Executive Summary
State Soil Conservation Commission
West Virginia's Soil Conservation Committee (Committee) was created in 1939, its functions and programs are to conserve soil and retard erosion. The Committee was mandated to develop and provide assistance to soil conservation districts within the State. Seven members make up the Committee. Three are appointed by the Governor, the other four serve ex officio. They are the Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture, who serves as chair; the Director of the Division of Environmental Protection; the Director of the State Cooperative Extension Service; and the Director of the State Agricultural Experiment Station. In addition, an advisory member from the United States Department of Agriculture serves on the Committee. Terms of appointed members are four years and the Committee meets quarterly. Currently there are 14 districts in West Virginia ranging in size from one to six counties. The Committee, generally oversees the efforts of the Soil Conservation Agency and facilitates its interaction with other agencies.

Issue Area 1:The State Soil Conservation Committee's Impact on Soil Erosion in West Virginia.

When looking at the name of this Committee, one sees that its primary objective is soil conservation. Naturally, to measure the effectiveness of this agency, one would examine erosion levels in the state. Upon initial review, it appears the State of West Virginia has experienced little change overall in the average of tons per acre of erosion since 1987The 1985 Farm Bill required farmers who cultivate pastureland and crop land to have an approved conservation plan if they wish to be eligible for farm program benefits from the federal government. These conservation provisions from the 1985 Farm Bill became effective January 1, 1990, however, farmers began implementing their approved conservation plans in 1987 and 1988 so when the next series of erosion data was gathered in 1992 a reduction in the tons per acre was seen. This reduction of erosion was continued, albeit at a lesser rate, in the erosion data that was collected in 1997. The State Soil Conservation Committee acts as a facilitator for federal farm programs by providing technical assistance on how to improve farming techniques in order to qualify for benefits from such programs. Also, the Committee, through its State Soil Conservation Agency sets up model farms throughout the state in order to teach other farmers best farming techniques. These programs appear to be working since they have stemmed the rising rate of erosion that had previously taken place in cultivated crop and pastureland throughout the state. 

Issue Area 2: The State Soil Conservation Committee Has Satisfactory Meeting Attendance.

Minutes from the Committee's quarterly meetings from January 1998 to July 1999 were reviewed to determine if an acceptable level of attendance to such meetings exists. The meeting minutes show that the Committee had an overall attendance rate of 88% for the period reviewed. The three citizen members of the committee had an attendance rate of 81%. The ex officio members attendance rate was 61%, (93% with the inclusion of proxies). Each meeting had a quorum with no meeting missing more than two members.

Issue Area 3: Representation from the Division of Forestry to the Membership of the State Soil Conservation Committee.

The Legislature may wish to consider adding the Director of the Division of Forestry to the membership of the State Soil Conservation Committee. The Division of Forestry oversees the timbering industry which contributes significantly to erosion throughout the state. Adding representation from the Division of Forestry to the State Soil Conservation Committee should increase the level of agency coordination in erosion abatement.In addition, the Legislature may wish to add a fourth citizen member to add balance to the Committee.

Issue Area 4: Meetings of the State Soil Conservation Committee Are in Compliance with Open Meetings Laws. 

The State Soil Conservation Committee has a duty as a representative body to conduct its meetings and business in an open manner. In accordance with the statute, proper notification of meetings are to be made through the office of the Secretary of State within guidelines so as to be published within the state register. Minutes of meetings shall be maintained and made public, in a timely manner, so as to keep an accurate public record of proceedings.The Committee has been in compliance with these statutory requirements.

Conclusion: The State Soil Conservation Committee Should Be Continued.
The State Soil Conservation Committee plays an important role in providing technical assistance and assisting soil conservation districts in distribution of federal and state funding for soil conservation projects. The ex officio members of the committee provide for a means of communication between agencies which are directly affected by soil conservation and erosion abatement policies. The interaction between the representatives of these agencies in the formulation of soil conservation policy is essential due to the states limited agricultural area and rugged geography. The Committee is able to address topics relating to soil conservation and natural resources in general in an open forum with all interested agencies present. The existence of the Committee to oversee the domain of soil conservation is within the norm when comparing West Virginia with the bordering states. The composition of the Committee closely resembles that of neighboring states. The diversity achieved by the inclusion of governmental, academic and citizen membership augmented by federal representation, in the way of an associatemember from The United States Department of Agriculture, allows the Committee to serve the citizens of West Virginia as a viable body. Therefore, the Committee should be continued.