The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in California announced Fiscal Year 2023 (October 1, 2022 through September 30, 2023) Farm Bill assistance opportunities for agricultural producers, including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). While NRCS accepts applications for these programs year-round, interested applicants should apply no later than December 9, 2022, for the first application cutoff period.
Through EQIP, approximately $53 million is available for conservation practices and initiatives, including:
- $20 million specifically for the National Air Quality Initiative to assist farmers in replacing outdated on-farm engines with new and cleaner-burning technology.
- $5 million specifically to support wildlife habitat creation and enhancement on farms and ranches.
- NRCS and Bureau of Reclamation WaterSmart partner projects to help improve water infrastructure, delivery, and application on farms.
- National Water Quality Initiative for targeted conservation actions to improve water quality in the Calleguas Creek and Salt River watersheds.
- Fire hazard reduction vegetation management and post wildfire forest restoration projects that improve wildfire forest resilience in California.
Application cutoff periods allow NRCS to screen-and-rank applications for those with the highest conservation benefits across California’s landscapes, including cropland, ranchlands, and private non-industrial forestlands. A second cutoff period may be scheduled in Spring 2023 as federal conservation funding is available.
EQIP provides financial assistance to agricultural producers to address natural resource concerns and deliver environmental benefits. These include improved water and air quality, improved irrigation efficiency, reduced soil erosion and sedimentation, forest restoration, and creating or enhancing wildlife habitat.
Approximately $11 million is also available through CSP for producers to earn payments for actively managing, maintaining, and expanding conservation activities integrated within their agricultural operations. CSP enhancements like cover crops, ecologically-based pest management, and buffer strips help producers improve soil health while protecting water quality. Other CSP activities help sustain and increase pollinator and beneficial insect habitat in harmony with agriculture production on their land.
Applying for Assistance
NRCS accepts conservation program applications year-round. State Technical Committees, composed of producers and partners, work with NRCS to set state-specific, ranking dates to evaluate applications for funding. These dates account for producer needs, staff workload, and to ensure potential participants have ample opportunity to apply. To find out more about our application process or to begin an application, please contact your local NRCS Service Center by visiting here.
NRCS offers conservation technical assistance at no cost to give producers personalized advice and information, based on the latest science and research, to help them make informed decisions. If a producer chooses to take the next step towards improving their operations, NRCS staff can work with them to develop a free, personalized conservation plan, with conservation practices that can help them reach their agricultural production and conservation goals.
The voluntary conservation plan defines and explains existing resources in a simple, easy to understand manner. Typically, the plan will include land use maps, soils information, inventory of resources, engineering notes, and other supporting information. One benefit to landowners who work with an NRCS professional conservationist to develop a plan is an increased potential for participating in financial assistance programs and is a good first step in the overall process.
Historically Underserved Producer Benefits
Special provisions are also available for historically underserved producers. For EQIP, historically underserved producers are eligible for advance payments to help offset costs related to purchasing materials or contracting services up front. In addition, historically underserved producers can receive higher EQIP payment rates (up to 90% of average cost). NRCS sets aside EQIP and CSP funds for historically underserved producers.
NRCS has provided leadership in a partnership effort to help America’s private landowners and managers conserve their soil, water, and other natural resources since 1935. https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/conservation-basics/conservation-by-state/california