University's CNMP Certification Program Goes National

KNOXVILLE, TN (4/11/03) -The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced a cooperative partnership with the University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service that will offer producers options in developing their comprehensive nutrient management plans. This is USDA's first agreement that recognizes a university's comprehensive nutrient management plan certification program as a source for technical service providers.

USDA and UT signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) at a ceremony held April 9 USDA headquarters in Washington D.C. The signatories were Bruce Knight, chief, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service; Dr. Jack Britt, vice president, University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture; Dr. Charles Norman, dean, UT Agricultural Extension Service; and Dr. Robert T. Burns, designated technical leader, UT Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP) Certification Program.

The 2002 Farm Bill expanded the availability of technical assistance to private landowners by encouraging the use of third parties-called technical service providers-to assist USDA in delivering conservation technical assistance services to farmers, ranchers and others.

Comprehensive nutrient management plans are required to be prepared by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, or a certified third Technical Service Provider (TSP). Due to the expected number of CNMPs to be written, third party TSPs are expected to play a vital role in the development of the plans. As such it is important that an adequate number of third party TSPs recognized by NRCS are available to producers to meet this need. The MOU will allow specialist certified by the UT program to provide service nationally. UT is the only university in the nation to have a third party TSP CNMP Certified Specialist program in place that meets the all of the national NRCS Conservation Planning Policy requirements.

UT's certification program is considered by NRCS as a model program in the nation. "We have trained people from 27 states and 6 countries in comprehensive nutrient management planning, said Robert Burns, the technical leader of the UT program. "The authority to administer these programs was developed at the state level," he said. "This MOU will allow the recognition of UT certified CNMP providers nationally. People who are certified through our program can work in any state in the nation, provided they comply with any local regulations."

The three-year agreement allows UT to recommend certified nutrient management specialists in the manure and wastewater handling and storage, nutrient management and land treatment practices element areas as USDA technical service providers. These providers must perform work that meets USDA standards and specifications for effective nutrient management.

"We recognize the value of the award-winning CNMP program offered by one of our nation's land grant universities," Knight said. "By making UT-Extension a certifying organization, we will ensure producers who need conservation assistance can choose from a cadre of top-notched experts."

The UT certified specialists will be placed on a national, web-based registry called TechReg that is available to landowners, farmers, ranchers and others seeking conservation technical assistance.

Additional information on technical service provider assistance is available at http://techreg.usda.gov. Information on the 2002 Farm Bill can be found at http://www.usda.gov/farmbill. Information about the UT program can be found directly at http://WasteMgmt.ag.utk.edu.