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Nobles County Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA) Success Story

                                                                         News Feature                                                           3/30/2011

Nobles County Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA) Success Story –A Minnesota Success Story by Julie MacSwain

Across the great state of Minnesota, our farmland owners and operators face the challenge of making a living from the land, while protecting our natural resources. The key to meeting this challenge is in successfully developing a plan for managing all of the farm’s resources. To this end, NRCS has a program that can ably assist these owners and operators on solving their resource concerns, namely the Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA) Program.

CTA provides technical assistance supported by science-based technology and tools to help people conserve, maintain, and improve their natural resources. The CTA program provides the technical capability, including conservation planning, design, and implementation assistance, that helps people plan and apply conservation on the land. This assistance is provided to individuals, groups, and communities who make natural resource management decisions on private, tribal, and other non-federal lands.

NRCS, through the CTA Program, provides conservation technical assistance that addresses natural resource conservation issues at the local level that are of State and national concern. The CTA Program is unique because it provides a substantive level of technical expertise, background and support for Federal, tribal, State and local conservation programs. The working relationships that landowners and communities have with their local NRCS staff are unique. One-on-one help through flexible, voluntary programs occurs every day in local NRCS offices. It is the way that NRCS does business, and it works.

In Nobles county Minnesota, John Penning, farmer, learned about the NRCS at the time of his dad’s death in 1972 when he started to actively manage the farm operation and through his dad’s vision of conservation. His dad always encouraged him to look into things; those things started with the then ASCS and his lender who suggested he stop by the SCS, now NRCS, office. He did just that. The NRCS went to work and over time have looked at numerous farms and completed site visits and worked together to come up with a solid plan. For each site visit, the NRCS inventoried the resources and developed a conservation plan. These developed plans with Penning Brothers led to PL-566 contracts, as well as EQIP contracts. The Penning operation has tried to evolve with time and technology starting with drainage and their requirements to erosion control practices and better farm management. This comes in part from developing a relationship with the agencies and utilizing their expertise.

Penning Brothers has since bought another farm and continue the relationship with NRCS to develop another conservation plan. To John, working with NRCS makes sense and has solved several of the resource concerns he would have grappled with for years. Through time, John has studied things and has confidence that the technicians in Nobles County know what is going on and understand what he needs. He relies on our expertise to help him improve the areas on his farm. He knows that NRCS can help him make the contacts needed to improve his farming operation. “You understand the work environment and what the producer is needing and I have always been impressed with the work you do and what you know and such.”

The conservation vision that John’s father passed onto him continues strong. The relationship that started with John has grown and NRCS has worked not only with him and his brothers but also with John’s close friends and his sons operation because of his positive testimony of conservation.

A conservation plan is like a jigsaw puzzle, a complete picture made of many interlocking pieces. According to John, quality conservation comes from a desire to be a good steward of the land and working a good relationship with NRCS. Together, creating a conservation plan that fits. NRCS, Helps People Help the land; and CTA clearly shows that NRCS, a private federal agency cares about the land and the people it serves–

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