Michigan agriculture plays a vital role in our state. It is the second-largest industry, producing more than 330 different kinds of farm products. Michigan is home to over 53,000 farms, covering over 10 million acres!
Michigan Conservation Districts provide conservation information and assistance to better manage agricultural lands for long term environmental sustainability. Conservation Districts work closely with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and the United States Department of Agriculture - Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), delivering a wealth of information and assistance to farmers and non-farm landowners alike.
Michigan Conservation Districts are proud to deliver several programs of value to Michigan's farmers, including the programs outlined below. For detailed information on programs and assistance available through your local Conservation District, contact your Conservation District directly.
Natural Resource Conservation Service Programs
The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) provides natural resources conservation programs to help people reduce soil erosion, improve water quality, increase wildlife habitat, and reduce damages caused by floods and other natural disasters. Important programs which target agriculture include:
Environmental Quality Incentives Program
The signature program that provides financial and technical assistance is the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). In the 2014 Farm Bill, several programs were rolled into EQIP, which now provides a comprehensive array of assistance in order to address natural resource concerns and deliver environmental benefits such as improved water and air quality, conserved ground and surface water, reduced soil erosion and sedimentation or improved or created wildlife habitat. It is a voluntary conservation program administered by the NRCS to support production agriculture and environmental quality as compatible goals. Through EQIP, farmers, ranchers, private forest land owners and Federally-recognized American Indian tribes may receive financial and technical assistance to implement structural and land management conservation practices on eligible agricultural land.
Conservation Stewardship Program
The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) provides financial and technical assistance for eligible producers to conserve and enhance soil, water, air, and related natural resources on their land. CSP encourages land stewards to improve their conservation performance by installing and adopting additional activities, and improving, maintaining, and managing existing activities on agricultural land and non-industrial private forest land. In Michigan, CSP will focus program impacts on natural resources that are of specific concern for specific geographic areas within the state. Applications will be evaluated relative to other applications addressing similar priority resource concerns to facilitate a competitive ranking process among applicants within a state who face similar resource challenges.
The entire agricultural operation must be enrolled and must include all agricultural land that will be under the applicant’s control for the term of the proposed contract.
NRCS accepts applications for its programs on a continuous basis. It is recommended that producers interested in applying for conservation programs apply at their earliest convenience. Applications are selected for funding on a competitive basis and beginning the process early can lead to a more complete application. *Cut-off dates, when received applications are ranked and considered for funding are generally announced at least 30 days in advance.
Learn more about how to get started with Farm Bill programs by visiting your local Conservation District and NRCS office, and by visiting the 5 Steps to Assistance
This material is based upon work supported by the Natural resource Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture under Agreement # 68-5D21-14-17. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The Michigan Agricultural Environmental Stewardship (MAEAP) program is an innovative, proactive program that helps farms of all sizes and all commodities voluntarily prevent or minimize agricultural pollution risks. MAEAP is comprehensive and voluntary, designed to reduce farmers' legal and environmental risks through a three-phase process: 1) education; 2) farm-specific risk assessment; and 3) on-farm verification that ensures the farmer has implemented environmentally sound practices.
Michigan Conservation Districts deliver the program at the local level through the Conservation District’s water stewardship technicians. Assistance takes many forms including educational MAEAP meetings, working hand in hand with a farmer to examine different aspects of the farm through the four MAEAP risk assessment system tools, to the implementation of environmentally sound practices to reduce identified risks.
The four systems — Farmstead, Cropping, Livestock and the Forest, Wetlands and Habitats each examine a different aspect of the farm. Working with a Conservation District Water Stewardship Technician, a farmer goes through applicable systems, addressing any concerns found. Once completed, the farm goes through a verification to become MAEAP verified. A farm can than display a MAEAP sign signifying that MAEAP partners recognize the farm is environmentally assured.
With confidentiality guaranteed by law, MAEAP provides a structure under which Michigan farmers can be assured they are effectively following approved MAEAP standards. These standards include inspected practices that are consistent with the identified Right to Farm Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices (GAAMPs) . Through MAEAP, farmers show that they are working to comply with state and federal environmental laws specific to each system of the program.
