Last week, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced his plan to reorganize the mission areas under USDA, including creating a new one for “Farm Production and Conservation.” This new mission area will house the Farm Service Agency (FSA), Risk Management Agency (RMA), and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and will be led by a newly created undersecretary position. The secretary has promised that no reductions in USDA’s workforce will occur as a direct result of this action.

NACD has existing policy related to any reorganization of USDA that opposes any transfer of program administration without a thorough, locally-led assessment of field office structure and capacity in order to maintain the local delivery system. In a press release, NACD CEO Jeremy Peters said NACD “looks forward to providing input to USDA throughout the reorganization process to ensure continued strong service delivery. Because many of the nation’s 3,000 conservation districts are co-located with USDA field offices, local input is critical as the reorganization progresses to prevent any loss of service.”

Stay tuned to eResource for a synopsis on the secretary’s testimony before the House Agriculture Committee tomorrow – Wednesday, May 17 – at 10:00am Eastern.


America’s conservation districts are experts at helping producers develop conservation plans. A new NRCS planning tool – the Resource Stewardship Evaluation Tool (RSET) – now available nationwide for crop and grazing lands, offers more comprehensive computing power to districts than was ever available before.

NRCS is holding a series of webinars for its employees and conservation districts to help them understand how RSET can be used. To access the webinars at the dates and times listed below, click here. Audio will come through your computer/device speakers; there is no conference call-in information. Participants should use the “Enter as Guest” option and type in their first and last name. These webinars will also be taped and available online at a later date.

Resource Stewardship (RS) Webinar Schedule (All times Eastern)

  • RS Overview – May 23, 11:00am to 1:00pm
  • Cropland RS: How to Guide – May 22, 2:00pm to 4:00pm
  • Range RS: How to Guide – May 17, 2:00pm to 4:00pm and May 24, 11:00am to 1:00pm
  • Pasture RS: How to Guide – May 18, 2:00pm to 4:00pm and May 25, 11:00am to 1:00pm
  • Science behind RS – May 18, 11:00am to 1:00pm and May 24, 2:00pm to 4:00pm


A winning partnership: Conservation districts and the NRCS Watershed Stewardship Program – Conservation districts have been a major player throughout the history of the NRCS’ Watershed and Flood Prevention Program, primarily as local sponsors of the flood control projects constructed under the program. In recent years, conservation districts have successfully expanded the focus of the Watershed program to include mitigation of extreme weather events and have added increased environmental benefits.

Women4theLand provides resources – Women4theLand, an Indiana-based partnership, aims to empower female woodland owners to make good science-based land use and land management decisions that lead to more viable communities and stronger farm enterprises while improving and sustaining the quality of natural resources.

Districts can make connections – The two-centuries-old New Hampshire farm sits 1,500 feet above sea level in the western foothills of the White Mountains; its 200 forested acres an even mix of northern hardwoods and conifers. It was a paradise for Linda Brownson, but the property presented a series of management ideas and obstacles.

Greenville County SWCD in South Carolina

The Greenville County Soil and Water Conservation District is located in the heart of urban Greenville, South Carolina, which was once a busy textile center. Today, Greenville has a thriving urban gardening tradition and a network of community gardens.

In collaboration with Campbell Young Leaders, the Legacy Charter School, Chartwells School Dining Services, Greater Greenville Sanitation, and Gardening for Good, the district is establishing a working model urban farm to (1) educate students about soil and water conservation and (2) provide the local community and Legacy Charter School with a consistent supply of fresh produce and agricultural products.

This farm – called the Legacy City Farm – is located close to the Reedy River, which runs throughout the city’s main residential and urban centers. This unique locale presents numerous opportunities to demonstrate the latest conservation techniques in urban agriculture to residents, other community gardeners, and local farmers market vendors and customers.

The Farm is designed to produce fresh produce and agricultural products that will be purchased by Chartwells, Legacy Charter School’s food vendor. As additional fresh produce becomes available, access will be provided to the local community. In addition, the Farm offers educational opportunities for the students at Legacy Charter School. Faculty members collaborate with the Farm manager to integrate educational activities, learning projects, and internships into the school’s curriculum.

At the beginning of the project, the Legacy City Farm was an encyclopedia of invasive species. Now cleared of invasives and possibly contaminated soil, the Farm’s first crop of lettuce is thriving (see photo below). The design plan for the Farm (pictured above) works with the natural features of the site with the crops planted on the contour, roads on the ridges, and buffers in the floodplain.

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