NRCS Announces $4.4 Million Award for On-Farm Conservation

NRCS Announces $4.4 Million Award for On-Farm Conservation

OMAHA, NE (The Nature Conservancy news release) – The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced today that The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska’s project, “Resilient Futures for Nebraska Soil,” was selected as a project through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) for the amount of $4,419,304.

“I’m excited to announce the first RCPP awards under the 2018 Farm Bill,” said NRCS Chief Matthew Lohr. “Through collaboration and aligning our resources toward a common goal, we’re making an impact for natural resource conservation that could never have been realized on our own.”

The five-year award from NRCS and companies in the agricultural supply chain will provide farmers in central Nebraska with technical and financial assistance as they adopt soil health practices on an estimated 100,000 acres. “We know that healthy cropland soils boost fertility, reduce water pollution, and stabilize global climate,” said Dr. Hannah Birgé, director of agriculture for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. “This project will leverage private and public resources to amplify the good work of Nebraska farmers as they scale up soil health practice adoption.” 

The Upper Big Blue and Central Platte Natural Resources Districts are partners in the project. “This project exemplifies the importance of teaming up with the public and private sectors to bring greater resources to bear on our district’s soil health work,” said Lyndon Vogt, general manager of the Central Platte Natural Resources District.

“Area farmers are already experimenting with soil health practices. This collaboration will accelerate their work and spread practices to new operations,” added Marie Krausnick, water department manager of the Upper Big Blue Natural Resources District.

The NRDs have not yet signed agreements with the NRCS to receive these funds.

Eligible producers will have the option of implementing three soil health practices: cover cropping, reduced tillage, and diversified crop rotations. The project will serve as an Ecosystem Services Market Consortium pilot, which connects farmers to private sector payments for soil health practice adoption. The Ecosystem Services Market Consortium, while new, provides a way to scale practice adoption. “Big companies are looking to improve their environmental footprints in measurable and trackable ways, and farmers can improve the environment in measurable and trackable ways when they adopt soil health practices. The Ecosystem Services Market Consortium connects the two and creates a way to pay farmers for their outcomes,” said Debbie Reed, director of the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium. “We are excited to ground-truth our methodologies through this project with central Nebraska farmers.”

The Nature Conservancy’s application was strengthened by the support of Nebraska Members of Congress Senator Deb Fischer and Representative Don Bacon. “As a U.S. Senator, I am glad to see Nebraska farmers recognized on a national scale for their soil health efforts,” said Senator Fischer. “As a Nebraska rancher, I am thrilled for the general public to learn what producers already know: Nebraska farmers and ranchers have the expertise to lead the world in stewarding our precious soil resources.”

“Soil health provides common ground for a uniquely diverse array of players in agriculture. This project exemplifies that, and we are overjoyed with the team that’s come together to carry out this work,” said Birgé.