Conservation Reserve Program training March 7-8 in Lancaster

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Seats are still available for a Conservation Reserve Program training for conservation and natural resources professionals in the mid-Atlantic region, March 7-8 in Lancaster.

Presented by a national, multi-university team that includes specialists in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, the session is open to conservation professionals who are working with (or plan to work with) agricultural producers and other landowners seeking or renewing CRP and CREP contracts.

The Lancaster workshop, part of the "CRP Readiness Initiative," which is being sponsored in the Keystone State by Penn State Extension, is the first of a series that will take place across the United States. A national training team -- including professionals from Penn State, Montana State University, and the universities of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Georgia -- will facilitate the training.

Long-time USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service professionals will assist in the training, providing essential instruction on developing solid conservation plans for CREP program landowners.

"With more people trained to provide help to landowners, we expect more landowners to take advantage of the Conservation Reserve Program, often referred to as CRP, to protect our natural resources," said research technologist Laurie Schoonhoven, Penn State's project coordinator for the Conservation Reserve Program Readiness Initiative.

The Conservation Reserve Program gives farmers and landowners technical assistance and a financial incentive to reduce soil erosion and runoff, leading to improved water quality and wildlife habitat.

"Upon acceptance under a CREP program sign-up, a landowner typically develops a conservation plan with the help of a professional trained to work with CREP," Schoonhoven
explained. "The conservation professional helps the landowner assess his or her unique parcel of land, covering topics such as land slope, cropping history, soil type, cultivation methods and water quality.

"After completion of an assessment, the landowner and the conservation professional work together to create a CREP conservation plan. Participants in the CRP Readiness Initiative will be trained to create, implement and maintain all or parts of these plans based on a detailed knowledge of national and state conservation practices."

Natural Resources Conservation Service employees and conservation partners provide most of the technical services to landowners for CREP planning. According to Schoonhoven, the CRP Readiness Initiative offers training to a broader range of professionals to assist landowners in developing conservation plans on lands enrolled in or to be enrolled in CREP.

"The primary goal of the Conservation Readiness Initiative is to increase the capacity for states to manage CRP and CREP signups," she said. "We hope to train more people to provide technical service to landowners. Independent conservation professionals, registered technical service providers, members of conservation associations and employees of organizations with formal connections to NRCS are encouraged to participate."

Participants in the CRP Readiness Initiative will attend a free, two-day training workshop, work directly with a project mentor, participate in online forums and webinars, and sign up for supplemental training courses as needed. CEU credits are available.

"Free core training workshops will begin the first week of March and conclude in early May 2012," said Schoonhoven. "During the summer of 2012, the training curriculum will be transitioned to an online format, which will be available for a course fee.

"Some of the topics to be covered during the free core workshops include understanding the landowner's objectives, developing a CRP plan according to national and state guidelines, and CRP best practices for conservation."

Interested conservation professionals can visit http://conservation-training.uwex.edu/crpworkshops online for more information on the program and to sign up for a free regional workshop. The Pennsylvania training is being held at the Lancaster Farm and Home Center and includes continental breakfast and lunch.

For more information, contact Laurie Schoonhoven at 814-865-7932 or by e-mail at lms28@psu.edu. Additional CRP Readiness Initiative trainings will be offered March 22-23 in Shepherdstown, W.Va., and May 1-2 in Auburn, N.Y.
 

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Last Updated March 05, 2012