USDA offers expanded conservation program options for climate-smart agriculture | Agriculture

The Mattoon Fire Department is responding early Wednesday evening to a field fire along the Lincoln Prairie Grass Trail, west of Interstate 57.

CHAMPAIGN — The U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service is announcing several new and expanded opportunities for climate-smart agriculture.

Updates include nationwide availability of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Conservation Incentive Contracts option and added flexibilities for producers to easily re-enroll in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).

Plant cover crops at home for healthier soil

These improvements to NRCS’ working lands conservation programs, combined with continued program opportunities in Illinois, are part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s broader effort to support climate-smart agriculture.

“Climate and weather issues are real, and America’s agricultural communities are on the frontlines,” NRCS State Conservationist Ivan Dozier said. “We have to continue to support and expand the adoption of conservation approaches to support producers in their work to address the extreme weather conditions and build more resilient operations. We are continuously working to improve our programs to ensure we’re giving Illinois farmers the best tools to conserve natural resources.”

EQIP Conservation Incentive Contracts: Conservation Incentive Contracts address priority resource concerns, including sequestering carbon and improving soil health in Illinois. Through these contracts, NRCS works with producers to strengthen the quality and condition of natural resources on their operations using three management practices: cover crops, nutrient management, and residue and tillage management/no-till. Conservation Incentive Contracts are five years long and offer producers annual incentive payments to implement management practices.

CSP Re-Enrollment Option: NRCS updated CSP to allow an agricultural producer to immediately re-enroll in the program following an unfunded application to renew an existing contract. Previously, if a CSP participant did not re-enroll the year their contract expired, they were ineligible for the program for two years. This ineligibility was imposed on CSP participants even if their failure to sign a renewal contract was due to the unavailability of funds, which is beyond their control. USDA is now waiving this two-year ineligibility restriction for all CSP applications.

Applicants with unfunded fiscal 2022 CSP renewals will receive letters this month, notifying them they are automatically eligible to apply for future CSP funding opportunities, rather than needing to wait two years to reapply.

How to Apply: NRCS accepts applications for conservation programs year-round– including EQIP and CSP–however producers and landowners should apply by the application deadline to be considered for each year’s funding. The deadline is March 4, 2022 for Conservation Incentive Contracts and February 4, 2022 for CSP. To apply, producers should contact their local USDA Service Center at

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