Published Sep 15, 2020

Derecho relief funding available: Farmers can now apply for EQIP cost-share for cover crops and damaged structures

By Maddie Mueller and Jorgen Rose

The USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) recently announced funding for agricultural producers whose crops or conservation practices were damaged by the August 10 derecho. NRCS has made $4 million in cost share available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). This money will go towards eligible farmers in 42 counties across Iowa (see map below). NRCS will be accepting applications for the EQIP Derecho Special Signup now through October 2, 2020. The agency hopes to obligate funds as soon as possible following the application deadline.

Derecho map

Counties eligible for the EQIP Derecho Special Signup are shown in red

Eligible practices that producers can sign up for include:

  • Seeding cover crops (340) on impacted fields
  • Replacing roofs and covers (367) or roof runoff structures (558) previously funded through NRCS
  • Replacing damaged high tunnel systems (325) previously funded by NRCS

All producers will receive higher than normal payment rates for the above practices during this special signup. Socially disadvantaged, beginning and limited resource farmers, Native American tribes and veterans are eligible to receive even higher payment rates.

Producers within one of the eligible counties do not need to have verified storm damage to apply, although please note that structural practices may only fund the repair or replacement of previously funded structures. There are no caps for producers or practices associated with this special sign-up—money will be disbursed to producers based on application rankings until the total pot is expended. Based on potential environmental impacts, applications for roofs and covers (367) and roof runoff structures (558) will rank higher, followed by cover crops (340) and finally high tunnel systems (325). Windspeed maps will also be used to rank eligible applications; applications for practices in areas with higher recorded windspeeds will be prioritized. All practice standard requirements, including seeding dates, apply at this time.

In some circumstances, NRCS is granting early start waivers to producers. Early start waivers allow producers to begin practices before contracts are finalized and still receive payment. This might be especially useful for producers interested in planting cover crops on derecho-damaged fields in order to meet current seeding deadlines. Producers interested in early start waivers should contact their local NRCS offices as soon as possible. Some key points to consider:

  • Producers cannot have started the practice prior to receiving the early start waiver
  • All practices must comply with the standards and terms of the eventual contract
  • Early start waivers do not guarantee contracts

In order to be eligible to receive funding, applicants must control or own eligible land, comply with adjusted gross income limitation (AGI) provisions, be in compliance with the highly erodible land and wetland conservation requirements and develop an NCRS EQIP plan of operations.

The clock is ticking—interested producers should call their local NRCS offices today to determine their eligibility and start their applications. Applications are due by October 2nd, 2020.