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NRCS Provides Options for Incentive Funding

3/9/2021

NRCS CSP Article Image.png

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offers two programs to help growers achieve and maintain their growing goals. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) helps participants cover the cost of planning and installing conservation practices. The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) offers additional opportunities for those already meeting a baseline level of stewardship. Projects might include improving irrigation systems, planting a cover crop for bees or soil health, or integrating better pest management systems.

Ted Strauss is NRCS’s air quality resource conservationist for California. He said the NRCS programs target a range of environmental issues, from air to soil health to water quality.

“Our primary role is conservation planning,” he said. “Participation is totally voluntary and always confidential. We’re not a regulatory body.”

Growers can apply at any time of the year for either program, though deadlines for both are coming up quickly. In addition to owners, operators may also apply for NRCS programs, CSP included. Successful applicants may be awarded a five-year contract, typically with an option to renew for a second five-year term.

Examples of practices for which growers may receive funding through either EQIP or CSP include:

For more information on how to apply for EQIP and CSP, and to determine eligibility, growers should contact the NRCS field office in the county in which they own land or have an agricultural operation.

Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
Deadline for initial round of funding: Wed., March 3
Deadline for second round of funding: Wed., June 9


This voluntary conservation program helps eligible growers plan and implement conservation practices that address a wide range of natural resource concerns, providing opportunities to improve soil, water, plant, animal, air and related resources on agricultural land and nonindustrial private forestland.

In past years, almond growers have used a variety of cost-share programs through EQIP for irrigation, nutrient management, dust reduction, cover crop and pest management projects. The National Air Quality Initiative (NAQI), for instance, aims to “help agricultural producers meet air quality compliance requirements and offer funding opportunities to support practices related to on-farm mobile engines,” according to the NRCS EQIP
website.

For growers, EQIP funding can be used to help replace a diesel-powered piece of equipment, with incentives based off horsepower and ranging from $325.61 to $507.17 per horsepower. That amount translates to $32,000 for a 100hp tractor or $114,000 for a 200hp tractor, Strauss said. The same rates apply to all self-propelled equipment.

In addition, almond growers who hire out their harvesting each year can collect $39.98 per acre for up to three years if low-dust harvesting equipment is used. NRCS also provides EQIP incentives ranging from $3,238.13 to $39,734 to replace motors on pumps. Funds are also available to help treat unpaved roads with lignin derivatives, oil or polymer emulsions.

“Some producers have used those funds to purchase their own equipment, which is great because it helps with permanent reduction of emissions,” Strauss said. “So even if you don’t own the equipment currently being replaced, you’re still a good candidate for this program.”

While applications are accepted year-round, interested growers need to submit their paperwork as soon as possible to be considered for funding.


Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)
Deadline for initial round of funding: Fri., March 26

Production practices covered through this program change year to year, so growers should review CSP's list of what are called "enhancements" for fiscal year 2021 to determine what may be covered.

This year, CSP is funding many management efforts related to the almond industry that will also help the California almond community move the needle toward achieving its Almond Orchard 2025 Goals. Examples of these practices include planting cover crops, mulching removed orchards, implementing environmentally friendly pest management practices, improving irrigation management techniques and using precision nutrient application.

“This program can help the industry move closer to achieving the 2025 Goals and is particularly useful for growers who are already implementing new, sustainable practices, as recommended by the Almond Board,” said Jesse Roseman, principal analyst in Environmental and Regulatory Affairs at the Almond Board of California.

CSP is an ideal program for growers who have a record of implementing innovative management practices to improve their orchards and farm responsibly. That track record, including participation in other NRCS programs, gives growers a competitive edge in the application process.

NRCS offers CSP incentive funds to growers who find alternatives to burning old trees, providing $783.29 per acre for chipping (used for animal bedding or applied as mulch on another piece of ag land) and an additional$242.09 per acre if the chips are recycled back into the soil, also known as Whole Orchard Recycling.

While applications are accepted throughout the year, interested growers should submit applications to their local NRCS office by March 26, 2021 to ensure their applications are considered for 2021 funding. Selections will be announced in late April and contracts will be obligated by July 30, 2021.

More information on NRCS’s CSP may be found on this 
handout and growers can submit applications year-round at local USDA service centers. Those looking to speak with Strauss about air quality programs may reach him at ted.strauss@usda.gov. Other questions about NRCS programs should be directed to your nearest field office, or Karen Lowell at karen.lowell@usda.gov. For general questions about incentive programs please contact Jesse Roseman at jroseman@almondboard.com.

IMPORTANT: Additional application details

Starting in 2021, all growers and other producers participating in or applying to participate in certain NRCS conservation programs must complete form CCC-902, Farm Operating Plan, according to the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA). New applicants and existing participants in certain NRCS programs who do not have a CCC-902 on file with USDA FSA will receive a letter in the mail in the coming weeks with detailed information on what is needed and how to file the form.

Growers are heavily encouraged to contact their local NRCS office for support in completing the form.

In addition, growers who participated in USDA’s Market Facilitation Program or in Coronavirus Food Assistance Program – both of which are also provided via USDA FSA – will have a leg up in filling out NRCS applications as their information is already accessible to NRCS. This means that during the application process, growers have already completed the first step in qualifying for the NRCS incentive program because of their eligibility for other USDA programs.