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Getting government grants to farm

 
elle sagenev
Posts: 1268
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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Has anyone done it? I'm looking into it. I think I have a fair chance of succeeding. It's not much, just 15k but enough to start me out right. So I was just wondering about others experiences with it.
 
Noel Deering
Posts: 35
Location: NW Iowa, zone 5a
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Hi Danielle

I don't have any experience with that. I guess I agree with Joel Salatin on the topic of grants- he never has applied for or received a grant, he doesn't want to, and doesn't even know where those offices are. One of the many areas where he and I agree- the guy's a friggin genius!

Anyway, your post reminded me of Grant Schultz. He has a thread here about getting government money. Search for something like "plant trees for free" or "free money for farmers." Sounds like his goal is to answer your question.

Personally, I feel like I'm occupying the higher ground relative to all the conventional farmers who surround me, by not accepting government money. That said, if there was cost share money for constructing ponds, I'd be all over it. Perhaps I'm kind of a hypocrite.

Be sure to understand the fine print, and let us know how it works out!
 
leila hamaya
pollinator
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@danielle

i am curious about this, can you tell us more?

i have looked into this several times and never could really figure out what all was involved exactly, i found it very confusing.
 
Miles Flansburg
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Noel Deering
Posts: 35
Location: NW Iowa, zone 5a
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Yep, that's the one.
 
Dave Hunt
Posts: 69
Location: NJ
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They are mainly cost shares for doing certain projects. Usually the range is between 50-75% that the government grant will pay you for doing a certain project. I know one of my friends got a grant for doing 3 years of covercropping on certain fields. She was going to do it anyway so it was definately a win for her.
Right now NCRS and EQIP have a high tunnel grant going on. I forget what the cost shair percentage is but it's definately worth looking into it. Here's the link:
http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/nj/programs/financial/eqip/?cid=nrcs141p2_018760

Now a word of caution when working with any government agency. The grant money is the grant money. Another friend got a grant for restoring a washed out creek that ran through his farm. The money was allocated and he was going to pay 30% of the total $100,000. Well a big storm came thru a month before the project was going to start. When the government showed up they said the damage was way more and the cost went up to $150k. My buddy was on the hook for the difference. His creek is great now but he might have reconsidered it if he knew the final price.
 
Deb Stephens
Posts: 375
Location: SW Missouri, Zone 7a
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Noel Deering wrote:

Personally, I feel like I'm occupying the higher ground relative to all the conventional farmers who surround me, by not accepting government money. That said, if there was cost share money for constructing ponds, I'd be all over it.


Noel, I don't know about your state, but here in Missouri, the MO Department of Conservation works in conjunction with the USDA to offer cost share programs of all sorts to benefit wildlife. We cleared invasive red cedar off our glades to restore them for species diversity through something called WHIP. Another one of the cost-share programs is for constructing ponds. You might want to look into it through your state Department of Conservation or even contacting your local extension service to see if they know anything about cost share programs specific to your area.
 
Noel Deering
Posts: 35
Location: NW Iowa, zone 5a
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Thanks Deb

I haven't looked very hard for cost share money, but the little bit of inquiry that I did was asking the county soil and water conservation district because I heard that they used to do that. I was flabbergasted by their response- we don't really allocate funds for ponds anymore because it's all going toward cedar removal. I do not understand why public money would be used for the removal of a native and very useful tree. (It looks like they're native to all, or almost all, of Missouri too depending on which map one consults.) I understand that cedars can take over a pasture, but that only happens if nobody does anything. If they need to be thinned, they should simply be cut down, at the owner's expense.

Looking out my window right now I see a hillside full of bur oak and Eastern Red Cedar. They both shade the understory and change the plant composition of the area underneath them. Are we going to use taxpayer money to cut down the oaks too?

