Illinois Stewardship Alliance encourages farmers to contact their local USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office to apply for funding to implement conservation practices through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
While applications are accepted at all times, farmers seeking funding for next year should apply by November 18, 2016 or January 20, 2017. Producers may submit a signed application to the local NRCS field office or submit it electronically through the Conservation Client Gateway (http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/cgate/).
Farmers throughout the region are incorporating practices such as cover cropping and no/low till, and EQIP can help financially. Illinois disproportionately contributes excess nitrogen and phosphorus to the Mississippi River and, ultimately, to the Gulf of Mexico, where algal blooms have created a “Dead Zone.” Nutrients are coming from both urban and rural sources, necessitating diverse solutions. By utilizing conservation practices such as cover cropping, farmers can trap some of the excess nutrients on their land. This prevents the dollars they spend on fertilizer from washing out to sea while also protecting the environment.
Though nutrient loss reduction is a priority for the state generally, farmers should talk to NRCS about their individual conservation needs and priorities. EQIP is available for numerous other conservation practices, including for organic production, grazing management, and wildlife habitat restoration. In addition to conservation practices, EQIP provides funding for the development of plans, such as Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans (CNMPs), Grazing Plans, Drainage Water Management Plans, and more.
EQIP is a voluntary conservation program that provides agricultural producers with financial and technical assistance to implement structural and management conservation practices that reduce soil erosion and sedimentation, improve water and air quality, and create wildlife habitat. For more information on EQIP, contact the local NRCS field office or visit www.il.nrcs.usda.gov.
Dave Bishop of PrairiErth Farm in Atlanta, Illinois plants vegetable starts in his hoop house, which he purchased with the help of EQIP funding in 2012.