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Nov 21 -- The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) requests public input for NRCS to use to inform how NRCS will implement funds received under the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) to fund the deployment of climate-smart practices on US farms, ranches, and forestlands through four Farm Bill conservation programs. NRCS is also requesting input on funding to quantify carbon sequestration and carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide emissions at the field scale. NRCS is specifically interested in public input and recommendations that NRCS can use to improve, expand, and/or build on scientifically-designed quantification systems to monitor and quantify improvements in soil carbon, reductions in nitrogen losses, and the reduction, capture, avoidance, or sequestration of carbon dioxide, methane, or nitrous oxide emissions, associated with agricultural production. In implementing the IRA, NRCS is interested in supporting program implementation and improving program delivery by effectively leveraging partners to increase outreach and expand access to underserved producers. This effort will help NRCS identify and prioritize process improvements for the delivery of funding made available under IRA and the overall administration of the NRCS conservation programs. NRCS will look to identify immediate changes that can be implemented for funding available for fiscal year (FY) 2023 and will continue to identify and adopt additional changes in future years.

We will consider comments that we receive by December 21, 2022. Comments received after that date will be considered to the extent possible.

IRA provides unprecedented funding levels targeted to improve soil carbon, reduce nitrogen losses, or reduce, capture, avoid, or sequester carbon dioxide, methane, or nitrous oxide emissions, associated with agricultural production for several NRCS programs. The increased funding levels begin in FY 2023, and rapidly build over 4 years, resulting in the following total additional funds by program and NRCS administrative costs:

-- Environmental Quality Incentives Program—$8.45 billion;
-- Conservation Stewardship Program—$3.25 billion;
-- Regional Conservation Partnership Program—$4.95 billion;
-- Agricultural Conservation Easement Program—$1.4 billion;
-- Conservation Technical Assistance—$1 billion;
-- Greenhous Gas (GHG) Monitoring—$300 million; and
-- Administrative costs—$100 million.

These funds provide NRCS with an unprecedented opportunity to implement practices and quantify greenhouse gas emission reductions. NRCS is soliciting public input and recommendations to determine how NRCS can maximize, target, monitor, and quantify improvements to soil carbon, reductions in nitrogen losses, and the reduction, capture, avoidance, or sequestration of carbon dioxide, methane, or nitrous oxide emissions, associated with agricultural production. To minimize complexity and ensure equity across NRCS program implementation, NRCS also requests recommendations on how to streamline and improve program delivery while also expanding access for underserved producers. NRCS will use the input provided in response to this request to implement IRA funding over the next several years.

The list of questions below is non-exhaustive, but meant to assist members of the public in formulating comments on some of the most important issues that NRCS is considering as they implement the program. This list of questions is not intended to restrict the feedback that members of the public may provide:

(1) What systems of quantification should NRCS use to measure the carbon sequestration and carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide emissions outcomes associated with activities funded through IRA?

-- How should NRCS design a scientifically-based framework for field-based quantification and analysis that can integrate into USDA's Greenhouse Gas Inventory and Assessment Program?
-- What methods should NRCS use to quantify carbon sequestration and carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide emissions?
-- What sources of information should NRCS consider in developing protocols or what preexisting, standardized protocols should be used to support field-based data collection and analysis?
-- What types of field-based data should be collected and analyzed to assess carbon sequestration and reduction in carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide emissions outcomes associated with agricultural and conservation activities?
-- How should USDA monitor and track carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emissions trends and the effects of NRCS supported activities?
-- How or should the framework developed by NRCS to provide field-based quantification integrate with satellite data to provide a comprehensive picture of GHG emissions and removals from agricultural activities and conservation practice implementation?

(2) How can NRCS engage the private sector and private philanthropy to leverage the IRA investments, including for systems of quantification?

(3) How should NRCS target IRA funding to maximize improvements to soil carbon, reductions in nitrogen losses, and the reduction, capture, avoidance, or sequestration of carbon dioxide, methane, or nitrous oxide emissions, associated with agricultural production?

(4) How should NRCS streamline and improve program delivery to increase efficiencies and expand access to IRA funded programs and projects for producers, particularly underserved producers?

(5) How can NRCS expand capacity among partners to assist in providing outreach and technical assistance to support the implementation of IRA funding?
 
FRN: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2022-25292

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