I understand and support something like CRP because it's a sacrifice on the part of the farmer for the benefit of the public; sure, use taxpayer money for that. I can rationalize pond construction in the same way- the waterfowl that will use my ponds benefit everyone from Canada to Mexico. But there's a lot of public money being used for things that really bother me. Conventional farmers are getting money for cover crops now. One of the benefits is to keep sediment out of our streams and rivers so that's a public benefit, but the added fertility and keeping the farmer's soil on the farmer's land and fueling soil life, etc. are all benefits that mainly accrue to the farmer so let the farmer pay for that. And they all act like cover crops are some new technology. It's been common sense for years. It also bothers me how farmers don't do much of anything unless they get some free money to do it.

When I mentioned "higher ground relative to..." I was trying to say that in addition to Salatin using ultra-wise permaculture techniques which are very efficient and keep expenses to a minimum and thus are very profitable, he also approaches everything with extreme frugality and that is just as integral to his success as permaculture techniques are. I just hope permaculture doesn't get sucked in to the government-and-big-business maw and get all messed up like agriculture has, like "organic" has, ...

When I criticize conventional farmers and complain about their methods to blue collar conservatives in Iowa, the point of profitable permaculture vs. socialistic-bordering-on-parasitic conventional agriculture is a VERY powerful argument.

I also strongly disagree with the use of the term "invasive." My opinion on that is much like Hemenway's and (I think) Jacke and Toensmeier's.

Anyway, I guess I'm rambling now and maybe getting too political. Shit, and I'm late for work.
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Deb Stephens
Posts: 375
Location: SW Missouri, Zone 7a
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Noel Deering wrote:Thanks Deb

I haven't looked very hard for cost share money, but the little bit of inquiry that I did was asking the county soil and water conservation district because I heard that they used to do that. I was flabbergasted by their response- we don't really allocate funds for ponds anymore because it's all going toward cedar removal. I do not understand why public money would be used for the removal of a native and very useful tree. (It looks like they're native to all, or almost all, of Missouri too depending on which map one consults.) I understand that cedars can take over a pasture, but that only happens if nobody does anything. If they need to be thinned, they should simply be cut down, at the owner's expense.

Looking out my window right now I see a hillside full of bur oak and Eastern Red Cedar. They both shade the understory and change the plant composition of the area underneath them. Are we going to use taxpayer money to cut down the oaks too?

I understand and support something like CRP because it's a sacrifice on the part of the farmer for the benefit of the public; sure, use taxpayer money for that. I can rationalize pond construction in the same way- the waterfowl that will use my ponds benefit everyone from Canada to Mexico. But there's a lot of public money being used for things that really bother me. Conventional farmers are getting money for cover crops now. One of the benefits is to keep sediment out of our streams and rivers so that's a public benefit, but the added fertility and keeping the farmer's soil on the farmer's land and fueling soil life, etc. are all benefits that mainly accrue to the farmer so let the farmer pay for that. And they all act like cover crops are some new technology. It's been common sense for years. It also bothers me how farmers don't do much of anything unless they get some free money to do it.

When I mentioned "higher ground relative to..." I was trying to say that in addition to Salatin using ultra-wise permaculture techniques which are very efficient and keep expenses to a minimum and thus are very profitable, he also approaches everything with extreme frugality and that is just as integral to his success as permaculture techniques are. I just hope permaculture doesn't get sucked in to the government-and-big-business maw and get all messed up like agriculture has, like "organic" has, ...

When I criticize conventional farmers and complain about their methods to blue collar conservatives in Iowa, the point of profitable permaculture vs. socialistic-bordering-on-parasitic conventional agriculture is a VERY powerful argument.

I also strongly disagree with the use of the term "invasive." My opinion on that is much like Hemenway's and (I think) Jacke and Toensmeier's.

Anyway, I guess I'm rambling now and maybe getting too political. Shit, and I'm late for work.


Your response is interesting Noel, and shows that you have put a lot of thought into this issue. For the most part I agree with you that many of the cost-share programs (and since we are at least tangentially on the subject, almost ALL of the subsidized farming/ranching in this country--especially that for BIG AG!) are wasteful of tax-payer money and ought to be used for better things. Farmers are business people like any other and their expenses should be THEIR expenses--except for those areas, as you point out, where keeping part of their land available for wildlife or other conservation ends which benefit all of us and the planet, means losing potential profit. I do, however, think you have a somewhat limited understanding of the particular case involving cedar removal. (And for clarity, I should emphasize that I am referring to eastern red cedar, Juniperus Virginiana, which is not a true cedar at all.)

