Angus at Work

Conservation Partnership Opportunities with Charles Kneuper

February 28, 2024 Angus Beef Bulletin Season 3 Episode 4
Angus at Work
Conservation Partnership Opportunities with Charles Kneuper
Show Notes Transcript

The importance of conserving and stewarding natural resources is one thing that everyone can agree on. But where do we even begin?

Whether it’s planting grass to decrease erosion, cross fencing to better manage grazing or creating wildlife habitat to encourage species diversity, the Natural Resources Conservation Service has programs and educational outlets that can help.

On today’s episode you’ll hear more from our guest, Charles Kneuper, and host Lynsey McAnally on: 

To find you local NRCS Service Center, please visit  

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General (00:02):

Angus at Work, a podcast for the profit-minded cattleman. Brought to you by the Angus Beef Bulletin, we have news and information on health, nutrition, marketing, genetics and management. So let's get to work, shall we?

Lynsey McAnally (00:23):

Hello and welcome back to Angus at Work. The importance of conserving and stewarding resources is one thing that everyone can agree on, but where do we even begin? Whether it's planting grass to decrease erosion, cross fencing to better manage grazing or creating wildlife habitat to encourage species diversity, the Natural Resources Conservation Service has programs and educational outlets that can help. I'm Lynsey McAnally and on today's episode you'll hear more from our guest, Charles Kneuper, about NRCS and how the agency can partner with producers to put conservation practices in place that work for you. So let's dive in. 


Welcome to Angus at Work. I'm here at CattleCon today with Charles Kneuper, a state resource conservationist from Texas. And Charles, can you tell us a little bit more about you and introduce yourself?

Charles Kneuper (01:25):

Charles Kneuper. I'm a state resource conservationist with NRCS - Texas, grew up in Texas in the Hill Country, went to school, got a Bachelor's and Master's at Angelo State University in Animal Science with a concentration in Range Management. From there, I got a job with NRCS and started at the field level and have worked my way up to where I'm now at the state office.

Lynsey McAnally (01:48):

Awesome. Thank you so much for that. And so I think a lot of our listeners probably would be familiar with NRCS, but in case we have some new folks out there that aren't, can you tell me a little bit about what NRCS is in general and maybe give us a little history of the agency?

Charles Kneuper (02:02):

Yeah, so NRCS is the Natural Resources Conservation Service. It's an agency that's under the United States Department of Agriculture. It started back in the 1930s when the Dust Bowl was going on, and we first started as a soil conservation service due to all of the soil erosion that was occurring. Hugh Hammond Bennett is basically the father of soil conservation, and so that's how we got started. And from there we've evolved into now the NRCS and we focus on conservation efforts for all natural resources of soil, water, air plants, and animals with a human consideration because we do want to meet landowners goals and objectives. NRCS is all about voluntary conservation, so we work with landowners and we identify resource concerns, but we keep it in context of what their goals and objectives are.

Lynsey McAnally (02:53):

Can you tell us a little bit about the flagship offering of NRCS? I know that we talked a little bit about technical assistance, which was perhaps something I should have been aware of, but it was a new term for me. So I would love for our listeners to learn a little bit more about that program. 

Charles Kneuper (03:09):

Our flagship program is Conservation Technical Assistance. Through that, we offer technical assistance to our landowners as far as identifying resource concerns and offering conservation practices that will address those resource concerns. Those practices also will work toward the landowner's goals or objectives. We don't want to do something outside of what they're trying to accomplish with their land and what their property. With the CTA that we offer, we develop a conservation plan, which is a record of the landowner's decisions. We develop that plan and then from there, any of those practices that have been selected, they have the ability to be entered into some of our financial assistance programs.

Lynsey McAnally (03:52):

Again, I learned something new every time we do these podcasts. And so NRCS has a couple other programs as well, and we talked previously about EQP and CSP, but do you mind giving us a little bit of an overview of beginning with EQIP and then we can move on here in a little bit to CSP.

Charles Kneuper (04:12):

EQIP or the Environmental Quality Incentives Program is a financial assistance program that offers financial assistance to customers to install the conservation practices that have been identified in their conservation plans to address any immediate needs that the landowner may have. We sometimes offer other practices that they may not necessarily think that they need at the time, but it's a facilitating type practice to help ensure the success of the one that they're after. We always want to make sure that we get our clients to success. We don't want to set 'em up for failure. So as we develop their plan and identify those practices, they're then able to come in, make an application for the appropriate financial assistance program, in this case, EQIP, and with that we'll go through the application process where we put those into a ranking system. All of these practices, all of our programs are competitively based. We do have many different funding mechanisms, some funding pools at the state level, other funding pools that are at the county level. And so whichever gives that application the best opportunity to become funded so that we can get conservation on the ground, that's the route that it'll usually go. And again, even those opportunities are still at the discretion of the landowner. If they choose not to go into a certain funding pool, they've declined that, we'll take 'em out of it.

