New program offers CRP training for conservation professionals

New program offers CRP training for conservation professionals

Posted: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 8:00 pm

A program to train a national group of conservation professionals to provide the services associated with Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) planning, implementation and management is available to Tennessee conservation service providers.
The nationwide initiative is led by the University of Wisconsin-Extension and comprised of national university Extension staff, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Farm Service Agency (FSA) staff. Representatives from NRCS partner agencies and organizations have collaborated to streamline the trainings and make them accessible, convenient and consistent across all states. The new initiative, funded by USDA NRCS, is called the Conservation Reserve Program Readiness Initiative (CRPRI).
“With more people trained to provide help to landowners, we expect more landowners to take advantage of the Conservation Reserve Program to protect our natural resources,” said Kevin Erb, Project Co-Director.
The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is a voluntary program that helps agricultural producers safeguard environmentally sensitive land. CRP participants plant long-term, resource-conserving covers to improve the quality of water, control soil erosion, and enhance wildlife habitat. Farmers and landowners receive technical assistance and financial incentives to reduce soil erosion and runoff, leading to improved water quality and wildlife habitat. Upon acceptance under a general or continuous program signup, a landowner requires a conservation plan. Natural Resources Conservation Service employees and conservation partners provide most of the technical services to landowners for CRP planning. The CRP Readiness Initiative offers training to a broader range of professionals to assist NRCS in developing CRP conservation plans for landowners who are enrolled or will be enrolled in CRP. The initiative will allow NRCS to draw upon a trained and qualified pool of CRP conservation planners when heavy signups for CRP occur.
Conservation professionals contracted by NRCS help landowners assess their unique parcels of land, covering topics like land slope, cropping history, soil type, cultivation methods, and water quality. Upon completion of an assessment, landowners and conservation professionals work together to create a CRP conservation plan. Participants in the CRP Readiness Initiative will be trained to create, implement and maintain all or parts of these plans based on a detailed knowledge of national and state conservation practices. “Assisting landowners in getting conservation on the ground is the end goal of the CRPRI. By training and mentoring technical service providers and current partners for CRP conservation planning, we increase the capacity and availability of conservation professionals qualified and ready to prepare high-quality conservation plans that protect soil, water quality and wildlife habitats,” said Tony Kramer, Deputy Chief of Programs for NRCS. Independent conservation professionals, technical service providers, members of conservation associations, and employees of organizations with formal connections to NRCS are encouraged to participate.
Participants in the CRP Readiness Initiative will have the opportunity to attend a free two-day training workshop, work directly with a project mentor, participate in online forums and webinars, and sign up for supplemental training courses as needed. The closest workshop to Obion County is being held in Memphis April 24-25.
During the summer of 2012, the training will be transitioned to an online format, which will be available for a course fee. Some of the topics to be covered during the free core workshops include: understanding the landowner’s objectives, developing a CRP plan according to national and state guidelines, and CRP best practices for conservation.
Interested conservation professionals can visit http://conservation-training.uwex.edu/crpworkshops for more information on the program and to sign up for a free regional workshop.

Published in The Messenger 4.10.12

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