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Incentive Programs and Assistance for Producers

NRCS Program


Effects on GHGs

Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA)

Provides assistance to land users, communities, state and local governments, and other Federal agencies in planning and implementing conservation systems.

Provide technical assistance to promote activities that will increase carbon sequestration.

Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)

A voluntary conservation program for farmers and ranchers that promotes agricultural production and environmental quality as compatible national goals. EQIP offers financial and technical help to assist eligible participants install or implement structural and management practices on eligible agricultural land. EQIP offers contracts that provide financial assistance to implement conservation practices. Eligible persons who are engaged in livestock or agricultural production on eligible land may participate in the EQIP program. Conservation activities are carried out according to a conservation plan developed with the producer that identifies the appropriate conservation practice or practices to address the resource concerns on their farm or ranch. Implementation of recommended practices must be done in a manner that meets or exceeds NRCS technical standards adapted for local conditions.

The 2008 Farm Bill provided authority to address air quality and energy conservation resource concerns through EQIP. Although there is no direct authority to address climate change, many projects and practices funded through EQIP could have benefits for climate change.

Examples of EQIP-funded conservation activities that might address climate change impacts include:


  • Crop Residue Management - Promotes no-till, which is a conservation practice that leaves the crop residue undisturbed from harvest through planting except for narrow strips that cause minimal soil disturbance. No-till reduces greenhouse gases because it requires less fuel and sequesters carbon in the soil.
  • Nutrient Management - involves proper timing and placement of the right amounts of nutrients and soil amendments for adequate soil fertility and to minimize potential environmental degradation, particularly of water quality. Also entails the use of anaerobic digesters, such as covered lagoons and complete mix digesters, coupled with electricity generation from methane. Methane emissions -> carbon dioxide emissions = less harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Irrigation Water Management – energy saving and less carbon dioxide emissions (many irrigation systems use diesel).
  • Agricultural Energy Management  Conservation Activity Plans – this is a a comprehensive whole on-farm energy audit evaluation of the energy use and provision of recommendations for how energy conservation and efficiency can be achieved. Of course to recognize actual energy savings and greenhouse gas reductions, the recommendations provided in this plan would need to be implemented.
  • Precision Agriculture - By reducing overlap in fertilizer and pesticide applications on the 250 million acres of cropland used to produce major crops, petroleum-based fertilizer and pesticide costs could be reduced up to $1 billion annually.
  • Pesticide Management - Pesticide production depends heavily on energy resources, less pesticide use = less energy used to produce pesticides.
  • Prescribed Grazing Systems - Well-managed grazing systems improve the health and vigor of plants, enhance the quality and quantity of water, and reduce accelerated soil erosion and improve soil condition on the land. As a result, they can enhance the carbon storage in soil.
  • Windbreaks and Shelterbelts – can entail tree planting, which provides carbon sequestration and energy savings.

Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG)

A voluntary program intended to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies while leveraging Federal investment in environmental enhancement and protection, in conjunction with agricultural production. Under CIG, Environmental Quality Incentives Program funds are used to award competitive grants to non-Federal governmental or non-governmental organizations, Tribes, or individuals.
In June 2011, USDA awarded more than $7 million to fund nine large-scale greenhouse gas mitigation projects in 24 states.

  • Better land management – carbon sequestration
  • Encourage greenhouse gas mitigation projects- greenhouse gas emissions reduction

Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)

The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) is a voluntary conservation program that encourages producers to address resource concerns in a comprehensive manner by:

  • Undertaking additional conservation activities
  • Improving, maintaining, and managing existing conservation activities.

Through CSP, NRCS will provide financial and technical assistance to eligible producers to conserve and enhance soil, water, air, and related natural resources on their land.

  • cropland
  • grassland
  • prairie land
  • improved pastureland
  • rangeland
  • nonindustrial private forest lands
  • agricultural land under the jurisdiction of an Indian tribe

Other related natural resources also include private agricultural land (i.e. cropped woodland, marshes, and agricultural land used for the production of livestock) on which resource concerns related to agricultural production could be addressed.


  • Encourages farmers and ranchers to implement new methods to reduce the use of fossil fuels and minimize impacts on the environment from the use of energy.
  • Promotes better nutrient management and facilitates shift to conservation tillage practices, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and sequestering carbon respectively.

Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP)

Voluntary program offering landowners the opportunity to protect, restore, and enhance wetlands on their property. Goal is to achieve the greatest wetland functions and values, along with optimum wildlife habitat, on every acre enrolled in the program. This program offers landowners an opportunity to establish long-term conservation and wildlife practices and protection through the establishment of permanent or 30-year conservation easements or through restoration cost-share agreements where no easement is involved.

Increasing the acreage of wetland increases carbon sequestration.

Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP)

Voluntary program that encourages creation of high quality wildlife habitats that support wildlife populations of National, State, Tribal, and local significance. NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to landowners and others to develop upland, wetland, riparian, and aquatic habitat areas on their property. NRCS works with the participant to develop a wildlife habitat development plan. This plan becomes the basis of the cost-share agreement between NRCS and the participant. NRCS provides cost-share payments to landowners under these agreements that are usually 5 to 10 years in duration, depending upon the practices to be installed.

Habitat development – carbon sequestration results from conversion of cropland to perennial vegetation or improved management of forests and grasslands.

Healthy Forests Reserve Program (HFRP)

A voluntary program established for the purpose of restoring and enhancing forest ecosystems to: 1) promote the recovery of threatened and endangered species, 2) improve biodiversity; and 3) enhance carbon sequestration. Program achieves these goals through 30-year or permanent easements or through 30-year contracts with Tribal lands and cost-share agreements for up to 10 years.

  • Tree planting – increases the amount of carbon stored in soil and in trees,
  • Prevent the development of forested land by lengthening the rotation of forest land

Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP)

Provides funds to purchase developmental rights to keep productive farmland in use. The program provides matching funds to State, Tribal, or local governments and non-governmental organizations with existing farm and ranch land protection programs to purchase conservation easements.

Prevent the development of farm land – so continual carbon sequestration

Grassland Reserve Program (GRP)

Voluntary program offering landowners the opportunity to protect, restore, and enhance grasslands on their property through easements. The program emphasizes support for working grazing operations; enhancement of plant and animal biodiversity; and protection of grassland and land containing shrubs and forbs under threat of conversion to cropping, urban development, and other activities that threaten grassland resources.

Well-managed grazing systems improve the health and vigor of plants, enhance the quality and quantity of water, and reduce accelerated soil erosion and improve soil condition on the land. As a result, can enhance the sequestering atmospheric carbon in the soil.

Agriculture Management Assistance (AMA)

Provides cost-share and incentive payments to agricultural producers to voluntarily address issues, such as water management, water quality, and erosion control by incorporating conservation practices into their farming operations. Producers may construct or improve water management structures or irrigation structures; plant trees for windbreaks or to improve water quality; and mitigate risk through production diversification or resource conservation practices, including soil erosion control, integrated pest management, or transition to organic farming. AMA is available in 16 states where participation in the Federal Crop Insurance Program is historically low.

According to 2008 Farm Bill , these states include:
Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming.


Planting trees for windbreaks and for water quality improvement also contributes to increased carbon sequestration.

Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWP)

The purpose of the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program is to undertake emergency measures, including the purchase of flood plain easements, for runoff retardation and soil erosion prevention to safeguard lives and property from floods, drought, and the products of erosion on any watershed whenever fire, flood or any other natural occurrence is causing or has caused a sudden impairment of the watershed.

Less erosion – more carbon sequestration

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