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Making Conservation Convenient

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service rolled out an online portal Wednesday that could save farmers unnecessary trips to town and allow NRCS technicians more time in the field.

The new Conservation Client Gateway is a secure site that allows farmers and ranchers to:

—Request NRCS technical and financial assistance;

—Review and sign conservation plans and practice schedules;

—Complete and sign an application for a conservation program;

—Review, sign and submit contracts and appendices for conservation programs;

—Document completed practices and request certification of completed practices;

—Request and track payments for conservation programs; and

—Store and retrieve technical and financial files, including documents and photographs. 

Tim Palmer, a Madison County, Iowa farmer who was among several hundred producers to test the portal, said Wednesday that he found it easy to use.

Palmer said during a press conference that he likes being able to contact his NRCS office in the evening. If he’s doing field work during the day and finds a problem after an extreme weather event, he can go online later and ask “what might be available to fix one of those problems.” 

NRCS Chief Jason Weller said the website has a feature similar to Google Maps that allows farmers to zoom in on different tracts of land “to identify natural resource challenges you might want help with,” including soil erosion and invasive weeds. 

The site will work on a smart phone or tablet and in about a year a streamlined version of the Gateway will be available for phones. 

Weller said users will need to have a Service Center Information Management System (SCIMS) record and a USDA Level 2 eAuthentication account. That proves you identity to USDA. 

“For the vast majority of our customers, they already have that established,” Weller said.

When asked by if the Gateway can be used to determine conservation compliance (which is administered by USDA’s Farm Service Agency), Weller said, “At this time, no.”

Nor is the portal set up for complex farming entities like limited liability companies. That will be available in about a year, he said.

“It’s only available for individuals,” Weller said, or about 80% of the agency’s clients.

For more information about Conservation Client Gateway, visit:

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