Click on a program title below to learn more about it!
STAR was created in Champaign County to serve as a FREE tool for farmers to evaluate their nutrient and soil loss management practices on individual fields. STAR encourages farmers and landowners to use best management practices and in return, they are provided recognition with a field sign recognizing their commitment to conservation.
Since its development in 2017, STAR has been adopted in other states including Iowa, Missouri, and Colorado. Hundreds of farmers have enrolled thousands of acres in the STAR program. To learn more about this innovative program and sign up through STAR's progressive web app, visit: starfreetool.com.
2021 Limited Pilot – Champaign County, Illinois
The Illinois Soil Health Incentive Program (SHIP) was a new program concept to provide financial incentives to Illinois producers to implement conservation management practices that sequester carbon, reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases (GHGs), and improve soil health. The incentives were based on greenhouse gas reductions using modeled county-level quantification methods.
In 2021, farmers in Champaign County had the opportunity to participate in a Limited Pilot of the SHIP with the Champaign County Soil and Water Conservation District.
The goals of SHIP were to:
Provide a simple and transparent program framework to increase adoption of soil health practices on Illinois farmland
Offer financial support for farmers based on anticipated results rather than payment for practices
Ensure local technical assistance capacity by partnering with SWCDs
This page hosts a slide deck about the SHIP project; the SHIP Application Spreadsheet; a flyer about the SHIP 2021 Limited Pilot; and a questionnaire where you can ask questions and provide some feedback about SHIP. Thank you for your interest, and please do let us know what you think!
Financial and technical assistance is available to landowners and operators in the Big Ditch Watershed through an Illinois EPA319 grant. The goal is to implement Best Management Practices (BMPs) identified in the Big Ditch Implementation Plan that reduce sediment, phosphorus, and nitrogen loads and improve water quality.
Eligible BMPs include Cover Crops, Grassed Waterways, Nutrient Management Plans and other structural BMPs, including WASCOBs and Streambank projects.
The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is administered by the Farm Service Agency office in the building with us. This program has been a significant part of the conservation efforts for many years. There is a concentrated signup for some practices that is periodically announced with a cutoff date for signups. The concentrated signup is usually limited to highly eroded fields. There is also a continuous signup program that is available for this area. Signups in this program come from land that is currently in agricultural production. In Champaign County the most common practices enrolled are:
1. Waterways are the grass strips in fields that are shaped and designed to carry rainfall runoff from production agriculture fields without causing erosion. Cost share is available for construction costs that meet the design developed after a survey of the project site is completed. An annual rental payment is paid on the land taken out of production.
2. Filter strips along drainage ditches or rivers can be planted to trees or grasses. The appropriate width is determined and they are signed up with FSA. Cost share is available along with an annual rental payment based on soil types for the acreage taken out of agricultural production.
3. Shallow water areas can be put in low areas that will hold water for part of the year. The suitability of the site must first be determined and then FSA can complete the enrollment. Cost share is available for the construction of a berm to hold the water and a water control valve to allow the site to be drained. An annual rental payment is also made for land taken out of agricultural production.
4. Windbreaks can be placed on the north and/or west sides of farmsteads or fields. These are generally 64’ wide with one row of shrubs on the windward side and two rows of conifers. A specific plan for your site will be developed and can then be signed up with FSA. These have cost share and rental payments similar to those listed above.
The CREP program was developed to offer enhanced Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) practices in the Illinois River basin. The upper Sangamon River in Champaign County is currently eligible for signups. The program is centered on taking land out of production that is in the 100-year floodplain and planting it to trees. Filter strips can be enrolled along drainage ditches and streams. The rental rates for most practices are greater in this watershed. The program has and acreage cap, so check and see if it is still being offered. The opportunity for additional payments from the state of Illinois for contract extensions and permanent easements exists.
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) was reauthorized in the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (Farm Bill) to provide a voluntary conservation program for farmers and ranchers that promotes agricultural production and environmental quality as compatible national goals. EQIP offers financial and technical help to assist eligible participants install or implement structural and management practices on eligible agricultural land.
The Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) is a voluntary program for people who want to develop and improve wildlife habitat primarily on private land. Through WHIP USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service provides both technical assistance and up to 75 percent cost-share assistance to establish and improve fish and wildlife habitat. WHIP agreements between NRCS and the participant generally last from 5 to 10 years from the date the agreement is signed.
Illinois has lost over 85 percent of its historic wetlands. The goal of the WRP is to purchase and restore easements that have the greatest potential wetland diversity. This is accomplished by utilizing a ranking system that provides the best “wetland bang for the buck”. The program also allows NRCS to develop project areas. These project areas provide NRCS with the ability to cluster many easements within a watershed where real benefits can be realized. Monies can be leveraged with partners to accomplish project objectives.
The Partners for Conservation Program, formerly known as the Conservation Practices Program (CPP) is funded through the Illinois Department of Agriculture and administered locally by the Champaign County SWCD. This program provides cost share for projects such as waterways and associated structures. The program can also be used for sediment basins (WASCOBs) and field terraces. Most projects are cost shared at 60% of the cost of the project as long as it meets cost guidelines. The program also allows us to seal a limited number of abandoned wells each year. We have also used the program to cost share on agronomic practices such as nutrient management and strip till.
A Nutrient Management Plan is an environmentally sound way to help save the environment as well as reduce cost of nutrients. A good Nutrient Management Plan will address 10 key components. A good break down of these can be found in this Core 4 brochure.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation Practice Standard 590 is a very good technical source on Nutrient Management Planning. The 590 standard can be found on The Electronic Field Office Technical Guide Website.
An excellent place for developing a Nutrient Management Plan
can be found at the University of Illinois Website . This is the University of Illinois Interactive Agronomy Handbook. These are the rules that need to be followed to qualify for cost share programs from the State of Illinois.
The use of a Nutrient Management Plan will help with reducing excess nutrients from getting into waterways and lakes. Another way to assist with getting nutrients in the ground and keep them from running off is the use of deep placement tool bars.
The Champaign County Soil & Water Conservation District is working on putting together a list of were a farmer can rent, hire application or purchase deep placement equipment.
View the Strip Till.pdf recommendation from the CCSWCD.
Straight no-till corn has been vulnerable to slow starts and poor stands because untilled residue covered soils warm up and dry out much more slowly than clean tilled soils. However, cooler wetter soils are a big advantage for no-till later in the season. Follow the link to learn more from Jim Kinsella's article.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) brings you and easy and effective way to survey your soil area. Simply follow the instructions provided on their site and get the soil information you are looking for. Looking for Champaign County Soil Survey Data? View Champaign County data here.