In this file:

 

·         USDA Offers Expanded Conservation Program Opportunities to Support Climate Smart Agriculture in 2022

·         USDA Invests $50 Million in Partnerships to Improve Equity in Conservation Programs, Address Climate Change

 

USDA Offers Expanded Conservation Program Opportunities to Support Climate Smart Agriculture in 2022

Source: USDA
Jan 10, 2022

 

WASHINGTON, Jan. 10, 2022 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is announcing several new and expanded opportunities for climate smart agriculture in 2022. Updates include nationwide availability of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Conservation Incentive Contracts option, a new and streamlined EQIP Cover Crop Initiative, and added flexibilities for producers to easily re-enroll in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). These improvements to NRCS’ working lands conservation programs, combined with continued program opportunities in all states, are part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s broader effort to support climate-smart agriculture.

 

“Climate change is happening, and America’s agricultural communities are on the frontlines,” NRCS Chief Terry Cosby said. “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.”

 

New Partnership Announced

 

NRCS is announcing a new partnership with Farmers For Soil Health, an initiative of the United Soybean Board, National Corn Growers Association and National Pork Board. Farmers For Soil Health works to advance use of soil health practices – especially cover crops – on corn and soybean farms. The initiative has a goal of doubling the number of corn and soybean acres using cover crops to 30 million acres by 2030.

 

“We are pleased to see NRCS announce this new incentive program for cover crops,” said John Johnson, coordinator of Farmers for Soil Health. “Cover crops have great potential to improve soil health, improve water quality, sequester carbon, and make our farms more resilient to severe climate events. We look forward to our partnership with NRCS, working to expand adoption of cover crop practices to help our farmers meet our sustainability goals.”

 

Other partners include the National Association of Conservation Districts, Soil Health Institute, and The Sustainability Consortium.

 

EQIP Cover Crop Initiative

 

To complement the new partnership, NRCS is investing $38 million through the new targeted Cover Crop Initiative in 11 states to help agricultural producers mitigate climate change through the widespread adoption of cover crops. States include Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and South Dakota. States were selected for this initial pilot based on their demonstrated demand for additional support for the cover crop practice.

 

Sign-up dates will be determined at the state-level, and applications will be selected for funding by Feb. 11, 2022.

 

The initiative is aimed at improving soil health through a targeted, rapid, and streamlined application and contract approval process. NRCS will continue to build on this framework and streamlined application process to support farmers and ranchers across the country.

 

Cover crops offer agricultural producers a natural and inexpensive climate solution through their ability to sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide into soils. Cover crops can provide an accelerated, positive impact on natural resource concerns. In fiscal 2021, NRCS provided technical and financial assistance to help producers plant 2.3 million acres of cover crops through EQIP.

 

EQIP Conservation Incentive Contracts

 

Conservation Incentive Contracts address priority resource concerns, including sequestering carbon and improving soil health in high-priority areas. Through these contracts, works with producers to strengthen the quality and condition of natural resources on their operations using management practices, such as irrigation water management, drainage water management, feed management and residue and tillage management that target resource concerns, including degraded soil and water quality, available water and soil erosion.

 

Conservation Incentive Contracts offer producers annual incentive payments to implement management practices as well as conservation evaluation and monitoring activities to help manage, maintain and improve priority natural resource concerns within state high-priority areas and build on existing conservation efforts. Download our “Conservation Incentive Contracts” fact sheet for a list of practices (PDF, 1 MB).

 

Conservation Incentive Contracts last five years. The 2018 Farm Bill created the new Conservation Incentive Contract option, and it was piloted in 2021 in four states.

 

CSP Re-Enrollment Option

 

NRCS updated CSP to allow an agricultural producer to immediately re-enroll in the program following an unfunded application to renew an existing contract. Previously, if a CSP participant did not re-enroll the year their contract expired, they were ineligible for the program for two years.

 

This ineligibility was imposed on CSP participants even if their failure to sign a renewal contract was due to the unavailability of funds, which is beyond their control. USDA is now waiving this two-year ineligibility restriction for all CSP applications.

