The new program prioritizes whole-farm climate resilience, such as managing livestock access to water bodies, and wildlife friendly fencing, as the drought poses challenges and an earlier start to wildfire season calls for more action to address the climate crisis.
More than $22 million is available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for this new program – Conservation Incentive Contracts (EQIP-CIC) – that bridges two existing programs Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).
This is pilot program focuses on reducing or mitigating the most hard-felt impacts of drought and wildfire, compounded by climate change, through investment in on-farm conservation practices to bolster resilience. After this pilot year, the program will be expanded nation-wide.
Conservation Incentive Contracts Program Basics
EQIP-CIC allows producers to implement different conservation enhancements that are part of CSP on a smaller scale. Unlike CSP, there is no requirement for conservation efforts and practices to already be underway, so this program provides a way for producers who have not yet adopted the eligible conservation practices to plan and manage for drought resiliency longer-term.
The minimum contract period for EQIP-CIC is 5 years and may extend up to 10 years. Building on the existing caps for EQIP grants, producers can apply for up to $650,000 for EQIP-CIC projects over 5 years.
There are two types of incentive payments:
- payments to adopt new practices or infrastructure for conservation goals
- payments to manage, maintain and improve conservation work
Cropland, rangeland and pasture and forestland are all eligible land uses. Every project in EQIP-CIC has to address at least one priority resource concern related to specific land use:
- source water depletion on crop land
- soil quality limitation on cropland
- terrestrial habitat on cropland and forest land
- livestock production limitation on range and pasture land
- degraded plant condition on range, pasture and forest land
- fire management on range, pasture and forest land
Signups have already begun and NRCS will accept applications through July 12, 2021. Producers need to meet in person with their NRCS district conservation to complete the applications – so find your local NRCS office here to book an appointment for more information or download an application here.
NRCS plans to select applications for funding by August 13, 2021.