STATE SOIL CONSERVATION COMMISSION
AN ACT TO PROVIDE FOR THE CREATION OF SOIL CONSERVATION DISTRICTS WHICH SHALL ENGAGE IN SAVING THE PRODUCTIVE POWER OF DELAWARE FARM LAND BY MAINTAINING OR IMPROVING THE FERTILITY OF THE SOIL, INCLUDING FARM DRAINAGE AND THE PREVENTION OR CONTROL OF SOIL EROSION; TO DEFINE THE POWERS AND DUTIES OF SOIL CONSERVATION DISTRICTS, AND TO PROVIDE FOR THE EXERCISE OF SUCH POWERS AND DUTIES, INCLUDING THE AUTHORITY TO ACCEPT MONEY OR OTHER AID FROM ANY AGENCY OF THE UNITED STATES OR OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE; TO ESTABLISH THE STATE SOIL CONSERVATION COMMISSION AS THE ADMINISTRATIVE HEAD OF ALL SOIL CONSERVATION DISTRICTS HEREAFTER TO BE ESTABLISHED UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF THIS ACT, AND TO DEFINE THE POWERS AND DUTIES OF THIS COMMISSION.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Delaware in General Assembly met:
Section 1. This Act may be known and cited as the Soil Conservation Districts Act.
Section 2. It is hereby declared to be the policy of the State of Delaware to provide for the saving of the productive power of Delaware farm land by maintaining or improving soil fertility, including farm drainage and the prevention or control of soil erosion, and thereby to promote the general welfare of the people of this State.
Section 3. The following words and phrases when used in this Act shall have for the purposes of this Act, the meanings respectively ascribed to them in this Section, unless a different meaning appears from the context.
(1) Soil conservation district or soil district means a county or one or more areas within the county, with the powers and duties, and subject to the restrictions hereinafter set forth; and in establishing a soil district, if the proposed area is less than the area of the county which contains it, the State Soil Conservation Commission shall have the power to define it. Additional area or areas to be included in such soil district, need not be contiguous with one another, but there shall be only one soil district within the boundaries of the same county, and any farm intersected by the area boundary, shall be considered as lying within that district, for purposes of soil conservation by that district, except that the soil conservation of a farm which lies partly within one county and partly within another shall be considered the duty of the county in which the homestead of such farm is located.
(2) Area means subdivision of county as established by the State Soil Conservation Commission.
(3) "District Supervisors" means the governing body of a soil district, elected or appointed in accordance with the provisions of this Act.
(4) State Soil Conservation Commission means the agency created by Section 4 of this Act for the administration of soil conservation districts provided for by this Act.
(5) Landowner or Owner of Land means and includes any person, firm or corporation who shall hold title to any land in this State not less than three acres in one parcel, outside the corporate limits of any city or town, and outside the boundaries of any town or village, and lying within a soil district organized or proposed to be organized under the provisions of this Act.
Section 4. There is hereby established the State Soil Conservation Commission to administer for this State the soil conservation districts hereinafter provided for by this Act. The State Soil Conservation Commission shall formulate policies and general programs for the conservation of the soil and soil re-
sources including drainage and erosion control by the soil conservation districts; it shall receive and allocate or otherwise expend for the use or benefit of the Soil Conservation districts any funds appropriated by the Legislature of this State for the use or benefit of such districts; it shall receive and properly convey to the Soil Conservation districts any other form of aid extended to such districts by any other agency of this State, except that any money or other form of aid raised or provided within a soil district for the use or benefit of that soil district shall be received and administered by the governing body of that soil district ; it shall exercise other powers conferred upon it and perform other duties assigned to it by this Act; and it shall be the administrative agency to represent this State in these and all other matters arising from the provisions of this Act.
(1) The State Soil Conservation Commission shall be composed of the Dean and Director of the School of Agriculture of the University of Delaware, the Secretary of the State Board of Agriculture, who shall be Secretary to the State Soil Conservation Commission, and four farmer members, the latter four to be appointed by the Governor of Delaware, in the manner hereinafter provided, and the vote and authority of each member of this commission shall be equal to the vote and authority of each other member, except the Secretary of the State Soil Conservation Commission, who shall have no voting authority. The ex-officio members may hold office on the State Soil Conservation Commission so long as they shall retain the office from which they shall be serving.
