Because of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the 2018 Farm Bill, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has nearly $5 billion in funding for conservation practices in 2024. Agricultural producers and forest landowners are encouraged to apply now to receive support for participation in voluntary conservation programs and the adoption of climate-smart practices.
Well suited for a wide variety of producers—including organic and urban producers—USDA is now accepting applications for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), and the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP).
$5 Billion in Funding Available
For fiscal year 2024, NRCS has over $2 billion in remaining farm bill funding to support producers engaged in organic and urban agriculture, wildlife habitat development, and soil health practices. This amount of funding will help to meet growing producer demand for heavily oversubscribed programs. Despite significant interest, just one in four applications for EQIP and CSP were funded in 2022.
The IRA was signed into law in 2022. It is, to date, the most significant federal investment in climate and conservation. It has provided an additional $3 billion in FY2024 funding for climate-smart mitigation activities. These include soil health-boosting practices like the use of cover crops, no-till, and mulching. Recently, NRCS expanded the climate-smart mitigation activities list and priority areas for ACEP.
Get Paid to Protect
Eligibility and funding opportunities have been expanded for producers engaged in practices that enhance biodiversity, support soil health, protect water quality, and improve air quality. This unprecedented amount of funding is expected to deliver reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and increases in carbon sequestration. It can also support a producer’s bottom line.
Critically, this historic investment is anticipated to help hundreds of thousands of farmers and ranchers apply conservation practices on millions of acres of land.
Will you be one of them?
The application period for FY2024 conservation assistance is now open. Begin the process by contacting your local NRCS office.
Applications for EQIP, CSP, and ACEP are accepted year-round. Producers are contacted about successful applications after each state’s “ranking deadline.” In Ohio, the ranking dates are February 16, 2024, for ACEP and EQIP, and April 5, 2024, for CSP.
- EQIP: Well-suited for producers wanting to target a particular resource concern with a single project or practice
- CSP: Supports producers who incorporate or expand synergistic conservation practices on working lands
- ACEP: Helpful for landowners and land trusts wanting to protect, restore, and enhance wetlands or working lands by limiting non-agricultural uses
The Future of USDA Conservation Programs
Unfortunately, funding for conservation programs is under attack. Some members of Congress are responding to pressure from commodity groups to raise reference prices. Three major commodity programs make “safety net” payments to growers. These payments are triggered when the national average market value drops below the reference price. An increase in reference prices would mean more money could be paid out to producers of crops like cotton, rice, and peanuts. This would help less than 0.3 percent of farmers (generally those in the South).
Raising the reference prices is unnecessary, and would not benefit our Ohio farmers and those in the wider Midwest.
Without an increase in baseline spending for the farm bill, there is concern that the funds would be siphoned from conservation programs. This won’t affect the unprecedented amount of funding set aside for FY2024. However, it may compromise the number of funded program applications in the following years. This would hinder support for farmers who want to be sustainable and need funding to support their livelihoods while implementing conservation practices.
We’ll continue to advocate for the protection of conservation funds—and we invite you to join us! Reach out to your legislator today, and encourage them to oppose reference price increases