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SOIL CONSERVATION COMMITTEE
[Authorized: NDCC Section 4-22-03]

Created in 1937 the State Soil Conservation Committee was established to serve as a state agency and to provide for conservation, protection, improvement, and profitability of agricultural land in North Dakota.  Originally the committee consisted of the Governor, the State Commissioner of Agriculture and Labor, the Director of the State Extension Service, and one member appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.  The committee formed four soil conservation districts which could be organized when twenty five occupiers of land within a district requested that a soil conservation district be formed.  Each soil conservation district elected three supervisors. The supervisors directed the programs and activities and served as the link between the district and the State Soil Conservation Committee. One of the members was delegated as chairman, and the committee could appoint an administrative officer and other employees as needed (S. L. 1937, Ch.9). The Attorney General provided legal opinions at the request of the commission.  

The membership on the State Soil Conservation Committee has changed substantially over the years.  In 1951 legislation began to shift the management of the committee to the districts. Four regular or land owner members, one from each district, were appointed along with  ex officio members who were the Governor, Commissioner of Agriculture and Labor, Director of the North Dakota Cooperative Extension Service, and one member appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. The four regular members were district supervisors, in the district they represented, and were appointed by the State Soil Conservation Committee.  Names of eight district supervisors were submitted to the State Association of Soil Conservation District Supervisors with four being selected from the eight.
                       
In 1961 the four members were elected instead of being appointed by the district they supervised.  They served a two year term.  The ex officio member who had been appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture was replaced by the President of the Soil Conservation District Association (S. L. 1961, Ch.105).

 In 1971 the legislature made several major changes including committee membership.  Legislation divided the state into five geographical districts which were grouped along county lines.  The State Soil Conservation Committee changed  to five members, one district supervisor from each district being elected by the district land owners or occupiers, and two members appointed by the Governor.  The gubernatorial appointees represented the interests of farmers and ranchers, rural areas and small towns, cities, industry, and business for those not already represented (S. L. 1971, Ch. 94). Members served two year terms and no member served more than two successive terms.

In 1981 the terms of membership increased to three years.  The Governor appointed members to fill the unexpected vacancies.  Annually the committee selected a chairman who served only one term (S. L. 1981, Ch. 95).  Representatives from the following agencies served in an advisory capacity to the committee: State Association of Soil Conservation Districts, North Dakota Cooperative Extension Service, Soil Conservation Service, State Water Commission, Commissioner of Agriculture, and Game and Fish Department.

Legislation in 1983 added a new subsection to the North Dakota Century Code relating to a tax to be levied by the Soil Conservation Districts.  The district supervisors put a one mill tax levy on all real property lying within a conservation district.  The tax levy is paid by the owner of the land and is used for administrative and operating expenses of the districts. Supervisors could choose to raise the levy, but the increase had to be authorized by three fourths of the voters in the district (S. L. 1983, Ch. 97), however, the number of qualified voters needed to approve an ordinance was reduced to two thirds in 1985 (S. L. 1985, Ch. 95). 

The purpose of the State Soil Conservation Committee was to promote soil conservation through programs and activities conducted under the auspices of the State Soil Conservation Districts; direct organization of State Soil Conservation Districts; provide operating guidelines for State Soil Conservation Districts; administer small watershed projects in the state; and develop water quality management plans for controlling non point sources of pollution. Additional goals of the committee included securing cooperation and assistance of state, federal, regional, local, and private agencies with districts; representing the state in matters affecting soil conservation;  establishing uniform accounting methods that must be used in all districts;  requiring annual reports from all districts;  receiving from other state and local agencies for review and comment suitable descriptions of their plans and programs activities affecting the conservation of natural  resources; and arranging for and participating in conferences to avoid conflict with other plans and programs (S. L. 1997, Ch. 50).

Since 1997, the North Dakota State University Extension Service has assisted the director with the administrative duties of the committee within the limits of legislative appropriation to deliver information and services to the districts (S. L. 1997, Ch. 50)   The committee meets annually but the chairman may call special meetings as needed, or four committee members may request in writing that a special meeting be called (S. L. 1997, Ch. 50). The committee encourages conservation of soil and soil resources by disseminating information regarding the activities and programs of the soil conservation districts.  All surface mining operators file an annual detailed report of their activities with the committee which, in turn, transmits the information to the district. The committee also administers the soil conservation technician grants program with the objective of reducing wind and water erosion damage on cropland.

CHRONOLOGY

1937       Creation of Soil Conservation Committee as a state agency with committee members chosen from state offices or agencies.  Four districts established (S. L. 1937, Ch. 9).

1951       Four district supervisors appointed members to the committee in addition to the ex  
officio members (S. L. 1951, Ch. 99).

1961       Changes in the selection of committee members include adding the president of the Soil Conservation Districts Association as an ex officio member and electing instead of appointing the four regular committee members (S. L. 1961, Ch. 105).

1965       The combination office of the Department of Agriculture and Labor was separated into  
two departments (S. L. 1965, Ch. 236).
               
1971       Legislation created five soil conservation districts grouped by counties. State committee increased to five elected members, two appointed members, and six ex officio  
nonvoting members.  Committee was given additional powers and duties.  Chairman  
selected to serve a single one year term (S. L. 1971, Ch.94).

1977       Chairman may call additional meetings as needed (S. L. 1977, Ch. 56).

1981       Committee members may serve a three year term and chairman may serve second term (S. L. 1981, Ch. 95).

1983       Legislative changes address terms of office and nominating the district supervisors
(S. L. 1983, Ch. 96).

1983       Century Code allows district supervisors to create a tax levy of one mill paid by land  
owners of the districts to be paid along with property taxes (S. L. 1983, Ch. 97).

1985       Soil conservation ordinances must be passed by two thirds of eligible voters (S. L. 1985, Ch. 95).

1997       Change of laws relating to the election of soil conservation district supervisors and  
consolidation of districts (S. L. 1997, Ch. 68).

1997       North Dakota Cooperative Extension Service renamed the North Dakota State University  Extension Service. Powers and duties of committee updated (S. L. 1997, Ch. 50).

2003       Elected members must attend a training session conducted by the State Soil  
Conservation Committee. The chairman of the committee may serve a total of three years (S. L. 2003, Ch. 58).

2009       All qualified electors in the district may vote in any regular election in the district.   
Supervisors may levy a one mill tax on all land within the districts. The tax levy increased to two mills in 2009 (S. L. 2009, Ch. 74).
  
SERIES

30878 Photographs and Negatives
31737 Committee District Files
                             
SOURCES

Gray, David P.  Guide to the North Dakota State Archives, 1985.
North Dakota Century Code.
North Dakota Secretary of State Blue Book.
North Dakota State Legislature Session Laws.
State Soil Conservation Committee Website.

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