FAQ: The 2014 Farm Bill is merging a number of USDA-NRCS soil and water conservation programs. The goal is to be more efficient and stretch limited dollars. Will we still get the technical and financial help needed to address natural resource issues?
Answer: The 2014 Farm Bill is streamlining key USDA conservation programs while investing about $18.7 billion in conservation programs offered by USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service over the next five years. The bill provides about $3.4 billion for fiscal 2014 for NRCS-administered programs.
"The new farm bill continues to equip farmers with the tools they need to address resource concerns while helping the environment," says Jay Mar, NRCS state conservationist for Iowa. "NRCS is moving swiftly to get the consolidated and expanded programs implemented."
Key program changes include:
Financial assistance programs. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program, or EQIP, will absorb the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program and make similar practices available. The Conservation Stewardship Program will continue.
Easement programs. The agency's key easement programs will be merged into a new program called the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, or ACEP. ACEP includes the former Wetlands Reserve Program, Grasslands Reserve Program and Farm and Ranchlands Protection Program. Funding for wetland and grassland protection expired Sept. 30, 2013, and the 2014 Farm Bill reinstates funding for these critical efforts under ACEP.
Partnership programs. The agency's regional conservation efforts have a home in a new program: the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, or RCPP. Critical conservation areas for this new program will be designated by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. NRCS will also select project areas at the state and national level.
Key points to keep in mind
The farm bill is the federal government's primary agricultural and food policy tool and was created in 1933 amid the Great Depression, notes Mar.
The farm bill provides support for many USDA programs, including the conservation programs that provide farmers with technical and financial assistance to address natural resource concerns on their land.
Congress recently passed the 2014 Farm Bill, which will continue the nation's conservation investment and streamline conservation efforts.
The 2014 Farm Bill consolidates programs. For example, three of the agency's easement programs were fused into the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program.