Conservation practice standards have been updated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The revisions to the standards were done in accordance with the 2018 Farm Bill which required NRCS to make necessary changes. The National Conservation Practice Standards include 58 practices that have been changed in some fashion since August. NRCS was charged with reviewing all 169 practices to evaluate areas to improve upon and incorporate new technologies.
“NRCS is committed to efficiently and effectively implementing the Farm Bill and delivering on our promise to America’s farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners,” NRCS Acting Chief Kevin Norton said in a press release. “These practices are the building blocks of conservation, and they are science based and site specific. We took a hard look at our existing practices on the books, looking for opportunities to improve flexibility and integrate technology.”
Conservation practice standards are a framework for the planning, building, operating, and managing conservation techniques. Standards contain explanations for why and where a practice is applied. It also details that minimum quality criteria expectation for a particular practice. The changes made to the nearly 60 practices affect a wide range of different practices. Some irrigation water management practices have been updated, along with standards for composting facilities. Updates have also been made for heavy use area protection.
NRCS added two new conservation practices standards during the review process. The new practices address wildlife habitat planning and wastewater treatment. Another 18 interim standards meant to test natural resource benefits are also being maintained. The updated conservation practice standards also take technological innovation into consideration in addressing a variety of issues.
The updated practices are meant to align with the goals of the USDA Agriculture Innovation Agenda. USDA is working to reduce the agricultural industry’s environmental footprint by 50 percent by 2050. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has emphasized the agenda in bringing the department’s resources and programs in line with addressing environmental goals.