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Press Release

USDA conservation program third signup open for Rhode Island farmers and forest landowners

Cows in a field in Rhode Island

NRCS announces additional financial assistance opportunities for fiscal year 2024 for Rhode Island farmers and forest landowners under the Farm Bill’s Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI) and Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).

Through conservation programs, NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to help farmers and forest landowners make conservation improvements on their land to benefit natural resources, build resiliency, and combat the impacts of climate change.

While NRCS accepts applications for these programs year-round, farmers and landowners should apply by the May 17, 2024, ranking date to be considered for this year’s additional ranking opportunity.

“NRCS conservation programs are good for Rhode Island’s natural resources and for your operation’s bottom line,” said Phou Vongkhamdy, NRCS State Conservationist in Rhode Island. “Whether this is your first time working with NRCS or you want to take conservation to the next level on your land, we encourage you to contact your local NRCS field office to learn more.”

Program Options:

  • The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) helps farmers and forest landowners to maintain and improve their existing conservation systems and adopt additional conservation activities to address priority resource concerns. Participants receive annual CSP payments and earn additional practice payments for conservation performance—the higher the performance, the higher the payment. CSP has a minimum payment of $4,000 per year for 5 years.
  • This year, the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI) in Rhode Island targets the Sakonnet River watershed, whose waterbodies have significant water quality impairment from excessive nutrients and pathogens. Sakonnet River watershed degradation negatively impacts several coastal lagoons and important drinking water supply sources. Through NWQI, farmers and ranchers within the watershed can address water quality degradation on or stemming from their operations. NRCS funding prioritizes conservation practices that reduce movement of sediment, nutrients and pathogens; concentrated soil erosion; and agricultural pollutants including fertilizers and manure from agricultural operations to surface and ground water sources.
  • The Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) Statewide Natural System Demonstration and Conservation Plan Implementation projects are partner-driven approaches to conservation that fund solutions to natural resource challenges on agricultural land throughout Rhode Island. The Statewide Natural Systems RCPP focuses on water quality improvement in the Scituate Reservoir, Maidford River and Winnapaug Pond watersheds. The Conservation Plan Implementation RCPP focuses on applying proper manure storage and handling practices in RI Farm, Forest and Open Space (FFOS)-designated farms that have an existing conservation plan.

Historically underserved farmer benefits

Special provisions are available for historically underserved farmers (beginning, socially disadvantaged or limited resource farmers). Historically underserved farmers can receive higher payment rates of up to 90 percent of average practice cost. NRCS sets aside CSP funds for historically underserved farmers.

How to Apply

NRCS accepts applications for its conservation programs year-round and funding is provided through a competitive process. NRCS sets specific ranking dates to evaluate applications for funding that account for farmer needs, staff workload and ensure potential participants have ample opportunity to apply. Interested Rhode Island applicants should apply by May 17, 2024, to be considered for funding in the current cycle. Applications received afterwards will be automatically deferred to the next funding period.

Call NRCS Rhode Island today to see how we can help you help your land!

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