USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service is offering to cost-share aerial cover crop seeding in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. NRCS officials are still checking to see whether this initiative will be offered in other Northeast states.
The initiative aims to encourage farmers to fly on cover crop seeds before fall harvest. The soil and water quality winter protection benefits of this conservation practice are well documented, says Christine Clarke, NRCS State Conservationist in Massachusetts. While aerial seeding is less effective than grain drills, it's a solution for areas with short growing seasons.
Aerial seeding approximately four weeks before corn harvest should allow ample time for cover crop establishment, she adds. Funding for the practice is available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. Farmers who apply for this special funding will be competing only among other farmers seeking to improve soil health.
There's one catch
While EQIP applications are accepted at local NRCS field offices on a continuous basis, they're considered for funding in set ranking periods. May 15 is the first EQIP cut-off date. Don't wait, urges Clarke. The EQIP process can take six to 12 months from initial request to implementation.
All eligible and complete EQIP applications – for any conservation practice available under EQIP – received by that date will be evaluated and ranked for available funding.
If you're a farmer or forest land owner and are interested in EQIP, you're encouraged to call or stop by your local NRCS field office. A planner will discuss with you your vision for your land, the conservation planning process, and how to apply for financial assistance.
The 2014 Farm Bill made some EQIP changes which included folding the former Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program into EQIP; increasing the six-year payment limitation to $450,000; and adding veterans to the list of farmers eligible for increased payment rates and advanced payments.