USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service provided more than $41 million in financial assistance in fiscal year 2010 to Iowa farmers through two of USDA's most popular 2008 Farm Bill financial assistance programs – the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Conservation Stewardship Program. Here's a report from Larry Beeler, assistant state conservationist for programs for USDA-NRCS in Iowa.
Environmental Quality Incentives Program: EQIP is a voluntary conservation program that promotes agricultural production and environmental quality. Iowa NRCS obligated more than $20.8 million through 1,267 contracts covering 79,374 acres to farmers in all 99 counties through EQIP in fiscal 2010. This program offers financial and technical assistance to install or implement structural, vegetative and management practices on eligible agricultural land. Examples of conservation practices typically eligible through EQIP include terraces, crop residue management (no-till), grassed waterways, waste storage facilities, prescribed grazing, and nutrient and pest management. Winneshiek County in northeast Iowa led the state in EQIP funding with more than $1.2 million in financial aid through 37 contracts covering 2,385 acres. The next highest county was neighboring Allamakee County with $666,963 through 25 contracts on 1,208 acres. Union County in southwest Iowa was third in EQIP funding with $582,325 through 15 contracts on 1,578 acres. Other notable accomplishments include Plymouth County with 4,819 acres contracted and Wayne County with 41 total EQIP contracts.
Conservation Stewardship Program: CSP is a voluntary conservation program that encourages producers to address resource concerns in a comprehensive manner by undertaking additional conservation activities and improving, maintaining, and managing existing conservation activities. CSP pays participants for conservation performance – the higher the performance, the higher the payment. Iowa NRCS obligated more than $20.2 million through 1,480 contracts covering 797,605 acres through CSP in fiscal year 2010. Winneshiek County also led in CSP for 2010 with more than $1.5 million in financial assistance through 108 contracts on more than 43,000 acres. Webster County finished with more than $1.1 million in aid through 59 contracts on more than 35,000 acres. Pocahontas was third in Iowa CSP funding with $739,853 in 52 contracts on more than 27,000 acres.
Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program: WHIP is a voluntary program that provides financial assistance to private and public landowners to establish wildlife habitat. Through WHIP, Iowa NRCS provided more than $700,000 in financial assistance through 106 contracts covering 3,464 acres to Iowans. NRCS works to develop a wildlife habitat management plan with each landowner. Projects focused on establishing habitat for threatened and endangered species or declining species receive a higher priority. Allamakee County led the state in WHIP funding with $78,618 in assistance through nine contracts on 113 acres. Plymouth County led the state in acres with 653 contracted acres worth $69,346 of assistance through six contracts. Monroe County finished with $64,235 in funding through 5 contracts covering 535 acres. For more details about Iowa NRCS conservation programs visit www.ia.nrcs.usda.gov/programs.