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
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
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.
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
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
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.