NRCS is reorganizing its Field Offices at USDA Service Centers in Iowa. Changes began in March 2020. Highlights of the reorganization include:
Iowa NRCS Field Offices will no longer share District Conservationists. Two-thirds of Iowa offices were part of a Shared Management Unit in which the District Conservationist, who manages the NRCS office, traveled back and forth between offices. That structure left only 34 of the 100 offices with its own District Conservationist. Now, NRCS will have one District Conservationist for every Iowa Field Office.
Resource Teams will cover four-county areas. Besides District Conservationists, most NRCS Field Office employees will be on Resource Teams that cover a four-county area. The number of employees on each team will depend on the amount of workload in each area. Resource Team members will eventually be housed together in a selected USDA Service Center within their four-county area. State and Area Office staff will be less affected by the changes.
Partner staff will continue working in their coverage areas. Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS), Pheasants Forever (PF), Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), and other conservation partners stationed in NRCS offices will continue to cover the same areas.
Q: What are the major changes in the Iowa NRCS reorganization? A: Iowa NRCS Field Offices that shared District Conservationists (DC) (Office Manager) will no longer. All 100 NRCS Field Offices will have their own DC. Also, most NRCS Field support staff employees will be on Resource Teams that cover a four-county area.
Q: Why is Iowa NRCS reorganizing Field Offices? A: First, our customers and conservation partners expressed a desire to have one District Conservationist for every Field Office. The new structure addresses that. Secondly, the new structure allows for Iowa NRCS to better serve customers at the local level, provides for equitable workload distribution among staff, and adds workload flexibility when needed. It also allows NRCS to move more closely to the OPM suggested supervisor to employee ratio of 10:1.
Q: What types of positions will be on Resource Teams? A: Resource teams will be led by a Resource Team Leader (a new position in Iowa) who will supervise a team that will cover a 4-county area. Members of this team could include Resource Conservationists, Soil Conservationists, Soil Conservation Technicians, Civil Engineering Technicians, Program Support Assistants, and others (depending on workload and location). Those positions work closely on conservation efforts with the local producers at the county level.
Q: Will NRCS be cutting staff in Iowa? A: No. The reorganization will not require a staff reduction. In fact, we are hiring additional employees to increase the number of staff in Iowa.
Q: If I need to contact the local NRCS office about a project, who should I contact first? A: The District Conservationist. Customers may eventually work and communicate regularly with resource team members but should start by contacting the District Conservationist.
Q: Will staff from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and the local Soil and Water Conservation Districts be part of the resource teams? A: No, not anytime in the foreseeable future. All conservation partner staff who work in NRCS Field Offices will continue to cover the same areas as they have been.
Q: Is NRCS changing staff structures in all states? A: Iowa is the first state to move to this specific structure, but other states have similar “team” structures. Other states will eventually move to a similar structure. Members of the Iowa NRCS Leadership Team researched several options over a two-year period, even visiting at least three other states to study their staff structures. Finally, the new structure is what was decided would be the best solution for Iowa.
Q: Will staff move into their new office locations immediately? A: Some staff will be able to move immediately to their new duty location, but most will have to stay in their current location or an alternative Field Office location, due to office space limitations. As office leases expire, the plan is to modify the space needed to accommodate all NRCS and partner staff.
Q: How will I know if there is new NRCS staff in the county where I live? A: Local NRCS offices plan to announce staff changes through local media or by hosting an event, such as an open house, field day or workshop.
Jaia Fischer, Asst. State Conservationist for Management and Strategy