Conservation Leader Concerned About Clean Water Indiana Funding

Fears legislature might cut funding by $500,000 per year.

Published on: Mar 3, 2011

No one ever accused Ray McCormick of being shy. The 2010 recipient of the Indiana Prairie Farmer and Purdue University College of Agriculture Master Farmer award is currently president of the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts. He recently issued a statement sounding the alarm that it appeared Governor Daniels and the Indiana House of Representatives might cut $500,000 annually from the Clean Water Indiana budget. That's assuming that the antics of the end run to Illinois by Democrats don't destroy the rest of the legislative session.

"This (cuts) literally doesn't make 'cents' when you consider that Indiana's 92 soil and water conservation districts used Clean Water Indiana funds to match and generate $96.8 million in federal, state and local dollars for conservation in 2009," Mc Cormick says. "These matching funds are critical to Indiana's economy and more importantly, help address our state's natural resource concerns."

IASWCD furnished figures which indicate that for every dollar of Clean Water Indiana funding spent by the state, SWCDs leveraged that money and generated an incredible $29.90 in matching funds per dollar invested. "There is no better return on the investment of taxpayer dollars than Clean Water Indiana funding," MCormick says.

McCormick sees hypocrisy in what the legislature does when assigning responsibilities, and then what it does when proposing spending formulas. For example, Indiana law mandates that SWCDs fulfill the role of protecting the health and integrity of Indiana's watersheds. Yet apparently some want to cut back on their very ability to do what they've been asked by law to do, McCormick says.

Cutting back on funding also goes against the grain of what Lt. Governor Becky Skillman is trying to accomplish. Six years go on the Hession Farms, Brownsburg, she and others signed the first Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program agreement for Indiana. It's an offshoot of the Conservation Reserve, and is a federal program that literally returns up to $8 in federal money for each state dollar invested. The first program in Indiana in 2005 was limited to three watersheds, since funding was limited.

This past August, she visited the Starkey farm near Indianapolis and helped expand the program into a second phase. There are now a total of 11 watersheds included. People in these watersheds can apply for money through CREP that wouldn't be available to them otherwise.

These are dollars that if they don't go to Indiana, then go elsewhere. And some of the dollars in the pool were collected from Indiana taxpayers.