Gary Mast, USDA, at the Governor’s Water Conference

USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Gary Mast spoke at the Governor’s Water Conference, “Water for Life,” Oct. 25 in Oklahoma City. Mast is a past president of the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD).

Above, from left, at the Governor’s Water Conference are Bill Wilson, Haskell County CD director and NACD past president; Gary Mast, USDA under secretary for Natural Resources and Environment and NACD past president; Mike Rooker, Shawnee CD director and OCC Area II commissioner; and Mike Thralls, OCC executive director.

Mast provided an overview of current Farm Bill programs and explained the importance of provisions for funding conservation planning being included in the next Farm Bill. he told participants that the first contract for the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program in Oklahoma had recently been signed at Tahlequah. Mast stated that over $340 million in damages had been prevented in the state by upstream flood control dams and structures during the flooding of spring and summer in 2007. He noted Oklahoma’s leadership in the flood control program with the first completed watershed project in the nation, the first completed rehabilitation project and the first dam decommissioning.

Mast closed with a discussion of the status of debate in Congress on the next Farm Bill, expressing hope that conservation programs would receive as much support as in the last Farm Bill.