Funds available to help producers add soil carbon conservation practices

YORK COUNTY – November 17 is the deadline for producers in the Central Platte and Upper Big Blue Natural Resources Districts (NRDs) to apply for the current round of funding through the Nebraska Soil Carbon Project. This project provides financial incentives to producers who utilize key conservation practices in central Nebraska. Farmers can adopt soil health practices–including cover crops, no-till, and diverse crop rotations–that store carbon in the soil. Private companies hope to utilize the stored carbon and water quality benefits to help reach their goals around sustainability.

The goal is to have about 100 producers installing these soil health practices on 100,000 acres over the duration of the five-year project. With three enrollment periods completed, 59 farmers have committed over 70,325 treated acres to implement conservation practices between 2021 and 2028.

Applications must be submitted by Friday, November 17, 2023, to be evaluated for the next round of funding.

The Nebraska Soil Carbon Project is a collaboration between the two NRDs, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), The Nature Conservancy, Ecosystem Services Market Consortium, Cargill, Target, and McDonald’s. The Nature Conservancy manages this program that is investing $8 million for farmers to implement these practices over the next few years.

Increasing cropland soil carbon has multiple benefits for the producer and the environment, including more stable yields, improved nutrient availability and water holding capacity, and climate stabilization. Private companies are looking for ways to decrease their carbon footprint partnering with Nebraska’s growers can provide these benefits by improving farming operations and implementing soil health practices. Markets linking these soil carbon buyers and suppliers allow companies to meet part of their greenhouse gas reduction goals while supporting farmers in implementing new conservation practices.

The payments producers receive through this soil carbon pilot project are tied to the practices implemented on the acres, not the carbon outcomes, to reduce producers’ risk. The goal of this pilot project is to provide participating farmers with the opportunity to evaluate the potential to leverage these programs on their operation.

Beyond the financial incentives and soil health benefits, participating producers will have the opportunity to:

  • Share conservation stories with a larger audience via field days, media spots, and short videos relating to the project.
  • Attend training events with local and national leaders in soil health, agronomy, and related topics.
  • Receive a report on the new practice’s soil carbon and water quality outcomes. Those interested in going deeper may also opt-in for a detailed report on the practice’s financial return on investment.

Producers receive year-round assistance from the NRDs, NRCS, and The Nature Conservancy staff, who provide support for paperwork/application processes and soil health practice management.

There is no gross income or acre enrollment cap for NRCS payments. Still, producers are encouraged to enroll a reasonable number of acres given their operation size and soil health experience. More acres can be submitted for enrollment in subsequent years of the program.

Payments are for new soil health acres only. However, a measurable improvement of an existing practice could count (such as moving from strip-till to no-till or switching from a single species cover crop to multi species) if it aligns with the NRCS’s standards.

Upper Big Blue NRD: Visit www.upperbigblue.org/soilcarbonproject to get started today or contact Kaleb Fritz at (402) 362-6601 or kfritz@upperbigblue.org.

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