Are you looking around your farm or ranch this winter thinking about projects that need to be done to improve your operation? Are you also looking at your bank account and trying to figure out to stretch dollars to pay for projects that would reduce erosion, increase your forage, or help you better manage your livestock? Consider checking out these programs offered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service to help you get going.
Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA)
This program is available in these sixteen states: Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming. It helps farmers address water management, water quality and erosion control issues. Financial and technical assistance is provided for constructing or improving water management or irrigation structures; plant trees for windbreaks or to improve water quality; and mitigate risk through production diversification or resource conservation practices, including soil erosion control, integrated pest management, or transition to organic farming.
The program covers 75% of the project not to exceed $50,000 in one year. To be eligible your operation must have potential annual sales of $1,000 or more, have control of the land for the term of the project, and involve cropland, hayland, pastureland, rangeland, and grassland. To read all of the eligibility requirements click here.
Conservation Stewardship Program
Here’s the NRCS’s description:
“The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) helps you build on your existing conservation efforts while strengthening your operation. Whether you are looking to improve grazing conditions, increase crop yields, or develop wildlife habitat, the NRCS can custom design a CSP plan to help you meet those goals. They can help you schedule timely planting of cover crops, develop a grazing plan that will improve your forage base, implement no-till to reduce erosion or manage forested areas in a way that benefits wildlife habitat. If you are already taking steps to improve the condition of the land, chances are CSP can help you find new ways to meet your goals.”
Each state has its own list of the resource concerns the NRCS hopes to address through CSP. The program basically pays qualifying farmers and ranchers for actively maintaining and expanding on good conservation practices. Applications are accepted year-round but each state has it’s own deadline for when the applications will be ranked and awarded.
Popular practices an enhancements in bast years included:
• Rotation of feeding and supplement areas
• Grazing management to improve wildlife habitat
• Incorporating native grasses and legumes into the forage base
• Solar powered electric fencing
• Retrofitting water facilities for wildlife escape
• Monitoring to improve grazing management
• Management-intensive rotational grazing.
You can head over to your local NRCS office, or visit this website to learn more.
If your adjusted gross income is $900,000, control or own cropland, rangeland, pastureland and are an agricultural producer, then the Environmental Quality Incentives Program could be for you. EQIP contracts can run for up to 10 years, and provide financial assistance for planning and implementing conservation practices that protect and improve soil, water, plant, animal and air related resources. Fences for improved grazing management, forage plantings and harvesting management, water infrastructure, including well and spring development, stock tank construction, and wetland restoration and management are all examples of projects that could qualify for EQIP.
This is a competitive program and applications are ranked on cost-effectiveness of the proposed project compared to the conservation benefits of the project. To learn more about this program and what you need to do to apply, contact your local NRCS office.
This may not solve all your problems or cover all your projects. But we hope it helps you think creatively about how you might fund improvements on your place. And if you’ve got experience to share on any of these programs, do share in the comments below!