Monday, September 27, 2010

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service - Palo Alto County EQIP

Palo Alto County  - Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)


The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is a voluntary conservation program of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) that promotes agricultural production and environmental quality. This program is available to farmers and offers financial and technical assistance to install or implement structural and management practices on eligible agricultural land.

The following are Palo Alto County resource concerns to be addressed by EQIP:
  • Soil Condition-Organic Matter Depletion, Animal Waste and Other Organics (N, P, K)
  • Soil Erosion-Sheet and Rill
  • Soil Erosion-Ephemeral Gully
  • Soil Erosion-Classic Gully
  • Water Quality-Excessive Nutrients and Organics in Groundwater
  • Water Quality-Excessive Nutrients and Organics in Surface Water
  • Water Quality- Excessive Suspended Sediment and Turbidity in Surface Water
  • Water Quality Harmful Levels of Pathogens in Surface Water
  • Water Quantity – Inefficient Water Use on Irrigated Land, Drifted Snow
  • Plant Condition – Productivity, Health, and Vigor, Forage Quality and Palatability
  • Domestic Animals – Inadequate Quantities and Quality of Feed and Forage, Inadequate Stock Water, Inadequate Shelter
  • Fish & Wildlife – Inadequate Cover/Shelter, Inadequate food, T & E species
  • Air Quality – Adverse Air Temperature, PM 2.5, Objectionable Odors.    
These resource concerns address the following National EQIP priorities:  
  1. Reduction of non-point source pollution, such as nutrients, sediment, pesticides, or excess salinity in impaired watersheds consistent with Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs), where available, as well as the reduction of groundwater contamination and the conservation of ground and surface water resources.
  2. Reduction in soil erosion and sedimentation from unacceptable high levels on agricultural land.
The goal of the locally led group was to recommend a ranking system that rewarded and gave priority to those producers that address the above resource concerns. Further, the local work group prioritized one item-natural lake watersheds. Applications located within the watersheds of all natural lakes in Palo Alto County including Five Island Lake, Silver Lake, Rush Lake, Virgin Lake and Lost Island Lake will rank with priority points. The ranking will be completed for the specific practices to be applied through the EQIP contract. Sign-up is continuous at the NRCS field office. Application ranking will be done periodically as funding allocations become available, will be announced through the NRCS State Office, and will be publicized by all levels of NRCS. The NRCS may establish local, minimum ranking cut-off levels for funding selection.

The local work group also recommended a list of conservation practices that are the most cost-effective, longest duration and address these priority resource concerns in the district. Based on agency directive, nutrient management standard 590 will be offered using the concept of management intensity which offers a larger payment for more environmental performance. 

Agency maximums have been incorporated for payments associated with Residue and Tillage Management Standard 329 (No-Till/Strip-Till) and Nutrient Management 590. The payment is limited to no more than 3 years of payments. For grazing contracts, no more than $50,000 in payment will be permitted. All individual practices are limited to a $75,000 cap. Also based on statewide guidance, Historically Underserved Producers will receive a higher payment of EQIP funding on specified practices. Conservation practices applied with EQIP funds are to be maintained for the service life of the practice, which may be longer than the term of the EQIP contract.

For more information on EQIP and other NRCS administrated programs contact the Palo Alto County USDA Service Center located at 3302 West Main Street (Highway 18), Emmetsburg, IA  50536. Phone (712) 852-3386, Ext. 3; Fax (712) 852-4906.

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