Even without a new farm bill, funds are available for conservation programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). That’s good news for cattle producers looking for fi nancial help for projects such as brush control, reforestation, putting in ponds, cross-fencing, animal waste holding facilities and more.
For Gary Price, owner of 77 Ranch near Blooming Grove, Texas, using cost-share programs like EQIP help him make conservation improvements on his family’s ranch that would otherwise be difficult. Price feels these programs are benefi cial not just to the landowner, but to the surrounding communities, as they help improve water quality, rangelands and the environment. Water quality in his community has been optimized by the conversion of cropland to wetland, which has minimized sediment loading, erosion and other water quality issues.
While the ranch has used various programs through the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) throughout the years, Price says he is just beginning a relatively new water quality conservation program for the watershed that is located near the ranch.
This program uses EQIP funds to offset 75% of the estimated cost (a percentage that is not typical of most cost-shares) to help participants provide cover crops, improve rangeland diversity, establish cross-fencing, and create grass plantings to prevent runoff into the Richland Chambers Lake, which is the public water source for the Dallas–Fort Worth area. This is an ongoing three-year program.
To get started. First, research what types of conservation improvements are eligible, Price says. The process can open the door to other conservation improvements that farmers might not have even planned. According to NRCS, EQIP provides financial assistance payments to eligible producers based on a portion of the average cost associated with practice implementation. "Each application is ranked on a scoring system using an objective set of criteria," says Mark Habiger, assistant state conservationist with the Texas NRCS. "In our state, we have a county working group that helps in that ranking process."
Work with NRCS to develop a plan that:
- identifies the conservation practice or measures that are needed to address natural resource concerns.
- implements conservation practices and activities according to an EQIP plan of operations developed in conjunction with the producer. The practices are subject to NRCS technical standards that adapted for local conditions.
The signup process is continuous, so you can apply at your local NRCS offi ce at any time. The ranking process, however, has deadlines, so be sure to check specific program dates. Be prepared to provide your schedule F to show your adjusted gross income and documents to prove that you legally own or lease the property. If your farm is an entity, then all members need to be willing to participate and complete the required paperwork.