No-till farming and conservation agriculture will receive nearly $23 billion in additional U.S. government funding over the next 5 years, a “once-in-a-lifetime investment into conservation,” according to USDA’s National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Terry Cosby. The Inflation Reduction Act, passed Aug. 16, 2022, designates $20 billion for the NRCS. Another $2.8 billion will come from the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities program, a USDA program that finances pilot projects supporting the production and marketing of “climate-smart” commodities.

With almost $23 billion coming its way, the NCRS annual budget will double to $8.5 million, according to a Feb. 6 report from Trust In Food.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime investment into conservation,” NRCS Chief Terry Cosby told attendees during a presentation at the 2023 Trust In Food Symposium in February.

The funding from the Inflation Reduction Act will be broken up into the following programs:

  • $8.45 billion for Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
  • $4.95 billion for Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP)
  • $3.25 billion for Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)
  • $1.4 billion for Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP)
  • $1 billion for Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA)
  • $300 million for evaluation

Trust in Food reports the NRCS receives more than 100,000 applications each year for its programs, but it typically has funding for only 25% of those requests. This has created a backlog and frustration among farmers — two issues the NRCS hopes to resolve with the new funding.

“ To get (farmers) engaged, it funded a $50 million outreach program to get new producers through the door,” the Trust in Food report says. “Cosby calls this two-fold dynamic ‘unmet demand that includes a backlog’ of interested producers. He’s looking for support from outside the agency to help producers understand how funding is available and who qualifies.”

Cosby says that support will come in the form of 118 agreements signed by partners who will help with outreach. NRCS will also have to hire 3,000-4,000 people in the next 2 years to deliver the funding and provide technical assistance producers need to be successful. 

“We’re going to need to grow it and maintain the science base in the work we do,” Cosby says. “Farmers trust us, but with that comes an obligation to make sure that you have well-trained employees who are going to be out there on the farms making the best scientific recommendations to make sure we get this conservation on the ground.”

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