By Tom Driscoll, Director of NFU Foundation and Conservation Policy

Over the past several months, the Climate Column has featured many conservation practices, like installing filter strips or planting cover crops, that help mitigate climate change and build an operation’s climate resilience. For many producers, it may not be immediately clear which practices would be most beneficial for their operations. And even when the choice is obvious, it may be challenging to know how to implement those practices. If you find yourself in a situation like this, conservation planning could be a good place to start.

According to the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), conservation planning assists with the selection and implementation of practices that address specific conservation concerns, such as pest management, biodiversity, or soil health. NRCS makes conservation planning available to producers through its Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA) program. A conservation plan includes both a resource assessment of the land in question as well as a consideration of more than 160 NRCS-approved conservation practices that could be applied on the evaluated land. This process gives a participating producer an overview of their land’s conservation potential and connects them with coordinated regional, community, or watershed-based endeavors. Successful conservation plans offer producers guidance to improve the financial viability of their operations while still pursuing environmental benefits, including climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Conservation planning can be the first step in implementing better land management, diversifying agricultural operations, or making an operation more sustainable. It is also an effective way to determine whether financial assistance programs to help implement such practices, such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) or Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), will work for you and your farm or ranch.

Interested producers should contact their local USDA Service Center to learn more.

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