Conservation Transaction Plug-In (CTP) Tool Overview March 23 & 25, 2010. Tim Pilkowski State Conservation Agronomist Annapolis, MD. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. Introduction - NRCS.
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State Conservation Agronomist
USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) delivers conservation planning and program services through a network of Service Centers located throughout the country. Customer information and conservation plans are managed in a corporate database, called the National Conservation Planning (NCP) Database.
NRCS employees use the agencies Customer Service Toolkit (Toolkit) application to service customers conservation plans in the NCP. The Toolkit is internal to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) network and cannot be used outside the USDA system.
NRCS administered programs provide for the use of a private-sector Technical Service Provider (TSP) to deliver program services to agency customers.
These TSPs must be registered with NRCS through the TechReg web site, but are not connected to the USDA network and consequently are unable to use the NRCS Toolkit to access and service customer NCP folders.
The Conservation Transaction Plug-In (Plug-In) is a tool to help streamline the process of third party conservation planning.
The Conservation Transaction Plug-In (Plug-In) application allows TSPs to check out a NRCS program participant’s NCP database folder and check in a new or updated conservation plan from outside the USDA network.
By allowing TSPs to check plans directly into NCP, NRCS staff will not need to manually input TSP planned practices into Toolkit for later program funding.
The use of the plug-in does not change any rules or policies pertaining to NRCS programs or progress reporting, as it is only another option for transferring material (documents and data) from a third party planner to NRCS.
The Plug-In Application allows TSPs with proper permission behind the USDA firewall.
Transaction Partners allow access through the USDA firewall based on a Interconnectivity Security Agreement (ISA).
The transaction partner will provide support services for issues outside of the USDA firewall.
Security is an extremely important aspect of data sharing with TSPs. To address the security needs, the following measures will be incorporated:
NRCS has contracted with GeoAgro, a Florida-based software developer, to provide initial transaction handler services for the Plug-In application through their planning software, C-Planner.
TSPs or NRCS cooperators purchase this software containing the Plug-In application from the commercial partner, and with a USDA e-Authentication account and proper permissions, obtain access to authorized folders and records in the NCP to view and update as necessary.
TSPs will purchase a subscription to utilize GeoAgro’s services. Note: GeoAgro has indicated that they will not be charging fees for their service during the initial rollout of the Plug-In application.
GeoAgro will provide planning software (C-Planner) to the TSP and the ability to transfer information to and from the NRCS NCP.
GeoAgro will also provide service call support for issues outside of the USDA network.
Setting up an eAuthentication account
The TSP will complete a level 2 user profile on line.
The TSP will visit a USDA Service Center and present approved form of identification to the Local Registration Authority (LRA) for authentication of identity.
The TSP will activate the user profile account, using a 9 character password, within 7 days after email confirmation from USDA.
Note: This is the same process for all non-employees needing access to USDA applications.
A new form (NRCS-CPA-70) is available for producers to specify and approve access to their conservation information by a TSP; and act as their agent. The TSP will only have access to the specific folders and plans authorized by the participant.
The program participant will need to work with the NRCS field staff to fill out the form because specific folder and plan names will be needed.
The date that the permission expires will be entered on the form by the participant. Access will expire automatically after a period of (1 year).
All owners and operators who have interest in the land specified on the form will need to sign a permissions form.
The form will be posted on the TSP web site.
NRCS-CPA-70 Permission to Access Program Participant NRCS NCP Database Information For TSPs
The TSP will be able to utilize the GeoAgro product, C-Planner, to access the NRCS participant folder and create a conservation plan.
When the plan has been completed, the TSP will check the plan back into the NCP.
If the program participant has never worked with NRCS in the past, such as a forestry applicant, a customer folder may not be available in the NCP.
In this case, the NRCS field office will need to create a new customer folder and pre-populate it with geospatial boundaries since the TSP will not have access to the Farm Services Agency (FSA) Common Land Unit (CLU) layer. Fields will also need to be attributed.
While the TSP has the participants folder checked out, the folder will be locked and nobody else will be able to utilize that folder, including NRCS personnel.
When a TSP checks a folder back into the database, a status code of “Pending Review” will automatically attach to the plan.
This is an indicator to the NRCS staff that a plan has been submitted by a TSP and a staff member needs to look it over in Toolkit.
The TSP is notified that the plan is approved or needs more work and sets the appropriate status code.
Modifying Information in NCP by TSP’s NCP Database Information For TSPs
It is likely that TSPs will occasionally ask NRCS about modifying information such as land unit boundaries and acres, practice narratives or practice codes.
These situations will need to be handled on a case by case basis at the field office and State level. Good communication between the TSP and NRCS will be necessary to make sure everybody understands the request and any decisions made regarding the request.
Land unit boundary changes will probably be very common, especially when dealing with forested or other land uses not well defined in most Common Land Unit (CLU) layers, and can be accomplished by discussions between the TSP and NRCS Field Staff.
Practice codes and narratives are developed for use over large geographic areas at the National and State level and are less likely to be changed or modified for local needs. Use established NRCS processes for making such changes when warranted.