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Getting paid to homestead or do permaculture

 
steward
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I happened across a USDA program last winter that seemed to be perfect for people with a few acres who care about the environment.  It seemed to be only for farmers so I called a relative who has a conventional farm.  He said it is a real thing but that it wasn't worth the paperwork for him to get $1500 dollars.

I talked to my local USDA rep and it sounds like it's PERFECT for permaculturists and homesteaders.  I signed up and got accepted.  They asses your property to see what activities are done on it.  Mine qualified for three categories - Homestead, Forestland and Associated Agricultural Lands.  Or in permie speak - Homestead, zone 5 and food forest respectively.  If my apple orchard was bigger and older I'd've qualified for a fourth.  The more land types you qualify for the better.  They want to see if there are erosion problems, invasive plants, pollution or other bad things going on and then rate each property type.  The healthier your land is, the better.  Then you work with them to pick some activity for each category to further improve your land.  In my case, I'm planting a bunch of wildlife habitat in one area, posting a duck house in another and a bat house in the third.  The wildlife habitat just happens to be berry bushes  There are many choices from building snake hibernaculums to energy retrofits for farm equipment.

As long as you do the improvement you say you'll do, they reward your stewardship with an annual payment for 5 years.  Oh, and you do have to be listed as a farm in their system but you don't have to be an official farm.  It's just a vocabulary thing on their end.

The minimum reward for each land type each year is something like $1500.  It is a fair bit of paperwork but my local reps were very helpful.  

So if you could use a few thousand more dollars, consider this program.
Conservation Stewardship Program

 
Posts: 187
Location: NNSW Australia
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Sounds like a good initiative - its surprising to see an environmental welfare system like this in USA.

My idealized framework for this kind of payment would fall under a Carbon Credits scheme. A technician would confirm that soil carbon has increased and is stable over time and you would be paid per unit of carbon per year.
This would make Organic produce as cheap as it ought to be and apply a selection pressure for carbon sequestration both among individuals and agricultural enterprise.
I believe it won't take long to find optimal solutions for locking down soil carbon if money is involved.

Of course, carbon is notoriously difficult to keep bound up in the soil and even stable forms need to be monitored over time to check their continued presence. It would make sense to have the price of soil carbon floating and possibly attached to the international emissions trading schemes, however soil carbon comes with myriad benefits such as water retention, erosion control and crop productivity so would probably deserve a multiple of the price of carbon-emissions as traded in the global market.

Then permaculture would be a money-maker even if you didn't trade or have much infrastructure.
 
pollinator
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I have used the USDA extensively, and it varies widely from county to county, and depending on how the conservationist view certain practices. If they do not champion a practice, it can fall through, that is for sure. On one occassion, I filed an appeal when they denied an application. That went to the Federal Court of Appeals, and I'll be darned if I did not win my appeal. They said it was the first time that ever happened in Maine!

I use the EQUIP Program the most, and have gotten $50,000 dollars or so from them over the last ten years. Most have been for fencing and roadways, but also manure pads and swales. Crop rotation was another application.

There can be a few golden strings attached, and length of time to "repay" the practice varies per practice, not a set amount of time. For instance my roadways have a 10 year pay back period, not five years. My sheep fence was seven years. Funding varies from Farm Act to Farm Act, and all monies are listed on line because a person is recieving tax monies. The latter is kind of interesting because I have had farmers in the area tell me they never recieve subsidies, and sure enough, you look them up, and they are top of the list!!

It is definatelyworth looking into though. Just be sure the practice fits your farm plan, and resist the urge to see potential money, and try to fit the farm plan to fit the available money. That is NEVER a good way to farm.



 
Mike Jay
steward
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Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
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My county folks make it very easy.  The available practices were written in government-speak so it helped to have them there to translate.  If you had to do the paperwork with an adversarial relationship between you and the agents, you'd fail quickly.  

The EQUIP program did have some things we could have done but CSP was a better fit.  I think the CSP is for 5 years regardless of what you undertake.  But I could be wrong and I'm sure as the Farm Bill changes, the program will change.

I think the first step is to call your county USDA people and feel them out for it.  
 
master pollinator
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Thanks for bringing this to our attention, Mike.  I'm pleased to see "Wildlife" in the list of practices.  The primary use of most of our land is for Wildlife Management.  I may try to see if we would qualify for this program.
 
Mike Jay
steward
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My pleasure Tyler!  I figure hundreds (or thousands) of us could participate in this program.
 
Posts: 174
Location: North Coast Dominican Republic
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Hmmm... I really must contact the Ministry of Agriculture for the Dominican Republic, see what programs they might have. The language barrier may be a problem, since my Spanish is not as I would like it to be, but muddling through may be enough.
 
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