NRCS Alabama Announces FY 2024 Financial Assistance Program Signup
NEWS RELEASE - Signup Deadline Announcement for Alabama’s FY 2024 Easement and Financial Assistance Programs
FY24 Signup Deadline Announced for NRCS Alabama’s Easement and Financial Assistance Programs
AUBURN, ALABAMA, SEPTEMBER 26,2023 – Alabama State Conservationist, Ben Malone, with the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announces that the Fiscal Year 2024 Farm Bill Easement and Financial Assistance Programs signup batching date will be November 3rd, 2023. Applicable programs include:
- Agricultural Conservation Easement Program – Wetland Reserve Easements (ACEP-WRE)
- Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)
- Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
- (EQIP) Conservation Incentive Contracts (CIC)
- Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) within EQIP
NRCS offers 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 provide financial assistance to help plan and 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. More specifically:
ACEP - WRE: easements provide habitat for fish and wildlife, including threatened and endangered species, improve water quality by filtering sediments and chemicals, reduce flooding, recharge groundwater, protect biological diversity and provide opportunities for educational, scientific and limited recreational activities. Land eligible for wetland reserve easements include farmed or converted wetland that can be successfully and cost-effectively restored. NRCS will prioritize applications based the easement’s potential for protecting and enhancing habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife.
CSP: assists agricultural producers maintain and improve their existing conservation systems and adopt additional conservation activities to address priority resources concerns. Participants earn CSP payments for conservation performance—the higher the performance, the higher the payment. NOTE: unfunded FY2024 CSP-Renewals will be automatically deferred to the FY2024 General CSP sign-up.
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, increased soil health and reduced soil erosion and sedimentation, improved or created wildlife habitat, and mitigation against increasing weather volatility. Initiatives include Animal Mortality, Bobwhite Quail, Climate Smart Ag, Feral Swine, Hellbender, High Tunnel, Irrigation, Longleaf Pine, New and Beginning Farmers, On Farm Energy, Organic, Shortleaf, Small-Scale, Socially Disadvantaged Farmers, Strikeforce, Technical Service Provider, Water Quality, White Oak, and Working Lands For Wildlife – Gopher Tortoise.
EQIP - CIC: provides financial assistance to address priority resource concerns, including sequestering carbon and improving soil health in high-priority areas. Through these contracts, NRCS works with producers to strengthen the quality and condition of natural resources on their operations using management practices that target resource concerns including degraded soil condition and soil erosion. The focus within Alabama for CIC is to increase the adoption of Cover Crops, Native Warm Season Grasses, Prescribed Grazing, and Residue and Tillage Management on Cropland and Pasture. Conservation Incentive Contracts last five years.
RCPP - EQIP: promotes coordination of NRCS conservation activities with partners that offer value-added contributions to expand our collective ability to address on-farm, watershed, and regional natural resource concerns. Through RCPP, NRCS seeks to co-invest with partners to implement projects that demonstrate innovative solutions to conservation challenges and provide measurable improvements and outcomes tied to the resource concerns they seek to address. The Alabama Riparian Habitat Initiative lead partner is the Alabama Soil and Water Conservation Committee (SWCC) and is available statewide. Practices include Riparian Buffer establishment, Exclusion Fencing, Livestock Watering Systems, and other supporting practices. This is the final year of this project.
Applications are accepted on a continuous basis; however, selecting applications for funding is completed periodically through batching periods with specific cutoff dates. The first cutoff date is November 3rd, 2023. Applications received after this date will be held and considered for subsequent funding announcements as available funds permit (see ACT NOW exception below).
Through the ACT NOW provision, applications for the Small-Scale and High Tunnel Initiatives will be assessed and ranked as they are received in the field offices. Based on funds availability, applications with a ranking score of at least 30 and 95 environmental points (Small-Scale and High Tunnel initiatives, respectively) will be immediately pre-approved.
This initial sign-up will include Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) funded opportunities for all covered programs (ACEP-WRE, CSP, and EQIP). In Alabama, applications will be accepted state-wide for both IRA-EQIP and IRA-CSP that include Climate Smart Agricultural and Forestry (CSAF) activities that are set nationally. Within IRA-EQIP, supporting practices may be requested, but will only be included in a conservation plan if they facilitate a CSAF practice. Within CSP, only those enhancements listed as a CSAF enhancement may be included in an IRA-CSP conservation plan.
Special emphasis participants like socially disadvantaged, limited resource, new and beginning, and eligible military veteran farmers and ranchers are eligible for a higher financial assistance payment rate. In addition, these Historically Underserved Farmers and Ranchers are eligible for a 50 percent advanced payment for purchasing materials or contracting to help with practice implementation in EQIP.
Within EQIP, High Priority and Source Water Protection practices will receive higher payment rates in designated conservation areas within the state. Additionally, in FY2024, Conservation Incentive Contracts will be offered, and all areas within the state are located within the high priority area. In order to attempt to help more applicants, Local Workgroups may have set Financial Caps for certain practices when utilizing local county funds; established financial caps are posted at the local Service Centers.
For more information about Alabama NRCS and Programmatic initiatives, priorities and assessment/ranking criteria, visit online at www.al.nrcs.usda.gov. Additionally, visit your local USDA Service Center to determine eligibility; applicants are not eligible for USDA programs until they have ensured all Farm Bill eligibility requirements have been met. You can locate your local Service Center at USDA Service Center Locator.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).