USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service has announced a partnership between the agency and John Deere Ag Management Solutions to provide conservation planning software tools for producers and technical service providers.

“This partnership will help NRCS expand its capabilities and meet the enormous demand for conservation,” said Bruce Knight, chief of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. “This tool — called Conservation Plug-In — will enable producers to complete certain activities electronically, similar to e-filing tax returns. Not only will we see an increase in efficiency but also an increase in the number and quality of conservation plans.”

In January, Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman announced that e-Government initiatives would be a major focus of USDA in 2004. A new design of the USDA Website was launched with plans for added features throughout the year including the recently released Customer Statement.

The statement will allow USDA customers to view their participation and application status in various conservation programs, payments associated with commodity and conservation programs, information on farm loans, and conservation plan and land unit information.

Other planned features include the launch in August of ‘MyUSDA.gov’ to provide a customized version of the USDA homepage for individual users based on their unique needs.

“The Conservation Plug-In is one example of what USDA and our agriculture partners are doing to improve and enhance Internet technology for government, our partners and agricultural producers alike,” said Scott Charbo, USDA chief information officer.

Conservation Plug-In, which will be available late this fall, allows producers and technical service providers to record farm and field data, schedule conservation practices, report completion of practices and attach certification documentation. Electronic assistance for developing conservation plans also will be available with the new software.

By using Conservation Plug-In, producers can spend less time at their local USDA Service Center and self-certify when they have completed practices in their conservation plans. Technical service providers can manage conservation plans and cost-share agreement records for those producers using their services.

For additional information on Conservation Plug-In, contact Jack Carlson, NRCS Information Technology Center Director, jcarlson@itc.nrcs.usda.gov or phone 970-295-5455.