The time is now for farmers and ranchers to apply for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) working lands conservation programs.
Additional funding for programs—including the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)—has been made available from the federal Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). This means interested producers are more likely to receive funding to support new conservation efforts than in years past.
The USDA’s working lands programs provide financial and technical assistance for farmers and ranchers to implement conservation practices on their operations. They have been historically underfunded and oversubscribed, with the number of eligible applications exceeding available funding. The additional funding—$8.45 billion for EQIP and $3.25 billion for CSP through 2026—will allow more producers to enroll and engage in practices that protect water quality and improve soil health.
The application processes will remain largely the same for farmers and ranchers. However, to be eligible for IRA-funded contracts, producers must agree to implement practices designated by the USDA as Climate Smart Agriculture activities. These activities include many popular practices such as cover crops, conservation tillage, prescribed grazing, and nutrient management.
Producers interested in applying are encouraged to contact their local USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service office as soon as possible. CSP and EQIP applications are accepted year-round, however, producers are encouraged to complete initial paperwork by their state’s application deadline. For a list of these deadlines, visit nrcs.usda.gov/ranking-dates. To find your local office, visit nrcs.usda.gov/contact/find-a-service-center.