Assistance Available from NRCS
NRCS provides technical assistance to individuals, groups, government agencies, tribes and others to maintain or improve the health of the land, and to ensure that conservation projects meet specifications and qualify for possible cost-share assistance. Cost-share for conservation practices is offered through NRCS, the Farm Service Agency, and other federal and state agencies.
The 2014 Farm Bill authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to provide up to 90 percent of the costs associated with planning and implementing conservation measures for socially disadvantaged and beginning farmers or ranchers through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).
A socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher is defined as:
- A farmer or rancher who has been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudices because of their identity as a member of a group without regard to their individual qualities. This term means a farmer or rancher who is a member of a socially disadvantaged group. Specifically, a group whose members have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice because of their identity as members of a group without regard to their individual qualities. Those groups include African Americans, American Indians or Alaskan natives, Hispanics, and Asians or Pacific Islanders. Note: Gender alone is not a covered group.
A beginning farmer or rancher means an individual or entity who:
- Has not operated a farm or ranch, or who has operated a farm or ranch for not more than 10 consecutive years. This requirement applies to all members of an entity
- Will materially and substantially participate in the operation of the farm or ranch.
A limited resource farmer or rancher or forest owner is an applicant:
- With direct or indirect gross farm sales not more than the current indexed value in each of the previous 2 years, AND
- Who has a total household income at or below the national poverty level for a family of four, or less than 50 percent of county median household income in each of the previous 2 years.
Determining eligibility for the beginning or limited resource producer program is a self-certification process. NRCS conservationists can provide additional information you may need for the process.
For more information see the Socially Disadvantaged, Beginning and Limited Resource Farmers and Ranchers Factsheet.
In addition, a percentage of EQIP funds is set aside each year to address conservation needs and priorities on American Indian lands.
Professional resource conservationists in the NRCS have expertise in natural resource fields such as agronomy, soils, range, and biology. They are available to provide technical assistance to help you plan conservation improvements on your land. A resource inventory will be completed to determine the resources you have available and their current condition. This information is critical in the planning process to ensure that conservation needs are identified. The process also includes developing alternatives for you to choose from and putting these alternatives together in a conservation plan for your operation.
Other Technical Assistance
Most of the United States has been surveyed and has a published soil survey. Each local office maintains copies of the soil survey for their area. These surveys, which provide information on local soil types and characteristics, are available to farmers, ranchers, and tribes free of charge. Assistance is available on using the soil survey and understanding the information it contains. For more information see Soils.
Assistance is available to guide ranchers in planning systems to more fully utilize their land and resources. Grazing systems can be designed to protect the resources and the land while providing for livestock. Cost-share funds are available through programs such as EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program), which dedicates a portion of its funding to be used for conservation practices associated with livestock.
Assistance is available to help plan for harvesting, planting, and other related management practices on forested areas. Grazing issues within forested areas may also be addressed.
Assistance is available for watershed inventories, 319 permits, and irrigation management plans and designs. NRCS also offers cost-share assistance for projects to restore wetlands and improve wildlife habitat.
Cropland conservation practices maintain the health of our soils while providing an economic benefit from the planting and harvesting of crops. Residue management, crop rotation, and crop nutrient information can assist farmers in maintaining soil health while obtaining good crop production.
Engineering assistance, such as surveying and project design, can be used to develop conservation practices such as livestock water developments and projects to improve irrigation efficiency and management.
Plant Materials Center
The Montana and Wyoming conservation districts, in cooperation with the NRCS, operate a Plant Materials Center near Bridger, Montana, where research is conducted. Seeds and plants are collected and tested for characteristics such as winter hardiness and growth potential. No manipulative genetic work is done. Special projects have included reproducing genetically pure cottonwood trees which were originally planted by Chief Plenty Coups near his Pryor, Montana, home.
Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D)
RC&Ds are an NRCS sponsored, locally-driven organization which assists communities with economic development. They can search for grants, network with other interested parties, and provide education on community issues. RC&D boards are made up of local community members who determine the annual plan of operation for the RC&D coordinator to follow. Each reservation in Montana can access an RC&D area for assistance.
Emergency Watershed Protection
Cost-share monies may be made available to provide assistance when an emergency occurs which jeopardizes a watershed area and its resources. Assessments are made following a fire or flood, and immediate assistance can be provided with the help of a sponsor. The conservation district, local township/city, or the tribe may sponsor emergency watershed protection projects.
NRCS recognizes that cultural resources are an integral part of our national heritage and recognizes our responsibilities for historic preservation. NRCS will ensure that cultural resources are considered in agency actions and programs. In addition, NRCS is responsible for identification and evaluation of cultural resources and the protection of historic properties affected by NRCS projects.
The NRCS has many videos, pamphlets, booklets and factsheets about conserving natural resources. The Publications and Fact Sheets Web page shows all of the publications that are currently available. Most of these publications and videos are available by contacting your local NRCS office or by email to MTfirstname.lastname@example.org.