Community Agriculture is an Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) initiative used by NRCS in Montana.
About Community Agriculture
NRCS Montana has developed the Montana Urban Agriculture - A Community Agriculture Strategic Plan. This plan outlines in broad strokes our definition of community agriculture and our plans to further NRCS support of community ag operations, partners, and education.
Urban agriculture is not a phrase that resonates in Montana, a primarily rural state. We are electing to use community agriculture in its place.
Community agriculture producers can be any size. They provide food, fiber, and other resources to Montana's communities in many ways - from produce, grains, honey, and proteins to jobs, open space, and natural resource management.
How We Help Agriculture Producers of All Sizes
NRCS Montana provides technical and financial assistance to growers with:
Soil Health- As experts in soil health, NRCS can advise producers on things like how, when, and what cover crops to grow; diverse crop rotations; evaluating soil conditions; identifying soil health testing needs; how to add soil organic matter and nutrients by mulching and composting; and low input management strategies.
Irrigation and Water Conservation- NRCS can help ag producers conserve water, by assisting with things like drip irrigation and irrigation water management.
Wildlife Habitat- NRCS can provide financial assistance for planting pollinator habitat for beneficial insects, adding structures to attract desired wildlife, and various other practices that will support a healthy ecosystem.
Season Extension- NRCS can provide financial assistance for both high tunnels and low tunnels, used to extend the growing season and to protect plants from harsh weather, air pollution, and pests. By making local and produce available for more months in the year, fewer resources are used to transport food to plates.
Hear from Community Agriculture Producers
EQIP Community Agriculture Initiative in Montana
Eligible land includes land on which agriculture commodities, livestock, or forest related products are produced. Montana NRCS will use the following eligible land uses for the Community Agriculture Initiative:
- Non-industrial private forestland
- Associated Ag land
Eligible Conservation Practices
See the Montana Payment Schedule below for practices. Detailed descriptions of these conservation practices can be found in the Field Office Technical Guide, Section 4 - Practice Standards and Supporting Documents. All practices are eligible except the following three: 666 Forest Stand Improvement, 383 Fuel Break, and 384 Woody Residue Treatment, 442 Sprinkler Systems (Center Pivot), 642 Water Wells (to provide irrigation water).
An expanded set of conservation practices tailored to the conservation needs of small-scale ag producers has been developed. For example, some payment rates are now based on square feet rather than acres of implementation for practices like grazing management, irrigation water management, pest management, and cover crops. In addition, some new practices have been added including low tunnel management and compost or compost plus biochar in small areas. Ask your local NRCS conservationist for more information about these small-scale ag practices.
Montana-EQIP-payment-rates (378.94 KB)
There is no limit to the size of a high tunnel or number of high tunnels for which a producer can apply. However, a maximum practice payment cap per high tunnel has been established.
When to Apply
Program applications are accepted on a continual basis. However, NRCS establishes application ranking dates for evaluation, ranking and approval of eligible applications. Applications received after the ranking date will be automatically deferred to the next funding period. See Montana Programs and Application Dates.
Local Ranking Questions
NRCS uses these questions to evaluate eligible applications for this project and to prioritize applications for potential funding.
- Will the applicant implement two or more activities during the life of the contract on cropland that improve soil organic matter?
- Does the application benefit pollinator species through the seeding of pollinator friendly seeding mixes?
- Will practice 528 (prescribed grazing) be implemented on livestock operations to improve soil organic matter?
- Will the application address the resource concern of plant productivity, health and vigor?
- Montana Payment Schedule
- Montana Priority Resource Concerns
- Montana Programs and Application Dates
- Environmental Quality Incentives Program - Montana
- National NRCS Urban Agriculture
- Farmers.gov Urban Growers
- Solutions for Small Scale Farms
- NRCS in Montana does not offer financial assistance at this time through the Community Agriculture Initiative for the following practices listed on the Solutions for Small Scale Farms page: Abandoned Well Plugging, Forest Farming, Fuel and Fire Breaks, Pruning, Small Woodlot Improvement, and Sources of Water. Some of these practices may be included in other financial assistance opportunities. See What's Available in My County.
- When considering the information provided in the Sources of Water fact sheet, please conform to all pertinent water rights and other rules and regulations for Montana and your county.
Ready to get started?
Contact your local service center to start your application.
How to Get Assistance
Do you farm or ranch and want to make improvements to the land that you own or lease?
Natural Resources Conservation Service offers technical and financial assistance to help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners.
To get started with NRCS, we recommend you stop by your local NRCS field office. We’ll discuss your vision for your land.
NRCS provides landowners with free technical assistance, or advice, for their land. Common technical assistance includes: resource assessment, practice design and resource monitoring. Your conservation planner will help you determine if financial assistance is right for you.
We’ll walk you through the application process. To get started on applying for financial assistance, we’ll work with you:
- To fill out an AD 1026, which ensures a conservation plan is in place before lands with highly erodible soils are farmed. It also ensures that identified wetland areas are protected.
- To meet other eligibility certifications.
Once complete, we’ll work with you on the application, or CPA 1200.
Applications for most programs are accepted on a continuous basis, but they’re considered for funding in different ranking periods. Be sure to ask your local NRCS district conservationist about the deadline for the ranking period to ensure you turn in your application in time.
As part of the application process, we’ll check to see if you are eligible. To do this, you’ll need to bring:
- An official tax ID (Social Security number or an employer ID)
- A property deed or lease agreement to show you have control of the property; and
- A farm number.
If you don’t have a farm number, you can get one from USDA’s Farm Service Agency. Typically, the local FSA office is located in the same building as the local NRCS office. You only need a farm number if you’re interested in financial assistance.
NRCS will take a look at the applications and rank them according to local resource concerns, the amount of conservation benefits the work will provide and the needs of applicants. View Application Ranking Dates by State.
If you’re selected, you can choose whether to sign the contract for the work to be done.
Once you sign the contract, you’ll be provided standards and specifications for completing the practice or practices, and then you will have a specified amount of time to implement. Once the work is implemented and inspected, you’ll be paid the rate of compensation for the work if it meets NRCS standards and specifications.