AMHERST, Mass. — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced that November 3, 2023 and March 8, 2024 will be the cut-off dates for applications for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) to be considered and ranked for 2024 funding.
CSP helps agricultural producers take the conservation activities on their farm to the next level. It provides a payment for maintaining the current conservation efforts on the land and covers part of the cost for producers implementing new conservation activities.
The program provides many benefits including increased crop yields, decreased inputs, wildlife habitat improvements and increased resilience to weather extremes. CSP is for working lands including cropland, pastureland, nonindustrial private forest land and agricultural land under the jurisdiction of a tribe.
While applications are accepted throughout the year, interested producers should submit applications to their local NRCS office by November 3, 2023 or March 8, 2024, to ensure their applications are considered for 2024 funding.
“CSP continues to be a very effective tool for private landowners working to achieve their conservation and management goals,” said Dan Wright, NRCS Massachusetts State Conservationist. “It is the largest conservation program in the United States with more than 70 million acres of productive agricultural and forest land enrolled.”
Higher payment rates are available for certain conservation activities, including resource conserving crop rotations and advanced grazing management. CSP provides specific support for organic and transitioning to organic production activities.
For more information and to apply, contact your local USDA-NRCS office.
Environmental Quality Incentives Program and Agricultural Management Assistance Program in Massachusetts
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is announcing January 5, 2024; March 8, 2024; and May 10, 2024 as the application ranking cut-off dates for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Agricultural Management Assistance Program (AMA) in Massachusetts. EQIP and AMA offers financial and technical assistance to private owners and managers of agricultural land and forestland to address natural resource concerns.
Farmland and forestland operators and owners who are interested in applying for assistance through EQIP or AMA should contact their local NRCS office for more information and to begin the conservation planning process. NRCS develops conservation plans which evaluate resource concerns, while considering the land management goals of the operation.
“If you operate a farm or manage forest land and want to improve your land, we can help,” said Dan Wright, State Conservationist for NRCS in Massachusetts. “You can discuss your vision for your land with one of our conservation planners, who will explain the conservation planning process and how to apply for financial assistance.”
You may apply for NRCS conservation programs at any time. Complete applications are ranked for funding in batches periodically throughout the year. In Massachusetts, NRCS is offering three batching periods for EQIP and AMA. Fiscal year 2024 cut-off dates are: January 5th, March 8th, and May10, 2024.
All applications determined eligible and high priority by close of business on a given ranking date will be considered in the current funding cycle. All NRCS programs are voluntary.
Ranking dates and the application process are subject to change. Contact your local field office for the latest information. For more information on available programs, the application process, and natural resource priorities, visit the Massachusetts NRCS website at www.ma.nrcs.usda.gov.
NRCS has seven field offices in Massachusetts:
- Greenfield field office – 413-772-0384, ext 3, serving Franklin County
- Hadley field office – 413-585-1000, ext 3, serving Hampden and Hampshire counties
- Holden field office – 508-829-4477, ext 3, serving Worcester County
- Pittsfield field office – 413-443-1776, ext 3, serving Berkshire County
- Westford field office – 978-692-1904, ext 3, serving Essex, Middlesex and Suffolk counties
- Wareham field office – 508-295-5151, ext 2, serving Bristol, Norfolk and Plymouth counties
- West Yarmouth field office – 508-771-6476, serving Cape Cod and the Islands
EQIP provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers and forest landowners to address natural resource concerns through an array of conservation practices. Assistance is available to support private landowners and managers in addressing farm, field, forest, wildlife, water, and/or plant management issues including:
• Erosion control
• Farm and forestry conservation plans
• Fencing for grazing systems
• Forest stand improvement
• Grazing plans
• Irrigation systems
• Pasture and hayland planting
• Pollinator habitat
• Protection of heavy use areas for livestock
• Restoration and management of declining habitat
• Riparian buffers
• Seasonal high tunnels
• Soil health management plans
• Waste storage facilities
• Wildlife habitat management and development
Some of the EQIP funding will be provided to farmers and forest landowners via the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), which encourages partner organizations to join in efforts with producers to increase the restoration and sustainable use of soil, water, wildlife and related natural resources on regional or watershed scales. Through the RCPP program, NRCS and its partners help producers install and maintain conservation activities in selected project areas.
