Federal Conservation Resources for Sustainable Farming and Ranching - IP294


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Federal Conservation Resources for Sustainable Farming and Ranching - IP294

  1. 1. A project of the National Center for Appropriate Technology 1-800-346-9140 • www.attra.ncat.orgFederal Conservation Resources forSustainable Farming and RanchingBy Jeff Schahczenski This publication offers an overview of the major federal conservation programs that provide resourcesNCAT Program Specialist for farmers and ranchers to enhance and maintain sustainable farming and ranching practices. The level2007; Updated 2010 of available conservation resources for this area has dramatically increased since 2002. This guide helps©NCAT farmers and ranchers make their way through the often complex and difficult application processes. Access to these resources can open new opportunities to preserve agricultural lands, develop sustainable practices, and open new markets.ContentsIntroduction ......................1Federal ConservationResources and YourFarm or Ranch...................3What’s Available?Overview of FederalConservation Resources Doug Crabtree andfor Working Lands...........4 Anna Jones-CrabtreeConservation Programs farming on their 1,280-acreand USDA Agency organic farm in Montana.Responsibilities ................4 After finishing spring 2010Know the Programs: seeding. Photo byWorking Land vs. Anna Jones-Crabtree.Retiring Land ..........................5National vs. LocalDifferences inProgram Details ...............6Working LandsPrograms ............................6Environmental QualityIncentive Program(EQIP) ...................................8 right time and opportunity to return to theFarm and Ranch Introduction land ever since.”  Land Protection AProgram (FRPP) ............. 14 nna Jones-Crabtree and Doug Crabtree NRCS programs were critical to the Crabtrees’Appeals ............................ 15 are beginning farmers in their early for- ability to begin organic farming. Anna says, “TheConclusion ...................... 16 ties returning to their agricultural roots. EQIP Organic Initiative came at just the rightReferences ...................... 18 They have benefited greatly from new Natural time for us as we literally started our operationResources ........................ 18 Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) pro- from scratch in 2009. The EQIP Organic Initia- grams. With 1,280 acres of certified organic tive provided additional financial support as part cropland, Anna and Doug were awarded an of our start-up package. Practices we are imple-The National Sustainable Environmental Quality Incentive Program menting include organic transition, nutrientAgriculture Information Service,ATTRA (www.attra.ncat.org), (EQIP) contract through a special initiative to management, pest management, flex-crop, coverwas developed and is managedby the National Center for assist organic farmers and ranchers. They have crop, field borders, and seeding pollinator species.Appropriate Technology (NCAT). also applied for the new NRCS Conservation Because we are considered beginning farmers, weThe project is funded througha cooperative agreement with Stewardship Program (CSP). were able to be included in the beginning farmerthe United States Departmentof Agriculture’s Rural Business- As Doug explains “Farming is the only thing set-aside for the EQIP program.”Cooperative Service. Visit theNCAT website (www.ncat.org/ I ever wanted to do.  I believe farming is the Th is publication will help the reader under-sarc_current.php) formore information on most important avocation.  I grew up on a stand how to capture these and other federalour other sustainableagriculture and farm that did not make it through the farm conservation benefits that help the bottom lineenergy projects. crisis of the ‘80s and have been waiting for the and promote more sustainable agriculture.
  2. 2. Organic Production and New NRCS Programs The Crabtrees were awarded a contract under the soil profile. NRCS’s use of this spec- a special Organic Initiative of EQIP that allows ification was to help inform fertilizer organic and transitioning organic growers to application rates which according to receive financial assistance for implementing the contract item description included conservation practices as part of their Organic determining necessary “green manure Systems Plan or Organic Transitions Plan. How- crops, manure application, legumes ever, since this special initiative is new (first in rotation, or other forms of accept- offered in 2009), specific technical assistance able plant nutrients.” Our challenge has not been strong. As Doug and Anna say, was that our rotation system included “NRCS has been supportive of our efforts and green manures, and legumes in rota- wonderful on the logistics of the actual con- tion and tillage and we wanted to use tract.  However, their need to support a signifi- soil tests to determine the baseline of cant number of producers limits their ability the soil nutrients as a place to inform to spend time understanding our integrated our rotational practices, not inform systems approach. Overall, their understand- our application of fertilizer. NRCS staff ing of organic agriculture in general could be was well-versed in fertilizer rates and better.  For our farm, we are attempting to take applications but seemed to have lim- a whole-farm systems approach and imple- ited flexibility in tailoring practices andRelated ATTRA ment practices together in an integrated way.  specifications to fit alternative farmingpublications When NRCS administers EQIP contracts, they systems such as ours. approach each type of practice individually soOrganic the ability to tailor a specific practice to fit the • Coordination between NRCS and theCertification Process overall farming system is limited.”    Farm Service Agency (FSA) could be stronger.  Although the two officesEntertainment The Crabtrees are also pursuing support from the were located in the same building, weFarming and new Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). had to obtain documents from oneAgri-Tourism However, differences between organic practices agency to take to the other. It had been and historical NRCS conservation practice stan- quite a while since FSA had entered anyGreen Markets dards can cause problems. As Doug says, “Two brand new producers into their system.for Farm Products enhancements that we looked closely at imple- Additionally, as Beginning Farmers it wasSustainable menting, namely non-chemical methods to kill challenging to understand what paper-Agriculture: cover crops (WQL17), and Use of Cover Crop work on what timelines was necessary toAn Introduction Mixes (SQL04) illustrates how NRCS needs to bet- fill out for alphabet soup of USDA pro- ter understand organic cropping systems. These grams. Although everyone was helpful,Pursuing enhancements, which would otherwise be a it took us awhile, with lots of questions,Conservation good fit for our system, include the requirement to make sure we understood the docu-Tillage Systems that crops must be no-tilled after the cover crop mentation and form requirements.for Organic is terminated. Appropriate tillage is critical to weedCrop Production control and moisture management in our dryland Even with these challenges, the EQIP program has organic system. Not all tillage is created equal and been an important piece of the Crabtrees’ whole-Overview of it seems as if there is a bias towards only no-till farm approach to conservation. As they say, “ThereCover Crops and approaches in several of the enhancements. We needs to be more NRCS staff overall, and specifi-Green Manures would really like to experiment with mowing and cally, more staff training and understanding of the undercutting as less-invasive means of terminat- whole-farm system approach that is inherent in ing our green manure crops. But, due to the no-till organic. This is crucial for NRCS to be able to pro- requirement, our adoption of CSP enhancements vide a higher level of technical support. Organic has been greatly limited.” approaches are more than just the elimination of pesticides, but rather a more integrated way of The Crabtrees noted a couple of challenges in approaching rotations, soil health and farm resil- the EQIP program requirements:  iency. The NRCS field staffs need to have more • Soil testing requirements for the nutri- training in organic agriculture if they are going to ent management practice. The NRCS be helpful to organic farmers trying to use these contract required soil testing at three programs. Our hope is that by working together depths (0-6”, 6”-12”, 12”-24”).  This is we will not only help producers who want to move because surface application of fertilizer to organic systems but also inform NRCS practices (especially nitrogen) tends to stratify the and standards to support conservation activities nutrients, and without tillage there isn’t in farming systems that are not dependent on the any mixing of the applied substance in use of off-farm fertilizers and pesticides.” Page 2 ATTRA Federal Conservation Resources for Sustainable Farming and Ranching
