NRCS Offers New Opportunities For Farms, Wildlife

NRCS Offers New Opportunities For Farms, Wildlife

NRCS offers new opportunities for farms.

The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced that applications for farmland conservation practices must be in by Feb. 3 to be considered for 2012 funding.  The deadline to apply for both the general Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) is Feb. 3 at all USDA Service Centers in Wisconsin.

Pat Leavenworth, state conservationist for NRCS in Wisconsin, said that EQIP is the primary program available to farmers for farmland conservation work, offering flat-rate payments for over 80 conservation practices. WHIP offers cost sharing to restore wildlife habitat for targeted species.

"EQIP was established to help all types of farmers - livestock and dairy, grazing, or cash crop, including specialty crops, organic, and agro-forestry," said Leavenworth. "EQIP also offers additional assistance for beginning, socially disadvantaged and limited resource farmers."

Several new practices are available in EQIP this year, including Drainage Water Management. This practice allows farmers to significantly reduce nitrogen loss from drained cropland, and thereby reduce nitrogen flowing into and adding to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. 

All eligible applications received by Feb. 3 will be evaluated and ranked for funding. Farmers can sign up at the NRCS office in USDA Service Centers statewide.  Last year, Wisconsin received about $16 million in funds for EQIP.

Sign-up for WHIP

The Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) provides technical assistance and cost-sharing to restore wildlife habitat.  Depending on the site, streams, prairies and oak savannahs and other types of habitat, including habitat for pollinators, may qualify to be restored.  Land restored through WHIP has resulted in excellent new habitat, for trout, grassland and migratory birds, and species in decline. 

For more information, visit www.wi.nrcs.usda.gov, or contact the NRCS office at the USDA Service Center serving your county.

Key Points

Application deadline is Feb. 3 for 2012 funding

Funding available for 80 conservation practices

Wisconsin received $16 million in EQIP funds in 2010

Sidebar

Organic, energy and high tunnels offered through USDA

Special sign-up opportunities are now open for On-Farm Energy, Organic, and Seasonal High Tunnel conservation practices. All three initiatives offer technical and financial assistance through the Natural Resources Conservation Service's (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).

Producers who apply for these new initiatives may need more time to make sure they choose the one that's right for their operation. Longer signup times and multiple ranking dates will make it easier for more producers to apply and help them get started with these new practices. The first ranking date will be Feb. 3, the same as the ranking date for the general EQIP signup.

The Organic, On-Farm Energy and Seasonal High Tunnel initiatives will also have additional ranking dates of March 30 and June 1.  Applications must be received by these dates to be considered for funding in each round of ranking.  Applicants need only apply once.

On-Farm Energy Initiative:  NRCS and producers develop Agricultural Energy Management Plans (AgEMP) or farm energy audits that assess energy consumption on an operation. NRCS then uses audit data to develop energy conservation recommendations. Each AgEMP has a landscape component that assesses equipment and farming processes and a farm headquarters component that assesses power usage and efficiencies in livestock buildings, grain handling operations, and similar facilities to support the farm operation.  Examples of energy conserving practices available include Conservation Crop Rotation, Legume Cover Crop, and no-till planting.

Organic Initiative:  NRCS helps certified organic growers and producers working to achieve organic certification install conservation practices for organic production.  A wide range of practices are available in this initiative.

Seasonal High Tunnel Pilot Initiative:  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. More than 4,000 high tunnels have been planned and implemented nationwide through this initiative over the past two years.  Supporting conservation practices such as Grassed Waterways, Nutrient Management, and Integrated Pest Management are available to address resource concerns on operations with Seasonal High Tunnel structures.

Visit the NRCS National Web site for more information on how to apply for these initiatives and connect with an NRCS office near you.

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