Illinois farmers and forest landowners can now apply for assistance to protect their most valuable asset while building their bottom line with 2011 Farm Bill conservation programs administered through USDA's NRCS.
Interested landowners can apply now for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program. While applications are accepted continuously throughout the year, landowners are encouraged to apply now so their applications can be considered during the first ranking period which ends Dec. 10, 2010.
The next cutoff period for ranking is scheduled for Jan. 7, 2011. All future cutoff dates are planned every three weeks from this date.
"In federal fiscal year 2010, NRCS funded hundreds of conservation projects and obligated more than $12 million in EQIP contracts alone," says Bill Gradle, State Conservationist. According to Gradle NRCS hopes to meet or exceed those numbers for 2011.
The primary Illinois funding pool groups for 2011 EQIP include comprehensive nutrient management plans (CNMPs), Forest Management implementation, grazing land and confined livestock operations, and organic operations. New areas emphasized within EQIP this year are Conservation Activity Plans for Drainage Water Management systems, Irrigation Water Management plans, and Nutrient Management plans.
Payments are available for a wide variety of conservation practices. Higher payment rates are offered for beginning, socially disadvantaged and limited resource farmers. Statewide applications for the 2011 Conservation Stewardship Program are also accepted until January 7, 2011.
New incentives and opportunities are also available under the new Mississippi River Basin Initiative, the Conservation Innovation Grants, and the Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative. These options are especially valuable for engaging other partners in order to address unique or pressing local resource problems or concerns.
Landowners who want to develop and improve wildlife habitat on their land can apply for funding through WHIP to restore grassland habitat or riparian areas. For assistance with any soil, water, or wildlife habitat objectives on the farm, call or visit the local USDA service center and schedule a time to sign up and begin the conservation planning process. General program information is available for review on the NRCS Illinois website at www.il.nrcs.usda.gov.