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USDA Landscape Initiatives Offer Higher Payments

by Jason Johnson, Public Affairs Specialist, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Des Moines

If you are an Iowa farmer located in one of Iowa’s three landscape conservation initiative areas, you may be eligible to receive higher payment rates to install conservation practices included in your conservation plan, such as cover crops, terraces, grassed waterways or nutrient management.

In anticipation of a new Farm Bill, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service recently announced that Oct. 4 is the first signup cutoff deadline to fund conservation programs in Iowa for fiscal year 2014.

Since 2009, NRCS has addressed priority natural resource concerns by delivering targeted conservation to the most vulnerable lands through landscape conservation initiatives. Iowa’s three landscape initiatives include:

  • Driftless Area Landscape Conservation Initiative (DALCI) – focuses on reducing erosion and sediment delivery to surface waters, along with improving fish and wildlife habitats in all or parts of 12 northeast Iowa counties. Objectives of DALCI include increasing perennial cover on working lands, increasing diversity in woodland areas, improving bird and pollinator habitat, and restoring cold water trout streams and adjacent riparian areas in the region. Since October 2012, NRCS has provided $406,785 in conservation technical and financial assistance to landowners, covering nearly 1,600 acres through 22 contracts.
  • Mississippi River Basin Health Watersheds Initiative (MRBI) – focuses on improving water quality and wildlife habitat in the Mississippi River Basin. Through 18 Iowa projects, landowners in selected watersheds throughout Iowa may be eligible to install conservation practices that avoid, control and trap nutrient runoff; improve wildlife habitat; yet maintain agricultural productivity. These could include cover crops, rotational grazing systems, nutrient management, wetlands or bioreactors. Each project has its own conservation practice list. NRCS provided Iowans more than $6 million since last October, covering 33,500 acres through 188 contracts through MRBI.
  • Northern Plains Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative (NPMBHI) – focuses on providing food and critical habitat populations for migratory bird populations by assisting agricultural producers in conserving and restoring grasslands and farmed wetlands. NRCS provided more than $125,000 during fiscal year 2013 through seven contracts to grow cover crops on 2,861 acres in Iowa’s Prairie Pothole region. NRCS also purchased 11 wetland easements in north-central Iowa covering 830 acres totaling $4.8 million.

Map of Iowa's three landscape initiatives (jpg)