Each of the four farmer members shall be holding legal title to a farm, and shall be earning a livelihood from a farm, all at the time of his appointment to the State Soil Conservation Commission. The farmer members shall be one from New Castle County, one from Kent County, one from Sussex County and one from the State at large. The farmer members shall be appointed for a period of four years, except that the first four appointed shall serve terms of one, two, three and four years respectively. Of these first four appointed, the one year term farmer shall come from New Castle County, the two-year term farmer from Kent County and the three-year term farmer from Sussex County, and the four-year term farmer from either of the three counties. Not more than two of the appointed members shall belong to the same political party. No Commissioner shall be appointed to succeed himself after a four-year term.
The State Soil Conservation Commission may invite the Secretary of Agriculture of the United States of America to appoint one person to serve with the Commission in an advisory capacity.
(2) The State Soil Conservation Commission may appoint such employees as it may require, within the limits of available funds, and shall determine their qualifications, duties and compensation. The State Soil Conservation Commission may call upon the Attorney General of the State for such legal services as it may require. It shall have authority to delegate to its Chairman, to one or more of its members, or to one or more of its agents or employees, such powers and duties as it may consider necessary for effectuating the purposes of this Act.
(3) The State Soil Conservation Commission shall elect one of its current members to be its Chairman, and may change such Chairman by the same procedure. A majority of the State Soil Conservation Commission shall constitute a quorum, but the concurrence of a majority of this Commission as a whole on any matter within their duties shall be required for its determination, except as this Commission may invest any of its members with power to determine specified matters or to execute routine duties. Each member of the State Soil Conservation Commission may be entitled to expenses, including travel expense, necessarily incurred in the discharge of his duties as a member of this Commission. The State Soil Conservation Commission shall provide for the execution of surety bonds for all of its employees and officers who shall be entrusted with funds or property; shall provide for the keeping of a full and accurate record of all its proceedings and of all its resolutions, regulations, and orders issued or adopted; and shall provide for an annual audit of all its accounts of receipts and disbursements.
(4) In addition to the special powers and duties hereinafter assigned to the State Soil Conservation Commission, it shall have the following powers and duties:
(a) To encourage the formation of soil conservation districts in areas where their establishment seems necessary and their administration seems feasible.
(b) To formulate and establish rules and procedures for conducting fair and impartial referendums on the establishing of soil districts, for conducting elections of district supervisors, and for conducting all other local referendums which may from time to time become necessary in order to give land owners an opportunity to reach majority conclusions on programs for the maintaining of soil resources and drainage in their districts.
() To receive petitions for the establishing of soil conservation districts as provided in Section 5 of this Act; to determine the validity of these petitions; to conduct hearings upon the subject of these petitions; to determine whether the establishment of a soil district as petitioned would be effective in conserving the soil within the proposed area, and whether a soil district if established there could be feasibly administered; and, upon a favorable conclusion on these matters, to call a referendum on the establishing of the soil district as petitioned.
(a) To advise any soil conservation district in developing its program for conserving the soil, in order that such district may become eligible for any form of aid from State or Federal sources.
(b) To obtain or accept the cooperation and financial, technical or material assistance of the United States or any of its Agencies, and of this State or any of its Agencies, for the work of such soil districts.
(c) To give such other proper assistance as the State Soil Conservation Commission may judge to be useful to any Soil District in the exercise of its powers and performance of its duties.
Section 5. Whenever the State Soil Conservation Commission shall receive from any county, or any area, thereof, a petition declaring that the conserving of the soil resources in that county or in the specified area, or areas, is in the interests of the public welfare, said petition being signed by not less than twenty-five land owners, in the area covered by the petition, the State Soil Conservation Commission, when satisfied that such petition is valid, shall call for and conduct within the area described by such petition, a public hearing of land owners within that area, on the question of establishing that area as a soil conservation district. If from this hearing it shall appear to the State Soil Conservation Commission that there is a general desire for establishing as a soil district the county or the specified area, the Commission shall without delay determine by a survey of the conditions of farm land in the county or specified area whether the establishment of that area as a soil conservation district is actually necessary and administratively feasible. Upon reaching a favorable conclusion, the Commission shall call for a referendum by ballot of land owners within that area, on the question of establishing the county or the specified area as a soil conservation district. A land owner shall have one vote regardless of number of farms he may own. This referendum shall be conducted by the county member of State Conservation Committee with the assistance of the county agricultural extension agent, who represents in that county the School of Agriculture of the University of Delaware, and one local resident farmer appointed jointly by the county member of the State Soil Conservation Commission and County Agent, and this referendum shall be conducted by rules and procedures formulated by the State Soil Conservation Commission, and on a date agreed to by the State Soil Conservation Commission and County representative.
