Get those EQIP applications in

Wisconsin State Conservationist Jimmy Bramblett, of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), says farmers interested in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) need to apply by October 3rd for funding in 2015.  Applications are being taken at all USDA Service Centers in Wisconsin.

EQIP is the primary program available to farmers for farm and woodland conservation work, offering payments for over 90 basic conservation practices.  Last year, Wisconsin received about $25 million in funds for EQIP.

All eligible applications received by October 3rd will be evaluated and ranked for funding in 2015. Bramblett reminds farmers who are interested in practices that may require permits, such as manure storage or streambank restoration, to begin planning and seeking permits as soon as possible.  Applicants with shovel-ready projects (with designs completed and permits obtained) will receive higher priority.  Contact your NRCS office for details and assistance.

Iowa Farm Bureau showcases conservation

Jaqqueline Comito demonstrates the Conservation Station's rainfall simulator at the Iowa State Fair.

Jaqqueline Comito demonstrates the Conservation Station’s rainfall simulator at the Iowa State Fair.

Iowa Farm Bureau has been showcasing how “Conservation Counts” at the 2014 Iowa State Fair.

One of the featured exhibits at Farm Bureau Park is the Conservation Station, where fair goers can see the effects of rainfall on various soil covers and surfaces.  Helping coordinate that display is Jacqueline Comito, program manager for Iowa Learning Farms and director of the “Water Rocks!” program.

AUDIO: Jacqueline Comito (4:56 MP3)

Linking hunters with landowners

EbertBase Camp Leasing works to connect hunters with landowners who would like to make a little money allowing people to hunt their land.  Steve Ebert says they take care of everything for the landowner including liability insurance and resolving any issues.  They work on a commission so there is no charge to the land owner.  Ebert says the landowner can choose the type of hunting they will allow on their land be it all legal wildlife or perhaps just archery-deer hunting.  The lease price and the number of people allowed to hunt a property is determined by the landowner although Ebert will advise the owner on those decisions.

 

Ebert talks about the program 12:54 mp3

Focus on Energy can help with those decisions

SchadrieThe strong milk prices have prompted a lot of improvements and expansions in the dairy industry.  Nicole Schadrie with Focus on Energy encourages producers to get her agency involved.  The right choices in lighting, compressors, plate coolers and other equipment can make a big difference in the cost of operation for years to come.  She points to lighting as an example of the numerous choices out there from LED to fluorescents.

Focus on Energy also launched a new program this summer to help replace small gas-fired grain dryers with more efficient units.

 

Schadrie talks about the program 5:33 mp3

Comparing cover crops

DoolittleThere is an ever-increasing interest in the use of cover crops in today’s agriculture.  The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has an extensive display of the various cover crops that are being used.  Betsy Doolittle with NRCS says they have stands that are 30-days old and stands that are 60 days to give growers an idea as to what the crops can do.  They are also demonstrating some of the mixes being used.

 

Doolittle talks about the plot 2:30 mp3

Vilsack says voluntary conservation programs are working

There’s been considerable debate as to whether farming conservation practices should remain voluntary or be made mandatory.  But Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack believes voluntary programs are working and that farmers are embracing new conservation practices.

Conference_LOGO“We’ve recently done a series of assessments in the Upper Mississippi River Basin and in the Chesapeake Bay area, specifically, that show and indicate that voluntary conservation is reducing nitrogen and phosphorous intake into our rivers and streams and reducing the rate of soil erosion,” Vilsack says.

Vilsack spoke via phone to an Ames, Iowa conference on the sustainability and resilience of corn-based cropping systems.  He says, going forward, farmers will need to adapt to highly variable and unpredictable weather and long term changing climate conditions.

“On the one hand we’re likely going to see longer growing seasons, which could potentially give rise to increased crop productivity,” says Vilsack. “But on the other hand, we’re also likely going to experience more extreme weather events and additional and more significant pest and disease risks, all of which could substantially reduce crop production.”

The Resilient Agriculture Conference in Ames has drawn farmers, crop advisers and scientists from all across the U.S.  It’s sponsored by the USDA’s Sustainable Corn Project and the 25x’25 Alliance.

AUDIO: Excerpts from Vilsack’s conference call (16:52 MP3)

EWG finds ‘modest progress’ in Iowa’s erosion control efforts

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) says “modest progress” is being made in tackling soil erosion in Iowa.  But the group says erosion rates are still “intolerable”.

EWG compared soil conditions on 18 fields in 2013 and again in 2014.  The group says overall erosion this year did not appear to be as severe as last year, but attributes some of that to the fact that central Iowa dodged the worst storms that hit the state this spring.  The group found that several growers have taken new steps to prevent the formation of ephemeral gullies and lessen soil loss, which it calls “an encouraging development”.  But in other places, EWG says, “essential” conservation practices were still missing on highly erodible land.

