Agronomy society, USDA ink plan to identify technical service providers

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WASHINGTON - The USDA has entered into a cooperative partnership with the American Society of Agronomy to identify technical service providers to help implement USDA conservation programs.

This partnership will allow ASA to recommend certified members to USDA as technical service providers, as provided for by the 2002 Farm Bill.

Strong advocates. The Bush Administration has been a strong advocate of expanding the availability of technical assistance to landowners by using third party technical service providers to assist USDA in delivering conservation technical assistance services.

Deputy Secretary Jim Moseley and Bruce Knight, chief, Natural Resources Conservation Service, signed the five-year agreement on behalf of USDA.

“The technical service provider process allows USDA to provide more resources for technical assistance from private and non-profit sectors to help farmers and ranchers reach their conservation goals,” Moseley said.

Overall plan. As part of the overall plan, agreements were established with four ASA certification programs – certified crop advisers, certified professional agronomists, certified professional crop scientists and certified professional soil scientists.

“Technical service providers will help ensure all landowners receive timely technical assistance services, such as conservation planning and the design, layout, installation and review of approved conservation practices,” Knight said.

In the 2004 budget request, President Bush proposed a record $3.9 billion, an increase of $582 million over the FY 2003 level, for conservation programs to strengthen environmental stewardship on the nation’s farmlands.

The FY 2004 funding request is $1.9 billion higher, or more than double the funding for these activities, when the Bush Administration came into office just two years ago.

The president’s budget request also ensures that all of the cost-share and technical assistance conservation work authorized by the 2002 Farm Bill for FY 2004 will be delivered.

USDA will use an additional $432 million, through a new Farm Bill Technical Assistance account, to ensure farmers and ranchers can access the technical work necessary to fully utilize the conservation programs’ financial assistance.

Additional information on technical service provider assistance is available at www.nrcs.usda.gov/news/.

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