Agricultural Financial Assistance Programs
USDA provides voluntary, incentive-based conservation to landowners through local field offices in nearly every county. USDA helps landowners develop conservation plans and to implement conservation practices through cost-share programs. Usually, USDA financial support is leveraged with landowner investments.
The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) uses a cost-share to implement a planting practice but is distinctive because it also pays a yearly rental payment in exchange for farmers removing environmentally-sensitive land from agricultural production. CRP is administered by the Farm Service Agency, with NRCS providing technical land eligibility determinations, conservation planning and practice implementation. CRP is a federal-state partnership, and both help the landowner cost-share the practice. The various incentive payments available to the landowner make CRP a desirable program. CRP has never reached a limit on how much money can be spent. There is, however, an acreage cap on how many acres is allowed in CRP and the landowner must sign a 10 or 15-year contract on CRP acres.
The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), an offshoot of CRP, targets high-priority conservation practices such as riparian buffers. Even more incentives may be available under CREP in your state and county. Consult with your local FSA office or NRCS office for more details on incentives.
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is an NRCS program that provides cost-share and technical assistance to agricultural producers to plan and implement conservation practices. Riparian forest buffers are one of many practices that EQIP can fund. There is a high-demand for this program, and it can be difficult to compete for available funding.
The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) also promotes the use of RFB in addition to other farm practices. Through CSP, NRCS and partners can help the landowner implement conservation practices that both help their farm operation and the environment. CSP also offers enhancements to existing practices, e.g., making an existing buffer wider. There is no annual rental payment with CSP practices.