State Public Affairs Officer
Natural Resources Conservation Service
Whether you are a new acreage owner or have enjoyed a lifetime in the country, chances are you are one of the many acreage landowners who have never heard of the Natural Resources Conservation Service. And as the person responsible for managing your acreage’s natural resources you probably should get more acquainted with this USDA agency and the free help we can provide.
For the past 80 years, NRCS conservation professionals have worked with private landowners to protect their land from erosion, improve water quality and promote wildlife habitat. Born during the Dust Bowl crisis, NRCS has grown to be the largest federal agency providing free, voluntary technical assistance at the local level. Our primary customers are farmers and ranchers, but our technical help is available to all private landowners.
While we help farmers with larger scale conservation issues and livestock management concerns, many of the same natural resource principles can be applied at the acreage level. Some of these items include helping design low-cost lawn maintenance plans that save water and improve habitat; protecting streambanks from erosion and reducing flooding risks; and reducing nutrient runoff to ponds and improving pond maintenance.
Our experts help identify landowners’ goals: Do they want to restore a prairie? Do they want to attract wildlife for hunting? Do they need to improve pastures for horses?
And we will help identify potential areas of concern for soil erosion, water quality, plant and animal health and energy conservation.
As the agency charged with helping people help the land, NRCS can then help you develop a plan to reach your goals while addressing natural resource concerns.
The first step to getting free help from NRCS is visiting or calling one of our local offices, located in every county. You can find your local office by using this online office locator.
While our free technical assistance is available to any private landowner, we also offer financial assistance to qualifying landowners and farmers through a variety of Farm Bill conservation programs.
One of the most popular programs is called the Environmental Quality Incentives Program or EQIP.
Through this NRCS-administered program, qualifying landowners can receive financial assistance to help pay for a wide variety of conservation practices, like buffers, filter strips and windbreaks, which would apply to smaller-scale acreages.
Another program helpful for acreage landowners is the Wetland Restoration Easement option offered through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP).
This program offers easement and restoration opportunities for landowners wanting to restore wetlands on their land.
Eligibility for both of these programs generally hinges on several factors, including whether your land has been used for ag production, you have generated farm income from land and you have registered your farm with the USDA.
To determine if you and your acreage meet eligibility requirements for Farm Bill program financial assistance it is best to visit your local USDA Service Center. USDA employees can help you determine your eligibility for the department’s many financial programs.