To USDA State Technical Committee and Other Interested Persons:
The new federal fiscal year starts in four months!! As you might imagine, Kentucky NRCS staff is already making plans for FY 2021 program updates and changes. With COVID-19 limiting our ability to meet together, it is our hope that you will consider this method of interacting as a continuation of our usual collaboration on NRCS programs and priorities. We welcome and value your input on any or all of the following:
- Practices: Are there practices or activities beneficial to Kentucky farmers that aren’t currently offered under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) or Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)?
- Payments: Have you heard any comments regarding practice payment rates received by program participants that are too low or too high? Are there practices for which we should offer an increased payment rate in order to address certain priority resource concerns?
- Priorities: In addition to locally-led-identified focused conservation projects and Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) projects, we have national and state EQIP priorities where applications compete against like-applications (and sometimes in certain geographical areas.) The FY 2020 list is shown below (not in any particular order). Are there specific priorities or resource concerns/focuses that we are not addressing/focusing on or any you wish we wouldn’t consider a priority?
- High Tunnel Systems
- Organic (Certified and Transitioning)
- Manure Management
- Irrigation Water Management
- Conservation Activity Plans (plans written by certified technical service providers (TSPs))
- Historically Underserved (a separate category each for beginning farmers, limited resource producers and socially disadvantaged producers)
- Southeast Kentucky Early Successional Habitat Initiative
- NWQI & MRBI: In FY 2021, selected watersheds will undergo a planning and assessment year for FY 2022 financial assistance under the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI) and Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI). Your input regarding watershed selection was solicited for this via email on May 7, 2020. Responses were requested by May 22, however if you would still like to provide input, please send that to Tim Hafner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- NRCS Source Water Protection Priority Areas: We have been given the opportunity to refine the NRCS SWPPAs which were identified with your input last year (map is attached for your information.) For FY 2020, EQIP applicants in these areas received extra ranking points. There is also an opportunity to provide a higher payment rate for certain practices that address water quality/quantity in these areas. Are there other areas that should be considered for NRCS SWPPAs? Should any of the existing ones be enlarged or removed? Are there practices that should be given consideration for a higher payment rate?
In addition to your input on the above issues, we would like your feedback on a few specific items that we are considering for FY 2021 or 2022:
- Through EQIP, we plan to offer a roofed animal feeding facility in FY 2021. Our intent is to address the surface and subsurface water quality concerns that can arise from feeding livestock over winter. This would require a comprehensive nutrient management plan prior to approval. The facility would consist of several practices including waste storage facility, heavy use area, roofs and covers, roof runoff, and other related components. While we currently offer these individual practices, we haven’t provided EQIP financial assistance for covered feeding areas in the past and are asking for your feedback on this.
- Although we have identified irrigation water management (IWM) as a state priority for the last several years, we have not had many applications in this fund account. EQIP requires that land offered for irrigation practices must have been irrigated at least 2 out of the last 5 years to quality for irrigation-related conservation practices and activities, and those practices/activities must improve water conservation/result in water savings. We would like your input on what is needed regarding IWM in Kentucky.
- We would like to build our staff capacity for natural stream design in FY 2021 and potentially offer technical and financial assistance to producers in FY 2022 and would welcome your input on this topic. The purpose would be to address eroding streambanks and unstable stream reaches. Natural Stream Design utilizes strategic rock placement, biologic material and other techniques while limiting the use of rip rap or gabion type structures.
While this is a rather long list of items for which we’re asking your input, we value and consider carefully your input for our program delivery. Unless otherwise noted above, please send your input and feedback for any of the topics for which you have an interest to email@example.com by June 30, 2020.
Deena Wheby | Assistant State Conservationist for Programs | 771 Corporate Drive, Suite 300, Lexington KY 40503 | Phone: 859.224.7403 firstname.lastname@example.org FAX: 855.768.4249