  3. 3. Federal Conservation publications Entertainment Farming and Agri- Tourism and Green Markets for Farm Products.)Resources and Your Engaging in federal conservation programs canFarm or Ranch also move your farm or ranch in more sustainableSince 1985, the federal government has provided directions. (See the ATTRA publication Sustain-significant benefits to American farmers and able Agriculture: An Introduction.) “Whole” farmranchers either by retiring marginal and environ- or ranch planning—which assesses the goals andmentally sensitive lands or by cost-sharing the potential resources of the farm or ranch—willadoption of improved conservation practices on likely be necessary for farmers or ranchers inter-working lands. Since 2002, working-lands con- ested in maximizing the benefits of these con-servation has enjoyed accelerated support. Pro- servation programs. Even those unable to takegrams that support agricultural land preservation advantage of a particular program can come away(Figure 1) have also been initiated. Learning how with a valuable learning experience through theto take advantage of these important, but often very process of applying. Learning how federalcomplicated, programs can help farmers and conservation programs work and going throughranchers lower operational risk, provide tangible the application process usually helps you bet-rewards for the contributions that conservation ter understand current innovative farming andpractices provide in improving soil, air, and water ranching practices. Also, by engaging in federalquality; increasing profitability; and making conservation programs, you learn to be a morefarming and ranching more rewarding in general. active citizen and help make these programs work better for all farms and ranches in your commu-Another important reason to take advantage of nity, state, and nation.expanding federal conservation programs is thatthe application process itself helps farmers and Finally, if you are of limited resources, sociallyranchers see their operations from new perspec- disadvantaged, or a beginning farmer ortives. Th is alone can alert farmers and ranch- rancher, most programs provide either a com-ers to new market opportunities. For example, petitive advantage or higher levels of support.transitioning to an organic production system The definitions of these special categories areon your farm or ranch may lead to higher value very specific, however, so make sure you meetfor your crops and livestock. (See the ATTRA the requirements before assuming eligibility. Figure 1 Trends in USDA conservation expenditures, 1983-2005 Billion dollars 5 Conservation technical assistance Agricultural land preservation Land retirement programs Other major conservation programs Working land programs 4 3 2 1 0 1983 1987 1991 1995 1999 2003 Source: Office of Budget and Policy Analysis, USDA, and the Congressional Budget OfficeConservation Program Design—contrasting working-land and land retirement programs. (ERS, 2006)www.attra.ncat.org ATTRA Page 3
  4. 4. simply because the process is often difficult and Some Def initions intimidating. The programs contain an “alpha- bet soup” of acronyms and bureaucratic jar- • Limited-Resource Farmers and Ranchers. A limited- gon particularly difficult to understand for first- resource farmer or rancher is defined as: (a) a person with direct or indirect gross farm sales of not more than $100,000 time applicants. The goal here is to present a in each of the previous two years (increased each fiscal year simplified overview that outlines the essential since 2004 to adjust for inflation); and (b) has a total house- step-by-step process to obtain these resources hold income at or below the national poverty level for a and benefits. The intent is also to help you family of four, OR less than 50 percent of county median understand the general purpose of the programs. household income in each of the previous two years (to be This publication concentrates on resources determined annually using Commerce Department data). available from the Natural Resources Con- USDA offers an online Limited Resource Farmer/Rancher servation Service (NRCS). The United States Self-Determination Tool to determine whether you meet this definition. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the agency most engaged with agricultural con- • Beginning Farmer or Rancher. A beginning farmer or servation practices. The other major USDA rancher is defined as an individual or entity who: (a) has division involved in conservation efforts is the not operated a farm or ranch, or who has operated a farm Farm Service Agency (FSA). The FSA shares or ranch for not more than 10 consecutive years (required administrative responsibility with the NRCS of all members of an entity); and (b) will materially and for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) substantially participate in the operation of the farm and the Grassland Reserve Program (GRP). or ranch. FSA also has responsibility for the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) and the • Socially Disadvantaged Farmer or Rancher. A socially Emergency Conservation Program (ECP). disadvantaged group is one whose members have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice because of their identity as members of the group, without regard to Conservation Programs individual qualities. A socially disadvantaged farmer or and USDA Agency rancher is a member of a socially disadvantaged group. Groups in particular localities subjected to racial or ethnic Responsibilities prejudice are determined by the United States Secretary of The first step in accessing these federal resources Agriculture. Check with your local or state NRCS offices for should be the development of a Natural more details. See Further Resources. Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) con- servation plan. An NRCS conservation plan is helpful because it involves the agency early in the process. Even if you have done prior plan- When in doubt regarding eligibility require- ning, it is still important to get NRCS assistance ments, check with the local office of the federal in translating your existing planning efforts into agency in charge of the specific program. See agency language. The local NRCS agent can Resources at the end of this publication. evaluate your eligibility for the kinds of federal programs available to you. What’s Available? Overview While this may be the ideal process, fi nding of Federal Conservation available NRCS staff to assist with this kind of planning is often difficult. The actual process Resources for Working Lands often begins with the farmer or rancher contact- The complexity of federal conservation ing the local NRCS field office (see Resources ) programs—and in particular the applica- about a specific conservation program. The con- tion process itself—is perhaps one of the big- servation planning begins with a discussion of gest reasons many farmers and ranchers do not the application process and eligibility require- use these resources. The programs are volun- ments for that program, rather than with devel- tary, and many opt out of using the programs opment of a comprehensive conservation plan.Page 4 ATTRA Federal Conservation Resources for Sustainable Farming and Ranching
