Volume 20, Number 3
New Agroforestry Opportunity from NRCS
By Nate Goodrich | NRCS state staff forester and
By Joe Alley | NRCS area forester
Agroforestry is a unique land management approach that intentionally blends agriculture and forestry to enhance productivity, profitability, and environmental stewardship. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Forest Service, along with numerous other partners and stakeholders, developed the USDA Agroforestry Strategic Framework to increase awareness and support for agroforestry across the country. The Framework was followed by a Departmental Regulation that set forth USDA policy and direction including:
- Increase the use of agroforestry by landowners and communities
- Advance the understanding of, and tools for, applying agroforestry
- Incorporate agroforestry into an all-lands approach to conservation and economic development
In the past, agroforestry adoption in Missouri has been relatively limited and has focused primarily on windbreaks and riparian forest buffers. Improvements in 2017 will offer financial assistance to establish agroforestry practices through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). EQIP provides financial assistance to farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners to help them address resource concerns and protect natural resources on their property through conservation. EQIP allows NRCS to work with landowners to address resource concerns associated with crop productivity, soil health, livestock, forest health and wildlife habitat. For the first time, Missouri NRCS will offer a dedicated fund pool in Fiscal Year 2017 for Agroforestry and Woody Crop Establishment.
NRCS is supportive of advancing agroforestry in Missouri for several reasons. In addition to promoting small farm sustainability, agroforestry practices have proven effective at addressing greenhouse gas mitigation, creating more climateresilient farms, and improving water quality. Also, the 2014 Farm Bill supports specialty crops, locally grown crops and outreach opportunities to organic, veteran, and historically underserved farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners. Like agroforestry, interest in establishing alternative woody crops, such as elderberry and other fruit, nut, and berry-producing plants has increased recently, especially from producers with smaller acreages. During previous EQIP sign-ups, agroforestry and specialty woody crop project applications have not always competed well against other conventional applications. Providing an opportunity for financial assistance via this new dedicated fund pool will result in more agroforestry practices being funded and installed on the ground, supporting viable small farms.
Technical and financial assistance will be available for landowners to install the five traditional agroforestry practices: alleycropping, multi-story cropping, riparian forest buffers, silvopasture, and windbreaks/shelterbelts. Other supporting practices such as cover crops, tree and shrub site preparation and establishment, field borders, mulching, and conservation cover will also be available. Applications will be evaluated and ranked based on the number of agroforestry practices installed, the estimated carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emission reductions based on planned practices, and the diversity of woody species planted.
EQIP applications are accepted year round; however, NRCS establishes application "cut-off" dates for evaluation and ranking of eligible applications. To be considered for the 2017 EQIP Agroforestry and Woody Crop Establishment fund pool, producers must file applications by the first signup deadline, which is anticipated to be in mid-November 2016, but the date has not yet been determined. Farmers can submit applications at local NRCS offices. NRCS also offers free technical assistance to all Missouri residents.
More information about NRCS programs and assistance can be found online at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/site/mo/home/ or by contacting the NRCS office serving your county. NRCS employees in county offices can provide more information about how to apply for benefits offered by NRCS.
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