Direct seeders in the Pacific Northwest are being pursued by landowners who want their land and resource to be protected and built up, not eroded away, says Kay Meyer.
A new certification of conservation efforts of Pacific Northwest Direct Seed Association members which is expected to become effective next year is a change whose time has come, says the PNDSA executive director.
A 2013 Pacific Northwest Direct Seed Association conference in Spokane, Wash., this winter proved the PNDSA is alive and well, despite recent setbacks, and nearing completion of its new certification program.
More than 240 attended PNDSA's Direct Seed Cropping Systems Conference, marking a comeback for the organization which lost 30% of its membership since 2007, mostly due to a loss of financial support and missed conferences in more recent years. The PNDSA also experienced a loss of managers, followed by a period when no manager was in place.
But that changed with the arrival of Meyer a year ago, who took over the reins of the organization as "a self-starter, who organized a new conference pretty much on her own," according to official comments at the meeting.
"Our goal is to exceed 2007 membership levels by 2014," vows Meyer, who says the drive was promoted at the conference and will be pursued at PNDSA local meetings and events and through social marketing and e-mail campaigns."
"Exciting news at this year's conference was the focus on cover crops," she says, "and three February soil workshops in eastern Washington and western Idaho" which followed up on comments by conference special guest speaker Ray Archuleta, who stirred so much interest in soil health potential that he was still in discussions with PNDSA members three hours after his presentation, notes Meyer.
The first of the workshops in Spangle, Wash., on Feb. 12 drew 75 participants in a standing-room-only confab at Harvester Restaurant.
"We have several producers already figuring out how to seed cover crops off their combine during harvest that will germinate upon humidity, dew and rainfall in the summer and provide soil protection, increased moisture and increased nitrogen naturally," says Meyer.
Part of PNDSA's return as a viable organization came in a $100,000 grant from the Washington Department of Ecology grant to develop a certification program. While that program is 95% complete, and the first certifications of PNDSA growers for their conservation efforts are expected to surface next year, the association is now holding its breath that a new $100,000 WDE grant will be approved.
"We have the potential to market product to retailers that have sustainable programs, niche marketing opportunities, market premiums, and being the foundation of environmental and soil erosion programs with potential partners like the Department of Transportation, Corp. of Army Engineers, or states with emissions/carbon credit markets, or investment companies looking to develop sustainable farming practices," says Meyer
Already, PNDSA has plans to expand its support from Washington into Oregon and Idaho where environmental agencies may be as interested as the WDOE in supporting the PNDSA certification effort.
The new grant money would be used to implement the certification program and continue education and outreach operations. A decision on the grant is expected in March.
"Certification is important to our growers because it brings benefits that will evolve as we begin focusing on the marketing side this year," says Meyer. "Immediate benefits include proactive relationship with regulatory agencies who understand the environmental benefits of direct seeding and recognize it as a best management practice for improving water quality, air quality and wildlife habitat," she says.
PNDSA is also in discussions with other potential revenue sources, including Wal-Mart which discussed the certification program with association leaders as a possible new program for the company to support as part of its conservation awareness outreach.