Funds Available to Help Producers Add Soil Carbon Conservation Practices

Funds Available to Help Producers Add Soil Carbon Conservation Practices

Monday, November 15, 2021
Producers in the Central Platte and Upper Big Blue Natural Resources Districts (NRDs) are encouraged to enroll their acres in the Nebraska Soil Carbon Project.
 
This project provides greater financial incentives to producers who utilize key conservation practices in central Nebraska. Farmers can adopt soil health practices--including cover crops, no-till, and diverse crop rotations that store carbon in the soil. The stored carbon is utilized by private companies to help reach their goals around sustainability. Depending on the practices implemented, producers earn up to $45 per acre each year.
 
The goal is to have about 100 producers install these soil health practices on 100,000 acres of farmland over the next five years. The expectation to enroll 20,000 acres in the first year across the two NRDs was successfully met, reaching over 23,000 acres with a new conservation practice in place.  With the intention of matching this same number of acres during our second round of enrollment, we encourage farmers to apply at their local NRCS office for implementing practices during the Fall of 2022. Applications must be submitted by Friday, December 17, 2021.
 
The Nebraska Soil Carbon Project is a collaboration between the two NRDs, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), The Nature Conservancy, Ecosystem Services Market Consortium, Cargill, Target, and McDonald’s. The Nature Conservancy manages the new program and is investing $8 million for farmers to implement these practices over the next few years. 
 
Increasing cropland soil carbon has multiple benefits for the producer and the environment including more stable yields, improved nutrient availability and water holding capacity, and climate stabilization. Private companies are looking for ways to decrease their carbon footprint and Nebraska’s growers can provide these benefits by improving their farming operations as they implement soil health practices. Markets to link these soil carbon buyers and suppliers gives companies a way to meet part of their greenhouse gas reduction goals while supporting farmers who are implementing conservation practices.
 
The payments producers will receive through our carbon market pilot project are tied to the practices implemented on the acres, not the carbon outcomes, to reduce the amount of risk involved for producers. Colorado State University is providing scientific support through this project.
 
The project is estimated to store the equivalent of 150,000 metric tons of CO2 while enhancing Nebraska’s soil and linking producers to new carbon payment opportunities.

Beyond the financial incentives and soil health improvements, involved producers will have the opportunity to:
  • Share conservation stories with a larger audience via field days, media spots, and short videos relating to the project. 
  • Attend training events with local and national leaders in soil health, agronomy, and related topics.
  • Receive a report on the new practice’s soil carbon and water quality outcomes. Those that are interested in going deeper may also opt-in for a detailed report on the practice’s financial return on investment.
Producers will receive year-round assistance from the NRDs, NRCS, and The Nature Conservancy staff, who will provide support for paperwork/application processes and soil health practice management.
 
There is no gross income or acre enrollment cap for NRCS payments, but producers are encouraged to enroll a reasonable number of acres given their operation size and soil health experience. More acres can be submitted for enrollment in subsequent years of the program.
 
Payments are for new soil health acres only, however a measurable improvement of an existing practice could count (such as moving from strip till to no till) if it aligns with the NRCS’s standards.
 
Interested in adding conservation practices to your acres?  
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