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We are looking at the various USDA programs from the 2014 Farm Bill. Interested in the conservation program for a pond and ground cover for birds and bees, as well as the interior fencing assistance. Also looking at the financial assistance for outbuildings.

Anyone have any experience with these programs and have any advice about whether they are worth doing?
 

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I work in the office that does those programs, although not directly for USDA. I'd say they're definitely worth doing, but go in to the office and make sure you find out all the info you can, about rules and requirements, upkeep, etc. BEFORE you sign up. There's more to it than "here's your free money", and while it's not usually hard to comply with the rules, it's best to know them up front.
 

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Each district places each program on different priorities. Getting approved requires a local vote. From my experience it is USDA money administered by local Soil Conservation Service.
You want to apply for the program that they think is important. Otherwise they run out of money before getting to you.
 

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You'll be ranked based on questions about what practice you're doing, what you're currently doing on the farm, etc. In our area, they sometimes have rules where people doing 2 or more practices rank higher than 1 practice, etc. It depends on where the money is coming from, and where it's going. It's not just a "oh, we'll choose him because we like him better" sort of thing. And you get approved based on how you rank compared to other applicants, and how much money is left, not based on a bunch of good old boys voting for what they want.


But the pond (shallow water area) and pollenator habitat fall under CRP/CREP, so that's from different money than from other farm bill programs like EQIP/AMA/etc. You'll start with your Farm Service Agency, and they are the ones who administer the money for that program.
 

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Alright guys, total package here. I'm a woman, my DH is a minority veteran with service connected disabilities and we are going green. If we can't get aid no one can! lol
 

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Typically you are enrolling in a 5 to 20 year program, be sure you understand the responsibilities and obligations you get along with it.

Folks have enrolled in stuff, decided they wanted to build a house or shed on part of the ground, and are not allowed to.... You need to control weeds, and plant their exact types of seeds. Sometimes those cost 2-3 times as much as the seed you would have planted, so if the cost share 50-50 you maybe lose a little plus you need to now follow their rules for 5 years....

That sort of thing.

Look the programs over carefully, that they actually be if it you and fit into your future plans.

Paul
 

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Typically you are enrolling in a 5 to 20 year program, be sure you understand the responsibilities and obligations you get along with it.

Folks have enrolled in stuff, decided they wanted to build a house or shed on part of the ground, and are not allowed to.... You need to control weeds, and plant their exact types of seeds. Sometimes those cost 2-3 times as much as the seed you would have planted, so if the cost share 50-50 you maybe lose a little plus you need to now follow their rules for 5 years....

That sort of thing.

Look the programs over carefully, that they actually be if it you and fit into your future plans.

Paul
This (Paul's) is the best advice ever. Read the fine print...more than once. Try to think years ahead as far as what your future plans, etc. are and how contracts with the government today might impinge on your freedom to do what you want to do in the future.
Also, get everything in writing!

We bought 35 acres in 09. Thirteen of that was contracted in CRP to expire in 2013. We knew what we were getting into as far a the rules and regs went and was ok with them. A year after the purchase we talked to the local office about installing a pond which would partially include CRP area. We were told that doing so was fine, that a pond was considered an ENHANCEMENT and "would be a great thing to do".
Long story short, a recent new local director, his decision that we violated the original contract, and was fined (essentially "purchased" the area of CRP part of the pond). We paid the fine, had a party last fall when the CRP contract expired and swore we'd never contract with the government for any reason, ever.
So, think ahead and look at any possible scenario that may come up in the future. Once you take their money you are obligated to follow their rules, which is fine as long as you realize that from the beginning.
Personally, I buy my bees, fence, etc a little at a time when I can afford it and don't have anyone telling me what I can and can't do. With 35 acres though, we are pretty small scale.
 

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Most of the USDA grant programs I've had experience with are matching funds... other than that read the fine print a lot, and ask questions. Make sure you get exactly what you want, there may or may not be a 2nd visit from a contractor or inspector after the work is done.

Other than that, your local ag dept should be able to direct you to (or the USDA website directly if you can find it lol) more information on each grant/loan type you want.
 

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We are looking at the various USDA programs from the 2014 Farm Bill. Interested in the conservation program for a pond and ground cover for birds and bees, as well as the interior fencing assistance. Also looking at the financial assistance for outbuildings.

Anyone have any experience with these programs and have any advice about whether they are worth doing?
Its been my experience over the past 35 years that the government programs have not been worth dealing with the control they then have over your farm. I would rather pay for my own improvements than to have them forever in my life telling me what I can or cannot do with my own land. I did however once take the money they offered me to not grow corn on three acres... since I wasnt going to grow it there anyway! :)
 

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Yes, as others have said - be sure you know what you are getting into BEFORE you get into it.

I've seen all the different programs - at shows, in vendor rooms - "Get free money." "Build your rotational pasture fencing and water lines with financial help."

All sounds good until you start reading some of the fine print. You usually have to come up with half of the money. The government says what you can and cannot do for a certain number of years. The government can come on to your land to see if you are doing things right.

And while you may be thinking of getting into rotational pasture or some kind of program - what is going to happen 3 years from now when you are tired of the rotational fencing and what to get rid of your animals - or want to quit the program?

And then there are those programs that will pay you not to plant this, or not to do that. Well, what happens 3 years from now, when the government has no money and decides to cancel the program. You get no money, but still have to jump through all the hoops and letting the government tell you what you can and can not do with YOUR land.
 

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I did a cost share, came up with half the Money.
Then got a surprise when they sent me a 1099 so I could pay income tax on the share they paid.
 

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It surprises me when people get their "free" money from the government and then are surprised when there are contingencies or taxes owed? Um...would you really want the government letting people do whatever they want, whenever they want for the money?

I mean, as a tax paying citizen, I'm *glad* there are rules in place making sure the money is used properly.

It is very simple. If you don't want to follow any rules at all, don't sign up for the programs.
 

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Typically you are enrolling in a 5 to 20 year program, be sure you understand the responsibilities and obligations you get along with it.

Folks have enrolled in stuff, decided they wanted to build a house or shed on part of the ground, and are not allowed to.... You need to control weeds, and plant their exact types of seeds. Sometimes those cost 2-3 times as much as the seed you would have planted, so if the cost share 50-50 you maybe lose a little plus you need to now follow their rules for 5 years....

That sort of thing.

Look the programs over carefully, that they actually be if it you and fit into your future plans.

Paul
This (Paul's) is the best advice ever. Read the fine print...more than once. Try to think years ahead as far as what your future plans, etc. are and how contracts with the government today might impinge on your freedom to do what you want to do in the future.
Also, get everything in writing!
Yes, I know I could have just hit the Like button, but this (along with others in this thread) is critically important input to consider.

Another thing is don't assume the various .gov agencies actually talk to each other or review each others requirements. The USDA may say sure you should put in pond, retention pool, etc and then after the fact the EPA comes along and fines you out the wazzoo for 'altering navigable waters' (or some such nonsense). Sound preposterous I know, but remember we are talking about the government here.

Like others have said, you just need to do your homework in detail before signing on the dotted line. You may find out that a certain program would be very beneficial for you and you are ok with the long-term commitments/risks that may be associated with said program.

For me, the .gov already holds enough sway over me in the form of taxes, regulations, etc that I'm just not willing to get further in bed with them.
 
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