BMPs: How do I pay for them?
Making positive changes isn’t always cheap but many best management practices can save you money in the long term, and there are organizations and agencies that offer grants or loans to help.
Federal Grant and Cost-Share Programs
The organization Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) has compiled a comprehensive guide to federal programs relating to agriculture, forestry, and rural development. The publication can be found at http://www.sare.org/Learning-Center/Books/Building-Sustainable-Farms-Ranches-and-Communities and covers 60 different programs, including the following funding sources related to preserving our waters. Talk with your local USDA office (see Contacts page) for more in depth info on how to get involved!
- Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP)
- The ACEP provides funding for permanent or 30-year conservation easements for wetlands or grasslands on active farms. Grazing rights in easement can be retained under certain conditions. For more information visit http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/programs/easements/acep/
- Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG)
- The CIG provide a funding source for innovative techniques for conservation in conjunction with agriculture. 10% of funding is set-aside for beginning/limited resource farmers and/or Native American tribes. 50% non-federal matching funds required, open to state and local governments, non-profits, and individuals. For more information visit http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/programs/financial/cig/.
- Conservation Loan and Loan Guarantee Program
- The Conservation Loan program is administered by Farm Service Agency (FSA) and funds loans for water conservation, forest cover, permanent pasture establishment, highly erodible land protection, and conservation buffer practices. Priority is given to beginning or disadvantaged farmers/ranchers and those using loans to convert to organic/sustainable systems or to protect erodible lands. For more information visit http://www.fsa.usda.gov/Internet/FSA_File/consv_loan_pf_20120306.pdf
- Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), and Conservation Reserve Program Transition Incentives Program (CRP TIP)
- These three similar programs are administered by the Farm Services Agency. The CRP and CREP fund cropland to pasture/grassland conversion, riparian buffers, and other conservation practices that retire land from crop production. These “rental” programs establish a long-term conservation contract with the landowner, providing annual payments for enrolled land. The CRP TIP provides two additional annual payments to retiring farmers who sell expiring CRP land to beginning or disadvantaged farmers/ranchers to be returned to production in an environmentally responsible manner. For more information visit
- Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)
- The CSP provides 5-year contracts with payments (capped at $40,000/yr.) for conservation measures that improve soil, water, or air quality, increase biodiversity or habitat, reduce/sequester emissions, or conserve water or energy. For more information visit http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/programs/financial/csp/
- Crop Insurance for Organic Producers and Whole Farm Revenue Protection
- The Risk Management Agency (RMA) now insures organic crops at rates reflecting their higher prices, based on RMA established prices or written contracts with buyers. The RMA also provides whole farm revenue protection for farms with diversified crop production. For more information visit http://www.rma.usda.gov/news/currentissues/organics/ and http://www.rma.usda.gov/policies/wfrp.html
- Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
- One of the largest USDA conservation programs, EQIP funds up to 10-year contracts (mostly 2-3 yrs.) provide up to a 75% cost share (90% for beginning/disadvantaged farmers) for a wide range of best management practices. Eligible producers must have <$900K of adjusted gross income and payments are capped at $450,000/producer. For more information visit http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/programs/financial/eqip/ or look at this useful guide to applying for EQIP funds, published by SARE: http://www.sare.org/Learning-Center/SARE-Project-Products/Northeast-SARE-Project-Products/Plain-Language-Guides-for-New-and-Under-Served-Producers/Applying-for-Environmental-Quality-Incentives-Program-EQIP
- Forest Legacy Program (FLP)
- The FLP provides a 75% federal cost-share to protect forest from conversion to non-forest use by funding conservation easements, sustainable timber production, and watershed protection projects. The state runs program and seeks landowners as participants. Landowners retain the land and sell some property rights for a conservation easement. For more information visit http://www.fs.fed.us/spf/coop/programs/loa/aboutflp.shtml
- Forest Stewardship Program (FSP)
- Helps non-industrial landowners create Forest Stewardship Plans to guide sustainable management of their forestland. For more information visit http://www.fs.fed.us/spf/coop/programs/loa/fsp.shtml
- Organic Certification Cost Share Programs
- The OCCSP provides grants to cover up to 75% of organic certification costs (max $750 grant). For more information visit https://www.ams.usda.gov/services/grants/occsp
- Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP)
- The RCPP provides funding for conservation practices, conservation planning, and monitoring. State and local governments, NGO’s, and farmer cooperatives/producer associations are eligible for funding. This program would be most useful for a group of producers looking at addressing a conservation issue within a region or watershed in conjunction with a local municipality or NGO (such as the Cumberland River Compact if you live in the Cumberland Basin). For more information visit http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/programs/farmbill/rcpp/
- Rural Energy for America Program (REAP)
The REAP provides grants up to $250,000 for energy efficiency or $500,000 for renewable energy. The program provides up to 25% USDA cost share or up to 75% guaranteed loan. For more information visit http://www.rd.usda.gov/reap or your local USDA Rural Development Office.
- Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE)
- SARE grants support researchers, graduate students, and producers. Producers wishing to explore a new sustainable production method or technology can receive funds for implementation, research and demonstration. To learn about what’s been funded in Tennessee visit http://www.southernsare.org/SARE-in-Your-State/Tennessee
Tennessee Department of Agriculture funded programs
The TDA funds several agricultural conservation programs and administers some federal programs as well. Formoreinformationonfundingvisithttps://www.tn.gov/agriculture/topic/ag-topical-financial. Programs administered by the TDA include the following:
- Agricultural Resources Conservation Fund (ARCF)
- The ARCF funds for producers to install best management practices for protecting waterquality,workinginconcertwithlocalSoilConservationDistricts. SCD’sapply forfundingforlandsalongimpairedstreams,sotalkwithyourSCDtoday. SCD’sare seeking participants, but producers can get the ball rolling by reaching out to get a project started as well. Up to 85% cost share for 303(d) -listed (polluted) streams. Visit https://www.tn.gov/agriculture/article/ag-farms-arcf for more information. Most of the practices listed in the Best Management Practices section of this document are eligible for funding.
- Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program (TAEP)
- The TAEP program provides funding for agricultural development, and can be a funding source for certain sustainable activities, such as crop diversification, organic production, and hay wagons, as well as dozens of other activities related to agricultural production. Call 1.800.342.8206 or visit https://www.tn.gov/agriculture/topic/ag-farms-enhancement for more information.
- Specialty Crop Block Grant (SCBG)
- A federal program administered by the TDA, The SCBG program provides funding for expansion of specialty crops, and can be a funding source for farmers looking to diversifytheircropproduction. Itcoversanumberofsustainablepractices,suchas integrated pest management, land stewardship, and energy efficiency improvements. Visithttps://www.tn.gov/agriculture/topic/ag-businesses-specialty- crop for more information.
- TDA Nonpoint Source Program, EPA Section 319
- This federal program provides funding for best management practices, usually targeted at the scale of a small watershed (typically 10,000-50,000 acres). This funding source is not directly available to farmers, so get together with your neighbors and talk with your Soil Conservation District or a non-profit organization (such as the Cumberland River Compact if you live in the Cumberland Basin) to apply on your behalf. Requires a 40% non-federal funding match (which can be covered by the producer, local government, a non-profit, or some combination thereof). Visithttps://www.tn.gov/agriculture/topic/ag-farms-npsformore information.
To learn more about any of these programs, visit the links above or contact your local USDA Service Center (see page 13 for contacts). The Farm Service Agency (FSA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), USDA Rural Development, and Soil Conservation Districts (SCDs) are all invaluable resources when considering options for conservation practices.