Lynsey McAnally (05:44):

I know I have a little bit of experience with the EQIP program currently going through with our county specialists to try to get some native grass planted, and it's been really nice to work with someone who has experience in that area that can kind of hold our hand, for lack of a better term, through the process. It can be a little bit intimidating when you think about certain programs and how you've even get started with them or what is even available through each program. So can you maybe give us a couple of examples? I know I just mentioned native grass planting, but I know that through air quality and water quality, there's a few other main projects that I've heard about in the past, whether that be potentially installing water, if you're going to do some segmented pastures and things along those lines. Do you have any specific examples that you might be able to share with us?

Charles Kneuper (06:38):

Absolutely. So a couple of examples that come to mind. One of the main practices that we do in Texas is brush management. And so across the rangelands in Texas, we're overwhelmed with either mesquite cedar, prickly pear, and so folks come in and they're trying to get more grass out there so they can either have more forage for their cattle, they want to get some flowering plants out there because there's a wildlife aspect that they want to address or something like that. So as we go about the planting process and we have a nine step planning process that we go through, as we work through the process, we identify the areas where this practice brush management would work the best to be able to remove those woody plants. In the process of doing that, we'll also determine do we need to follow that up with any type of grass planting and with that grass planting the best mix that will go out there to also serve and be suitable to that soil and to the overall ecological sites so that we can maintain our ecosystem services on those acres.


A second opportunity is we have a lot of crop land out there that is identified as being highly erodible lands, and a lot of folks now want to protect that soil, and so they're converting a lot of that crop land into permanent grass. And so just coming in with a pasture planting or a range planting to essentially establish permanent vegetation on that ground so that we save the soil, we reduce that soil erosion, hold the soil in place, and in turn, we keep our creeks and streams clean. We don't have sediment going into the air to where we have another Dust Bowl happening or anything like that. So those are a couple of examples of where we can have practices that go into the EQIP program and we're able to provide financial assistance to help get that on the ground.

Lynsey McAnally (08:37):

Can you tell us a little bit about CSP?

Charles Kneuper (08:40):

So CSP, the Conservation Stewardship Program, is another financial assistance program that we have. One of the big differences from EQIP is that the CSP, it does require you putting into contract or application your entire operation, whereas under EQIP, it could be a single field of your operation. So there's a larger aspect of what you're putting into application and contract. But CSP, we focus on trying to install enhancements to practices. Some of these practices such as grazing landowners are already doing them, and then we offer an enhancement that just takes it to the next level, maybe takes a baby step to move them more in a direction to just progress more to a more healthy and more resilient system on their operation.


An example of one of the enhancements under the grazing practice is folks are able to collect fecal samples and send them to the GAN lab so that they can get a report back, which is, it's called NUTBAL. It's for nutritional balancing. And what it does is when they send that in and they provide the correct information for their herd, they're then able to determine what are the deficiencies, how should they best supplement? And then part of what they're doing is they're demonstrating how they use that technology to make a grazing management decision and how they're making changes to their operation. So these are small changes, small steps that they're taking. And that's just one example of a multitude of enhancements that we do have available

Lynsey McAnally (10:23):

This week we've heard a lot about nutrition, and we've heard a lot about how setting our ground and our grasslands up for success can really have an impact on the success of our females to put on good condition and be nutritionally at a point where they can calve and pass that on to their calves. So I think it's something that's at the forefront of a lot of people's minds, but having that assistance and having someone that you can bounce these ideas off of or potentially have someone that can help you establish these practices in your own operation, it's very comforting for new producers, I think especially, but even those individuals who have been in the industry for a lengthy period of time have the opportunity to take advantage of these programs too.

Charles Kneuper (11:20):

And one of the comments that you just made about the nutrition and setting the females up for success in the operation and all of that, one of the things that we're approaching from an NRCS standpoint and our resource standpoint is we are focused on soil health and with soil health, we have the soil health principles of keeping the ground covered, trying to manage and minimize the disturbance that occur on the operation or on any given acre. So we move through those principles. However, what we want to also remember is that not all things are disconnected. Everything is connected. So if we have a healthy soil system that results in a healthy stand of grass, forage vegetation, which results in a healthy herd, so it does tie back to herd health, even though NRCS may be focused on the conservation of those resources, it still ties back together to a landowner's production goals that they may have.

