By Julius George, NRCS Assistant State Conservationist — NC Programs //
As we head into the fall, this is an important time – with a fast-approaching deadline – for farmers and forest owners to take advantage of key conservation programs available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
The NRCS is accepting applications for enrollment in the updated Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) for fiscal year 2023. To be considered for current available funding, applicants should have their applications into the local field office by October 14, 2022.
While it’s true that applications are accepted on a continuous basis, it also is a longstanding practice for NRCS to establish application “cut-off” or submission deadlines dates for evaluation, ranking and approval of eligible applications. This is why the October 14 deadline is so important.
The CSP helps agricultural producers maintain and improve their existing conservation systems and adopt additional conservation activities to address priority resource concerns. Participants earn CSP payments for conservation performance—the higher the performance, the higher the payment. Eligible lands include private and Tribal agricultural lands, cropland, grassland, pastureland, rangeland and nonindustrial private forest land.
CSP is available to all producers, regardless of operation size or type of crops produced, in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the Caribbean and Pacific Island areas. Applicants may include individuals, legal entities, joint operations or Indian tribes that meet the stewardship threshold for at least two priority resource concerns when they apply. NRCS personnel, myself included, can provide additional details about CSP requirements.
EQIP provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers to address natural resource concerns and deliver environmental benefits such as improved water and air quality, conserved ground and surface water, reduced soil erosion and sedimentation or improved or created wildlife habitat. Eligible program participants receive financial and technical assistance to implement conservation practices, or activities like conservation planning, that address natural resource concerns on their land. Payments are made to participants after conservation practices and activities identified in an EQIP plan of operations are implemented. Contracts can last up to 10 years.
As one of our agency’s leaders in North Carolina, State Conservationist Timothy Beard, has said of CSP and EQIP, “NRCS works hard to help eligible farmers and private landowners plan and carry our conservation practices that can benefit all North Carolina’s residents by providing clean air and water, healthy and productive forests, and healthy soils. These two programs are vital to these goals.”
NRCS N.C. also provides other assistance through voluntary programs to eligible landowners and agricultural producers to provide financial and technical assistance to help manage natural resources in a sustainable manner. Through these programs, the agency approves contracts to implement conservation practices that address natural resource concerns or opportunities to help save energy, improve soil, water, plant, air, animal, and related resources on agricultural lands and non-industrial private forest land. To get started, please visit your local USDA Service Center. To find the nearest center visit USDA Service Center Locator.
I have had the pleasure and privilege of working for NRCS for the past 20 years. I have seen USDA touch the lives of Americans each day in many positive ways. Give us the opportunity to help you too. To learn more, visit usda.gov.