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Sustainable Agriculture

What is the Partners For Conservation Program?

The Partners For Conservation Program is a long-term, state-supported initiative to protect natural resources and enhance outdoor recreational opportunities in Illinois. The program implements strategies for maintaining the viability of Illinois' soil and water resources into the 21st century and beyond. Several state agencies share responsibility for administering The Partners For Conservation Program funds. The Illinois Department of Agriculture oversees the program's agriculture-related components.

What are the agricultural resource enhancement components of the Partners For Conservation Program?

The Partners For Conservation Program provides funding for the following agriculture-related programs: the sustainable agriculture grant program, the conservation practices cost-share program, the stream bank stabilization and restoration program, and the soil and water conservation district grants program.

How can I apply for agriculture-related assistance through the Partners For Conservation Program?

Application procedures vary depending on the type of assistance. The following summaries provide information about each program.

Sustainable Agriculture Grants Program

Sustainable agriculture is a system of farming designed to balance environmental and economic concerns. Practices are aimed at maintaining producers' profitability while conserving soil, protecting water resources and controlling pests through means that are not harmful to natural systems, farmers or consumers. The grant program funds sustainable agriculture research, education and demonstration through conferences, training,​ on-farm research and educational outreach.

  • Eligibility and Selection
    • Organizations, governmental units, educational institutions, non-profit groups and individuals may apply for sustainable agriculture grants provided they can demonstrate an understanding of sustainable agriculture systems and the ability to complete the project in a timely and professional manner. Cooperative projects between two or more organizations are encouraged. Proposals should include a method for distributing results to the public and information concerning the project's social, economic and environmental benefits. Grant recipients are selected in the fall of the year by an independent committee.
    • For more information about this program, contact the Illinois Department of Agriculture.
  • Conservation Practices Cost-Share Program
    • Conservation practices, such as terraces, filter strips and grass waterways, are aimed at reducing soil loss on Illinois cropland to tolerable levels. The Agriculture Department distributes funding for the cost-share program to Illinois' soil and water conservation districts(SWCDs), which prioritize and select projects. Construction costs are divided between the state and landowners.
  • Eligibility
    • To qualify for the program, land upon which the owner plans to install a conservation practice must be experiencing erosion at rates greater than one and one-half times the tolerable soil loss level. Landowners must also be cooperators with their local SWCD and have on file an SWCD-approved conservation plan.
    • ​Conservation practices selected for cost-share assistance include those listed below. Each SWCD may limit eligibility to particular practices deemed appropriate for their district. SWCDs also set maximum cost-share rates for each practice, up to a maximum of 60 percent. Maximum cost-share payments may also be established for each project. Cost-share payments are based on locally established average costs for similar conservation practices.
  • Eligible Conservation Practices
    • Cover and green manure crops *
    • Critical area planting
    • Diversions
    • Field border strips
    • Filter strips
    • Grade stabilization structures
    • Grassed waterways
    • No-till planting systems *
    • Nutrient management planning/implementation
    • Pastureland and hay land plantings
    • Terraces *
    • Water and sediment control basins

* some restrictions apply

  • Selection
    • Landowners seeking cost-share assistance should contact their local SWCD office. Assistance is targeted toward projects that save the most soil or benefit the most acres per dollar cost. Recipients of cost-share monies must agree to continue or maintain structural conservation practices and possibly some management practices for at least 10 years.
    • For more information about this program, contact your local SWCD or the Illinois Department of Agriculture

Stream Bank Stabilization and Restoration Program

Stream bank erosion is a natural wearing away of soil and rock that from stream banks. This natural process has been accelerated by activities that increase drainage water flow and water velocity, including stream channelization and straightening, removal of stream side vegetation, and construction of impervious surfaces. Stream bank erosion, a major source of sediment buildup in bodies of water, threatens soil, water, plant and animal resources. It decreases the depth and holding capacity of lakes and reservoirs and reduces stream channel capacity, which increases the likelihood of flooding and additional stream bank erosion. Excessive flooding degrades water quality and damages fish and wildlife habitat.

The stream bank stabilization and restoration program is designed to demonstrate effective, inexpensive vegetative and bio-engineering techniques for limiting stream bank erosion. Program monies fund demonstration projects at suitable locations statewide and provide cost-share assistance to landowners with severely eroding stream banks. The Illinois Department of Agriculture, Illinois' soil and water conservation districts (SWCDs) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (NRCS) serve as partners in implementing the program.

  • Eligibility
    • Both cost-share assistance and demonstration project funding require sites meet assessment and selection criteria established for successful stream bank stabilization using vegetative or other bio-engineering techniques. Program funds maybe used for labor, equipment and materials. Proposals must be sponsored

      by the local SWCD. Grant recipients are selected by an independent committee in the fall of the year. Recipients of cost-share and demonstration project funding must agree to maintain stream bank stabilization practices for at least 10 years.

    •  ​

      For more information about this program, contact your local SWCD or the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

Soil and Water Conservation District Grants Program

Administered by the Agriculture Department, this program provides assistance to Illinois' soil and water conservation​districts​ (SWCDs) to help offset operating expenses. SWCDs assist landowners in natural resource management by providing technical assistance in such areas as soil conservation, water quality protection, wetlands management, flood control, soil erosion control at urban construction sites, stream bank stabilization, recycling, soil interpretation, land use and site suitability, and conservation education.

SWCD grants are awarded on a competitive basis to foster innovation and originality. All districts are eligible to receive these grants and are encouraged to contact the Illinois Department of Agriculture for more information.

For more information about agriculture-related Partners For Conservation grant programs, contact:

Illinois Department of Agriculture
Bureau of Land and Water Resources
State Fairgrounds
P.O. Box 19281
Springfield, IL 62794-9281