There are several programs at the federal, state, and county level to provide funding in the form of grants or loans to producers for a variety of conservation measures. The focus of this section is to explain these programs and provide some direction on how to pursue them. The amount of funding varies, as do the program requirements and specification.
This state cost share program provides grants to farmers that implement eligible projects. It is available statewide, though the amount of money available is usually limited in all areas. This program also funds other conservation practices, in addition to feedlot improvements.
The Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) administers the state cost share program in cooperation with Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD). The intent of the program is to reduce pollution hazards related to erosion and run-off.
To be eligible for state cost share funding, the facility must have existing pollution hazards as identified by the CFO or the MPCA and the facility must be less than 500 animal units. Other requirements may vary from one SWCD to another. Projects that start before obtaining approval are not eligible for assistance. Additional eligibility requirements for the producer include:
State cost share can cover up to 75 percent of the expense of a feedlot project with a maximum of $50,000. For more information contact your local SWCD office or BWSR at 651-297-7316. They will explain the programs specific to your county and help you sign up for cost share.
This state cost share program provides grants only for feedlot improvement projects. It is available statewide as competitive grants awarded based on projects proposed by the local SWCD. Because it is targeted at feedlot problems, funding through this source is often more successful than other grant programs.
The Feedlot Water Quality Management Program is a state-funded, competitive grant program enacted in 1998 to help producers improve manure storage and treatment areas in order to prevent or reduce pollution hazards. The program is administered by BWSR and implemented by SWCDs. To be eligible, a facility must have a capacity of less than 500 animal units and the project must fix an existing pollution hazard identified by the CFO or MPCA. Priority is given to feedlots where any of the following conditions apply:
The maximum grant is $50,000 or 75 percent of the total costs, whichever is less. Check with your local SWCD or county government office to find out if the Feedlot Water Quality Management Grant Program is available in your area and whether your facility is eligible. Additional information is available by contacting the BWSR at 651-297-7361.
The federal Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Cost Share program provides grants to farmers that implement eligible projects. Although it is available statewide, the majority of the funds are designated to “priority areas”.
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program is federally funded and administered by the NRCS (formerly SCS) with assistance from FSA. The focus of the program is to provide financial assistance to producers who want to implement certain conservation practices such as vegetative buffer strips, grassed waterways, nutrient management and improved manure storage areas. Existing facilities with less than 1,000 animal units are eligible for all EQIP funds, while facilities over 1,000 animal units are limited to a few categories of funds. Owners constructing new facilities are not eligible for EQIP funds. Operations are allowed to expand by up to 25% and retain eligibility for EQIP cost share. Priority is given to areas where pollution problems exist or where the surrounding environment is susceptible to agriculturally-related pollution impacts. Facilities may receive funds for the cost of construction; however, NRCS engineering assistance in Minnesota is only available for facilities with less than 500 animal units.
Facilities eligible for EQIP funds must prepare a site-specific conservation plan that outlines what conservation practices are to be implemented. Your local NRCS representative can assist you in the preparation of your conservation plan.
Funding is available for five to ten year contracts. The maximum allocation for an EQIP grant is $50,000 or 75 percent of the total project costs; whichever is less. Your local NRCS representative’s office along with the Farm Service Agency’s office is located at your County's USDA Service Center.
This state loan program provides funds for projects that prevent water pollution or reduce odor emissions. It is available statewide. Because loan repayments are reused to make new loans, some assistance is usually available. Most eligible applicants are eventually successful in receiving loans through this program, although there may be a waiting list in some counties.
In addition to providing cost share assistance (financial assistance with no repayment requirement), the state also provides low interest loans to help implement water quality improvement practices. The largest loan program is called the Agricultural Best Management Practices (AgBMP) Loan Program. The MDA administers the AgBMP program, which is implemented locally by counties or local SWCD offices, local banks or other financial institutions. The AgBMP program is funded with state and federal funds and provides low interest loans to farmers and landowners who implement AgBMP activities that prevent or reduce pollution hazards that are identified as priorities in local water plans. As loans are repaid, the money is re-loaned to assist other farmers. Loans can also be used to help producers comply with the revised feedlot rules (Minn. Rules Ch. 7020).
