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USDA expands conservation programs for 2022

New cover crop programs and expanded incentive programs offered to climate-focused farmers.

Farmers interested in conservation programs through the USDA will see expanded and updated choices for 2022. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced increased opportunities for climate-smart agriculture.

New Partnership and Program

A recently announced partnership with Farmers for Soil Health will expand incentives for farmers utilizing cover crops. An initiative started by the United Soybean Board, National Corn Growers Association, and National Pork Board, Farmers for Soil Health aims to increase the number of cover crops used on corn and soybean farms.

Along with this partnership, a targeted Cover Crop Initiative will be rolled out in 11 states. The $38 million program will aim to mitigate climate change through widespread cover crop use. Chosen for their demonstrated demand for increased cover crop assistance, the program is available in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and South Dakota.

“We are pleased to see NRCS announce this new incentive program for cover crops,” said John Johnson, coordinator of Farmers for Soil Health, in a news release. “Cover crops have great potential to improve soil health, improve water quality, sequester carbon, and make our farms more resilient to severe climate events. We look forward to our partnership with NRCS, working to expand adoption of cover crop practices to help our farmers meet our sustainability goals.”

Sign-up dates will be determined on the state level, with final applications for funding selected by February 11.

Expansions and Updates

This year will also see nationwide availability of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Conservation Incentives Contracts option. These contracts offer annual incentive payments to implement management practices, evaluate conservation, and monitor activities affecting natural resource concerns in high-priority areas.

Piloted in four states in 2021, Conservation Incentive Contracts last five years. A fact sheet with more information is available here.

The NRCS has also updated the reenrollment process for the Conservation Stewardship Program. Producers can now immediately reenroll following an unfunded application to renew an existing contract. This removes previous restrictions which prevented reenrollment for two years if a contract had expired, including those that expired due to lack of funds.

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