  5. 5. USDA Agency Program Description Environmental Quality Incentive Financial support for conservation improvements Program (EQIP) and to meet regulatory requirements Natural Resources Conservation Stewardship Program Financial support for current performance and Conservation Service (CSP)—formerly Conservation Security future conservation improvements (NRCS) Program Farm and Ranchland Protection Cost-share for farm and ranchland protection Programs (FRPP) through easements Annual payments to keep sensitive land out of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Farm Service Agency agricultural production (FSA) and NRCS Annual payments to keep land in native Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) grasslands Annual payments to keep riparian areas out of Conservation Reserve Enhancement agricultural production (requires state matching Program (CREP) funds) Farm Service Agency (FSA) Rehabilitation of farmland damaged by natu- Emergency Conservation Program ral disasters and emergency water conservation (ECP) measures in periods of severe droughtIndeed, NRCS recognizes the difficulty in The working lands programs provide financialassisting farmers and ranchers in preparing com- resources. These may be either incentive pay-prehensive conservation plans. In one attempt to ments or “cost-share” for farmers or ranchersaddress this lack of planning resources, NRCS to implement the practices or build structuresin 2005 began a special pilot project to bring on working agriculture lands. NRCS has manyadditional resources to planning efforts. Unfor- quality criteria for resource management andtunately, the pilot project was available in only a list of hundreds of technical practice stan-limited areas of nine states and lasted only one dards that define the minimal acceptable levelsyear. As a result of the Food, Conservation, and for natural resource conservation and environ-Energy Act of 2008 (otherwise know as the mental protection.Farm Bill), the NRCS is currently establish-ing support under the Environmental Qual- Understanding these technical standards can beity Incentive Program (EQIP) to fund what complicated for people not familiar with NRCSare termed conservation activity plans. Make protocols and jargon. However, if you are serioussure you ask local NRCS about such funding if about taking full advantage of the programs,applying for the EQIP program discussed below. some understanding of these standards and the systems of resource management is important.Barring the availability of assistance from local The major resource for understanding techni-NRCS staff, however, farmers and ranchers cal standards and the general program evalua-should still put some effort into farm or ranch tion processes is the Field Office Technical Guideconservation planning. Doing so prepares appli- (FOTG). Th is guide is available online as thecants to interact effectively with NRCS staff. eFOTG www.nrcs.usda.gov/technical/efotg/. ThisATTRA has several resources to help with this guide is “localized” down to the county level,kind of planning planning, available online or at so get the copy relevant to your farm or ranch800-346-9140. locale. NRCS prides itself on soliciting local input for program development. Consequently,Know the Programs: there is some variation among available pro-Working Land vs. Retiring Land grams, particularly for working lands.Federal conservation programs can be divided The Farm and Ranchland Protection Programinto two broad categories: working lands pro- (FRPP) is intended to preserve working farmsgrams and land retirement or easement programs. and ranches. Technically, this program mightwww.attra.ncat.org ATTRA Page 5
  6. 6. not be a working-lands conservation program Working Lands Programs because the program’s intent is to protect farm or ranch lands from conversion to suburban or Conservation Stewardship urban development. Program (CSP) Land retirement or easement programs like the The newest and perhaps the most confusing fed- Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), on the eral conservation program is the Conservation other hand, either permanently or temporar- Stewardship Program or CSP. As noted earlier, ily pay farmers or ranchers to keep land out of this program was substantially changed by Con- agricultural production entirely. Some easement gress with the passage and subsequent imple- conservation programs do allow certain produc- mentation of the 2008 Farm Bill. This program tive uses of easement land, but generally these is unique because it rewards farmers and ranch- programs were established to take land out of ers for current conservation practices, and for substantial productive use. putting in place new conservation practices and enhancements over a five-year contract period. This new program provides payment on a per- National vs. Local Differences acre basis for conservation performance, rather in Program Details than a payment to share in the cost of the adop- tion of new practices. Another important thing to know before apply- ing for federal conservation programs is that The program allows all farmers and ranchers program details can change substantially from to apply at any time, but to begin a contract state to state and even county to county. As in a specific federal fiscal year, there are spe- noted above, NRCS has been an agency that cific deadlines announced by the NRCS. The prides itself on being adaptable to state and 2009 allocation of funds to farmers and ranch- local concerns. The logic of this approach makes ers under this program is complete, with over some sense. Land use for agriculture varies dra- 10,000 contracts awarded, valued at almost $145 million dollars. The 2010 final allocations matically in different parts of the country. For are not yet available as of this writing (Septem- instance, the best conservation grazing manage- ber 2010). Unfortunately, the program allows ment practices for southwest Montana are sub- annual funding for only12.8 million acres per stantially different from those in central Florida. year to be enrolled, so the competition for pro- On the other hand, local determination of gram funds is significant. Successful applicants program criteria is often a source for confu- for CSP can receive up to $200,000 in benefits sion about what programs can and do offer. In over the five-year contract period. Montana, for instance, some NRCS programs Below is a basic step-by step-outline for appli- provide resources for ranchers to improve fish cation along with important information and passage around irrigation diversions. But the forms that can help in getting ready to apply for programs apply only to certain areas of the state, this program. despite the fact that most areas have important Step 1- Examine and/or fill-out the fi sh passage problems. The best way to avoid Self-Screening Checklist to assess your confusion is to go to the respective state NRCS eligibility and the requirements of program. website for specific details of a program in that Download the Self Screening Checklist state. Another way to clear up confusion is to talk with local and state-level NRCS staff. If you have any questions about the questions or your answers contact your local NRCS staff person designated for the CSP. Note: Check with both local and state- This screening tool introduces an important term level NRCS staff. Sometimes local staffers called the “stewardship threshold.” The steward- do not know that funding differences exist ship threshold is defined as the level of natural between areas. State-level staffers often resource conservation and environmental manage- have that information. ment required to conserve and improve the quality and condition of a natural resource. This thresholdPage 6 ATTRA Federal Conservation Resources for Sustainable Farming and Ranching
  7. 7. will be measured by a new tool devised for the However, each state NRCS office has chosenprogram called the Conservation Measurement specific priority resources of concern and theseTool (CMT), discussed below. Meeting these stew- will affect the ranking system in each state. To findardship thresholds is important because applicants out the priorities for each state, contact your NRCSmust demonstrate at the time of application that office or look for that information on your state’sthey are meeting the stewardship threshold for at NRCS website. Link available at: www.nrcs.usda.gov/least one resource of concern and that they com- about/organization/regions.html.mit to meeting the stewardship threshold for oneadditional resource of concern during the five-year It is important to note that this tool is newcontract term. and not extensively tested. It is expected to be available online, but it is important that you askStep 2- Make initial application many questions of your local NRCS office staff soThe basic application form is: NRCS-CPA-1200 that you understand exactly what is being askedhttp://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/eqip/PDFs/ and that the information is being entered in theBlank_EQIP_CCC1200.pdf. tool correctly.If you have NOT received federal agriculture fund- The NRCS has provided a list of conservation anding in the past or are a brand new farmer or rancher, enhancement activities that are part of the CMT. Ityou will need to establish yourself as a legal farm can be examined at www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/by registering with the Farm Service Agency (FSA) new_csp/csp.html.and getting a