Soils Unit

U.S. Department of Agriculture

Natural Resources Conservation Service

Meet our new District Conservationist

Israel Vega

We would like to welcome USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) District Conservationist Israel Vega-Marrero to our team. Israel has been serving Manatee, Sarasota, and Charlotte Counties since December. Israel’s family includes his wife Cristina and four year old son Derek. His hobbies include running, swimming, and kayaking.

With nine years of NRCS experience as a student trainee, Soil Conservationist, and District Conservationist-Israel has worked in different states and diverse topographies including the Midwest, the coastal plain in North Carolina, as well in the mountains in the center of Puerto Rico, and now currently in west central Florida. His BS degree in Mechanical Technology in Agriculture from the University of Puerto Rico has given him an edge in the application of conservation practices to protect and conserve water, soil, and other natural resources.

New! MRSWCD Annual Report (Fall 2015)
Read it here.

Assistance with Using ‘Web Soil Survey’ to Create Soils Maps

Would you like to know more about the soils on your property? The information provided in the traditional print version of the USDA Soil Survey is now available online at a site called the ‘Web Soil Survey’: Click on the green circular ‘Start WSS’ button to get started.

Refer to this brochure if you’d like to create your own map.

The ways in which soil surveys can benefit land users are detailed here:

Using the Web Soil Survey site to create a soils map is fairly straightforward, but can be challenging when one first gets started. If you’d like help to create a soils map for your property or area of interest let us know. We will help walk you through the steps or create a map to e-mail to you. If there is sufficient interest, in the future, a small workshop in using the Web Soil Survey may be held.

Contact us today:
Gail Somodi (941) 907-0011 x101

John Noll (941) 907-0011 x106

 2015 Area III Speech Contest

Our local winner Devan Kreitzer from Bayshore High School, competed at the Association of Florida Conservation Districts (AFCD) Area III speech competition held in Hillsborough County on April 18, 2015. Devan placed 1st up against contestants from Hillsborough and Lake counties.  Devan won $100 and is now eligible to compete in the statewide contest held in conjunction with the AFCD annual meeting in Ocala, Florida in late July.  Congratulations Devan!

2015 State Envirothon Results

21 teams competed statewide. Representing Manatee County was the Manatee High School Team ‘Empty Children’.  They placed as follows:
8th place overall
5th place Forestry
5th place-Current Issue-Urban Forestry
2nd place Aquatics
9th place Soils

Representing Sarasota County was the Sarasota High School Team ‘Turnip the Beet’.  They placed as follows:
13th place overall
6th place-Current Issue-Urban Forestry
8th place Aquatics
9th place Wildlife

2015 Manasota Regional Envirothon

Students from six area high schools competed in this environmental competition. Working in teams of five, the students took exams in Soils, Aquatics, Wildlife, and Forestry at Oscar Scherer State Park in Osprey, Florida. The winning team Empty Children (Megan Johnston, Alexandra van den Ochtend, Valerie Kreisel, Jessica Floto, and Rachel Hass). from Manatee High School will represent Manatee County at the State contest in April. Sarasota High School’s Turnip the Beet team (Natalie Vesely, Sydney Askins, Becca Elsishans, Ricardo Zamarripa, and Karley Garcia) placed first among Sarasota County schools and is eligible to compete at the State contest. Thanks to major sponsors Manatee Fish and Game Association, Mosaic Company, Sarasota County Farm Bureau, and Keep Manatee Beautiful.

Read more about the contest here.

2015 Land Judging Competition

Please read about the contest here.

The state land judging competition was held in late March in Jefferson County.

Congratulations to:
Buffalo Creek Middle School FFA - State Champions
Buffalo Creek Middle School FFA - Student Camrie Henderson scored the highest of all competitors, including high school students
Junior 4-H team - State Champions
Senior 4-H team - State Champions

Please read about the state competition here.


Speech Contest

The Manatee River Soil and Water Conservation District Speech Contest will held Monday, November 9, 2015 at 6:00pm. This speech contest is designed to develop leadership through public speaking activities and stimulate interest in conserving our natural resources. Open to any student regularly enrolled in any high school, middle school, home school, or virtual school in grades 6 through 12 in Manatee County. Cash prizes for 1st through 3rd place winners. The topic this year is:

"Why Do We All Need Trees?"

Click here to read the rules for this year's contest.

