EQIP Provides Financial Assistance for Sustainability
MANHATTAN, Kan. – Recent inventories of an estimated 289,577 acres of windbreaks in Kansas suggest that 44 percent of those windbreaks are in fair-to-poor condition and in need of renovation.
“Windbreaks and woodlands provide a variety of benefits both environmental and economical,” said Robert Atchison, rural forestry coordinator for the Kansas Forest Service. “If properly cared for, they can provide soil conservation, increase crop yields, keep snow off our roads during the winter, help beef producers during calving seasons and reduce feed costs for livestock during cold or stormy weather.”
Windbreaks also can help reduce home energy costs and provide habitat for wildlife. In addition to environmental benefits such as air and water quality, woodlands in Kansas have a significant product value, Atchison said.
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) for Forestland Heath is a voluntary conservation program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to help care for and establish woodlands and windbreaks in areas where they are needed. The cost-share program provides incentives in the form of financial and technical assistance to help participants plan, install or implement conservation practices on eligible land.
Agricultural producers, individuals or entities engaged in livestock, agricultural production or forestry management are eligible to apply for EQIP. The program is designed to help address natural resource concerns, such as old windbreaks with gaps or dead trees and shrubs, stream bank erosion where tree planting can reduce soil loss and woodlands that are crowded and need thinning.
Landowners who qualify for EQIP will enter into a contract with the USDA and NRCS based upon the projects they want to accomplish. The length of an EQIP contract may be from one to 10 years, with most contracts running for two or three years.
“If you don’t manage your woodlands and windbreaks, you won’t get the economical value as well as all of the environmental benefits out of it,” Atchison said. “So it’s not the top thing on our landowners’ list of things to do and that’s a challenge for us. As a state forestry agency we’re trying to give landowners the tools to make it happen.”
The program is both competitive and selective. Landowners submit applications for EQIP that are ranked based on criteria developed by NRCS. The criteria include overall cost-effectiveness, how effectively the project addresses the designed resource concerns, how best the application would fulfill the EQIP purposes and whether the EQIP participant would improve conservation practices or systems already in place.
The deadline to apply for EQIP projects for 2014 is Nov. 15, 2013. However, landowners interested in forestry projects through EQIP should begin the process as soon as possible for the following reasons:
- Kansas Forest Service district foresters must meet with EQIP applicants at the proposed project site to determine if the project qualifies. If it does, district foresters must prepare a plan to implement the project at no cost to the applicant.
- Kansas Forest Service district foresters provide one-on-one service through a variety of programs across large multiple-county districts. Waiting to apply could mean landowners may not receive adequate services in time to apply for EQIP by Nov. 15.
Interested landowners should contact their local NRCS office, located in USDA Service Centers and their local Kansas Forest Service district forester. Locations and contact information for USDA Service Centers may be found online. For more information on the Kansas Forest Service, to locate district foresters and for an EQIP brochure, go to Rural Forestry Program Services.
Landowners also are welcome to call the Kansas Forest Service State Office at 785-532-3300 for more information.
K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K-State campus, Manhattan.
Story by: Kaitlin Morganknmorgan@ksu.edu K-State Research & Extension News
Robert Atchison - firstname.lastname@example.org - 785-532-3310