USDA Makes $3 Billion in Climate-Smart Investments Available to Producers

Brian GermanAgri-Business, Funding, USDA

In fiscal year 2024, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is set to make climate-smart investments totaling $3 billion. The allocation is being made courtesy of President Biden’s landmark Inflation Reduction Act, the most substantial climate and conservation investment to date. These funds aim to encourage agricultural producers and forest landowners nationwide to engage in voluntary conservation programs and embrace climate-smart practices. The Inflation Reduction Act injects an additional $19.5 billion into USDA’s renowned conservation programs.

Climate-Smart Investments

The programs support the Justice40 Initiative, ensuring that 40 percent of the benefits from federal investments in climate, clean energy, and related areas reach marginalized communities burdened by underinvestment and pollution. Following the recent record interest in USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) resources, applications are now open for additional conservation assistance in fiscal year 2024.

The climate-smart investments are expected to aid hundreds of thousands of farmers and ranchers in applying conservation practices to millions of acres. The funds directly contribute to climate mitigation, offer various environmental co-benefits, and enhance access to financial and technical assistance. Producers can employ practices like cover cropping, conservation tillage, wetland restoration, prescribed grazing, nutrient management, tree planting, and more. The application period for fiscal year 2024 conservation assistance is now open.

NRCS is expanding Climate-Smart Agricultural and Forestry Mitigation Activities that are eligible for funding. Agricultural Conservation Easements Program (ACEP) investments under the Inflation Reduction Act are also expanding. NRCS prioritizes protecting grasslands at risk of conversion, ag lands facing non-agricultural use threats, and state-specific priorities. For Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE), priorities include lands with high organic carbon, lands to be restored and managed as forests, and existing forest cover to be maintained. Producer applications for conservation programs are accepted year-round, but those interested in Inflation Reduction Act funding should apply promptly, with specific deadlines for EQIP, CSP, and ACEP programs.

Brian German
Ag News Director / AgNet West