Baird Leads Effort to Address TSP Shortages and Roadblocks
Washington, May 3, 2023
Washington, D.C.— Today, Conservation, Research, and Biotechnology Subcommittee Chairman, Jim Baird (IN-04), Ranking Member Abigail Spanberger (VA-07), and Senators Mike Braun (R-IN), Roger Marshall (R-KS), and Michael Bennet (D- CO) introduced the bipartisan, bicameral Increased TSP Access Act of 2023 to address Technical Service Provider (TSP) shortages.
“In order for our farmers and ranchers to continue their vital conservation efforts, we need to make sure they have access to the best information and expertise available,” said Congressman Baird. “By introducing legislation that directs USDA to establish a streamlined certification process for Technical Service Provider (TSPs) who hold appropriate specialty certifications, we can ensure rapid response times for our producers and address TSP shortages just as the 2018 Farm Bill intended.”
“As the only Virginian on the House Agriculture Committee, I’ve had many conversations with our Commonwealth’s crop and livestock producers about challenges caused by staffing shortages and burdensome requirements at NRCS. This massive workforce issue is having real effects on the ground — and it’s slowing down the ability of Virginia producers to make smart management plans for their land,” said Congresswoman Spanberger. “That’s why I’m proud to help lead the bipartisan Increased TSP Access Act. By cutting red tape, streamlining some of USDA’s bureaucracy, and prioritizing timely certification for these jobs, we can help more producers take advantage of voluntary conservation programs.”
“Our nation’s farmers and ranchers play a critical role in conservation, so it is important that they have access to Technical Service Providers (TSPs) who help fill the gaps in technical assistance when it comes to implementing conservation programs,” said Senator Braun. “I’m proud to lead this legislation that will streamline the TSP certification process to support our producers and improve conservation outcomes.”
“Increasing the amount of Technical Service Providers (TSP) for the Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) was a key part of legislation that I introduced last fall to help the domestic fertilizer industry,” said Senator Marshall. “I’m happy to partner with Senators Braun and Bennet on this commonsense approach that moves us towards our goal by cutting red tape that’s holding back farm participation in NRCS programs. Certified Crop Advisors and other similar professionals are already equipped with the skills necessary to help farmers and ranchers reach a variety of conservation goals. Establishing an expedited pathway to deliver conservation goals, especially as it relates to nutrient management plans, is the free-market answer to increasing agriculture-friendly conservation efforts.”
“As Colorado faces a future that’s going to be a lot hotter and a lot drier, we need to make it easier to access USDA conservation programs. But crippling red tape and understaffing at the NRCS make these programs too rigid and time-consuming for many Coloradans to apply to,” said Senator Bennet. “The future of rural America depends on whether the next generation decides to continue their family farms and ranches – and to protect that future, the Increased TSP Access Act makes assistance more accessible and helps conservation programs live up to their potential.”
TSPs are vitally important as they help farmers and producers access USDA conservation programs through granular, one-on-one assistance. For example, TSPs can help producers to develop grazing management plans, nutrient management plans, and sustainable forestry plans. They can also help producers increase their operation’s irrigation efficiency.
In January 2023, NRCS Chief Terry Cosby projected that the agency will need to hire between 3,000 and 4,000 employees over the next two years to implement USDA conservation programs and provide necessary technical assistance. Further, just last year, USDA was given the authority to hire 1,500 new employees and only retained 500.
The 2018 Farm Bill did include language that would allow USDA to approve non-Federal entities to certify TSPs. Unfortunately, the language did not include clear deadlines for USDA to set up its non-Federal certification process and also lacked guardrails to ensure that Congressional intent was implemented in a timely manner. As a result, this language was never fully implemented by USDA.
The Increased TSP Access Act would address the TSP shortage by expanding on the framework first envisioned in the 2018 Farm Bill.