USDA Offers Expanded Conservation Program Opportunities to Support Climate-Smart Agriculture in 2023
LITTLE ROCK, AR, Feb. 28, 2023 –
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is announcing several new and expanded opportunities for climate-smart agriculture in 2023. Updates include nationwide availability of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Conservation Incentive Contracts (CIC) option and EQIP Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry (CSAF). These improvements to NRCS’s working lands conservation programs, combined with continued program opportunities in Arkansas, are part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s broader effort to support climate-smart agriculture.
“America’s farmers, ranchers, and forest owners are leading the way in implementing climate-smart solutions across their operations,” Arkansas NRCS State Conservationist Mike Sullivan said. “We are continuing to support the adoption of conservation approaches to assist Arkansas producers in their work addressing the climate crisis and building more resilient operations. We are continuously working to improve our programs to ensure we are giving farmers and ranchers the best tools to conserve natural resources. We want a broad array of agriculture to see themselves in this effort, including small and historically underserved producers as well as early adopters.”
The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is holding a signup to support climate-smart agriculture and forestry through voluntary conservation practices. This assistance, available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), will help agricultural producers plan and implement voluntary conservation practices that sequester carbon, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the impacts of climate change on working lands.
NRCS will rank applications for funding based on expected climate change mitigation benefits. Producers can contact the NRCS office at their local USDA Service Center to learn more about the selection process for awarding contracts. Priority conservation categories in Arkansas include:
• Improving conservation management for rice production
o Includes producers in Craighead, Poinsett, Cross, Lonoke, Prairie, Phillips, Jefferson, Arkansas, Mississippi, Crittenden and St. Francis counties.
• Improving agroforestry, forestry and upland wildlife habitat
Includes producers in Saline, Hot Spring, Clark, Nevada, Hempstead, Lafayette, Columbia, Grant, Dallas, Ouachita, Union, Bradley, Calhoun, Cleveland, Jefferson, Ashley, Drew and Lincoln counties.
NRCS accepts program applications on a continuous basis but sets dates to batch and rank applications as funding allows. Farmers and landowners in Arkansas who submit applications to their local NRCS office by March 31, 2023, will be considered for this round of funding. Applications received after March 31 will be considered in later funding periods, subject to funding availability.
Conservation Incentive Contracts (CIC) 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, such as irrigation water management, drainage water management, feed management, and residue and tillage management that target resource concerns, including degraded soil and water quality, available water and soil erosion.
CIC offer producers annual incentive payments to implement management practices as well as conservation evaluation and monitoring activities to help manage, maintain and improve priority natural resource concerns within state high-priority areas and build on existing conservation efforts.
NRCS Arkansas is accepting EQIP-CIC applications in several counties for livestock producers to address soil quality, plant condition, and threats to water quality. Livestock producers in Cleburne, Columbia, Conway, Crawford, Faulkner, Franklin, Hempstead, Howard, Independence, Jackson, Johnson, Lafayette, Lawrence, Little River, Logan, Miller, Montgomery, Nevada, Perry, Pike, Polk, Pope, Pulaski, Randolph, Scott, Sebastian, Sevier, Sharp, Van Buren and Yell counties will have until March 31, 2023, to apply for the EQIP-Conservation Incentive Contracts.
How to Apply
NRCS accepts applications for conservation programs – including EQIP – year-round, however producers and landowners should apply by state specific signup dates to be considered for each year’s funding. That includes March 31, 2023, Climate - Smart Agriculture Forestry and for the Conservation Incentive Contracts. To apply, producers should contact their local USDA Service Center.