February 2014 NRCS Caribbean Area Newsletter

The Caribbean

Directors Corner

Exciting times are ahead of all of us during the life of the new Farm Bill. We have a lot of work to do and I am proud that I will stand next to you during this first year of our 2014 Farm Bill!

Please visit our National NRCS website for details on the changes to our Programs under the new 2014 Farm Bill.  Keep up the great work guys, we are proud of you. In your hands is the future of conservation.

Yours in Conservation, Edwin Almodóvar, Director, USDA-NRCS Caribbean Area

Soil, Water, Air, Plants, Animals, Humans, Energy

Upcoming Activities

March 7, 2014, Veterans Benefits Workshop, American Legion Hall #25, Camuy, PR, 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

March 8, 2014, Veterans Benefits Workshop, American Legion Hall #66, Carolina, PR, 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

March 11-15, 2014, 5 Días con Nuestra Tierra Fair, University of Puerto Rico - Mayagüez Campus (RUM)

March 19, 2014, DPNR Green Building Training, UVI RTPark 64 West Center, St. Croix, USVI, 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

April 5, 2014, Leatherback Sea Turtle Festival, Plaza Pública, Luquillo, PR, 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.

April 22, 2014, Día del Planeta Tierra, Veterans Hospital, San Juan, PR

April 23-24, 2014, St. Croix Earth Day Eco Fair, St. George’s Village Botanical Garden, St. Croix, VI, 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

April 25, 2014, Army Earth Day, Fort Buchanan, PR

April 25, 2014, St. John Earth Day Environmental Fair, National Park Ball Field, Cruz Bay, VI,

9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

In This Issue

How the NEW 2014 Farm Bill Affects NRCS Programs

Your guide to the new Farm Bill conservation programs.

Mayagüez and San Sebastián Field Offices Receive "Citrus Greening" Training

Close-up view of citrus greening damat to tree leaves.

To combat “Citrus Greening” on Puerto Rico, Soil Conservationist, Esperanza Avilés, coordinated training workshop for field office staff on January 28, 2014.  Professor José L. Zamora, UPR Agricultural Extension Service Fruit Specialist, and Professor Félix Román, disease researcher at the UPR Agricultural Experimental Station in Isabela, conducted the training  for seven Mayagüez and San Sebastián employees.

The Citrus Greening disease was first detected in Puerto Rico in 2009.  Since then, almost all citrus plantations in Puerto Rico have become infested. According to Prof. Zamora, it is necessary to apply a very intensive pest and nutrient management plan in order to maintain citrus production and avoid tree mortality. Most of their research information has been share with Florida AES.  The goal of the activity was to train field office staff about citrus greening and how to manage it, so that they may raise clients’ awareness about the disease and assist them in managing it.  For more information, please contact Esperanza Avilés at 787-831-3464 x103.

Boy Scouts Learn About Soils at the Monte del Estado Ecological Forest

MLRA Leader, Manuel Matos, describes Puerto Rico soil types to Boy Scouts

Top: MLRA Leader, Manuel Matos, describes Puerto Rico soil types to Boy Scouts; Below: Soil Scientist, Samuel Ríos helps Scouts dig soil cores.

; Soil Scientist, Samuel Rios helps Scouts dig soil cores.

In the spirit of Holiday giving, the Mayagüez MLRA Office participated in the Boy Scouts Holiday Camp at the Monte del Estado Ecological Forest, in Maricao, Puerto Rico on December 27, 2013. NRCS MLRA Soil Scientists Manuel Matos and Samuel Rios taught 20 scouts from the Boy Scouts of America Troop 55 about various aspects of Puerto Rico’s soils. They described:

  • ‘What is Soil?
  • How soils form,
  • How soil scientists develop soil survey maps, and
  • Why it is important to protect this valuable natural resource.

The scouts used the information provided by NRCS Soil Scientists to help them complete their Soil and Water Conservation Merit Badges. The students also learned about the diversity of Puerto Rico soils and were able to construct their own soil mini profiles. For more information about soils, please contact Manuel Matos at 787-831-3416 x108.

New Civil Engineer Joins Arecibo Field Office

New Arecibo Civil Engineer, Alberto Atienza.

NRCS Caribbean Area Director, Edwin Almodóvar, is pleased to introduce Mr. Alberto Atienza, Agriculture Engineer, our new Civil Engineer in the Arecibo Field Office.  Alberto reported to the Caribbean Area from his previous position in Troy, Alabama, on February 24, 2014.

Alberto is from Jayuya, PR.   Since he was very young, he worked in agriculture and construction with his family on their coffee farms and in their coffee productions systems.  Hegraduated from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez, in 2009 as a Civil Engineer and joined NRCS in 2010. Alberto and his wife, Marjorie Martínez, have a 2 year-old girl, Isabella Sophia, and a baby boy, Diego Jose, who was born on January 19th. Please join us in welcoming Alberto into our Caribbean Area family!  You can contact Alberto at 787-817-2473 x101.

