Voluntary Conservation to Support Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is providing $10 million to support climate-smart agriculture and forestry through voluntary conservation practices in 10 targeted states, including Pennsylvania. This assistance, available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), will help agricultural producers plan and implement voluntary conservation practices that sequester carbon, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the impacts of climate change on working lands.
Producers in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin can apply for this funding opportunity. Each state will determine its own signup period, with signups expected to begin on or around June 24 in most states. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), which administers EQIP, selected states based on demonstrated demand for additional support for climate-smart practices.
This pilot will be expanded through a comprehensive effort across all states and programs to support farmers, ranchers and forest landowners in fiscal year 2022.
Through EQIP, NRCS provides agricultural producers and landowners with financial assistance and one-on-one technical support to plan and implement voluntary conservation practices. The outcomes are a benefit for producers and the environment, with producers conserving natural resources and delivering environmental benefits while building resiliency to strengthen their working land.
While NRCS offers a broad array of conservation practices, the agency identifies a sub-set as critical for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, sequestering carbon and ultimately mitigating the impacts of climate change. These climate-smart conservation practices will be prioritized in this targeted EQIP signup period and support systems for:
• Building soil health.
• Improving nitrogen management.
• Improving livestock waste management systems.
• Enhancing grazing and pasture management.
• Improving agroforestry, forestry and upland wildlife habitat.
• Improving conservation management for rice production.
Producers can visit NRCS’s EQIP webpage for a list of the specific climate-smart conservation practices.
Multiple states, including Pennsylvania
For More Information:
States will rank applications for funding based on expected climate change mitigation benefits. Producers can contact the NRCS office at their local USDA Service Center to learn more, including specific state deadlines to apply and the selection process for awarding contracts.
Producers and landowners in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are encouraged to work with their local NRCS office to begin the application process. USDA encourages historically underserved producers and landowners to apply and will work with partner groups to ensure funds are equitably distributed.
Conservation Reserve Program Grasslands Signups
Agricultural producers and landowners in New York can apply for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Grasslands signup until August 20. This year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) updated signup options to provide greater incentives for producers and increased the program’s conservation and climate benefits, including setting a minimum rental rate and identifying two national priority zones.
The CRP Grassland signup is competitive, and USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) will provide for annual rental payments for land devoted to conservation purposes.
CRP Grasslands helps landowners and operators protect grassland, including rangeland, and pastureland and certain other lands, while maintaining the areas as working grazing lands. Protecting grasslands contributes positively to the economy of many regions, provides biodiversity of plant and animal populations, and provides important carbon sequestration benefits.
FSA has updated the Grasslands Signup to establish a minimum rental rate of $15 per acre, which will benefit 1,300 counties.
To focus on important wildlife corridors, FSA also identified National Grassland Priority Zones, providing extra incentives to producers for enrolling grasslands in important migratory corridors and environmentally sensitive areas – the Greater Yellowstone Elk Migration Corridor and the Severe Wind Erosion – Dust Bowl Zone. Counties within these two zones get extra ranking points as well as $5 added to their rental rate. The CRP Grasslands Ranking Factors fact sheet has additional information.
To enroll in the CRP Grasslands signup, producers and landowners should contact USDA by the August 20 deadline.
For More Information:
Contact your Service Center to set up an in-person or phone appointment
Resource Enhancement and Protection Farm Conservation Tax Credits
Pennsylvania farmers can receive $13 million in tax credits for measures to improve soil and water quality. The tax credits are available through Pennsylvania’s Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP).
REAP tax credits are available to agricultural producers who implement best management practices or purchase equipment that reduces nutrient and sediment runoff, enhancing soil and improving the quality of Pennsylvania’s waterways.
Farmers may receive up to $250,000 in any seven-year period, and spouses filling jointly can use REAP Tax Credits.
Examples of funded projects include no-till planting and precision ag equipment, waste storage facilities, conservation plans, Nutrient Management Plans.
Measures that limit run-off from high animal-traffic areas like barnyards, as well as cover crops and riparian stream buffers that prevent erosion and keep nutrients out of streams are also common REAP-eligible practices.
Farmers may receive REAP tax credits of 50 to 75 percent of the project’s eligible out-of-pocket costs.
Farmers whose operation is in a watershed with an EPA-mandated Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) can receive REAP tax credits of 90 percent of out-of-pocket costs for some projects.
Tax credits can be used in conjunction with other funding sources such as the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP), the Chesapeake Bay Program or Conservation Excellence Grants to help install BMPs.
REAP applications are reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis. Baseline eligibility includes compliance with the PA Clean Streams Law and the Pennsylvania Nutrient and Odor Management Law.
Private investors may act as project sponsors by providing capital in exchange for tax credits. Any individual or business subject to taxation by Pennsylvania through personal income tax, corporate net income tax, the bank shares tax or others is eligible to participate in REAP.
This is a first-come, first-serve program until available funding runs out.
For More Information:
For all the details, visit the Department of Agriculture’s Resource Enhancement and Protection webpage.
2021 Pennsylvania Leopold Conservation Award
The PA Farm Bureau, The Heinz Foundation and the Sand County Foundation are now accepting nominations for the 2021 Pennsylvania Leopold Conservation Award.
The $10,000 prize and the Aware are given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold. The award recognizes landowners who inspire others with their dedication to land, water and wildlife habitat management on private, working land.
Previous winners in Pennsylvania include — Ben and Sharon Peckman, Franklin County-2020; Dean and Rebecca Jackson, Bradford County-2019; and the DiFebo Family, Northampton County.
August 5, 2021
For More Information:
For all the details and how to apply, visit the 2021 Pennsylvania Leopold Conservation Award webpage.
Conservation Support in Lancaster, Lebanon, Dauphin Counties
(From Lancaster Farming article: Ambitious Conservation Program Covers Total Costs for Farmland Improvements)
A million-dollar grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation will pay the total costs of riparian buffers and other conservation practices on farms in three contiguous watersheds in Pennsylvania’s Lancaster, Lebanon and Dauphin counties.
Project partners include Penn State University; Lancaster, Lebanon and Dauphin County conservation districts; USDA NRCS; USDA Agricultural Research Service; Lancaster Farmland Trust; Stroud Water Research Center; Pennsylvania No-Till Alliance; Susquehanna River Basin Commission; Chesapeake Conservancy; Londonderry Township and other local municipalities; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Chesapeake Bay Foundation; Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay; and local farmers.
The grant covers 220 square miles of heavily farmed land in watersheds drained by the Chiques, Conoy and Conewago creeks in Lancaster, Lebanon, Dauphin counties.
For More Information:
Agricultural Outreach Specialist
Penn State Agriculture and Environment Center