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Title 7Subtitle BChapter VISubchapter FPart 652 → Subpart C


Title 7: Agriculture
PART 652—TECHNICAL SERVICE PROVIDER ASSISTANCE


Subpart C—Decertification


Contents
§652.31   Policy.
§652.32   Causes for decertification.
§652.33   Notice of proposed decertification.
§652.34   Opportunity to contest decertification.
§652.35   Deputy Chief of Programs decision.
§652.36   Appeal of decertification decisions.
§652.37   Period of decertification.
§652.38   Scope of decertification.
§652.39   Mitigating factors.
§652.40   Effect of decertification.
§652.41   Effect of filing deadlines.
§652.42   Recertification.

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§652.31   Policy.

In order to protect the public interest, it is the policy of NRCS to maintain certification of those technical service providers who act responsibly in the provision of technical service, including meeting NRCS standards and specifications when providing technical service to participants. This section, which provides for the decertification of technical service providers, is an appropriate means to implement this policy.

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§652.32   Causes for decertification.

A State Conservationist, in whose State a technical service provider is certified to provide technical service, may submit a Notice of Proposed Decertification to the Deputy Chief for Programs recommending decertification of the technical service provider in accordance with these provisions if the technical service provider, or someone acting on behalf of the technical service provider:

(a) Fails to meet NRCS standards and specifications in the provision of technical services;

(b) Violates the terms of the Certification Agreement, including but not limited to, a demonstrated lack of understanding of, or an unwillingness or inability to implement, NRCS standards and specifications for a particular practice for which the technical service provider is certified, or the provision of technical services for which the technical service provider is not certified;

(c) Engages in a scheme or device to defeat the purposes of this part, including, but not limited to, coercion, fraud, misrepresentation, or providing incorrect or misleading information; or

(d) Commits any other action of a serious or compelling nature as determined by NRCS that demonstrates the technical service provider's inability to fulfill the terms of the Certification Agreement or provide technical services under this part.

[75 FR 6845, Feb. 12, 2010, as amended at 79 FR 44640, Aug. 1, 2014]

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§652.33   Notice of proposed decertification.

The State Conservationist will send by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the technical service provider proposed for decertification a written Notice of Proposed Decertification, which will contain the cause(s) for decertification, as well as any documentation supporting decertification. In cases where a private sector entity or public agency is being notified of a proposed decertification, any certified individuals working under the auspices of such organization who are also being considered for decertification will receive a separate Notice of Decertification and will be afforded separate appeal rights following the process set forth below.

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§652.34   Opportunity to contest decertification.

To contest decertification, the technical service provider must submit in writing to the Deputy Chief for Programs, within 20 calendar days from the date of receipt of the Notice of Proposed Decertification, the reasons why the Deputy Chief for Programs should not decertify, including any mitigating factors as well as any supporting documentation.

[79 FR 44640, Aug. 1, 2014]

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§652.35   Deputy Chief of Programs decision.

Within 40 calendar days from the date of the notice of proposed decertification, the Deputy Chief for Programs will issue a written determination. If the Deputy Chief for Programs decides to decertify, the decision will set forth the reasons for decertification, the period of decertification, and the scope of decertification. If the Deputy Chief for Programs decides not to decertify the technical service provider, the technical service provider will be given written notice of that determination. The decertification determination will be based on an administrative record, which will be comprised of the Notice of Proposed Decertification and supporting documents, and if submitted, the technical service provider's written response and supporting documentation. Both a copy of the decision and administrative record will be sent promptly by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the technical service provider.

[79 FR 44640, Aug. 1, 2014]

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§652.36   Appeal of decertification decisions.

(a) Within 20 calendar days from the date of receipt of the Deputy Chief for Program's decertification determination, the technical service provider may appeal in writing to the NRCS Chief. The written appeal must state the reasons for appeal and any arguments in support of those reasons. If the technical service provider fails to appeal, the decision of the Deputy Chief for Programs is final.

