Putting The Farm Bill To Work
> Key Issues
issues have a significant impact on the ability of specialty crop
producers to participate in EQIP or other conservation programs
- Most specialty crop producers have had little contact with Farm
Bill conservation programs or the National Resources Conservation
Service (NRCS). As a result, growers are unfamiliar with NRCS procedures
or the possible benefits from participation in the conservation
programs. Similarly, NRCS staff in many parts of the country have
had limited contact with specialty crop producers and lack extensive
technical experience in pest management. Therefore, an essential
first step in improving access for specialty crop producers requires
increasing the level of awareness and knowledge of both specialty
crop producers and NRCS staff.
addition, the State Technical Committee and Local Working Groups
help set priorities for EQIP at the state and county levels, respectively.
Making contact with and participating in the deliberations of those
groups is an important part of increasing awareness and creating
the working relationships, at the state and local levels, necessary
to putting EQIP to work for specialty crop producers.
Applying for EQIP –
The process of applying for participation in EQIP can be somewhat
daunting for growers who have had little or no experience with NRCS
or with conservation programs. In addition to filling out
the appropriate forms, growers must identify the conservation practices
for which they want support. To aid in the application process
we have developed a guide to applying for EQIP. The one shown here
was developed for cherry growers in Michigan (Guide).
While the process varies from state to state (for example, some
states require that growers submit a conservation plan for their
farms as part of their application) this example gives a good idea
of the basic information growers need to get started.
of applications The ranking of proposals is an important
part of the EQIP application process. NRCS has significantly more
applications than it has money to spend. Under the new Farm Bill,
applications are to be ranked by the level of environmental benefits
they provide in meeting national priorities and resource concerns.
This has proved problematic for specialty crop producers in several
- The ranking
process essentially requires that, in order to successfully apply,
growers must address multiple resource concerns. This makes the
application process complicated for growers unfamiliar with the
program and leads to their applications not being funded if they
are not aware of the wider range of practices they might use.
- Since specialty
crops are relatively new to the conservation programs, more knowledge
is needed so that the full impacts of practices such as pest management
are better integrated into the ranking criteria. More fully accounting
for the effects of sound pest and nutrient management on air,
water, and wildlife resources will increase the ability of specialty
crop producers to participate in EQIP.
- To the
extent that states have gone to a standard statewide ranking sheet
and/or ranked all applications at the state rather than the county
level, specialty crop producers can find it difficult to rank
high enough to get their applications approved.
CAP and its
partners have been active in working with NRCS to ensure that the
ranking criteria fully account for the multiple benefits of specialty
crop conservation practices.
assistance – A cornerstone of conservation programs
has the planning process by which grower and NRCS assess the resource
needs for the farm and identify useful practices that can be adopted.
For specialty crop producers this has been particularly challenging
– most of them have not participated in USDA programs and
are very unlikely to have a conservation plan. Planning for diverse
cropping situations that are prevalent in specialty crops is more
complicated NRCS staff typically are not well-versed in the unique
conservation and production practices for specialty crops, particularly
the technical aspects of land management practices for specialty
time to work with producers has been limited due to the implementation
of multiple programs and the magnitude of work under the 2002 Farm
often need assistance in planning during the application process,
technical assistance support is not currently available through
the conservation programs.
means for providing technical assistance have been largely ineffective
for specialty crops. Putting the Farm Bill to work has developed
additional options by working directly with private consultants
and with local Cooperative Extension offices to provide the necessary
technical assistance. These avenues have proved to be quite successful
and could easily be expanded.
CAP has developed
a white Paper entitled Limited
Access that describes in greater detail the impacts
on grower participation and options for improving the opportunities
for specialty crop growers and other new to conservation programs.
and cost share rates In many states, incentive and cost
share are available only for scouting under the 595 pest management
standard. Other techniques, such as the use of biological controls,
mating disruption, and/or reduced risk pesticides, would create
significant environmental benefits. Only a handful of states provide
incentive payment rates for those mitigation techniques that would
provide significant resource improvements in specialty crop production.
among growers groups, University staff, and NRCS in state such as
Michigan and North Carolina has resulted in changes to the incentive
and cost share structure for pest management that improved the mitigation
of resource concerns in those states.