Cost-share opportunities for growers
Districtwide Agricultural Cost-Share
The St. Johns River Water Management District accepted applications for its districtwide Agricultural Cost-Share Program through Sept. 9, 2016. The objective of the program is to assist farmers, growers and ranchers in water conservation and reduction of nutrient run-off.
Projects eligible for funding include, but are not limited to, the following (please note that high tunnels will not be considered for funding):
- Irrigation system retrofits
- Soil moisture and climate sensor telemetry
- Rainwater harvesting
- Subirrigation drain tile
- Tailwater recovery and reuse
- Soil mapping with variable rate fertilizer application
Cost-share could be up to 75 percent, not to exceed $250,000 annually, of the design, construction and implementation costs for approved projects. It is recommended that an MIL (Mobile Investigation Lab) evaluation be submitted with the application but is not required. Applications were due by Sept. 9, 2016, with project selection anticipated for approval at the district's Nov. 8, 2016, Governing Board meeting.
Regarding SB 552, the district’s agricultural cost-share program has been funded with the goal of increasing water conservation and thereby reducing water use. Participation in the cost-share program is entirely voluntary. To ensure that expending these funds provides a return on investment in the form of an actual reduction in water use, one requirement of the cost-share agreement is that the recipient be willing to memorialize the savings produced by district funds through a modification of their consumptive use permit. Any reduction in allocation that does occur as a result of receipt of funds through the cost-share program would have a backup allocation for a minimum of five years, while the new system is being evaluated to ensure the reduction would not impair the permittee’s ability to continue their operation. If a grower chooses to fund his/her own conservation project, there would be no reduction in permitted allocation during the term of the permit in compliance with the Florida Statutes. Additionally, in order to promote conservation, the district may provide longer duration permits to those who have demonstrated conservation on their farms, regardless of funding source.
For additional information about the cost-share opportunity, contact:
601 South Lake Destiny Road
Maitland, FL 32751
Tri-County Agricultural Area (TCAA) resources
TCAA Water Management Partnership
Multiple agencies are contributing funding, education and technical assistance for growers in the TCAA of Flagler, Putnam and St. Johns counties to implement projects that contribute to improving the health of the St. Johns River. These projects are anticipated to contribute to the improved health of the river through on-farm and regional water management projects and practices that reduce the movement of nutrients to the river, improve water conservation, and result in more efficient farm management while maintaining the long-term viability of agriculture in the TCAA. Applications for the TCAA Water Management Partnership cost-share program were due Dec. 1, 2015, which is different than the deadline to submit applications for the general agricultural cost-share opportunity.
Cost-share could be 75 percent of the engineering, design and construction costs of an approved project, as submitted using the TCAA Water Management Partnership cost-share funding application form. The grower will be expected to cover maintenance costs; however, future requests for long-term maintenance items (such as drip tape) may be considered for funding. Project types eligible for funding include:
- Subsurface drip
- Surface drip
- High tunnels
- Subirrigation drain tile
- Wet detention
Cost-share could be up to 75 percent for approved practices/equipment, not to exceed a total reimbursement of $75,000, as requested using the TCAA Water Management Partnership cost-share funding application form. Bander requests may include a global positioning system unit, tender, travel assembly, and/or other bander-related items to ensure the most efficient use of the equipment. Cost-share for approved practices/equipment other than banders and related items could be up to 75 percent of cost.
Cost-share amounts may be contingent on other funds being received for the same practice/equipment (such as Environmental Quality Incentives Program [EQIP] funding). However, if these practices/equipment are part of a project proposal (as shown on the cost-share funding application form), they may be considered for up to 90 percent cost-share. Funding from this program may not duplicate funding from other programs. Projects eligible for funding include:
- Banding equipment
- Pump upgrades with soil moisture sensors
- Soil moisture sensors
- Observation wells
- Soil plant analysis development (SPAD) meters
- Soil compaction meters
- Nurse tank and injection pumps for fertigation
- Automated fertigation and irrigation controllers for drip systems
Cumulative funding cap
Cost-share funding per producer for single-farm projects/practices may not exceed an annual total of $250,000. Supplemental cost-share from other programs will not count toward the TCAA Water Management Partnership cumulative funding cap. TCAA Water Management Partnership cost-share approved for participation in regional projects will not count toward the annual total cap.
