The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is asking for public input through a Federal Register request for information on implementation of more than $19 billion provided by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will use the investments provided through IRA-funded conservation programs to support farmers and ranchers in adopting and expanding climate-smart activities and systems. NRCS asks for comments on how to target program benefits, quantify impact, and improve program delivery and outreach, especially for underserved producers. Comments are due Dec. 22, 2022. NRCS will identify immediate changes that can be made in fiscal year 2023 and will continue to identify and adopt additional changes in future years.
“Agriculture is at the forefront of the nation’s effort to address climate change, and we want to hear from people on the ground how to implement our programs to maximize climate benefits, promote equity and assist all producers,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “From climate-smart agriculture, to supporting healthy forests and conservation, to tax credits, to biofuels, infrastructure and beyond, this legislation provides USDA with significant additional resources to lead this historic charge.”
The Inflation Reduction Act provided unprecedented funding levels for several of the existing programs that NRCS implements. The increased funding levels begin in fiscal year 2023 and rapidly build over four years, totaling these additional amounts:
· $8.45 billion – Environmental Quality Incentives Program
· $3.25 billion – Conservation Stewardship Program
· $4.95 billion – Regional Conservation Partnership Program
· $1.4 billion – Agricultural Conservation Easement Program
· $1 billion – Conservation Technical Assistance
NRCS is asking for public input on to how to best maximize benefits for climate mitigation, including targeting practices and programs that provide quantifiable reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, NRCS is requesting feedback to help identify strategies and provide recommendations on how to maximize, target, monitor, and quantify improvements to soil carbon, reductions in nitrogen losses, and the reduction, capture, avoidance, or sequestration of carbon dioxide, methane or nitrous oxide emissions associated with agricultural production. NRCS is also seeking ideas for how to further streamline and improve program delivery to increase efficiencies and expand program access for producers, especially underserved producers.