(b) Final decision. Within 30 calendar days of receipt of the technical service provider's written appeal, the Chief or his designee, will make a final determination, in writing, based upon the administrative record and any additional information submitted to the Chief by the technical service provider. The decision of the Chief, or his designee, is final and not subject to further administrative review. The Chief's determination will include the reasons for decertification, the period of decertification, and the scope of decertification.

[75 FR 6845, Feb. 12, 2010, as amended at 79 FR 44640, Aug. 1, 2014]

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§652.37   Period of decertification.

The period of decertification will not exceed 3 years in duration and will be decided by the decertifying official, either the Deputy Chief for Programs or the Chief of NRCS, as applicable, based on their weighing of all relevant facts and the seriousness of the reasons for decertification, mitigating factors, if any, and the following general guidelines:

(a) For failures in the provision of technical service for which there are no mitigating factors, e.g., no remedial action by the technical service provider, a maximum period of three years decertification;

(b) For repeated failures in the provision of technical assistance for which there are mitigating factors, e.g., the technical service provider has taken remedial action to the satisfaction of NRCS, a maximum period of one to two years decertification; and

(c) For a violation of Certification Agreement terms, e.g., failure to possess technical competency for a listed practice, a period of one year or less, if the technical service provider can master such competency within a year period.

[75 FR 6845, Feb. 12, 2010, as amended at 79 FR 44640, Aug. 1, 2014]

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§652.38   Scope of decertification.

(a) When the technical service provider is a private sector entity or public agency, the decertifying official may decertify the entire organization, including all the individuals identified as authorized to provide technical services under the auspices of such organization. The decertifying official may also limit the scope of decertification, for example, to one or more specifically named individuals identified as authorized to provide technical services under the organization's auspices or to an organizational element of such private sector entity or public agency. The scope of decertification will be set forth in the decertification determination and will be based upon the facts of each decertification action, including whether actions of particular individuals can be imputed to the larger organization.

(b) In cases where specific individuals are decertified only, an entity or public agency must file within 10 calendar days an amended Certification Agreement removing the decertified individual(s) from the Certification Agreement. In addition, the entity or public agency must demonstrate that, to the satisfaction of the Deputy Chief for Programs, the entity or public agency has taken affirmative steps to ensure that the circumstances resulting in decertification have been addressed.

[75 FR 6845, Feb. 12, 2010, as amended at 79 FR 44640, Aug. 1, 2014]

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§652.39   Mitigating factors.

In considering whether to decertify, the period of decertification, and scope of decertification, the deciding official will take into consideration any mitigating factors. Examples of mitigating factors include, but are not limited to the following:

(a) The technical service provider worked, in a timely manner, to correct any deficiencies in the provision of technical service;

(b) The technical service provider took the initiative to bring any deficiency in the provision of their technical services to the attention of NRCS and sought NRCS advice to remediate the situation; and

(c) The technical service provider took affirmative steps to prevent any failures in the provision of technical services from occurring in the future.

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§652.40   Effect of decertification.

(a) The Department will not make payment under a program contract for the technical services of a decertified technical service provider that were provided during the period of decertification. Likewise, NRCS will not procure, or otherwise enter into an agreement for, the services of a decertified technical service provider during the period of decertification.

(b) National decertification list. NRCS shall maintain a current list of decertified technical service providers. NRCS shall remove decertified providers from the list of certified providers. Participants may not hire a decertified technical service provider. It is the participant's responsibility to check the decertified list before hiring a technical service provider. Decertification of a technical service provider in one State decertifies the technical service provider from providing technical services under current programs in all States, the Caribbean Area, and the Pacific Basin Area.

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§652.41   Effect of filing deadlines.

A technical service provider's failure to meet the filing deadlines under this subpart will result in the forfeiture of appeal rights. All filings must be received by NRCS no later than the close of business (5 p.m.) the last day of the filing period.

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§652.42   Recertification.

A decertified technical service provider may apply to be re-certified under the certification provisions of this part after the period of decertification has expired. A technical service provider may not utilize the certification renewal process in an attempt to be recertified after being decertified.

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