INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana’s agricultural producers who want to improve natural resources and address concerns on their land are encouraged to sign up for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) through the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Dan Hovland, Acting NRCS State Conservationist for Indiana, announced that December 16 will be the EQIP application ranking date in Indiana.
While NRCS accepts EQIP applications year-round, Indiana producers and landowners should apply by the program specific ranking date to be considered for the current funding cycle. Applications received after the ranking date will automatically be considered during the next funding cycle.
EQIP is a voluntary conservation program available for agricultural producers and private, non-industrial forestland owners. Through EQIP, NRCS provides financial and technical assistance to install conservation practices that reduce soil erosion and sedimentation, improve soil health, improve water and air quality and create wildlife habitat.
“EQIP is NRCS’s flagship conservation program and enables us to help producers help the land by addressing natural resource concerns on their land,” Hovland said. “No matter the size of your farm or the commodity being produced, EQIP has practices available. Option include assistance to build high tunnels on urban farms, add cover crops to operations big or small, remove invasive species from forestland, implement climate-smart agriculture practices and more. For more information about the assistance available contact your local district conservationist.”
Many applicants are interested in using funds to address soil erosion and water quality issues on their land; however, funds are also available for pasture and grazing land, confined livestock operations, organic producers, drainage water management, invasive plant control and wildlife habitat improvement.
Also included in this sign up are several state and national initiatives. While these initiatives use EQIP funding, landowners that apply for one of the special funding pools will not compete against the general EQIP funding pool.
“These targeted projects allow us to address specific natural resource concerns and provide a less competitive option for producers to work in these areas. Applicants don’t have to compete with all of the statewide EQIP applications for these projects, just those applying for each specific initiative,” said Hovland.
The state and national initiatives include the following:
- Historically Underserved Farmers: This fund category is for applicants defined as socially disadvantaged, veteran, limited resource or beginning farmer. To see if you are eligible for one of these categories, please visit https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/getting-assistance/underserved-farmers-ranchers or talk to your local district conservationist. Historically underserved producers might be eligible for priority consideration, higher payment rates and advanced payments.
- National Organic Initiative: NRCS provides assistance to help producers implement conservation measures in keeping with organic production. Producers who are certified organic, transitioning to organic or exempt from organic certification are eligible for this initiative.
- National On-Farm Energy Initiative: NRCS provides assistance to quantify how energy can be used more efficiently to reduce input costs, increase productivity and reduce air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions. This initiative only offers assistance for 128 Conservation Activity Plans-Ag Energy Management Plans (AgEMPs) and certain energy conservation practices.
- Working Lands for Wildlife Initiative – Monarch Butterfly: The Monarch Butterfly Habitat Development Project is a multi-state effort focused on increasing monarch habitat on private lands through plantings of milkweed and nectaring forbs as well as managing pesticide use in proximity to monarch habitat.
- Working Lands for Wildlife Initiative – Bobwhite Quail: The goal of this initiative is to convert tall fescue and other non-native forages to native grasses and forbs and develop prescribed grazing plans to address the habitat needs of bobwhite quail and associated grassland/shrub land species. This category is available statewide on land which overlaps one of the Indiana DNR C.O.R.R.I.D.O.R.S. priority areas.
- General Wildlife: NRCS provides assistance to help producers implement conservation measures for projects where the primary purpose is to establish or manage wildlife habitat.
- National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI):NRCS provides targeted funding for financial and technical assistance in small watersheds most in need and where farmers can use conservation practices to make a difference.
- Black River (Posey County)
- Upper Blue Sinking (Washington County and a small portion in Harrison and Floyd)
- Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI): NRCS and partners work with producers and landowners to implement voluntary conservation practices that improve water quality, restore wetlands, enhance wildlife habitat and sustain agricultural profitability in the Great Lakes (focused in the Western Lake Erie Basin, Steuben, Dekalb, Noble, Allen, Wells and Adams Counties).
- Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI): NRCS and partners work with producers and landowners to implement voluntary conservation practices that improve water quality, restore wetlands, enhance wildlife habitat and sustain agricultural profitability in the Mississippi River basin.
- Big Walnut Creek (Boone, Hendricks, Putnam counties)
- Middle Wabash Deer Watershed (Carroll, Cass, Howard, Miami and Tippecanoe counties)
- Treaty Creek (Miami and Wabash counties)
- Western Lake Erie Basin Initiative (WLEB): NRCS and partners work with producers and landowners to implement voluntary conservation practices that improve water quality, restore wetlands, enhance wildlife habitat and sustain agricultural profitability in the Western Lake Erie basin (Steuben, Dekalb, Noble, Allen, Wells and Adams Counties).
Producers interested in EQIP should submit a signed application to the local NRCS field office. Applications submitted by the December 16 ranking date will be evaluated for the funding period submitted. Participants in EQIP must meet eligibility requirements. NRCS staff will work with producers to determine eligibility and complete necessary worksheets and rankings in order for the applicant to compete for funding.
For more information about EQIP and other technical and financial assistance available through Indiana NRCS conservation programs, visit NRCS.USDA.gov/Indiana/EQIP or contact your county’s District Conservationist at https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/contact/find-a-service-center.
— USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service