Farmers are reminded that several USDA Farm Bill Conservation programs have deadlines in early 2011. The Conservation Stewardship Program, Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program and Environmental Quality Incentives Program Organic Initiative provide funding for farmers to add a multitude of conservations practices to their farming operations, and the deadlines are fast-approaching. These programs are listed in order by deadline below:
• Due 01/21/2011 Conservation Stewardship Program CSP
• Due 01/21/2011 Environmental Quality Incentives Program EQIP
• Due 01/21/2011 Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program WHIP
• Due 03/04/2011 Environmental Quality Incentives Program Organic Initiative EQIP OI
On Jan. 3, the chief of USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service extended the cutoff date for Conservation Stewardship Program applications until Jan. 21. Although CSP is a continuous signup program, farmers must submit applications by Jan. 21 to be considered for the next round of funding.
Practical Farmers of Iowa member Nathan Anderson, who farms in northwest Iowa is looking forward to signing up for EQIP. "EQIP is a great opportunity to receive some economic and cost-sharing benefits for taking prudent steps to improve the conservation quality of my farming operation," he says.
Nathan, a beginning farmer from Cherokee County in northwest Iowa, returned to the family farm in May of 2010 after graduating from Iowa State University. He farms 250 acres of his own land, which contains row crops and cow-calf production. He adds that mainly, "I'm interested in cedar tree/brush management, prescribed burning, pasture and hay planting, and prescribed grazing for pasture acres. I'd also like to add cover crops to my row-crop acres."
Cover crops are conservation practice eligible for cost-share
Planting cover crops is a practice covered in almost all of Iowa's 99 counties by EQIP. The payment rate for a non-winter, hardy cover crop like oats is $21.81/acre. Historically underserved applicants, such as beginning farmers and women, receive a payment rate of up to $32.72/acre. For a winter-hardy cover crop like, winter rye or winter wheat, the payment rate is $53.26/acre and $79.90/acre for historically underserved.
PFI member Aaron Lehman, organic and conventional row-crop farmer in Polk County, has signed up for Organic Initiative funds in the past. "It made our transition on the new organic acres much easier to take financially," he says.
The Lehmans farm 600 acres and have switched 190 of those acres to organic production. "The initiative has compensated us for practices that we are required to do in our organic plan. It's nice to be rewarded for taking on those extra practices and get some help from NRCS."
Answers for your questions on signing up for NRCS programs
NRCS, which is part of USDA, employs individuals with whom farmers can speak about signing up for conservation programs. NRCS is located in your county USDA office, along with the Farm Services Agency or FSA. Practical Farmers of Iowa's Research and Policy Director Sarah Carlson is available to help answer farmers' questions about the programs. Contact the PFI office at 515.232.5661 or contact Sarah directly at email@example.com.
Practical Farmers of Iowa includes a diverse group of farmers and non-farmers. Corn, soybeans, beef cattle and hay are the top enterprises for PFI farmers, although many have a variety of other operations, including fruits and vegetables. PFI's programming stresses farmer-to-farmer networking through research and demonstration, field days, conferences and more. For more information call 515.232.5661 or visit www.practicalfarmers.org.