Source: USDA news release

USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) forecasts direct Federal payments for conservation programs for 2024 to increase by 10 percent, more than $363 million in inflation-adjusted terms, to $4 billion. This increase primarily is due to expected payments from the Inflation Reduction Act used to support various conservation programs.

The act allocated $19.5 billion to support USDA conservation programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, the Conservation Stewardship Program, the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, and the Conservation Technical Assistance Program. Among this allocation is also the fund dedicated to measure, evaluate, quantify carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emission reductions from conservation investments.

These programs are aimed at helping farmers and ranchers expand conservation practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase storage of carbon in soil and trees. Conservation payments include programs under the management of the USDA, Farm Service Agency, such as the Conservation Reserve Program, as well as the USDA, Natural Resources and Conservation Service. ERS tracks Government payments made directly from the U.S. Government to farm sector recipients such as farm and ranch operators, contractors, and nonoperator landlords.

The term “direct” emphasizes that there are no intermediaries acting between the U.S. Government and farm sector recipients, so insurance indemnities are excluded. The forecast conservation payments are in line with the 27-year average from 1996 through 2022 of $4.1 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars. However, despite the increase, forecast 2024 levels–if realized–are below the record for highest conservation payments of more than $5 billion in 2011.