The USDA’s National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) has various programs available to help landowners and growers manage and improve natural resources on their land or farm. These programs provide benefits in the form of:
- Technical assistance to growers interested in implementing new conservation practices
Financial assistance to pay for a portion of the cost associated with maintaining, managing, and incorporating new and existing conservation practices
Conservation practices might include efforts or equipment that address natural resource concerns to help save energy, improve soil health, and improve water quality and efficiency, among other things.
What kind of conservation practices does the NRCS fund?
Believe it or not, NRCS offers about 200 conservation practices that growers can begin using on their farms! The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) help growers pay for part of the cost to implement these practices. Payment rates and amounts are set each fiscal year. Congress is trying to cancel one of these programs as part of this year's Farm Bill. Keep reading to find out which one!
What is EQIP?
EQIP funds are given to farmers to help them procure equipment to improve the efficiency of their farm with regards to their use of natural resources. Click here to find the EQIP payment rates for each conservation practice in your state.
How & when can you apply?
To apply for EQIP, click this link to download an application form. Return the completed form by mail or in person to your local NRCS agent.
State Conservationists batch and rank applications periodically throughout the year, but EQIP applications are accepted year-round on a continuous basis.
As part of the process, an NRCS agent will work with you to develop a conservation plan that meets your goals and vision for the land. Remember: you must select at least one conservation practice to implement on your farm or ranch.
Am I eligible?
There are two primary factors determining eligibility: your land, and you!
Cropland, hayland, rangeland, pastureland, non-industrial private forestland, and other farm or ranch lands all qualify for EQIP.
Eligible applicants include the following:
- Agricultural producers
- Owners of non-industrial private forestland
- Indian Tribes
- Individuals interested in agricultural or forestry operations
Individual(s) applying for funds through EQIP must be listed on the Farm records, and must:
- Control or own eligible land;
- Meet adjusted gross income (AGI) and payment limitation provisions;
- Be in compliance with highly erodible land and wetland conservation requirements
As part of the process, an NRCS conservation planner will meet with you. Together, you will develop an EQIP plan of operations that addresses at least one natural resource concern.
How does EQIP help with water efficiency initiatives?
In other words, how can farmers use EQIP to pay for sensors and other irrigation management equipment?
Growers can use EQIP’s Irrigation Water Management conservation practice to develop an irrigation water management (IWM) plan to determine and control the volume, frequency, and application rate of irrigation water on their farm. As part of developing their IWM plan, growers can schedule irrigation using evapotranspiration information, scientific plant monitoring (e.g. canopy temperature measurements), and/or soil moisture monitoring.
So, EQIP can help offset the cost of getting started with soil moisture sensors!
What is CSP?
CSP helps farmers & ranchers protect & improve natural resources & the environment on their farms. As part of the program, producers receive technical & financial assistance to manage current conservation systems they have in place & new conservation practices they add to their farm. Nationwide, 70 million acres of farmland and ranchland are enrolled in CSP.
How & when can you apply?
You can apply anytime throughout the year at your local NRCS office.
The CSP is a 5 year contract, with option to renew. If he or she has satisfied the requirements of the previous CSP contract and wants to adopt new conservation practices, the grower can renew the contract for another 5-years.
As part of CSP, growers receive payment for managing, maintaining, and improving conservation practices over the lifetime of the contract. Payment covers the following:
- Costs incurred (this includes the cost of planning, materials, installation, labor, training, etc.)
Expected conservation benefits
Payments are capped at $40,000 per year, or $200,000 over the life of the 5-year contract. Growers will receive annual payments of at least $1,500 and will receive these payments after October 1st.
How does CSP help with water efficiency initiatives?
In other words, how can farmers use CSP to pay for sensors and other irrigation management equipment?
CSP is all about conserving your resources. Water is like gold to our farms! Through this program it is required you monitor your soil moisture every 40 acres. This means the program will incentivize you to purchase systems like Trellis to comply with this requirement. Example, a 100 acre field would require 3 monitoring stations in that field. This means you could use your funds to purchase 3 Trellis sensor stations and 1 base station.
Am I eligible?
In the words of a NRCS agent “Do you have farm? Do you irrigate? If those answers are yes, then you should apply for CSP!”
Basically, you must have up-to-date farm records with the USDA Farm Service Agency as well as, be in compliance with the wetland conservation requirements and highly erodible land (which refers to how susceptible to erosion the land is).
Did you hear? Congress is trying to cancel CSP!
Yup, you read right. The current Farm Bill is due to expire September 30th which has led the House and Senate to start negotiating the details for next year. We need to act fast! Eliminating this program could result in the loss of as much as 7 BILLION Dollars a year. So what can we do? How can we stop this from happening? Let’s fight for what we believe in and sign this petition to prioritize CSP!
Bonus: How much does your state participate?
Do growers in your state take advantage of these awesome government programs? Click here to find out!