NRCS Helps Celebrate First “Fiesta del Acabe del Café”

NRCS employees at the Fiesta del Café display.

NRCS Employees at the Fiesta del Acabe del Café display, from left to right: Soil Conservationist, Bianca Díaz; MLRA Soil Survey Leader, Manuel Matos; District Conservationist, Israel Vega; and Support Specialist, Luis García.

Surrounded by Puerto Rico’s highest peaks, a team of NRCS employees participated in the First “Fiesta del acabe del Café,” held in the beautiful town of Jayuya on February 2, 2014.  Jayuya’s five major coffee growers were present for attendees to sample their excellent coffees.  The festival recognized coffee pickers from the region with activities, prizes and Puerto Rican folk music.  NRCS partnered with University of Puerto Rico Extension Service staff to promote conservation practices in coffee production and teach people how to create soil survey maps with live demonstrations using Web Soil Survey.

The festival was a big success, with lots of coffee, great food, awards to the competitors, and lively music to entertain participants from of all parts of the island.  Our NRCS booth was among the best and maybe the most visited by farmers, visitors and the event organizers. Congratulations to Support Specialist, Luis García; District Conservationist, Israel Vega; Soil Conservationist, Bianca Díaz; and MLRA Soil Survey Leader, Manuel Matos for presenting a popular exhibit to festival celebrants!  For more information about coffee conservation practices, please contact Utuado DC, Israel Vega, at 787-894-1480.

Replanting for 2014 at the Mayagüez People’s Garden

Our NRCS Mayagüez Service Center employees have replanted their People’s Garden with pumpkins, tomatoes, cabbage, okra and herbs, and embodying our mo

Our NRCS Mayagüez Service Center employees have replanted their People’s Garden with pumpkins, tomatoes, cabbage, okra and herbs, and embodying our motto of “Putting Conservation on the Land!”  Pictured above, from left to right:  NRCS Civil Engineer, Rolando Collazo, and Mayagüez District Conservationist, Zulma García, prepare one of the plant beds; Soil Conservation Technician, Yadira Feliciano, Soil Conservationist, Esperanza Avilés, and Eng. Rolando Collazo plant herbs and tomatoes; Soil Scientist, Samuel Ríos, Resource Conservationist, Raquel Robledo, MLRA Leader, Manuel Matos, and Resource Conservationist, Mario Rodríguez, prepare another plant bed and plant lemon grass and vegetables.

EQIP Client Receives Livestock Farmer of the Year Award at 2014 St. Croix Agri-Fest

Governor John P. deJongh, Jr. presents Livestock Farmer of the Year Award to Frank Bermudez, while Crop Farmer of the Year, Reuben Liburd looks on.

NRCS Caribbean Area EQIP client, Frank Bermudez, was honored as the Livestock Farmer of the Year at the 43rd Annual Agriculture and Food Fair (Agri-Fest) of the U.S. Virgin Islands held February 15-17, 2014 in St. Croix.  Mr. Bermudez is a third-generation St. Croix farmer, who has run his family’s 50-acre Senepol cattle farm since 2008. 

When you bite into these locally produced meats or even produce, remember the blood, sweat and tears of the farmers that have gone into making it so great,” Bermudez said.  At right, USVI Governor, John P. deJongh, Jr. (left), presents the Livestock Farmer of the Year Award to Frank Bermudez (right), while Crop Farmer of the Year, Reuben Liburd (seated), looks on. (Photo courtesy of Dale Morton, UVI-CES).

Speakers at the opening ceremony included VI Governor, John deJongh, Jr.; VI Delegate to Congress, Donna Christensen; University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) President, David Hall; VI Senate President, Shawn-Michael Malone, and VI Department of Agriculture Commissioner, Dr. Louis E. Petersen, Jr; along with the rest of the honorees.

Fairgoers enjoyed a cornucopia of fresh produce, plants, local food and desserts, and locally-made arts and crafts.  Adults and children alike toured the livestock pavilion and showcases, visiting the cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, rabbits, chickens and exotic animals on display.  Local and federal government agency representatives, including the USDA St. Croix Service Center, exhibited displays highlighting their programs alongside local community groups.  Attendees were also entertained by local musicians, youth steel pan and drum corps and quadrille dancers, and the children had a number of rides and games to keep them occupied.  

The Agrifest is sponsored by the VI Department of Agriculture, the UVI Cooperative Extension Service (CES) and the VI Department of Tourism.  For more information, visit http://www.viagrifest.org/.

Caribbean Area Staff Promote NRCS Careers at PR College of Engineers

Luis García and Lydia Collazo at PR College of Engineers Job Fair.

Caribbean Area NRCS Civil Rights Advisory Committee (CRAC) members, Eng. Lydia Collazo (Federal Women’s & LGBT Special Emphasis Program Manager - SEPM) and Luis García (Veterans SEPM), spent a recent Saturday afternoon to encourage PR College of Engineering students to consider a career in NRCS.  The pair participated in the College’s Third Annual Job Fair on February 22, 2014 in San Juan to promote careers in NRCS and other agencies of the Federal government.

