COLUMBUS, Ohio — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is offering a number of conservation opportunities to private landowners through Ohio’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Applications for EQIP are taken on a continuous basis, however, interested landowners are encouraged to contact their local NRCS service center prior to the January 14, 2022 signup deadline for fiscal year 2022 funding.
EQIP is a voluntary conservation program which helps producers make conservation work for them. NRCS provides agricultural producers with financial resources and one-on-one help to plan and implement improvements, or what NRCS calls conservation practices. Using these practices can lead to cleaner water and air, healthier soil and better wildlife habitat. Together, NRCS and producers invest in solutions that conserve natural resources for the future while also improving agricultural operations.
Financial assistance is now available through a number of categories that are listed below:
General: Conservation opportunities exist in cropland, forestry, pasture operations, seasonal high tunnels, socially disadvantaged producers, conservation activity plans, on-farm energy and organic. Several special projects are also available which address water quality, forestry management, improving pollinator populations and wildlife habitat, pasture improvements and many more.
Beginning Farmers: Ohio dedicates a portion of its total EQIP allocation specifically to beginning farmers, or those who have not previously farmed or have not operated a farm for more than 10 years. EQIP gives no preference to the size of the operation; small agriculture operations compete equally with larger ones. NRCS offers a wide variety of practices for beginning farmers interested in livestock, forestry, pasture/grazing operations and specialty, organic and row crop production. These practices help beginning farmers meet their goals to improve their operations, commodity production and environmental improvement.
Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW): Landowners can create habitat aimed at improving and protecting wildlife habitat. Through WLFW, NRCS works with partners and private landowners to focus voluntary conservation on working landscapes. NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to agricultural producers, helping them plan and implement conservation practices that benefit target species and priority landscapes. Conservation practices such as upland wildlife habitat management, conservation cover and brush management will help create, restore, maintain, or enhance areas for food and cover for wildlife species.
Urban Agriculture: As American agriculture continues to grow in new directions, NRCS conservation assistance is growing along with it. Urban agriculture provides jobs, improves access to fresh food, and offers environmental benefits. Ohio NRCS is focused on supporting urban farmers in their efforts to achieve local, healthy, sustainable food for their communities.
Northern Bobwhite in Grasslands Priority Area: NRCS has designated a new priority area in Ohio focused on improving and creating northern bobwhite quail habitat. The Ohio State University has identified edge habitat and woody escape cover, both essential during the winter months, as critical factors in quail survival. The selected townships shown on the priority area map have been identified by the Ohio Division of Wildlife as the areas of highest concern within Ohio’s bobwhite quail range. Click here for a fact sheet detailing the priority area, prioritized conservation practices and additional resources.
Western Lake Erie Basin (WLEB) Special Project: Ohio WLEB producers in Allen, Ashland, Auglaize, Crawford, Defiance, Erie, Fulton, Hancock, Hardin, Henry, Huron, Lorain, Lucas, Marion, Mercer, Ottawa, Paulding, Putnam, Richland, Sandusky, Seneca, Shelby, Van Wert, Williams, Wood, and Wyandot Counties may apply. The WLEB Special Project targets funding to obtain the greatest environmental benefits in two ways:
• Applications containing the most effective systems of conservation practices to address water quality concerns will be given a higher priority.
• Applications with land located within the WLEB that contain soils with a high risk for leaching or surface run-off, land with high soil test phosphorus levels, and land with direct drainage to tributaries within the Basin will receive priority over applications that do not address these conditions.
Oak Management Special Project: Woodland owners in the oak management priority forest area of Adams, Athens, Gallia, Hocking, Jackson, Lawrence, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Muskingum, Noble, Perry, Pike, Ross, Scioto, Vinton and Washington Counties can receive both technical assistance from professional foresters and financial assistance to implement conservation practices recommended by foresters to improve the health of oak-dominated woodlands.
Conservation Incentive Contract: This program is designed to be a stepping-stone between EQIP and Conservation Stewardship Program, to help producers improve their level of conservation and earn benefits of longer-term conservation enhancements. It expands resource beneﬁts for Ohio producers through incentive conservation practices such as cover crops, nutrient management, conservation crop rotations, and precision agriculture technologies. Additionally, EQIP-CIC allows producers to target priority resource concerns on their property by offering incentive payments for a 5-year contract without needing to enroll the entire operation into the program.
Mississippi River Basin Initiative: This funding opportunity for Ohio producers in the Loramie Creek Watershed promotes the use of key conservation practices, such as nutrient management, cover crops, animal waste storage structures, and tillage management. The impact of these practices reduces nutrient loading in local water bodies, and eventually, the Gulf of Mexico.
National Water Quality Initiative: This funding opportunity for agricultural producers in three Ohio watersheds in the East Fork Little Miami River Basin promotes conservation practices that improve soil health, reduce erosion, and lessen nutrient runoff, such as cover crops, reduced tillage, and nutrient management; waste management systems that treat agricultural waste and livestock manure; and wetland restoration that increases wildlife habitat, mitigates flooding, and improves water quality.
Applicants should be farmers, or farm or forest landowners and meet eligibility criteria. To participate in USDA conservation programs, contact your local NRCS conservationist as soon as possible. Be sure to check the status of your Service Center when you reach out to us. For offices with restrictions on in-person appointments, we are still available by phone, email, and through other digital tools. Your Service Center’s status is available athttps://www.farmers.gov/working-with-us/service-center-locator.
Visit Ohio NRCS website under “EQIP Funding Categories” for more details. To learn more about EQIP or other technical and financial assistance available through NRCS conservation programs, visit Get Started with NRCS or contact your local USDA Service Center.
— USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service