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USDA conservation funding available for Wisconsin farmers

USDA conservation funding available for Wisconsin farmers

Farmers and forest landowners in Wisconsin are encouraged to apply early for USDA conservation funding. The USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is accepting applications for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) producer contracts for funding in fiscal year 2024. The deadline for applications is November 3, 2023, and late applications will be deferred to the next funding cycle.

While NRCS accepts applications year-round, early applications for the first round of funding consideration in 2024 are recommended. Applications can be submitted at all USDA Service Centers in Wisconsin. EQIP and RCPP are the primary programs available to Wisconsin producers, offering payments for over 120 basic conservation practices. Last year, Wisconsin NRCS invested $39.2 million in conservation practices through EQIP and RCPP.

Tyrone Larson, USDA NRCS State Conservationist in Wisconsin, emphasized the importance of planning and early application. He stated, "The Farm Bill and Inflation Reduction Act allow NRCS to support conservation that ensures cost-effective financial assistance for improved soil health, water and air quality, and other natural resources benefits." By submitting EQIP or RCPP applications early, NRCS staff will have adequate time to assist in planning conservation practice needs.

All eligible applications received by November 3, 2023, will be evaluated, prioritized, and ranked for funding in 2024. Farmers interested in practices that may require permits, such as manure storage or streambank restoration, are advised to begin planning and seeking permits as soon as possible. Applicants with shovel-ready projects, including completed designs and submitted permit applications, will receive higher rankings in select fund pools.

In addition to EQIP and RCPP, several special initiatives are open for sign-up, including Farmstead, Local Work Group, On-Farm Energy, Organic, Climate Smart Agriculture & Forestry, Urban Agriculture, Conservation Incentive, and various landscape-based initiatives. Special initiatives offer both technical and financial assistance through EQIP and RCPP.

Farmstead: NRCS helps livestock producers improve nutrient handling and clean water separation, providing technical and financial assistance for practices such as manure storage and clean water diversion.

Local Working Group: Wisconsin has 16 Local Working Groups (LWG), each with fund pools for cropland, pasture, forest, and wildlife. These groups collect local stakeholder input to focus on their unique resource concern priorities for each fund pool.

On-Farm Energy: NRCS collaborates with producers to develop Agricultural Energy Management Plans (AgEMP) and farm energy audits, assessing energy consumption on farms and planning energy conservation measures.

Organic: NRCS supports certified organic growers and producers transitioning to organic certification by installing conservation practices addressing resource concerns on organic operations.

Climate Smart Agriculture & Forestry – Inflation Reduction Act: This initiative provides additional funds to address climate change mitigation by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving carbon storage through specific conservation practices.

Conservation Planning Activities (CPA), Design Implementation Activities (DIA), and Conservation Evaluation and Monitoring Activities (CEMA): These activities help develop conservation plans, practice designs, and evaluate the effectiveness of conservation practices and activities.

Urban Agriculture and Forestry: NRCS offers targeted funding to support urban agriculture and forestry producers, encouraging and supporting urban agriculture within the state.

EQIP Conservation Incentive Contracts (EQIP-CIC): These contracts provide opportunities for eligible producers to further the adoption of conservation practices through incentive practices that blend EQIP and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).

Various regional initiatives also address specific conservation needs in different watersheds, including the Northeast Wisconsin Forestry and Wildlife Partnership, Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative, and National Water Quality Initiative.

Wisconsin farmers and landowners are encouraged to apply for these programs and initiatives to promote conservation, improve soil health, protect water quality, and address resource concerns on their lands. Early application is essential to ensure funding consideration for fiscal year 2024. Farmers may contact their local USDA Service Center to get started on producer eligibility and planning.


Photo Credit: gettyimages-lishanskyphotography

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Categories: Wisconsin, Sustainable Agriculture

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