NRCS Programs for On-Farm Conservation
#Training and one-on-one support
The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides technical know-how and funding to support on-farm conservation.
Get training, tips or chat with an expert
We’ve partnered with NRCS for over 10 years, increasing conservation on organic farms across the nation. Our team can help you navigate NRCS and provide assistance to meet natural resource goals on your farm.
Open office hours:
Give Ben Bowell, Oregon Tilth’s organic conservation specialist, a call on Tuesdays or Thursdays (2:00-3:30 pm PT). He’ll answer your questions or get you the resources you need. Contact Ben at (503) 580-4767.
Join a Prep for NRCS Success session:
Our team hosts quarterly conversations that break down funding options and conservation project ideas. Learn insider tips to build a successful application.
- December 8, 2020 | 1:00pm – 2:00pm PT
This session is limited to 20 people.
Just get started
Contact your local NRCS office. Staff will walk you through the entire process and pay a visit to your farm to discuss options. Sign-up is open year-round, deadlines to be considered for funding in a given year vary.
A few considerations for when you reach out:
- Contact your local NRCS office when you have an opening in your schedule. While the process is not challenging, it does take time. We suggested contacting NRCS in the offseason.
- Deadlines for NRCS programs vary by year and state. It’s best to have your paperwork completed in advance.
- Approach NRCS staff with an open mind about opportunities for your farm. A skilled conservationist will work with you, taking a comprehensive review of your farm site. Improvements can include anything from a nutrient management plan to installing better gutter drain-off.
- Bring your project ideas, but collaboration and conversation can show other opportunities.
- Funding through NRCS programs may not cover the full cost of a conservation project, but you’ll know all of the details upfront.
- Some NRCS staff may not be experts in USDA organic regulations. Get approval from your certifier before making changes on your farm if the activities aren’t in your OSP.
- Check out NRCS’s brochure to learn a bit more about language and terms used at NRCS.
Background on NRCS programs and organic farms
NRCS has two programs that align well with organic regulations and help producers support natural resources and biodiversity.
Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
EQIP provides financial support and technical assistance to implement conservation practices on working agricultural land. Within EQIP, Organic Initiative is available to certified organic farms, transitioning to organic farms, and farms exempt from organic certification. The Organic Initiative (and the rest of EQIP) offers support for practices that are key components of organic farms. Examples include establishing buffer zones, planting pollinator habitat, improving cropping rotations, creating a rotational grazing system, and building nutrient management.
Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)
CSP offers technical assistance and payments for actively managing, maintaining, and expanding conservation activities. These include cover crops, rotational grazing, ecologically-based pest management, and buffer strips. CSP does not offer a funding pool specific to organic producers. Still, many of the enhancements (i.e., reducing tillage) are relevant to organic production.
Check out the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s Grassroots Guide to Federal Farm and Food Programs for more info. It includes descriptions and farmer success stories of EQIP, CSP and other programs.