Community Agriculture Alliance: Farm Bill programs for landowners
May 21, 2010
Steamboat Springs — The signing of the 2008 Farm Bill brought about some new programs, as well as tweaks to old ones. All landowners, big or small, should be aware of these programs and the opportunities that they can provide. There are so many different programs available to help landowners with their operation or improve their natural resources that programs actually can be tailored for their needs as opposed to vice versa.
The most popular program is still the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which covers everything from grazing management plans to head gate replacement. The only thing the program doesn't cover is maintenance, and one of the most common request for assistance is the cleaning out of irrigation ditches or ponds that have silted in. This is a maintenance activity that landowners should be performing as needed.
Landowners can sign up for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program at any time, though it is recommended that they do so before the first snowfall so that their property can be visited and an inventory conducted.
Funds for the EQIP program are about a year out, meaning that landowners who sign up this year should have funds for their project next year. Funds for the program are distributed on a watershed basis, so landowners are competing with fellow landowners in Jackson, Moffat and Rio Blanco counties for project funds. See the http://www.co.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/eqip/eqip.html website for additional information.
One of the new programs in the 2008 Farm Bill is the Conservation Stewardship Program, which awards or provides points to landowners for current stewardship while also encouraging them to consider a higher level. The payment cap per operator for this program is $200,000 for the life of the Farm Bill. The maximum payment landowners can receive is $40,000 in the fall of each year for five years. This is a great program that provides additional income with minimal effort on the landowner's part.
The Conservation Stewardship Program provides points for all land uses — irrigated hay to forest. All ground that the landowner operates must be enrolled in the program. There is a significant amount of paperwork and communication needed to participate in the program. We try our best to make the process less painful for landowners, but there's no doubt we will know each other very well by the time it's done.
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The batch cutoff date for this program is June 11. Don't wait until the last minute to sign up. There's a producer self checklist available in the NRCS office or online that landowners should look at to see if the program is right for you http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/new_csp/special_pdfs/CSP_Producer_Self-Screening_Checklist.pdf.
There are many other programs and opportunities available for on-the-ground practices, as well as easements that property owners should check out, too. For questions or assistance, call 879-3225.