Lynsey McAnally (12:17):

So can you talk to us a little bit about why producers should partner with NRCS on any of these programs? Just from your experience, the benefits to producers of partnering with the agency?

Charles Kneuper (12:33):

Absolutely. So to just throw out a quote from a friend of mine, Chad Ellis, we were talking about this one day and he made the statement that conservation without compensation is just conversation. And we can talk about this all day long, but until we, and this is where our financial assistance comes in to become very valuable for landowners, it helps offset those costs to get conservation on the ground. We can talk about it, we can talk about the science to this all day long, but until we actually have the art of applying it and getting it out there, it does no good. So landowners coming to us working through a scientific-backed, ecosystem-based process to identify those practices that will best suit their needs and meet the resource needs on their land. And then we're able to offer a financial assistance to help get conservation on the ground. We're not just talking about it anymore, we're actually doing it.

Lynsey McAnally (13:38):

And whether you're a new producer or you have been in this business for generations, I think we can all identify when these things would be beneficial, but actually putting them into practice can be the challenge. So having the agency there to ask questions of, or just as an example of working through the EQIP program and having that funding that gives you a better spot to build from. So all of that sounds wonderful, but can you tell us a little bit about where producers can begin this process?

Charles Kneuper (14:12):

Absolutely. First, we want producers to go visit their local field office and start the process of getting a conservation plan in place with their local employees, local field staff, because once we have a conservation plan in place, we're setting everyone up for success when we move into the financial assistance programs. So absolutely check out our website. You can find your local field office there. You can find contact information, give them a call, stop by, set up an appointment and get that process started. And then once that plan is in place, then we can go down the road making an application so that we have a well thought out, well-planned application that moves into a contract. And if we have good prior planning, then everything works out the way that it's supposed to and everyone's happy with the results.

Lynsey McAnally (15:09):

Can you tell us a little bit, Charles, about what applicants can expect and what that process might look like once they decide that they want to pursue an NRCS program?

Charles Kneuper (15:20):

So one of the things that they can expect is they're going to have a lot of questions that are put toward them because again, this is voluntary conservation, and so we want to make sure that we're meeting their goals and objectives. Secondly, we're the government. There's going to be plenty of paperwork that will be involved with the application process and getting their plan developed and all of that, but it's well worth it to get good conservation on the ground.

Lynsey McAnally (15:47):

And from experience, I know it sounds really intimidating, but again, we have great staff in these offices that can help walk applicants through that paperwork that you mentioned. And for anyone listening to this episode, if you are interested in more information, we'll link the NRCS website in the show notes, and then that way you can go over and take a look at the programs that are available and find your local office if you don't already have their contact information, just to make that a little bit easier for everyone. Alright, Charles, we're coming to the end of our episode. Is there anything that we missed that you think would be good for listeners to know?

Charles Kneuper (16:25):

I think we've covered a lot of it, but I do want to reemphasize the importance of landowners and producers coming in and getting a conservation plan in place, getting that done first so that as we move forward and into the financial assistance, we're going to have a successful application and a successful contract so that we see the results that we're after.

Lynsey McAnally (16:50):

Awesome. I think that sounds great. And I don't know if our listeners can hear in the background, but we're here at CattleCon this week. What is your favorite part of being here in Orlando and being at NCBA?

Charles Kneuper (17:06):

Well, there's actually been two things that are great about CattleCon and coming out here to the NCBA. One is getting to reconnect with old friends. A lot of folks that I went to college with that the only time that I've seen them is when I'm here in the trade show or just meandering around outside of meetings and anything like that. The second thing is getting to make new connections. Meeting new people such as you, and getting to have those opportunities to visit and find new avenues to be able to get our message out and introduce ourselves to new customers, new clients, so that they're aware of us and what NRCS has to offer them.

Lynsey McAnally (17:44):

It's been great to be here, and thank you for taking the time to chat with us and get this information out for our audience.

Charles Kneuper (17:53):

Thank you!

General (17:57):

Listeners. For more information on making Angus work for you, check out the Angus Beef Bulletin and the Angus Beef Bulletin extra. You can subscribe to both publications in the show notes. If you have questions or comments, let us know at and we would appreciate it if you would leave us a review on Apple Podcast and share this episode with any other profit minded cattlemen. Thanks for listening. This has been Angus at Work.