Climate change is one of the most talked about issues of today\u2019s society. All forms of government are taking up the issue to develop policies that will help to mitigate the reasons for climate change.\n\nOne agency who is at the forefront of environmental issues is the local Soil and Water Conservation district. This agency works with farmers, ranchers, and landowners to develop projects, grant source fund write applications and the implementation of projects that help to reduce factors that may negatively impact our environment. These projects address such things as soil erosion, animal waste management, nutrient run-off, and the eradication of invasive plant species.\n\nThe Soil and Water Conversation Districts were formed in 1940 right after the disaster of the dust bowl. That environmental disaster proved the need for such a group that would work to preserve and maintain soil health and work with landowners to achieve those goals. The laws governing these districts were established by the state legislature and the Governor and were made part of the agriculture and market laws. There were many organizations who were initially involved in its formation. The make-up of the local boards was determined by those groups who were most representative of those landowners they were trying to reach.\n\nSince its inception, these conservation districts have proven to be beneficial to landowners who have taken advantage of their services. The projects that have been completed have proven to help the environment and to help landowners to be good stewards of their land.\n\nThe New York State Grange was a very active part in the formation of these conservation districts. By law, the Grange and the Farm Bureau have had members appointed to these boards since the beginning. Their representation of rural farms and landowners has been one of the most important assets that they bring to their participation in their districts. Each organization is a voice for rural communities, this includes all forms of agriculture and all landowners.\n\nThe Grange, along with other members of the conservation districts, recently were made aware of proposed changes to the laws that govern the soil and water districts. The proposal would eliminate the Grange as a member of the board, it would also affect the Farm Bureau\u2019s participation on these boards. The make-up of the board would increase to seven members and would be given to other organizations who feel they have been slighted in their representation. It would also call for an open election of legislators to be members of this board.\n\nThe Grange and the Farm Bureau work hard to represent all forms of agriculture. Both organizations are voices for those who live in rural communities. They also represent those who are participating in urban agriculture. This is an area which is gaining popularity as a means to help local food deserts by providing fresh vegetables and fruits to share with their community.\n\nAfter carefully reviewing the proposed changes, the New York State Grange established policy at its annual session this past October which is opposed to changing the current make-up of the soil and water district boards and are opposed to any regulations that would change the scope of their work. The Grange has its beginnings in agriculture by helping farmers to improve their farms so that they are more efficient and are good stewards of their lands. The Grange has been doing this for 150 years in New York and 155 years nationwide.\n\nAny changes to the current soil and water conservation laws would be inadvisable at this time. Any proposed changes may jeopardize projects that are already being developed or in a stage of being completed. Interruption of these projects could impact any land improvements that would increase carbon sequestration by farmers. Projects would have to be redeveloped and grant writing to be redone, all costing the districts and the farmers funds that had already been earmarked. The services the districts provide are available to anyone who wishes to use them. They do not discriminate who they help based on forms of or size of farms or landowners. They provide planning, grant funding writing and contractors who can provide the needed labor and materials to complete the projects.\n\nThe New York State Grange and its local organizations will continue to represent our rural communities and to be a voice for agriculture of all sizes and forms. The Grange will continue to be an active member of the soil and water conservation districts and will oppose any changes to it make-up, board size or scope of its work.