NRCS Announces EQIP Deadline

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced Friday, March 20, 2020, as the deadline to submit applications for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). This is a voluntary conservation program which helps producers make conservation work for them. Through EQIP, NRCS provides agricultural producers with financial resources and one-on-one help to plan and implement improvements, or conservation practices.

Financial assistance is now available in a variety of agricultural categories such as cropland, forestry, pasture operations, and organic. Several projects are also available which address water quality, forestry management, improving pollinator populations and wildlife habitat, pasture improvements and many more.

To participate in USDA conservation programs, applicants should be farmers or farm or forest landowners and must meet eligibility criteria. Applications signed and submitted to NRCS by March 20 deadline will be evaluated for fiscal year 2020 funding.

Contact John Williams for additional information and to sign up at 513-877-3720.

NRCS Announces Disaster Recovery Relief for Ohio Farmers

COLUMBUS, June 28, 2019 – Extreme weather conditions like the recent excessive rains and tornadoes have negatively impacted Ohio farmers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service will invest $4 million to help Ohio agricultural producers recover. Technical and financial assistance is now available to producers who were unable to plant their crops, or who have experienced crop loss due to flooded or wet fields. This sign-up is an opportunity for farmers to plant a cover crop.

“NRCS can be a valuable partner to help Ohio landowners with their agricultural recovery effort,” said State Conservationist Terry Cosby for NRCS in Ohio. “This special sign-up encourages farmers to plant cover crops to improve water quality and soil health, prevent soil erosion, and suppress weeds on areas not planted to crops.”

NRCS will utilize the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) for this special disaster recovery sign-up. EQIP is a voluntary conservation program that helps agricultural producers protect the environment while promoting agricultural production.

Cover crops provide an alternative to fields going fallow and remaining uncovered. Cover crops also improve soil vitality by adding nutrients and organic matter. Many fields that are saturated for a long period of time face a loss of soil organisms. Cover crop roots reestablish soil health and create pathways for air and water to move through the soil, which is key to restoring it.
There are significant changes with cover crops and we want producers to be successful in their 2020 planting year. Educational cover crop workshops and field days are readily available throughout Ohio to learn more. Additional information is also available on the NRCS website and farmers.gov/prevented-planting.

Landowners should coordinate with other USDA farm agencies when participating in related programs. It is a producer’s responsibility to work directly with their insurance agent and RMA to ensure they understand their policy.

To apply for this special EQIP opportunity, farmers in Clermont County should contact either Lori Lenhart, NRCS District Conservationist, or Jenna Swanson, NRCS Soil Scientist at (513) 732-2181 ext. 3. Applications will be accepted beginning July 1, 2019 until funding is exhausted.

US EPA Model Helps SWCD Focus Conservation Efforts

Predicted sediment loads for different areas in the Grassy Run watershed

Since 2008, Clermont SWCD and other members of the East Fork Watershed Cooperative have been working together to reduce nutrient and sediment levels in the East Fork Little Miami River and Harsha Lake. One Cooperative member – US EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD) – has developed a water quality model that is making it easier for SWCD to focus our conservation efforts.

Using data collected by various members of the Cooperative, US EPA-ORD has developed and calibrated a Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model for the East Fork watershed. The SWAT model has been effective in predicting sediment and nutrient loads from different land uses, and also in predicting the impact that various management scenarios might have on reducing pollutant loads. Already, this model has helped Clermont SWCD with several projects.

In 2011, Clermont SWCD received a Conservation Innovation Grant that provided funds for a concentrated planting of cover crops in the Grassy Run Watershed. US EPA-ORD applied the SWAT model to help identify areas within the watershed which are prone to high soil erosion, and therefore good candidates for winter cover crops. Once these locations were known, SWCD staff and the NRCS District Conservationist were able to work with producers to secure commitments to plant cover crops in these fields for a period of three years.

More recently, Clermont SWCD received a Resource Conservation Partnership Program grant for additional conservation practices in the Harsha Lake watershed. For each application received, US EPA-ORD uses the SWAT model to predict nutrient loadings from that field. The fields with the highest loadings receive additional points in the ranking process, and receive additional consideration for funding assistance. In this way, SWCD and NRCS are able to use limited grant funds in areas where they are most needed.

Through its partnership with US EPA-ORD, Clermont SWCD hopes to continue to use the SWAT model as part of future programs so that we may focus conservation efforts where they are most needed.