USDA/NRCS

U.S. Department of Agriculture/ Natural Resources Conservation Service

The mission of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is to provide leadership in a partnership effort to help people conserve, improve, and sustain our natural resources and environment. The NRCS office is located at the USDA Service Center on the corner of M-33 and M-68 in Onaway. NRCS works with the local landowners to help develop conservation plans, and works through several government funded programs to implement any needed changes. Some of the programs that are active in Alpena County are as follows:

Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP):

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program provides technical, educational, and financial assistance to eligible farmers and ranchers to address soil, water, and related natural resource concerns on their lands in an environmentally beneficial and cost-effective manner. The program provides assistance to farmers and ranchers in complying with Federal, State, and tribal environmental laws, and encourages environmental enhancement. The program is funded through the Commodity Credit Corporation. The purposes of the program are achieved through the implementation of a conservation plan which includes structural, vegetative, and land management practices on eligible land. One to ten-year contracts are made with eligible producers. Cost-share payments may be made to implement one or more eligible structural or vegetative practices, such as animal waste management facilities, terraces, filter strips, tree planting, and permanent wildlife habitat. Incentive payments can be made to implement one or more land management practices, such as nutrient management, pest management, and grazing land management. Fifty percent of the funding available for the program will be targeted at natural resource concerns relating to livestock production. The program is carried-out primarily in priority areas that may be watersheds, regions, or multi-state areas, and for significant statewide natural resource concerns that are outside of geographic priority areas.

Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP):

The Wetlands Reserve Program is a voluntary program offering landowners the opportunity to protect, restore, and enhance wetlands on their property. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides technical and financial support to help landowners with their wetland restoration efforts. The NRCS goal is to achieve the greatest wetland functions and values, along with optimum wildlife habitat, on every acre enrolled in the program. This program offers landowners an opportunity to establish long-term conservation and wildlife practices and protection beyond that which can be obtained through any other USDA program.

Conservation Reserve Program (CRP):

The Conservation Reserve Program reduces soil erosion, protects the Nation’s ability to produce food and fiber, reduces sedimentation in streams and lakes, improves water quality, establishes wildlife habitat, and enhances forest and wetland resources. It encourages farmers to convert highly erodible cropland or other environmentally sensitive acreage to vegetative cover, such as tame or native grasses, wildlife plantings, trees, filterstrips, or riparian buffers. Farmers receive an annual rental payment for the term of the multi-year contract. Cost sharing is provided to establish the vegetative cover practices.

Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP):

The Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program provides financial incentives to develop habitat for fish and wildlife on private lands. Participants agree to implement a wildlife habitat development plan and USDA agrees to provide cost-share assistance for the initial implementation of wildlife habitat development practices. USDA and program participants enter into a cost-share agreement for wildlife habitat development. This agreement generally lasts a minimum of 10 years from the date that the contract is signed.

Grassland Reserve Program (GRP):

Applications for the Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) are now available at local USDA Service Centers. The GRP is a voluntary program provided through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Farm Service Agency (FSA) to help protect valuable grasslands threatened by development, or from conversion to more intense cropping. Producers eligible for GRP may enroll a minimum of 40 contiguous acres of eligible grassland in 10, 15, 20, or 30 year rental agreements. Thirty-year or permanent easements for lands that contain existing declining habitat such as native prairie, savanna, barren and/or fen that will be restored or managed to its natural condition are also available. Michigan received $575,000 in funds for GRP this year. Application selection will take place in August, 2004. Eligible applications will remain on file until additional funding becomes available once 2004 funding has been exhausted. The GRP is the first USDA program to help landowners with long-term protection of open grasslands. GRP allows grazing according to a prescribed grazing plan and limited haying. Well-managed grasslands can result in cleaner, healthier streams, and reduced sediment loads to water bodies. These lands provide livestock forage as well as provide forage and habitat for wildlife. They also add to the beauty of the landscape, provide scenic vistas and open space, provide for recreational activities and protect the soil from water and wind erosion.

For more information about any of these programs, contact Perry Smeltzer at (989) 733-8323 ext.3

On the world wide web, look for more information about the new FARM BILL and other USDA programs at the following links:

Farm Bill 2002: www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/farmbill/2002/index.html

USDA/NRCS for Michigan: www.mi.nrcs.usda.gov