USDA NRCS Programs

The Manatee County Agriculture and Extension Service Soils Unit, in partnership with the NRCS/USDA and the Manatee River Soil & Water Conservation District, assists Manatee County's land owners with conserving their soil, water and other natural resources. The majority of conservation application is accomplished with local partners.

Local, state and federal agencies and policy makers also rely on our expertise. We deliver technical assistance based on sound science, suited to a customer's specific needs. Cost shares and financial incentives are available in some cases. Participation in our program is voluntary. Applications are taken year round.

For FY 2016 financial assistance, the cutoff date for general EQIP applications is December 18, 2015. Special Initiatives may have other application cut off dates. Special initiatives include longleaf pine, seasonal high tunnels, pollinators, national water quality, organic, on-farm energy and working lands for wildlife.

Applications received after the cutoff date will be held for evaluation for funding the following fiscal year. EQIP applications will be ranked based on a number of factors, including the environmental benefits and cost effectiveness of the proposal.

Click here to learn more about the 2014 Farm Bill and programs offered.

Click here to view the EQIP flyer.

Click here for the Conservation Program Application.

USDA Announces Additional Support for Citrus Growers Impacted by HLB

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has made new financial assistance available to eligible Florida citrus growers for the removal of trees afflicted with Huanglongbing (HLB, also known as citrus greening) and for replanting groves with new healthy stock. The support comes through USDA's Tree Assistance Program.

Florida citrus growers will be eligible for up to 50 percent of the cost of the removal of diseased trees and site preparation, 65 percent of the cost of replanting and labor, and 65 percent of the cost of seedlings. Losses must have occurred on or after Oct. 1, 2011, and individual stands must have sustained a mortality loss of 15 percent after adjustment for normal mortality. Trees that are no longer commercially viable may be considered to have met mortality. Supporting documents may include purchase receipts for eligible trees, planting and production records, and documentation of labor and equipment used to plant or remove eligible trees.

FSA is administering this program, for more information, producers may review the Tree Assistance Program fact sheet at or contact their local county FSA office at

Now Available Online

Stormwater Ponds: A Citizen’s Guide to Their Purpose and Management

Published by the NRCS and a couple agencies, in cooperation with numerous agencies, this manual is written for citizens, stormwater managers and practitioners. With a practical approach to stormwater ponds and their care, the manual contains information on developing a neighborhood based care program for your stormwater pond. Please note that some of the contacts on the list in the back of the manual may be out of date. If you prefer a hard copy , we have a limited supply. Please call our office at 941-907-0011.

View the PDF.

Manatee River Soil and Water Conservation District Board Members

An elected five-member, non-partisan board of supervisors volunteer their services.

Chairman: Jennifer Brunty, Ph.D.
Vice-Chair: John J. O’Connor, Jr.
Secretary/Treasurer: Paul Howard
Supervisor: Callon C. ‘Buddy’ Keen, Jr.
Supervisor: Ben King


Conservation Awards

Each year, teachers whose students participate in a Manatee River Soil and Water Conservation District (MRSWCD) event select a deserving student to be presented with a MRSWCD sponsored Conservation Award. The winning students have excelled at a conservation related achievement such as land judging or presenting a speech in the annual Speech Contest in November. In addition, the MRSWCD makes a donation to participating 4-H and FFA chapters.

Congratulations to the following students:

Middle School FFA
Camrie Henderson-Buffalo Creek
Rachel Cox- Haile
Matthew Bartoszek- Nolan

High School FFA
Meagan Gigliotti- Braden River
Cara Zeveney- Lakewood Ranch
Sebastian Siegler- Palmetto
Kenan Alemhoca-Southeast

Manatee County 4-H
Claire Strickland

We coordinate several educational events for the Manatee River Soil & Water Conservation District, including Envirothon, Land Judging, Speech Competition, and the Spring Conservation Farm Tour.

Have you ever wondered what the nation's soil and water conservation districts are all about? Click here to read more...


Access soil maps and data online here.

For More Information


Or contact the local Manasota Service Center

6942 Professional Parkway East

Sarasota, FL 34240-8414

(941) 907-0011

Israel Vega-Marrero, NRCS District Conservationist

Gail Somodi, Manatee County Soil Conservation Supervisor

John Noll, Manatee County District Soil Conservation Planner

Gail Somodi
Soil Conservation Supervisor
(941) 907-0011

General Information