Farmers and ranchers will receive increased help developing nutrient management plans with funding from the Inflation Reduction Act, the Agriculture Department announced Monday

The Natural Resources Conservation Service said it will target funding, increase program flexibilities, launch a new outreach campaign to promote nutrient management’s economic benefits and expand partnerships into developing nutrient management plans.

The IRA will provide $19.5 billion in new conservation funding to support climate-smart agriculture. Much of that will go toward the perennially oversubscribed Environmental Quality Incentives Program ($8.45 billion), the Regional Conservation Partnership Program ($4.95 billion), the Conservation Stewardship Program ($3.25 billion), and the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program ($1.4 billion).

The focus on nutrient management “is part of USDA’s broader effort to address future fertilizer availability and cost challenges for U.S. producers,” USDA said.

Specifically, NRCS will offer a Streamlined Nutrient Management Initiative incentivizing nutrient management activities through conservation programs such as EQIP, using EQIP Conservation Incentive Contracts, and CSP.

“The initiative will use a ranking threshold for pre-approval and include a streamlined and expedited application process, targeted outreach to small-scale and historically underserved producers, and coordination with [the Farm Service Agency] to streamline the program eligibility process for producers new to USDA,” USDA said.

NRCS said it would be targeting additional funding in fiscal year 2023 for nutrient management. It also announced “a streamlined funding opportunity for up to $40 million in nutrient management grant opportunities through the [RCPP].”

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A Nutrient Management Economic Benefits Outreach Campaign “will highlight the economic benefits of nutrient management planning for farmers,” the department said. “The potential net savings to farmers who adopt a nutrient management plan is estimated to be an average of $30 per acre for cropland. It is estimated that there are 89 million acres of cropland (28% of total U.S. cropland) currently exceeding the nitrogen loss threshold; and if all those acres implemented a nutrient management plan, the average net savings would be $2.6 billion.”

USDA also said it would expand support for nutrient management through Technical Service Providers (TSPs) and pilot projects.

“New agreements with key partners who have existing capacity to support nutrient management planning and technical assistance will expand benefits and serve as a model to continue streamlining the certification process for Technical Service Providers,” USDA said. “NRCS is also developing new opportunities to support partner training frameworks, nutrient management outreach and education, and new incentive payments through TSP partners for nutrient management planning and implementation.”

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