Conservation programs to help farmers protect the soil, air, water, and wildlife on their land exist: but new data shows they’re pretty darn picky.
Nearly 70% of those who applied to the programs during the past decade have been denied.
A closer look: Between 2010 and 2020, 31% of farmers who applied to the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and 42% who applied to the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) were actually awarded contracts. Going a step further, this means that 946,459 EQIP and 146,425 CSP contract applications were denied over the decade, many of those in major agricultural states.
What gives? As the government focuses on addressing the climate crisis, farmers are often at the front lines. While the EQIP and CSP programs have been successful, albeit under-funded, programs to address climate change efforts on the farm, many of the funds and resources have been misdirected despite best intentions.
No relief in sight: Funding for EQIP will rise $200M per year from 2019 to 2023, which sounds nice. But on the downside, CSP—meant to be the more comprehensive program—will see its funding decline. Per the 2018 Farm Bill, CSP funding was $2.3B in 2019. By 2023, it will only be $1.4B.
What this means: CSP has historically provided higher conservation and financial benefits to farmers, but is now seeing its funding decline. Due to a shortage of NRCS staff, there’s also a gap in providing assistance to farmers as they fill out the rigorous paperwork associated with CSP.