Between the Natural Resources and Conservation Service (NRCS), the Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) and the Farm Service Agency (FSA), there are federal and state monies to be had by local producers willing to do a little homework and  paperwork.
"The NRCS and Soil and Water Conservation District pulls together to improve grazing and land conservation practices, and see if there are programs that will help the producers,” Mark Green, District Conservationist for the Natural Resources and Conservation Program, said. In Mark’s office he noted two main programs that assist landowners most in southwest Missouri:  EQIP and WHIP.
Environmental Quality Incentives
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program has many areas for farmers to improve their land including cross fencing, water and seeding for grazing programs; woodland exclusion; timber stand improvement; developing a riparian buffer along streams and fencing off streams; animal waste systems and storage facilities and some cropland programs.
“The bottom line is protecting the resources, from soil erosion to water quality to plant health,” Green said, adding, “I’m convinced, especially from a grazing side, this is going to help the producer economically, too. The more we can get an animal to graze, the better. Our agency is here to help protect our resources, but you’ve gotta make a living, too, and that’s why the incentives are there to help the landowner protect the resources.”
Today’s cost share with EQIP is done with flat rates, as opposed to percentages. “I don’t have to guess how much a project will cost, because, in example, under EQIP, a producer will pay so much per foot for fence. That amount changes every year, but it is based loosely on about 60 percent of the cost,” Green said.
He also noted there are incentives for producers new to grazing systems. “If you keep records (grass heights) on your grazing for two years after installation, this year you’ll get $11.10/acre the first two years of grazing," Green added.
Wildlife Habitat Incentives
The Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program is strictly for wildlife habitat improvement. It has per acre incentives of programs like native grass stand developments. “Both programs (WHIP and EQIP) are continuous sign-up,” Green said. They review the applications once a year, usually in the fall. Each federal program has a score sheet and different projects have point values. The landowners with the best scores get first dibs on money allocated for the projects. Green encouraged producers and landowners to come in and see what program will work best for your land, and don’t be scared of the paperwork, he said the office handles most of the complicated paperwork.
Erosion Control
Eric Morris, Greene County Soil and Water Conservation District Technician, noted two programs through the SWCD he finds of value to farmers and landowners. “Our first job is conservation planning,” he noted, adding that he and Green work together closely to “plan first and find the money later.” Producers may find a better fit with SWCD programs than with NRCS programs.
The Erosion Control Practice program, DSL1, calculates soil loss on a field, and then will pay for up to 75 percent of cost to spray or disk the field and then plant it back to cool or warm seasons with or without legumes, to prevent wind and water erosion. These payments include cost to drill, lime, add phosphorus, potash, and it’s all on a field-by-field basis.
“In April the state changed the policy on how they pay for grazing systems (like the aforementioned program, called DSP3) and water development. They now pay $95/acre for water distribution, up to $85/acre for pipelines and tanks, and up to $60/acre on cross fencing. This is a significant change. Previously the program had a $90/acre limit for everything. And they also had a 150 acre limit. Now that’s been eliminated and whether a producer has 100 acres or 1,000 acres, they treat each acre with the same amount of money,” Morris said.
“In order to be eligible the first thing a producer needs to do is go to grazing school. Then they should come in to their local office and make an appointment to develop a conservation plan,” Morris said.
SALT Programs
There are “Special Area Land Treatment” programs, Morris noted, available in specific counties across the state. Morris noted that these projects mean extra money available for the landowner. Each producer must check with their specific county’s SWCD office to be privy to these localized SALT projects, Morris said.
FSA Offerings
Wyman Miller, County FSA Executive Director, discussed a few of the many offerings through the FSA.
Conservation Reserve
The Conservation Reserve Program offers two types of sign-ups:  a general sign up that has to have a special designation, which, Miller noted, hasn't happened in several years, and a continuous sign-up, which producers can apply for at any time. "The most popular practices in southwest Missouri  include riparian buffers and a wildlife buffer," he said. There are cost share incentives, sign-up incentives, practice incentive payments, an additional 20 percent incentive and maintenance payments for establishing these buffers, but the payment varies by county, he noted.
Emergency Conservation
The Emergency Conservation Program has been available when a natural disaster strikes, such as a floods, tornados, drought or in recent years, ice storms. “Producers receive cost-share funds to ‘restore damaged farmland to pre-disaster conditions,’” Miller said. This includes removing debris from fences, but would not include repairing damaged barns and buildings. Drought can also be covered in the ECP – in example, to provide water through new wells.
Livestock Indemnity
Another program that can also be triggered through drought or natural disasters is the Livestock Indemnity Program. “If a producer loses livestock as a result of a natural disaster and the producer can document the cause, there can be funding to cover losses. The new Farm Bill also says that losses must be above the normal mortality rate,” Miller said. He added, the “normal mortality rate” number has yet to be determined. It will be a national rate, and Miller said they’re looking at about five percent.
Beginning Farmer and Rancher Loans
The FSA can offer “direct and guaranteed loans” to farmers or ranchers just starting out who have had trouble getting loans from commercial sources. There are some restrictions such as the individual can’t have operated a farm or ranch for more than 10 years, and they must substantially participate in the operation.
There are many programs available to farmers through all three government agencies, and a little research into these offerings can go a long way. “There are taxpayer dollars there to help with conservation, and to help the producer,” Mark Green concluded.


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