2014 Farm Bill Programs-Working Lands

The following working lands programs provide cost-sharing and financial assistance options for landowners to improve habitat, reduce erosion and runoff, and address other resource concerns on their lands that are in active crop production, grazing, and forestry. Targeted at increasing the sustainability of working lands, these programs can help landowners improve their bottom line while also increasing the conservation benefits on their property.

Environmental Quality Incentives Program

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) promotes agricultural production and environmental quality as compatible goals. The goal of the program is to enhance natural resources, particularly through improvements to soil health, conservation of water resources, improving air and water quality, enhancing habitat, and more. Through EQIP, landowners receive financial and technical assistance to implement conservation practices or conduct conservation planning. A core purpose of EQIP is to help landowners comply with or avoid the need for environmental regulations. In the 2014 Farm Bill, the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) was consolidated into EQIP. As a result, a minimum of 5 percent of overall EQIP funding must be used for improving or creating wildlife habitat in each fiscal year. Due to this consolidation and EQIP’s consistently higher funding levels, EQIP has become one of the most important Farm Bill programs for fish and wildlife conservation. For more details, click here to visit the NRCS webpage on EQIP.

Conservation Innovation Grants

The Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program within EQIP is funded up to $25 million per year between 2014 and 2018. The purpose of CIG is to stimulate the development of innovative conservation approaches and technologies in forestry or agricultural production. Funds are competitively awarded to tribal governments, nongovernmental organizations, or individuals for national and state CIG projects. CIG provides agricultural producers new options for environmental enhancement and compliance with federal, state, and local regulations. Selected applicants receive grants of up to 50 percent of the project cost and require non-federal match and producer involvement. For more details, click here to visit the NRCS webpage on CIG.

Conservation Stewardship Program

The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) encourages producers to maintain and improve existing conservation practices while implementing additional activities that address priority resource concerns. CSP was designed to support landowners that improve soil, water, air, and wildlife habitat quality as well as energy and water use on their working lands. Participants in CSP receive annual land use payments for the environmental benefits that they produce across the operation – the higher the operational performance the higher the payment. Lands that are in their final year of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) enrollment can be enrolled in CSP allowing continued stewardship on these environmentally sensitive lands. In addition, lands that are protected under Agricultural Land Easements in the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) can enroll in CSP. For more details, click here to visit the NRCS webpage on CSP.

Conservation Reserve Program

Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) encourages agricultural landowners to establish conservation cover on sensitive agricultural lands to reduce erosion, improve water quality, and establish wildlife habitat. It has been the backbone of natural resources conservation across a wide swath of the nation’s agricultural landscapes and has yielded immense soil and water conservation benefits by securing topsoil and filtering agricultural runoff. CRP also gives landowners economic stability through dramatic shifts in agricultural markets allowing them to achieve many farming and conservation goals.

Continuous CRP (CCRP) Sign-up

Environmentally sensitive land devoted to certain conservation practices may be enrolled at any time under CCRP sign-up. This includes, but is not limited to, pastureland or agricultural land that borders lakes, river or stream banks; crop field margins; and cropland that can provide habitat for priority wildlife and pollinators. Certain eligibility requirements still apply, but offers are not subject to competitive bidding. Instead they are selected based on the type of conservation practice the landowner chooses to install. For additional information on CRP, click here.

Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program

The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) is a CRP option that helps agricultural producers protect environmentally sensitive land, decrease erosion, restore wildlife habitat, and safeguard ground and surface water. CREP projects are usually focused on conservation practices such as filter strips and forested buffers that help protect streams, lakes, and rivers from sedimentation and agricultural runoff in addition to providing wildlife habitat. This program is conducted in partnership with producers, tribal and state governments, and in some cases private groups. For additional information on CREP, click here.

State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement

State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) is a CRP initiative to address state and regional high-priority wildlife objectives. Wildlife needs and conservation priorities vary across regions, so SAFE allows local and regional conservation groups, government agencies, agricultural producers, and others with firsthand knowledge to design SAFE projects that help address the needs of high-priority species. When enrolled in SAFE, producers establish and manage habitat according to a SAFE project’s specifications. For additional information on SAFE, click here.