Federal Farm ID number. NRCS and Once ranked, applicants will be chosen byFSA field offices are often located in the same loca- moving down the list of ranked applicantstion, known as a Farm Service Center. until the program acreage limit for each stateSome additional forms that will likely be needed is reached. The total national program acreageto establish basic eligibility are: is 12.8 million acres for each of the five years • AD-1026 Highly Erodible Land Conserva- of the program. tion and Wetland Conservation Certifica- Step 4- Work out contract payments tion (available at local NRCS offices) and details • CCC926 Adjusted Gross Income Certifi- Payment amounts will be determined by cation (available at local NRCS offices) three factors. • Special Directive to NRCS to assist • Expected environmental benefits as farmers and ranchers without previous FSA registration indicated by the Conservation Measurement ToolStep 3- Ranking and the Conservation • Costs incurred by the farmer or rancherMeasurement Tool (CMT) associated with the planning, design,After establishing eligibility and submitting an materials, installation, labor, manage-application, the next step is to work with local ment, maintenance or training forNRCS staff to establish a ranking score. NRCS staff conservation activitieswill use new software called the Conservation • Income forgone by the producer as aManagement Tool (CMT) to establish your ranking result of conservation activities thatscore. CMT is designed to evaluate applicants’ exist- are undertakening conservation levels and proposed additionalimprovements. Broadly, the CSP targets funding Overall CSP payments are expected to aver-for the following: age $18 per acre nationwide, but the rate • To address particular resources of will vary by land type, the extent of existing concern in a given watershed or region conservation that will be managed and maintained, and the extent of new conserva- • To assist farmers and ranchers to tion practices and activities agreed upon. Indi- improve soil, water, and air quality vidual CSP payments will depend on the details • To provide increased biodiversity of each contract. Payments to contract hold- and wildlife and pollinator habitat ers will be made after October 1 of the year • To sequester carbon and reduce the conservation has been accomplished. For greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate example, if the terms of the contract are fulfilled climate change during the spring and summer, the accompany- • To conserve water and energy ing payments will be made in the fall.www.attra.ncat.org ATTRA Page 7
  8. 8. Contract, Field Verification, and Socially Disadvantaged, Conservation Stewardship Plans Limited Resource, and As part of successful applicant contract develop- Beginning Farmer Benefit ment, the NRCS is required to visit each applying The new (2010) regulatory rules for implementa- farm or ranch to verify information provided in tion of the CSP provide the possibility of a mini- the application. In addition, the development of a mum payment for farms that both qualify for the conservation stewardship plan is required. A con- program and are operated by socially disadvan- servation stewardship plan is the schedule of the taged, Limited Resource or Beginning Farmer conservation activities to be implemented, man- (see definitions above). Please check with your aged, or improved during the contract period. local NRCS office about this possible benefit. Specialty Crops, Environmental Quality Organic Production, Incentive Program (EQIP) and Technical Assistance The Environmental Quality Incentive Program The implementation rules for the new CSP (EQIP) is the largest NRCS working lands pro- require the NRCS to make a special commitment gram, with annual budgets around $1 billion to providing technical assistance to organic and since 2002. EQIP provides incentives to farmers specialty-crop producers. In particular, NRCS and ranchers for two major purposes. First, the has provided the following document to help program helps farmers and ranchers to improve organic farmers applying to the program. Organic their conservation practices. Second, the program Crosswalk www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/new_csp/ helps farmers and ranchers to comply (or stay in special_pdfs/Organic_Crosswalk_091009_dl.pdf . compliance) with federal environmental regula- tions such as the Clean Water Act. Resource-Conserving For example, EQIP has provided substantial Crop Rotations federal resources to assist farmers and ranchers to stay in compliance with regulations in regard In the new CSP, there is special emphasis on and to the operation of Confined Animal Feed- supplemental funding for applicants who under- ing Operations (CAFOs) and Animal Feed- take a resource conserving crop rotation. What ing Operations (AFOs). Such support has often constitutes such a rotation is still less than clear included controversial issues involving large- and will require careful discussion with NRCS scale dairies and commercial feedlots. Since field staff in your location. 2002, the NRCS has been required to try to achieve a target of 60 percent of EQIP expendi- Size and Program Limitations tures for livestock conservation practices. While not all of that livestock-related EQIP funding To constrain total spending on the program, has gone to resolve CAFO/AFO issues, a large the new CSP limits the total acreage available to percentage has. However, despite these envi- 12.8 billion in each of the five years of the pro- ronmental regulatory aspects to EQIP, there gram. In addition, as noted, the law sets a target have been many farmers and ranchers who have of an average of $18 per acre nationwide. These improved conservation practices and their bottom limitations may make it difficult for very small lines by participating in this program (see box). farms to reconcile the effort of participation in the program with the ultimate benefit. This issue The 2008 Farm Bill introduced a special EQIP is a concern for NRCS and they have stated in organic initiative which particularly supports the implementation rules for the program that existing organic farmers and ranchers and those they do not want to limit producer participation who might want to make the transition to organic because of size or type of operation. If you have production. This special EQIP organic initia- a smaller farm, please discuss this issue with your tive has been in operation just since 2009, and local NRCS staff. program details are still being fully developed.Page 8 ATTRA Federal Conservation Resources for Sustainable Farming and Ranching
  9. 9. EQIP Helps Cranberry Growers In 2004 and 2005, 13 Wisconsin cranberry growers signed EQIP cost-sharing contracts to help address the unique environ- mental concerns with surface and groundwater quality associated with that crop. Irrigation-water management and pest management are being implemented on all of the participating marshes, and 9 of the 13 contracts also include nutrient management. These three management practices form the basis of comprehensive Resource Management Systems on cranberry marshes. By necessity, cranberries are grown very close to water in order to flood the beds for frost protection and harvest. Cranberries are native to wet soils with typically high water tables. Even with very careful management, nutri- ents and pesticides may be easily transported to surface and groundwater. Nutrient-management activities are focused on reducing applications of phosphorous fertilizer to protect water quality. Pest management incentive payments are being used to offset the costs associated with implementing integrated pest management (IPM) and to reduce the environmen- tal hazards associated with using high-risk pesticides. Irrigation water management is focused on increasing irrigation efficiencies and uniformity of application to conserve water and to limit leaching and run- off of fertilizers and pesticides. Additional conservation efforts being funded through EQIP include erosion control projects, replacing inefficient irrigation systems, and installing irrigation tailwater recovery systems for the recycling and reuse of water. More than $500,000 in EQIP funding has been obligated to these contracts. These funds will result in conservation efforts in excess of $1 million when labor, equipment, and material costs are included.Unlike CSP, EQIP has from time to time Big Hole River watershed. The drainage hasallocated resources to special sub-programs as faced severe drought, and a population of Arc-determined by NRCS. Currently there are three tic grayling—the last remnant of this