If in this referendum a majority of land owners voting lying within the area proposed to be established as a soil district, do vote in favor of this establishment, the county agent shall at once notify the State Soil Conservation Commission to this effect, and the State Soil Conservation Commission upon receiving this notice shall at once declare the county or area thereof, as specified by the referendum, to be established as a soil conservation district; but if such a majority of those voting fail to vote in favor of this establishment, the State Soil Conservation Commission, upon notice from the County Agent of that fact, shall at once declare the question of establishment to have been lost, and another referendum on this question shall not be called by the State Soil Conservation Commission for this area within the twelve months next following the date of this declaration. Subsequent to the establishment of an area as a soil district any other area in the same county may be added to this soil district by the procedure used for the first establishment.
Section 6. The State Soil Conservation Commission upon declaring the establishment of a soil district as provided in Section 5 of this Act, shall notify the County Agent the necessity for a Board of soil district supervisors to act as a local governing body for such soil district. This Board shall consist of six members, as here follows:
Ex-officio, the Chairman of the County Levy Court and the Agricultural Agent; four land owners resident within that soil district and elected by the majority vote of land owners voting under rules and procedures formulated by the State Soil Conservation Commission.
A land owner shall have one vote regardless of number of farms he may own. The term of office of each ex-officio member shall be coincident with his term in the office from which he shall be serving on the supervisory board. The four elected farmer members shall each serve for four years, except that the first four who are elected shall serve for one, two and three and four years respectively as designated by the State Soil Conservation Commission ; and in case of the death, resignation or removal from office of one of these farmer members, his successor to the unexpired term shall be appointed by the State Soil Conservation Commission, and such appointee shall be a land owner of that soil district. A soil supervisor shall hold office until his successor has been appointed and elected by the process outlined above in this section (Section 6) or appointed, and duly qualified. A soil supervisor may succeed himself in this office. A majority of the Board of soil supervisors shall constitute a quorum but the concurrence of a majority of the Board as a whole on any matter within their duties shall be required for its determination, except as the Board may invest any of its members with power to determine specified matters or to execute routine duties. The Board of soil supervisors shall elect a chairman from among themselves, and the county agricultural extension agent shall be Secretary of the Board. The vote and authority of each member of the Board of supervisors shall be equal to the vote of each other member, except the county agricultural extension agent, Secretary to the Board, shall have no voting authority. A soil supervisor shall receive no compensation for his services, but he may be entitled to expenses, including travel expenses, necessarily incurred in the discharge of his duties as a member of this Board. The Board of soil supervisors may appoint such employees as they may require, within the limits of available funds, and shall determine the qualifications, duties and compensation of such employees, subject to the approval of the State Soil Conservation Commission, and the Board may delegate to their chairman, to any member or members of this Board, or to one or more agents or employees, such powers and duties as they may deem proper for the execution of the duties of this Board. The Board of soil supervisors shall submit to the State Soil Conservation Commission for its approval copies of such rules, regulations, forms and other documents as this Board shall contemplate using in pursuance of their duties, and such other information concerning their activities as the State Soil Conservation Commission may require in the performance of its own duties under this Act. The Board of soil supervisors shall provide for the execution of surety bonds for all officers and employees who shall be entrusted with funds or property ; shall keep a full and accurate record of all its proceedings and of all its resolutions and regulations issued or adopted ; and shall present the soil commission, for approval, a statement of annual audit of all the accounts of receipts and disbursements by the Board. Any soil supervisor may be removed from office by the State Soil Conservation Commission upon notice and hearing, for neglect of duty or official misconduct, but for no other reasons. The Board of soil supervisors may invite the legislative body of any municipality or county located near the
soil district to designate a representative to advise and consult with the soil supervisors of the district on all questions of program and policy which may affect the property, water supply, or other interests of such municipality or county.
Section 7. Any soil district organized under the provisions of this Act shall be a body corporate and shall possess the usual powers of a corporation for public purposes, and shall be officially known and titled "The Soil Conservation District of
County," and in that name shall be capable of suing and being sued and of contracting and being contracted with ; and any soil district through the Board of soil district supervisors thereof shall have the following powers and duties in addition to others granted in other sections of this Act.
