This program assists agricultural producers to manage risk and 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 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. An AMA plan of operations, developed with NRCS, is required. Participants are expected to maintain cost-shared practices for the life of the practice. Contracts are for 1-10 years. Applicants must own or control the land and comply with adjusted gross income limitation provisions. Eligible land includes cropland, rangeland, grassland, pastureland, non-industrial forestland, and other private land that produces crops or livestock where risk may be mitigated through operation diversification or change in resource conservation practices. Total payments shall not exceed $50,000 per year.
CRP is a voluntary program for agricultural landowners. Through CRP, you can receive annual rental payments and cost-share assistance to establish long-term, resource conserving covers on eligible farmland. Participants enroll in CRP contracts for 10 to 15 years. CRP protects millions of acres of American topsoil from erosion and is designed to safeguard the Nation’s natural resources. By reducing water runoff and sedimentation, CRP protects groundwater and helps improve the condition of lakes, rivers, ponds, and streams. Acreage enrolled in the CRP is planted to resource-conserving vegetative covers, making the program a major contributor to increased wildlife populations in many parts of the country. Eligible producers must have owned or operated the land for at least 12 months prior. Eligible land must be either cropland that is planted to an agricultural commodity 4 of the previous 6 crop years or pastureland that is suitable for use as a riparian buffer or for similar water quality purposes. Payments include; Annual Rental Payments for establishing long-term, resource-conserving covers; Maintenance Incentive Payments for certain practices; and Cost-share Assistance at up to 50% of the participants’ costs in establishing approved practices.
CSP is a voluntary program that encourages agricultural and forestry producers to address resource concerns by (1) undertaking additional conservation activities and (2) improving and maintaining existing conservation systems. CSP provides financial and technical assistance to help land stewards conserve and enhance soil, water, air, and related natural resources on their land. CSP is available to all producers, regardless of operation size or crops produced. Eligible lands include cropland, grassland, prairie land, improved pastureland, rangeland, nonindustrial private forest land, and agricultural land under the jurisdiction of an Indian tribe. CSP pays participants for conservation performance—the higher the performance, the higher the payment. An annual payment is available for installing new conservation activities and maintaining existing practices. A supplemental payment is available to participants who also adopt a resource conserving crop rotation. NRCS makes payments for activities installed and maintained in the previous year. Contracts may not exceed $40,000 in any year or $200,000 in any five-years.
EQIP is a voluntary conservation program that provides financial and technical assistance to farmers and ranchers who face threats to soil, water, air, and related natural resources on their land. NRCS develops contracts with agricultural producers to implement conservation practices to address environmental natural resource problems. Payments are made to producers once conservation practices are completed according to NRCS requirements. Persons engaged in livestock or agricultural production and owners of non-industrial private forestland are eligible for the program. Eligible land includes cropland, rangeland, pastureland, private non-industrial forestland, and other farm or ranch lands. An EQIP plan of operations, developed with NRCS, is required. NRCS provides conservation practice payments to landowners under these contracts that can be up to 10 years in duration. Program payments are limited to a person or entity to $300,000 during any 6-year period.
The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) helps landowners, land trusts, and other entities protect, restore, and enhance wetlands, grasslands, and working farms and ranches through conservation easements. Under the Agricultural Land Easements component, NRCS helps American Indian tribes, state and local governments and non-governmental organizations protect working agricultural lands and limit non-agricultural uses of the land. Under the Wetlands Reserve Easements component, NRCS helps to restore, protect and enhance enrolled wetlands.
The Partnership Program was established in 1987 for on-the-ground wetland restoration projects on private lands. At the heart of the Service’s mission are the conservation and management of the Federal Trust Species: migratory birds; threatened and endangered species; inter-jurisdictional fish; certain marine mammals; and species of international concern. The Partners Program provides technical and financial assistance to private landowners and Tribes who are willing to work with us and other partners on a voluntary basis to help meet the habitat needs of our Federal Trust Species. The Partners Program can assist with projects in all habitat types which conserve or restore native vegetation, hydrology, and soils associated with imperiled ecosystems such as longleaf pine, bottomland hardwoods, tropical forests, native prairies, marshes, rivers and streams, or otherwise provide an important habitat requisite for a rare, declining or protected species. Locally-based field biologists work one-on-one with private landowners and other partners to plan, implement, and monitor their projects. Partners Program field staff help landowners find other sources of funding and help them through the permitting process, as necessary.
Funding is available from USDA Rural Development’s REAP to assist agricultural producers and rural small businesses with costs for the purchase and installation of renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements. Solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, and efficiency projects are eligible. The grants are awarded on a competitive basis and can be up to 25% of total eligible project costs. Grant amounts are determined by pending resolutions and final budget appropriations, but in the past these have been limited to $500,000 for renewable energy systems and $250,000 for energy efficiency improvements. Grant requests as low as $2,500 for renewable energy systems and $1,500 for energy efficiency improvements have been considered in the past.
This program addresses the unique circumstances and concerns of socially disadvantaged, limited resource, and beginning farmers and ranchers. It offers voluntary participation, incentives, and applies equity in USDA programs and services. It also provides up to 90% of costs associated with conservation planning and implementation for socially disadvantaged and beginning farmers or ranchers. Up to 30% of such payments may be provided in advance for purchasing materials or contracting. A socially disadvantaged group is defined as a group whose members have been subject to racial or ethnic prejudice because of their identity as members of a group, without regard to their individual qualities. Beginning Farmer or Ranchers must have operated a farm or ranch for less than 10 consecutive years. Farmer must have direct or indirect gross farm sales less than current indexed value in each of previous 2 years and have a total household income at or below national poverty level for a family of 4, or less than 50% of county’s median household income in each of the previous 2 years.
This program may be used for planning activities and for working capital for marketing value-added agricultural products and for farm-based renewable energy. Eligible applicants are independent producers, farmer and rancher cooperatives, agricultural producer groups, and majority-controlled producer-based business ventures. Grant funds for feasibility analysis and economic planning activities for projects where energy generated on-farm comes from agricultural commodities is also available. Awards may be made for planning activities or for working capital expenses, but not for both. The maximum grant amount for a planning grant is $100,000 and the maximum grant amount for a working capital grant is $300,000.
Technical and financial assistance is provided in cooperation with local sponsoring organizations, state, and other public agencies to voluntarily plan and install watershed-based projects on private lands. The purposes of watershed projects include watershed protection, flood prevention, water quality improvements, soil erosion reduction, rural, municipal and industrial water supply, irrigation management, sedimentation control, fish and wildlife habitat enhancement and create/restore wetlands and wetland functions. Technical and financial assistance can be provided for installation of works of improvement specified in the plans. Project sponsors get assistance in installing land treatment measures when plans are approved. Technical assistance is furnished to landowners and operators to accelerated planning and application of needed conservation on their individual units.