There are many programs available through the state and federal governments that can assist private landowners with natural resource conservation on their land. The following are brief descriptions of the programs managed by USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Additional resource information for landusers can be found on the NRCS web site at www.nrcs.usda.gov, or the FSA web site at www.fsa.usda.gov. To get more information about these programs, contact Jenny Vogel, NRCS District Conservationist, at 812-346-3411 ext. 3, or the FSA office at 812-346-3411 ext. 2.
Conservation Reserve Program
The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) offers long term rental payments and cost-share assistance to establish permanent vegetative cover on cropland that is highly erodible or contributing to a serious water quality problem. Through approved contract bids to convert eligible land to permanent cover, farm owners or operators receive annual rental payments at a rate not to exceed prevailing local rental rate per acre of comparable land. Acreage offered for enrollment is evaluated for environmental benefits and contract costs to determine which offers are accepted into the program. The acreage most likely to be accepted is generally land that provides the highest environmental benefits for the lowest cost. Rental payments may be provided up to 15 years for hardwood trees, wildlife corridors, windbreaks, or shelterbelts; however most payments are for 10 years.
The "continuous" sign-up CRP offers a noncompetitive enrollment of the most environmentally sensitive areas, and provides for annual rental payments and cost-share for establishing practices such as filter strips along streams, grassed waterways, riparian buffers, wetland restorat ion, field windbreaks, etc.
Environmental Quality Incentives Program
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) provides financial and technical assistance to farmers to address natural resource concerns and deliver environmental benefits, such as improved water and air quality, conserved ground and surface water, reduced soil erosion and sedimentation, or improved or created wildlife habitat. Through EQIP, farmers and ranchers may receive financial and technical help to install or implement structural and management conservation practices. Producers engaged in livestock or crop production on eligible land may apply for the program. Eligible land includes cropland, rangeland, pastureland, forestland, private non-industrial land, and other farm or ranch lands.
The following national priorities, consistent with statutory resources concerns that include soil, water, wildlife, air quality, and related natural resource concerns, may be used in EQIP implementation:
1. Reductions of nonpoint source pollution, such as nutrients, sediment, pesticides, or excess salinity in impaired watersheds consistent with total maximum daily loads (TMDL) where available; the reduction of surface and groundwater contamination; and the reduction of contamination from agricultural sources, such as animal feeding operations
2. Conservation of ground and surface water resources
3. Reduction of emissions, such as particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and ozone precursors and depleters that contribute to air quality impairment violations of National Ambient Air Quality Standards
4. Reduction in soil erosion and sedimentation from unacceptable levels on agricultural land
5. Promotion of at-risk species habitat conservation including development and improvement of wildlife habitat
6. Energy conservation to help save fuel, improve efficiency of water use, maintain production, and protect soil and water resources by more efficiently using fertilizers and pesticides and
7. Biological carbon storage and sequestration
In addition, Indiana has identified the following priorities:
• Grazing management: fencing, stockwater systems, range and pasture planting
• Nutrient management: manure storage structures, planned nutrient applications, soil testing
• Pest management: crop and pest monitoring activities
• Erosion control: grade control structures, diversions, water and sediment control basins
• Wildlife habitat enhancement: stream buffers, upland wildlife habitat establishment
These and the many other measures included in EQIP can help producers accomplish a variety of operational goals, which may include:
• Improvements to the long-term productivity and sustainability of an agricultural operation;
• Improved condition of crops and forage for livestock;
• Reduced costs for fuel, labor, fertilizers and pesticides;
• Energy efficient systems and field operations; and
• Compliance with regulatory requirements.
Conservation Stewardship Program
The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) helps agricultural producers maintain and improve their existing conservation systems and adopt additional conservation activities to address priority resources concerns. Participants earn CSP payments for conservation performance - the higher the performance, the higher the payment.
Through CSP, participants take additional steps to improve resource condition including soil quality, water quality, water quantity, air quality, and habitat quality, as well as energy.
CSP provides two types of payments through five-year contracts: annual payments for installing new conservation activities and maintaining existing practices; and supplemental payments for adopting a resource-conserving crop rotation. Producers may be able to renew a contract if they have successfully fulfilled the initial contract and agree to achieve additional conservation objectives. Payments are made soon as practical after October 1 of each fiscal year for contract activities installed and maintained in the previous year.
Agricultural Conservation Easement Program
The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) provides financial and technical assistance to help conserve agricultural lands and wetlands and their related benefits.. Under the Agricultural Land Easements component, NRCS helps Indian tribes, state and local governments and non-governmental organizations protect working agricultural lands and limit non-agricultural uses of the land. Under the Wetlands Reserve Easements component, NRCS helps to restore, protect and enhance enrolled wetlands.
ACEP is a new program that consolidates three former programs:
• Wetlands Reserve Program
• Grassland Reserve Program
• Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program
NRCS provides financial assistance to eligible partners for purchasing Agricultural Land Easements that protect the agricultural use and conservation values of eligible land. In the case of working farms, the program helps farmers and ranchers keep their land in agriculture. The program also protects grazing uses and related conservation values by conserving grassland, including rangeland, pastureland and shrubland. Eligible partners include Indian tribes, state and local governments and non-governmental organizations that have farmland or grassland protection programs.
Under the Agricultural Land component, NRCS may contribute up to 50 percent of the fair market value of the agricultural land easement. Where NRCS determines that grasslands of special environmental significance will be protected, NRCS may contribute up to 75 percent of the fair market value of the agricultural land easement.
In order to be eligible for any of the above mentioned programs there are some forms and information that will need to be provided,
Click Here to view the info sheet.
One of the most important tools used in carrying out the conservation programs of the Natural Resources Conservation Service is the Field Office technical Guide (FOTG). The FOTG is an integral part of conservation planning. The guide contains the latest conservation treatment technology and helps the staff identify resource problems, evaluate the effects of conservation treatments, compare alternatives, and select the best options to meet conservation needs and objectives.
The FOTG is continuously updated to incorporate new technology and experience. Although the FOTG was developed mainly for NRCS use, it is a public document that is available to those persons who are interested in applying effective conservation measures. The "e" (electronic) FOTG may be viewed on the NRCS web site at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/technical/eFOTG/.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, or marital or family status. (Not prohibited bases apply to all programs.) Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication of program information (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should contact USDA's TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 (voice and TTD).
To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, Room 326 W, Whitten Building, 1400 Independence Avenue, Sw, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (202) 720-5964 (voice and TTD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.