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USDA seeks public comment on revised conservation practice standards

Delaware News Desk
Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is seeking public comment on proposed revisions to 49 national conservation practice standards.

The proposed revisions are available in the Federal Register until the public comment period closes April 23.

The 49 updated national conservation practice standards include 12 agronomic practices for water quality and erosion control, two aquaculture practices, three forestry practices, six practices affecting waterways, five drainage-related practices, seven livestock-related practices, three energy and air quality practices, eight water conservation practices and three farm traffic-related practices.

The 2018 Farm Bill required NRCS to review all 169 existing national conservation practices to seek opportunities to increase flexibility and incorporate new technologies to help the nation’s farmers, ranchers and private forest landowners better protect natural resources on their working lands.

“NRCS is committed to efficiently and effectively helping Delaware and America’s farmers implement proven conservation practices to improve natural resources on the land,” said state Conservationist Kasey Taylor. “We are closely looking at our conservation practice standards to make sure they are best suited for both our farmers and our natural resources.”

As part of its review, NRCS wanted to ensure, as much as possible, that the standards used to carry out the conservation practices are relevant to local agricultural, forestry and natural resource needs, including specialty crops, native and managed pollinators, bioenergy crop production and forestry. NRCS plans to seek public comment on additional conservation practice standards through the Federal Register process throughout 2020.

Improvements to the 49 revised conservation practice standards include expanding and updating their scope to incorporate new technology and increasing flexibility, enhancing water conservation practices such as irrigation and addressing wildlife issues.

NRCS’s conservation practices offer guidelines for planning, installing, operating and maintaining conservation practices used by farmers, ranchers and private forest landowners nationwide.

NRCS helps the nation’s farmers, ranchers and forest landowners plan and carry out conservation practices to protect natural resources on their operations. Farm Bill conservation programs help producers cover the costs to plan and implement these conservation practices.

NRCS is encouraging agricultural producers, landowners, organizations, tribes and others that use its conservation practices to comment on these revised conservation practice standards. NRCS will use public comments to further enhance its conservation practice standards. NRCS sought the public’s input for 13 other conservation practice standards in October 2019. This followed the March 11, 2019, announcement that the agency was commencing review of the practice standards in the National Handbook of Conservation Practices.

Copies of the proposed revisions to the 49 conservation practice standards are available through regulations.gov by accessing docket number NRCS-2020-0001. The proposed revised standards can also be downloaded or printed at bit.ly/2X7Emz1.

When submitting comments, include the volume, date and page number of this issue of the Federal Register. Comments can be submitted online, or by mail or hand delivery to Bill Reck, National Environmental Engineer, Conservation Engineering Division, U.S. Department of Agriculture, NRCS, 1400 Independence Ave., South Building, Room 6136, Washington, D.C., 20250.

For more, visit bit.ly/2UW8sCX or farmers.gov/farmbill.