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News Release

Improve Soil Health and Protect Resources with Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)

NRCS Offers Conservation Practices to Improve Soil Health and Protect Natural Resources

Special Conservation Initiative Focuses on Driftless Area

Interested farmers and landowners may apply at any time for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) at all USDA Service Centers in Wisconsin.  EQIP is the primary program available to farmers for farmland conservation work, offering payments for over 90 basic conservation practices. 

“EQIP – the Environmental Quality Incentives Program -  is still authorized through a continuation of the old 2008 Farm Bill,” said Jimmy Bramblett, State Conservationist for NRCS in Wisconsin.  “EQIP can help all types of farmers - livestock and dairy, grazing, or cash crop, including specialty crops, organic, and agro-forestry."

For 2014 funding, applications received by Dec. 20 were evaluated and ranked for funding. However applications can still be submittted for future funding.  Farmers can sign up at the NRCS office in USDA Service Centers statewide.  Last year, Wisconsin received about $32 million in funds for EQIP.

Bramblett reminds farmers who are interested in signing up for practices that may require state or local permits, such as manure storage systems or streambank restoration, should begin planning and seeking permits as soon as possible.  Applicants with permits already in hand are ranked high priority for funding; those with permits in process are medium priority and those without permits begun receive low priority for funding.

NRCS is expecting increased interest this year, in part because of the extreme weather in recent years which showed the importance of conservation practices for good soil health, water holding capacity and erosion control.  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. 


Organic, Energy and High Tunnels Very Popular  

Special sign-up opportunities are also now open for On-Farm Energy, Organic, and Seasonal High Tunnel conservation practices. All three initiatives offer technical and financial assistance through the NRCS’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program(EQIP). All applications must be received by Dec. 20 to be considered for funding in 2014.

·         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.  Examples of energy conserving practices available include conservation crop rotation, legume cover crop, and no-till planting.

·         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. 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.

Special Conservation Initiative Focuses on Driftless Area

Wisconsin will receive additional funds this year to address conservation needs in the Driftless Area.  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. 

Farm and woodland owners in the Driftless Area may apply by Dec. 20 for for financial assistance for conservation practices in 2014.  Many practices are available depending on the land use and conservation need.  For example:

·         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.

 

USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.