Some $14.5 million has been allocated by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for Minnesota agricultural producers to implement natural resources conservation practices through EQIP. This is a significant increase in funding and is a product of the 2002 Federal Farm Bill, Wyatt says.

Applications must be received by the close of business on Aug. 1, 2003. It is anticipated that the entire EQIP allocation will be obligated during this initial period, so sign up now if you're interested in EQIP. The Farm Bill provides an EQIP sign-up annually.

Soil and Water Conservation District's (SWCD) share of the Minnesota allocation varies from $50,000, $75,000 to $100,000, depending on the county. In addition to the county SWCD funds, each NRCS area has $1 million available for projects exceeding the local allocation.

EQIP is a voluntary conservation program from the USDA - NRCS. It supports agriculture production and environmental quality as compatible goals. Structural, vegetative and management conservation practices are eligible to receive funding. Natural resource concerns related to soil erosion, water quality, air quality and wildlife concerns are priorities for EQIP.

In the past few years, the more popular practices in the area have been crop residue and nutrient management practices, grassed waterways and prescribed grazing systems. The list of eligible practices is extensive. The practices are installed as part of conservation plans.

Payments are made where there are positive environmental benefits from an existing condition. They are not authorized for existing, in-place practices. This year the EQIP cost share is 50 percent.

A few of the EQIP programs pay producers a per acre fee for adopting conservation practices such as nutrient management, pest management and crop rotations. Examples include:
  • Conservation crop rotation, $20 per acre up to 250 acres for one year.
  • Nutrient management (without manure), $2.25 per acre; and with manure $4 per acre up to 250 acres for a maximum of three years.
  • Pest management, $1 per acre up to 250 acres for a maximum of three years.
There are many other USDA conservation programs that may offer more incentives than EQIP, Wyatt says. Contact your local NRCS staff for more details. Some of the state conservation incentive programs may vary by county and include clean water partnerships, watershed projects, ag waste systems and more.

Producers who are interested in receiving cost-share or incentive payments should visit their county NRCS/SWCD office. More information is available from the Minnesota NRCS website at www.mn.nrcs.usda.gov/ecs/eqip/eqip2003.htm.