The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is offering several new and expanded opportunities for climate-smart agriculture in 2022. This includes availability of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Conservation Incentive Contracts option and a Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry Initiative. These improvements to NRCS’ working lands conservation programs, combined with continued program opportunities across the Southeast are part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s broader effort to support climate-smart agriculture.
NRCS in Alabama will accept applications through February 25, 2022.
NRCS in Florida will accept applications through February 14, 2022.
NRCS in Georgia will accept applications through February 11, 2022.
EQIP’s Conservation Incentive Contracts address priority natural resource concerns, including sequestering carbon and improving soil health in high-priority areas. Through these contracts, NRCS 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. Conservation Incentive Contracts last five years.
While NRCS offers a broad array of conservation practices, the agency identifies a sub-set as critical for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, sequestering carbon and ultimately mitigating the impacts of climate change. These climate-smart conservation practices will be prioritized in this targeted EQIP signup period and support systems for:
- Building soil health.
- Improving nitrogen management.
- Improving livestock waste management systems.
- Enhancing grazing and pasture management.
- Improving agroforestry, forestry and upland wildlife habitat.
- Improving conservation management for rice production.
The focus for both initiatives here in the Southeast is to increase the adoption of cover crops, native warm season grasses, prescribed grazing, and residue and tillage management on cropland and pasture. Special emphasis participants like socially disadvantaged, limited resource, new and beginning, and eligible military veteran farmers and ranchers are eligible for a higher payment rate. In addition, these historically underserved farmers and ranchers are eligible for a 50 percent advanced payment for purchasing materials or contracting to help with practice implementation in EQIP.
For more information about NRCS and programmatic initiatives, priorities and assessment/ranking criteria, contact your local USDA Service Center.