Our Process

SOC helps develop conservation standards such as this practice of planting crops perpendicular to a field slope, which reduces erosion and increases water infiltration. Photo credit: NRCS

The SOC process for developing standards is designed to:

  • Focus on science to ensure the quality of the standards and their effectiveness in protecting the environment and the general public;
  • Strive for uniformity in use of technical standards by securing broad participation and consensus in decision making;
  • Ensure openness and accountability in the process and the end products.

Based on recommendations from the custodian of the standard, SOC uses three different processes to develop or revise a technical standard, ranging from more complex and time-consuming projects to the least.  The three processes are briefly described below.

1. SOC-Full Process. The Full Process is used to develop a new technical standard or make major revisions to an existing technical standard. A major revision is defined as any revision to an existing technical standard that will significantly alter the planning criteria, performance expectations, or design parameters. The multiple, defined steps of the Full Process is described below. The process is iterative and subject to variation depending upon many factors, such as the complexity of the standard, the level of interest, and the availability of staff and/or financial resources.

2. SOC-Modified Process. The Modified Process is more simplified and less time consuming than the Full Process, but remains consistent with the guiding principles. At a minimum, the following steps will be implemented: 1) Invite Council members to identify useful contributors to drafting process and 2) Announce and request comments on draft standards through the website and list-serve. This process will only be used by the Custodian for developing or updating a technical standard that SOC determines to meet at least one of the following criteria:

  1. Limited Use: the standard is not likely to be used by other agencies or organizations;
  2. Time Sensitive: the Custodian requests a timely completion due to programmatic reasons beyond its immediate control;
  3. Minimal Impact: the revision would have minimal impact on the users of the standard;
  4. Limited Involvement: changes in select criteria are driven by outside sources (e.g., targeted research) that do not require full team input, but are substantial enough to warrant professional and public review; or
  5. Limited Resources: available resources are too limited to support the Full Process.

3. Minor Revisions Process.  The Minor Revisions Process requires even fewer steps and is used when updating an existing technical standard with revisions that do not significantly altering the planning criteria, performance expectations or design parameters. This process is used to complete regularly scheduled reviews to ensure continued accuracy and compliance with applicable program rules or laws. Draft standards will not be posted for a public review comment period. The Custodian will notify SOC when the updates are completed and published, and SOC will announce updates on the website and list-serve. If significant comments are received after the minor revisions are distributed, SOC may ask the Custodian to consider other revisions and/or use of the Modified Process.