In this section:
The term "eligible participant" means a producer, landowner, or entity that is participating in, or seeking to participate in, programs in which the producer, landowner, or entity is otherwise eligible to participate under this chapter or the agricultural management assistance program under section 1524(b) of title 7.
The term "third-party provider" means a commercial entity (including a farmer cooperative, agriculture retailer, or other commercial entity (as defined by the Secretary)), a nonprofit entity, a State or local government (including a conservation district), or a Federal agency, that has expertise in the technical aspect of conservation planning, including nutrient management planning, watershed planning, or environmental engineering.
The purpose of technical assistance authorized by this section is to provide eligible participants with consistent, science-based, site-specific practices designed to achieve conservation objectives on land active in agricultural, forestry, or related uses.
The Secretary shall provide technical assistance under this chapter to an eligible participant—
(2) through an agreement with a third-party provider; or
(3) at the option of the eligible participant, through a payment, as determined by the Secretary, to the eligible participant for an approved third-party provider, if available.
The Secretary may request the services of, and enter into cooperative agreements or contracts with, other agencies within the Department or non-Federal entities to assist the Secretary in providing technical assistance necessary to assist in implementing conservation programs under this chapter.
The purpose of the third-party provider program is to increase the availability and range of technical expertise available to eligible participants to plan and implement conservation measures.
Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, the Secretary shall promulgate such regulations as are necessary to carry out this section.
In promulgating such regulations, the Secretary, to the maximum extent practicable, shall—
(A) ensure that persons with expertise in the technical aspects of conservation planning, watershed planning, and environmental engineering, including commercial entities, nonprofit entities, State or local governments or agencies, and other Federal agencies, are eligible to become approved providers of the technical assistance;
(B) provide national criteria for the certification of third-party providers; and
(C) approve any unique certification standards established at the State level.
The Secretary shall certify a third-party provider through—
(A) a certification process administered by the Secretary, acting through the Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service; or
(B) a non-Federal entity approved by the Secretary to perform the certification.
The Secretary shall provide a streamlined certification process for a third-party provider that has an appropriate specialty certification, including a sustainability certification.
Effective for fiscal year 2008 and each subsequent fiscal year, funds of the Commodity Credit Corporation made available to carry out technical assistance for each of the programs specified in section 3841 of this title shall be available for the provision of technical assistance from third-party providers under this section.
An agreement with a third-party provider under this section shall have a term that—
(A) at a minimum, is equal to the period beginning on the date on which the agreement is entered into and ending on the date that is 1 year after the date on which all activities performed pursuant to the agreement have been completed;
(B) does not exceed 3 years; and
(C) can be renewed, as determined by the Secretary.
Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, the Secretary shall—
(A) review certification requirements for third-party providers; and
(B) make any adjustments considered necessary by the Secretary to improve participation.
The Secretary may include as activities eligible for payments to a third-party provider—
(i) technical services provided directly to eligible participants, such as conservation planning, education and outreach, and assistance with design and implementation of conservation practices; and
(ii) related technical assistance services that accelerate conservation program delivery.
The Secretary shall not designate as an activity eligible for payments to a third-party provider any service that is provided by a business, or equivalent, in connection with conducting business and that is customarily provided at no cost.
The Secretary shall establish fair and reasonable amounts of payments for technical services provided by third-party providers.
In carrying out the programs under this chapter and the agricultural management assistance program under section 1524 of title 7, the Secretary shall make technical services available to all eligible participants who are installing an eligible practice.
In any case in which financial assistance is not provided under a program referred to in paragraph (1), the Secretary may enter into a technical service contract with the eligible participant for the purposes of assisting in the planning, design, or installation of an eligible practice.
The Secretary shall—
(A) not later than 1 year after December 20, 2018, complete a review of each conservation practice standard, including engineering design specifications, in effect on the day before December 20, 2018;
(B) ensure, to the maximum extent practicable, the completeness and relevance of the standards to local agricultural, forestry, and natural resource needs, including specialty crops, native and managed pollinators, bioenergy crop production, forestry, and such other needs as are determined by the Secretary;
(C) ensure that the standards provide for the optimal balance between meeting site-specific conservation needs and minimizing risks of design failure and associated costs of construction and installation; and
(D) evaluate opportunities to increase flexibility in conservation practice standards in a manner that ensures equivalent natural resource benefits.
In conducting the review under paragraph (1), the Secretary shall consult with eligible participants, State technical committees established under section 3861(a) of this title, crop consultants, cooperative extension and land grant universities, nongovernmental organizations, and other qualified entities.
Not later than 1 year after December 20, 2018, the Secretary shall develop for the programs under this chapter an administrative process for—
(A) expediting the establishment and revision of conservation practice standards;
(B) considering conservation innovations and scientific and technological advancements with respect to any establishment or revision under subparagraph (A);
(C) allowing local flexibility in the creation of—
(i) interim practice standards and supplements to existing practice standards to address the considerations described in subparagraph (B); and
(ii) partnership-led proposals for new and innovative techniques to facilitate implementing agreements and grants under this title; and
(D) soliciting regular input from State technical committees established under section 3861(a) of this title for recommendations that identify innovations or advancements described in subparagraph (B).
Not later than 2 years after December 20, 2018, and every 2 years thereafter, the Secretary shall submit to Congress a report on—
(A) the administrative process developed under paragraph (3);
(B) conservation practice standards that were established or revised under that process; and
(C) conservation innovations that were considered under that process.