Over 140 professional engineers (PEs), professional land surveyors, engineers in training (EITs) or surveyors in training, and engineering college students received NRCS career and program information, and learned how to seek jobs on USAJobs.gov.  Minorities reached during the event included: Hispanic women, Hispanic men, veterans, and possibly LGBTs.

. Luis A. García provides NRCS career information to two Veterans seeking job opportunities at the Fair.

As part of the Job Fair, NRCS staff participated in an interview aired by Radio Isla 1320-AM.  NRCS reps told the audience that NRCS – as well as many other Federal Government Agencies – was constantly hiring engineers and surveyors.  Staff described how to access the USAJobs website and shared valuable information about NRCS programs, services and career opportunities.

The job fair was organized by CIAPR President, Eng. Edgar Rodríguez, with the assistance of personnel from Linda Corujo Retirement Center, to provide employment opportunities to engineers and surveyors from Puerto Rico.  Twenty booths representing local and international companies such as: Johnson & Johnson, DASA Group, Invid, Johnson Control, Honeywell, CSA, Snelling, CTS, Impra, JC Automation and Experis PR provided numerous career opportunities to fair attendees. For more information, please contact Lydia Collazo at 787-743-2743 x112.

USDA Now Accepting Applications for National Conservation Innovation Grants Competition

USDA is now accepting applications for nationally competitive grants to develop and accelerate conservation approaches and technologies on private agricultural and forest lands. About $15 million will be made available nationwide by USDA-NRCS. State and local governments, federally-recognized Indian tribes, non-governmental and educational organizations, private businesses and individuals are eligible to apply.

"Conservation Innovation Grants (CIGs) have contributed to some of the most pioneering conservation work on America's agricultural and forest lands," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "It's an excellent investment in new conservation technologies and approaches that farmers, ranchers and forest landowners can use to achieve their production and conservation goals."

Vilsack said priority will be given to applications that relate to nutrient management, energy conservation, soil health, air quality, climate change, wildlife, economics, sociology, environmental markets, food safety, historically underserved groups, or assessments of past CIG projects.  In the 10 years that NRCS has administered the program, grants have helped develop water quality trading markets, demonstrated ways to increase fertilizer water and energy efficiencies, as well as address other resource concerns.

CIG grants enable NRCS to work with public and private partners to accelerate technology development and adopt promising approaches to address natural resource concerns. Funded through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the grants are awarded through a competitive process. At least 50 percent of the total cost of grant projects must come from non-federal matching funds, including cash and in-kind contributions provided by the grant recipient. For more on this grant opportunity, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/technical/cig/index.html.  To apply electronically, visit www.grants.gov.

ENTSC Energy Webinar Series

Energy Conservation Webinar Series.

EPA Issues Annual Report on Chemicals Released to Land, Air and Water in Puerto Rico & the USVI: Data Shows Downward Trend

The annual U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report on the amount of toxic chemicals released to the land, air and water by industrial facilities in Puerto Rico in 2012 showed an overall decrease over the previous year’s data. EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) report covers 108 Puerto Rico facilities that are required to report their releases to the Agency. Total releases to land, air and water by these facilities decreased from about 3.9 million pounds in 2011 to about 3.6 million pounds in 2012. The largest contributing factor in this decrease was a 31 percent reduction in air pollution emitted by the PREPA South Coast facility because it shifted from burning oil to natural gas.

The TRI report for the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) showed an 83 percent decrease in 2012 of the amount of toxic chemicals released to the land, air and water by industrial facilities over the previous year. The TRI report covers four USVI facilities that are required to report their releases – the St. Thomas Bulk Terminal at Cyril King Airport in St. Thomas, two facilities operated by the VI Water & Power Authority (WAPA) and the HOVENSA petroleum refinery. Total reported releases to land, air and water by these facilities decreased from about 1.8 million pounds in 2011 to 0.3 million pounds. Much of the decrease from 2011 was due to the shutdown of the HOVENSA refinery. Presently, HOVENSA is operating as an oil terminal.

The Toxics Release Inventory allows the public and policymakers to better understand the pollutants released into our air, water and land each year," said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. "This powerful tool helps people better understand pollution problems in their communities and take action to protect their health and the environment."

Since 1988, TRI data has been provided to the public annually to help people learn more about the chemicals present in their local environment and gauge environmental trends over time. The inventory contains the most comprehensive information about chemicals released into the environment reported annually by certain industries and federal facilities. Most of these facilities have permits issued under federal regulations that set strict limits on the amount of chemicals that they are allowed to release into the air, water or land. Many are required to install and maintain pollution controls.  Facilities must report their toxic chemical releases by July 1 of each year. 

Nationally, over 20,000 facilities reported on approximately 682 chemicals and chemical categories for calendar year 2012. For program overview and to view the data, visit: http://epa.gov/tri/.  To view the Puerto Rico and USVI TRI factsheets, visit: http://epa.gov/triexplorer/statefactsheet.htm.