U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) officials are touting record conservation funding for Iowa farmers and private landowners over the next year thanks in part to the Inflation Reduction Act.
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) accepts conservation program applications on a continuous basis but sets application cutoff dates as funding allows. NRCS recently set a Nov. 3 application cutoff for fiscal year 2024 Farm Bill conservation programs.
Iowa agricultural producers and private landowners can apply for NRCS conservation programs by visiting their local NRCS office. Iowa has 100 NRCS field offices, located at USDA Service Centers.
Programs & Practices Available
Signed into law in August 2022, the Inflation Reduction Act will help provide unprecedented funding levels for NRCS’ four primary conservation programs:
- Agricultural Conservation Easement Program-Wetland Reserve Easements (ACEP-WRE)
- Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)
- Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
- Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP)
In addition to traditional program funding for Iowa soil and water conservation practices like terraces, grassed waterways, and water and sediment control basins, the Inflation Reduction Act adds targeted funding for climate-smart agriculture practices such as no-till, cover crops, conservation cover, crop rotations, nutrient management, prescribed grazing, tree-shrub establishment, and windbreak-shelterbelt establishment.
Iowa NRCS will use the ACT NOW process for some EQIP and RCPP funding pools and projects. Through ACT NOW, NRCS can immediately approve and obligate a ranked application when an eligible application meets or exceeds a determined minimum ranking score. Iowa NRCS offices will be using ACT NOW through March 15, 2024.
More about NRCS conservation programs:
ACEP (Wetland Easements)
Through the ACEP-WRE, NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to private landowners and tribal entities for protecting and restoring wetlands through the purchase of a wetland conservation easement. NRCS will enroll eligible land through permanent or 30-year easements.
Private landowners and tribal entities can contact their local NRCS office to find out if they have eligible wetlands on their property, how to complete the application form, or for information about required ownership documents.
Through CSP, NRCS helps agricultural producers build their operation while implementing conservation practices that help ensure its sustainability. The program provides many benefits including increased crop yields, decreased inputs, wildlife habitat improvements, and increased resilience to weather extremes. CSP is intended for working lands including cropland, pastureland, nonindustrial private forest land and agricultural land under the jurisdiction of a tribe.
Through EQIP, NRCS offers planning and financial assistance to implement conservation practices such as no-till, cover crops, terraces, grassed waterways, nutrient management, manure management facilities, and pasture management.
The Nov. 3 application signup cutoff includes EQIP initiatives, such as the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI), Mississippi River Basin Health Watersheds Initiative (MRBI), Prairie Pothole Water Quality and Wildlife Program, Organic Initiative, High Tunnel Initiative, and On-Farm Energy Initiative.
Through RCPP, NRCS co-invests with partners to implement projects that demonstrate innovative solutions to conservation challenges and provide measurable improvements and outcomes tied to resource concerns.
For a complete list of Iowa RCPP projects, visit: nrcs.usda.gov/programs-initiatives/iowa/RCPP.
To apply for NRCS conservation programs, contact your local NRCS office. For more information about conservation planning and programs to help treat natural resource issues on your land, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/ia.