Editor's Note: Jason Johnson is a public affairs specialist with USDA/NRCS in Des Moines
Iowa farmers signed up to add new conservation practices on more than 664,000 acres in 2015 with planning and financial assistance through USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
Through two of USDA's most popular conservation programs – the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) – Iowa farmers are installing best management practices such as terraces, grass waterways, no-till, animal waste facilities, rotational grazing systems, cover crops and nutrient and pest management to their farms. These practices can help reduce soil erosion, improve water quality, enhance soil health and productivity and provide wildlife habitat.
Rural landowners permanently conserved agricultural working lands by restoring and protecting wetlands through enrollment in the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program's Agricultural Land Easements (ACEP-ALE) program and the Wetland Reserve Easements (ACEP-WRE) program in 2015. Through an obligation of nearly $10 million in ACEP funding, Iowa NRCS enrolled six permanent wetland reserve easements totaling 1,123 acres, and converted an existing 30-year easement to a permanent easement. Also, NRCS obligated nearly $750,000 to enroll three ag land easement parcels totaling 1,050 acres, conserving Iowa working lands in perpetuity.
Overall, Iowa farmers received $38 million in conservation funding in fiscal year 2015 through EQIP, CSP and ACEP. Beginning farmers received about $3.6 million through 187 new program contracts.
EQIP overview for the past fiscal year
Iowa NRCS obligated nearly $16.4 million to Iowa farmers through 897 contracts covering about 83,666 acres through EQIP – a voluntary conservation program that promotes agricultural production and environmental quality. Through EQIP, farmers can choose from a conservation practice list developed at the county level to treat local resource concerns.
About 10% of Iowa's EQIP funding went to historically underserved landowners, which includes socially disadvantaged, beginning and limited resource producers. County EQIP leaders by the numbers:
•2,796 acres treated with conservation practices in Benton County
•$882,795 amount of EQIP funding for Delaware County
•32 EQIP contracts in Delaware County
CSP overview for this program in 2015
In 2015, Iowa NRCS obligated $11.6 million through 1,008 CSP contracts covering 578,411 acres. CSP is a voluntary conservation program that encourages producers to comprehensively address resource concerns by undertaking additional conservation activities while improving, maintaining and managing existing conservation activities. CSP pays participants for conservation performance; the higher the performance, the higher the payment.
Winneshiek County in northeast Iowa led the state in acres treated, funding and contracts through CSP:
•38,894 – Acres treated in Winneshiek County through CSP
•$867,120 – Amount Winneshiek County landowners received in CSP funding
•90 – CSP funded contracts in Winneshiek County
For county-specific program information visit 1.usa.gov/1NGi0cC or contact your local NRCS office.