Session A: Technology Transfer
Chair: Daniel M. Lyons, Assistant Administrator
for Regional Programs,
North Carolina A&T State University
Moderator: Ralph Otto, USDA-Deputy Administrator
Cooperative State Research Education, and Extension Service Adoption of Conservation Practices to
Enhance Farm Programs
Conservation Service, Atlanta, Georgia
Some exciting things are happening today in the Natural Resources Conserva-tion Service (NRCS). In 1995, the NRCS went through a reorganization process. One key component was decentralization of some of the national functions to the regional level. Regional offices were created whose primary function is to provide administrative support, strategic planning, and oversight and evaluation. State offices will continue to provide technical assistance to the field offices. There are, however, centers, institutes and regional centers that support technology development.
Working through local conservation districts, NRCS provides technical assis-tance utilizing 2,500 offices located in 50 states by 12,000 employees. The agency has renewed its commitment to partnerships. We are looking beyond our traditional partners and linking with new partners who share common goals and objectives. We have discovered that we can multiply our resources to work toward common objectives.
Another significant factor that caused some changes was the passage of the Conservation Provisions of the 1995 Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act. The NRCS is responsible for some cost share programs that traditionally were the responsibility of the Farm Service Agency (FSA). FSA and NRCS will administer these programs cooperatively. The Secretary of Agricu-lture will designate watersheds, multi-state areas, or regions of special environmental sensitivity as conservation priority areas that are eligible for enhanced conservation assistance under the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), the Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Technical and financial assistance provided in conservation priority areas will help agricultural producers comply with nonpoint source pollution requirements of the Clean Water Act and other federal and state environmental laws, and will help meet other conservation needs. Assistance may be based on the significance of soil, water, wildlife habitat and related natural resource problems in a watershed area or region, with practices that best address these problems and maximize environmental benefits per dollar expended.
EQIP, a locally led program, replaces several formerly existing programs: the Agricultural Conservation Program (ACP), the Great Plains Conservation Program (GPCP), the Colorado River Salinity Control Program (CRSCP), and the Water Quality Incentive Program (WQIP). While national guidance and direction will be provided, most of the decisions will be made at the local level. Local work groups will be convened by the conservation district with membership including conservation districts, NRCS, FSA, the FSA County Committee, Extension Service and other governmental agencies. This group will provide advice on selecting watersheds, regions, or other areas of special environ-mental sensitivity or with significant soil, water, or related natural resource concerns. Conservation districts will lead the local work group in the conservation needs assessment of natural resource conditions. It will work with NRCS to identify program priorities and available resources, such as local and state programs. This information will be provided to the state and national levels so that decisions can be made on the selection of priority areas, the development of ranking criteria, and in making funding decisions.
Farmers and ranchers will be able to obtain and submit applications for the program at the NRCS, FSA and conservation district offices. The application process will be open throughout the year, but selection will be made at specific times. Selection of the applications will be made on the basis of the environmental benefits the producer can achieve by using the program. Priority will be given to producer applications and proposals that maximize environmental benefits per dollar expended. Contracts will cover a five to ten year period and will be based on an approved conservation plan. The plan must address protection of the priority natural resource concerns for a priority area. and meet the program's criteria priority areas. Practices used can be structural and vegetative such as grassed waterways, or land management practices. NRCS will make every effort to ensure that environmental problems are addressed on all lands that need treatment.
Groups that have not participated in programs in the past will be the subject of special outreach activities. NRCS will provide information through non-traditional methods and seek the most expedient ways of providing information. For additional information on NRCS programs and services, contact the
NRCS office nearest you under U.S government in your local phone book.
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