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Overview:

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NCRS) administers the government’s conservation policy through a combination of education and technical assistance, economic incentive payments, and regulatory requirements to benefit the soil, water, air, plants, and animals. The NRCS works with private landowners and users as well as communities, tribes, local and state governments and other federal agencies in planning and implementing conservation projects. Areas of technical and scientific expertise include animal husbandry, clean water programs, ecological sciences, engineering, resource economics, and social sciences.

more
History:

The earliest precursor to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NCRS) was the Soil Erosion Service, established in 1933 to institute individualized conservation practices against soil erosion. The agency first began working with farmers in the Southwestern Wisconsin watershed area. In 1935 as part, of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, the Soil Conservation Act was passed, accelerating nationwide soil conservation efforts for farmers. Now named the Soil Conservation Service, the fledgling agency was placed under the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and quickly developed demonstration projects across the country, concentrated on select watersheds, that greatly aided those hurt by the Great Depression.

 

As the agency grew, it worked to include greater input from farmers, creating local districts with elected conservation officials. By 1947, there were one billion acres of land in districts, and by 1973, there were two billion. In the mid-1960s the agency focused on using soil survey data to help communities in their planning and development. The agency also surveyed river basins to identify needed conservation work. Since the 1970s, they have also focused on clean water issues by working with farmers to reduce sediment and pollutants in cropland and pastures and in water runoff. The Food Security Act of 1985 included a “highly erodible lands provision” that required farmers to use conservation measures on erodible land in order to remain eligible for USDA programs such as price support payments and crop insurance.­ The agency worked with farmers to implement conservation methods.

 

In 1994, the Soil Conservation Service was reorganized as the Natural Resources Conservation Service in the Federal Crop Insurance Reform and Department of Agriculture Reorganization Act. The new name reflected the agency’s mission of encompassing water, air, plants, and animals in addition to soil. The reorganization put the NRCS in charge of administering many financial assistance programs. Throughout its history, the NRCS has also developed many scientifically-based tools and standards in the fields of agronomy, forestry, engineering, and wildlife biology.

 

Although the agency has a history of aiding disenfranchised farmers during the Great Depression, current conservation practices derive substantially from successive farm bills that have been passed since 1985. At the same time, farm bill policy in the years since has disproportionately directed payments and support toward the wealthy and a select few crops, with an estimated 60% of the nation’s farmers left out of the subsidy system. It has also ushered in a gradual increase and streamlining of conservation programming and funding.

more
What it Does:

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NCRS) administers the government’s conservation policy through a combination of education and technical assistance, economic incentive payments, and regulatory requirements, while working with private landowners and communities, tribes, local and state governments, and other agencies.

 

Programs target issues ranging from soil erosion, to water supply and quality, and natural disaster protection. Some of the agency’s largest programs include the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which provides grants and technical assistance to eligible producers to install or implement conservation practices on eligible agricultural land. The Conservation Technical Assistance Program, which makes up another large portion of the NRCS budget, provides non-financial assistance to communities in the form of resource assessment, practice design, resource monitoring, or follow-up of installed practices. Clients develop natural resources conservation plans or sustainable agricultural production plans, which may serve as a springboard for other USDA funded aid programs.

 

Other large programs include the Conservation Stewardship Program, which gives participants annual land use payments for conservation performance for the environmental benefits they produce. The Wetlands Preserve Program also offers technical and financial aid to landowners involved in wetland restoration efforts.

List of NRCS Program and Activities

NRCS Technical Resources

 

From the Web Site of the Natural Resources Conservation Service

Air Quality and Atmosphere

Audio and Video Archive

Budget Fact Sheet (pdf)

Careers

Climate Change

Conservation Delivery

Conservation Showcase

Conservation Technical Assistance

Contact Information

Data, Maps and Analysis

Disaster Recovery Assistance

Easements

En Espanol

Energy

Farm Bill

Features

Financial Assistance

Land Use

Landscape Initiatives

Landscape Planning

Leadership

Legislative Affairs

Media Contacts

National Centers

National Resources Inventory

News Releases by Subject

News – State and Regional

Newsroom

Nutrient and Pest Management

Photo Gallery

Plants and Animals

Programs and Services

Publications and Forms

Snow and Water Data

Soils Website

Technical Resources

Technical Service Providers

Volunteers

Water

Web Soil Survey

more
Where Does the Money Go:

Recipients of Natural Resources Conservation Service (NCRS) aid include farmers, ranchers and landowners, agricultural companies, environmental groups, and policy makers. Often, the politics of natural resource conservation are tied with the politics of farm subsidies and price controls, despite World Trade Organization regulations and international trade agreements. There is also a divide between small-scale farmers and ranchers and big agricultural companies over the allocation of funding, exacerbated by the farm lobby, which is dominated by big agribusinesses.

