Last winter we applied for what's known as an "EQIP" grant. EQIP stands for Environmental Quality Incentives Program and is sponsored by the USDA. Within the USDA, the funding comes from the National Resources Conservation Service and is aimed at supporting agricultural conservation practices across the country. Every county receives funding, as do the individual states as a whole. The funding is used as a cost-sharing measure to encourage farmers to preserve the landscape and return to farming practices that do not destroy the earth.
Last winter we applied for funding to help us with rotational grazing. Specifically, we were hoping to get water lines installed throughout our pasture. Transporting water to animals is a huge chore for us and in the summer months it would take up at least an hour or two per day. We detailed our previous method of transporting water in this post: "Shade and Water for Rotational Grazing".
The NRCS is focused on promoting rotational grazing because of its incredible benefits to the land. They want to do everything they can to get more farmers to rotationally graze, and since water is a huge roadblock for many small farmers, water lines are included in the funding categories.
For us, being able to hook-up to water at any point on the farm is critical because all of our animals live outdoors and we move them to new paddocks on a regular basis. We can't just have one stock tank that we fill up with a hose everyday. We need water everywhere and in multiple locations at once.
Earlier this year we heard back from the NRCS that our grant was approved! It has been incredibly exciting and much-anticipated. Just last week we made the final connections and fired up the water lines. We ran nearly 7,000 feet of line across our pastures and we also did some critical cross-fencing and planting of native warm-season grasses. All-in-all we couldn't be happier. A neighbor of ours was able to do most of the work, so we felt great supporting his business and deploying government funding not only to support our small farm, but also to support other hard-working local business owners.
Ironically, our understanding is that most of the funding doesn't make it to small farms, but is instead absorbed by large industrial farms. If you're a small farmer and you haven't looked into the EQIP program you definitely should. Google NRCS and look-up the appropriate contact person for your county. They will come out to your farm for free, talk to you about different things you might qualify for, and generally be a great resource for any questions you might have.
If you have any questions about the process, please comment below.