The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has announced two special initiative sign-ups through its Environmental Quality Incentives Program. EQIP is the primary program available to farmers and landowners for conservation practices on agricultural and forest lands.
"Conservation Activity Plans" are being offered for the first time. Plans available in 2009 include:
- Organic Agriculture Transition Plans
- Forest Management Plans
- Agricultural Energy Management Plans
EQIP funds will help to cover the costs of having these plans prepared by a certified individual. All of these plans will include an assessment that identifies resource concerns on that portion of the operation, such as soil erosion and water quality. Recommendations will also be provided for practices to address the resource concerns found. These practices could potentially be funded through EQIP in future sign-ups.
While Forest Management Plans are familiar to many landowners, two of these plans are relatively new concepts. The Organic Agriculture Transition Plan is a farm specific plan for transitioning land to organic production based on the USDA National Organic Program criteria. The Agricultural Energy Management Plan includes an audit of the operation's headquarters as well as the working lands. An optional wind or solar site assessment is also available. The energy audit and optional site assessment do not include analysis of the household.
Air Quality EQIP Initiative A special signup for Air Quality is also available through May 29, 2009. It is only open in nine eastern Wisconsin counties to reduce ozone levels. Eligible practices are Covers for manure storage structures to capture methane and also reduce odors. Solid/liquid waste separation, if not currently utilized, will also be available to make the cover system feasible. This sign-up is will take place in the following counties: Kenosha, Racine, Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee, Washington, Sheboygan, Manitowoc, and Door.