USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Montana has set an Aug. 30, 2019, application cutoff for agricultural operators to be considered for the next conservation program funding cycle through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.
NRCS provides funding and technical assistance to help farmers and ranchers implement conservation practices that provide environmental benefits to help sustain agricultural operations. Conservation program participation is voluntary and helps landowners and operators defray the costs of installing conservation practices.
Conservation funding is available for the following initiatives:
Capital 360 Forestry Project: This partnership project will improve forest health by integrating resource management across all administrative boundaries through reduction treatment projects strategically placed across Broadwater, Jefferson, Lewis and Clark, and Powell counties.
High Tunnel Systems: These systems extend the growing seasons for high value crops in an environmentally safe manner. High tunnel benefits include better plant and soil quality and fewer nutrients and pesticides in the environment.
Honey Bee Pollinators: Combats future honey bee declines by implementing conservation practices that provide forage for honey bees while enhancing habitat for other pollinators and wildlife.
National On-Farm Energy Initiative: Agricultural producers work with an NRCS-approved technical service provider to develop agricultural energy management plans or farm energy audits that assess energy consumption on an operation. NRCS may also provide assistance to implement recommended measures identified in the energy audit through the use of conservation practice standards.
National Organic Initiative (NOI): Producers currently certified as organic, transitioning to organic, or National Organic Program exempt will have access to a broad set of conservation practices to assist in treating their resource concerns while fulfilling many of the requirements in an Organic System Plan.
National Water Quality Initiative: Producers implement conservation systems to reduce nitrogen, phosphorous, sediment and pathogen contributions from agricultural land in the Lower Gallatin Watershed (Camp and Godfrey Creeks).
Sage Grouse Initiative: Landowners can work with NRCS on three different components to improve sage-grouse habitat. One is a general category to implement prescribed grazing management practices. The others are to seed cropland back to perennial species to improve the connectivity for sage-grouse that depend on large, intact landscapes and the removal of conifers to increase nest success rates.
Wildfire Adapted Missoula: A partnership project that addresses shared wildfire risk by mitigating current wildfire hazards surrounding the Missoula community via prescribed fire and thinning maintenance.
Montana Focused Conservation — 2019 Targeted Implementation Plans:
Big Horn County – Ventenata Invasive Grass Control
Control the spread of Ventenata in Big Horn County through proper rangeland management and chemical control methods to improve rangeland health.
Big Horn and Yellowstone Counties – Irrigation Improvement Project
Convert less efficient irrigation systems to subsurface drip irrigation to increase irrigation efficiency, improve soil health and reduce soil compaction.
Broadwater County – Elkhorn Cooperative Management Area Range Health and Conifer Encroachment Treatment
Remove conifers to restore plant productivity and health, improve forest health, reestablish proper hydrologic function and reduce wildfire risk.
Lewis and Clark County – Hazardous Fuels Reduction
Manage unhealthy forest conditions to reduce fuel hazards, improve rangeland health by removing encroaching conifers, prevent runoff of sediment and heavy metals post fire, and control the spread of noxious weeds and undesirable plant species.
Lake County – Miller Coulee Water Quantity Improvement Project
Improve water quantity by reducing off-field movement of irrigation water in the Miller Coulee project area.
Lincoln County – Edna-Fortine Creek Forest Resiliency Project
Implement forest management practices to reduce hazardous fuels around homes and structures within the wildland urban interface, improve resiliency to insects and diseases, increase wildfire preparedness, and improve overall forest health.
Stillwater County – Pasture Monoculture Diversification Project
Diversify a monoculture, tame pastures to a diverse mix of introduced and native plants to improve available forage, expand grazing options, and increase grazing animal carrying capacity.
EQIP offers financial and technical assistance to eligible participants to install or implement structural and management practices on eligible agricultural land. In Montana, socially disadvantaged, limited resource, and beginning farmers and ranchers will receive a higher payment rate for eligible conservation practices applied.
NRCS accepts conservation program applications year-round; however, applications for the next funding consideration must be submitted by Aug. 30, 2019. Applications made after the cutoff will be considered in the next funding cycle. Additional information is available on the Montana NRCS website at www.mt.nrcs.usda.gov under the Programs tab or by contacting a local NRCS service center.