Hoeven: NRCS to Amend Contracts to Keep Conservation Compliance, Farm Program Enrollment Separate

Agreement Should Work for Both Farmers and Sportsmen

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today announced that the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has agreed to amend its contract with conservation groups working in their offices to make sure they work only to help farmers enroll in conservation programs, not on conservation compliance issues. Further, beginning at the end of the fiscal year, the NRCS will open such positions in their office on a competitive basis, so that farm groups can also compete for the positions. Hoeven spoke this morning with NRCS Chief Jason Weller.

“Farm groups asked us to work with the NRCS to resolve concerns that conservation groups working in NRCS offices in North Dakota could be working to enforce conservation compliance requirements called for in the farm bill,” Hoeven said. “We have worked with the NRCS to make sure that these employees are working solely to help farmers and ranchers sign up for USDA conservation programs like the Conservation Stewardship Program, the Conservation Reserve Program and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. This needs to work for both farmers and sportsmen.”

Contract Amendments

Currently, conservation groups must sign contracts with NRCS governing the groups’ roles, responsibilities and restricted activities.  NRCS has now revised the contract with Ducks Unlimited in North Dakota to:

  • Ensure that conservation groups do not work on conservation compliance tasks. The new contract explicitly forbids conservation groups from working on operational or policy decisions affecting conservation compliance;
  • Ensure conservation groups are only providing technical assistance for conservation programs, such as the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).  This technical assistance by conservation groups can only include the collection of technical information – NRCS employees retain all responsibilities and authorities related to conservation program ranking and application funding decisions.
  • These revisions will become standard in all future contracts.
  • In addition, farm groups, as well as conservation groups, may bid to provide contract work in the future.