The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is offering $41.8 million for drought response in Arizona, California, Colorado, and Oregon. Funding will be provided through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to address the impacts of drought and other natural resource challenges. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is making funding assistance available through Conservation Incentive Contracts. The contracts are a new funding option under EQIP. The application window will remain open through July 12.
“As ongoing drought conditions in the West continue to worsen, we knew we needed to increase our support to farmers and ranchers in dealing with drought and prepare for the challenges of tomorrow,” said NRCS Chief Terry Cosby said in a news release. “EQIP is our flagship conservation program, and with the expanded benefits the Conservation Incentive Contracts offer, it enables producers to deploy conservation activities that strengthen existing efforts on their land to help during times of drought. Additionally, by targeting this program in several states, we can make any needed adjustments before rolling out Conservation Incentive Contracts nationwide in fiscal year 2022.”
New Conservation Incentive Contracts are made possible under the 2018 Farm Bill. The pilot program in select states will help the development of the new option before nationwide implementation. Contracts are designed to address high-priority conservation and natural resource concerns, which include drought. A total of $11.8 million is being set aside strictly for practices directly related to drought response. Some of the practices include prescribed grazing, cover crops, livestock watering systems, and brush management.
The new Conservation Incentive Contracts are part of USDA’s overall portfolio of assistance options to mitigate drought impacts. Producers have access to other options including the Livestock Forage Disaster Program, the Tree Assistance Program, and the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program.