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State Technical Committee Purpose

Responsibilities under the 2002 Farm Bill

The NRCS State Conservationist chairs the State Technical Committee in their respective state. The State Conservationist is responsible for the committee’s organization and for providing leadership, support services, and technical direction to the committee.

The committee serves in an advisory capacity to the NRCS State Conservationist and provides guidance on technical standards for conservation programs. The committee includes professional resource managers that represent a variety of disciplines in the soil, water, wetland, and wildlife sciences.

The committee is advisory and has no implementation or enforcement authority.

Membership in the State Technical Committee was broadened under the 2002 Farm Bill to include representatives of non-government organizations, such as:

  • agricultural producers
  • non-profit conservation organizations
  • agribusiness
  • experts on the economic and environmental impacts of conservation techniques
  • others knowledgeable about conservation

NRCS coordinates the logistics of the meetings and issues the public announcement and invitations to the meetings. Meetings are open to the public and are advertised in local media.

Establishing and using the advice of State Technical Committees

  • NRCS shall establish in each State a technical committee to assist in making technical recommendations relating to the implementation of natural resource conservation activities and programs.
  • USDA will use State Technical Committees in an advisory capacity in the administration of certain conservation programs and initiatives.
  • State Technical Committees are exempt from the provisions of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (5 U.S.C. App.2).

Membership Guidelines

State Technical Committees shall include members who represent a variety of natural resource sciences and occupations, including those related to soil, water, wetlands, plants, and wildlife.

The State Conservationist in each State will serve as chairperson. In addition, committee membership will include one representative from each of the following agencies or groups, if willing to serve:

  • Farm Service Agency, USDA;
  • State Farm Service Agency Committee, USDA;
  • Forest Service, USDA;
  • Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, USDA;
  • Rural Development, USDA;
  • Fish and Wildlife Service, United States Department of Interior;
  • United States Environmental Protection Agency;
  • Corps of Engineers, United States Department of the Army;

State departments and agencies that the NRCS State Conservationist deems appropriate, including a member from each of the following agencies or entities within the State:

  • Fish and wildlife agency;
  • Forestry agency;
  • Water resources agency;
  • Department of agriculture;
  • Association of soil and water conservation districts;
  • Soil and water conservation agency;
  • Coastal zone management agency; and

In addition to agency and Tribal membership, State Technical Committees shall include members from the following private interests, if willing to serve:

  • Agricultural producers with demonstrable conservation expertise;
  • Nonprofit organizations with demonstrable conservation expertise;
  • Persons knowledgeable about economic and environmental impacts of conservation techniques and programs; and
  • Representatives from agribusiness.

To ensure that recommendations of the State Technical Committees take into account the needs of the diverse groups served by the USDA, membership shall include, to the extent practicable, individuals with demonstrated ability to represent the conservation and related technical concerns of particular historically under-served groups and individuals; i.e., minorities, women, persons with disabilities and socially and economically disadvantaged groups.

Public notification and Invitation Guidelines

  • The State Conservationist shall provide public notice of State Technical Committee meetings in which issues related to conservation programs will be considered.
  • The State Conservationist shall publish a meeting notice no later than 14 calendar days prior to the meeting.
  • The State Conservationist, as Chairperson, schedules and conducts the meetings, although a meeting may be requested by any USDA agency as needed.

Responsibilities of State Technical Committees

The responsibilities of the State Technical Committee include making recommendations with respect to the technical matters such as:

  • Guidelines for evaluating petitions by agricultural producers regarding new conservation practices and systems not already described in field office technical guides;
  • Aspects of wetland protection, restoration, and mitigation requirements;
  • Criteria to be used in evaluating bids for enrollment of environmentally-sensitive lands in the Conservation Reserve Program (16 U.S.C. 3831-3836);
  • Guidelines for haying or grazing and the control of weeds to protect nesting wildlife on set-aside acreage;
  • Highly erodible land exemptions and the appeals process as it pertains to technical issues and information;
  • Wetland and highly erodible land conservation compliance exemptions and the appeals process;
  • Methods to address common weed and pest problems, and programs to control weeds and pests found on acreage enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (16 U.S.C. 3831-3836);
  • Guidelines for planting perennial cover for water quality and wildlife habitat improvement on set-aside lands;
  • Criteria and priorities for state initiatives under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) (16 U.S.C. 3839aa), including:

  1. Criteria to prioritize applications from applicants with significant statewide resource concerns outside a priority area;
  2. Eligible conservation practices for an EQIP priority area or for significant statewide resource concerns outside a priority area;
  3. Criteria to be used in defining a large confined livestock operation under EQIP;
  4. Suggestions on how often producers' EQIP applications are ranked and selected;
  5. Criteria to prioritize applications from applicants with significant statewide resource concerns outside a priority area; and
  6. Determination of cost share and incentive payment limits for participants subject to environmental requirements or with significant statewide resource concerns outside a priority area.
  • The implementation of the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) (16 U.S.C 3836a);
  • The technical merits of proposals submitted for the Farm and Ranchland Protection Program (16 U.S.C. 3830);
  • The development of a Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) (16 U.S.C. 3837) wetland restoration plan;
  • Statewide program guidelines applicable to WRP easement compensation, restoration planning, priority ranking, and related policy matters, 7 CFR part 1467;
  • Identification of any categories of wetland conversion activities and conditions which are routinely determined by NRCS to have minimal effect on wetland functions and values as described in 7 CFR part 12.
  • Conservation techniques and measures related to achieving environmental justice needs; and
  • Types or classes of wetland that are not eligible for mitigation exemption under the Wetland Conservation provisions of 7CFR part 12.

NRCS reserves the authority to accept or reject the Committee's recommendations; however, the State Conservationist shall give strong consideration to the Committee's suggestions.

Specialized subcommittees

In some situations, specialized subcommittees, made up of State Technical Committee members, may be used to analyze and refine specific issues. The State Conservationist may assemble certain members to discuss, examine, and focus on a particular technical issue or program topic. Decisions resulting from these subcommittee sessions shall be made only in a general session of the State Technical Committee, where the public is notified and invited to attend.

More information about the State Technical Committee can be obtained by calling the Ken Carter, Assistant State Conservationist for Programs, at 1 (804) 287-1663.