Shutdown affects NCRS employees locally, statewide

Posted October 9, 2013 at 10:39 am

By Pete Temple, Express Sports/Ag Editor

The federal shutdown that began Oct. 1 is affecting employees of the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s National Resourse Conservation Service (NRCS), among others.

One of the buildings affected is the NRCS building in Anamosa that shares space with the Farm Service Agency and Iowa Department of Natural Resources Forestry Division.

Sonya Ellison, secretary of the Jones Soil and Water Conservation District, said employees were told to come in to work Tuesday, but only to pack up.

“We had to be out within four hours,” Ellison said. “We had to close everything down. They said to prepare as if we may not be coming back for a little while. There would be a $5,000 fine if we entered the building.”

Adjustments are being made. Across the state, the NCRS has partnered with Iowa State University Extension to allow NCRS employees to work out of Extension buildings. In Ellison’s case, she has been able to work at the Citizens State Bank Youth Development Center in Monticello, the home of Jones County Extension.

“I reported there (Thursday),” Ellison said. “They were very accommodating.”

“It’s a really good solution to an unfortunate situation,” said Dustin VandeHoef, communications director for the Iowa Department of Agriculture in Des Moines. “It’s not ideal, but it gives them a place to work.”

Every county has a USDA building in it, and each building has an office for both the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the National Resource Conservation Service (NCRS).

The Soil and Water Conservation Districts are state-funded, but they have an agreement to be housed in federal buildings, which is why the shutdown affects them.

“It’s a federal building, and we don’t pay the rent,” Ellison explained. “We’re all kind of tied in together.”

An irony is that the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Forestry Division, which has an office in the Anamosa building, is still allowed to use their small office space in the back of the Anamosa building, because they pay their own rent.

Iowans with questions for state soil secretaries and state soil technicians can contact the department’s office in Des Moines at 515-281-5258 for assistance.

All other areas of the Department continue to operate and will continue to evaluate any further impacts from the federal government shutdown.