Published Oct 13, 2015

Use EQIP to Improve your CSP Application

By Steve Carlson

This past year in Iowa saw record interest in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), with applications far exceeding the funding available. By the March 2015 application cutoff date there were 1,583 applicants, leaving over 600 of them unfunded. That’s actually good news for Iowa’s natural resources, because this competitive program rewards the farmers implementing practices with the greatest conservation impact.

Need some conservation inspiration? Our blog is full of examples showing the conservation practices our members have implemented, such as this write-up about Frederick Martens’ field day showcasing how he reduces the nitrates leaving his farm and provides habitat for pollinators and wildlife at the same time.  Also look to our research reports for data that may support your decision to employ a conservation practice. This recent study shows that winter cereal rye as a cover crop had no negative effect on corn or soybean yields in 36 out of 40 trials.

Unfunded applications will automatically be considered at the next CSP batching date, but there are options for farmers who want to improve their application’s competitiveness today (or for farmers who want to submit their first application). Because applications for the 5-year program are ranked according to conservation measures the farmer has already implemented—as well as the new measures they agree to add—anyone can increase their competitiveness by implementing conservation practices before the next batching date. Funding from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) can be a great resource to help with these voluntary practices.

What practices are available? Each of Iowa’s 100 conservation districts sets their own local resource concerns to help prioritize funding. Visit Iowa’s NRCS webpage to find your county’s list of resource concerns. Below your county’s list of resource concerns you’ll find a downloadable PDF that lists the practices that address those resource concerns.

As an example, Polk County identified the following resource concerns to be addressed by EQIP:

  • Water Quality Degradation – Excess Nutrients in Surface Water
  • Soil Erosion – Sheet and Rill; Ephemeral Gully; Classic Gully; and Streambank
  • Livestock Production Limitation – Inadequate Stock Water
  • Livestock Production Limitation – Inadequate Feed and Forage
  • Degraded Plant Condition – Undesirable Plant Productivity and Health
  • Soil Quality Degradation – Organic Matter Depletion
Attendees at Mike DeCook's 2015 Field Day walk the prairie. Prairies and prairie strips can offer multiple conservation benefits.

Attendees at Mike DeCook’s 2015 Field Day walk the prairie. Prairies and prairie strips can offer multiple conservation benefits.

Polk County also developed a list of recommended conservation practices that address these concerns, found as a PDF (“EQIP Practice List”) on the Polk County EQIP webpage. For instance, NRCS Practice Code 747, Denitrifying Bioreactor, is listed as one of the practices to address the Water Quality Degradation resource concern. NRCS Practice Code 340, Cover Crop, addresses three different resource concerns: Soil Erosion, Soil Quality Degradation – Organic Matter Depletion, and Livestock Production Limitation – Inadequate Feed and Forage.

Applications for EQIP are accepted year-round, but the two ranking dates set for Iowa are October 16, 2015 and March 18, 2016. To apply, complete this application form—the same form used for both EQIP and CSP funding—and visit your local NRCS field office.

Look for a PFI “farminar” coming early 2016 that will walk through changes to CSP that will be implemented next year.