Incentive Program Helps Producers Add Conservation Practices to Acres

Incentive Program Helps Producers Add Conservation Practices to Acres

Tuesday, May 4, 2021
Producers in the Upper Big Blue and Central Platte NRDs, the Nebraska Soil Carbon Project is ready to enroll your acres!

This project will provide 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. This stored carbon can be utilized by private companies to help reach their goals around sustainability. Depending on the practices implemented, producers will 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. For this first year, producers will enroll between May 1 and June 15. The expectation is to enroll 20,000 acres in the first year across the two NRDs.

The Nebraska Soil Carbon Project is a collaboration between the two NRDs, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS), The Nature Conservancy, Ecosystem Services Market Consortium, Cargill, Target, and McDonald’s. The Nature Conservancy manages the new program, which will provide $8 million for farmers in the next five 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. Now is a great time to invest in soil health practices that increase soil carbon, as markets are emerging to link soil carbon buyers and suppliers. 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. It is a win-win situation, as this systems approach 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 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.
There will be 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? Visit to get started today or contact the Upper Big Blue NRD at or call (402) 362-6601. Applications will be accepted on a continuous basis, so if you miss the June 15 enrollment deadline you can still complete an application to be considered for the second year of this program starting this November.

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