December 1, 2010
Anticipated changes in NRCS 590 Standard appear favorable to adaptive management
When it comes to nutrient management, NRCS's 590 Standard is front and center. This nutrient management standard guides what NRCS will pay for through programs like EQIP and CSP and what the agency's priorities and approach are for advancing nutrient management.
To date, implementing adaptive management through the 590 Standard has been a challenge. The current standard is geared to development and implementation of traditional nutrient management plans, with little guidance or support for effective use of practices to evaluate and adapt practices. As a result, while On-Farm Network participants have been able to leverage EQIP to support some limited components of the program, the role of EQIP and other NRCS programs to advance adaptive management has happened in fits and starts. But NRCS leadership has expressed a strong interest in improving the role the agency can play in implementation of adaptive management to improve the impact of the resources the agency invests in nutrient management.
Over the past year, NRCS has been working to revise the 590 Standard, both in terms of how it deals with specific nutrients and how it approaches improving nutrient management generally. The revisions to the 590 Standard, as well as development of a companion document called a technical note, hopefully will provide a real leg up for adaptive management. Partners in the On-Farm Network have been working hard to provide input to NRCS on the revisions to the standard and development of the Adaptive Management technical note, which will spell out how to implement a nutrient management program and how to use specific adaptive management tools, like stalk testing, aerial imagery, and strip trials.
Once these pieces are rolled out, it should be far easier for farmers across the nation to access NRCS incentive payments for adaptive management practices, for NRCS offices and partners at the county level to implement a coordinated adaptive management program, and for growers to leverage NRCS resources to participate in the On-Farm Network.
Stay tuned. According to NRCS, the draft of the revised 590 Standard should be published in the Federal Register in early December, followed by a 45-day public comment period. The revised standard will then be finalized and released for use throughout the agency through EQIP, CSP and other programs sometime in the spring of 2011, along with the Adaptive Management technical notes.
We will update you when the draft standard is published and share some thoughts on strengths and weaknesses. Then, when the final version is released along with the technical notes, we will be back in touch to let you know how to use these new tools and how the On-Farm Network can both benefit in terms of expanded resources and provide a road map for NRCS and other partners on how to implement adaptive management programming on the ground.