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Initiative 1. Increase Technical Capacity through Enhancements in Conservation Training Opportunities

These enhancements will complement existing USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and state training programs to build the technical network of conservation professionals necessary to meet increased farmer demand for developing plans and implementing their associated conservation practices. Partners will explore development of training offerings to fill identified gaps and streamline training for interested professionals, as well as students within existing course offerings and degree and/or certificate programs. Farmer-to-farmer approaches and community, technical and vo-ag schooling opportunities will also be pursued.

Given that having a plan provides the framework and is the prerequisite to conservation practice implementation, a general consensus developed around pursing this initiative first. There was also recognition that, as training enhancements are pursued, they must be developed in concert with and must complement existing USDA NRCS and state training programs.

This initiative is premised on the need to build the technical network of conservation professionals necessary to meet current and anticipated increasing farmer demand for developing and implementing conservation plans and manure management plans and their associated conservation practices. To this end, assessment of need, demand and current capacity for technical assistance is an essential first step. Demand is critical to drive technical assistance training needs.

Additional examination of the current capacity for training opportunities is also needed, as well as identification of gaps and overlap. Partners will then explore development of training offerings to fill gaps and streamline training to ensure enough qualified technicians to meet farmer demand. Training curriculum for professionals as well as students within existing course offerings and degree and/or certificate programs will be pursued, as will farmer-to-farmer approaches and community, technical and vo-ag schooling opportunities.