The term “eligible participant” means a producer, landowner, or entity that is participating in, or seeking to participate in, programs in which the producer, landowner, or entity is otherwise eligible to participate under this chapter or the agricultural management assistance program under section 1524(b) of title 7.
The term “third-party provider” means a commercial entity (including a farmer cooperative, agriculture retailer, or other commercial entity (as defined by the Secretary)), a nonprofit entity, a State or local government (including a conservation district), or a Federal agency, that has expertise in the technical aspect of conservation planning, including nutrient management planning, watershed planning, or environmental engineering.
The purpose of technical assistance authorized by this section is to provide eligible participants with consistent, science-based, site-specific practices designed to achieve conservation objectives on land active in agricultural, forestry, or related uses.
The Secretary may request the services of, and enter into cooperative agreements or contracts with, other agencies within the Department or non-Federal entities to assist the Secretary in providing technical assistance necessary to assist in implementing conservation programs under this chapter.
Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, the Secretary shall promulgate such regulations as are necessary to carry out this section.
The Secretary shall provide a streamlined certification process for a third-party provider that has an appropriate specialty certification, including a sustainability certification.
Effective for fiscal year 2008 and each subsequent fiscal year, funds of the Commodity Credit Corporation made available to carry out technical assistance for each of the programs specified in section 3841 of this title shall be available for the provision of technical assistance from third-party providers under this section.
The Secretary shall not designate as an activity eligible for payments to a third-party provider any service that is provided by a business, or equivalent, in connection with conducting business and that is customarily provided at no cost.
The Secretary shall establish fair and reasonable amounts of payments for technical services provided by third-party providers.
In any case in which financial assistance is not provided under a program referred to in paragraph (1), the Secretary may enter into a technical service contract with the eligible participant for the purposes of assisting in the planning, design, or installation of an eligible practice.
In conducting the review under paragraph (1), the Secretary shall consult with eligible participants, State technical committees established under section 3861(a) of this title, crop consultants, cooperative extension and land grant universities, nongovernmental organizations, and other qualified entities.
The Secretary shall ensure that adequate technical assistance is available for the implementation of conservation practices by producers involved with organic, specialty crop production, or precision agriculture through Federal conservation programs.