Do you have conservation needs on your farm that you haven’t addressed? Are you hoping you can get government cash-share assistance to help take care of those practices? Are you willing to commit to several practices if that’s what it takes to solve the basic natural resource concerns on your land?
If you answered “yes” to these questions, Jane Hardisty, the state conservationist, says now is the time to visit your local Natural Resources Conservation Service office. It’s likely located at the USDA Service Center in your county. In many counties, the NRCS, soil and water conservation district, and Farm Service Agency are co-located.
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Why should you be so concerned about getting your application for a project you want to do in soon? After all, you may still have fall field work to do — harvesting, tillage or even spraying for weeds like marestail to get a jump on them for next spring.
Hardisty says it’s because the first round of money for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program will be allotted to projects that are in the hopper as of Dec. 15. The NRCS staff who determine funding for projects will meet soon after and decide which projects will be funded and to what degree.
“We’ve normally completed this first round in mid-January,” Hardisty explains. “However, farmers have told us it’s better for them if we could look at the applications earlier, so they know sooner if their projects will be funded in the first round.
“It lets our field staff get conservation plans for each producer who will be doing projects completed during the winter months. They can also get contracts together during that time period.
“The bottom line is that it allows both our staff and technicians who provide technical assistance, and farmers and landowners more time to get things ready to go by spring, when construction can typically start on these projects.”
Even if your project isn’t selected in the first round, or if you don’t get the application turned in by the first cutoff date and decide later that you want to apply for assistance, you’re still in good shape, Hardisty notes. “We actually take applications all year long,” she says. “In the last fiscal year, we were actually able to fund all of the qualified projects which were submitted to us.”
Whether or not that will happen again partly depends on funding demands here and elsewhere, and what happens at the national level, Hardisty notes.
“The other reason for moving up the deadline is that if we get surprises during the year, like changes in a program or if a new program is added, then if our staff has this initial workload out of the way, they will have more time to address the change or new program,” she explains.
The bottom line is that if you want to resolve a conservation issue, get your EQIP application in by Dec. 15 and be in line for the first round of funding, she concludes.