Inflation Reduction Act provides billions to help Nebraska farmers preserve environment

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – A new year means new help is on the way for Nebraska farmers thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act. 

It’s all in an effort to fight climate change especially for those communities hit hard by flooding and drought, which Nebraska saw plenty of last year.

SEE ALSO: Nebraskans suffered $2 billion in property loss from storms in 2022

More than $3 billion is going to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Stewardship Program, which helps over 200,000 farmers and ranchers nationwide to enhance their conservation efforts.

The program provides a subsidy per acre for farms using methods like cover cropping, crop rotation and measures to reduce soil erosion.  

John Crabtree, Nebraska’s representative for the non-profit environmental group Sierra Club, said conservation efforts for soil can make farms more resilient and drought-resistant, allowing them to produce higher yields while also sequestering carbon.

“Conservation is important to farmers because the health and quality of their soil is at the heart of their ability to be effective in farming and ranching- to be profitable, to produce good harvests,” Crabtree said.

The rural energy assistance program, or REAP, is also receiving about $1 billion to help farmers implement energy-efficient practices and transition to renewable energy.

Crabtree said nearly 37,000 farmers and ranchers participating will be able to invest in low-carbon energy production like solar panels and wind turbines, which allows them to help the environment and save energy.

“They get to participate in a transition to clean energy in a meaningful way, but also lowering their energy costs, making it more energy efficient, but also helping them produce energy on the farm, for use on the farm,” he said.

Kevin Raun, a farmer near Minden Nebraska, said after over 40 years of farming he knows the importance of conservation.

“It really does make a difference in the future if you get busy today,” he said. “We’re never gonna be able to capture all the carbon that’s put in the air by farming practices, but we can make a little bit of a dent.”

Raun said he’s been part of the conservation stewardship program for years, and it’s allowed him to make investments in his equipment and grow his farming capabilities.

He said some land in Nebraska has been ruined by over-irrigation and drought, so adding funding to these programs is important to keep the land productive for the future.

“The soil takes thousands of years to develop,” Raun said. “That’s really the engine that runs all of our production, whether it’s grass or whether it’s crops. And if we don’t pay heed to that and nurture that as much as possible, it’s gonna be a long time to recover that resource.”

He also said that these programs will help newer generations to keep up with the economy and other producers, all while doing less work and making less of a negative impact on the environment.

The USDA says a total of over $20 billion of the Inflation Reduction Act’s funds will support conservation programs within the Natural Resources Conservation Service, including:

  • $8.45 billion for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program
  • $4.95 billion for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program
  • $3.25 billion for the Conservation Stewardship Program
  • $1.4 billion for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program
  • $1 billion for the Conservation Technical Assistance Program

USDA programs also help underserved producers – including farmers of color and women, as well as veterans, beginning farmers and those working in high-poverty areas.

Crabtree said while there is a large investment, it’s all essential to achieve the proper conservation efforts and fight climate change, while simultaneously benefitting farmers and ranchers across the country.

“Congress should remain committed to this,” he said. “This is an investment in farmers and ranchers being more resilient, and being able to weather drought, to increase their harvests and increase their income, but also be participants in addressing the climate crisis itself.”

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