The Secretary shall—
(A) to the maximum extent practicable, fully incorporate specialty crop production, organic crop production, and precision agriculture into the conservation practice standards; and
(B) provide for the appropriate range of conservation practices and resource mitigation measures available to producers involved with organic or specialty crop production or precision agriculture.
The Secretary shall ensure that adequate technical assistance is available for the implementation of conservation practices by producers involved with organic, specialty crop production, or precision agriculture through Federal conservation programs.
In carrying out subparagraph (A), the Secretary shall develop—
(i) programs that meet specific needs of producers involved with organic, specialty crop production or precision agriculture through cooperative agreements with other agencies and nongovernmental organizations; and
(ii) program specifications that allow for innovative approaches to engage local resources in providing technical assistance for planning and implementation of conservation practices.
(Pub. L. 99–198, title XII, §1242, as added Pub. L. 107–171, title II, §2701, May 13, 2002, 116 Stat. 279; amended Pub. L. 110–234, title II, §2706, May 22, 2008, 122 Stat. 1074; Pub. L. 110–246, §4(a), title II, §2706, June 18, 2008, 122 Stat. 1664, 1802; Pub. L. 113–79, title II, §2713(c), Feb. 7, 2014, 128 Stat. 772; Pub. L. 115–334, title II, §§2502, 2821(e), Dec. 20, 2018, 132 Stat. 4579, 4603.)
This chapter, referred to in subsecs. (a)(1), (c), (d), (g)(1), and (h)(3), was in the original "this title", meaning title XII of Pub. L. 99–198, which enacted this chapter and former section 2005a of this title and amended sections 590g, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2009 of this title, sections 4207 and 4209 of Title 7, Agriculture, and provisions set out as a note under section 1981 of Title 7.
The date of the enactment of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, referred to in subsecs. (e)(2) and (f)(3), is the date of enactment of Pub. L. 110–246, which was approved June 18, 2008.
Pub. L. 110–234 and Pub. L. 110–246 made identical amendments to this section. The amendments by Pub. L. 110–234 were repealed by section 4(a) of Pub. L. 110–246.
Section 2701 of Pub. L. 107–171, which directed that subtitle E of the Food Security Act of 1985 be amended by striking section 1242 and adding a new section 1242 (this section), was executed by striking section 1242 of subtitle E of title XII of the Food Security Act of 1985 and adding the new section 1242 in lieu thereof, to reflect the probable intent of Congress.
A prior section 3842, Pub. L. 99–198, title XII, §1242, as added Pub. L. 104–127, title III, §341, Apr. 4, 1996, 110 Stat. 1008, related to use of other agencies, prior to repeal by Pub. L. 107–171, title II, §2701, May 13, 2002, 116 Stat. 278. See Codification note above.
Another prior section 3842, Pub. L. 99–198, title XII, §1242, Dec. 23, 1985, 99 Stat. 1515, related to use of other agencies, prior to the general amendment of this subchapter by Pub. L. 104–127.
2018—Subsec. (a). Pub. L. 115–334, §2502(a), amended subsec. (a) generally. Prior to amendment, text read as follows: "In this section, the term 'eligible participant' means a producer, landowner, or entity that is participating in, or seeking to participate in, programs for which the producer, landowner, or entity is otherwise eligible to participate in under this chapter or the agricultural management assistance program under section 1524 of title 7."
Subsec. (e)(3)(B). Pub. L. 115–334, §2821(e), substituted "third-party" for "third party".
Subsec. (e)(4), (5). Pub. L. 115–334, §2502(b), added pars. (4) and (5).
Subsec. (f)(4). Pub. L. 115–334, §2821(e), substituted "third-party" for "third party" in subpars. (A) and (B).
Subsec. (h)(1)(A). Pub. L. 115–334, §2502(c)(1)(A), added subpar. (A) and struck out former subpar. (A) which read as follows: "review conservation practice standards, including engineering design specifications, in effect on the date of the enactment of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008;".
Subsec. (h)(1)(D). Pub. L. 115–334, §2502(c)(1)(B)–(D), added subpar. (D).
Subsec. (h)(2). Pub. L. 115–334, §2502(c)(2), inserted "State technical committees established under section 3861(a) of this title," before "crop consultants,".
Subsec. (h)(3), (4). Pub. L. 115–334, §2502(c)(3), added pars. (3) and (4) and struck out former par. (3). Prior to amendment, text of par. (3) read as follows: "If the Secretary determines under paragraph (1) that revisions to the conservation practice standards, including engineering design specifications, are necessary, the Secretary shall establish an administrative process for expediting the revisions."
2014—Subsec. (i). Pub. L. 113–79 substituted "specialty" for "speciality" in heading.
2008—Pub. L. 110–246, §2706, amended section generally. Prior to amendment, section related to: in subsec. (a), provision of technical assistance to an eligible producer directly or through an approved third party; and, in subsec. (b), establishment of a system to certify third-party providers, transition provisions for persons that had provided assistance before May 13, 2002, and cooperative agreements or contracts with non-Federal entities.
Amendment of this section and repeal of Pub. L. 110–234 by Pub. L. 110–246 effective May 22, 2008, the date of enactment of Pub. L. 110–234, see section 4 of Pub. L. 110–246, set out as an Effective Date note under section 8701 of Title 7, Agriculture.