2014 EQIP Conservation Plan opportunities

Enrollment is currently underway for the NRCS EQIP Organic Initiative (OI).  Organic producers who are interested in cost-share assistance for implementing conservation practices to enhance environmental and natural resource quality on their farms should contact their local NRCS (Natural Resource Conservation Service) office to submit an application. Although applications are accepted at any time throughout the year, they are only reviewed during specific application or “batching” periods (dates represent deadlines).

The announced application reception periods for 2014 in South Carolina is December 20, 2014. An announcement on additional application reception periods is expected soon. However, it is worth noting that the application period for the EQIP-OI ended in mid-January in 2013.

Application reception periods for 2014 in North Carolina are November 15, 2013, January 17, 2014, March 21, 2014 and May 16, 2014.

Importantly, NRCS did not spend all of the available pool of money for the EQIP-OI Program in 2013 in both SC and NC. Producers who apply and qualify for EQIP-OI are likely to have their applications approved and funded.

Practices such as the establishment of soil-building rotations, establishment of field borders and buffers, beneficial and wildlife habitat, organic nutrient management, cover cropping, seasonal high tunnel, mulching, hedgerow establishment, wells and irrigation infrastructure are just a few are among the many conservation practices that NRCS will fund.  Practices can be implemented on both certified and transitioning organic farms. Many if not most of these practices address natural resource issues relevant to the National Organic Program requirements for organic farm planning, management and certification.

In addition to individual conservation practices, the EQIP OI will provide funding for the development of Conservation Activity Plans. These are plans that address “whole systems” planning on transitioning and organic farms; for example, “Transition to Organic” (CAP 138), “Nutrient Management” (CAP 104) and “Pollinator Habitat Enhancement” (CAP 146). Information about these plans can be found at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detailfull/national/programs/financial/eqip/?cid=stelprdb1041991.

In 2014 the CFSA Farm Services Coordinator, Keith Baldwin, will be developing CAP 138, 104 and 146 plans in South Carolina, and CAP 138 plans in North Carolina. He is a certified Technical Service Provider for CAP 138 development and will soon be certified for CAP 104 and 146 in South Carolina. Cost share for approved CAPs from the EQIP-OI are shared between CFSA and the producer.

Transitioning to organic producers in both states may want to apply for the CAP 138. The purpose of CAP 138 is to identify conservation practices needed to address site-specific natural resource needs experienced during the transition process. After completion of a CAP plan, producers can then apply for financial assistance to implement the needed conservation practices that are identified in the final plan.

The CAP process includes a discussion of the farmer’s objectives, a farm resource inventory, identification of resource concerns, selection of best options for addressing resource concerns and an analysis of impacts of options on resource (e.g. soil and water) quality. Deliverables to producers include digital soils and farm maps and a farm conservation activity plan. Plans will outline practices that address concerns identified by the producer as well as serve as the basis for the organic farm plans required by NOP (soil management, rotational plan, buffer requirements, IPM, etc.).

If you would be interested in finding out more about the NRCS EQIP- (Environmental Quality Incentives Program) OI and the process for submitting applications for EQIP-OI conservation practices or CAPs, contact Keith Baldwin at CFSA. Information is also available at the CFSA website at http://www.carolinafarmstewards.org/conservation-and-environmental-planning/.

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