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TSSH Part 638

Promoting Customer Awareness of Soils Information

The resource soil scientist is the primary advocate for increasing the awareness of the role of soils in the environment, for the wise use of the soils, and for the proper use of soil survey information. There are many uses of the soil survey information provided via the Web Soil Survey and the Soil Data Mart as well as that provided for specific purposes, such as local soil interpretations and site-specific information. Since the resource soil scientists work closely with field employees, local cooperators, and the general public, they have the most knowledge of the needs of the customers and can assist with the development of local pamphlets, publications, displays, and other information that can be used to promote the local use of soil surveys and soils information.

Potential customers (638.00)

Potential customers include anyone involved in programs where soils information can be helpful, including wetland regulatory and restoration programs, land quality and health programs, watershed management programs, pollution prevention and control programs, planning and zoning programs, and land use planning and regulatory programs.

Federal customers who may benefit from an awareness of the proper use of soil surveys and soils information include the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and those involved with environmental programs in the other branches of the military, the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and any other agency that uses information regarding land use or land management.

State agency customers include state natural resource agencies, highway departments, departments of planning and zoning, departments of agriculture, and state environmental regulatory agencies.

City or county customers include planning and zoning departments or boards, public works and parks and recreation departments, and county tax appraisal districts.

Groups and individuals who may be customers include farmers, ranchers, forestland owners, and other land owners; small environmental groups and land trusts; urban/suburban residents, realtors, developers, and sanitarians; soil and water conservation districts; and mining operators and managers.

NRCS personnel who can benefit from awareness of soil survey and use of soils information include planners, conservationists, engineers, agronomists, range specialists, hydrologists, and foresters.

Customer awareness is also important in soil, agronomy, and environmental programs at colleges, universities, and high schools as a way of providing information to potential soils students, new soil scientists, and potential new NRCS employees.

Potential topics (638.01)

Topics that may be of interest to our customers could be as general as a basic definition of soil. Other topics include: why soils are important, how they function, how we can make them sustainable, and what characteristics should be considered for certain uses. Other important topics are: where to get information, including the Soil Data Mart and Web Soil Survey; roles and services of the NRCS resource soil scientist; and services and publications provided by the local extension office.

Methods of providing information (638.02)

There are many ways to provide information to our customers. One of the best ways is to work with your local public affairs specialist to develop and design brochures, pamphlets, publications, fact sheets, and Web pages suitable for your audience. Working with your public affairs specialist will ensure that information carries consistent “branding” and messaging for the Agency and that it meets all specific printing requirements. When outreach information is created, it is important to know the target audience and your intended goals.

A good means of outreach to farmers for purposes of promoting soil health and soil quality is through the use of soil quality test cards. Resource soil scientists should create test cards that focus on local resource concerns. Additional information is available.

Another means of outreach to customers is through the use of exhibits. Many existing exhibits are available and can be reserved through the NRCS Distribution Center. Local displays should be developed through your public affairs specialist. Exhibits can be used at many functions, including state and county fairs and other agricultural and environmental events; conferences that target customers of soil survey information; state and local agricultural and environmental museums; and children’s events, such as school Earth Day celebrations, Envirothon events, soil judging events, and Future Farmers of America events. Also, working with state associations of professional soil scientists is an excellent outreach method to educate students and the general public about the profession of soil science and the importance of soils information.

Resource soil scientists may also be requested to serve as guest lecturers at universities and colleges, to provide demonstrations to children at schools and children’s events, to provide information to teachers for their use in school curriculums, and to provide training to NRCS employees as well as external customers.

Resource soil scientists may also be asked to assist with television spots, radio spots, and newspaper articles. Such activities should be undertaken in consultation with the local public affairs specialist.