Livestock farmers facing the difficult decision of possibly depopulating herds or flocks, resulting from impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, are eligible for financial and technical assistance.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced assistance for the Emergency Animal Mortality Management practice is available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).

Farmers who face livestock mortality disposal issues due to depopulation can submit an EQIP application, form CCC-1200, to their local NRCS field office. Both an application and Approved Early Start Waiver must be filed with the local NRCS office prior to the disposal of animal carcasses.

The first application deadline concludes at the close of the business day May 8. Additional application deadlines will occur every two weeks after May 8, until further notice. Learn more here.

“NRCS is not recommending or advocating for the depopulation of livestock,” said Ivan Dozier, Illinois state conservationist. “I hope we can find alternatives that allow our agricultural food chain to remain intact.

“However, we realize these are difficult times and if a producer is left with no other option, we want to provide practices that will lessen the negative environmental impacts.”

Funding to support the program in Illinois through EQIP totals $2 million and covers farmers of multiple species. And there could be more funding available if the need is there, according to Lauren Lurkins, Illinois Farm Bureau director of environmental policy.

“This is a really big need,” Lurkins told the RFD Radio Network. “It’s not a good situation for anyone to be in.

“It’s mostly directed at pork now,” she noted. “EQIP opportunities also cover beef and poultry (farmers) to make sure they have the ability to sign up.”

The Emergency Animal Mortality Management practice includes several options for the proper disposal of animal carcasses, including landfill, composting, rendering, incineration and burial.

Landfill options look to be the easiest for farmers, along with composting. There are a number of restrictions on burial practices, Lurkins noted.

There’s a $25,000 cap per practice. But, if farmers use multiple practices to dispose of carcasses, they may be eligible for additional assistance.

For more information, contact your local NRCS office or visit this website. Farmers interested in the program should call their county office to make an appointment due to COVID-19.