How can NRCS help you?

Farm field

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is a federal agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that assists farmers and landowners with conserving land and natural resources.

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1Brief history
The Dust Bowl of the 1930s spurred the creation of the Soil Conservation Service (SCS) to help protect American farmland and help prevent another disaster like it.

Congress passed a law April 27, 1935, which directed the Secretary of Agriculture to establish the SCS as a permanent agency in USDA.

SCS was developed from the efforts of Hugh Hammond Bennett, known as the “father of soil conservation” and the first chief of SCS.

In 1994, Congress changed the name to the Natural Resources Conservation Service to better reflect a broader scope.

2Technical assistance
The Conservation Technical Assistance program provides farmers and landowners personal assistance with tailoring a program that fits the needs of their land. An NRCS agent works closely with a landowner to provide science-based data to help landowners target efforts that will receive the greatest return on investment.

3Have a plan
Developing a conservation plan is the first step to managing natural resources on your land. An NRCS agent will walk the land with you, conducting soil surveys, using aerial imagery and other information to help farmers develop a plan. Once a plan is in place, NRCS can help landowners determine what financial assistance they may qualify for.

4Financial assistance
Farmers and forest landowners can receive financial assistance from NRCS to make improvements to their land. Farm bill incentives include the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the Conservation Stewardship Program (CRP), and the Agricultural Management Assistance Program (AMA).

NRCS offers easement programs to eligible landowners to conserve working agricultural lands, wetlands, grasslands and forestlands. Easements include the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program and the Healthy Forests Reserve Program.

This month we will break down different services provided by the NRCS each week, wrapping the series up with how you can get started with NRCS.

Next week: What is a conservation plan?

Sources: NRCS.

(Farm and Dairy is featuring a series of “101” columns throughout the year to help young and beginning farmers master farm living. From finances to management to machinery repair and animal care, farmers do it all.)

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