Eugene Glock

Position Held: Director, Butler County Soil and Water Conservation District; Farmer

Interviewer: Jim Barr

Associated NRDs:



MR. BARR: This is Jim Barr. It's August 6th of 2013. I'm interviewing Eugene Glock here in York. And, Gene, if you got a -- kind of, give a summary of your background and --

MR. GLOCK: Okay. I'm Eugene Glock and, believe it or not, I was born here in York, Nebraska. I've lived all my life at Rising City, but my grandparents lived in York when I was born. And so, my mother came down here and stayed with her folks for the last few days or weeks before I was born, and I was born here in York Hospital. But I've lived all my life on the farm near Rising City. I lived at one place for 20 years until I went into the service. And then, when I came back, I moved to a place two miles from it. So, I'm a farmer, tried and true, I think. And I've been more fortunate than most people to have a lot of great experiences. I went to Ag College, called East Campus now. And from there, I farmed a year and then was drafted into the Army. When I got out of the Army, I got involved with a lot of things. I've been on a lot of boards, school boards, elevator board, the -- you name it. I've been involved. And I became the first president of the Nebraska Soybean Association. And from there, I got on the American Soybean Association Board. And after that, I got acquainted with Bob Kerrey. And when he became governor, I started my real involvement with water. I served on the Butler County Soil and Water Conservation District Board for, I think, 12 years. Ten or 12 years. And I served as the chairman of that district for the last few years that it existed because, while I was on the board, is when the NRDs came into fruition. After serving on that county board, I worked at the Butler County FSA Office or, at that time, ASCS Office. Before serving on the BCSWCD, I worked at the Butler County Soil Conservation Office. I not only laid terraces out, but helped with land-leveling. We did a lot of surveying and plotting and so forth. But I've been involved with water all my life. That's the life-blood of our state. And so, when Bob Kerrey was governor, I served on his -- what he called the Water Congress -- Water Independence Congress in 1981 and '82. And then, after he got elected to the U.S. Senate, he asked me to serve on his staff as his agricultural representative. And I did that for 12 years and then returned to the farm. And I live on the farm now. I still help my son irrigate, and I help my son with all the farming. But, naturally, at my age, it's limited. Some of the things I don't do any more. There's an advantage to being retired. You get to do what you want to do. And so, I do what I want to do.

MR. BARR: In the early years of the soil and water conservation districts, what kind of involvement did you have, again, in terms of them?

MR. GLOCK: Well, I started out in 1955. I got out of the service, and I needed a winter job. And so, I worked for the, at that time, ASCS Office in the soil bank years, '55, '56. And I got involved with the Soil Conservation Service office, because we were putting in terraces even at that time in the drought. My parents insisted that we had to have all the land terraced, and we gradually were putting terraces in.
I found out they needed some office help at the Butler County Soil and Water Conservation District, so I went to work for them, and that was in the height of the irrigation development. So, my first job was, naturally, running a board that did topogs. And then, I graduated to running the instrument as we did topogs, and I learned how to plot topog maps and how to plan land leveling. I still remember you've got to have four parts cut for three parts of fill. And I did that for several years. And then, I got on -- in that time frame, I got elected to the Butler County Soil and Water Conservation District -- or Board for the county board. I served, I'm not sure how many years, but it was -- I served until the NRDs came into being.

MR. BARR: When was the first time you heard the idea of a natural resource district and what kind of involvement and -- did you and the other board members have at that time and --

MR. GLOCK: I can't give you the date, Jim. Everything has floated away in the old memory. But I do know that our board -- oh, there was a ‘Popa’ (Bob Bell from Bellwood) and there were several really good men on that board. And when they first heard about the concept of natural resource districts, I admit we unanimously opposed it, because we were doing a very good job of conservation. All of us were dedicated to getting conservation on the land and conserving water and soil. And we didn't think some of our neighboring counties were doing all they could. But -- and I'm not sure if it was Dayle Williamson or who it was -- but after we heard about this concept and discussed it and vetoed it, somehow our work unit conservationist, I believe it was Arnold Davis at the time, evidently talked to some of the -- to Warren Fairchild or Dayle or somebody, and they -- one of them came out and talked to us at one of our board meetings. And I remember it distinctly because we weren't too happy that we were going to have to sit and listen to some guy from Lincoln come out there and tell us how to do our business. But as he explained the situation, we discussed it at the next meeting and Arnold pointed out to us that, while we were really doing a good job in Butler County, we were putting terraces and everything on, there were things we wanted to do on Skull Creek and Oak Creek, and they were streams that went into Saunders County or came out of Saunders County. One of them goes in and out a couple of times. And we couldn't do anything to those streams without cooperation from Saunders County or, north of us, Colfax County. And as we discussed it and as they had pointed out, whoever came and talked to us, those county lines would go away under the NRD. You would do things on a watershed basis. And that appealed to us. And that turned us 180 degrees. Then we did what we could to support it.

