The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is announcing fiscal year 2024 assistance opportunities for Pennsylvania agricultural producers and private landowners for key programs, such as the Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) program, Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) Easements, and Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). While NRCS accepts applications for these programs year-round, producers and landowners should apply by state-specific application dates to be considered for this year’s funding. The next application date for fiscal year 2024 funding for EQIP, RCPP, AMA, and ACEP is November 1, 2023. Applications are due by January 1, 2024 for the first round of funding for CSP.
Through conservation programs, NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to help producers and landowners make conservation improvements on their land that benefit natural resources, build resiliency and contribute to the nation’s broader effort to combat the impacts of climate change.
“NRCS conservation programs are good for Pennsylvania’s natural resources and for your operation’s bottom line,” said Denise Coleman, NRCS State Conservationist in Pennsylvania. “Whether this is your first time working with NRCS or you want to take conservation to the next level on your land, we encourage you to contact your local NRCS field office to learn more.”
Applying for Assistance
NRCS accepts applications for its conservation programs year-round. State Technical Committees, composed of representatives from conservation and agricultural-related organizations, work with NRCS to set state-specific, ranking dates to evaluate applications for funding. These dates account for producer needs, staff workload and ensure potential participants have ample opportunity to apply. Producers should apply by Pennsylvania’s ranking dates to be considered for funding in the current cycle. Funding is provided through a competitive process. Applications received after ranking dates will be automatically deferred to the next funding period.
Producers, landowners, and forest managers interested in applying for assistance should contact the NRCS at their local USDA Service Center.
AMA helps agricultural producers manage financial risk through diversification, marketing or natural resource conservation practices. NRCS administers the conservation provisions while Agricultural Marketing Service and Risk Management Agency implement the production diversification and marketing provisions.
CSP helps you build on your existing conservation efforts while strengthening your operation. Whether you are looking to improve grazing conditions, increase crop yields, or develop wildlife habitat, we can custom design a CSP plan to help you meet those goals.
EQIP provides cost share assistance for producers to use 170-plus conservation practices to address a wide variety of resource concerns. Within EQIP, Conservation Incentive Contracts allow producers to further target priority resource concerns.
RCPP Land Management Contracts are available to provide cost share assistance for on-the-ground conservation practices through a variety of RCPP Projects, each with its own unique geographic or conservation focus.
RCPP Easements enable private landowners to protect agricultural land and forest land habitat from development. Agricultural easement applications are coordinated through the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) Bureau of Land Preservation and the local county conservation district and/or county land preservation board. Forest easement applications are taken by partnering land conservancies.
ACEP Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) offer private landowners across Pennsylvania the ability to protect private agricultural land from development. Applications are taken by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) Bureau of Land Preservation, Lancaster Farmland Trust, Land Conservancy of Adams County, or the local county conservation district and/or county land preservation board. Other eligible land conservancies may apply to be holders of ACEP ALE easements.
ACEP Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE) facilitate the restoration and protection of wetlands on private land. Eligible land should have a history of crop production, contains hydric soils, and can be restored to natural wetland conditions. Contact your local NRCS office to learn more about submitting an application for ACEP WRE.
Historically Underserved Producer Benefits
Special provisions are also available for historically underserved producers. For EQIP, historically underserved producers are eligible for advance payments to help offset costs related to purchasing materials or contracting services up front. In addition, historically underserved producers can receive higher EQIP payment rates (up to 90% of average cost). NRCS sets aside EQIP funds for historically underserved producers.
To participate in USDA conservation programs, applicants should be farmers or farm or forest landowners and must meet eligibility criteria. To take advantage of NRCS technical assistance and expertise or federally funded conservation on your farm or land, please contact your local USDA NRCS Field Office (found at http://offices.usda.gov), or visit our website at www.pa.nrcs.usda.gov for program information.
Post adapted from a release by USDA; full release can be found here.