Apply now for the first round of fiscal year 2024 funding consideration. Applications are being taken at all USDA Service Centers in Wisconsin. Applications received after November 3rd will automatically be deferred to the next funding cycle.
MADISON, Wis., September 25, 2023 – Farmers and forest landowners will want to plan ahead and sign up early for United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) conservation funding. Tyrone Larson, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist in Wisconsin, announced farmers and landowners interested in Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) or Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) producer contracts need to apply by November 3, 2023 for funding in fiscal year 2024.
Although NRCS accepts applications year-round, please apply now for the first round of fiscal year 2024 funding consideration. Applications are being taken at all USDA Service Centers in Wisconsin. Applications received after November 3rd will automatically be deferred to the next funding cycle.
EQIP and RCPP are the primary programs available to Wisconsin producers, offering payments for more than 120 basic conservation practices. Last year, Wisconsin NRCS invested $39.2 million in conservation practices through EQIP and RCPP practices.
“The Farm Bill and Inflation Reduction Act allow NRCS to support conservation that ensures cost-effective financial assistance for improved soil health, water and air quality and other natural resources benefits,” said Larson. “By getting EQIP or RCPP applications in early, NRCS staff will have time to assist in planning conservation practice needs.”
All eligible applications received by November 3, 2023, will be evaluated, prioritized and ranked for funding in 2024. Farmers may contact their local USDA Service Center to get started on producer eligibility and planning. Larson reminds farmers who are interested in practices that may require permits, such as manure storage or streambank restoration, to begin planning and seeking permits as soon as possible. Applicants with shovel-ready projects (designs completed and permit applications submitted) will receive a higher ranking in select fund pools.
Sign up for several special initiatives focusing on conservation efforts. Special sign-up opportunities are also open for Farmstead, Local Work Group, On-Farm Energy, Organic, Climate Smart Agriculture & Forestry, Urban Agriculture, Conservation Incentive, as well as several landscape-based initiatives. Special initiatives are available for Beginning Farmers and Historically Underserved producers, such as Tribal Nations—NRCS offers increased payment rates for these producers. All of these initiatives offer both technical and financial assistance through EQIP and RCPP.
Farmstead: NRCS helps livestock producers improve nutrient handling and clean water separation by implementing practices supporting manure storage, feedlot and barnyard runoff and clean water diversion. This special opportunity also provides technical and financial assistance for roofs and covers placed over open cattle lots, for example.
Local Working Group: Wisconsin has 16 Local Working Groups (LWG). Each LWG has a fund pool for cropland, pasture and forest and wildlife. LWGs collect local stakeholder input and use the feedback to focus on their own local resource concern priorities for each fund pool, making each LWG fund pool unique and locally relevant.
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 plan, develop and implement energy conservation recommendations.
Organic: NRCS helps certified organic growers and producers working to achieve organic certification install conservation practices to address resource concerns on organic operations. In 2023, new conservation practice standard, Organic Management (823), was adopted nationwide providing payments to help producers who are transitioning to organic.
Climate Smart Agriculture & Forestry – Inflation Reduction Act: The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) provides additional funds to NRCS specifically to address climate change mitigation through activities that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve carbon storage using a scientifically identified sub-set of practices. The benefits are two-fold: producers improve the health, productivity, resiliency and profitability of their operations while helping mitigate the impacts of climate change.
Conservation Planning Activities (CPA), Design Implementation Activities (DIA), and Conservation Evaluation and Monitoring Activities (CEMA): CPAs: Activities resulting in a conservation plan that documents client decisions regarding selected alternatives, including identification of desired primary and supporting practices that the client would like to use to treat identified resource concerns. DIAs: Activities that allow for development of specific practice designs, management prescriptions, or other instructions that the client can implement into the conservation practice or system of conservation practices. CEMAs: Activities that include evaluation, monitoring, testing or assessment for a specific purpose, to complete practice implementation requirements or to determine the effectiveness of conservation practices and activities.
Urban Agriculture and Forestry: As American agriculture continues to grow in new directions, NRCS conservation assistance is growing along with it. To encourage and support urban agriculture within the state, Wisconsin will offer targeted funding to support Urban Agriculture and Forestry producers.
EQIP Conservation Incentive Contracts (EQIP-CIC): Conservation Incentive Contracts (CIC) provide additional opportunities for eligible producers to further the adoption, management and maintenance of conservation practices and activities through the implementation of incentive practices. Incentive contracts blend EQIP and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) by providing producers with financial assistance to adopt conservation activities on working landscapes. The EQIP-CIC focus for fiscal year 2024 is on climate smart agriculture and forestry practices.
Northeast Wisconsin Forestry and Wildlife Partnership: The Northeast Wisconsin Forestry and Wildlife Partnership project has been developed through the Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership (JCLRP) and enables NRCS and the U.S. Forest Service to collaborate with agricultural producers and forest landowners focused on conservation and restoration efforts. These conservation efforts aim to achieve several landscape-level outcomes, including reductions in storm-caused fuel loads and fire risks, improving water quality and aquatic habitat, increasing habitat for species such as golden-winged warblers, brook trout, and monarch butterflies, and promoting forest health through oak wilt prevention, emerald ash borer mitigation and planting resilient tree species.
Great Lakes Restoration Initiative: Through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), NRCS offers financial assistance to agricultural producers for implementing practices that improve water quality in selected watersheds. Eligible watersheds include Door-Kewaunee Rivers, Lower Fox River, Manitowoc-Sheboygan, Milwaukee River, Oconto River, Peshtigo River, Pensaukee River, Upper Fox River, Wolf River, and Lake Winnebago watersheds.
Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative: The overall goals of the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI) are to improve water quality by minimizing contributions of phosphorus and nitrogen to the surface waters in the basin and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico. Within the larger Rush River watershed, five sub-watersheds are eligible for MRBI funding: Town of Martell-Rush River, Goose Creek-Trimbelle River, Spring Creek-Trimbelle River, Little Trimbelle River, and Crystal Springs Coulee-Rush River.
National Water Quality Initiative: The National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI) is designed to help individual agricultural producers take actions to reduce the runoff of sediment, nutrients and pathogens into waterways where water quality is a critical concern. The goal is to implement conservation practices in watersheds focused in a concentrated area so that agriculture no longer contributes to the impairment of water bodies within these priority watersheds. Eligible watersheds include Bear Lake-Little Wolf River in Waupaca County, Town of La Prairie & City of Beloit Lower Rock River East in Rock County, and Sinsinawa River in Grant County.
Regional Conservation Partnership Program: The Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) promotes coordination between NRCS and partners to deliver conservation assistance to producers and landowners. NRCS provides assistance to through producer contracts or easement agreements. Current projects for water quality improvement are being implemented in the Ashwaubenon and Dutchmans Creek, Oconomowoc River, Yahara and Sugar River within Dane County, and Milwaukee River watersheds. RCPP funding is also available in the Driftless Area to improve habitat and water quality, select counties in Northern Wisconsin to improve Golden-winged and Kirtland’s warblers’ habitats, and select areas of Southern Wisconsin to improve soil health and oak forests and protect agriculturally productive farmland.
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