Farm Planning

This page can provide you with the information, tools, and templates you need to start and continue planning. If you can't find something, then Ask an Expert! They can help answer any questions you may have.

Farm Planner Training

New to farm planning, or want to up your expertise? Here are the recommended trainings and opportunities to get you started and advancing:

  • Meet the NRCS Planner Designation requirements for the Apprentice/Level 1 and/or Certified/Level 2. This will help set your base understanding of resource concerns evaluation and planning assessment process.

  • NRCS Conservation Planning, Part 2 - This is the second section of the three part Conservation Planning series that encompasses a book learning (AgLearn Part 1), hands-on classroom (Part 2), and planning (Part 3) portion to build your general planning foundation.

  • NRCS Conservation Planning, Part 3 - This is the final section of the three part Conservation Planning series in which you work with a mentor to write a full Resource Management Plan (RMS) specific to your planning discipline. Once you complete this section you receive your Conservation Planner certificate and can begin to plan on your own.

  • Farm Planner Certification - Once you have your planning base and start working in your field, it is time to work towards your CTD Planner Certification to verify your expertise and help you create a training plan on getting to the next planning level.

Farm Plan Types and Templates

There are different types of plans as you move through the complexity of the planning process. You might work through one or all of the steps with a landowner. Below we define the primary plan types - Correspondence, Technical Assistance Letter, Conservation Plan, and Plan Update - and give you examples of each.

Correspondence

Definition: Communication back and forth with a landowner

Activities/Detail: Cooperator asks a question and an answer is provided; educational materials provided to cooperator; communication back and forth, but no plan provided; no formal documentation of work recorded except P&I (Planning and Implementation) notes if appropriate. This process of correspondence may be used to filter individual into the next step if resource concerns are identified and cooperator indicates willingness to proceed with planning process.

Technical Assistance Letter

Definition: Formal letter provided to cooperator with guidance and information relative to their site, activities, and/or resource concerns.

Activities/DetaiI: Initial research and/or site visit reveal no or limited resource concerns existing on site. Perform a site visit with assessment checklist; identify issues on farm with cooperator and identify pathways to fix (may be informal and not require NRCS Specs); may be asking for formal plan, but low or no resource concerns identified by planner. TA letter can outline action plan and timeline, but indicates less commitment on the side of the cooperator. Serves as a "reminder" to cooperator of discussion and recommendations. Responsibility of cooperator to follow up and request assistance. Planner may follow up to check in if have not heard from cooperator, but not required. Document with P&I notes, and paper and electronic files of any map sets created, research done, or written correspondence with cooperator.

Conservation Plan

Definition: There are three primary plan types: Practice plan, Comprehensive plan, and NRCS plan. The one you choose will depend on the site complexity, regulatory requirements, and/or if it is for participation in an NRCS program. Is some cases, you

may have two plans for a site.

Activities/Detail: All conservation plan types have these initial steps in common:

• Process follows NRCS 9-steps of planning.

• Initial site visit and resources assessment. Provide landowner with a copy of site assessment checklist and educational materials (as applicable).

• Utilize applicable tools to assess resource concerns.

• Create plan, including site map, to provide to landowner documenting resource concerns and methods/practices recommend to address issues.

• Formally document with P&l notes and file all paper and/or electronic notes, plan, and information.

• Schedule and conduct plan delivery visit. Present farm practices plan map, record of decisions/action plan, and educational resources. Agree on any changes to practices map or record of decisions/action plan. Follow up with revisions if landowner requests changes, as well as offer another site visit and/or correspondence to support implementation.

Plan Update

Definition: An update of any part of a plan based on a change in operation or management of the farm.

Activities/Detail: Triggered by changes in livestock number or type, addition or subtraction of land base while retaining some similar acreage to original plan, addition of new practices, address new resource issue; or enhancement for something like a permit. Add updated farm practices map and amendment form. Site visit with cooperator to conduct inventory of new circumstances, and plan delivery visit to present new documentation and educational materials. If there is a change in owner, or a complete change in land base, this triggers creation of a new conservation plan.


Conservation Plan Types

Practice Plan

Definition: A simple conservation farm plan that may not address all resource concerns identified, but provides a Record of Decisions on how the cooperator will implement mutually approved management practices to address issues identified on farm.

Activities/Detail: See steps above, plus... Action Plan/Record of Decisions (ROD) may not address ALL resource issues identified. Cooperator commitment and engagement is lower and is focused on a few specific management practices. May be related to a specific cost share program or funding stream; practices recommended do no need to meet NRCS standards but must effectively address resource concern(s). Adaptive management recommended, but not required.

Comprehensive Plan

Definition: A complete conservation farm plan that address all resource concerns identified with a Record of Decisions and timeline of NRCS practice implementation to achieve resource protection goals.

Activities/Detail: See steps above, plus... Step above Practice Plan; there is a triggering factor for this plan type such as a referral, regulations, cost-share requirements, critical areas, NRCS or Technical Service Provider (TSP) program requirements, high number of resource concerns identified, higher intensity or impact of farm due to size, and/or potential impact to resources. Plan address all resource concern issues identified. Include job sheets for practices. Record of Decision (ROD) includes timeline for addressing all concerns. Plan is approved and/or certified by Board.

NRCS Plan

Definition: An NRCS approved plan including, but not limited to, an NMP, CNMP, or RMS plan. All resource concerns are identified, evaluated, and addressed using NRCS Practice Standards.

Activities/Detail: See steps above, plus... Required for participation in an NRCS program. Include completed CPA-52 and all relevant assessment tools. Follows NRCS Resource Management System (RMS) planning process. Use comprehensive assessment tools and planning process and include Record of Decisions, alternatives, and timeline of activities. Prescribed practices must meet all standards described in eFOTG. Plan is approved and/or certified by NRCS.

Farm Planning Resources

Farm plan templates and planning tools

Resources

The links below will lead you to a variety of tools and resources helpful for planning. This list is not exhaustive. If you have a tool or page you use for planning, let us know and we can add it to the list.

Who to Contact

Who do you contact for more help or technical assistance? Email info@wactd.org or find your person below.

Farm Planning State Lead - For general questions or more information about the content on this page or farm planning, contact the state planning lead.

"Ask an Expert" Farm Planning - Send in any question you have (no, there are no stupid questions) and an expert will get back to you asap.

Individual Planners and Mentors - call anyone of these folks for a quick question or a longer conversation on farm planning.

Area Engineers - provide assistance with practice design and construction.