New Pilot Program for California Producers to Build Drought Resilience

Posted on Wednesday, June 16th, 2021 by
technical assistance Merced almond farmer Sacramento Aguilar (left) and NRCS Soil Conservationist Jenna Dunn discuss the plant variety in Aguilar’s cover crop seed mix. Aguilar planted cover crops, with assistance from NRCS California, in an effort to boost pollinator habitat and improve organic matter in his soil. Photo credit: USDA NRCS
Eligible practices include:
+ Conservation Crop Rotation
+ Mulching
+ Prescribed Grazing
+ Cover Crop
+ Hedgerow Planting
+ Microirrigation
+ Brush Management
Eligible Enhancements include:
+ Conservation cover for pollinators and beneficial insects
+ Establishing pollinator habitats
+ Silvopasture
+ Reduced tillage

Updated July 12, 2021Deadline extended to July 14. Producers in California are now able to apply for a new program that prioritizes whole-farm climate resilience as the drought poses challenges and an earlier start to wildfire season calls for more action to address the climate crisis.

More than $22 million is available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for this new program – Conservation Incentive Contracts (EQIP-CIC) – that bridges two existing programs Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). EQIP-CIC provides financial assistance to California farmers and ranchers to adopt practices included in the popular EQIP while offering the benefits of longer-term contracts and enhancements associated with CSP

This is a pilot program, open to only four states in the west – California, Arizona, Colorado and Oregon, focused on reducing or mitigating the most hard-felt impacts of drought and wildfire, compounded by climate change, through investment in on-farm conservation practices to bolster resilience. After this pilot year, the program will be expanded nation-wide. Learn more from a recent NRCS presentation here.

Conservation Incentive Contracts Program Basics

EQIP-CIC allows producers to implement different conservation enhancements that are part of CSP on a smaller scale. Unlike CSP, there is no requirement for conservation efforts and practices to already be underway, so this program provides a way for producers who have not yet adopted the eligible conservation practices to plan and manage for drought resiliency longer-term. The minimum contract period for EQIP-CIC is 5 years and may extend up to 10 years. Building on the existing caps for EQIP grants, producers can apply for up to $650,000 for EQIP-CIC projects over 5 years.

There are two types of incentive payments:

  1. payments to adopt new practices or infrastructure for conservation goals
  2. payments to manage, maintain and improve conservation work

Cropland, rangeland and pasture and forestland are all eligible land uses. The program is available statewide to all eligible producers.  There are two high priority areas, the San Joaquin Valley and Klamath Basin for cropland.  Tribal producers are also eligible and encouraged to apply.

Every project in EQIP-CIC has to address at least one priority resource concern related to specific land use:

  • source water depletion on crop land
  • soil quality limitation on cropland
  • terrestrial habitat on cropland and forest land
  • livestock production limitation on range and pasture land
  • degraded plant condition on range, pasture and forest land
  • fire management on range, pasture and forest land

Find the list of priority areas and resource concerns here.

Apply today!

Signup have already begun and NRCS will accept applications through July 14, 2021. Producers need to meet in person with their NRCS district conservation to complete the applications – so find your local NRCS office here to book an appointment for more information or download an application here.

NRCS plans to select applications for funding by August 13, 2021.

Stay Connected
Get newsletter and blog updates and action alerts from CalCAN