Katie Hafner, NFWF Soil Conservationist
Farmers and landowners in Clinton County are very involved in all the Farm Bill programs offered through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) with help from the Clinton Conservation District. With the wet spring and harsh fall that 2019 brought, farmers used quick thinking and innovative ways to preserve their soil and prepare fields are the nest spring. Cover crops were planted on almost 30,000 acres. The roots of those cover crops held the soil together while the rain was washing bare fields away as well as help nutrients in the root zone, so it was available to the next crop.
With the help of cost-share from the USDA program EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program), every year farmers and landowners can apply for help to install practices or new management strategies that make their farm more sustainable like the cover crops planted in 2019.
2020 is shaping up to be a record year for Farm Bill programs in the county. With over 100 applications, and many becoming contracts, the NRCS and Conservation District staff are working hard to conservation plan and accommodate all interested and involved.
The Environmental Quality Incentive Program, EQIP program provides technical, educational, and financial assistance to eligible farmers and landowners to address soil, water, and related natural resource concerns on their lands in an environmentally beneficial and cost-effective manner. Cost-share is available for applicants who were selected for funding.
Sign-up 1 for 2020 closed on March 20th, and Clinton County has 55 applications!
Projects that landowners are working on through this program include cover crops, nutrient management technologies, waste storage facilities, forest management plans, high tunnel systems, grassed waterways, and pollinator habitat. Applications are accepted year-round, and are batched a few times per year.
Many farmers in the county hold themselves to a high environmental standard. Keeping records, only applying nutrients that will be immediately used, watching for run-off, and becoming MAEAP verified are all awesome steps to becoming good stewards of the land (contact Eric Bak, Clinton Conservation District’s MAEAP Technician, to learn more firstname.lastname@example.org) Farms with operations like this are great candidates for the Conservation Stewardship Program.
The Conservation Stewardship Program, CSP is a voluntary conservation program and has a unique role among USDA programs. It identifies and rewards those farmers and landowners who meet the highest standards of conservation and environmental management on their operations. It also provides incentives to “up” their level of conservation by applying new projects on their land.
The CSP 2020 sign-up is happening right now through June 1st.
The Conservation Reserve Program, CRP program reduces soil erosion, protects the Nation’s ability to produce food and fiber, reduces sedimentation in streams and lakes, improves water quality, establishes wildlife habitat, and enhances forest and wetland resources.
All three agencies in the USDA Service Center work hard to provide the Conservation Reserve Program to Clinton County! With hundreds of active contracts, this program has historically been a great success; 2020 is no different. 29 landowners will be installing conservation practices through the general CRP sign-up that closed in February. A handful more will be installing water quality projects with the help of the continuous CRP program.
The CRP program for water quality practices will remain open until mid-May. Contact Clinton County FSA to get started!
All of the Farm Bill programs offered in the county totals over 100 applications so far in 2020! This will bring hundreds of thousands federal dollars to the county in order to install projects that help create a more sustainable farm for years to come.
Sound like something that would be a good fit on your farm? We remain open through the COVID-19 outbreak and are working remotely. We know that #plant2020 must go on, and we are here for you!
Contact Katie Hafner at email@example.com to talk about a conservation program.