MR. BARR: Do you remember anything about the organizational period of the NRDs and how that went about? And, if not, that's okay.

MR. GLOCK: I don't remember specifics. All I remember is that there were some, I don't know if you call them disagreements, but there were some misunderstandings about how all this -- We had been making those decisions, and how those decisions were going to be made at the local level if you went to an NRD system, those were questions that were raised, but they were satisfactorily answered. And we never had any regrets. I know we had a meeting, a reunion, 10 or 12 years after the fact, and we all agreed that, boy, that was a good thing to do. And in my opinion, the NRDs really fulfilled their purpose, especially early on, in getting conservation done in a manner that was efficient. Because, when you did it by county, sometimes you could do a better job by combining the efforts of the two counties and do one bigger project rather than several small ones and you got more bang for your buck. But I am not sure in later years, now, I'm not sure they're doing quite as good a job on the conservation side, but it's not their fault. Because the federal programs that have come into existence and some that came and then disappeared have had a great deal of influence on how NRDs can address it.

MR. BARR: What has -- as your view of how conservation is done in respect -- irrespective of who's doing it -- today and the status of the land today as compared to over the past that you witnessed?

MR. GLOCK: Well, I'm very disappointed in what's happening now. Within our neighborhood in Butler County I could take you to a number of farms that should never have been farmed. They're just too rough. They needed to stay in grass. But when $7 corn came along, there were no federal programs or state programs that could match the incentive of those dollar signs from $7 corn. And so, people broke up land and are trying to farm it that it's a shame. We get a hard rain and you can see tremendous erosion. Not only gully erosion, but sheet erosion. And so, to me, I wish we could find a way to strengthen the hand of the NRDs. Because if you leave it to the NRDs, if they had access to a pool of funds that they could use to address the specific problems in their NRD -- and NRDs have different problems, too, in different parts of an NRD. It's different if you're at the base of the river or it you're up at the beginning of it. And they don't have the freedom to do that because they don't have the funds to address it properly.

MR. BARR: When you look at the organization of the special purpose districts into natural resource districts here in Nebraska and compare it to other parts of the country, and, in some instances, there's been some effort to do that, replicate that other places, but to my knowledge, it hasn't happened anywhere, do you have any thoughts on why it might have happened in Nebraska and not happened anywhere else?

MR. GLOCK: Well, I guess, the short answer is timing. Because when we did it or when Nebraska did it back then, the political atmosphere was not as poisoned as it is now. And people were more willing, even though they might be a flaming liberal or a real hard-headed conservative, they were willing to work together to do something that was going to be good for the country. And it was very easy to see that NRDs were the most efficient way to take care of conservation. And that's the main goal of it. But other states, when I was with Senator Kerrey, he worked with some other states because they got envious when he'd talk about what we were doing. And when they would -- they'd get all excited about the thought of having these NRDs based on watersheds, and then they'd start thinking about the politics of it. And the politics is what has been the big drawback. It wasn't money or anything else. It was strictly politics. Because people who have control -- Well, I guess, money's involved. People who have control of those funds, if you throw them into an NRD, then all the funds get put together and they lose their control over their specific little bit of funding. And that is a great drawback to people being willing to take forward steps. Senator Kerrey talked about it a number of times as we traveled, about the success of the NRDs and how it could be translated to other states. And try as he may, he had a lot of support from other U.S. Senators even, but they said, in their own state, it would not work. In fact, the Senator and I discussed -- because I spent a lot of time on his staff attending meetings on the Missouri River, the compact, and they had two different organizations there. And if you could have had a giant special-use district for the whole Missouri River, that would be a great thing to do. But you really have a divide there. You've got the upper river and the lower river and all the states. If you make those state boundaries go away, then they lose some control and they do not like to see that happen. Although, it should happen, in my opinion.

MR. BARR: Do you have any other general observations about natural resource districts or conservation in general or -- that you'd like to offer? This is just wide open. Anything you'd like to (indiscernible) --

MR. GLOCK: Well, I'm disappointed that we don't have more people who understand that this nation is strong because we've had a strong work ethic and a strong agricultural base. But the base of that agriculture is the soil and water. And we do not seem to treasure that like I think we should. But the NRDs come very close to being the best way I can see to keep that ethic in place, because the people that serve on those boards, and I have my disagreements with some of their decisions, but generally speaking, they have the good of the soil and water at the heart of the decisions they make and they try to do the best they can within the political structures that they have to live with. But I see nothing better than the NRDs that we can come up with.

MR. BARR: Anything else that you'd like to answer?

MR. GLOCK: No, I just --

MR. BARR: I really appreciate you -- Go ahead.

MR. GLOCK: I'm so happy that you're keeping a record of this, because, possibly, the next generation, if some of them listen to, not what I have to say, but what all the interviews you have, how this thing evolved and how successful it's been, maybe, I hope, there'll be some people that say, well, maybe these old guys knew something we don't know. We'd better try something of what they did.

MR. BARR: Well, thank you very much.