Toledo NRCS office announces field office staff

TOLEDO, IA, June 30, 2020 — USDA’s primary private lands conservation agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), began reorganizing its Iowa field offices at USDA Service Centers in March. These changes affected staffing at the USDA Service Center in Toledo.

Kurt Simon, State Conservationist for NRCS in Iowa, says the statewide changes will help improve customer service and allow for flexibility to manage workload. NRCS employs more than 460 Federal employees in Iowa at 100 field offices, four area offices and the state office in Des Moines. These positions include district and soil conservationists, engineers, biologists, agronomists, technicians and various administrative jobs. The reorganization will not require a reduction in staff or employees to relocate outside of their local commuting area.

Some key points about the new structure:

• One District Conservationist for every field office. Two-thirds of Iowa offices were part of Shared Management Units in which the District Conservationist, who manages the NRCS office, traveled between offices. That structure left only 34 of the 100 offices with a fulltime District Conservationist. Once the reorganization is fully staffed, Iowa NRCS will have a full time District Conservationist in each field office. In Toledo, Larry Jones remains NRCS District Conservationist and has served NRCS there since 2003.

• Resource Teams will cover four-county areas. Most NRCS field office employees will be on Resource Teams that cover four-county areas. The number of employees on each team will vary according to the workload in each area. The Resource Team members serving Tama County will eventually be housed together in a selected USDA Service Center in Vinton, Iowa. State and area office staff will be less affected by the changes.

• Partner staff will continue working in their coverage areas. In addition to NRCS federal employees, there are approximately 300 partner employees working in Iowa’s field offices, working alongside the federal employees to serve customers at the local level. Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS), Pheasants Forever (PF), Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) and other conservation partners stationed in NRCS offices will continue to cover the same areas. A familiar face still in the Toledo office is Melody Bro. Having served prior in technical areas, she now serves as the office’s IDALS secretarial staff. Also on the Toledo staff is Tama SWCD summer intern Ashley Armstrong. She is currently a student at Hawkeye Community College and plans to transfer to Iowa State University this January, majoring in Agronomy.

Full time soil conservationists are also being placed in many Iowa field offices, including Toledo’s. Michele Crumrine began her duties in Tama County on June 8.

Michele began her resources career path in Montana, where she studied Forestry and Soil Science. Summer jobs included as a biological aide for the US Forest Service and as an intern with the Soil Conservation Service. A master’s degree in teaching led to 12 years in education, with the last eight at Marshalltown High School.

About her new position with NRCS, Michele says, “I am so excited and thankful for the opportunity to return to my fascination with the environment and our interactions with it. I look forward to applying my knowledge of soil and water conservation to the farming landscape.”

When Simon began his Iowa tenure in 2015, a common theme from conservation partners and customers was a lack of daily NRCS visibility from District Conservationists in NRCS offices. “We want the District Conservationists to be the ‘face’ of the office,” he said. “This new structure will allow our District Conservationists to focus their time in one county.”

Another benefit of the new structure is added workload flexibility, said Simon. “In just the last two years we have dealt with drought in Southeast Iowa and flooding in many parts of the state. We feel in our new structure we will be better prepared to ‘triage’ people within our teams to locations and more easily shift workload in emergency situations,” he said.

Simon said the reorganization took a few years to plan. “Members of our staff visited several states to study their organizational structures,” he said. “Eventually, we decided on a plan that we feel best suits our staff and our customers.”

For more information about the NRCS reorganization in Iowa, visit https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/ia/about/f5dcc0c4-7576-4349-97f6-b39cf2c6053d/.