Helping to Pay the Bill

02-15-2016 in Green Farmstead Partner

In addition to information resources and onsite consultation, the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers’ Green Farmstead Partner program offers cost-share benefits. By working through anyone of the 22 registered nursery professionals across the state, a $250 cost-share is available for purchase of plants and professional services.

Trees Forever also provides cost-share benefits through its Working Watersheds – Buffers and Beyond program, and windbreaks often qualify for government programs.

Both the Environmental Quality Assistance Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) through the Natural Resources Conservation Service provide financial assistance.

Funding is also available through the Division of Soil Conservation and Water Quality Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) program. Each of the state’s 100 Soil and Water Conservation Districts is allocated $5,000-$10,000 annually and windbreaks are eligible projects. Funds are dispensed through two methods, according to Larry Beeler, Assistant State Conservationist for Programs. In some districts, a cost share of approximately 75 percent with a maximum of $1,500 is available. Other districts pay according to the cost per tree or shrub. All totaled, 70 Soil and Water Conservation Districts provided funding for 370 projects last year, utilizing $351,000 of REAP funds. Contact your local Soil and Water Conservation District for details.

The NRCS EQIP program provides financial assistance to producers who address priority resource concerns. Windbreaks and shelterbelt establishment falls under that definition. Financial assistance can be available for plants, labor, equipment, and supporting materials. Funds for mulch and site preparation are available under a separate program. There are separate payment schedules for single row or three row windbreaks.

There is competition for funds. The annual allocation by Congress for the program is $17 million, and Beeler says the NRCS currently has a $50 million backlog. He suggests having a conservation plan that addresses multiple environmental issues to increase ranking of the application: “Look at the impact of all locations, and the offsite impact of the planned project.” Soil erosion control and water quality are EQIP priorities, with many projects funded at 50 percent of cost.

CSP funds come with the same eligibility requirements as EQIP and work to reward producers for existing stewardship as well as encourage new practices. Windbreak renovation or enhancing a hedgerow for wildlife habitat qualify, as do timber stand improvements. Adding a windbreak planting to an existing application can improve chances of funding. As with EQIP, competition is fierce, with only about one-third of applications funded.

“Combining practices can strengthen your application,” says Beeler, “and help strengthen the livestock industry in Iowa.”

Beeler says it can be a challenge to get Iowa farmers interested in planting trees. “They often don’t want to give up that valuable farmland.” But, he adds, it is worth it in odor control and neighbor relations. “Planting a windbreak can reduce the threat of opposition and even legal action, and that saves everybody money and stress. That can be worth the small land and financial sacrifice.”

He adds the challenges of developing a windbreak can be reduced by making it part of your construction plan. “Work with CSIF to include it from the beginning,” says Beeler. “It will make you a good neighbor, provide good odor control, and provide a good environment for all to live in – at a minimal cost.”

Contact your local NRCS office for further program details or the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers (800-932-2436) for more information on the Green Farmstead Partner program.

The Green Farmstead Partner programs is a joint effort of CSIF, Trees Forever, and the Iowa Nursery and Landscape Association.

By Terri Queck-Matzie for CSIF

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