At the World Pork Expo last week in Des Moines, Iowa, complying with environmental rules and regulations was one of the key topics on the program.
Experts from Environmental Management Solutions (EMS), a limited liability company formed by the National Pork Producers Council and headquartered in Des Moines, gave a presentation on how farmers can improve their odds of obtaining government cost share program dollars used for soil and water quality protection. Since 1999, EMS has conducted more than 4,700 on farm assessments in 44 states.
Livestock producers and other farmers and landlowners have hired EMS to provide services to help them comply with rules and regulations and to help them qualify to receive cost-sharing funds for the required conservation practices.
EQIP program provides cost-share dollars
The USDA's Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP), which is carried out by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is designed to assist farmers and ranchers by providing funds to install conservation practices. Authorized as part of the 2002 Farm Bill, EQIP's national priorities include:
- Reduction on non-point source pollutants
- Reduction of ground water contamination
- Conservation of ground and surface water resources
- Reduction of emissions as related to National Air Quality Standards
- Reduction of soil erosion and sedimentation
- Promotion of at-risk speciesâ€™ habitat recovery
Through EQIP, producers are able to apply for financial assistance to implement conservation and environmental practices to achieve the stated national goals for the program. Additionally, EQIP can provide resources necessary to comply with new and changing regulations governing livestock and crop production enterprises. This includes compliance with Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) rules for livestock producers.
Demand is greater than funds available
Demand for EQIP cost-sharing for soil and water conservation outpaces the supply of funds available each year. The result is a highly competitive process for getting EQIP dollars to put to work on the farm. EQIP funding varies from state to state and from enterprise to enterprise.
"For example, approximately 67% of EQIP financial assistance in FY 2003 was obligated for livestock related conservation practices," says Mark Berkland, Environmental Management Solutions(EMS), LLC Consultant. "There is currently a total of over $3 billion in unfunded EQIP applications."
Because farmers and ranchers applying for EQIP funding are competing for limited resources, preparing and delivering an outstanding application is crucial. Systems vary from state to state and county to county, based on the EQIP process. The producer must know:
- practices eligible for payment at the applicable level
- cost-share rates
- incentive payment levels
- payment caps if they exist
- ranking system
Helps farmers with Nutrient Management Plans
Due to the complexity of the application process, USDA-NRCS signed a memo of understanding with Environmental Management Solutions, LLC, to help landowners obtain assistance for Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans (CNMPs). "This 5-year agreement is the first memorandum of understanding with a private company that includes a training and certification component to help individuals and entities become technical service providers," explained Earl Dotson, EMS, LLC CEO.
EMS, LLC provides the resources producers need to develop the quality applications that will increase the likelihood of successful EQIP funding, says Dotson. The company is able to deliver the services necessary due to its proven track record, flexible programs, and personnel. EMS, LLC was created to fulfill the requirements of producers seeking to improve their conservation and environmental performance along with the need for compliance with ever-increasing regulation on the production agriculture industry.
"Our purpose is to serve agricultural producers with the services and systems they need to preserve their resources, comply with regulations, and remain productive," states Dotson. "EMS, LLC delivers systems that result in success whether it concerns EQIP applications, planning, assessments and audits, or environmental record keeping."