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Time for farmers to sign up for incentives program
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MADISON - Jimmy Bramblett, Wisconsin USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service state conservationist, announced that farmers interested in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program need to apply by Sept. 2 for funding in 2017. Applications are being taken at all USDA Service Centers in Wisconsin.

EQIP is the primary program available to farmers for farm and woodland conservation work, offering payments for more than 110 basic conservation practices. Last year, Wisconsin received about $21 million in funds for EQIP practices.

All eligible applications received by Sept. 2 will be evaluated and ranked for funding in 2017. Farmers may contact local USDA Service Centers to get started on producer eligibility and planning. Farmers 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.

Other special sign-up opportunities also are 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.

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.

National Water Quality Initiative: NWQI is designed to help individual agricultural producers take actions to reduce the runoff of sediment, nutrients and pathogens into waterways where water quality is a critical concern. The goal is to implement conservation practices in focused watersheds in a concentrated area so that agriculture no longer contributes to the impairment of water bodies within these priority watersheds. Eligible watersheds include Big Green Lake in Green Lake County, Spring Creek in Green County, Wilson Creek in Dunn and St. Croix.

Monarch Butterfly Habitat Development Project: This project is an effort to boost monarch populations through the Southern Plains and Upper Midwest. Through EQIP, NRCS Wisconsin will assist the effort by working with partners and clients to increase monarch habitat on private lands. Southern and western Wisconsin are priority areas of the project.

Regional Conservation Partnership Program: The RCPP promotes coordination between NRCS and its partners to deliver conservation assistance to producers and landowners. NRCS provides assistance to producers through partnership agreements and through program contracts or easement agreements. Current active projects for water quality improvement are located within the Oconomowoc River watershed, the Baraboo River Watershed, and the Yahara River watershed as well as a project to improve golden-winged warbler habitat in 20 northern Wisconsin counties.

Green County landowners interested in applying for EQIP funding should contact the local NRCS office at the USDA Service Center, 1627 4th Ave. West, Monroe, WI 53566 or call 608-325-4195. For more information, visit