Natural Resources Conservation Service programs announced
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.