How WHIP Works in Tennessee
The Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) is a voluntary program for private landowners to develop and improve high quality habitat that supports wildlife populations of National, State, Tribal, and local significance. Through WHIP, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides technical and financial assistance to eligible participants. Land eligible for WHIP includes: private agricultural land, nonindustrial private forest land, and Tribal land. Publicly owned lands (Federal, State, county, or local government-owned lands) are now ineligible for WHIP.
WHIP is a continuous signup program. Details about signup for WHIP are announced each year; applications can be made at the local USDA Service Center. June 10, 2013, was the deadline for applications to be accepted and ranked for the fiscal year 2013 funding cycle.
WHIP provides cost-share payments of incurred costs for conservation practices to establish and improve fish and wildlife habitat. Certain historically underserved producers (limited resource farmers/ranchers, beginning farmers/ranchers and socially disadvantaged producers) may be eligible for additional payments of the estimated incurred costs. WHIP cost-share agreements between NRCS and the participant generally last from one year after the last conservation practice is implemented but not more than 10 years from the date the agreement is signed. A contract containing a WHIP Plan of Operations (WPO) will be developed by NRCS in conjunction with the producer that identifies the appropriate conservation practice or practices to address the resource concerns on applications that are accepted into the program. The practices are subject to NRCS technical standards adapted for local conditions.
Applicants must pass the Tennessee EQIP & WHIP Screening Tool in order to be ranked for the competitive contract-funding selection process. A "no" answer to even one of the questions will cause an application to be put in deferred status and not ranked or funded until answer is updated to "yes." If approved for funding, the participant must begin implementation of at least one practice within the first 12 months and continue practice implementation according to the contract schedule.
Eligible participants may choose to apply in any of the WHIP ranking pools. The same ranking tool format is used in all Tennessee counties with Local Work Groups developing “Local Questions” for every ranking pool.
Producers are advised to review eligibility requirements and update farm records administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA) to make sure all records are current and correct before submitting a WHIP application. Producers who submit incomplete applications or whose farm records and certifications are not up to date may be deferred for current year program application.
The 2008 Farm Bill established a new payment limitation for individuals or legal entity participants who may not receive, directly or indirectly, payments that, in the aggregate, exceed $300,000 for all program contracts entered during any six year period. There is an annual payment limitation for WHIP of $50,000.
Note: Confidential and private information: Many of the program application forms and/or documentation require the applicant to provide sensitive, contact, financial or other confidential information. Disclosure of this data is voluntary, but failure to provide the required information in a timely manner may result in the deferral of an application or denial of a benefit payment. By law and policy, confidential, private and sensitive information is protected by USDA and employees and agency partners are subject to penalty and disciplinary action for inappropriate or mismanagement of private data.
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