The AgBMP Loan Program was created by the 1994 Minnesota Legislature and is funded with federal Environmental Protection Agency funds and appropriations from the Minnesota legislature. Eligible activities must coincide with the comprehensive local water plan plan. Agriculturally related water quality improvement projects have the highest priority. Eligible activities include, but are not limited to:
Ineligible activities include, but are not limited to:
The maximum loan amount for a project is $50,000. The term of AgBMP loans varies from two years for well sealing to ten years for upgrades to manure storage areas. The maximum interest rate is 3 percent. A person may have multiple loans through this program; however, the total outstanding balance for all program loans is $50,000. Loans issued through this program do not affect the eligibility or amount of funding available through state or federal cost share programs and these loans may be used as the farmer’s required matching funds.
The AgBMP loan program is available in most Minnesota counties. Check with your local SWCD or county government office to find out if AgBMP Program loans are available in your area. They can help you file an application.
This state loan program provides funds for projects that prevent water pollution. It is available only in some designated project areas.
There are also funds available through the MPCA for non-point source pollution abatement grants and loans. These Clean Water Partnership monies are provided by the federal and state governments and are made available to local units of government, counties, municipalities, watershed districts, and joint powers organizations. The local unit of government may loan the funds to individual homeowners, landowners, and businesses for water quality projects within designated project watersheds.
There must be an initial environmental assessment or diagnostic phase where problems of the watershed are identified and described. These initial study tasks are usually carried out through the local government units.
Following the initial diagnostic phase, a project sponsor may develop an implementation phase, which carries out the recommendations of the diagnostic phase. If farmers or landowners want to implement practices identified in the diagnostic phase, a loan may be requested.
Projects that target the restoration and protection of a water resource, such as a lake, stream and/or ground water aquifer, are eligible to apply for funds. Loan funds will be used to implement best management practices to address nonpoint sources of water pollution.
The amount of low-interest loans varies according to the project. The maximum loan distribution is 100% of the project cost. Loans issued through this program do not affect the eligibility or amount of funding available through state or federal cost share programs and may be used as the farmer’s required matching funds.
For more information, contact the Clean Water Partnership Program at 651-297-8383 or 800-657-3864 to determine if funding is available in your area.
Some watershed projects make funds available for pollution-reduction process.
The Section 319 Clean Water Act Non-point Source Grant Program is funded through the EPA and administered by the MPCA. The goal of this program is to provide funding for projects seeking to reduce non-point source pollution. Funds are allocated to local governments who can then distribute funds to producers and others eligible for the program.
Funding is available for up to 50 percent of the total project cost. Project eligibility for funding under this program varies. All projects must implement non-point source pollution abatement. Contact the MPCA at 651-297-2810 for more information.
If a farm operation falls within the limited eligibility categories, funding is usually available through this program. Net-worth is usually the limiting criterion.
The Rural Finance Authority loan program is funded by the state and administered by the MDA. This program includes a variety of loan types providing financial assistance to producers. Loan types include the Basic Farm and Seller Assisted loans, Aggie Bond Beginning Farmer Program, Agricultural Improvement Program, Restructure II Program, Livestock Expansion Program, and the Value Added Stock Loan Program.
Of these loan types, the Agricultural Improvement program provides assistance for upgrading and improving facilities. Funding can be used to prevent or correct existing pollution hazards. Facilities with a maximum net worth of $258,000 are eligible for an Agricultural Improvement loan. Funding is available for 45 percent of project costs with a maximum of $125,000. Interest rates are variable.
For more information, contact the Rural Finance Authority at 651-201-6666.
In 1988, the Minnesota Legislature appropriated the funds ($1 million) for the Sustainable Agriculture Loan Program. The purpose of this loan program is to facilitate the adoption of alternative management practices that will enhance farm profitability and benefit the rural environment. The appropriation has been set up as a "revolving fund." As the outstanding loans are repaid to the State the principal revolves back to the farmers in the form of new loans. In this way many farmers will benefit from this program for years to come.
Technical assistance provided by public engineers is usually available for feedlot operations less than 500 animal units.
In addition to private engineering consultants, technical assistance for feedlot, manure storage area, and pollution abatement construction or improvement is available through your local SWCD, NRCS, BWSR and the MPCA. State-funded cost share monies can be used to pay private engineering expenses, while federally funded cost share funds cannot be used for this purpose.