 

This year, producers renewed 2,600 CSP contracts covering 3.4 million acres. Applicants with unfunded fiscal 2022 CSP renewals will receive letters this month, notifying them they are automatically eligible to apply for future CSP funding opportunities, rather than needing to wait two years to reapply.

 

How to Apply

 

NRCS accepts applications for conservation programs – including EQIP and CSP – year-round, however producers and landowners should apply by state-specific, signup dates to be considered for each year’s funding. To apply, producers should contact their local USDA Service Center.

 

More Information

 

Through conservation programs, NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to help producers and landowners make conservation improvements on their land that benefit natural resources, build resiliency, and contribute to the nation’s broader effort to combat the impacts of climate change. More broadly, these efforts build on others across USDA to encourage use of conservation practices. For example, USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) recently provided $59.5 million in premium support for producers who planted cover crops on 12.2 million acres through the new Pandemic Cover Crop Program. Last week, RMA announced a new option for insurance coverage, the Post Application Coverage Endorsement, for producers who “split apply” fertilizer on corn.

 

Under the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is engaged in a whole-of-government effort to combat the climate crisis and conserve and protect our nation’s lands, biodiversity and natural resources including our soil, air, and water. Through conservation practices and partnerships, USDA aims to enhance economic growth and create new streams of income for farmers, ranchers, and private foresters. Successfully meeting these challenges will require USDA and our agencies to pursue a coordinated approach alongside USDA stakeholders, including state, local and Tribal governments.

 

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.

     usda.gov

 

USDA Invests $50 Million in Partnerships to Improve Equity in Conservation Programs, Address Climate Change

Source: USDA

Jan 10, 2022

 

ATLANTA, January 10, 2022 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $50 million in 118 partnerships to expand access to conservation assistance for climate-smart agriculture and forestry. The Equity Conservation Cooperative Agreements, administered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will fund two-year projects to expand the delivery of conservation assistance to farmers who are new to farming, low income, socially disadvantaged or military veterans. Projects will support USDA’s broader effort to address climate change and equitable access to programs.

 

“We are committed to equal opportunity for those we serve, and we are taking bold, historic action to advance equity and root out generations of systemic racism,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “These partnerships are another example of how we are helping ensure historically underserved producers can more fully access and participate in our programs and services. As we’ve said before: equity will be a vital part of our climate change work, as America’s farmers and rural communities are on the frontlines of climate change. Our work with producers and partners will invest in climate smart solutions that improve profitability and resilience, open new market opportunities, and build wealth that stays in rural communities.”

 

The program encourages new partnerships and the development of state and community conservation leadership for historically underserved producers, with projects focusing on one or more of the following key conservation priorities:

 

·     Improving soil health and water quality;

·     Providing habitat for at-risk wildlife;

·     Improving natural resources and productivity on agricultural lands; and/or

·     Building and strengthening local and regional food systems and markets.

 

Among the partnerships are the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund and McIntosh Sustainable Environment and Economic Development (SEED). The partnership with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund, expands the Regional Agro Forestry Center (RAFC) to include climate smart agriculture, participation in conservation easements, heirs property consultations, forest management plans and certifications, and youth employment placement for Alabama, Georgia, Texas, South Carolina, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Additionally, a Regional Community Forest Justice Initiative (RCFJI) will provide limited-resource forest landowners with conservation education, technical assistance and a climate smart vision for their land.

 

The McIntosh Sustainable Environment and Economic Development (SEED) will help historically underserved producers implement natural resources conservation and climate smart agricultural practices. They will work with producers to strengthen marketing skills, access new markets, and produce and sell cooperatively. Additionally, SEED will engage historically underserved youth in 24 climate-impacted and economically distressed counties in Georgia through outreach and education, providing access to NRCS technical assistance, certifications and youth internships.

 

View a full list of the partnerships.

 

More Information

 

These partnerships are part of USDA’s broader efforts to address inequity in program delivery. Today, USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) also announced its plans to invest $2 million in risk management education for historically underserved and small-scale producers. This doubles RMA’s successful $1 million investment in 2021. Also in 2021, USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) invested $4.7 million to establish 56 partnerships with organizations to provide outreach and technical assistance to historically underserved farmers and ranchers.

 

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.

     usda.gov