USDA to Invest in Conservation Assistance for Drought-Impacted States

In response to historic drought conditions, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is offering $41.8 million through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to help agricultural producers in ArizonaCaliforniaColorado, and Oregon alleviate the immediate impacts of drought and other natural resource challenges on working lands. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will make available this funding through Conservation Incentive Contracts, a new option available through EQIP. Signup for this targeted funding begins today, and NRCS will accept applications through July 12, 2021.

Through EQIP, NRCS offers conservation practices that help producers recover from the impacts of drought as well as build resiliency. These practices provide other key benefits, including mitigating impacts from climate change as well as preventing and recovering from wildfire.

“As ongoing drought conditions in Colorado continue to worsen, we knew we needed to increase our support to farmers and ranchers in dealing with drought and prepare for the challenges of tomorrow,” said Clint Evans, NRCS State Conservationist in Colorado. “EQIP is our flagship conservation program, and with the expanded benefits the Conservation Incentive Contracts offer, it enables producers to deploy conservation activities that strengthen existing efforts on their land to help during times of drought. Additionally, by targeting this program in several states, we can make any needed adjustments before rolling out Conservation Incentive Contracts nationwide in fiscal year 2022.”

While Conservation Incentive Contracts are available in select states in fiscal year 2021, NRCS will roll out nationwide in fiscal year 2022, using this pilot to refine the implementation of this new option. The 2018 Farm Bill created the new Conservation Incentive Contracts option to address high-priority conservation and natural resources concerns, including drought. Through 5- to 10-year contracts, producers manage, maintain, and address important natural resource concerns and build on existing conservation efforts.

Conservation Incentive Contracts offer conservation activities that producers implement to address resource concerns. NRCS will set aside $11.8 million directly for drought-related practices. Practices include forest management plans, tree/shrub establishment, brush management, prescribed grazing, pasture, and hay planting, wildlife habitat, livestock watering systems, and cover crops.

To learn more about Conservation Incentive Contracts, visit the EQIP webpage. Producers in Arizona, California, Colorado, and Oregon who are interested in this targeted funding should apply by July 12, 2021, by contacting their local USDA Service Center. While USDA offices may be closed to visitors because of the pandemic, Service Center staff continue to work with agricultural producers via phone, email, and other digital tools. To conduct business, please contact your local USDA Service Center. Contact information can be found at farmers.gov/service-locator.

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