Just as many people can access their health records and banking records online, farmers and ranchers can save time and miles by doing some conservation business online. Landowners and operators can track payments, report completed practices, request conservation assistance, and electronically sign documents through a secure web portal.
“The online option, called Conservation Client Gateway, is especially helpful to people, especially those who have to drive a long way to the office, or any farmer who catches up on bookwork in evenings and weekends, or even for landowners who live outside the county or in another state,” says Brandon Walter, a conservationist with NRCS in Burke, South Dakota.
“NRCS staff will still be available in field offices to work with you face-to-face as we always have—this online tool just provides another option for you,” Walter says.
“The remote signature appeals most to me,” says South Dakota farmer Austin Gross. “I have a friend who lives in Sully County but has farm and rangeland more than 100 miles away near near Dupree. It’s common these days that anyone purchasing ground will be farming far from home. Just traveling to the NRCS office and back can take a good part of your day—that’s time you don’t have when you’re busy farming.” Gross likes the fact that you can sign on any time of day. He says the online service is a good secondary tool, to use when you need it.
“It’s available 24/7, and a real time-saver,” says Iowa farmer Tim Palmer, who helped test the software two years ago and was the first farmer to log onto Client Gateway when it opened in May of 2015. Palmer, a board member of his local conservation district and now first vice-president of the National Association of Conservation Districts, volunteered to advise the software development team from a producer view.
Time saving convenience
“I just kept pointing out the process needed to be simple and easy to follow,” Palmer says. “I think they did pretty well on that. What I like most about the online gateway is the time savings and convenience of working with NRCS, from wherever I happen to be. I’ve learned your conservation plan is never finished. If I’m planting corn late in the day and see a problem, I can just make a note of where the problem is, and then later that night put the note into gateway to request help from the NRCS. I know they’ll follow up with me after planting season.”
Palmer agrees the e-signature technology is handy. “It makes frugal use of both my time and NRCS time,” Palmer says. “I think it could be a big benefit to absentee landowners who live out of county or out of state, too.”
You can sign up for Conservation Client Gateway from your computer at any time. Go to www.NRCS.USDA.gov and look for Conservation Client Gateway. You’ll need a valid email address, and an eAuthentication account. It took me 25 minutes to sign up, take a quick look at my plan, soil maps, field numbers, conservation practices applied, etc. If you have trouble gaining access, NRCS suggests you contact your local NRCS office and have them help you sign up.