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Serving: IN

Fate of New EQIP Money Unclear So Far

Money available to honor projects already underway.

The EQIP program operated by the Natural Resource Conservation Service has helped put hundreds of thousands of dollars of structures on the land to help prevent soil erosion and improve water quality over the past decade and a half. And many projects are either underway, or yet to be installed, as part of EQIP contracts already signed by farmers and landowners in Indiana.

Jane Hardisty, Indiana State soil conservationist, the leading NRCS staff member in Indiana, says that all contracts in place under the EQIP program will be honored. Funding is available to fulfill those contracts. What she's still waiting on is news about money for new EQIP contracts that could be issued in the future.

So far, no word has come from Washington about EQIP money in the future, she notes. Meanwhile, EQIP projects partially funded by federal cost-share dollars in the past continue to do their job, doing everything from keeping cattle out fo streams to protect water quality, to preventing gully erosion through installation of either grass waterways or water and sediment control basins, known as wascobs, or both.

When a landowner applies for an EQIP project, it's generally a multi-year program that involves installation of multiple practices. Adopted in the '90s, the theory was that this would help farmers address a number of natural resource concerns on their farm, not jus tone at a time as they had in the past through earlier cost-share programs, In the old days, people could sign up for a grass waterway or some other practice, without committing to addressing other natural resource issues on the farm.

Continuous conservation reserve program funds have helped fill that gap. That program does allow producers to complete individual projects. But it's been limited to certain kinds of projects, and cost-share formulas are different than in the past

Hardisty isn't sure when NRCS will know about future EQIP monies. The best advice for know is to stay in touch with local soil and water conservation district offices, and also stay connected with your local Farm Service Agency office. Continue to anticipate what you would do if funds become available, and plan accordingly.

These projects aren't free to the landowner. They must provide cost-share to match what funds they receive for their projects. That's why enrolling in an EQIP program requires planning and commitment. Some programs extend over a five-year period. Typically NRCS engineers and field personnel provide the technical assistance needed to design the projects. There is no charge for that service.

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