TSPs include individuals, private businesses, American Indian tribes, nonprofit organizations, and public agencies.
TSPs expand the number and availability of conservation technical experts capable of offering customized, one-on-one conservation advice to agricultural producers.
On This Page
Who Can Use a TSP?
When funds are available, agricultural producers participating in certain activities in NRCS conservation programs can hire a TSP within the 50 states, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, United States Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. As a producer, you will need to work with your local NRCS office staff to make application for Financial Assistance and have an obligated contract prior to hiring a TSP. NOTE: Producers may also choose to pay for services from qualified individuals at their own expense.
NRCS reimburses the producer at a contracted rate established by the program the participation is participating in. The maximum rates for technical services are available in the most recent State Payment Schedule.
TSP conservation work falls into two broad categories:
- planning, design and implementation of conservation practices
- conservation planning activities
Farmers, ranchers and forest landowners can use conservation planning to address specific natural resource objectives such as nutrient and pest management, forestry, energy conservation, or transitioning to organic agriculture.
Participants in NRCS’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) may be eligible to receive financial assistance to work with TSPs to develop conservation planning activity plans or to plan, design and implement individual or group of conservation practices. Only certified TSPs can assist with the development of conservation planning activities.
If approved for an EQIP contract that includes TSP services, the participant chooses a TSP from an NRCS-approved list and negotiates payment for the selected TSP’s services. Once technical services are completed, the TSP provides documentation and an invoice to the participant who then provides the documentation (invoices) and/or notification of completion to NRCS for certification and reimbursement.
How Do You Locate a TSP?
Eligible NRCS conservation program participants can locate a certified TSP through the NRCS Registry national directory for finding a TSP Program participants also can contact their local USDA service center.
FOR THE TSP
Should You Become a Technical Service Provider?
Individuals, private businesses, American Indian tribes, non-profit organizations, and public agencies are eligible to become Technical Service Providers (TSPs).
Here are tips to help you determine whether you qualify to become a TSP and to help you better understand the TSP process:
- Read more about the TSP process and the expertise NRCS is seeking on behalf of its program participants below under benefits.
- Determine the TSP-oriented tasks you would like to do based on two broad categories—
- planning, designing, and implementing conservation practices through participation in Farm Bill programs (including 900 series funds); or
- development of conservation planning activities (CPAs) to address specific natural resource challenges.
- Inventory your qualifications including education and professional licenses you currently hold. Make sure you include any additional requirements needed by state, local or tribal laws or regulations.
- Contact your for additional information to help you determine whether to become a TSP.
State TSP Coordinators and Backups (126.98 KB)
TSPs can learn more about conservation practices at Conservation Planning Activities (CPAs), Design and Implementation Activities (DIAs), and Conservation Evaluation and Monitoring Activities (CEMAs).
Effective with any new Fiscal Year 2023 participant contract, TSPs providing Design and Implementation Activities (DIAs) to TSPs will be required to meet the following:
The participant and conservation planner have determined which practices a TSP will provide DIA assistance for. The TSP must have certification in NRCS Registry for each practice they will provide assistance for through this DIA. If not certified for a practice(s), a TSP can use a subcontractor who is a certified TSP for the practice(s). If there are no available certified TSPs, then that practice shall be removed from the scope of the participant’s DIA.
TSPs certified for DIAs are considered to be providing final designs and therefore should meet the qualifications under the individual conservation practices for which they are adding to the DIA and providing design work for.
NOTE: in the case a TSP must subcontract work, this would be a private cooperative agreement between the TSPs’ with regard to payment for services.
For TSPs already certified for a DIA, but not for individual practices typical of the DIA, TSPs should consider submitting a modification of their certification agreement to pick up practices they are currently not certified for in NRCS Registry. For example, if a customer should contract you to complete a DIA that encompasses three practices, but you are only certified for one of the three there are a few options.
- You may choose to apply for the two additional practices to be added to your certification in NRCS Registry or
- sub-contract those practices out to another certified TSP or TSP Business who is certified for those practices.
- As a last option you may choose to inform the customer that you are unable to provide the service and at that time, they must contact NRCS in order to potentially remove the item from their contract.
NRCS Registry allows individuals seeking TSP certification to begin the application process and once certified to maintain and renew their certification. NRCS Registry also allows agricultural producers and private forest landowners to locate a certified TSP in their local area.
How can NRCS benefit from using TSPs?
Offering technical services through an approved third party like a TSP ensures:
- NRCS conservation program participants have additional options to access technical services;
- quality conservation work by vetted and trained professionals; and
- personalized, one-on-one assistance to meet the needs of your conservation efforts.