Projects already under way in the TCAA
Projects already receiving funding serve as an example of project types that growers may wish to implement. For example, a successful application from a Hastings farmer was submitted in May 2012 and funding awarded for a project involving banding equipment and pump upgrade with soil moisture sensor.
Participating growers must meet eligibility requirements, such as complying with all applicable laws and permits, allow appropriate district staff to monitor and inspect project sites, and participate in educational initiatives for other growers.
How to apply for funding
Interested growers who meet the eligibility criteria should submit an informal, brief summary of their proposed project along with an 8.5 x 11 site location map (indicating the project area) and property appraiser sheet to their county extension agent. The extension agent will conduct a site visit and review options with the grower, then assist the grower in filling out a funding application. Two committees will review all applications to determine if funding is appropriate based on its potential on the individual farm and expansion to other farms.
National Water Quality Initiative
Funding for implementation of approved agricultural conservation practices to improve water quality in the lower St. Johns River (Deep Creek and Clarks Bay) TCAA watershed is a program (National Water Quality Initiative) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
NRCS also has other programs for growers, including conservation stewardship and technical assistance, organic and energy incentives, farms and ranchlands protection, and soil survey programs. Application deadlines vary by program.
For additional information, visit the NRCS website or contact Lakeisha Barber, NRCS district conservationist, at 386-328-2908, ext. 3, or Lakeisha.Barber@fl.usda.gov.
Other programs administered by USDA-NRCS
Growers are encouraged to work with NRCS to develop conservation plans for their operations to assess the nutrient and water management needs across an entire farm, thereby improving a grower’s position to compete for federal and other funds as they become available.
Funding opportunities include:
- Conservation plans
Conservation planning is a natural resource problem-solving and management process, with the goal of sustaining natural resources. Conservation plans include strategies to maintain or improve yields, while also protecting soil, water, air, plant, animal and human resources. They are developed in accordance with the USDA-NRCS field office technical guide. Assistance in developing a plan can be obtained through the local Soil and Water Conservation District, the USDA-NRCS, the Cooperative Extension Service, and private consultants who function as technical service providers. Conservation plans are usually required to receive cost-share funds for any of the programs described on this page.
- Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
EQIP provides financial assistance for the implementation of selected management practices. Eligibility for the program requires that the farm have a USDA-NRCS approved conservation plan. Practices eligible for EQIP cost-share funds are designed to improve and maintain the health of natural resources, and include cross-fences, water control structures, brush management, prescribed burning, nutrient management, and erosion control measures.
- Florida EQIP program
Florida EQIP provides a voluntary conservation program for farmers and ranchers that promotes agricultural production and environmental quality as compatible national goals. Florida EQIP offers financial and technical help to assist eligible participants install or implement structural and management practices on eligible agricultural land. Applications are accepted year-round, with specific deadlines for special projects. For additional information, contact Jeffrey Woods, assistant state conservationist for financial assistance programs, at 352-338-9515 or email@example.com. You may also visit the EQIP website to locate the nearest local office.
- Conservation Security Program (CSP)
CSP is a voluntary conservation program that supports ongoing stewardship on private lands. It rewards farmers and operators who meet the highest standards of conservation and environmental management. Its mission is to promote the conservation and improvement of soil, water, air, energy, plant and animal life.
- Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP)
WRP is a voluntary program designed to restore wetlands. Program participants can establish easements (30-year or perpetual) or enter into restoration cost-share agreements. In exchange for establishing a permanent easement, the landowner usually receives payment up to the agricultural value of the land and 100 percent of the wetland restoration cost. Under the 30-year easement, land and restoration payments are generally reduced to 75 percent of the perpetual easement amounts. In exchange for the payments received, landowners agree to land-use limitations and agree to provide wetland restoration and protection.
Additional information about these programs, including eligibility criteria, is available by contacting your local USDA service center or the agency’s website.
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services grants
Qualified Florida agribusinesses can benefit from grant opportunities to help defray the costs of promoting Florida-grown agricultural products and expanding into domestic and international markets. For additional information, visit the FDACS website.
Updated on 9-15-2016