Apply by November 20, 2020
Providing Conservation Practices to Protect Natural Resources
Farmers and forest landowners will want to plan ahead and sign up early for USDA conservation funding. Angela Biggs, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist in Wisconsin, announced farmers and forest landowners interested in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) need to apply by November 20, 2020, for funding in 2021. Applications are being taken at all USDA Service Centers in Wisconsin.
“The new Farm Bill allows NRCS to support conservation that ensures cost-effective financial assistance for improved soil health, water and air quality and other natural resources benefits,” said Biggs. “By getting EQIP applications in early, NRCS staff will have time to assist in planning conservation practice needs.”
All eligible applications received by November 20, 2020, will be evaluated, prioritized and ranked for funding in 2021. Farmers may contact their local USDA Service Center to get started on producer eligibility and planning. Biggs 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.
Sign up for several special initiatives focusing on conservation efforts.
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, for example, open cattle lots.
Local Work Group: Wisconsin has 18 Local Work Groups (LWG). Each LWG has a fund pool for cropland, forest and wildlife, and pasture. 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.
Organic: NRCS helps certified organic growers and producers, working to achieve organic certification, install conservation practices to address resource concerns on organic operations.
High Tunnel System (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. Supporting conservation practices, such as grassed waterways and diversions, are available to address resource concerns on operations with Seasonal High Tunnel structures.
Honey Bee: The upper Midwest is the resting ground for over 65 percent of commercially managed honey bees in the country. The NRCS is helping farmers and landowners implement conservation practices that will provide safe and diverse food sources for honey bees. Pasture management, wildlife habitat and appropriate cover crops are used as tools to improve the health of our honey bees, which support more than $15 billion worth of agricultural production.
Soil Health: Soil is a living and life-giving natural resource. By farming using soil health principles and systems that include no-till, cover cropping and diverse rotations, more and more farmers are increasing their soil’s organic matter and improving microbial activity.
Source Water Protection: Source water refers to ground water aquifers, rivers or lakes that provide water to public drinking supplies. Areas in Wisconsin with high concentrations of public water systems experiencing elevated nitrate levels have been identified for eligibility. Specific practices identified as improving nitrate levels are eligible to receive 90% payment rate, such as Nutrient Management, Filter Strips, and Forage and Biomass Planting. To see which watersheds are eligible and practices that can receive the 90% payment rate, visit the Source Water Protection section of the Wisconsin NRCS website here.
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. Newly eligible watersheds for 2021 include the Pensaukee River, Oconto River and Peshtigo River. These watersheds are in addition to the existing Door-Kewaunee Rivers, Lower Fox River, Manitowoc-Sheboygan, Milwaukee 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 subwatersheds 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 focused watersheds 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 and North Branch Little River in Oconto County.
Regional Conservation Partnership Program: The Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) promotes coordination between NRCS and its partners to deliver conservation assistance to producers and landowners. NRCS provides assistance to producers through partnership agreements and through program contracts or easement agreements. Current active projects for water quality improvement are located within the Oconomowoc River watershed, the Baraboo River watershed and portions of the Pecatonica River watershed in Lafayette County. RCPP funding is also available in the Driftless Area to improve fish and wildlife habitat, stream and riparian habitat.
Efforts in the Little Plover River watershed are also taking place to conserve water and improve habitat.