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NRCS Frequently Asked Questions

  • Who is the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)?

We are the nation’s lead conservation agency, for Natural Resource Conservation. NRCS works one-on-one with landowners and our nation’s producers to address their resource concerns, while utilizing available voluntary programs to assist in natural resource practice implementation and management. We work closely with our SWCD partners to provide technical assistance to individuals and groups who have a genuine interest in our nation’s natural resources. Both the NRCS and SWCD have a local representative for every county in every state and US territory. A NRCS contact for any location can be found on the NRCS homepage at and look under “find a service center”.

  • What programs am I eligible for?

You could be eligible for many programs. The first step however, may be a bit closer to home. Where is my land and how long have I owned it? If your land is in Champaign County, or is carried in Champaign County by the FSA office, then you are ½ way there. If you haven’t owned the property for at least 1 year, this makes you ineligible for many USDA programs.

  • What programs will work on my land?

NRCS works in conjunction with the SWCD to plan and implement conservation plans on private land which meets the needs of the applicant, while maintaining or improving the natural resource base. Programs which you may be eligible for include, but are not limited to the following: CPP, CRP, EQIP, WHIP, GRP, WRP, CREP and others. More specific program details can be learned by going to the NRCS website from the link tab.

  • Can I put a pond on my property?

We get this question more often than you might think. There are 2 basic types of ponds. A dugout pond, and a pond with a water holding dam. The first is basically a hole in a depressional location. The later is usually in a hilly area, and is installed by interrupting the water flow through a draw, by installing an earthen dam across a ravine. There aren’t many ravines in Champaign County, and typically a dugout pond is installed. In either instance, care must be taken to comply with all laws and regulations, as well as selection of a suitable site, and considering all factors which make a good pond. Soils, drainage area, depth of water desired, uses for the pond etc. We have a book available in the office called “Ponds – Planning, Design, Construction” which is quite helpful. Simply stop in the office and pick one up.

  • Why is the fishing in my pond poor, and what fish should be in my pond?

Ponds of all shapes, sizes and depths are becoming the recreation “hotspot” of this area. We get fish questions about everything like the following: which species to stock with, what can I use to control the weeds in or around my pond, what is a good depth of a pond, how can I tell what fish are in my pond, when is your next fish sale, how do I increase the population of bass in my pond and the list goes on-and-on. We recommend getting in touch with IDNR Fisheries Biologist, Mark Garthaus, at (217) 784-4730. 

  • How do I go about getting prairie grass established on my acreage?

This can be done with as little or much technical and financial assistance as you want. We can provide everything from seeding recommendations to full planning and implementation guidance. You also have access to cost share programs which can provide for financial help to get the grasses seeded, as well as annual payments for maintaining the grasses through a contract with the USDA. One program which pays for this establishment and maintenance is the CRP program. Contact us for other possibilities.

  • Where can I get assistance to help me make my farm more productive for livestock?

Through the EQIP program, the NRCS works with landowners and operators to install practices which address livestock production and livestock waste issues. If you have a Confined Animal Feeding Operation, then an EQIP Confined Livestock application may be in order. If your livestock is in a grazing operation, then a Grazing Application is the way to go. The EQIP program encourages landowners to make positive changes to your operation, which will benefit your operation and the environment. See the NRCS website under the Programs tab for more information.

  • What activity is going on in my area to protect my watershed?

No matter where you live, work or play, you are in a watershed. Champaign County is in 5 major river watersheds. The Sangamon, Embarras, Kaskaskia, Salt Fork and Middle Fork of the Vermilion, and the Little Vermilion River, all have a part of their origins here in Champaign County. Champaign County is on the “Headwaters” of these River Watersheds. The CCSWCD & NRCS in cooperation with other partners, agencies, natural resource groups, government entities, concerned citizens groups and other organizations have been working for years to develop plans which address all natural resource concerns, and protect your watershed. These plans are then utilized to assist any and all those who have authority and power to make natural resource decisions which affect the environment in these watersheds.

  • How do I attract more wildlife to my property?

There are numerous ways to attract wildlife. Sometimes, you need to narrow down your search to the species or type of wildlife you want to attract. Habitat is the key for wildlife. Suffice to say, plant it and they will come. Location somewhat dictates which wildlife species you are most likely to attract. The selection of specific plant materials such as trees, shrubs, fruit or nut producers, and the grasses chosen will ultimately determine which critters show up on your place. Additional consideration needs to be given to issues such as traffic issues, proximity to water, size of the parcel, and proximity to other wildlife habitat. We can work with you to assist in determining your properties wildlife potential.

  • Where should I build my house?

Site suitability is a major factor in placement of your dream home. Soils, floodplain relationship, drainage, relief and other factors are very important. The SWCD completes Natural Resource Inventories (NRI’s), which provide a basis for decision making which relate to development on a specific plot of land. All natural resource issues are considered during completion of the NRI. The NRI report is a valuable tool which will help anyone who is building on Ag Land, to steer clear of pitfalls which could have a negative impact on your construction project. Contact the SWCD staff with questions.

  • How important is the drainage tile that runs through my property?

In this part of the state, all drainage tile is very important. Its’ mere existence, is testament to the naturally wet condition that much of our soils have. Tile is primarily installed to provide for adequate drainage of cropland. The story does not end there. Many homes are also impacted by tile drainage. If a home is built in wet soils, it is simply a matter of time before the need for tile drainage is evident. Proper placement of a house, in relation to existing tile is equally important. Water will seek the course of least resistance, and that course may be through a basement or crawlspace. Adequate consideration must be given to surface runoff and subsurface drainage, in order for both agricultural needs and homeowners needs to be met.

  • How do I get a job with the NRCS?

NRCS wants employees who will work cooperatively to accomplish both local and national natural resource conservation goals. NRCS encourages people to volunteer with us to “try us on”, and see what NRCS is all about. For those who are in college, and would like a paid position, we offer a summer intern or Coop program. These programs are more tailored to specific job series, and have certain educational requirements. Still other opportunities exist for those either in or out of school. All jobs are subject to the availability of funds for hiring, and the need for people of certain education or experience levels. A good place to look for all government jobs is on the website. 

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