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BMPs: How do I Pay for Them?

Funding Sources for BMPs

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.

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 covers 60 different programs, including the following funding sources related to preserving our waters. Talk with your local USDA office (see contacts below) for more in-depth info on how to get involved!

Federal Grant and Cost-Share Programs

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 easements can be retained under certain conditions.

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 buffers. Priority is given to beginning or disadvantaged farmers and those using loans to convert to organic/sustainable systems or to protect erodible lands.

CRP, CREP, and CRP TIP 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 conservation practices that retire land from crop production. These “rental” programs establish long-term conservation contracts with the landowner, providing annual payments for enrolled land. The CRP TIP provides additional annual payments to retiring farmers who sell expiring CRP land to beginning or disadvantaged farmers to be farmed in an environmentally responsible manner.

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.

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 crops.

Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
One of the largest USDA conservation programs, EQIP funds up to 10-year contracts (mostly 2-3 yrs.) and provides up to a 75% cost share (90% for beginning/disadvantaged farmers) for a wide range of best management practices. Eligible producers must have less than $900K of adjusted gross income and payments are capped at $450,000/producer.

Forest Legacy Program (FLP)
The FLP provides a 75% federal cost-share to protect the forest by funding conservation easements, sustainable timber production, and watershed protection projects. Landowners retain the land and sell some property rights for a conservation easement.

Forest Stewardship Program (FSP)
Helps non-industrial landowners create Forest Stewardship Plans to guide sustainable management of their forestland.

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.

Tennessee Department of Agriculture Funded Programs

Agricultural Resources Conservation Fund (ARCF)
The ARCF funds installation of BMPs to protect water quality, working in concert with local Soil Conservation Districts (SCDs). SCDs apply for funding for lands along impaired streams, so talk with your’s(contact your local USDA service center, see contacts section). SCDs seek out participants, but producers can get the ball rolling by reaching out to get a project started as well. Up to 85% cost-share for projects on 303(d)-listed (polluted) streams. Most of the practices listed in the Best Management Practices section of this pamphlet 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, and dozens of other agricultural activities.

Specialty Crop Block Grant (SCBG)
A federal program administered by the TDA, The SCBG program provides funding for the expansion of specialty crops and can be a funding source for farmers looking to diversify their crop production. It covers a number of sustainable practices, such as integrated pest management, land stewardship, and energy efficiency improvements

Other Programs

Cumberland River Compact Stream Restoration
The Cumberland River Compact (CRC) also has funding for best management practices. Through the state’s compensatory mitigation program, we have the ability to fully fund certain projects within the riparian corridor! If you have a stream in need of bank stabilization, cattle fencing, or buffer plantings, we can cover 100% cost-share provided you are willing to enter a 50-ft buffer strip into a permanent conservation easement (compensation for loss of use available).

Farm Wildlife Habitat Program, TWRA
Habitat improvements are targeted to assist grassland, shrubland, and early successional forest species in decline including bobwhite quail, cottontail rabbits, ruffed grouse, woodcock, and many songbirds. Habitat practices include the restoration of native grassland and “old field” habitats, hedgerow and shrub thicket development, forest edge thinning, eradication of invasive plants, and management practices such as prescribed burning, strip disking and herbicide application, and interseeding of native forbs and wildflowers.

Who Do I Contact to Learn More or Get Expert Advice?

USDA Local Service Centers
Your local USDA service center is a great source for information on any farming-related subject as well as funding assistance programs. Contact your service center to learn about management practices and funding sources. Local service centers (typically 1 per county) host employees from the Farm Service Agency, National Resource Conservation Service, and Soil Conservation Districts

Tennessee Ag Extension
The University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service has extension offices in each county and is a great source for technical assistance and guidance on farming needs, including sustainable and environmentally friendly farming

TDA Division of Forestry Field Offices
Nashville State Office
Ellington Ag Center
Bruer Bldg. 406 Hogan Rd.
Nashville, TN 37220

Mailing address
P.O. Box 40627, Melrose Station,
Nashville, TN 37204
phone: 615.837.5520