Over the past year, there have been many articles that have discussed practices to improve pasture productivity, and those that have a positive influence on the environment.
Implementing these practices costs money, but there is a government program that can help local producers with the cost of developing a grazing system. The program is the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
It is administered by the local USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service office.
Grazing systems. The program is a competitive cost-share program that can help producers plan and implement a grazing system. The program is competitive, in that counties are given a pool of funds to implement conservation practices.
Farmers must fill out an application, which will be scored based on the practices each applicant plans to implement, and the pool of program funds are then assigned until the county’s appropriated funds are exhausted.
Contact your local USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service office to obtain information on how to apply in your area.
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program may cost-share on items such as water systems development and fencing, both of which are essential to a grazing system. In addition, winter feeding areas or heavy-use pads and manure holding structures may also receive cost-share.
Costs. It is important to remember that this is a cost-share program and farmers will incur expenses. Be sure to carefully plan your costs as a producer; you don’t want to sign up for more practices than you can financially implement.
The Natural Resource Conservation Service has standards on practices; your idea of an exclusion fence may not be the same as their requirements. Check on the practice standards before you sign up.
This will help you, as the producer, better estimate your financial commitment to the program.
Plan. As part of the incentives program, you will be required to develop a grazing plan. In the grazing schools offered in southeastern Ohio, we assist producers through this process as part of the three-day school.
Ohio grazing schools also teach producers how to implement many of the grazing cost-share practices covered under Environmental Quality Incentives Program.
Producers attending these schools receive extra points on their applications.
To find out more on the program or the availability of grazing schools in your area, call your local Extension office, Natural Resource Conservation Service or soil and water conservation district office.
(The author is an OSU Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator in Guernsey County. Questions or comments can be sent in care of Farm and Dairy, P.O. Box 38, Salem OH 44460.)