Nat­u­ral Re­sources Con­ser­va­tion Ser­vice pro­grams an­nounced

Record Observer - - News -

AN­NAPO­LIS — The U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture’s Nat­u­ral Re­sources Conser va­tion Ser­vices (NRCS) now has 2017 fed­eral con­ser­va­tion pro­gram funds avail­able for Mary­land farmers and forest­land own­ers.

Farmers and forest­land own­ers may ap­ply for fund­ing un­der the En­vi­ron­men­tal Qual­ity In­cen­tives Pro­gram (EQIP) and the Agri­cul­tural Man­age­ment As­sis­tance (AMA) pro­gram at any time through­out the year, but fund­ing se­lec­tions are made at spe­cific times and the 2017 sign-up dead­lines are Jan. 20 and Feb. 17.

Both pro­grams were au­tho­rized un­der the 2014 Farm Bill. EQIP pro­vides fi­nan­cial and tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance to agri­cul­tural pro­duc­ers and forest­land own­ers to ad­dress nat­u­ral re­source con­cerns and de­liver en­vi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits such as im­proved wa­ter qual­ity, re­duced soil ero­sion and im­prove­ments in soil health, wildlife habi­tat, plant and an­i­mal com­mu­ni­ties and en­ergy con­ser­va­tion. AMA is de­signed to help with wa­ter man­age­ment and ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tems.

A con­ser­va­tion plan must be com­pleted be­fore an ap­pli­ca­tion can be con­sid­ered for fund­ing, so farmers are en­cour­aged to call or stop by their lo­cal NRCS filed of­fice as soon as pos­si­ble. The U. S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture Ser­vice Cen­ter lo­ca­tions are listed on­line at http://of­fices.usda.gov or in the phone book un­der Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment, U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture. Gen­eral pro­gram in­for­ma­tion is avail­able on the NRCS Mary­land web­site at www.md.nrcs. usda.gov.

“If you op­er­ate a farm or man­age for­est land and want to im­prove your land, we can help,” said Jackie Byam, as­sis­tant state con­ser­va­tion­ist for pro­grams in Mary­land. “A plan­ner will dis­cuss with you your vi­sion for your land, and will ex­plain the con­ser­va­tion plan­ning process and how to ap­ply for fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance.

El­i­gi­ble pro­duc­ers who sign up for EQIP and AMA may re­ceive a pay­ment based on the statewide av­er­age cost for in­stalling planned con­ser­va­tion prac­tices. So­cially dis­ad­van­taged, lim­ited re­source and be­gin­ning farmers and ranch­ers are el­i­gi­ble for a higher pay­ment rate. Vet­eran farmers who are also new or be­gin­ning farmers re­ceive the higher pay­ment rate and will be funded first.

Spe­cial pools are also avail­able for OnFarm En­ergy, Or­ganic and Sea­sonal High Tun­nel con­ser­va­tion prac­tices, as well as a num­ber of land­scape-based ini­tia­tives. All of­fer tech­ni­cal and fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance through EQIP.

Wildlife con­cerns are in­cluded in EQIP and a min­i­mum of five per­cent of the avail­able EQIP fund­ing is used for wildlife pur­poses. Landown­ers in­ter­ested in es­tab­lish­ing wildlife prac­tices or pol­li­na­tor habi­tat can ap­ply un­der the EQIP pro­gram.

For more in­for­ma­tion about Farm Bill pro­grams, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/farm­bill.

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