SSCB evaluates and awards competitive grants for CWI projects in October. This past year, funding requests totaled $2.5 million. Just over $1 million in grants could be awarded.
How does the Division of Soil Conservation fit into the picture? We have 34 employees. Most of them are specialists working out in the state. Each county has access to one of our technicians. They work alongside Natural Resources Conservation Service staff and sometimes local district technicians to get conservation on the land.