For more than 80 years, NRCS has made investments in farm, ranch, and forest operations and local communities to improve the quality of our air, water, soil, and habitat, keep working lands working, boost rural economies, and increase the competitiveness of American agriculture.
In recent years, NRCS has taken strides to advance equity, address climate change, and support markets, which are part of USDA’s broader efforts to address these priorities, using resources from the Farm Bill, Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and Inflation Reduction Act.
Advancing Equity, Justice, and Equal Opportunity
Since NRCS’ establishment, unfortunately, underserved communities and individuals have experienced significant barriers to equity, equality, and justice in agency programs and policies. NRCS is committed to advancing equity, justice, and opportunity for agency employees and those we serve by sustaining a culture that operates with a value for equity and equal opportunity for all.
In October 2021, NRCS Chief Terry Cosby established the agency’s first ever Equity Division, which operates under the mission to advocate for and better align institutional equity into the work and practices of NRCS to ensure that every NRCS customer, partner, and employee is put in a position to succeed in a diverse government world and notably feel inclusiveness to agency programs and services.
In its commitment to equity, NRCS is taking steps that include:
- Reviewing and modifying programs, practices, and policies to address historic and structural barriers and to ensure fair and equitable treatment.
- Prioritizing funding for projects that support underserved communities and producers.
- Continuing to support Community Based Organizations, the historically underserved, and partners that are instrumental in the development of communities on behalf of NRCS through conservation outreach.
- Investing in training, program outreach, and partnerships to expand access to NRCS assistance for underserved communities and producers.
- Committing to comprehensive delivery of technical service and clear, straightforward, and effective communications to all customers to ensure we are reaching underserved communities and producers.
Addressing Climate Change
Climate change presents real threats to U.S. agricultural production, forest resources, and rural economies. Producers and land managers across the country are experiencing climate impacts on their operations through shifting weather patterns and increasingly frequent and severe storms, floods, droughts, and wildfires. But farmers, ranchers, and forestland owners also play a key role in climate change mitigation through the implementation of voluntary, climate-smart conservation practices. As the nation’s private lands conservation agency, NRCS plays an important role in helping producers address climate change. Recent efforts include:
- Targeting funds for climate-smart agriculture, including $38 million for a new Cover Crop Initiative launched in early 2022.
- Providing $197 million to fund 41 partner-led projects through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program in 2022, with an emphasis on climate-smart agriculture.
- Investing $40 million through Conservation Innovation Grants in 2022, with climate-smart agriculture as a priority for both Classic and On-Farm Innovation Trials projects.
- Implementing a climate adaptation plan.
- Announced new opportunities to expand soil carbon monitoring.
- Supporting Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities.
Supporting Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production
NRCS is committed to working with farms of all sizes and in all locations, including those in urban areas. Urban agriculture includes the cultivation, processing, and distribution of agricultural products in urban and suburban areas. Tribal communities and small towns may also be included. Community gardens, rooftop farms, hydroponic, aeroponic and aquaponic facilities, and vertical production are all examples of urban agriculture. NRCS provides urban producers with conservation assistance, and works with other USDA agencies to support urban farms in providing access to healthy local food, jobs, and green space. Recent efforts include:
- Leading USDA’s Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production (OUAIP).
- Providing grants for urban agriculture and innovative production.
- Awarding cooperative agreements for composting and food waste reduction
- Reinvigorating the People’s Garden program.
- Convening the Federal Advisory Committee for Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production.
Cultivating a Diverse, Well-Trained Workforce
NRCS’s work to help people help the land would not be possible without a diverse, well-trained team. NRCS strives to create a welcoming workplace, where managers and employees alike value technical expertise, diversity, work-life balance, employee development, and training and promotion opportunities. With nearly 3,000 offices in communities nationwide, we provide local job opportunities across the country. At NRCS, it’s your field, your world, and your future. To join us, you can consider:
- Volunteering with the Earth Team.
- Applying for an internship.
- Viewing our new “Your Field, Your World, Your Future” recruitment video.
- Visiting our Careers webpage to learn more.
Leveraging innovative partnerships expands NRCS’s ability to get conservation on the ground effectively and efficiently. NRCS coordinates with other federal agencies, states, local governments, colleges and universities, and nonprofit groups. As partners in conservation, these groups share their unique areas of expertise and conservation work to put more conservation on the land. Efforts include:
- Supporting public-private partnerships through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program.
- Investing in Equity Conservation Cooperative Agreements.
- Working with the U.S. Forest Service to make impacts through the Joint Chiefs' Landscape Restoration Partnership.
- Supporting Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities.