WASHINGTON— Sen. Mike Braun, Sen. Michael Bennet and Sen. Roger Marshall, all members of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, introduced legislation to address the shortage of Technical Service Providers (TSPs) who help producers access USDA conservation programs through one-on-one assistance. This bill expands on the framework first envisioned in the 2018 Farm Bill.
Rep. Jim Baird (IN-04) and Rep. Abigail Spanberger (VA-07) introduced the companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
“Our nation’s farmers and ranchers play a critical role in conservation, so it is important that they have access to Technical Service Providers (TSPs) who help fill the gaps in technical assistance when it comes to implementing conservation programs. I’m proud to lead this legislation that will streamline the TSP certification process to support our producers and improve conservation outcomes.”—Sen. Braun
“As Colorado faces a future that’s going to be a lot hotter and a lot drier, we need to make it easier to access USDA conservation programs. But crippling red tape and understaffing at the NRCS make these programs too rigid and time-consuming for many Coloradans to apply to,” said Sen. Bennet. “The future of rural America depends on whether the next generation decides to continue their family farms and ranches – and to protect that future, the Increased TSP Access Act makes assistance more accessible and helps conservation programs live up to their potential.”
“Increasing the amount of Technical Service Providers (TSP) for the Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) was a key part of legislation that I introduced last fall to help the domestic fertilizer industry. I’m happy to partner with Senators Braun and Bennet on this commonsense approach that moves us towards our goal by cutting red tape that’s holding back farm participation in NRCS programs. Certified Crop Advisors and other similar professionals are already equipped with the skills necessary to help farmers and ranchers reach a variety of conservation goals. Establishing an expedited pathway to deliver conservation goals, especially as it relates to nutrient management plans, is the free-market answer to increasing agriculture-friendly conservation efforts.”—Sen. Marshall
“In order for our farmers and ranchers to continue their vital conservation efforts, we need to make sure they have access to the best information and expertise available. By introducing legislation that directs USDA to establish a streamlined certification process for Technical Service Provider (TSPs) who hold appropriate specialty certifications, we can ensure rapid response times for our producers and address TSP shortages just as the 2018 Farm Bill intended.”—Rep. Baird (IN-04)
“As the only Virginian on the House Agriculture Committee, I’ve had many conversations with our Commonwealth’s crop and livestock producers about challenges caused by staffing shortages and burdensome requirements at NRCS. This massive workforce issue is having real effects on the ground — and it’s slowing down the ability of Virginia producers to make smart management plans for their land. That’s why I’m proud to help lead the bipartisan Increased TSP Access Act. By cutting red tape, streamlining some of USDA’s bureaucracy, and prioritizing timely certification for these jobs, we can help more producers take advantage of voluntary conservation programs.”—Rep. Spanberger (VA-07)
The Increased TSP Access Act would address the TSP shortage by expanding on the framework first envisioned in the 2018 Farm Bill.
- Non-Federal Certifying Entities: The bill directs USDA to establish a process to approve non-Federal certifying entities. The bill ensures that USDA’s process will allow agricultural retailers, conservation organizations, cooperatives, professional societies, and service providers to become certifying entities. It also puts clear deadlines on USDA to ensure that the agency is responsive in administering the program.
- Streamlined Certification: The bill directs USDA to establish a streamlined certification process for TSPs who hold appropriate specialty certifications (including certified crop advisors). This guarantees that applicants with other certifications aren’t burdened with duplicative training, but are still trained in the competencies needed to serve as a TSP.
- Parity in Compensation: The bill ensures that TSPs—who are often paid using conservation program dollars—are paid the fair market rate for their services.
Endorsements for the Increased TSP Access Act of 2023
American Farm Bureau Federation (President Zippy Duvall): “Farmers and ranchers are committed to continually improving the land, water and air entrusted in our care and we have voluntarily committed over 140 million acres across the country to conservation. But we can’t do this alone and that’s why the Increased TSP Access Act is needed. It would expand the number of partners that farmers and ranchers can depend upon to access conservation programs and help implement additional stewardship practices on the land.”
American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America (CEO Jim Cudahy): “Since the Technical Service Provider program was established, our Certified Crop Advisers and Certified Professional Soil Scientists have partnered with NRCS to provide conservation technical assistance as trusted advisers to farmers across the United States. Over this time, we’ve also seen a need for the program to be better defined so that more certified professionals can become TSPs, and remain so. We are pleased to support the Increased TSP Access Act and continue to work with administrators to improve the TSP Program and ultimately deliver more conservation technical assistance to our nation’s farmers.”
Ducks Unlimited (CEO Adam Putnam): “Thank you to Sen. Braun, Sen. Bennet, Sen. Marshall, Rep. Baird, and Rep. Spanberger for introducing the Increased TSP Access Act. Ducks Unlimited’s agronomists and biologists work closely with NRCS and private landowners to help agricultural producers assess the health of their soil and get the most out of their production. Through streamlining the certification process, this legislation will make voluntary conservation programs more accessible and provide producers with increased flexibility to implement conservation practices on their land.”
Purdue University (Executive Vice President for Research Dr. Karen Plaut): “We congratulate Sen. Braun and Rep. Baird for introducing the Increased TSP Access Act, broadening the set of experts focused on conservation and a more sustainable food system – including many educated by the nation’s Land Grant Universities such as Purdue. We look forward to continuing to work with Congress and other public and private sector partners to solve food, agricultural and natural resource management challenges.”
Truterra, Land O’Lakes’ Sustainability Business (President Tom Ryan): “Every day, farmers across the country turn to their trusted?retail?agronomists for advice. This new legislation would provide farmers?expanded?access to local agronomists and ag retailers who can provide conservation expertise?as part of their total agronomic plan. Truterra, the sustainability business of Land O’Lakes, Inc., has developed unique, collaborative projects to help farmers across the nation adopt conservation practices and scale-up their on-farm conservation systems. We support expanding the number and availability of TSPs because it will enable us to help the federal government meet the high demand for conservation delivery services. Land O’Lakes appreciates the leadership of U.S. Senators Braun, Bennet and Marshall, as well as U.S. Representatives Baird and Spanberger, in expanding the conservation delivery system by increasing access to private sector resources.”
Full endorsements can be found here.