 

From 2002-2012, the NRCS gave $5.1 billion in more than 155,000 direct payments, more than $1.3 billion in grants, more than $1.1 billion to contractors, and nearly $1.2 billion in other spending, according to a query of USAspending.gov.

 

According to the FY 2013 proposed budget, the largest funded programs include $1.4 billion for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, $722 million for conservation operations and technical assistance, $972 million for the Conservation Stewardship Program, and $224.3 million for the Wetlands Reserve Program.

more
Controversies:

NRCS Favors Corporations Over Conservation

The debate over farm subsidies often involves NRCS funding, as many have criticized farm bills for the large amount of subsidies to corporations, while conservation is shortchanged. Conservation efforts are also affected by biofuel mandates that have benefited commodity farmers while causing a drop in Conservation Reserve Program price support payments, for example. Many have also argued that farm subsidies encourage overproduction of more successful crops, discouraging localized production and sustainable practices.

Government's Continued Bailout of Corporate Agriculture (by Ken Cook, Environmental Working Group)

Farm Subsidies Seem Immune to an Overhaul (by David M. Herszenhorn, New York Times)

Agriculture Lobby Wins Big in New Farm Bill (by Brian Riedl, Heritage Foundation)

more
Suggested Reforms:

Conservation reform tends to focus on limiting bureaucracy resulting from a number of overlapping agencies and programs that carry out USDA policy. Many have also pushed for a greater focus on agriculture’s impact on the environment, calling for reform of current conservation programs so that more funding is given to projects that meet environmental objectives.

Realizing the Promise of the FSRI (by the Soil and Water Conservation Society)

more
Former Directors:

Arlen Lancaster, 2006-2008

 

Bruce Knight, 2002-2006

Bruce I. Knight Biography (Strategic Conservation Solutions)

more

Comments

Teresa Bsker 4 weeks ago
I have heard of a program that can reimburse us for some of our cost with our honeybees. We were told to contact the US Government Soil Conservation Service Was wondering if you can assist us or direct us in the right area. Thank you

Leave a comment

Founded: 1935
Annual Budget: $3.9 billion (FY 2013 Request)
Employees: 10,698 (FY 2013 Estimate)
Official Website: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/
Natural Resources Conservation Service
Weller, Jason
Previous Chief

 

In July 2013, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack named Jason Weller to head the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), which he had been leading on an acting basis for several months. The NRCS administers the government’s conservation policy through a combination of education and technical assistance, economic incentive payments and regulatory requirements.

 

Weller is from San Mateo, California, and graduated from Aragon High School there in 1991. He attended Carleton College in Minnesota, earning a bachelor’s degree in international relations in 1995. After graduation, he worked on a Montana ranch for a summer, an experience he has said spurred the interest in conservation that led to his current job. Weller continued his education at the University of Michigan, earning a Master’s in Public Policy in 1999.

 

Weller returned to California to work at the state capitol in the office of Legislative Analyst Elizabeth Hill. He focused on transportation and conservation issues.

 

In 2002, Weller went to Washington, first to work in the White House Office of Management and Budget as an analyst. He switched to the legislative branch in 2007, first on the House Budget Committee, where he worked on agricultural programs, and in 2008 on the House Appropriations Committee, where he was on the staff of the Agriculture Subcommittee.

Weller moved over to the NRCS in August 2009 as chief of staff to Dave White, who then led the agency, and as acting associate chief for conservation. Weller was named acting chief in November 2012 after White stepped down.

