(12/17/12) The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced that farmers interested in new farmland conservation practices must apply by Jan. 18 to be considered for 2013 funding.
Ryan Swatek, District Conservationist, for NRCS in Jackson County, said that Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is the primary program available to farmers for farmland conservation work, offering flat-rate payments for over 80 conservation practices.
"EQIP can help all types of farmers - livestock and dairy, grazing, or cash crop, including specialty crops, organic, and agro-forestry," said Swatek. "EQIP also offers additional assistance for beginning, socially disadvantaged and limited resource farmers."
All eligible applications received by Jan. 18 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 $26 million in funds for EQIP.
Swatek is expecting increased interest this year, in part because of the extreme weather last summer which showed the importance of conservation practices for good soil health and drought resilience. The key conservation practices for improving soil health are crop rotations, cover crops, no-till or mulch tillage, and erosion-reducing practices such as buffers and grassed waterways. Through a special drought signup for EQIP in August, Wisconsin farmers put in over 20,000 acres of cover crops, says Swatek.
Special opportunities are also now open for On-Farm Energy, Organic, and Seasonal High Tunnel conservation practices. All three initiatives offer technical and financial assistance. All applications must be received by Jan. 18 to be considered for funding in 2013.
· On-Farm Energy Initiative: 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. Examples of energy conserving practices available include 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 to address resource concerns on organic operations. 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, and diversions are available to address resource concerns on operations with Seasonal High Tunnel structures.
For more information, visit www.wi.nrcs.usda.gov , or contact the NRCS office at 311 County Road A, Black River Falls, WI 54615, 715-284-4515 phone.