NRCS conservation program expediting rankings, funding contracts


COLUMBUS – Ohio producers interested in the popular Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Inflation Reduction Act – Environmental Quality Incentives Program – (IRA-EQIP) funding can take advantage of the ACT NOW process, which immediately approves and obligates applications when the application meets or exceeds a state-determined minimum ranking score. Applicants will experience a targeted, rapid streamlined application and contract approval process.

“This process allows us to fund promising projects immediately, rather than waiting for all applications to come in for the fiscal year,” said Ohio State Conservationist John Wilson. “I urge producers and landowners to take advantage of this flexibility.”

EQIP and IRA-EQIP provide financial and technical resources to producers and landowners to improve their operations, commodity production and environmental benefits. Financial assistance is now available through the following categories:

General: Conservation opportunities exist in cropland, forestry, pasture operations, seasonal high tunnels, socially disadvantaged producers, conservation activity plans, on-farm energy, and organic/those transitioning to organic. Producers transitioning to organic self-certify that they agree to develop and work toward implementing an Organic Systems Plan (OSP), as required by the USDA National Organic Program (NOP). Special projects are also available to address water quality, forestry management, improving pollinator populations and wildlife habitat, pasture improvements, and more. USDA is an Equal Opportunity Provider, Employer, and Lender IRA-EQIP: Designed to help farmers and private landowners apply conservation measures that focus on carbon sequestration, greenhouse gas emissions, energy efficiency and soil health.

The program focuses strongly on conservation planning, conservation implementation, and solving natural resource concerns related to climate change. Categories include cropland, forestry, grazing, historically underserved and on-farm energy.

Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW): Create habitat to improve and protect wildlife habitat on working landscapes. NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to plan and implement conservation practices that benefit target species and priority landscapes. Conservation practices such as upland wildlife habitat management, conservation cover and brush management will create, restore, maintain, or enhance wildlife habitat.

Urban Agriculture: As American agriculture continues to grow in new directions, NRCS conservation assistance is growing along with it. Urban agriculture provides jobs, improves access to fresh food, and offers environmental benefits. Ohio NRCS is focused on supporting urban farmers in their efforts to achieve local, healthy, sustainable food for their communities. This year, funding will be available statewide, with additional separate funding for Cleveland and Cincinnati.

Northern Bobwhite in Grasslands Priority Area: NRCS has designated a priority area in Ohio focused on improving and creating northern bobwhite quail habitat. Edge habitat and woody escape cover, both essential during winter, are critical factors in quail survival. Selected townships on the priority area map have been identified by the Ohio Division of Wildlife as the areas of highest concern for Ohio’s bobwhite quail range.

Western Lake Erie Basin (WLEB) Special Project: The WLEB Special Project targets funding to obtain the greatest environmental benefits in two ways. Applications with the most effective systems of conservation practices to address water quality concerns will be given a higher priority. Applications with land located within the WLEB that contain soils with a high risk for leaching or surface run-off, land with high soil test phosphorus levels, and land with direct drainage to tributaries within the Basin will receive priority.

Oak Management Special Project: Woodland owners in the oak management priority forest area of Adams, Athens, Gallia, Hocking, Jackson, Lawrence, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Muskingum, Noble, Perry, Pike, Ross, Scioto, Vinton and Washington counties can receive both technical assistance from professional foresters and financial assistance to implement conservation practices to improve the health of oak-dominated woodlands.

Mississippi River Basin Initiative: This funding opportunity for Ohio producers in the Loramie Creek Watershed promotes the use of key conservation practices, such as nutrient management, cover crops, animal waste storage structures, and tillage management. The impact of these practices reduces nutrient loading in local water bodies and the Gulf of Mexico. National Water Quality Initiative: This funding opportunity in three East Fork Little Miami River Basin watersheds promotes conservation practices to improve soil health, reduce erosion, and lessen nutrient runoff, such as cover crops, reduced tillage, and nutrient management; waste management systems that treat agricultural waste and livestock manure; and wetland restoration that increases wildlife habitat, mitigates flooding, and improves water quality.

Historically underserved producers are eligible for advance payments for all EQIP practices. This option provides historically underserved producers with funding up-front, for at least 50% of the payment rate for each practice. Historically underserved producers include producers who are beginning, socially disadvantaged, veteran, or limited resource.

Learn more about EQIP and EQIP-IRA as well as other program information on the Ohio NRCS EQIP website. To find out about other technical and financial assistance available through NRCS conservation programs, visit Get Started with NRCS or contact your local USDA Service Center.

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