Conservation Reserve Program Readiness Initiative


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CRP Readiness Initiative Purpose

The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Readiness Initiative was created to build a quality pool of conservation professionals to help the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) accomplish the work involved with CRP enrollments, CRP plan development and implementation, and the follow up management of developed plans. Under guidance from the Conservation Professional Training Program, a national team of Extension staff, NRCS and FSA staff, and representatives from NRCS partner agencies and organizations has collaborated to develop a multi-faceted training program to accomplish the goals of the initiative.

Initiative Overview

For the past 27 years, the Conservation Reserve Program has offered landowners an economical and ecologically sound alternative to planting traditional crops in environmentally sensitive areas. While the number of enrolled acres can vary from one year to the next due to the specifics of the Farm Bill, land rental rates, and USDA priorities, the general and continuous CRP sign-ups have remained popular with landowners across the country. The CRP Readiness Initiative was created to train a group of professionals to help state NRCS offices manage CRP workloads. CRPRI trained professionals are hired by state offices on an as needed basis through cooperative agreements with agencies and organizations or contracts with individuals. Potential participants should contact their local NRCS offices regarding current engagement opportunities.

The CRP Readiness Initiative provides benefits to conservation professionals beyond working on CRP contracts directly. In today’s competitive natural resources field, it is important to understand all of the options available when making recommendations to clients. A holistic approach to conservation planning including guidance on Farm Bill and incentive programs like CRP can help clients maximize their economic and environmental returns on investment. The CRP Readiness Initiative is designed to provide a working understanding of CRP from basic policies and procedures to the development of comprehensive NRCS compliant conservation plans. Conservation professionals who are just starting out and seasoned professionals alike will walk away from the training with the knowledge and skills they need to make informed recommendations to clients and provide NRCS assistance should the opportunity arise.

Presented by the Conservation Professional Training Program, CRPRI has already delivered 21 in-person Core Training workshops around the country, developed supplemental courses on a variety of topics and offered mentorships to all participants. During the first six months of 2012, over 325 individuals were recruited to the program. This fall, the Core Training and several supplemental courses will be available in convenient online formats. Independent conservation professionals, registered technical service providers, members of conservation organizations, and employees of agencies with formal connections to NRCS are encouraged to participate in the program.

Training Process

Online Core Training

Incoming CRP Readiness Initiative participants will begin by completing an online Core Training. The self-guided, web-based course will provide a comprehensive overview of the Conservation Reserve Program and CRP conservation plan development. Learning modules will focus on topics like the history of CRP, the contracting process, CRP conservation plan development (including tools and resources), CRP plan implementation, and CRP plan follow-up management. Each module will feature interactive activities and learning objectives to maximize comprehension. Core Training courses will be offered free of charge beginning early October 2012.

Online Core Training will be available in the following states: AL, CO, GA, IA, IL, MD, MN, MS, MT, ND, NY, OH, PA, SC, SD, TN, UT, WA, WI, VA.

Mentorship Program

The second phase of the CRP Readiness Initiative provides Core Training participants with an experienced mentor to assist with the development of a CRP plan. Submitted plans may be under contract or may be mock plans based on predetermined scenarios provided by NRCS. Mentors will also be available to answer any questions in the months following Core Training. While the program cannot guarantee CRP contracts with NRCS, on-going support will be provided as participants explore the opportunities in their states.

Supplemental Courses

The Core Training provides a comprehensive introduction to CRP and CRP conservation planning, but some program participants may be interested in additional training in certain topic areas. Competency in these areas will be enhanced through supplemental short courses focused on a range of regional issues and conservation practices that directly influence the quality of submitted CRP conservation plans. Short courses are currently in development and will be available free of charge to all Core Training participants. The courses will be available to all non-Core participants for a fee.

A complete list of Supplemental courses will be available shortly. Please check back for details.

NRCS TechReg Registration

Choosing to become registered on TechReg is at the discretion of each participant. Since many organizations and state agencies already have memorandums of understanding (MOUs) or contribution agreements to do CRP work, individual certification may or may not be required. Becoming registered on TechReg does provide some tangible benefits, however, including a listing on the NRCS TechReg website and representation on a list of certified contractors maintained by each participating NRCS state office. Participation in the entire CRP Readiness training program will satisfy the Knowledge, Planning, and Training requirements under the CRP TechReg category. Conservation professionals new to TechReg will also need to complete the basic TSP requirements as outlined by NRCS. Please visit the NRCS website for detailed instructions.

Initiative Benefits

Beyond being able to provide NRCS/FSA-compliant CRP conservation plans, CRPRI training offers a number of additional benefits to participants.

  • Expand your knowledge of CRP for FREE*
  • Earn CEUs in multiple conservation disciplines*
  • Learn to navigate NRCS requirements and standards
  • Add another service to help current clients
  • Add a new certification to your TechReg profile
  • Online Core Training and mentorship are free of charge to all participants. Supplemental courses are free of charge to Core Training participants and available for a fee to all other participants. See Training Process page for details.

    *See Approved CEUs in documents box

    This material is based upon work supported by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under agency number 68-3A75-11-268, CDFA number 10.902. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    Initiative Partners

    Important Dates

    Online Core Training

    Open for registration October 2012

    Supplemental Courses

    The CPA-52 
course focuses on NRCS’ process to evaluate environmental quality and other ecosystem health issues that are at the core of everyconservation plan. The CPA-52 serves as a baseline environmental evaluation.

    Plant ID
    In four modules, students will develop practical knowledge of plant terminology and morphology, learn the diagnostic characters of plant groups typically found on CRP lands, practice using a dichotomous key for plant identification, and identify plant specimens in classroom and field settings.

    Mid-Contract Management
    The Mid-Contract Management 
course provides students with a background in mid-contract management purpose, benefits and limitations within the CRP conservation planning process. Students will learn strategies in working with landowners to develop a mid-contract management plan and conduct a site visit to evaluate the effectiveness of mid-contract management practices on the land.

    Wildlife Habitat Guides
    The Wildlife Habitat Guides 
online course covers landscape and habitat concepts. The students will learn about Ecological Site Descriptions (ESDs), a tool to understand the landscape capacity to support wildlife. With this fundamental knowledge, the student will learn which landscape and landowner data sets are needed to develop the optimum CRP Wildlife Plan. Various wildlife habitat models will be explained, their use and limitations, and the common characteristics of the numerous models in use today. An in-field course will be created for the states and/or regions hosting the course.

    *Online Web Tools
    The Online Web Tools course provides a hands-on exploration of the Web Soil Survey and electronic Field Office Technical Guide (eFOTG), two tools used by conservation professionals in a variety of conservation programs.

    CRP Plan: Start to Finish
    CRP Plan: Start to Finish is a one-day course designed to walk students through the CRP conservation planning process step by step. Students in this course will learn how to: develop NRCS-required maps, use online tools to evaluate soils and choose the best conservation practices, assess installation and maintenance specifications, and develop a timeline so landowners can meet all CRP program requirements.

    *Wind Erosion Prediction System (WEPS)
    The Wind Erosion Prediction System (WEPS) course covers the WEPS computer model, wind erosion process and its effects on agricultural production and the environment. This basic course takes student from software installation to basic use of WEPS to compare a variety of conservation practices to reduce wind erosion.

    The Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE2) 
course will teach students to use the RUSLE2 model to understand and compare practices to reduce soil erosion caused by rainfall and runoff.

    *Online offerings

    Click here for map of supplemental courses


    Rebecca Power

    Kevin Erb

    Karen Bassler
    Project Manager