New Conservation Plans Cover 27 Million Acres of Working Lands
WASHINGTON, Dec. 21, 2017 – In 2017, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) continued its proud tradition of working in partnership with America’s farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners.
“Our data and science-based surveys of our work show that we and our partners brought a healthier resource base, used taxpayers’ dollars wisely, made people safer, and brought more-efficient customer service to our customers and communities in 2017,” said Dr. Robert Johansson, Acting Deputy Under Secretary for the Farm Production and Conservation mission area.
Here are some highlights:
Investments in Planning and Farm Bill Programs
NRCS and its partners helped more than 680,000 land managers invest in their operations. This work resulted in conservation plans for 27 million acres of working lands – an area the size of Tennessee.
A record $1.1 billion investment in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) helped put conservation practices on more than 11.5 million acres. Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) enhancements to build on existing conservation efforts were placed on more than 7.5 million acres. More than 8.7 million acres were re-enrolled in the program. Nearly 300,000 acres of farmland, grasslands, and wetlands were protected through new enrollments in the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program.
In 2017, NRCS targeted the conservation of some of the nation’s most-valuable resources. Because of this assistance from NRCS and its partners:
- Water quality improvement practices were implemented on more than 365,000 acres and conservation plans were developed for more than 315,000 acres in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
- A two-year implementation strategy was released to help landowners restore and protect 400,000 acres of longleaf pine forests in eight southern states and Texas.
- More than $32 million was invested in 10 new and 26 existing projects underway with the Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership – an effort between NRCS and the U.S. Forest Service – to reduce wildfire threats, protect water quality and supply, and improve habitat for at-risk species while working across public and private lands.
- The holiday darter and bridled darter in the Coosa River of Georgia didn’t need to be listed under the Endangered Species Act.
Producers and communities were hit hard by storms, hurricanes, wildfires, and drought in 2017, NRCS provides disaster recovery assistance to farmers and communities through a variety of programs, including the Emergency Watershed Protection Program.
Financial assistance through EQIP played a vital role in putting producers on the road to recovery by helping them install conservation practices that protect land from erosion and prevent the erosion of soil following future disasters. Through EQIP, NRCS provided:
- Livestock carcass disposal in areas of Texas struck by Hurricane Harvey.
- $4 million for wildfire recovery projects in California, and
- More than $3.7 million for watering facilities, prescribed grazing, pasture and hayland planting, and cover crops in four states affected by drought.
Through EWP, NRCS works with local government entities and Tribes in impacted areas to remove debris, stabilize streambanks and fix water control structures, among other practices.
NRCS made $1.75 million available through EWP for post-hurricane recovery in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Fifty-six employees from the agency’s national, state, and soil survey offices worked with local officials to assess damages and provide information on EWP and other USDA programs. Similar efforts occurred in Texas, Florida, Georgia and California.
NRCS improved customer service by applying new ways to meet its customers’ needs. In 2017, NRCS:
- Offered more than 200 customizable conservation activities through Farm Bill programs.
- Added customer-requested evaluation, ranking, and obligation processes to CSP.
- Awarded more than $22.6 million nationwide for 33 Conservation Innovation Grants projects that would advance development of tools, technologies, and strategies to support conservation efforts on working lands and develop market-based solutions to resource challenges.
In 2017, NRCS delivered funding for contracts with historically underserved customers, including socially disadvantaged, beginning, limited-resource, and veteran farmers and ranchers. Together, these contracts exceeded $553 million and will treat more than 11.3 million acres of working land.
Find out what NRCS and its partners did to benefit natural resources, people, and communities where you live in 2017 by contacting your local USDA service center.