“We are absolutely thrilled that John Stierna has been chosen as the recipient of the Norman A. “Norm” Berg Conservation Legacy Award,” says Dennis Nuxoll, Senior Director of Federal Policy at American Farmland Trust (AFT). “And it is a distinct honor to be able to say that we are affiliated with two great giants in conservation through this award.” Stierna received the award given by the National Capital Chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS), a scientific and education organization for conservation professionals.
Following his retirement as the Chief of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Norm Berg worked as a Senior Advisor at AFT for over 25 years until his death, while John Stierna joined the AFT staff following his retirement as the Senior Economist at NRCS to work on conservation policy for the farm bill.
“For me personally, it’s been a thrill to come to work each day and learn the intricacies of conservation through their teaching and experience,” adds Nuxoll. “Both men absolutely set the bar high when it comes to mentoring in the workplace—whether assisting their senior colleagues or the newest intern. Norm and John have enriched the conservation community with their expertise on working lands conservation policy and in developing cutting- edge soil and water programs that work for farmers and improve the conservation of our country’s natural resources.”
Stierna has over 45 years of experience in natural resources and agriculture as an economist and policy analyst in both the public and private sectors. He has provided significant leadership for economic analysis, policy formation and legislative analysis during his career with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Washington, D.C., and he now serves as a natural resource economics consultant. Stierna helped develop policies to improve environmental benefits from the Conservation Reserve Program. He earned BS and MS degrees in agricultural economics from Michigan State University, and grew up on a Minnesota dairy farm.
A veteran of five farm bills, Stierna is known for his work in developing working lands conservation programs and the concurrent legislative language and analysis used for policy proposals. Recently he has been involved in developing an innovative conservation loan program, efforts to address water quality issues for the Chesapeake Bay, and analysis of potential conservation policies for the 2012 Farm Bill. During his USDA tenure, he received numerous achievement awards and was selected as USDA Economist of the Year for 1997.
Stierna has been a member of the American Agricultural Economics Association and the Soil and Water Conservation Society; and active in community and church affairs in Northern Virginia. He is past president of the International Alumni Board for Finlandia University, in Hancock, Michigan, is an elected member of the Board of Trustees for Finlandia University, and currently serves as Vice Chair of the Board and Chair of the Committee on Trustees for the Board.
The Norman A. Berg Conservation Legacy Award is given by the National Capital Chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS), to individuals who have made outstanding contributions in advocating the conservation of soil, water and related natural resources, and whose service and accomplishments have made widely recognized contributions to the development of leading edge technologies that serve conservation at any geographic area, while working in the Washington, D.C., area.
Having grown up in the Dust Bowl years, Norm Berg played a critical role in the beginning of agricultural conservation in the United States. He worked for the first chief of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Soil Conservation Service (SCS), Hugh Hammond Bennett, considered the “father of soil conservation”, and then rose steadily through the USDA ranks, serving as chief of the NRCS from 1979-1982. Under his leadership, the Soil and Water Resources Conservation Act was drafted, giving authority over natural resources to the USDA, and requiring the agency to write a national conservation plan for Congress.
Berg also helped initiate the first National Agricultural Lands Study (NALS) documenting the extent and causes of farmland loss in the United States. The landmark study led to the authorization of farmland protection efforts by the USDA and established the Farmland Information Center. Following his retirement at USDA, Berg served as the Senior Advisor at AFT for over 25 years until his death at age 90 in March 2008 During his career, Berg was actively involved in the National Capital Chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society. The Norm Berg Collection of materials at the Farmland Information Center assembles testimony and documents written by or about Berg, along with key laws and reports representing milestones in agricultural conservation.
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