Expanded Conservation Opportunities Available From USDA

Brian GermanAgri-Business, USDA-NRCS

Conservation opportunities available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are being improved and expanded. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has made adjustments to various programs to help further climate smart agriculture efforts in 2022. Some of the programs to be expanded include the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).

“Climate change is happening, and America’s agricultural communities are on the frontlines,” NRCS Chief Terry Cosby said in a press release. “We have to continue to support and expand the adoption of conservation approaches to support producers in their work to address the climate crisis and build more resilient operations. We are continuously working to improve our programs to ensure we’re giving farmers and ranchers the best tools to conserve natural resources.”

Conservation Opportunities

New conservation opportunities available through EQIP include a new and streamlined EQIP Cover Crop Initiative. NRCS is investing $38 million through the initiative in 11 states. Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and South Dakota have all been selected based on demand for additional support for cover cropping. Individual states will determine signup periods and applications will be selected by February 11. NRCS has also announced the nationwide availability of EQIP Conservation Incentive Contracts. Contracts last five years and are intended to address resource concerns such as carbon sequestration and soil health in high-priority areas. The program was first piloted in 2021 in four states.

NRCS has also updated enrollment parameters for CSP. Historically, if a contract expired and a CSP participant did not reenroll when their contract was set to expire, they would become ineligible for the program for two years. Now with the new adjustments, the two-year ineligibility restriction is being waved. Producers will have the opportunity to immediately reenroll following an unfunded application to renew an existing contract.