trout spe-special regional and national EQIP sub-programs. cies in the lower 48 states—may be enhanced through the funding. • Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Program - This program reduces salin- Applicants should realize that EQIP is a very ity by preventing salts from dissolving competitive program and is under-funded relative and mixing in the Colorado River. to demand by farmers and ranchers (see Figure • Ground and Surface Water Conserva- 3). This means you must make sure to develop a tion Program - Th is program focuses comprehensive plan of the conservation practices attention on conservation practices integrated into your farm or ranch before you that result in net saving of ground and apply for the EQIP. Also, pay close attention to surface water as determined by state those elements of your plan that fit with the pri- NRCS offices. orities that NRCS has identified as important for funding in the year you wish to apply. • Klamath Basin Program - This is a locally led conservation effort for farmers, ranch- ers, tribes, and other private landowners EQIP Eligibility in the Klamath River Basin in northern There are only three exceptions to EQIP eligibil- California and southern Oregon. ity. First, the applicant must be in compliance with highly erodible land and wetland conserva-These special EQIP sub-programs will not be tion practices. Known commonly as “sodbuster”discussed here, but further information is avail- and “swampbuster” provisions, these excep-able from your state NRCS office. Finally, even tions prevent EQIP from extending benefits towithin states, the leading administrative agents producers who have previously brought highlyfor NRCS, the State Conservationists, can also erodable land and converted wetlands into agri-set aside part of the state EQIP allocations for cultural production.special projects of importance to an individualstate. For instance, in Montana, a special EQIP Second, individuals or entities that have an aver-project was set up to provide resources for the age adjusted gross income exceeding $2.5 millionwww.attra.ncat.org ATTRA Page 9
  10. 10. Figure 3. Map courtesy of USDA/NRCS. for the three tax years preceding application are with your local NRCS agent or state office for not eligible. There is an exception to this rule if the deadlines for your state. the individual or entity can document that 75 percent of the adjusted gross income ($1.875 million) came from farming, ranching, or for- Remember, the NRCS runs on the federal government’s fiscal cycle of October 1– estry operations. Essentially, this provision lim- September 30, and not the calendar year. its very wealthy individuals who don’t receive Funding allocations are available to each income from agricultural and forestry operations state for that fiscal year only. from receiving federal conservation benefits. Third, a person or entity cannot apply for EQIP if a maximum benefit of $450,000 ($300,000 after 2008) has been reached through the pro- Determining EQIP Benefits gram over the past five years. All categories of Benefits are determined by an NRCS evaluation land use are eligible, including non-industrial of the farmer’s or rancher’s application against a forest lands. Interestingly, any land determined set of funding priorities known as the “ranking to pose a serious threat to soil, air, water, or criteria.” These criteria are set at the national, related resources is also eligible. state, and county levels. In some larger states such as California, or where demand for pro- Finally, applications are accepted by state NRCS gram benefits is high, a “pre-screening” set of offices year-round, but there are specific dates by selection criteria is often used. As noted, this is which you must have submitted your application a competitive program, and each state has the in order to be eligible in any particular funding ability to prioritize which resources are of special year. Each state sets its own deadlines, so check concern, even down to the county level.Page 10 ATTRA Federal Conservation Resources for Sustainable Farming and Ranching
  11. 11. ranch. However, there is often a fairly wide vari- The NRCS gets advice on setting these pri- ety of conservation practices available to appli- orities from two governance committees: cants and it is often hard to tell without going the state technical advisory committee through the process how your planned changes (state-level) and the “local working groups” will be “ranked.” (see governance section). Below is a copy of just one part of the ranking criteria from Reeves County, Texas. This illus-Thus, each state’s set of priorities is different trates several aspects of EQIP in Texas. First,and in any given year may not reflect the needs the state NRCS—at least in this county—hasyou have identified in planning for your farm or identified Animal Feeding Operations (AFO/ EQIP Program in Reeves County, Texas, 2006 The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) offers cost-share assistance to agricultural producers to implement on-farm conservation practices. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) determines eligible producers for the EQIP program and determines eligible land. Eligible producers may apply for cost-share assistance on conservation practices that will address the resource concern identified by the Local Work Group (LWG). Reeves County Office Information Interested agricultural producers may apply in person at the Reeves County USDA Service Center. Applicants may also request EQIP assistance by telephone, fax, e-mail, or letter. State Resource Concerns Priority Areas that include part of Reeves County Specific State Concern State Resource Concern AFO-CAFO—Poultry Water Quality/Air Quality AFO-CAFO—Swine Water Quality/Air Quality AFO-CAFO—Beef Water Quality/Air Quality AFO-CAFO—Dairy Water Quality/Air Quality Salt Cedar Invasive Species Limited Resource Farmer or Rancher All (AFO—Animal Feeding Operation) (CAFO—Confined Animal Feeding Operation) Objective: The objective of the Reeves County Local Work Group (LWG) is to promote the use of conservation practices for improv- ing natural resources throughout the county with major emphasis on improving plant health and water quantity. County EQIP Resource Concern: In Reeves County for 2006, the LWG has identified Plant Health and Water Quantity as the major resource concerns. Priority for Funding: Water Quantity—High Priority for Funding Land leveling, concrete ditch lining, irrigation water conveyance, sprinkler, sprinkler conversion, and drip irrigation. Plant Health—High Priority for Funding Fencing, livestock water development, brush management, range ripping, and seeding. All practices receive 50 points. Eligible Practices and Cost-Share Rates: Limited Resource Farmers and Ranchers—90 percent. Beginning Farmers and Ranchers—75 percent. Other—50 percent. Practices will be cost-shared based on the established average cost of the practice. The amount of cost-share earned will be the number of units certified after completion multiplied by the average cost multiplied by the cost-share percentage.www.attra.ncat.org ATTRA Page 11
  12. 12. CAFO) issues and salt cedar removal as high- overcome in part by the development of a special priority concerns. The county group has added national EQIP organic initiative (details below). priorities related to conservation practices that Applicants to EQIP are eligible for up to promote plant health and water-use efficiency. $300,000 in program benefits. It is unusual for Both the state and county clearly recognize that any single annual “contract” to be that high and when limited resource or beginning farmers or the limit applies to the total benefits in any pre- ranchers apply, they are entitled to higher ben- vious contracts in the past five years. Thus, if efits (cost-shares). Finally, the county has placed you had received $200,000 in EQIP benefits in limits on the extent of funding by identifying the previous five years, you could receive only specific priority practices and assigning points to those practices. Thus, in Reeves County, Texas, $100,000 in program benefits for the current a farmer or rancher is clearly at a funding advan- year. There is the possibility of receiving up to tage for EQIP if CAFO/AFO issues, salt cedar $450,000 in benefits for projects that provide removal, plant health, and water quantity issues exceptional environmental benefits, but the pro- are important to the applicant’s farm or ranch cess for approval of such a project is more rig- conservation plan. orous. As noted earlier, benefits are based on a percentage of the total cost of adopting the However, even