History   of   SCS    and NRCS

U.S. House of Representatives Approves Resolution Honoring USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service

WASHINGTON, DC. - April 27, 2010, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a resolution recognizing the 75th anniversary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS).

The Senate Concurrent Resolution (S. Con. Res. 62) congratulates the outstanding professional public servants, both past and present, of the NRCS as it celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Ranking Member Frank Lucas of Oklahoma introduced the House version of this resolution, which is co-sponsored by 17 other Members of Congress.

In 1935, Congress established NRCS in response to the Dust Bowl, a disaster that devastated vast stretches of the nation. Originally known as the Soil Conservation Service, the agency's name changed to the Natural Resources Conservation Service in 1994 to more accurately reflect its role in protecting all natural resources - soil, air, water, plants and animals.

NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to landowners at a local level, recognizing the diverse needs across the country and the unique concerns in each local area.   There is a NRCS field office in almost every county in the United States, and the staff in those offices helps local communities carry out thousands of conservation projects, translating into opportunities for job creation and increased investment in local communities.

"The United States depends as much today on productive soils and an abundant, high-quality water supply as we did 75 years ago, and given the agricultural and environmental challenges we face, these programs are more important than ever" Chairman Peterson said.   "With this resolution we salute the NRCS professionals, both past and present, who have worked alongside America's local farmers and ranchers for 75 years to help preserve our essential natural resources."

"Farmers were conserving long before it became a celebrated trend to 'go green.' They have always had a vested interest in preserving the land that provides for them," said Ranking Member Lucas. "Partnering with NRCS, our producers are provided the science and technical assistance to implement the most advanced conservation practices in the world."

The House passed the resolution honoring the 75th anniversary of NRCS by a voice vote.

USDA organization chart of 1937


   SCS's FIRST LEADER (April 27, 1935 - November 12, 1951)
     CHIEF   Hugh Hammond Bennett - Father of Soil Conservation (1881 - 1960).
Hugh Hammond Bennett combined science, passion, and political astuteness to make soil conservation a national priority and spark a worldwide conservation movement.   In 1903, after graduation from the University of North Carolina, Bennett joined USDA's Bureau of Soils, where he soon determined that soil erosion was the biggest threat facing the American farmer.   He became a tireless crusader for soil conservation, triggering the establishment of the Soil Erosion Service within the Department of the Interior in 1933 and the passage of the act of April 27, 1935, creating the Soil Conservation Service in USDA.   Bennett led the organization until 1951.   Notable quote: "Out of the long list of nature's gifts to man, none is perhaps so utterly essential to human life as soil."   He finished his career with USDA as a Special Assistant to the Secretary from November 13, 1951 to April 30, 1952.

   SCS's SECOND LEADER (November 13, 1951 - November 1, 1953)
     CHIEF   Robert M. Salter

   SCS's THIRD LEADER (November 27, 1953 - January 11, 1969)
     ADMINISTRATOR   Donald A. Williams
Don is given credit for the original concept of ARSCSE.   He was an engineer in the northwest from the inception of SCS.   The newsletter was to have four functions:
1) comments on going SCS programs and activities,
2) proposed changes in SCS functions by legislative, executive order, etc.,
3) personal news items about fellow retirees, and
4) suggestions of things retirees might do to help further conservation work and SCS interests.

   SCS's FOURTH LEADER (January 12, 1969 - May 31, 1975)
     ADMINISTRATOR   Kenneth E. Grant
Ken was born in New Hampshire in March of 1920.   After receiving a B.S. in agronomy from the University of New Hampshire and serving for four years with the United States Army Air Corps, he joined SCS in 1946.

He advanced rapidly from Soil Scientist to Deputy State Conservationist by 1956.   From 1959 to 1964 Grant was State Conservationist for New Hampshire.   In 1964, after obtaining a Masters in Public Administration from Harvard University, he moved to the State Conservationist position in Indiana.   It was there in the Lincoln Hills area that he helped initiate the first Resource Conservation and Development project in the nation.   In 1967 he was selected to become Associate Administrator.   Following the retirement of Donald Williams, Grant served as Administrator from 1969 to 1975.   During his tenure, SCS faced a tremendous challenge as the amount of land under cultivation grew rapidly due to increased grain exports.

Grant served as USDA representative for a variety of important projects, including the Connecticut River Basin survey and the Ohio and Wabash River Basin studies.   In the late 1960s, he represented USDA in a major project with the Office of Science and Technology that led to the Report to the President on Control of Agriculture-Related Pollution.   He also carried out two assignments as advisor on erosion control in Pakistan and one assignment on soil and water management in India.

In 1971, the University of New Hampshire awarded him the honorary degree of Doctor of Science.   He has received the Distinguished Service Award from USDA, which recognized his contributions in many areas including his response to growing public concern over the environment.   Grant is a fellow of the Soil Conservation Society of America.

Grant served as a volunteer to the International Executive Service Corps.   He went to Greece as an advisor to the Ministry of Agriculture on soil and water conservation.   He also assisted in recent activities of the IESC.

By Douglas Helms, Senior Historian
Natural Resources Conservation Service

   SCS's FIFTH LEADER (June 1, 1975 - September 11, 1979)
     ADMINISTRATOR   R. M. (Mel) Davis

   SCS's SIXTH LEADER (September 12, 1979 - April 2, 1982)
     CHIEF   Norman A. Berg

   SCS's SEVENTH LEADER (April 4, 1982 - March 20, 1985)
     CHIEF Peter C. Myers

   NRCS LEADER (May 21, 1985 - July 11, 1990)
     CHIEF Wilson Scaling

   NRCS LEADER (December 16, 1990 - January 22, 1993)
     CHIEF William J. Richards

   NRCS LEADER (January 10, 1994 - November 8, 1997)
     CHIEF Paul W. Johnson

   NRCS LEADER (March 1, 1998 - May 2002)
     CHIEF Pearlie S. Reed

   NRCS LEADER (May 2002 - August 2006)
     CHIEF Bruce I. Knight

   NRCS LEADER (August 2006 - present)
     CHIEF Arlen L. Lancaster

The following is a portion of the publication written in 1955 by SCS employee Robert L. Geiger, Jr. named A Chronological History of the Soil Conservation Service and Related Events.

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   Last updated July 2008 by Owen P. Lee