Inflation Reduction Act assistance is available through NRCS’ oversubscribed conservation programs for agricultural producers. NRCS accepts producer applications for its conservation programs year-round, but for fiscal year 2024 funding, producers interested in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program or Conservation Stewardship Program should apply by their state’s ranking dates to be considered for funding in the current cycle.
Funding is provided through a competitive process and will include an opportunity to address the unmet demand from producers who have previously sought funding for climate-smart conservation activities. Those applications that were not previously funded, and those that are received after the ranking date, will automatically be considered during future funding cycles.
Inflation Reduction Act Investments
The Inflation Reduction Act provides an additional $19.5 billion over five years to support USDA’s conservation programs that yield climate change mitigation benefits. Implementation began in 2023. These investments mean that more producers will have access to conservation assistance and include:
- $8.45 billion for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program
- $4.95 billion for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program
- $3.25 billion for the Conservation Stewardship Program
- $1.4 billion for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program
- $1 billion for Conservation Technical Assistance
- $300 million to measure, evaluate, quantify carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emission reductions from conservation investments (see fact sheet)
For fiscal year 2024, which began Oct. 1, 2023, the Inflation Reduction Act provides:
- $1.65 billion for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program
- $754 million for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program
- $472 million for the Conservation Stewardship Program
- $189 million for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program
These additional funds will help farmers and ranchers implement expanded conservation practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase storage of carbon in their soil and trees. The conservation funding is in addition to otherwise available program funds, and participation is voluntary, incentive-based and targeted to support climate-smart mitigation activities and other conservation activities that facilitate them.
Expansion of Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry Mitigation Activities
NRCS is increasing Climate-Smart Agricultural and Forestry Mitigation Activities eligible for Inflation Reduction Act funding for fiscal year 2024 through EQIP and CSP. These in-demand activities are expected to deliver reductions in greenhouse gas emissions or increases in carbon sequestration as well as significant other benefits to natural resources like soil health, water quality, pollinator and wildlife habitat and air quality. In response to feedback received from conservation partners, producers and NRCS staff across the country, NRCS considered and evaluated activities based on scientific literature demonstrating expected climate change mitigation benefits.
When applied through this framework, these activities are expected to deliver reductions in greenhouse gas emissions or increases in carbon sequestration. NRCS will continue to evaluate additional practices as science progresses and will evaluate and identify quantification methodologies during the fiscal year.
- Find the FY24 list of Climate-Smart Agricultural and Forestry Mitigation Activities here.
- To learn more, check out the Additional Planner Guidance, and our Frequently Asked Questions.
- You can also watch the October 25 webinar: Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry Mitigation Activities and other FY24 Conservation Opportunities.
Expansion of priorities for the ACEP investments
Additionally, NRCS is expanding the national priority areas eligible for Inflation Reduction Act funding for ACEP easements in fiscal year 2024.
For ACEP Agricultural Land Easements (ALE), NRCS is prioritizing securing:
- Grasslands in areas of highest risk for conversion to non-grassland uses to prevent the release of soil carbon stores.
- Agricultural lands under threat of conversion to non-agricultural uses.
- State-specific priorities including rice cultivation on subsiding highly organic soils.
For ACEP Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE), NRCS is prioritizing:
- Land with soils high in organic carbon.
- Eligible lands that will be restored to and managed as forests like bottomland hardwood forests.
- Eligible lands in existing forest cover that will be managed as forests.
- Several geographically specific priorities (i.e., former cranberry bogs, wet meadows, and ephemeral wetlands in grassland ecosystems).
For more information, see our factsheet, The Agricultural Conservation Easements Program and the Inflation Reduction Act.
Right now, we’re increasing staff to help implement the Inflation Reduction Act. NRCS plans to hire up to 4,000 new staff members as well as work with conservation partners to hire nearly 3,000 staff members to help producers develop conservation plans and implement conservation practices, including critical climate-smart practices. Go to USAjobs.gov and search for “NRCS” or “Natural Resources Conservation Service” to find the latest openings.
To strengthen implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act, NRCS is improving its programs, including RCPP and ACEP.
For RCPP, NRCS has identified ways to streamline and simplify RCPP, ease the burden on employees and partners, and help maximize flexibility for partners to leverage their investments with NRCS resources and capabilities. Through a concerted effort since early 2023, using guidance, feedback and expertise from partners, employees, leadership and stakeholders, NRCS has identified several improvements that the agency will implement in the months and years ahead. Learn more about the RCPP improvement effort.
For ACEP, NRCS is updating its processes around appraisals, land surveys, as well as certifying eligible entities who help NRCS and producers enroll land into easements. These changes are for ACEP Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) as well as Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE). Learn more about ACEP improvements.
- Fact Sheet: The Agricultural Conservation Easements Program and the Inflation Reduction Act.
- Fact Sheets: Inflation Reduction Act Investments by State
- Frequently Asked Questions: Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry Mitigation Activities and Inflation Reduction Act Funding
- Sept. 28, 2023 News Release: Biden-Harris Administration Makes Available Historic $3 Billion for Climate-Smart Practices on Agricultural Lands Through Investing in America Agenda
- Sept. 12, 2023 Blog: Turning Your Feedback Into Action on the Inflation Reduction Act
- Farmers.gov webpage: Inflation Reduction Act Investments in USDA Programs
- Fact Sheet: Harnessing the Inflation Reduction Act to Further Support Forest Landscapes
- Fact Sheet: Harnessing the Inflation Reduction Act to Further Support Grasslands
- Fact Sheet: Harnessing the Inflation Reduction Act to Further Support Wetlands
- Fact Sheet: USDA Investment in Improved GHG Measurement, Monitoring, Reporting and Verification for Agriculture and Forestry through the Inflation Reduction Act
- Fact Sheet: NRCS Conservation Programs and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA)
- Fact Sheet: Harnessing the IRA to Support Western Agricultural Landscapes