Farmer’s Guide to CART – National Sustainable Agriculture CoalitionNational Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
Farmer’s Guide to CART
November 8, 2021
Fall is here, and it has brought with it new Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) program deadlines! NRCS recently unveiled a comprehensive list of program deadlines by state for Fiscal Year (FY) 2022. This list has information on the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), and the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) for the states that have posted deadlines. For more detailed information on what is happening in your state, you can contact your state’s NRCS office.
For folks ready to apply to these programs, NSAC has a new resource available to help. Our brand new Farmers’ Guide to CART is online and contains helpful insight on what to expect when navigating this new NRCS tool and accessing conservation programs.
The Conservation Assessment and Ranking Tool, better known as CART, is meant to stream-line the data collection, planning, and application processes farmers go through when enrolling in various federal conservation programs. It is meant to be a one-stop-shop for farmers seeking conservation assistance. It reduces the number of times and places farm data must be entered into software programs, helps to build a conservation plan that covers multiple programs’ conservation activities, and highlights all programs that a given farm’s planned conservation activities are eligible for. This includes everything from watershed or wildlife specific initiatives to classic working lands programs like EQIP and CSP.
CART covers nine steps of NRCS conservation planning all in one tool. These are:
- Identifying resource concerns on farm
- Setting objectives for these resource concerns
- Assessing the state of on farm resources
- Analyzing resource concern data to understand a farm’s baseline conservation
- Identifying new or alternative conservation practices
- Estimating benefits of alternatives
- Converting alternatives into a Conservation Plan and program applications
- Coordinating technical assistance during plan implementation
- Evaluating the Conservation Plan over the long term
Perhaps most crucially, CART takes all of the information from these planning activities and provides estimates on how likely a farmer is to qualify for a specific conservation program.
CART has only been in use since 2020 and NSAC is committed to working with NRCS to build on and improve this tool. If you have direct experience navigating CART and want to share ways it can be improved, please contact Jesse Womack, our conservation policy specialist, at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
To read more in depth about the tool, see the Farmers’ Guide to CART. For further information, see these additional resources:
NRCS of the Future – Conservation Assessment Ranking Tool (3 pp) – how CART streamlines the process
Resource Assessment and Conservation Assessment and Ranking Tool (32-slide PowerPoint) by Aaron Lauster, 2019 – conservation planning and application ranking through CART
Conservation Assessment Ranking Tool (CART) (14-slide PowerPoint) – example of conservation planning and application ranking processes. ATTRA Blog 30: The CART Before the Horse: Understanding Access to Federal Assistance for Conservation Solutions. Three Webinars on CART presented by NRCS staff, including Overview, the Process, and a Deeper Dive.