There are many programs available through the state and federal governments that can assist private landowners with natural resource conservation on their land. The following are brief descriptions of the programs managed by USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Additional resource information for landusers can be found on the NRCS web site at www.nrcs.usda.gov, or the FSA web site at www.fsa.usda.gov. To get more information about these programs, contact Jenny Vogel, NRCS District Conservationist, at 812-346-3411 X3, or the FSA office at 812-346-3411 X2.
Conservation Reserve Program
The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) offers long term rental payments and cost-share assistance to establish permanent vegetative cover on cropland that is highly erodible or contributing to a serious water quality problem. Through approved contract bids to convert eligible land to permanent cover, farm owners or operators receive annual rental payments at a rate not to exceed prevailing local rental rate per acre of comparable land. Acreage offered for enrollment is evaluated for environmental benefits and contract costs to determine which offers are accepted into the program. The acreage most likely to be accepted is generally land that provides the highest environmental benefits for the lowest cost. Rental payments may be provided up to 15 years for hardwood trees, wildlife corridors, windbreaks, or shelterbelts; however most payments are for 10 years.The "continuous" sign-up CRP offers a noncompetitive enrollment of the most environmentally sensitive areas, and provides for annual rental payments and cost-share for establishing practices such as filter strips along streams, grassed waterways, riparian buffers, wetland restorat ion, field windbreaks, etc.
Environmental Quality Incentives Program
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) was established in the 1996 Farm Bill, and has been reauthorized in the Farm Bill of 2008. It is a voluntary conservation program that promotes agricultural production and environmental quality as compatible national goals. Through EQIP, farmers and ranchers may receive financial and technical help to install or implement structural and management conservation practices. Producers engaged in livestock or crop production on eligible land may apply for the program. Eligible land includes cropland, rangeland, pastureland, forestland, private non-industrial land, and other farm or ranch lands as determined by the Secretary of Agriculture.
Changes in EQIP under the 2008 Farm bill include:
Wetlands Reserve Program
The Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) is a voluntary program to restore wetlands. Landowners who choose to participate in WRP may sell a conservation easement or enter into a cost-share restoration agreement with USDA to restore and protect wetlands. The landowner voluntarily limits future use of the land, yet retains private ownership. The program offers landowners three options: permanent easements, 30 year easements, and restoration cost-share agreements of a minimum 10 year duration. To be eligible, the landowner must have owned the land for one year, and the land must be restorable and be suitable for wildlife benefits. The minimum easement area is 15 acres.
Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program
The Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) is a voluntary program for people who want to develop and inprove wildlife habitat primarily on private lands. It provides technical assistance and up to 75 percent cost-share payments to help establish and improve fish and wildlife habitat through implementaion of proctices such as establishement of conservation cover, tree/shrub plantings; riparian forest buffer establishment; livestock exclusion and others.
One of the most important tools used in carrying out the conservation programs of the Natural Resources Conservation Service is the Field Office technical Guide (FOTG). The FOTG is an integral part of conservation planning. The guide contains the latest conservation treatment technology and helps the staff identify resource problems, evaluate the effects of conservation treatments, compare alternatives, and select the best options to meet conservation needs and objectives.
The FOTG is continuously updated to incorporate new technology and experience. Although the FOTG was developed mainly for NRCS use, it is a public document that is available to those persons who are interested in applying effective conservation measures. The "e" (electronic) FOTG may be viewed on the NRCS web site at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/technical/eFOTG/.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, or marital or family status. (Not prohibited bases apply to all programs.) Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication of program information (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should contact USDA's TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 (voice and TTD).
To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, Room 326 W, Whitten Building, 1400 Independence Avenue, Sw, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (202) 720-5964 (voice and TTD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.