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Conservation Corner

Seeking Proposals for Mississippi River Basin

Fri, December 17, 2010

Proposals due January 28, 2011


WASHINGTON, Dec. 17, 2010 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture is seeking proposals for new conservation projects that support comprehensive efforts already underway to improve the water quality and overall health of the Mississippi River from North-Central Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico.


“The Mississippi River is one of America’s most valuable water resources,” Vilsack said. “Through the cumulative actions of conservation-minded farmers, we can continue to provide our nation with the food, fiber and fuel we rely on, while at the same time ensuring cleaner waters than we’ve seen in decades.”


As part of its Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative, USDA is providing up to $40 million in financial assistance for new partnership projects in 43 priority watersheds in 13 states. USDA will use a competitive process to distribute the available funding through existing conservation programs such as the Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative and the Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program.


USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service administers this initiative, first announced in 2009. At that time the following 12 states participated—Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and Wisconsin. This fiscal year USDA is adding South Dakota to the list of participating states in response to a recent comprehensive cropland study assessing conservation effects in the Upper Mississippi Basin, which includes South Dakota and several states listed above. The USDA study showed that much progress has been made in reducing excessive sediment losses on cropland acres in eight states; however additional treatment is needed on cropland acres in all the states.


Through approved projects, eligible farmers and landowners will voluntarily implement conservation practices that avoid, control and trap nutrient runoff; improve wildlife habitat; restore wetlands; and maintain agricultural productivity.


Key conservation practices include nutrient management, conservation crop rotations and residue and tillage management. Farmers and landowners can also restore wetlands and plant trees along streams to filter nutrients out of water draining off the farm. On a voluntary basis, participants can use financial assistance to install edge-of-field monitoring systems in specific locations within the selected watersheds. This monitoring will allow NRCS to assess environmental outcomes of the project.


USDA published its Request for Proposals (RFP) in the Federal Register recently, and project proposals are due on or before Jan. 28, 2011. The RFP explains the procedures for potential partners to sign agreements with USDA for projects that support the initiative’s objectives.


Federally recognized Indian tribes, state and local units of governments, farmer cooperatives, producer associations, institutions of higher education and other nongovernmental organizations can download the RFP at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2010-11-29/html/2010-29958.htm .


The RFP contains a list of the eligible watersheds as well as information about where project proposals should be submitted.


USDA also is seeking applications for Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG), with priority given to new projects in the Mississippi River Basin. Pre-proposal applications must be submitted by close of business Dec. 28, 2010. The CIG program funds the best new ideas for achieving environmental goals on agricultural lands.


In addition to the new projects, Vilsack also announced funding for existing projects in this initiative on Nov. 29, 2010. Forty-three million in financial assistance from conservation programs will be used to support more than 70 existing projects in the 12 states.


For more information about the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative, including the RFP and the eligible watersheds, as well as the CIG requirements, visit

http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/mrbi/mrbi_overview.html .

NRCS celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2010 and the federal commitment to conserve natural resources on private and Tribal lands. Originally established by Congress in 1935 as the Soil Conservation Service (SCS), NRCS has expanded to become a conservation leader for all natural resources, ensuring private lands are conserved, restored, and more resilient to environmental challenges.


USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 (voice) or (202-720-6382 (TDD).

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CSP Applications Due Jan 7th.

Thu, December 16, 2010

NRCS is taking applications nationally for the next round of the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) through January 7, 2011. This deadline is coming up soon with the holidays looming.

We all are thinking of what we want for Christmas if we have been good this year.  For those good conservation stewards of our land CSP is a financial reward for having practiced conservation over the years.  In addition to being willing to agree to implement some new enhancements to their farming operation you get a annual payment from this program.  We just completed the first annual payments for CSP in Tazewell County and these guys were leaving our offices smiling for the financial rewards for what they are doing under CSP. 


NRCS encourages farmers in Illinois to apply for the CSP, which promotes conservation activities on the land. CSP is a voluntary Farm Bill program designed to maintain existing conservation measures and establish more conservation choices on Illinois operations as well. 


Even thought the holidays are coming up, I strongly encourage farmers to apply or at least call our field offices and set up an appointment to discuss CSP with their local District Conservationist.

A self-screening checklist for CSP is available at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/new_csp/csp.html to learn more about the program and determine if they qualify.

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Conservation programs applications ongoing now

Thu, December 16, 2010

Sign up Underway for 2011 Farm Bill Programs

Illinois farmers and forest landowners can now apply for assistance to protect their most valuable asset while building their bottom line with 2011 Farm Bill conservation programs administered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).


Interested landowners can apply now for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP). While applications are accepted continuously throughout the year, landowners are encouraged to apply now so their applications can be considered during the the next ranking period which ends January 7, 2011.  All future cutoff dates are planned every three weeks from this date.


“In federal fiscal year 2010, NRCS funded hundreds of conservation projects and obligated more than $12 million in EQIP contracts alone,” says Bill Gradle, State Conservationist.  In Tazewell County NRCS developed 13 contracts to put conservation solutions on the ground. This year, we plan to exceed that numbers.  We are on our way with 28 applications in the works currently.

The primary Illinois funding pool groups for 2011 EQIP include comprehensive nutrient management plans (CNMPs), Forest Management Implementation, grazing land and confined livestock operations, and organic operations. New areas emphasized within EQIP this year are Conservation Activity Plans (CAPs) for Drainage Water Management systems, Irrigation Water Management plans, and Nutrient Management plans.


Payments are available for a wide variety of conservation practices. Higher payment rates are offered for beginning, socially disadvantaged and limited resource farmers. Statewide applications for the 2011 Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) are also accepted until January 7, 2011.


New incentives and opportunities are also available under the new Mississippi River Basin Initiative, the Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG), and the Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI). These options are especially valuable for engaging other partners in order to address unique or pressing local resource problems or concerns.


Landowners who want to develop and improve wildlife habitat on their land can apply for funding through WHIP to restore grassland habitat or riparian areas. For assistance with any soil, water, or wildlife habitat objectives on the farm, call or visit the local USDA service center in to schedule a time to sign up and begin the conservation planning process. General program information is available for review on the NRCS Illinois website at www.il.nrcs.usda.gov.

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