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International Programs News & Views Volume 8

March 2010


Updated 03/31/2010


The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is being called upon with increasing frequency to communicate across national borders.  Participation in technical and professional society meetings, conferences, and workshops held outside the U.S. provides opportunities for NRCS to:

  • Share conservation technology with  colleagues from other countries which will enable them to strengthen institutions,    improve human resources, and address the challenges of sustainable agricultural development.
  • Exchange information and enhance communications to foster the growth and application of innovative technologies.
  • Establish contacts for longer term collaboration.
  • Support U.S. foreign policy goals for a  productive world in harmony with the global environment.
  • Inform and enable scientists to contribute to international issues on global constraints to sustainable agriculture.
  • Learn techniques used in different cultures older agricultural systems.
  • Enhance professional and personal skills of scientists to further human resource development.

Who Can Participate

All NRCS employees are eligible.  Nominations for attendance are both solicited and unsolicited by the International Programs Division (IPD).  Routinely, employees are nominated by their supervisors.  Examples of participation include presenting a paper, moderating a session or performing a similar role; and in some cases, attending because of the importance of the subject matter being presented.

Program Administration

The IPD coordinates the participation of NRCS employees in technical and professional society meetings, conferences, and workshops held outside the United States.  Normally, employees are responsible for obtaining their own funding through their respective office. 

Nomination Procedures

Employees interested in attending or participating in an international meeting must complete an International Travel Request Form (ITRF), obtain appropriate approvals, and submit to the IPD.  The ITRF is available from the IPD, and will soon be available on the Internet.

Selection Criteria

Not all employees interested in attending are afforded the opportunity.  In addition to funding and administrative approvals, the following factors are considered:

  • Topic or subject matter of meeting must support the NRCS mission.
  • Employee must have a role in planning and/or implementing meeting - e.g., presenting a paper or poster and in some cases, attending because of the importance of the subject matter.
  • Technology or knowledge gained should enhance employee's knowledge and skills.
  • Employee must be willing to share what was learned.
  • Under-represented geographic area or discipline will be considered.
  • Other factors such as affirmative action, cost, number of previous trips, other NRCS staff attending.

How to Learn About International Meetings

Many international meetings are announced and/or sponsored by professional societies (e.g., American Society of Agricultural Engineers, American Society of Agronomy, Soil Science Society of America, International Soil Science Society, Soil and Water Conservation Society, World Association of Soil and Water Conservation).  These societies promote meetings through their publications and fliers.  If you are not a member of a professional society, consider joining.  Another way of accessing these events is to network with colleagues who are members.  International meetings are sometimes announced in NRCS This Week, available by accessing the NRCS Internet Web Site (What's New) at  In addition, the IPD circulates notices of meetings as appropriate to solicit interest within the agency.

International Organizations and Multilateral Environment Agreements 

NRCS has been active in developing U.S. policies and positions on sustainable land use, sustainable agriculture, and natural resources conservation by participating in interagency working groups chaired by the Department of State and providing representatives for U.S. delegations at international meetings.  

The interagency working groups prepare U.S. national reports, U.S. position papers, and recommendations for meetings of international organizations such as the United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the UN Commission on Sustainable Development as well as for multilateral environmental agreements such as the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Convention on Biodiversity, the Convention to Combat Desertification and the Kyoto Protocol (of the UNFCCC).  

NRCS representatives have successfully introduced many of the concepts and principles of good resource stewardship that have been adopted here in the U.S. by working together with our conservation partners.  NRCS is involved because these local-to-global connections are important to U.S. producers who must operate and compete in today's global market place.

Another example is the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an international organization composed of 29 democratic nations with advanced market economies.  OECD's basic aim is to achieve sustainable development through monitoring trends, facilitating information exchange and issue resolution and coordinating and harmonizing national policies.  OECD's analysis was instrumental in the establishment of the World Trade Organization.  

NRCS participates in the OECD Joint Working Party on Agriculture and the Environment.  This group is developing agro-environmental indicators to help analyze the impacts of agricultural policy reform (free trade and reduced income subsidies) on agriculture and the environment.  A workshop will be held in September 1998, in York, England, to advance the indicators work.   NRCS has the lead for the soil quality indicator, is a co-lead for wildlife habitat, and participates in the socio-cultural indicator work.  Technology is acquired for use at the field and other levels and technology is shared through participation in OECD activities.  NRCS also keeps abreast of emerging agricultural and environmental policies for consideration and helps shape U.S. policy.

Conservation of natural resources is a global challenge for all NRCS employees

Author and Editor:  Gail C. Roane (retired) and Herby Bloodworth, International Programs Division, 5601 Sunnyside Avenue, Room 1-2108, Mail Stop Code 5477, Beltsville, MD 20705, 301.504.2270 (Voice), 301.504.0382 (Fax).