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NCAT Webinar Series: Federal Assistance for Natural Resource Conservation on Working Lands

October 8, 2020 @ 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm

Webinar Series Explains Access to Federal Assistance for Natural Resource Conservation on Working Lands

Webinar Part 1: The Overview – Thursday, September 17

Webinar Part 2: The Process – Thursday, September 24

Webinar Part 3: Deep Dive – Thursday, October 8

This is a webinar series supported by the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) and its ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture Program.

Farmers and ranchers nationwide will have access to billions of dollars in federal assistance through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources

Conservation Service (NRCS) to maintain and begin critical conservation efforts on their farms and ranches that benefit us all. How is access to these resources determined?

In 2020 a new tool called the Conservation Assessment Ranking Tool (CART) was introduced by NRCS. It uses a conservation program neutral method to assess the existing condition and planned conservation activities on a client’s operation and provides an efficient ranking tool to rank single applications into multiple applicable ranking pools for funding consideration. A three-part webinar series on CART will take place during September and October to provide interested farmers and ranchers with an overview of the tool, as well as a deeper look into how it works.


  • Aaron Lauster, Conservation Planning Branch Chief, NRCS
  • Eric McTaggart, Natural Resources Specialist, NRCS


  • Jeff Schahczenski, Agricultural and Natural Resources Economist, NCAT

Webinar 1: Conservation Assessment Ranking Tool (CART): Overview

  • Thursday, September 17, 1:30 p.m. EDT
  • Presented by: Aaron Lauster, Conservation Planning Branch Chief, NRCS
  • This webinar is intended to give farmers and ranchers a basic understanding and familiarity with CART, including how CART can be used to evaluate their operations for conservation assistance and funding consideration, and how they can request an assessment.
  • Register for Part 1 here: https://attra.ncat.org/cart-part-1/

Webinar 2: Conservation Assessment Ranking Tool (CART): The Process

  • Thursday, September 24, 3:00 p.m. EDT
  • Presented by: Eric McTaggart, Natural Resources Specialist, NRCS, and Aaron Lauster, Conservation Planning Branch Chief, NRCS
  • This webinar will walk through an example of a farmer or rancher who is interested in applying for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) with NRCS. It will start with completing a CART assessment on the client’s operation and then explain how that application is considered for funding.
  • Register for Part 2 here: https://attra.ncat.org/cart-part-2/

Webinar 3: Conservation Assessment Ranking Tool (CART): Deep Dive

  • Thursday, October 8, 2:00 p.m. EDT
  • Presented by: Aaron Lauster, Conservation Planning Branch Chief, NRCS, and Eric McTaggart, Natural Resources Specialist, NRCS
  • This webinar will build on the previous two by taking a deeper look at the science behind CART and the methodology the ranking tool uses to rank different applications across multiple ranking pools for funding consideration.
  • Register for Part 3 here: https://attra.ncat.org/cart-part-3/

All three webinars will be recorded and posted online at a later date.

About the Presenters:

Aaron Lauster, Conservation Planning Branch Chief, NRCS
Aaron has worked the last two years leading the development of CART. Prior to working on CART, Aaron was the National Sustainable Agriculture Lead at NRCS

and led development of the Resource Stewardship Evaluation Tool (RSET). Aaron has worked with the Department of Commerce as the Senior Conservation Policy Advisor for the RESTORE Council and lead writer for the development of the Comprehensive Plan for Restoring the Gulf Coast’s Ecosystem and Economy. He has provided leadership on a number of national initiatives including the Air Quality Initiative, Organic Initiative, Mississippi River Healthy Watershed Initiative, Sage Grouse Initiative, and Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Aaron was previously an NRCS Area Conservationist in Michigan and a District Conservationist in Indiana. He also has experience with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and Astbury Environmental Consulting and Private Forestry Consulting.

Eric McTaggart, Natural Resource Specialist, NRCS
Eric McTaggart has worked for NRCS since 2002.  He began his career as an intern in his home county of Iroquois County, Illinois, and began his full-time career with

NRCS in 2003 as a Soil Conservationist.  From 2005 to 2018, he served in multiple counties throughout Illinois as a District Conservationist. He also successfully implemented the Indian Creek Watershed project and the Headwaters of the Vermilion project, with the goal of improved water and soil quality. In 2018, Eric became a Natural Resource Specialist in the Financial Assistance Program Division based in Washington, D.C., where he developed Farm Bill Financial Assistance Program policy and provided training and support to the state branches of the agency. He also served six months as the project coordinator for the development of CART.  In 2019, he joined the Conservation Planning and Technical Assistance Division where he provides CART training, guidance, and support to states while continuing his work on the development of enhancements and new functionalities for future versions of CART.


Since 1976, the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) has been helping people build resilient communities through local and sustainable solutions that reduce poverty, strengthen self-reliance, and protect natural resources. More information about its programs and services is available at www.ncat.org or by calling 1-800-ASK-NCAT.

NCAT Headquarters:
3040 Continental Drive
Butte, MT 59701
Helping people by championing small-scale, local, and sustainable solutions to reduce poverty, promote healthy communities, and protect natural resources.


October 8, 2020
2:00 pm - 3:00 pm


National Center for Appropriate Technology
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