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USDA creates new science-based laboratories

USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service Chief Bruce Knight has announced the establishment of three new national technology support centers and three remote sensing laboratories as part of an agency reorganization. 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.

“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,” Knight said. “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.”

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 NRCS' 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.

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