How can farmers, ranchers and private forest landowners benefit from using TSPs?
Farmers, ranchers, and private forest landowners often use TSPs to address specific natural resource goals such as:
- developing nutrient management plans;
- developing sustainable forestry plans;
- developing grazing management plans;
- increasing irrigation efficiency; and
- transitioning from traditional agriculture to organic.
How do individuals benefit from becoming a TSP?
TSPs can help producers address natural resource concerns in diverse areas, including nutrient management, energy use, forestry, grazing, irrigation, organic agriculture and wildlife habitat. They also provide conservation planning services, design and implementation activities, and conservation evaluation and monitoring.
TSPs are certified to provide technical service activities according to NRCS standards and specifications for conservation activities. TSPs work on behalf of NRCS, so they maintain the confidentiality of the agricultural producers they help. In addition, TSPs can help farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners comply with Federal, state, tribal, and local laws and regulations.
Step 1: Make a Plan
Before you apply to become a TSP, you must determine the services you want to offer NRCS program participants and whether you have the necessary skills, abilities, licenses, certifications, and other qualifications to provide services based on Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) standards and specifications.
Once you have evaluated your own qualifications to become a TSP, you must follow the steps outlined here. The TSP certification process includes required training and verification of education, knowledge, skills and abilities. Visit the Additional Resources page for links to NRCS Registry User Guides and Videos.
Step 2: Create Your USDA Verified eAuthentication (eAuth) Account
To get started becoming a TSP, individuals will need to sign up for a verified USDA eAuthentication account (formerly called "Level 2"). https://www.eauth.usda.gov/eauth/b/usda/registration/external?verifyIdentity=true
- Fill out the online registration form by selecting 'Create an Account' using the 'Customer' user type and entering your email address. The email address must be unique and cannot be shared with any other account in the system (active or inactive) as it will be the User ID for login.
- It is important to maintain and keep secure your eAuth User ID and password. Passwords do not expire and can be reset provided you have access to the email address associated with the account.
- After submitting the form, you should receive an activation email within a few minutes. When you receive the activation email from USDA eAuthentication, use the link to “Activate My Account.” This step is a security measure designed to confirm you created the account and must be completed before you can proceed.
eAuth Helpful Hint: The email address used to create your eAuth Account should be an account that you plan to retain access long-term. Should you lose access to the email account BEFORE you have a chance to update it in your eAuth account, you will be forced to create a new eAuth. If you are forced to create a new eAuth, then you must submit a ticket to NRCS Registry Helpdesk to have your new eAuth linked to your TSP account in NRCS Registry.
If you need eAuth assistance you can reach the eAuth Helpdesk by calling 800-457-3642, or at https://www.eauth.usda.gov/eauth/b/usda/helpdesk.
Step 3: Verify your Identity
There are two options to validate your identity:
Option #1 (Recommended) – Verify Online (Self-Service) (Recommended) using the USDA Online Identity Verification Application.
After you have used the “Activate My Account” link in the first USDA eAuthentication email, click the link on the web page, or the link in the subsequent email for Option 1, the Online Self Service Verification Application. This will take you to a webpage where you will be prompted to agree to terms of service, verify your profile data, enter your Social Security Number, and answer five quiz questions to validate your identity.
eAuth Helpful Hint: Identify verification using the self-service process uses credit corporation data. The questions you need to answer will be associated with information held by the credit corporation, so you may be asked about mortgage payments or other banking information. If you do not pass the quiz on the first try you can request a different set of questions, but there are limits on how many requests you can submit, and you will be directed to the second option described below.
- If you encounter issues with the online identity verification process, visit a Local Registration Authority in person to verify your identity. See Option #2 below.
- You cannot complete the online identity verification if you do not have a U.S. home address. If you have a non-U.S. home, you will be notified that you must visit a Local Registration Authority (LRA), for in-person identity verification. (see Option 2)
Option #2: Verify in Person – Visit a Local Registration Authority
Schedule an appointment to visit a Local Registration Authority (LRA) at a USDA Service Center office to validate your identity and upgrade your account. Call ahead to make an appointment to make sure a LRA will be in the office when you plan to visit.
Take the same current government-issued picture ID you used for creating your account in step 1 (e.g. state-issued driver’s license) and present it in person to validate your identity and upgrade your account. Most LRAs are located at a USDA Service Center. Click on Find a Local Registration Authority to locate one closest to you.
Step 4: Logging into NRCS Registry
NRCS uses an online system called NRCS Registry to accept, approve and manage TSP applications and certifications. This system will track a TSPs Licenses, trainings, work experience, and all other items required for certification.