Nutrient loss reduction top priority for conservation group

Nutrient loss reduction is of great concern to the Association of Illinois Soil & Water Conservation Districts. Richard Nichols, Executive Director says it is the group’s top priority.

“We’ve been hearing a lot about it and I do believe it is going to come to the forefront very soon. The state of Illinois has spent the last year developing a strategy plan to present to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Once that is done and it has been accepted, then we will begin a voluntary approach to try to reduce our nutrient loss by about 45%.”

Nichols tells Brownfield it will be a major task and success in nutrient loss reduction will take cooperation from farmers, industry and all involved.

During the AISWCD 66th Annual Meeting held earlier this week in Springfield, Nichols said there are many great members who are dedicated and he expects the association to be around another 66 years.

“Soil and water conservation is a life-long endeavor and we will continue to work at trying to preserve the resources that we have to maximize their beneficial effects, to take care of them and keep them for the next generation and beyond,” said Nichols.

During the meeting, attendees participated in a variety of sessions on subjects such as soil health, cover crops and technical training for district employees.

One of the highlights was the 2014 Conservation Farm Family of the Year Awards presentation. Doll’s Dairy from Bond County, representing Land Use Council 9 received the Governor’s Award and will represent AISWCD on Agriculture Day at the Illinois State Fair.

Wisconsin expands AEA acreage

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection will create four new Agricultural Enterprise Areas or AEAs and expand an existing one on January 1st, 2015.  The new areas cover more than 191,000 acres in Clark, Columbia, Marathon, Monroe and Outagamie Counties.  It will bring the total amount of land under AEAs in the state to 940,000 acres in 22 counties.

The new areas are:

  • Friends in Agriculture AEA, Clark County: 17,158 acres the towns of Fremont and Lynn.  36 petitioners hope to create the state’s largest contiguous block of working lands by linking with other AEAs.
  • Greenville Greenbelt AEA, Outagamie County: 1,444 acres in the town of Greenville.  Nine petitioners seek to preserve existing farmland for agriculture by supporting policies to increase development densities in the urban portion of their town.
  • The Headwaters of Southeast Monroe County AEA, Monroe County: 86,380 acres in the towns of Clifton, Glendale, Willington and Wilton.  99 petitioners aim to foster a conservation movement to protect resources, build support for policies that protect productive ag land, and minimize land use conflicts.
  • West Point AEA, Columbia County: 17,158 acres in the Town of West Point.  21 petitioners seek to protect soil and water quality and wildlife, slowing fragmentation of ag lands, preserving multi-generation farms, encouraging ag diversity, modernizing farm operations to remain competitive, and provide farm-related education.
  • Heart of America’s Dairyland AEA, Clark and Marathon counties: expands an existing AEA by about 70,000 acres, bringing the covered area to about 234,500 acres. With 125 new petitioners, newly added towns are Weston and York in Clark County and Bern, McMillan and Eau Pleine in Marathon County.  The largest AEA in Wisconsin seeks to preserve the region’s agricultural heritage.

 

AEAs are part of Wisconsin’s farmland preservation program, designed to encourage preservation of agricultural land use and to promote agricultural economic development. Local landowners, in partnership with local governments, must seek the designation.

Farmers owning land within an AEA can receive tax credits in exchange for signing an agreement to keep their land in agricultural use for at least 15 years.  Landowners in AEAs are not subject to any new land use regulations.  In turn, the designation provides some certainty for farmers and agribusinesses that their area will remain in agriculture, so they can be confident about investing in their businesses.

Wisconsin quarantines seven more EAB counties

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection is adding seven new southwestern counties to the state’s emerald ash borer quarantine list.  EAB has been found in Columbia, Monroe and Grant Counties.  Because they are now surrounded by EAB-infested counties, Richland, Iowa, Lafayette and Green Counties will also be quarantined.

The quarantine will be put in place temporarily by a Wisconsin emergency rule, until the U.S. Department of Agriculture completes the process to enact a federal quarantine.

DATCP recommends that property owners who have ash trees in quarantine counties keep a close watch for possible signs of EAB infestation:

  • Thinning canopy, D-shaped holes in the bark, cracked bark, branches sprouting low on the trunk, and woodpeckers pulling at bark.
  • Consider preventive treatments if your property is within 15 miles of a known infestation.
  • Consider planting different species of trees that are not susceptible to EAB.
  • Call a professional arborist, and visit emeraldashborer.wi.gov for detailed information.