if these conservation measures conservation practice, up to a maximum of 75 are relevant to the applying farmer or rancher, percent. Again, limited resource and beginning there is still no guarantee that the producer will farmers and ranchers may receive up to 90 per- ultimately be provided EQIP benefits. Th is is cent cost-share. true because the applicant is also competing with every other applicant in all other counties. Figure 4 on the next page is an example Ultimately, the state NRCS ranks every appli- from Maine NRCS of how dollar amounts cant according to his or her total criteria points are calculated to determine the total contract with associated total dollar benefits requested benefits. Essentially, if the contract is selected and approves contracts in this order until that based on ranking criteria, then each practice is state’s yearly allocation of EQIP resources is applied for, and a total contract benefit package expended. is awarded. What this example shows is that applying for For example, if one of the applicant’s “prac- EQIP benefits is a little like applying for a grant. tices” was installation of a composting facility, The grantor (NRCS) gets to decide the criteria then the applicant, if successful, would receive for grant awards, and the applicant must match $75,000 (60-percent cost-share) to build the those criteria in order to increase the probability facility—assessed by Maine NRCS to cost of acceptance. Also, an application for a single $125,000. For a successful candidate, this pro- practice change is unlikely to be funded. It is cess would continue until all other practices useful to have a holistic plan of all the changes were assessed and a total contract amount set. you want to make on your farm or ranch and It is important to remember that contracts then apply for every relevant change that will can be made for up to 10 years. Payments are garner the highest number of ranking criteria made when the practice is completed (adopted) points possible. While NRCS does not want to or installed. For example, the development of encourage what it often refers to as “point shop- a compost facility might take several years to ping,” farmers and ranchers must put together complete and would likely require a multi-year the best package possible to realize any benefit. EQIP contract. For instance, in Montana there is an EQIP ben- The benefits of an EQIP contract can be sub- efit of $3,500 over three years to help farmers stantial, but getting them requires a real com- or ranchers make the transition to organic pro- mitment by the applicant. Again, careful plan- duction. However, very few farmers or ranchers ning and knowing program criteria are critical have received benefits under this option because for success. they often apply only for that benefit and hence are out-competed by farmers and ranchers who present more comprehensive applications with EQIP Organic Initiative higher total ranking points. Fortunately, this Authorized by Congress in 2008 and first imple- issue, at least for organic producers, has been mented in 2009, this special EQIP initiative hasPage 12 ATTRA Federal Conservation Resources for Sustainable Farming and Ranching
  13. 13. Figure 4. 2006 Androscoggin/Sagadahoc Counties, Maine, EQIP Cost Lists. Practice Code Practice Name Component Unit Type Unit Cost $ Share Rate % All components excluding 560 Access Road foot 17 75 crossings 560 Access Road Stream crossing no. 55,000 75 702 Agrichemical Handling Facility All components no. 51,750 75 All components excluding 575 Animal Trails & Walkways foot 17 60 crossings 575 Animal Trails & Walkways Stream crossing no. 55,000 60 707 Barnyard Water Management All components s.f. 8 75 314 Brush Management Brush Management acre 55 100 326 Clearing and Snagging Clearing and snagging foot 50 60 317 Composting Facility All components no. 125,000 75 Comprehensive Nutrient Development of CNMP 100 a.u. 10 100 Management Plan (one time payment) Comprehensive Nutrient Implementation of CNMP 100 a.u. 40 100 Management Plan (one time payment) 327 Conservation Cover Grass establishment acre 330 60 328 Conservation Crop Rotation Conservation crop rotation acre 55 100 332 Contour Buffer Strips Grass establishment acre 330 60 330 Contour Farming All components acre 22 10 340 Cover Crop Cover crop acre 55 100 All components with heavy 324 Critical Area Planting acre 800 60 site prep 342 Deep Tillage Deep tillage acre 22 100 362 Diversion All components foot 5 60assisted current organic farmers and ranchers as so there was some competition for funding. As ofwell as those who want to make the transition to this writing (2010), applications for funding areorganic production. This initiative recognizes that below the available $50 million, so most qualifiedorganic production systems have inherent conser- applicants are likely to be supported.vation benefits. The initiative was also adopted Second, by law the amount of support a transi-because NRCS recognized that it had not served tioning or certified organic producer can receiveorganic farmers and ranchers adequately. is significantly less than for those applying forIn general, the application process is fairly simi- the general EQIP. The maximum paymentlar to that for general EQIP, but deadlines for you can receive for these efforts is $20,000 perapplication can be different, so it is best to con- year, with no more than $80,000 over a six-yeartact your local NRCS office or check the website period. EQIP payments are set up by a contractof the state NRCS office for details. There are that can span several years. However, if you arefour significant differences between the organic an existing certified organic producer, then youEQIP initiative and the general EQIP. can opt out of the special initiative and compete with all other non-organic farmers and ranchersFirst, the nationwide funding pool is limited to in your state. As noted earlier, the general EQIP$50 million dollars, and so funding is competi- is very competitive, but the maximum paymenttive. Also, the funding pool is further divided into for the general EQIP can be as high as $300,000support for transitioning and currently certified over a six-year period (or even up to $450,000organic producers. In 2009, the value of applica- if the applicant can justify the application astions was higher then the $50 million available, having unique and significant environmentalwww.attra.ncat.org ATTRA Page 13
  14. 14. benefit). Thus, each applicant needs to decide in FRPP Eligibility which arena to compete. The FRPP is a competitive program, and each Th ird, the range of conservation practices for state NRCS office has particular eligibility organic initiative applicants is less than for the requirements for the program. However, each general EQIP and also varies by state. Accord- applicant has to meet the following minimum ing to NRCS policy, each state is expected to set of national criteria. provide support for any conservation practice • Does the farm or ranch contain prime, that is likely to be needed by certified or tran- unique, and productive soil, or histori- sitioning producers, but the specific list does cal or archeological resources? vary by state. The only way to know for sure • Is the farm or ranch included in a pend- what is offered is to check with your local or ing offer from a state, tribal, local gov- state NRCS office. ernment, or non-governmental organi- Finally, each state NRCS office provides separate zation easement program? payment schedules to support practice adoption • Is the land privately owned? by certified organic and transitioning produc- • Is the farm or ranch covered by a con- ers. The reason for this is that in many cases servation plan for highly erodible land? there are increased costs involved in conserva- • Is it large enough to sustain agricultural tion practice adoptions in organic systems, and production? each state estimates these differences. Again, it is • Does the farm or ranch have access to necessary to check with the local or state NRCS markets for its products? to understand these cost differences. • Do the farms or ranches that surround the applying farm or ranch support Farm and Ranch Land long-term agricultural production? Protection Program (FRPP) • Does the owner meet the Adjusted Though the Farm and Ranch Land Protection Gross Income (AGI) limitation? (This is Program (FRPP) is essentially an easement pro- the same income limitation for all other gram, it is included in this publication because NRCS programs.) it provides resources to keep farms and ranches as working lands by protecting them from FRPP Benefit Determination being converted