By Jason Johnson
Iowa farmers seeking conservation planning and financial assistance should contact a local USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service office soon for help treating natural resource concerns.
NRCS accepts soil and water conservation program applications on a continuous basis, but periodically makes application selections as funding allows. Iowa NRCS offices will rank all Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) applications that have been submitted to them beginning March 15. You need to apply before that date.
Through EQIP, NRCS provides ag producers with financial resources and one-on-one help to plan and implement conservation practices and improvements. Together, NRCS and producers invest in solutions that conserve natural resources for the future while also improving agricultural operations.
In 2018, NRCS obligated a record $34.6 million in EQIP funds to Iowa farmers. Using EQIP assistance, farmers can adopt structural and management practices that help treat a natural resource concern, such as soil erosion or water quality, on working agricultural lands. Many of the available practices also provide supplemental benefits such as improved soil health, wildlife habitat and energy conservation.
Along with traditional conservation practices such as terraces, grassed waterways and buffer strips, farmers can use EQIP to implement practices that improve manure, nutrient and pasture management. Farmers may also adopt popular management practices like no-till and cover crops through EQIP.
Cost-share bioreactors, saturated buffers
EQIP can also be helpful for transitioning to organic production, developing a rotational grazing system, adding pollinator habitat to a farm, building a high-tunnel system for fruit and vegetable production, or constructing a denitrifying bioreactor or saturated buffer to improve water quality.
NRCS sets aside 10% of EQIP funding for historically underserved customers, which include beginning farmers socially disadvantaged farmers, limited resource producers, tribal farmers and veterans. These customers receive a higher EQIP payment rate on their conservation practices.
NRCS has at least one office in every Iowa county, located at the USDA Service Center. For more details, producers should contact their local USDA service center or visit nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted.
Johnson is a public affairs specialist with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in Des Moines.