Illinois farmers in eligible watersheds may apply to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for two special initiatives.

The initiatives are the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI) and the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI). Applications must be submitted by May 1 to ensure consideration for fiscal year 2020 funding.

Farmers who have agricultural, pasture or forest land in an initiative area may apply for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to implement different conservation practices that will improve water quality, decrease soil erosion and improve wildlife habitat.

Financial assistance will be available to farmers whose land is located in the following areas.

For the MRBI project, eligible areas include: Upper Macoupin Creek in portions of Macoupin County and the Vermilion Headwaters in portions of Ford, Iroquois, Livingston and McLean counties.

For the NWQI project, eligible areas include: Lake Bloomington-Money Creek Watershed in parts of McLean County, Blue Mound-Money Creek Watershed in portions of McLean County and the Lake Springfield-Panther Creek Watershed in parts of Sangamon County.

To determine eligibility, interested farmers may visit the NRCS website or set up phone appointments with their local NRCS office for information.

EQIP for east-central Illinois forest stands

Landowners in 11 east-central Illinois counties may sign up by May 1 to control invasive plants in woodlands through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).

Eligible counties include Champaign, Coles, Cumberland, DeWitt, Douglas, Edgar, Ford, Iroquois, Livingston, Piatt and Vermilion.

Through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), NRCS partnered with the Champaign County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Headwaters Invasive Plant Partnership to help farmers address resource concerns.

Landowners in eligible counties may apply for EQIP financial assistance to implement forest stand improvement, brush management, herbaceous weed control and tree/shrub establishment practices. The goal is to reduce soil erosion and improve water quality by improving forest health.

Due to COVID-19, farmers in eligible counties may set up telephone appointments with the local NRCS office for information or the NRCS website.