Yes, they are native plants and yes, they have great value. However, what many people do not realize is that despite both these true things, eastern red cedars can be an ecological disaster when allowed to grow and reproduce unchecked. Cedars are allelopathic, which by definition means that they chemically suppress the growth of other plants under and around them. When cedars move into an area (they are important pioneer tree species and usually one of the first plants to repopulate burned or cut-over areas and other areas of disturbance) they are relatively sparse and do not much inhibit the growth around them--allowing other herbaceous material to grow and thrive alongside. Such species diversity is short-lived, however. As the cedars mature and reproduce, they fill in more and more of the available space, crowding and poisoning the other plant life to create a monoculture of cedars. This is neither healthy for the ecosystem as a whole, nor to the cedars themselves. And contrary to the implication in your statement that this is (ONLY) a problem in pastures, cedar has much greater destructive reach. Cedars primarily pioneer "wasteland", but they are opportunists of the first order and also creep into any environment where they can find room--including native glades, prairies and openings in forests. Since they are capable of finding purchase in harsh places where little else will grow, they tend to out-compete other plants. (I have seen trees as large as 2 feet in diameter growing from a crack in a solid rock!!!)

In the past, fire was Nature's ally in keeping cedar under control, but humans gradually got the smart idea that fire was a bad thing and started putting them all out. Now, due to our ignorance (which knows no bounds) we have an invasive species where once we had a natural and useful species--all in the same plant.

On our 75 acres, about 60% of the land is a natural limestone/dolomite glade. (Or was until about a hundred years ago. And, I am proud to say, IS once again do to our efforts in cedar control.) When we moved here, the open glades were merely a few small patches of mixed wildflowers and native grasses--each about the size of an average living room--completely surrounded by dense and impenetrable thickets of cedar. Those thickets contained about 20% mature trees surrounded by a tangle of saplings and briars (one of the few things than can grow under a cedar) so dense that it would literally take an hour to move a hundred feet through it. They were dark, gloomy and DEAD. Even the cedars themselves were struggling to find light in that tangle. Only about half the mature trees were healthy, while almost all the young trees were dead or dying. Nothing else--except the aforementioned briars--grew there at all. The only animal life were a few species of birds (cardinals, cedar waxwings and titmice, primarily) eating cedar berries or nesting in the dense branches. There was no other food available, so other animals had no reason to be there except to find a windbreak in winter.

It was our goal to bring wildlife and species diversity back to this once pristine glade, so we set about cutting the cedars on our own. Later we discovered the WHIP program--which operated under the joint auspices of the Missouri Department of Conservation and the USDA to help restore native habitat on private land. Just so you know, we would have done it on our own, regardless, but since we were not experts at glade restoration at that time, having the expertise of conservationists was a big help to us in the beginning. We also did not have a lot of money, so that tiny amount of paid incentive made it possible for us to get the job done a little bit faster than we might have done otherwise. (And when I say "tiny" amount, I mean that. We worked on those glades for 10 years and received less than $2000 total for all the work we did. It didn't even cover our chainsaw expenses, let alone our time or the costs to remove the felled trees and do controlled burns on the glades.) As for the benefit to the public... I would venture to say that any time a piece of land is reclaimed for nature and in the process boosts the diversity of animal and plant life in any area (especially one so hard hit by bulldozers and tourists as SW Missouri has been since Branson inexplicably became a byword) it is of public benefit. In our case, since we join many thousands of acres of public land (Mark Twain National Forest--including Hercules Glade Wilderness), it allowed us to expand the area in which wildlife could forage and live safely--particularly since we do not hunt or allow hunting on our land.

