Farmers will want to plan ahead and sign up early this year for USDA conservation funding. State Conservationist Jimmy Bramblett, of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), announced that farmers interested in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) need to apply by October 3 for funding in 2015. Applications are being taken at all USDA Service Centers in Wisconsin.
EQIP is the primary program available to farmers for farm and woodland conservation work, offering payments for over 90 basic conservation practices. Last year, Wisconsin received about $25 million in funds for EQIP.
“By getting applications in early, we have time for staff to go out to the farm to plan all the needed practices for the particular field,” said Bramblett. “It’s easier to do an accurate plan before the snow flies, when you can see the actual landscape.”
All eligible applications received by October 3 will be evaluated and ranked for funding in 2015. Farmers can contact the NRCS office in USDA Service Centers statewide to get started.
Bramblett reminds farmers who are interested in practices that may permits, such as manure storage or streambank restoration, to begin planning and seeking permits as soon as possible. Applicants with shovel-ready projects (with designs completed and permits obtained) will receive higher priority.
Several Special Initiatives Focus Conservation Efforts – Sign up by October 3
Special sign-up opportunities are also now open for On-Farm Energy, Organic, and Seasonal High Tunnel conservation practices, as well as a number of landscape based initiatives. All offer technical and financial assistance through the NRCS’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
- On-Farm Energy: NRCS and producers develop Agricultural Energy Management Plans (AgEMP) or farm energy audits that assess energy consumption on an operation. Audit data is used to develop energy conservation recommendations. The Landscape AgEMP assesses equipment and farming processes. The farm headquarters AgEMP assesses power usage and efficiency in livestock buildings, grain handling operations, and similar facilities to support the farm operation.
- Organic: NRCS helps certified organic growers and producers working to achieve organic certification install conservation practices to address resource concerns on organic operations.
- Seasonal High Tunnel (Hoop House): NRCS helps producers plan and implement high tunnels – steel-framed, polyethylene-covered structures that extend growing seasons in an environmentally safe manner. High tunnel benefits include better plant and soil quality, fewer nutrients and pesticides in the environment, and better air quality due to fewer vehicles being needed to transport crops. Supporting conservation practices such as grassed waterways, and diversions are available to address resource concerns on operations with Seasonal High Tunnel structures.
- Young Forest Initiative – special effort to build young forest habitat in 21 counties in Northern Wisconsin.Young Forest Initiative factsheet
- Lake Superior Landscape Restoration Project in Northern Wisconsin’s Beartrap-Nemadji and Bad-Montreal Watersheds. In partnership with US Forest Service, NRCS offers special funding to help farmers improve farm and livestock operations while improving water quality. The NRCS will also have additional funds available to help forest landowners improve timber quality and deer and grouse habitat while improving habitat for at-risk species.
- Driftless Area Landscape Conservation Initiative: The Driftless area includes southwest Wisconsin as well as the adjacent portions of Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois. The focus will be to reduce soil erosion and improve fish and wildlife habitat on the working lands, woodlands, prairies, and cold water streams in the Driftless Area. Practices include:
- On cropland: grassed waterway, field border, grade stabilization
- On pasture: prescribed grazing, watering facilities, fencing
- On forestland: forest stand improvement, forest management plan, tree/shrub establishment
- On prairie/savanna: conservation cover, prescribed burning, brush management
- For cold water streams: streambank and shoreline protection, stream habitat improvement and management
Interested landowners should contact the NRCS office at the USDA Service Center for their county. For more information, visit www.wi.nrcs.usda.gov, or contact the NRCS office at the USDA Service Center serving your county.
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