Early-Birds Get Conservation Cost-Share Money

It's not too early to go to your local NRCS office and begin the process of applying for cost-share funds for USDA's EQIP and WHIP programs for 2011.

Published on: Jan 10, 2011

FAQ: I thought USDA's EQIP and WHIP conservation cost-share programs were offered through a continuous sign-up throughout the year. But my neighbor tells me I need to sign up at our county NRCS office by January 21, 2011. Is there an advantage to doing that so early? I'm not quite sure what my conservation plans are yet for 2011.

Answer: Provided by Dave Brommel, EQIP and WHIP program coordinator at the Iowa office of USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service in Des Moines.

My advice is to figure out what conservation work you want to do on your land this year and get to your county NRCS office and sign up before the January 21 deadline. That will increase your odds of getting funds this year.

About $18 million in financial assistance is available to farmers in Iowa for applying soil and water conservation and wildlife habitat management practices on their farms through the USDA's Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP).

Funding selections made as dollars are available

To be considered for the first round of funding selections, farmers must apply at local USDA NRCS offices by Jan. 21, 2011. The EQIP and WHIP programs are offered through a continuous signup throughout the year (you can go into your NRCS office and sign up anytime). But NRCS periodically makes funding selections as program dollars allow.

EQIP and WHIP are voluntary programs, reauthorized in the 2008 Farm Bill, providing eligible participants the necessary financial and technical assistance to help put conservation on the land. EQIP promotes agricultural production and environmental quality, while WHIP helps promote, create and enhance wildlife habitat. Both programs are administered by USDA-NRCS.

Which conservation practices are cost-shared?

Conservation plans must be developed for the entire area that will be included in an EQIP contract. Statewide EQIP practices in Iowa include, but are not limited to grassed waterways, manure management facilities, terracing, pest management, ag drainage wellhead protection and improved pasture management.

Livestock producers may qualify for EQIP assistance to treat livestock manure resource concerns on existing facilities. Structures associated with new livestock facilities are not eligible. Lands eligible for WHIP funding include private agricultural land, nonindustrial private forestland and Indian land.

Nitrogen application incentive is something new

This year farmers with EQIP contracts that include nutrient management plans, and who select to fall-apply nitrogen, will receive a maximum of only $2 per acre, a significant reduction from 2010 EQIP nutrient management plan financial incentive rates. Higher payment rates for this practice are available for farmers who choose to spring-apply nitrogen and to use other higher management intensity options.

What about WHIP? The WHIP financial incentives also differ depending on the particular practice you use. Iowa's WHIP priorities place emphasis on wildlife and fisheries habitat of national and state significance by providing cost-share assistance in the following areas: forestland (15%), grassland habitat (30%), riverine habitat (20%) and wildlife management (35%).

Higher financial assistance rates for EQIP and WHIP are available for tribal landowners and beginning, socially disadvantaged and limited resource farmers. For more information about EQIP, WHIP or other conservation programs, or to apply, visit the NRCS office at your local USDA Service Center. NRCS provides leadership in a partnership effort to help people conserve, maintain and improve our natural resources and environment.

If you have specific questions or need details regarding USDA farm programs, contact your local USDA Farm Service Agency office. You can also get news and information about DCP, ACRE and other USDA programs at www.fsa.usda.gov.

Two Iowa State University Extension Web sites have farm program information and analysis. They are ISU's Ag Decision Maker site at www.extension.iastate.edu/agdm and ISU Extension Specialist Steve Johnson's site at www.extension.iastate.edu/polk/farmmanagement.htm.

And be sure to read the regular column "Frequently Asked Questions about the Farm Program" that appears in each issue of Wallaces Farmer magazine and at www.WallacesFarmer.com