In the years since we cleared out the cedars (and by that please understand that this was NOT a clear cut operation. We individually cut each tree and selected several healthy specimens--sometimes whole clusters--on each acre to stay for wildlife purposes.) we have seen a huge increase in both plant and animal species here. We now have acres of nutritious native grasses and herbaceous plants, wild plums, persimmons, dogwoods and serviceberries, etc., shrubs for food and cover, and many good flowering plants for pollinators to thrive. For the first time in most of our neighbors' recollections, there are coveys of quail on the land. Birds of all types--including the rarely seen Painted Bunting have moved in. We even have a resident road runner since the lizard and snake population has increased to take advantage of the newly opened sunny areas. Of course, foxes, squirrels, bobcats, coyotes, skunks, opossums... you name it.. have also come back now that they can find food here again. We think we even have a cougar in the area, and black bear have been documented less than a mile away. All this from a piece of land so choked with a native and valuable species that nothing could live here before.

And by the way, all that cedar WAS used. It did not die in vain. Despite the boon to wildlife by its removal, we were able to sell most of the straight, large logs to be made into boards. The leftover trunks and larger branches became firewood to see us through many winters, and the remaining debris made excellent brush piles to accommodate rabbits and birds as winter shelter. As the brushpiles deteriorate over time, they add valuable soil to the sparsely covered rocky glades and serve as a place to germinate future plants.


So... my point is, that even a good thing can get to be too much. Having a room full of gold would be nice, but not if you couldn't leave the room and there was nothing else in it. At some point you would get awfully thirsty and hungry. That is my definition of "invasive", so perhaps now you may come to see that term in a slightly different light.


 
Noel Deering
Posts: 35
Location: NW Iowa, zone 5a
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Black walnut is allelopathic, as are many plants, but we don't use taxpayer money to cut them down.

I understand the value of thinning out anything that has become too numerous, but I don't understand why anyone thinks using public money to do it is justified. There are a lot of cedars where I'm at and they're basically free for the taking. Two landowners have given me permission to cut theirs down so I have been, and I intend to take Joel Salatin's advice of investing in a portable bandsaw mill.

One of the landowners who welcomes me to cut down their cedars said, "We wanted to cut them down, but they got away from us." Got away?? They're trees- they've been there for decades, patiently waiting for you to do anything, and just generally hangin' out as trees are wont to do. Related to this (in my mind anyway) is states declaring black locust as noxious or invasive; it reminds me of the guy in Austin Powers who screams with his arms in front of his face...for a couple minutes...while the steamroller barrels down at him at, oh, about 0.2 mph instead of simply doing something about his predicament. I know, I know...black locust is thorny and eastern red cedar is thick, prickly, and not easy to move through. But there's a big difference between difficult and impossible.

When deer were deemed too numerous in parts of Iowa, those who wanted venison swooped in to harvest the bounty (including me, and we paid for the privilege to do so). Juniperus virginiana is now deemed too numerous in many areas so those who want some beautiful and naturally rot-resistant lumber will now swoop in to harvest that bounty. Just the way it happens in nature- when something becomes too numerous, something else comes in to restore balance.

As you mentioned, Deb, perhaps fire is the most natural way to keep eastern red cedar in check; so this is another option- girdle them with a handsaw (that's awfully cheap and a great workout) and then come back a year later to burn them down. Many of them are too small to be used as lumber anyway, that would be cheaper, and the huge release of nutrients might lead to an even greater flush of growth than would dragging the trees out of there.

You haven't convinced me that it makes sense to use taxpayer money to cut down your cedars. Back in the 1930's or whenever government really started getting involved with agriculture, the rationale was just to help out a little. No farmer realized that it would eventually lead to a system of agriculture that was dependent on mandated demand for its products, paid for much of its insurance, rewarded the public for its largesse by giving them no choice but to smell and taste (for example) soybean-aphid insecticide when we're driving down the road with windows down on a nice day, and became government-assistance-dependent indefinitely.

Oh, one more thing this reminds me of...

"Never let politicians grant you a favor. They will just want to control you forever." - Bob Marley



 
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