Protecting natural resources is a priority for many landowners. USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is establishing three new national technology support centers and three remote sensing laboratories to assist producers do just that.
The facilities, located in North Carolina, Oregon and Texas, will develop conservation technological tools to help landowners protect their natural resources.
The East National Technology Support Center and East Remote Sensing Laboratory are located in Greensboro, N.C., near North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (North Carolina A&T). The Central National Technology Support Center and Central Remote Sensing Laboratory are located in Fort Worth, Texas, and the West National Technology Support Center and West Remote Sensing Laboratory are located in Portland, Ore.
The ribbon cutting ceremony held on Monday officially opened the East facilities. A second ribbon cutting ceremony will be held Sept. 21, 2004, in Fort Worth and a third on Sept. 24, 2004, in Portland.
"NRCS will use these centers and labs to develop technological tools to help landowners protect their natural resources and still maintain an economically viable operation," NRCS Chief Bruce Knight says. "Lab and center employees will develop new technologies, refine existing technologies and train our field employees to help landowners make the best use of their natural resources."
During the Greensboro event, NRCS also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with North Carolina A&T that will strengthen and expand a long-standing partnership to share resources. The East National Technology Support Center, located in proximity to North Carolina A&T, is the only site that will be located permanently on a university campus. Paul Gutierrez, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, also spoke at this event about the importance of maintaining a strong relationship with North Carolina A&T by opening the new center close to campus and signing the MOU.
The three centers are staffed with an estimated 150 specialists who will develop innovative conservation technology and increase the effectiveness of existing technologies to help NRCS offices nationwide. NRCS professionals help landowners and communities use conservation practices effectively and manage their natural resources wisely. These specialists will develop cost-effective solutions for producers that best fit their operations and help them meet their environmental and natural resource goals. The specialists also will focus on the needs of small and limited resource farmers.
In addition, each center will lead technological advances and have national responsibilities in three specialized areas. The East center is responsible for animal waste utilization, social sciences and soil quality. The Central center is responsible for grazing lands, wildlife and wetlands. The West center is responsible for bioenergy, water quality and quantity, and air quality and atmospheric change.
The remote sensing labs will provide technical direction for NRCSâ€™ National Resources Inventory (NRI) data collection activities. NRI provides comprehensive and statistically reliable information on various natural resource conditions and trends on non-federal lands. These labs will use a small permanent staff and contractors to complete photo interpretations and other tasks connected to the NRI data collection process.
The East center and remote sensing lab will serve the Caribbean Area and 24 states. The Central center and remote sensing lab will serve 13 states. The West center and remote sensing lab will serve the Pacific Basin and 13 states.