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Cost-Share Programs Available for Private Landowners in Iowa

Programs are available to provide cost-share reimbursement to private landowners who are engaged in forestry related conservation work. Practices such as tree planting, forested riparian buffers, forest stand improvement, site preparation for natural regeneration, wildlife habitat improvement, and fencing may be eligible for cost-sharing on private lands. The programs listed below may be able to assist you with conservation work on your lands. To determine which program may best suit your needs, contact your Iowa DNR Bureau of Forestry, District Forester.

Tree planting, forest stand improvement, site preparation for natural regeneration and rescue treatment standards may be accessed through the Iowa DNR forestry technical guide

Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)

The Conservation Reserve Program is administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA). It cost-shares tree planting on highly erodible land through the general CRP. It also costs shares tree planting on forested riparian buffers and on eligible bottomlands. All CRP programs will pay a landowner an annual rental payment for up to 15 years. For more information contact your county FSA office
General Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)
The General Conservation Reserve Program is administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA). The program cost-shares tree planting and grass establishment on highly erodible land and pays landowners an annual rental payment for up to 15 years. Although the date of the next general CRP sign-up is uncertain; there is also a continuous sign-up for highly sensitive environmental areas such as riparian areas adjacent to streams and creek, bottomland areas, and living snowfences. For more information contact your county FSA office. If you have questions regarding tree planting contact your District Forester.
Under the general CRP sign-up landowners can receive around $100 per acre land rental rate and 50% cost-share reimbursement for installation of the CRP practice. The CRP bid process is a highly competitive process that utilizes an Environmental Benefits Index (EBI - see below) to score your bid offer. There are several ways to improve your offer the best ways are to:
  • Plant Trees - Trees provide additional EBI points because they remain a vital and integral part of the landscape long after the expiration of the CRP contract. Trees also provide the most efficient long term method of locking up atmospheric carbon. Tree plantings are eligible for 15 years of land rental payments. They may also be eligible for a ten year re-enrollment in CRP under the existing tree practice (CP11) following the expiration of the original CRP contract. 
  • Plant Good Habitat - A mix of either trees or grasses that provides maximum benefits to wildlife in your area will maximize your offer. Assistance with species selection and planning for tree plantings is provided by Iowa DNR Foresters
  • Plant the Steepest Slopes and Most Erodible Soils - Some CRP offers may be enhanced by dividing fields and excluding flatter less erodible soil from your bid offer. Work with your county FSA office to determine if this option would improve your chances to get into the program.
Hardwood tree planting provides you with the most EBI points of all CRP practices. Plant trees to maximize your chances of successfully enrolling in the Conservation Reserve Program.

CRP Success Stories

The Conservation Reserve Program has a twenty year history of success. It is the most successful tree planting and reforestation program in the history. In Iowa that success is primarily a function of the people who participate in the program and take pride in their conservation accomplishments. Here are a few of their stories.

The Environmental Benefits Index Formula (EBI)

The EBI formula considers several environmental factors. Those factors are: Wildlife, Water Quality, Erosion, Enduring Benefits, Air Quality, and Cost. In order to make your general CRP sign-up bid as competitive as possible you need to understand which of these factors can maximize your bid when selecting the tree planting CRP options. 
Wildlife Factor 
Evaluates the expected wildlife benefits of the offer and contains the following subfactors that you need to consider:
  • Wildlife Habitat Cover (0 to 50 points) - The better your mix for wildlife the more points you generate for your bid. If you are planting trees, your best bet is to plant either a mix of 3 or more hardwood species suited to the wildlife on your area or a stand of mixed northern conifers (750 to 850/acre) with 10 to 20 percent of the field planted to hardwood trees, shrubs, grasses, forbs, and or legumes. Both these mixes give you fifty points. Whether planting trees or grasses it is to your advantage to plant a 50 point mix.
  • Wildlife Enhancement (0, 5, or 20) - You can enhance your bid by 5 points by including a wildlife food plot into your bid. Food plots can be between 1 and 5 acres and can occupy no more than 10% of the offered acreage. However, because trees score so highly in other categories you need to consider this factor carefully. By taking these points you may hurt your overall EBI score. 
  • Wildlife Priority Area (0 or 30 points) - If you are in a wildlife priority area you get 30 points if you are out you get 0. to determine if you are in a Wildlife Priority Area, check the map of the wildlife priority areas
Water Quality Factor
  • Location (0 or 30 points) - If you are in a water quality area you are in and get 30 points. If you are out you get 0 points.
  • Groundwater Quality - This factor evaluates the predominant soil types in the field offered and considers the potential of pesticides and nitrogen to leach into groundwater. There is not much you can do to affect this factor.
  • Surface Water Quality - Evaluates the amount of sediment that may be delivered into streams or other water courses and the human population impacted. You cannot affect this factor.

 Erosion Factor (0 to 100 points) - Evaluates the lands potential to erode as the result of precipitation. The soils water erodibility index (EI) is based upon the predominant 3 soils in the field. The only way to affect this factor is to change the field boundaries in your offer. If you have a predominant soil type in the field offered with a very low EI score you may want to consider dividing the field and removing you low EI soil from your bid offer. This will improve the score for the remaining area offered.

Enduring Benefits Factor (0 to 50 points) - Evaluates the likelihood of certain practices remaining in place beyond the CRP contract period. Planting hardwood trees is the best way to maximize enduring benefits points.

 Air Quality Factor (0 to 45 points) - In Iowa the only points available under this factor are through the carbon sequestration subfactor. Ten points are available for tree planting. Planting trees is the best way to maximize air quality points in Iowa.
Cost Factor - Evaluates the cost of the environmental benefit per dollars expended. Offers with lower per acre rental rates may increase probability of acceptance. Offers that do not include cost-share receive ten points. It is probably not wise to refuse cost-share on tree planting projects. Offers below the maximum payment rate will receive one additional point, not to exceed 15 points, for every dollar below the payment rate for the offer. To increase your points in this factor, simply lower your bid offer.
Keep in mind that this information is subject to change. However, it is the best information currently available for the upcoming CRP sign-up. Tree planting is the best way to maximize your EBI points and get into the CRP. If you are planning a tree planting project contact your District Forester for assistance. 
Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
The EQIP program is administered through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). While EQIP legislation in the Farm Bill clearly states the "private, nonindustrial forest land" is eligible for EQIP funding, it is still unclear what funding, if any, will be available for forestry related conservation practices. For additional information check out EQIP on the NRCS website.

Resource Enhancement And Protection Program (REAP)
REAP is a state cost share program administered through the NRCS. REAP provides cost share assistance for timber stand improvement (woodland thinning), tree planting, site preparation for natural regeneration, and tree planting rescue treatments. The minimum project acreage size is 5 acres for timber stand improvement and 3 acres for tree planting. The cost-share level is 75% of the practice cost.
Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP)
The WHIP program is administered through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). WHIP provides cost-share reimbursement for wildlife habitat practices. A portion of Iowa's WHIP allocation will be set aside for woodland wildlife habitat improvement. WHIP will also cost-share on wildlife practices that improve grassland and aquatic habitat. Contact your District Forester, Private Lands Biologist, or District Conservationist for additional information. For additional information check out WHIP on the NRCS website.
Iowa DNR Shelterbelt Program
The Iowa DNR Wildlife Bureau will provide cost-share assistance on shelterbelts on private lands. Visit the DNR wildlife page for more information.