Regulation Database – Natural Resources Conservation Service
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) administers the following programs which provide technical and financial support for climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts on farms, ranches, and forests:
- Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)
- Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG)
- Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
- Rapid Carbon Assessment (RaCA)
- Healthy Forests Reserve Program
Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)
The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) is a voluntary conservation program that encourages producers to implement more sustainable agricultural practices. NRCS has noted that CSP can promote both mitigation and adaptation to climate change, for example, by encouraging farmers and ranchers to implement new methods to reduce the use of fossil fuels and minimize impacts on the environment from the use of energy, and by promoting better nutrient management and facilitates shift to conservation tillage practices, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and sequestering carbon respectively.
Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG)
Conservation Innovation Grants are offered annually by NRCS to stimulate development and encourage adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies. These grants specifically addressed greenhouse gas mitigation and carbon sequestration opportunities in fiscal year 2011 and 2015, water quality credit trading in 2012, drought adaptation and irrigation management in 2013, and soil health and nutrient management in 2014. Awards will continue investing in areas of soil health, conservation planning, nutrient and energy management, and development of innovative conservation technology.
Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
The 2008 Farm Bill provided authority to address air quality and energy conservation resource concerns through EQIP. Although there is no direct authority to address climate change, many projects and practices funded through EQIP could have benefits for climate change.
Examples of EQIP-funded conservation activities that might address climate change impacts include:
- Crop Residue Management – Promotes no-till, which is a conservation practice that leaves the crop residue undisturbed from harvest through planting except for narrow strips that cause minimal soil disturbance. No-till reduces greenhouse gases because it requires less fuel and sequesters carbon in the soil.
- Nutrient Management – involves proper timing and placement of the right amounts of nutrients and soil amendments for adequate soil fertility and to minimize potential environmental degradation, particularly of water quality. Also entails the use of anaerobic digesters, such as covered lagoons and complete mix digesters, coupled with electricity generation from methane. Methane emissions -> carbon dioxide emissions = less harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
- Irrigation Water Management – energy saving and less carbon dioxide emissions (many irrigation systems use diesel).
- Agricultural Energy Management Conservation Activity Plans – this is a a comprehensive whole on-farm energy audit evaluation of the energy use and provision of recommendations for how energy conservation and efficiency can be achieved. Of course to recognize actual energy savings and greenhouse gas reductions, the recommendations provided in this plan would need to be implemented.
- Precision Agriculture – By reducing overlap in fertilizer and pesticide applications on the 250 million acres of cropland used to produce major crops, petroleum-based fertilizer and pesticide costs could be reduced up to $1 billion annually.
- Pesticide Management – Pesticide production depends heavily on energy resources, less pesticide use = less energy used to produce pesticides.
- Prescribed Grazing Systems – Well-managed grazing systems improve the health and vigor of plants, enhance the quality and quantity of water, and reduce accelerated soil erosion and improve soil condition on the land. As a result, they can enhance the carbon storage in soil.
- Windbreaks and Shelterbelts – can entail tree planting, which provides carbon sequestration and energy savings.
Rapid Carbon Assessment (RaCA)
The Rapid Carbon Assessment (RaCA) was initiated by the USDA–NRCS Soil Science Division in 2010 with the following objectives:
- To develop statistically reliable quantitative estimates of amounts and distribution of carbon stocks for U.S. soils under various land covers and to the extent possible, differing agricultural management.
- To provide data to support model simulations of soil carbon change related to land use change, agricultural management, conservation practices, and climate change.
- To provide a scientifically and statistically defensible inventory of soil carbon stocks for the U.S.
Healthy Forests Reserve Program
This is a voluntary program established for the purpose of restoring and enhancing forest ecosystems to: 1) promote the recovery of threatened and endangered species, 2) improve biodiversity; and 3) enhance carbon sequestration. Program achieves these goals through 30-year or permanent easements or through 30-year contracts with Tribal lands and cost-share agreements for up to 10 years. The program facilities climate change mitigation by promoting the expansion and improvement of forests.