MAEAP was first developed in 1997 by a coalition of farmers, commodity groups, state and federal agencies, and conservation and environmental groups to provide a venue for farmers to become better educated about management options in order to help protect and enhance the quality of natural resources. Partners from these groups are still involved in MAEAP‘s work. On March 8, 2011, Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation establishing MAEAP in law.
Michigan Forestry Assistance Program
Michigan Conservation Disricts across the state provide education and one-on-one technical assistance to private land owners and to communities with assistance on their forest health issues. Professional foresters work out of 20 District offices, providing coverage for 49 counties in the upper and lower peninsulas in Michigan. The program is made available through an agreement with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), with the purpose of providing assistance through Conservations Districts to help Michigan citizens better understand, plan, manage, protect and utilize their forest resources.
The goal of the program is to provide and increase the active management of non-industrial private forest (NIPF) landowner outreach and technical assistance through collaboration and cooperation. A survey conducted by Michigan State University of non-industrial private forest landowners concludes that only 20% of the 11 million acre resource is actively managed. The Forestry Assistance Program will work with local Conservation Districts to increase the number of landowners and acres that are managed under a sustainable forest management plan.
The Forestry Assistance Program does not intend to compete with private sector business. Our foresters do not write management plans, administer timber sales, or provide any other service that could otherwise be provided by the private sector.
for a current map of Conservation Districts with Forestry Assistance Foresters and the counties currently covered through this program.
Michigan Pheasant Restoration Initiative
Michigan Conservation Districts is partnering with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Pheasants Forever, Michigan United Conservation Clubs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Environment and other conservation organizations on the new Michigan Pheasant Restoration Initiative (MPRI). The initiative will help facilitate a revitalization of Michigan pheasants as well as benefiting the many other species that utilize grasslands.
The program currently focuses efforts in the following three zones:
- • Huron, Sanilac, and Tuscola counties
- • Gratiot, Saginaw, and Clinton counties
- • Hillsdale, Lenawee, and Monroe counties
Conservation Districts within these pilot zones have a technician who will work with eligible farmers and landowners and provide guidance and assistance on habitat prescriptions for pheasants. To be eligible, landowners must work together to devote large blocks of land that could serve as a patchwork of different privately owned lands set aside for habitat. This is a cooperative initiative that requires a group of property owners to voluntarily agree to work together in "Neighborhood Cooperatives" to implement habitat projects.
Technicians will also also assist cooperatives in identifying federal, state, and private assistance for funding or implementing habitat projects. NRCS and Farm Service Agency (FSA) will provide funding to landowners through conservation cost-share programs to install these habitat restoration practices. Chapters of Pheasants Forever will provide free seed to landowners. In some cases, the MDNRE will donate the use of farm implements and planting equipment, and release live pheasant if the area is suitable.
Landowners outside of the three pilot zones are encouraged to participate as well by forming Neighborhood Cooperatives, with Conservation Districts and Pheasants Forever Chapters available for program guidance.
MPRI Priority Area Map
Conservation District Contact Information
Frequently Asked Questions
Michigan Pheasant Restoration Initiative MDNR website
Michigan Hunter Access Program
Michigan's Hunting Access Program (HAP) was created in 1977 to increase public hunting opportunities in southern Michigan where 97 percent of the land base is privately owned. HAP provides access to quality hunting lands close to urban properties is a key component to offering additional hunting opportunities, as well as attracting new and retaining current hunters. Through HAP, the DNR leases private lands from landowners who give licensed hunters access to their property, generally on a first-come, first-served basis. Hunters using HAP lands are guests of the landowner and are asked to register each time they visit the property. For landowners, HAP provides financial incentives in southern Michigan for allowing hunters access to their lands and is flexible, allowing landowners to allow all hunting, youth and apprentice hunting only, small game only, deer only or turkey only or a combination. Landowners enrolled in HAP are free from liability as stated in P.A. 451 of 1994: "No cause of action shall arise for injuries to persons hunting on lands leased under HAP unless the injuries were caused by gross negligence or willful and wanton misconduct of owner, tenant, or lessee."
Michigan Conservation Districts within the HAP service area provide farmers and landowners with information and enrollment assistance. Visit your local Conservation District
to learn more about HAP and visit the DNR webpage links noted here to learn more about the program.