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Conservation Programs

Conservation in Vermont

Enrolling in a conservation program can be complicated.  Your District's staff are here to make it easy.

If you are interested in receiving financial or technical assistance for implementing conservation practices on your property please contact us so that we can schedule a site visit and help determine what program is right for you. If you would like to learn more about conservation programs that are available and which ones you may be eligible for, please read the information below.  

Sources of Funding

There are three primary sources of funding for agricultural conservation in Vermont:

  1. Federal agencies such as USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Farm Service Agency (FSA)
  2. The VT Agency of Natural Resources (ANR, DEC) and the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (AAFM)
  3. Non-Profit environmental organizations such as Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, the Bobolink Project, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Trout Unlimited, Vermont Land Trust  etc.

In some instances, multiple organizations partner to address environmental issues with a large scope. One example of this is the Regional Conservation Partnership Programs (RCPP). This is a program designed by the NRCS which coordinates funding and projects across whole watersheds. There are RCPP projects for both Lake Champlain and Long Island Sound (including the Connecticut River Watershed).

Types of Funding

Producers are eligible for two types of funding

  1. Technical and financial support for conservation practices (affect how you manage you land)
  2. Payment for land retirement or land restoration (affect what can be done on the land)

Conservation Program Steps

The process for receiving funding for conservation starts with the creation of a Conservation Plan 

A certified conservation planner works with the producer to create a list of their property's natural resources, any concerns surrounding them, the current production methods, production goals, and any foreseeable changes to the operation. The Conservation Planner works with the producer to look at potential conservation practices that work with the producers equipment, natural resources and goals.

Conservation practices are production methods that improve or maintain the quality of soil and water

Some conservation practices require the use of specialized conservation equipment such as a No-Till Drill. Other conservation practices focus on how to manage production in a way that improves soil and water such as intensive rotational grazing. Depending on the organization you choose to partner with, there are different lists of practices and standards that must be followed in order to receive funding. 

For example, Vermont AAFM's Farm Agronomic Practices (FAP) program, may compensate producers for rotational grazing. In order to enroll in the program, a grazing plan must be created for your operation. A grazing specialist from the NRCS or University of Vermont’s Agricultural Extension Office will help the producer create a plan, which will be used as a basis for eligibility to recover costs of fencing and watering.

Compensation depends on the program 

FAP compensates the producer on the number of acres enrolled in the grazing plan. Other programs may have a cost share percentage that the producer must cover. Vermont’s Best Management Practices (BMP) program typically has about a 90% cost share for the cost of designing and installing a conservation improvement such as a gutter, a laneway, or an improved stream crossing. This means that the producer must cover 10% of the cost of the project.

Land retirement and restoration compensates the producer to limit or alter management of certain lands

There are short term programs such as The Bobolink Project which compensates farmers for not mowing a hay field for a season in order to provide nesting habitat to migratory birds such as bobolinks. There are also long term programs such as conservation easements which compensate the producer to limit or restrict management on environmentally sensitive lands. 

Most programs have a ranking component 

Applications are ranked  by the natural resource concerns a producer has on their property, the number of acres the producer is managing, and local, state,  regional, and national priorities. An application's chance of receiving funding depends on the amount of funding allocated to the program and the number of applications submitted.

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