to other uses. The program is The NRCS share of the cost of the ease- unique in that it is only indirectly supportive ment cannot be larger than 50 percent of the of conservation practices. As noted below, some appraised market value. The applying farmer or of the eligibility requirements of the program rancher can contribute up to 25 percent of the require prior conservation efforts. Nonetheless, cost with the cooperating entity contributing up the benefits essentially support an easement. to another 25 percent. The total benefit calcula- The program is also unique in that NRCS tion includes all partners to the agreement and matches resources only with other non-federal available funding and the selection is made by entities. These entities are state, tribal, and local the state conservationist in each state. The size of governments and non-governmental easement the benefit varies depending on the value of the programs. For instance, the American Farm- easement. For instance, in Montana in 2005, land Trust (AFT) has an agricultural easement five easements were awarded under FRPP at a program, and a farmer or rancher could enter value of $2,221,000. into an agreement with AFT and then together with AFT could apply to FRPP for help to sup- port the total cost of the easement. The pro- Implementation gram is competitive and the demand for FRPP Being awarded an NRCS working-lands conser- resources far exceeds supply. Funding for the vation program contract is really only the begin- program varies across the United States (see ning of the process. NRCS working-lands con- Figure 5, next page). Finally, the program also tracts are legally binding and commit you to assesses the historical and archeological signifi- fulfilling your end of the bargain. With contracts cance of the easement property. lasting in some cases 10 years, it is important toPage 14 ATTRA Federal Conservation Resources for Sustainable Farming and Ranching
  15. 15. Figure 5. Map courtesy of NRCS/USDA.be absolutely clear on your commitments. By Appealsthe same token, NRCS has also made signifi- The appeals process—like the programs them-cant commitments. During the implementation selves—is complex. The first thing to be clearphase, you need to work regularly with your about is the basis for your appeal. For instance,local NRCS agent to make sure you are making if you appeal the rejection of your applicationtimely progress on your contract. for program benefits, remember that the pro- grams are competitive, and losing in that com-There may be disputes about either the fairness petition is not itself a reason to appeal. The gen-of the application process or about your obliga- eral basis for an appeal includes the following.tions during the implementation of the contract.Federal law does provide for formal processes of • Denial of participation in a programappeal. While NRCS works hard to make sure • Compliance with program requirementsyou understand the details of a program con- • The payment or amount of paymentstract prior to implementation, knowing your or other program benefits to a programrights for appealing decisions is important. participantwww.attra.ncat.org ATTRA Page 15
  16. 16. • Technical determinations or technical the CSP, then you could appeal that program decisions that affect the status of land eligibility decision. even though eligibility for USDA ben- After you have decided the basis for an appeal efits may not be affected and the type of appeal, the next step is to make There are specific reasons that an appeal can be sure the program you applied for is a “Chapter rejected by NRCS. XII” program. All the programs outlined in this • General program requirements applicable publication are Chapter XII programs. Check to all participants (i.e., you cannot make with your local or state NRCS office for a list your farm or ranch a “special” case) of non-Chapter XII programs (See Resources ). • Science-based formulas and criteria. For example, eligibility for CSP is based on Chapter XII refers to the title of the Food a certain minimum performance score. Security Act of 1985, when the current You cannot appeal your eligibility on the appeals process was established basis that NRCS has chosen the wrong performance criteria to use. (However, if you think the wrong information was To begin the preliminary phase of the appeal used to calculate an performance score, process, ask in writing for one of three actions then an appeal may be warranted.) to take place within 30 days after notification of the decision you wish to contest. • The fairness or constitutionality of fed- eral laws. For example, you can’t argue • Make a request for a field visit and that it is unfair that you can’t apply reconsideration of an NRCS decision. for the CSP because you don’t happen • Ask for mediation of the contested decision. meet the statutory definition of a legal farming entity. • Appeal directly to the local Farm Service Agency (FSA)—usually county-based— • Technical standards or criteria that for a reconsideration of a decision. apply to all persons Which of these three routes to take in the • State Technical Committee member- appeals process is up to you. It may be hard ship decisions made by the State Con- to evaluate which is of greater benefit. Even servationist though the first choice explicitly provides for a • Procedural technical decisions relating “field visit,” all others will require a field visit to program administration anyway. The reconsideration and mediation pro- • Denials of assistance due to the lack of cesses should be completed within 30 days of funds or authority the request. Once you have established a basis for an appeal, Finally, even after these appeals are exhausted, determine whether you are appealing a “techni- you can still appeal a decision to the National cal determination” or a “program decision.” An Appeals Division (NAD) of USDA. This appeal of a technical determination challenges agency is independent of the other USDA agen- the correctness of “the status and condition of the cies and provides participants with the oppor- natural resources and cultural practices based on tunity to have a neutral review of an appeal. science and best professional judgment of natu- NAD can make independent findings but also ral resources professionals concerning soils, water, must apply laws and regulations of the respec- air, plants, and animals.” For example, the stock- tive agency to the case. ing rate of cattle on a particular range or pasture could be a contested technical decision. Conclusion An appeal of a program decision, on the other The conservation programs outlined in this pub- hand, challenges the correctness of the deter- lication are complex; access to these resources mination of eligibility or how the program is requires significant effort and an investment of administered and implemented. For example, if time and energy. The complexities of the programs the local NRCS is wrong in its determination are in part due to sincere efforts by a large federal that your farm or ranch is ineligible to apply for agency to make the programs locally relevant.Page 16 ATTRA Federal Conservation Resources for Sustainable Farming and Ranching
  17. 17. If you do not like the way programs are designed than 14 days prior to the meeting, and the Stateand implemented, NRCS is unique in that it Conservationist is required to prepare meetingalso provides at least two ways for you to be agendas and necessary background informa-engaged in changing them. tion for the meetings. There is no requirement for any number of meetings in any given year,Local Working Groups but any USDA agency can request that a meet- ing be held.Local working groups are essentially a form oflocal governance of federal conservation pro- There is an extensive list of conservationgrams. The meetings are open to the general pub- programs that the STC has responsibilities tolic and membership is open to any organization address. The list is available on the Internet orwith broad interest in agriculture. The meetings by contacting your local or state NRCS officeare convened by the local conservation district (see Resources). However, it is important toin each state, and the purpose of the group is to remember that the STC is only an advisoryprovide advice to the NRCS on conservation pro- body and has no legal enforcement or imple-grams. Contact your local NRCS office about mentation authority. Nonetheless, members ofthe meeting schedule in your area. As a farmer or the STCs are generally the leaders of agricul-rancher, you can attend these meetings and offer ture in a particular state. It would be difficultpublic comment on the