(1) To promote all reasonable measures for the saving of soil within that soil district, including, but not limited to, engineering operations, methods of cultivation, the growing of crops and other vegetation, the rotation of crops, changes in the use of land and drainage of land, and all such recommendations and practices shall be in general agreement with those currently promoted by the School of Agriculture of the University of Delaware for saving the productive power of Delaware farm land.
(2) To cooperate or enter into agreements with, and to aid within the limits of appropriations duly made available to it by law, any agency, governmental or otherwise, or any land owner within that soil district, in the conserving of the soil within that district; and all such cooperations or agreements shall be in accord with the policies of the State Soil Conservation Commission; and any land owner of farm land within that soil district shall be eligible to enter into such cooperations or agreements with the soil supervisors.
(3) To make available to any land owner within that soil district, through existing agencies if agreements with them seem feasible, or by such other feasible means as the supervisors shall prescribe, such services, materials, and equipment as will assist such land owners to carry on operations for conserving the soil.
(4) To accept grants, gifts, and contributions in money, services, or materials from the United States or any of its agencies through the State Soil Conservation Commission and to use or expend such grants, gifts or contributions in carrying on the soil district operations.
(5) To make and execute contracts and other legal instruments, necessary or convenient for the conserving of the soil in that district; subject to approval by the State Soil Conservation Commission.
(6) To accept for the purpose of conserving the soil and drainage thereof in that district, contributions in money, services or materials from any source originating within the county not otherwise provided for herein.
Section 8. The supervisors of any soil district shall not have, nor exercise, the right of eminent domain ; nor shall they have authority to incur indebtedness beyond available funds, nor to levy taxes ; nor to issue bonds ; but they may accept voluntary contributions from any source, provided such donations are offered for the sole and exclusive purpose of promoting the conservation of soil or drainage thereof within that soil district, and provided the district supervisors shall satisfactorily guarantee to the donors the faithful use of their donations for that purpose; nor shall they begin the execution of any program for the saving of the soil on any farm in that soil district before securing the approval of such program by the land owners; nor shall they engage in 'agricultural research, except by and under the direction of the Delaware Agricultural Experiment station.
Section 9. Any two or more soil conservation districts organized under the provisions of this Act may cooperate with one another in the exercise of any or all powers conferred upon such districts or any or all duties described for such districts by this Act.
Section 10. The Soil Conservation Commission at any time after the establishment of any county or one or more of its areas as a soil district, and after a referendum, called and conducted
according to the provisions of Section 5 of this Act, has shown that a majority of the land owners of such soil district desire the disestablishment of that district, shall declare that district to be disestablished, and the soil supervisors of that district may not thereafter enter into any contracts or agreements on behalf of that district.
The State Soil Conservation Commission upon declaring the disestablishment of any soil district shall take charge of all property real or personal belonging to such soil district, and, if practicable may complete any contract or agreement entered into but left unfinished by the soil supervisors of that district.
The property shall be sold or transferred to other soil districts by the State Soil Conservation Commission, and the proceeds from such sale shall be expended by the State Soil Conservation Commission ; provided, however, that such expenditure shall promote soil conservation in a soil district or in soil districts ; and provided further, that any property purchased with county funds for the use of a soil district, shall, upon the disestablishment of that district, be used or disposed of by the levy court of that district.
The State Soil Conservation Commission shall also take charge of any unspent funds contributed from private sources to the soil district before the disestablishment of such district, and shall expend such funds or property in the promotion of soil conservation according to the terms of the donation. Subsequent to the disestablishment of a soil district the area once comprising this district shall not be eligible to reestablishment as a soil district for a period of two years, but at the end of that period it may be reestablished by the same procedure (Sec. 5) employed for its first establishment.
Section 11. If any provisions of this Act, or the application of any provision to any person or circumstance is held invalid, the remainder of the Act and the application of such provision to other persons or circumstances, shall not be affected thereby.
Section 12. Insofar as any of the provisions of this Act are inconsistent with the provisions of any other law, the provisions of this Act shall be controlling.
Section 13. There are hereby authorized to be appropriated for the purposes of this Act such sums as the Delaware Legislature may from time to time determine to be necessary.
Approved April 2, 1943.