Iowa farmers received $20.4 million in financial assistance and incentive payments through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program in fiscal year 2009, including nearly $3.5 million for organic farming practices.
Under EQIP, the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service helps farmers apply soil and water conservation practices that optimize environmental benefits on working agricultural lands. These practices include, but are not limited to, terraces, small grassed waterways, nutrient management, rotational grazing and tillage management.
Through the 2008 Farm Bill, Iowa farmers who transition to organic agriculture can receive special assistance for meeting their conservation goals. In addition, already certified organic producers can receive EQIP assistance for applying new conservation practices to their operation.
2008 Farm Bill provides incentives for organic agriculture
Originally, Iowa was to receive about $1.4 million in fiscal year 2009 for organic producers, but due to high interest, that amount more than doubled. "We weren't sure what the response would be like to the EQIP organic initiative," says Larry Beeler, assistant state conservationist for programs for NRCS in Iowa. "We found out quickly that there is a lot of interest in the state to transition to organic farming and to expand existing organic operations." Some of the more popular organic practices in Iowa's 2009 EQIP included pest management, cover crops, nutrient management and conservation crop rotations.
Limited resource producers, beginning farmers and socially disadvantaged farmers also received special EQIP initiative funding through the 2008 Farm Bill. Those farm operators in Iowa received more than $1.6 million in financial assistance and incentive payments through EQIP in fiscal year 2009.
Summary of 2009 EQIP results for Iowa
Overall, Iowa NRCS obligated 1,227 EQIP contracts including 96,883 acres. Winneshiek County in northeast Iowa received the largest county allocation in 2009 with $1,083,976 for placing conservation on 3,343 acres through 28 EQIP contracts. Next was neighboring Allamakee County with $742,680 that covered 1,818 acres through 38 contracts. The third largest Iowa county in terms of 2009 EQIP financial assistance was Sioux County in northwest Iowa with $689,556 covering 5,764 acres in 37 contracts.
Notable special projects to receive 2009 EQIP funding include:
$159,000 to the Rathbun Land and Water Alliance through the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP) for local farmers to implement best management practices that reduce sediment and phosphorus runoff into Rathbun Lake, a main water supply source for southern Iowa.
$64,458 to Trout Unlimited through the Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative for applying streambank restoration practices to streams in the Driftless Area of northeast Iowa.
$350,000 for 64 Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans to provide animal feeding operation owners/operators with a plan to manage manure and organic by-products by combining conservation practices and management activities into a conservation system that, when implemented, will control soil erosion.
$321,080 for forestry practices, including timber stand improvement and tree plantings.
$108,729 to continue to repair damaged conservation practices from the 2008 floods.
Other Farm Bill conservation programs funded in Iowa in 2009
Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program: Iowa farmers received $787,815 in financial assistance through 113 contracts on 4,838 acres for applying conservation practices that support establishing wildlife habitat. WHIP is a voluntary program that provides financial assistance to private and public landowners to establish wildlife habitat.
Wetlands Reserve Program: Wetlands were restored or enhanced on 3,221 acres in Iowa during fiscal year 2009 with assistance from the WRP. The new wetland acres were part of 31 easements in 21 counties at a total cost to NRCS of $11,214,740. These restored wetlands provide important flood reduction as well as wildlife habitat and other environmental benefits.