Oct 15, 2021
How to secure USDA funds to establish pollinator habitat on your land

Do you wish to establish a pollinator habitat on your owned or leased land? If you are a landowner, farmer, homesteader, beekeeper, or if you have interest in agricultural or forestry operations on your land, you may qualify for a special program to help cover some of the costs of a conservation or pollinator planting.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural and forestry producers to voluntarily establish environmental best practices on their land. This federal program was established 80 years ago when Congress recognized that soil depletion and wastage of water resources was a “menace to the national welfare,” according to the NRCS website. The program has evolved to help producers address a range of natural resource concerns such as improving water and air quality, conservation of ground and surface water, increasing soil health and reducing soil erosion and sedimentation, improving or creating wildlife habitat, and mitigating against drought.

Of the different environmental management programs administered through the NRCS, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) assists producers with pollinator habitat restoration.  Technical assistants work with applicants to write a conservation plan specific to their land and production needs. If funded, the plan becomes a contract between the producer and the NRCS.

Once the management practices are implemented, an NRCS service provider inspects the improvement and the landowner is reimbursed per the agreed amount indicated on the contract. In other words, the applicant must initially pay for the conservation planting and then is partially reimbursed for their efforts. Per the NRCS website, historically underserved applicants may apply to receive advance payments to help cover the initial costs of the conservation practice.

Homesteaders and landowners can take advantage of this grant opportunity, but they will need to register their land as a farm with the USDA. This simple process provides the applicant with a farm number which is then used to apply for the NRCS EQIP grant.

The steps for applying for the NRCS EQIP Program include:

  1. Registering your land with your county USDA Farm Service Agency.
  2. Applying for EQIP through your county USDA NRCS Office.
  3. Working with a local NRCS conservation planner to write a conservation plan, if you and your land are deemed eligible.
  4. Submitting your plan as an application to the NRCS. If your application is awarded funding, the NRCS will offer you a contract to implement the conservation practices. The contract will state the amount of funds to be paid and the due date for each practice.

The EQIP program is competitive, and funding is not guaranteed. Applications are ranked based on location and type of practice(s). Michigan State University Extension helps agricultural producers and land managers, including beekeepers, navigate the program. Contact your county MSU Extension office to learn more. You can also visit NRCS EQIP Application site to start the application process.

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