ASHLAND — Ashland County farmers will have until Friday, Jan. 15 to apply for conservation cost-share funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Ohio’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
EQIP is a voluntary conservation program which helps producers make conservation work for them. NRCS provides agricultural producers with financial resources and one-on-one help to plan and implement improvements, or what NRCS calls conservation practices. Using these practices can lead to cleaner water and air, healthier soil and better wildlife habitat, all while improving agricultural operations.
“EQIP programs are a great opportunity for Ashland County farmers to get help paying for conservation practices that not only make a difference in the operation and sustainability of their farming operations, but these practices make a difference in the water quality for each of us in Ashland County, as well as everyone down stream,” said Erica White, Ashland Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) technician and Jerome Fork Watershed Coordinator.
Through EQIP, farmers can voluntarily implement conservation practices, and NRCS helps share the cost of that implementation. Together, NRCS and producers invest in solutions that conserve natural resources for the future while also improving agricultural operations.
“What happens on Ashland County farms not only affects our water quality here in Ashland County, but it affects what water quality looks like in Lake Erie and well as the Gulf of Mexico,” White said.
Ashland County is uniquely situated at the headwaters of both of these watersheds, and conservation practices implemented here can have far-reaching affects.
Financial assistance is now available in a variety of agricultural categories such as cropland, pasture operations, and organic. Several special projects are also available which address water quality, forestry management, improving pollinator populations and wildlife habitat, pasture improvements and many more.
“This is a great opportunity for our farmers to apply for cost share to implement a variety of conservation practices, from fencing projects for rational grazing to pollinator habitat establishment,” White said. “There are practices available that fit every farm and every conservation interest level.”
Applicants should be farmers, or farm or forest landowners and meet eligibility criteria. To apply, producers should contact Rocemi Morales or Jason Ruhl in the Ashland NRCS office at 419-289-2421 as soon as possible. Due to elevated COVID-19 numbers in the county, the the Ashland NRCS office is currently restricting all appointments to phone only.
Applications signed and submitted to NRCS by the Jan. 15 deadline will be evaluated for fiscal year 2021 funding. Visit Ohio NRCS website under “EQIP Funding Categories” for more details. To learn more about EQIP or other technical and financial assistance available through NRCS conservation programs, visit Get Started with NRCS or contact your local USDA Service Center.
Ashland SWCD program staff are also available to assist producers in navigating the EQIP application process. White can be reached at 419-281-7645 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.