decisions being made. for any State Conservationist not to give strongIncumbents of any of several local government consideration to the recommendations of thisoffices usually serve as leaders of these groups. important group.Additionally, the working groups provide advicein the following general areas: Final Word: • Conditions of the natural resources and Is Conservation a Public Good? the environment There are some farmers, ranchers, and agricul- • The local application process, including tural and conservation organizations that have ranking criteria and application periods had philosophical issues with the very intent of • Identifying the educational and train- working lands conservation programs. Regard- ing needs of producers ing the CSP, the concept of rewarding farm- ers and ranchers for their current conserva- • Cost-share rates and payment levels and tion efforts is fundamentally different from all methods of payment other federal conservation programs. Some have • Eligible conservation practices argued that if some farmers and ranchers are • The need for new, innovative conserva- already providing these benefits without public tion practices support, then why should scarce public resources be provided to continue these efforts? (Batie, • Public outreach and information efforts 2006). Others have argued that good steward- • Program performance indicators ship by farmers and ranchers provides a public (Montana NRCS, 2006) good or investment. This position holds that we all benefit from these stewardship efforts, andState Technical Committees public incentives are required to continue good stewardship of the land and, more importantly,Each state NRCS office has a State Technical to encourage those who do not provide theseCommittee (STC). The committee is comprised public benefits to do so (Kemp, 2005).of groups or individuals who represent a widevariety of natural resource issues. If you wish to The EQIP program supports farmers and ranch-serve on your STC, either as an individual or as ers who move toward improved conservationa representative of a group, you must write a let- practices that protect natural resources and theter to your State Conservationist explaining your environment. The additional social benefits seeminterest and credentials. Several federal agencies clearer than with the CSP. However, EQIP alsomust by law be represented on the committee has a role in regulating environmental dam-and many non-governmental and state agen- ages from agriculture by ending poor farmingcies are encouraged to participate as well. Public and ranching practices before governmentalnotification of meetings must be made no later enforcement actions are imposed. Consequently,www.attra.ncat.org ATTRA Page 17
  18. 18. EQIP is often criticized for rewarding the worst programs still only represent about eight per- environmental actors in the agriculture system. cent of all USDA expenditures. So even at this These issues, like many others in our demo- higher level of activity, the federal govern- cratic system, strike at the broader issue of ment is far more engaged in agriculture and the proper role of government in protecting food systems in ways not related to the pro- both the environment and the future pro- tection of our agricultural resource base and ductive capacity of natural resources. Even natural environment. Perhaps conservation with the substantial increases in federal con- eff orts need to be of even higher priority in servation resources since 2002, conservation the United States.ReferencesBatie, Sandra. 2006. Green Payments Discussion Continues, Guide to the Conservation Stewardship Program, is particu-Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, January/February, larly useful for more information on the CSP. Their websiteVol. 61, No. 3. is http://sustainableagriculture.net.ERS. 2006. Contrasting Working-Land and LandRetirement Programs. Economic Research Service, USDA, Internet, Intranet, and TelephoneEconomic Brief No. 4. NRCS has an excellent intranet-based information sys-Kemp, Loni. 2005. Conservation Investments: Green tem. The national NRCS website links to all state NRCSPayments Can Replace a Broken Policy. Conservation websites. In turn, state websites link to local NRCS officePlanner, Vol. X, No. 3, Minnesota Project. websites if the local office maintains a site. Starting at the national NRCS site is the best way to begin a search of allLundgren, Britt, Jody Biergiel, Meaghan Donovan, the programs and services the NRCS provides.Christine Lee, and Kathleen Merrigan. 2006.The Conservation Security Program: Rewards and If you do not have Internet access, your phone book shouldchallenges for New England farmers. Tufts University and list your local county NRCS office in the federal governmentAmerican Farmland Trust. www.farmland.org/programs/ section. If not, call the following state offices to get thestates/documents/NECSP.pdf (PDF / 2.8M) phone number of your local office.Resources State Office Contacts The Natural Resources Conservation Service has offices atNational Sustainable Agriculture Coalition state, area, and district levels. For information on conservationThis 80-plus member coalition offers the latest information for a specific state or county, phone the State Conservationiston federal conservation policy. A 2009 publication, Farmers’ listed below.Page 18 ATTRA Federal Conservation Resources for Sustainable Farming and Ranching
  19. 19. State State Conservationist Phone Fax E-mailAlabama William (Bill) Puckett 334-887-4500 334-887-4552 bill.puckett@al.usda.govAlaska Robert N. Jones 907-761-7760 907-761-7790 robert.jones@ak.usda.govArizona David L. McKay 602-280-8801 602-280-8809 david.mckay@az.usda.govArkansas Mike Sullivan 501-301-3100 501-301-3194 mike.sullivan@ar.usda.govCalifornia Lincoln E. (Ed) Burton 530-792-5600 530-792-5790 ed.burton@ca.usda.govCaribbean Area Edwin Almodovar 787-766-5206 x237 787-766-6563 edwin.almodovar@pr.usda.govColorado James Allen Green 720-544-2810 720-544-2965 allen.green@co.usda.govConnecticut Douglas Zehner 860-871-4011 860-871-4054 doug.zehner@ct.usda.govDelaware Russell Morgan 302-678-4160 302-678-0843 russell.morgan@de.usda.govFlorida Carlos Suarez 352-338-9500 352-338-9574 carlos.suarez@fl.usda.govGeorgia James E. Tillman Sr. 706-546-2272 706-546-2120 james.tillman@ga.usda.govHawaii Lawrence T. Yamamoto 808-541-2600 x100 808-541-1335 larry.yamamoto@hi.usda.govIdaho Jeff Burwell 208-378-5700 208-378-5735 jeff.burwell@id.usda.govIllinois William J. Gradle 217-353-6600 217-353-6676 bill.gradle@il.usda.govIndiana Jane E. Hardisty 317-290-3200 317-290-3225 jane.hardisty@in.usda.govIowa Richard Sims 515-284-6655 515-284-4394 richard.sims@ia.usda.govKansas Eric B. Banks 785-823-4565 785-823-4540 eric.banks@ks.usda.govKentucky Thomas A. Perrin 859-224-7350 859-224-7399 tom.perrin@ky.usda.govLouisiana Kevin D. Norton 318-473-7751 318-473-7626 kevin.norton@la.usda.govMaine Juan Hernandez 207- 990-9585 207-990-9599 juan.hernandez@me.usda.govMaryland Jon F. Hall 410-757-0861 x315 410-757-0687 jon.hall@md.usda.govMassachusetts Elvis Graves, Acting 413-253-4351 413-253-4375 elvis.graves@gnb.usda.govMichigan Garry D. Lee 517-324-5270 517-324-5171 garry.lee@mi.usda.govMinnesota Don A. Baloun 651-602-7900 651-602-7914 don.baloun@mn.usda.govMississippi Homer L. Wilkes 601-965-5205 601-965-4940 homer.wilkes@ms.nrcs.usda.govMissouri J. R. Flores 573-876-0901 573-876-9439 jr.flores@mo.usda.govMontana Joyce Swartzendruber 406- 587-6813 406-587-6761 joyce.swartzendruber@mt.usda.govNebraska Stephen K. Chick 402-437-5300 402-437-5327 steve.chick@ne.usda.govNevada Bruce Petersen 775-857-8500 775-857-8524 bruce.petersen@nv.usda.govNew Hampshire Richard Ellsmore 603-868-7581 x125 603-868-5301 richard.ellsmore@nh.usda.govNew Jersey Thomas Drewes 732-537-6040 tom.drewes@nj.usda.govNew Mexico Dennis L. Alexander 505-761-4400 505-761-4481 dennis.alexander@nm.usda.govNew York Astor Boozer 315-477-6504 315-477-6550 astor.boozer@ny.usda.govNorth Carolina J.B. Martin, Jr. 919-873-2102 919-873-2156 jb.martin@nc.usda.govNorth Dakota Paul Sweeney 701-530-2000 701-530-2110 paul.sweeney@nd.usda.govOhio Randy Jordan (Acting) 614- 255-2472 614-255-2475 randy.jordan@oh.usda.govOklahoma Ronald L. Hilliard 405-742-1204 405-742-1126 ron.hilliard@ok.usda.govOregon Ron Alvarado 503-414-3200 503-414-3103 ron.alvarado@or.usda.gov Lawrence T. (Larry)Pacific Basin 671-472-7490 671-472-7288 larry.yamamoto@pb.usda.gov YamamotoPennsylvania Denise Coleman 717-237-2203 717-237-2238 denise.coleman@pa.usda.gov Phoukham (Pooh)Rhode Island 401- 828-1300 Ext. 8 401-822-0433 pooh.vongkhamdy@ri.usda.gov Vongkhamdywww.attra.ncat.org ATTRA Page 19