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Incentives program applications due Oct. 2
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MADISON - Farmers interested in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program need to apply by Oct. 2 for funding in 2016, announced the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

EQIP is the primary program available to farmers for farm and woodland conservation work, offering payments for more than 90 basic conservation practices. Last year, Wisconsin received about $23 million in funds for EQIP practices.

All eligible applications received by Oct. 2 will be evaluated and ranked for funding in 2016. Farmers may contact their local USDA Service Center to get started on producer eligibility and planning.

Farmers who are interested in practices that may require permits, such as manure storage or streambank restoration, should begin planning and seeking permits as soon as possible. Applicants with shovel-ready projects (designs completed and permits obtained) will receive higher priority.

Special sign-up opportunities are also now open for On-Farm Energy, Organic, and Seasonal High Tunnel conservation practices, as well as a number of landscape-based initiatives. All offer technical and financial assistance through EQIP.

On-Farm Energy: NRCS and producers develop Agricultural Energy Management Plans or farm energy audits that assess energy consumption on an operation. Audit data is used to develop energy conservation recommendations. The landscape AgEMP assesses equipment and farming processes. The farm headquarters AgEMP assesses power usage and efficiency in livestock buildings, grain handling operations and similar facilities to support the farm operation.

Organic: NRCS helps certified organic growers and producers, working to achieve organic certification, install conservation practices to address resource concerns on organic operations.

Seasonal High Tunnel (Hoop House): NRCS helps producers plan and implement high tunnels - steel-framed, polyethylene-covered structures that extend growing seasons in an environmentally safe manner. High tunnel benefits include better plant and soil quality, fewer nutrients and pesticides in the environment, and better air quality due to fewer vehicles being needed to transport crops. Supporting conservation practices such as grassed waterways and diversions are available to address resource concerns on operations with Seasonal High Tunnel structures.

Honey Bee: The upper Midwest is the resting ground for more than 65 percent of commercially managed honey bees in the country. The NRCS is helping farmers and landowners implement conservation practices that will provide safe and diverse food sources for honey bees. Pasture management, wildlife habitat and appropriate cover crops are used as tools to improve the health of our honey bees, which support more than $15 billion worth of agricultural production.

Landowners interested in applying for EQIP funding should contact their local NRCS office at the USDA Service Center in their county. Contact the Green County USDA Service Center, 2841 6th St., Monroe, at 608-325-4195, or the Lafayette County USDA Service Center, 1900 Ervin Johnson Drive, Darlington, at 608-776-3836. For more information, visit