WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is providing $10 million to support climate-smart agriculture and forestry through voluntary conservation practices in 10 targeted states. This assistance, available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), will help agricultural producers plan and implement voluntary conservation practices that sequester carbon, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the impacts of climate change on working lands.
Producers in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin can apply for this funding opportunity. Each state will determine its own signup period, with signups expected to begin on or around June 24 in most states. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), which administers EQIP, selected states based on demonstrated demand for additional support for climate-smart practices. This pilot will be expanded through a comprehensive effort across all states and programs to support farmers, ranchers and forest landowners in fiscal year 2022.
“Farmers, ranchers and forest landowners are the best stewards of our lands and waters, and they play a critical role in climate change mitigation,” said Gloria Montaño Greene, USDA’s Deputy Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation. “We will use this EQIP signup to deliver support for implementing critical climate-smart conservation practices to producers in key states, with plans to leverage lessons learned and further support national climate change mitigation efforts later this calendar year.”
“Supporting producers equitably is critical to our mission,” said NRCS Chief Terry Cosby. “By working with our producers and partner groups across these states, we are striving to ensure funds are equitably distributed, including to our historically underserved producers. NRCS has a suite of conservation practices producers can implement to meet these goals.”
EQIP and Targeted Climate Change Mitigation
Through EQIP, NRCS provides agricultural producers and landowners with financial assistance and one-on-one technical support to plan and implement voluntary conservation practices. The outcomes are a benefit for producers and the environment, with producers conserving natural resources and delivering environmental benefits while building resiliency to strengthen their working land.
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.
Producers can visit NRCS’s EQIP webpage for a list of the specific climate-smart conservation practices.
How to Apply
States will rank applications for funding based on expected climate change mitigation benefits. Producers can contact the NRCS office at their local USDA Service Center to learn more, including specific state deadlines to apply and the selection process for awarding contracts. While USDA offices may be closed to visitors because of the pandemic, Service Center staff continue to work with agricultural producers via phone, email and other digital tools.
Additional information about this targeted EQIP signup is available at nrcs.usda.gov/eqip. Producers and landowners in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are encouraged to work with their local NRCS office to begin the application process. USDA encourages historically underserved producers and landowners to apply and will work with partner groups to ensure funds are equitably distributed.
Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry and Voluntary Conservation
USDA is committed to working with farmers, ranchers, forest landowners and partners to increase climate resilience, sequester carbon, enhance agricultural productivity and maintain critical environmental benefits through voluntary conservation efforts. In addition to this targeted EQIP signup, USDA has also:
- Invested $330 million in 85 locally driven, public-private partnerships to mitigate climate change and address other natural resource challenges through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program.
- Allocated up to $25 million for On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials in 2021, with climate-smart agricultural solutions set as one priority.
- Allocated up to $15 million to support the development of new tools, approaches, practices and technologies to further natural resource conservation on private lands through the Conservation Innovation Grants program. NRCS is accepting proposals through July 19.
- Expanded the Conservation Reserve Program to include higher payment rates, new incentives and a more targeted focus on the program’s role in climate change mitigation. USDA’s Farm Service Agency is accepting applications through July 23, 2021.
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, producers 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 governments.
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 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.
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