Follow these steps:
- Click the link "NRCS Registry" found below under Additional Information and enter your eAuth User ID and password.
- Complete the NRCS Registry Profile Tabs
- Contact Information, Licenses/Certifications, Education, Training, Work Experience, Samples of Work, Knowledge*, Planning Tools Proficiency*, References, Familiarity*, and Languages/Specialty Areas. NOTE: *This information in not required to meet the certification criteria, but may be of interest to a potential client.
- Complete/Start the NRCS Registry TSP Application for the following:
- Identify the practices (technical services) and locations you wish to be certified.in.
- Select a Certification Option
- Certification, Education and Experience,
- Provide qualifications that demonstrate you are meeting the criteria within the option you selected. Qualifications may include Education, Work Experience, Training, Licenses/Certifications, and Sample Plans or Designs.
NOTE: ONLY select the Qualifications to Satisfy the Criterion for the certification option you have chosen. There may be more listed, but only select the ones listed in the Select section. Refer to the User Guide listed in Additional Documents for more detailed instructions.
- Review your application and profile information before you begin the steps to sign your certification agreement
- Signing your certification agreement has multiple steps. To review the TSP Certification Agreement terms and condition, click on the TSP Certification Agreement
- Once you sign the certification agreement you must submit your application for NRCS review.
Note: To become a certified TSP eligible to provide technical services, an applicant must meet all certification criteria for the option chosen. The three links above under Step 1 “Make a Plan”, provide access to look up certification options and criteria for practices, conservation activities and areas of technical service. The applicant also must abide by all state, local and tribal laws and must possess the required licenses or certifications outlined in criteria.
For additional information on how to complete your NRCS Registry, visit the User Guides for TSP Certification or review the training videos found under Additional Documents.
Contact the NRCS Registry Help Desk if you have problems accessing the NRCS Registry.
Step 5: TSP Training Requirements – Requesting an AgLearn Account
Training is a critical component of the TSP certification process. NRCS offers an expansive list of training opportunities for new TSP applicants and certified TSPs. NRCS offers courses through the Agricultural Learning Service (AgLearn) and the USDA Science and Technology Library.
To register for an AgLearn account:
- Obtain a Verified eAuth account
- Log into NRCS Registry and start an application
- Contact your state TSP point of contact to request an AgLearn account
- Complete the required “
Safeguarding PII Fact Sheet (155.59 KB)
- Once you have been notified your AgLearn account has been created, you may log into AgLearn and enroll in courses required for certification.
All TSP applicants seeking TSP certification to provide technical services to eligible NRCS program participants must also complete the TSP Orientation and Conservation Planning Course (Course ID#NRCS-NEDC-000191) and the Introduction to Field Office Technical Guide (Course ID# NRCS-NEDC-000149).
STEP 6: Obtaining TSP Certification
Upon submission of your application NRCS has 60 days to review the information provided, verify your credentials and samples of work and make a decision on your application. Upon approval you will be certified for a period of three years and your information will be added to the NRCS Registry Find a TSP look up.
If your application is deferred, you will receive a notice detailing the issues that caused the deferment and the steps needed to address the issues. You will have the option to resubmit the application for review after you address the issues.
Business Registrations for Technical Service Providers
Businesses are defined as private businesses, American Indian tribes, non-profit organizations, and public agencies. A business profile and application must be created and maintained by an Official Business Representative (OBR) or the individual authorized by the business to make decisions on its behalf. The OBR must apply for and maintain a USDA Verified eAuth account, but the OBR does not need to be a certified TSP. In order for the business to apply and become certified, the business must have at least one certified TSP always associated with the business. The OBR must be able to legally sign the Certification Agreement on behalf of the business. Certified businesses must maintain a current certification agreement and are posted on the NRCS Registry Find a TSP look up.
Note: A business entity cannot register for a USDA eAuth account. Only individuals known as the Official Business Representative can register for a Verified eAuth account.
For Official Business Representatives Who Do Not Plan to Work as a TSP:
- Log into NRCS Registry
- Click the New Business Profile Tab to create a business profile
- Follow the business application instructions in the Business/Agency Profile. You can submit the application from the Business/Agency Profile screen by clicking the Sign Agreement button only once.
For Official Business Representatives Who Plan to Work as TSPs:
- Log into NRCS Registry
- Follow the process above to become a TSP first
- Complete the business registration
- Navigate to the TSP Associations sub tab and click Add TSP following the rest of the directions
Note: For detailed directions, visit the User Guide for Business Certification found under "Additional Resources"