February 26, 2014
New EQIP Initiative
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) this week announced the availability of $3 million to protect vulnerable pollinators through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). These targeted funds will support conservation practices that both foster environmental benefits and provide habitat and forage for pollinating species. Farmer applications for this special EQIP initiative are due March 21, 2014.
The funds will be available to farmers and ranchers located in the Midwest states of Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin for both technical and financial assistance to improve the health of honey bees, one of our most critical pollinators. The Midwest was chosen because it serves as the summer resting ground for roughly 65 percent of the commercially raised honey bees in the U.S.
Honey bees are solely responsible for pollinating many of the fruits and vegetables that are mainstays in the American food supply and, according to USDA, collectively support approximately $15 billion worth of agricultural production.
CSP Pollinator Enhancement Options
Though not referenced in the USDA EQIP announcement, the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) already provides financial and technical assistance on a nationwide basis — including but not limited to the five newly targeted EQIP states — for farmers and ranchers whose operations benefit pollinators.
The CSP rewards farmers specifically for conservation activities that establish pollinator habitat as part of field borders, vegetative barriers, contour buffer strips, grassed waterways, shelterbelts, hedgerows, windbreaks, conservation cover, and riparian forest and herbaceous buffers. The special CSP pollinator habitat enhancement is available on all types of agricultural land – cropland, pastureland, rangeland, and forestland.
In addition to the specific CSP enhancement option for pollinator habitat, other CSP enhancement options that would aid pollinators while also improving soil health and creating additional environmental benefits include intensive cover cropping, grazing management to improve habitat, extending the size of field borders and conservation buffers, native prairie restoration, multispecies native perennial plantings, hedgerow restoration, and advanced integrated pest management.
Through renewable, five-year contracts, CSP enrolls producers that demonstrate advanced conservation across their operations. Farmers and ranchers agree to maintain existing and adopt new conservation practices that address priority resource concerns, and they receive annual payments for the environmental benefits they produce. By packaging a variety of enhancements, farmers and ranchers can maximize conservation benefits and deal with issues like pollinator health in a comprehensive and long-term manner.
A list of all CSP enhancement options and their environmental benefits scores is available from NSAC.
For more information on both EQIP and CSP, visit the NRCS website.
Categories: Conservation, Energy & Environment