Courtesy of NAA:
The recently signed Inflation Reduction Act includes Title II developed by the Senate Agriculture, Forestry and Nutrition Committee. Considerable funding is authorized in this Title over the next several years to implement programs within the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The identified programs are: Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), agricultural conservation easements, conservation stewardship, and partnership agreements. The purposes are to:
For a two-page brief on Title II, please click here for Congressional Research Service analysis. Please keep in mind funds authorized in an Act may not be appropriated to agencies when budgeting rolls around next year.
The East Coast Shellfish Growers Association and The Nature Conservancy are focused on EQIP and exploring whether the program can fund oyster reef restoration efforts. The NAA reached out to NRCS to ask about this potential opportunity. We have learned, NRCS maintains 170 national conservation practice standards available to all States. The agency regularly reviews practice standards to ensure the best science and to incorporate new and innovative technology. This includes the opportunity for public comment on revised conservation practice standards. Conservation practice standards are implemented through NRCS State Offices.
NRCS has the following Conservation Practice Standards that apply to aquaculture:
Regarding our question about developing a new NRCS conservation practice for shellfish restoration, the agency reported oyster restoration activities are currently offered as practice scenarios under the Restoration of Rare or Declining Natural Communities (CPS Code 643). However, each state office adapts this broad standard to local conditions/regulatory restrictions. It does appear the New Jersey office is actively funding oyster restoration using this conservation practice standard. Please see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6zHS57zpBk.
NRCS has offered to meet with interested parties to explain how conservation practice standards and/or practice scenarios are developed. Our question is:
Final note: We suspect USDA will have to either write rule or develop policy to implement the Inflation Reduction Act provisions especially the provision where NRCS is to collect field data to assess effectiveness. Meaning we should have the time to work on this effort.