Partners leverage RCPP funding in project areas and report on the benefits achieved.
Agricultural Land Easement Application Deadline in Massachusetts
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has advertised December 29, 2023 as the ranking cut-off date for applications from state and local governments, non-governmental organizations and Native American Tribes that would like to protect working farmland through an Agricultural Land Easement under the federal Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP).
ACEP Agricultural Land Easements protect critical natural resources and encourage private landowners to maintain land for farming through the voluntary sale of an easement, which limits future development.
NRCS provides financial assistance to eligible partners for purchasing Agricultural Land Easements. Cropland, rangeland, grassland, pastureland, and nonindustrial private forest land are eligible. State and local governments, non-governmental organizations and Native American Tribes that have farmland or grassland protection programs are eligible to partner with NRCS to purchase conservation easements.
This fiscal year’s application ranking cut-off date is Friday, December 29, 2023. All eligible applications received by 4:00 pm on these dates will be ranked. The highest ranked applications will be selected based on the available funds provide to Massachusetts NRCS.
Applications should be submitted to Rita Thibodeau, Assistant State Conservationist for Programs at the USDA-NRCS Massachusetts State Office, 451 West Street, Amherst, MA 01002. Information on how to apply and application forms are available on the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program | Natural Resources Conservation Service (usda.gov) website.
“USDA is committed to preserving our agricultural lands for the future generations. This is a perfect opportunity for local communities, state agencies, land trusts and other eligible groups to partner with NRCS to preserve these lands and the values they provide to the residents of Massachusetts,” said Dan Wright, Massachusetts State Conservationist for NRCS.
NRCS may contribute up to 50 percent of the fair market value of the agricultural land easement. Where NRCS determines that grasslands of special environmental significance will be protected, NRCS may contribute up to 75 percent of the fair market value of the agricultural land easement.
NRCS is a federal agency that works hand-in-hand with the people of Massachusetts to improve and protect soil, water, and other natural resources. The agency works with local conservation districts and other partners to serve farmers and landowners in the Bay State and across the United States.
Contact: Rita Thibodeau, Assistant State Conservationist for Programs, email@example.com 413-253-4379
Wetland Reserve Easements in Massachusetts
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced December 29, 2023 as the application cut-off date for the Wetland Reserve Easement component of the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), which protects critical water resources and wildlife habitat, and encourages private owners to maintain land for farming. Through the voluntary sale of an easement, landowners limit future development to protect key wetland resources.
“The benefits of restoring, enhancing and protecting critical wetlands cannot be overstated,” said Dan Wright, Massachusetts State Conservationist for NRCS. “Wetlands provide critical habitat for a wide array of wildlife species. They also store floodwaters, clean and recharge groundwater, sequester carbon, trap sediment, and filter pollutants for clean water. USDA is committed to restoring and protecting vital sensitive wetlands that provide important wildlife habitat and improve water quality.”
ACEP’s Wetland Reserve Easements allow landowners to successfully restore, enhance and protect habitat for wildlife on their lands, reduce damage from flooding, recharge groundwater and provide outdoor recreational and educational opportunities. Eligible landowners can enroll in a permanent easement. Tribal landowners also have the option of enrolling in 30-year contracts.
This fiscal year’s application ranking cut-off date is Friday, December 29, 2023. All eligible applications received by 4:00 pm on this date will be ranked. The highest ranked applications will be selected based on the available funds provided to Massachusetts NRCS.
Applications should be submitted to Rita Thibodeau Assistant State Conservationist for Programs at the USDA-NRCS Massachusetts State Office, 451 West Street, Amherst, MA 01002. Contact your local USDA Service Center for more information about NRCS programs. To learn about other technical and financial assistance available through NRCS, visit www.ma.nrcs.usda.gov.
NRCS is a federal agency that works hand-in-hand with the people of Massachusetts to improve and protect soil, water and other natural resources. The agency has offices in USDA Service Centers in Greenfield, Hadley, Holden, Pittsfield, Westford, Wareham, and West Yarmouth, which work with local conservation districts and other partners to serve farmers and landowners in their area.
–USDA NRCS Massachusetts