 

At NRCS, Weller has had a hand in overseeing the BP Oil Spill cleanup in the Gulf of Mexico, helping Western farmers and ranchers prepare for drought and even in organizing a tractor trade-in in California’s San Joaquin Valley, in which farmers could swap an old heavily polluting model for a somewhat newer, cleaner one.

 

Weller and his wife, Sarah, have two daughters, Ana and Elisabeth.

-Steve Straehley

 

To Learn More:

Official Biography

Matching and Mobilizing Private Investments in Conservation (by Erin, Spanier, University of Michigan)

Summer Ranch Job Shaped Career Path For USDA’s New Conservation Chief (by Amanda Peterka, E&E)

more
White, Dave
Former Chief

Environmental conservation efforts regarding privately owned land will be under the stewardship of a committed conservationist with more than thirty years of service in the field. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack named career conservationist Dave White Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) on March 24, 2009.  Originally established in 1935 as the Soil Conservation Service as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, the NRCS has 12,000 employees and a budget in excess of $3 billion. Today, the primary function of the NRCS is to help administer the government’s conservation policy and practices.  NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to private land owners and users, who occupy 70 percent of the contiguous United States.  

 
White is an honors graduate of the University of Missouri at Columbia, where he earned a BS in Agriculture. He began his career with the NRCS in 1977 as a conservation aide in Missouri.  Subsequently, he has served the agency in South Carolina, Montana and its Washington, D.C., headquarters.  
 
In 1997, White was detailed to the Senate Agriculture Committee, where he worked on Senator Richard Lugar’s (R-Indiana) staff and handled conservation and environmental issues.  In 2000, he went to work at the Clinton White House as communications director for the White House Task Force for Livable Communities.  In 2001 and 2002, White was dispatched for a second time to Sen. Lugar to work on the Agriculture Committee on the conservation and forestry titles of the 2002 Farm Bill.  From 2002 to 2008, he was assigned as the NRCS State Conservationist in Montana.  In 2007 and 2008, he was detailed once again to the Agriculture Committee to work on Senator Tom Harkin’s (D-Iowa) staff to develop the conservation title of the 2007 Farm Bill.
 
Dave White and his wife have a grown son and daughter. 
 
more
Bookmark and Share
Overview:

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NCRS) administers the government’s conservation policy through a combination of education and technical assistance, economic incentive payments, and regulatory requirements to benefit the soil, water, air, plants, and animals. The NRCS works with private landowners and users as well as communities, tribes, local and state governments and other federal agencies in planning and implementing conservation projects. Areas of technical and scientific expertise include animal husbandry, clean water programs, ecological sciences, engineering, resource economics, and social sciences.

more
History:

The earliest precursor to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NCRS) was the Soil Erosion Service, established in 1933 to institute individualized conservation practices against soil erosion. The agency first began working with farmers in the Southwestern Wisconsin watershed area. In 1935 as part, of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, the Soil Conservation Act was passed, accelerating nationwide soil conservation efforts for farmers. Now named the Soil Conservation Service, the fledgling agency was placed under the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and quickly developed demonstration projects across the country, concentrated on select watersheds, that greatly aided those hurt by the Great Depression.

 

As the agency grew, it worked to include greater input from farmers, creating local districts with elected conservation officials. By 1947, there were one billion acres of land in districts, and by 1973, there were two billion. In the mid-1960s the agency focused on using soil survey data to help communities in their planning and development. The agency also surveyed river basins to identify needed conservation work. Since the 1970s, they have also focused on clean water issues by working with farmers to reduce sediment and pollutants in cropland and pastures and in water runoff. The Food Security Act of 1985 included a “highly erodible lands provision” that required farmers to use conservation measures on erodible land in order to remain eligible for USDA programs such as price support payments and crop insurance.­ The agency worked with farmers to implement conservation methods.

 

In 1994, the Soil Conservation Service was reorganized as the Natural Resources Conservation Service in the Federal Crop Insurance Reform and Department of Agriculture Reorganization Act. The new name reflected the agency’s mission of encompassing water, air, plants, and animals in addition to soil. The reorganization put the NRCS in charge of administering many financial assistance programs. Throughout its history, the NRCS has also developed many scientifically-based tools and standards in the fields of agronomy, forestry, engineering, and wildlife biology.

