Jarod Chew knows what the Division of Soil Conservation is all about. He worked as a field specialist for 7 years, first when the Division was still part of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. He's an Indiana State University graduate with a degree in biology and ecology, and he hails from Greencastle.
Now he's the director, the head person, for the Division of Soil Conservation. He replaces Tammy Lawson, Thorntown, who has been reassigned to help with special projects within the division. The announcement was made recently.
The Division of Soil Conservation is involved with overseeing and administering Clean Water Indiana funds. Clean Water Indiana is the successor to T by 2000, Indiana's first state-supported soil conservation program, which dates back to 1985. The Division of Soil Conservation moved from IDNR to the Indiana Department of Agriculture shortly after ISDA was formed during the first year of the Daniels Administration. Indiana Secretary of Agriculture Becky Skillman was instrumental in seeing that the Division fo Soil Conservation made the move from IDNR to ISDA.
"Our mission is to promote natural resources in Indiana, whether that's by using cover crops, no-till or other methods," Chew told Indiana Prairie Farmer in an exclusive interview recently. "To do it, we'll work closely with our partners, including the State Soil Conservation Board, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Purdue University Extension, and the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts. We want to grow those relationships."
That may seem that typical rhetoric from a new leader, but it's significant in this case. Rumors of less than perfect cooperation between various partners in the conservation coalition in Indiana had circulated for months.
"It's a new day now," Chew says, candidly. "Personally, I have a good working relationship with the leaders of our partnering groups. Things look positive as we prepare to move forward."
The Division of Soil Conservation currently has 27 resource specialists working in the field, doing technical work as part of the eight technical working teams set up across the state. This framework was initiated by Jane Hardisty, Indiana state conservationist with NRCS.
Asked about his vision for the future, Chew remained positive. "We want initiatives we have started to grow," he says. "We hope that we can expand the Conservation Reserve Enhancement efforts in Indiana."
That program returns lucrative cost-share federal dollars to the state. However, no CREP projects existed in Indiana until Secretary Skillman help get the first one off the ground during the first year of the first Daniels Administration term.
"We're also responsible for providing funding for local soil and water conservation districts," he notes. "We want to work with local districts and address issues which are concerns, especially in certain areas. One of those is hypoxia, which involves too much nitrates in the water runoff.
"We hope we can expand our CREP program efforts, and have a direct impact on nutrient inputs in key areas," Chew concludes.