Apply For EQIP Funding

Farmers and forest landowners will want to plan ahead and sign up early for USDA conservation funding. Angela Biggs, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist in Wisconsin, announced farmers and forest landowners interested in Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) or Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) producer contracts need to apply by Nov. 19, 2021, for funding in fiscal year 2022. Farm assistant Aaron Zimmerman caught up with Melissa Bartz of NRCS for more details about the EQIP program.

Although NRCS accepts applications year-round, please apply NOW for fiscal year 2022 funding consideration. Applications are being taken at all USDA Service Centers offsite link image     in Wisconsin. Applications received after Nov. 19 will automatically be deferred to the next funding cycle.

EQIP and RCPP are the primary programs available to farmers and landowners for farm and woodland conservation work, offering payments for more than 120 basic conservation practices. Last year, Wisconsin NRCS invested $33 million in conservation practices through EQIP and RCPP practices.

“The Farm Bill allows NRCS to support conservation that ensures cost-effective financial assistance for improved soil health, water and air quality and other natural resources benefits,” said Biggs. “By getting EQIP or RCPP applications in early, NRCS staff will have time to assist in planning conservation practice needs.”

All eligible applications received by November 19, 2021, will be evaluated, prioritized and ranked for funding in 2022. Farmers may contact their local USDA Service Center to get started on producer eligibility and planning. Biggs reminds farmers who are interested in practices that may require permits, such as manure storage or streambank restoration, to begin planning and seeking permits as soon as possible. Applicants with shovel-ready projects (designs completed and permit applications submitted) will receive a higher ranking.

Sign up for several special initiatives focusing on conservation efforts.

Special sign-up opportunities are also now open for Farmstead, Local Work Group, On-Farm Energy, Organic, Climate Smart Agriculture & Forestry, and Source Water Protection, as well as several landscape-based initiatives. Special initiatives are also available for Beginning Farmer, Socially Disadvantaged and other historically underserved producers at increased payment rates. All offer technical and financial assistance through EQIP.

Farmstead: NRCS helps livestock producers improve nutrient handling and clean water separation by implementing practices supporting manure storage, feedlot and barnyard runoff and clean water diversion. This special opportunity also provides technical and financial assistance for roofs and covers placed over, for example, open cattle lots.

Local Work Group: Wisconsin has 17 Local Work Groups (LWG). Each LWG has a fund pool for cropland, forest and wildlife, and pasture. LWGs collect local stakeholder input and use the feedback to focus on their own local resource concern priorities for each fund pool, making each LWG fund pool unique and locally relevant.

On-Farm Energy: NRCS and producers develop Agricultural Energy Management Plans (AgEMP) or farm energy audits that assess energy consumption on an operation. Audit data is used to plan, develop and implement energy conservation recommendations.

Organic: NRCS helps certified organic growers and producers, working to achieve organic certification, install conservation practices to address resource concerns on organic operations.

Climate Smart Agriculture & Forestry: A sub-set of practices for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, sequestering carbon and ultimately mitigating the impacts of climate change. The benefits are two-fold: producers improve the health, productivity, resiliency and profitability of their operations while mitigating the impacts of climate change for our entire nation.

Working Lands for Wildlife – Monarch: Through Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW), USDA uses a win-win approach to systematically target conservation efforts to improve agricultural and forest productivity which enhance wildlife habitat on working landscapes. Target species are used as barometers for success because their habitat needs are representative of healthy, functioning ecosystems where conservation efforts benefit a much broader suite of species.

Source Water Protection: Source water refers to ground water aquifers, rivers or lakes that provide water to public drinking supplies. Areas in Wisconsin with high concentrations of public water systems experiencing elevated nitrate levels have been identified for eligibility. Specific practices identified as improving nitrate levels are eligible to receive 90% payment rate, such as Nutrient Management, Filter Strips, and Forage and Biomass Planting. To see which watersheds are eligible and practices that can receive the 90% payment rate, visit the Source Water Protection section of the Wisconsin NRCS website here.

Great Lakes Restoration Initiative: Through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), NRCS offers financial assistance to agricultural producers for implementing practices that improve water quality and benefit wildlife in selected watersheds. Eligible watersheds include Door-Kewaunee Rivers, Lower Fox River, Manitowoc-Sheboygan, Milwaukee River, Oconto River, Pestigo River, Pensaukee River, Upper Fox River, Wolf River and Lake Winnebago watersheds.

Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative:  The overall goals of the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI) are to improve water quality by minimizing contributions of phosphorus and nitrogen to the surface waters in the basin and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico. Within the larger Rush River watershed, five sub watersheds are eligible for MRBI funding: Town of Martell-Rush River, Goose Creek-Trimbelle River, Spring Creek-Trimbelle River, Little Trimbelle River and Crystal Springs Coulee-Rush River. 

National Water Quality Initiative: The National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI) is designed to help individual agricultural producers take actions to reduce the runoff of sediment, nutrients and pathogens into waterways where water quality is a critical concern. The goal is to implement conservation practices in focused watersheds in a concentrated area so that agriculture no longer contributes to the impairment of water bodies within these priority watersheds. Eligible watersheds include Bear Lake-Little Wolf River in Waupaca County, La Prairie Township & City of Beloit Lower Rock River East in Rock County and North Branch Little River in Oconto County.

Regional Conservation Partnership Program:  The Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) promotes coordination between NRCS and its partners to deliver conservation assistance to producers and landowners. NRCS provides assistance to producers through partnership agreements and through program contracts or easement agreements. Current active projects for water quality improvement are located within the Oconomowoc River, Baraboo River and Milwaukee River watersheds. RCPP funding is also available in the Driftless Area to improve fish and wildlife habitat, stream and riparian habitat, select counties in Northern Wisconsin to improve Golden-winged and Kirtland’s warblers’ habitats, and select areas of Southern Wisconsin to improve soil health and protect agriculturally productive farmland.

Landowners interested in applying for EQIP or RCPP funding should contact their local NRCS office at the USDA Service Center offsite link image for their county. For more information, visit