 

Although the agency has a history of aiding disenfranchised farmers during the Great Depression, current conservation practices derive substantially from successive farm bills that have been passed since 1985. At the same time, farm bill policy in the years since has disproportionately directed payments and support toward the wealthy and a select few crops, with an estimated 60% of the nation’s farmers left out of the subsidy system. It has also ushered in a gradual increase and streamlining of conservation programming and funding.

more
What it Does:

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NCRS) administers the government’s conservation policy through a combination of education and technical assistance, economic incentive payments, and regulatory requirements, while working with private landowners and communities, tribes, local and state governments, and other agencies.

 

Programs target issues ranging from soil erosion, to water supply and quality, and natural disaster protection. Some of the agency’s largest programs include the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which provides grants and technical assistance to eligible producers to install or implement conservation practices on eligible agricultural land. The Conservation Technical Assistance Program, which makes up another large portion of the NRCS budget, provides non-financial assistance to communities in the form of resource assessment, practice design, resource monitoring, or follow-up of installed practices. Clients develop natural resources conservation plans or sustainable agricultural production plans, which may serve as a springboard for other USDA funded aid programs.

 

Other large programs include the Conservation Stewardship Program, which gives participants annual land use payments for conservation performance for the environmental benefits they produce. The Wetlands Preserve Program also offers technical and financial aid to landowners involved in wetland restoration efforts.

List of NRCS Program and Activities

NRCS Technical Resources

 

From the Web Site of the Natural Resources Conservation Service

Air Quality and Atmosphere

Audio and Video Archive

Budget Fact Sheet (pdf)

Careers

Climate Change

Conservation Delivery

Conservation Showcase

Conservation Technical Assistance

Contact Information

Data, Maps and Analysis

Disaster Recovery Assistance

Easements

En Espanol

Energy

Farm Bill

Features

Financial Assistance

Land Use

Landscape Initiatives

Landscape Planning

Leadership

Legislative Affairs

Media Contacts

National Centers

National Resources Inventory

News Releases by Subject

News – State and Regional

Newsroom

Nutrient and Pest Management

Photo Gallery

Plants and Animals

Programs and Services

Publications and Forms

Snow and Water Data

Soils Website

Technical Resources

Technical Service Providers

Volunteers

Water

Web Soil Survey

more
Where Does the Money Go:

Recipients of Natural Resources Conservation Service (NCRS) aid include farmers, ranchers and landowners, agricultural companies, environmental groups, and policy makers. Often, the politics of natural resource conservation are tied with the politics of farm subsidies and price controls, despite World Trade Organization regulations and international trade agreements. There is also a divide between small-scale farmers and ranchers and big agricultural companies over the allocation of funding, exacerbated by the farm lobby, which is dominated by big agribusinesses.

 

From 2002-2012, the NRCS gave $5.1 billion in more than 155,000 direct payments, more than $1.3 billion in grants, more than $1.1 billion to contractors, and nearly $1.2 billion in other spending, according to a query of USAspending.gov.

 

According to the FY 2013 proposed budget, the largest funded programs include $1.4 billion for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, $722 million for conservation operations and technical assistance, $972 million for the Conservation Stewardship Program, and $224.3 million for the Wetlands Reserve Program.

more
Controversies:

NRCS Favors Corporations Over Conservation

The debate over farm subsidies often involves NRCS funding, as many have criticized farm bills for the large amount of subsidies to corporations, while conservation is shortchanged. Conservation efforts are also affected by biofuel mandates that have benefited commodity farmers while causing a drop in Conservation Reserve Program price support payments, for example. Many have also argued that farm subsidies encourage overproduction of more successful crops, discouraging localized production and sustainable practices.

Government's Continued Bailout of Corporate Agriculture (by Ken Cook, Environmental Working Group)

Farm Subsidies Seem Immune to an Overhaul (by David M. Herszenhorn, New York Times)

Agriculture Lobby Wins Big in New Farm Bill (by Brian Riedl, Heritage Foundation)

more
Suggested Reforms:

Conservation reform tends to focus on limiting bureaucracy resulting from a number of overlapping agencies and programs that carry out USDA policy. Many have also pushed for a greater focus on agriculture’s impact on the environment, calling for reform of current conservation programs so that more funding is given to projects that meet environmental objectives.

Realizing the Promise of the FSRI (by the Soil and Water Conservation Society)

more
Former Directors:

Arlen Lancaster, 2006-2008

 

Bruce Knight, 2002-2006

Bruce I. Knight Biography (Strategic Conservation Solutions)

more

Comments

Teresa Bsker 4 weeks ago
I have heard of a program that can reimburse us for some of our cost with our honeybees. We were told to contact the US Government Soil Conservation Service Was wondering if you can assist us or direct us in the right area. Thank you

Leave a comment

Founded: 1935
Annual Budget: $3.9 billion (FY 2013 Request)
Employees: 10,698 (FY 2013 Estimate)
Official Website: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/
Natural Resources Conservation Service
Weller, Jason
Previous Chief

 

In July 2013, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack named Jason Weller to head the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), which he had been leading on an acting basis for several months. The NRCS administers the government’s conservation policy through a combination of education and technical assistance, economic incentive payments and regulatory requirements.

 

Weller is from San Mateo, California, and graduated from Aragon High School there in 1991. He attended Carleton College in Minnesota, earning a bachelor’s degree in international relations in 1995. After graduation, he worked on a Montana ranch for a summer, an experience he has said spurred the interest in conservation that led to his current job. Weller continued his education at the University of Michigan, earning a Master’s in Public Policy in 1999.

 

Weller returned to California to work at the state capitol in the office of Legislative Analyst Elizabeth Hill. He focused on transportation and conservation issues.

 

In 2002, Weller went to Washington, first to work in the White House Office of Management and Budget as an analyst. He switched to the legislative branch in 2007, first on the House Budget Committee, where he worked on agricultural programs, and in 2008 on the House Appropriations Committee, where he was on the staff of the Agriculture Subcommittee.

Weller moved over to the NRCS in August 2009 as chief of staff to Dave White, who then led the agency, and as acting associate chief for conservation. Weller was named acting chief in November 2012 after White stepped down.

 

At NRCS, Weller has had a hand in overseeing the BP Oil Spill cleanup in the Gulf of Mexico, helping Western farmers and ranchers prepare for drought and even in organizing a tractor trade-in in California’s San Joaquin Valley, in which farmers could swap an old heavily polluting model for a somewhat newer, cleaner one.

 

Weller and his wife, Sarah, have two daughters, Ana and Elisabeth.

-Steve Straehley

 

To Learn More:

Official Biography

Matching and Mobilizing Private Investments in Conservation (by Erin, Spanier, University of Michigan)

Summer Ranch Job Shaped Career Path For USDA’s New Conservation Chief (by Amanda Peterka, E&E)

more
White, Dave
Former Chief

Environmental conservation efforts regarding privately owned land will be under the stewardship of a committed conservationist with more than thirty years of service in the field. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack named career conservationist Dave White Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) on March 24, 2009.  Originally established in 1935 as the Soil Conservation Service as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, the NRCS has 12,000 employees and a budget in excess of $3 billion. Today, the primary function of the NRCS is to help administer the government’s conservation policy and practices.  NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to private land owners and users, who occupy 70 percent of the contiguous United States.  

 
White is an honors graduate of the University of Missouri at Columbia, where he earned a BS in Agriculture. He began his career with the NRCS in 1977 as a conservation aide in Missouri.  Subsequently, he has served the agency in South Carolina, Montana and its Washington, D.C., headquarters.  
 
In 1997, White was detailed to the Senate Agriculture Committee, where he worked on Senator Richard Lugar’s (R-Indiana) staff and handled conservation and environmental issues.  In 2000, he went to work at the Clinton White House as communications director for the White House Task Force for Livable Communities.  In 2001 and 2002, White was dispatched for a second time to Sen. Lugar to work on the Agriculture Committee on the conservation and forestry titles of the 2002 Farm Bill.  From 2002 to 2008, he was assigned as the NRCS State Conservationist in Montana.  In 2007 and 2008, he was detailed once again to the Agriculture Committee to work on Senator Tom Harkin’s (D-Iowa) staff to develop the conservation title of the 2007 Farm Bill.
 
Dave White and his wife have a grown son and daughter. 
 
more