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Now Is The Time To Apply For USDA Conservation Programs

Natural Resources Conservation Service

Salisbury, NC. (November, 2011) – The United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced funding will soon be available for conservation programs in North Carolina. These federal programs, authorized under the 2008 Farm Bill, provide financial and technical assistance to farmers and forest land owners to protect soil, water and other natural resources. Now is the time for farmers and forest land owners to work with their local USDA Service Center to establish eligibility and apply for conservation programs so that their applications can be considered when funds become available.

Farm Bill conservation program assistance will be made available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), all administered by NRCS.

Farmers can submit applications for programs anytime throughout the year. However, NRCS will begin the application ranking process for eligible applications starting February 3, 2012 for possible funding consideration. Applications are ranked based on greatest environmental benefit. For an application to be considered complete for ranking, the following criteria apply:

1.All land and producer eligibility requirements must have been met.

2.A conservation plan identifying conservation practices to be included for proposed funding must be finalized for the enrolled land.

“Applications that are not complete by the first application ranking period will be deferred to the next ranking period, which is anticipated to occur on March 30 and June 1, 2012,” said JB Martin, NRCS State Conservationist for North Carolina. “We strongly encourage farmers to work with their local NRCS field office early to be sure that they don’t miss any opportunities.”

Three national initiatives are also now available in North Carolina through EQIP, including: EQIP Organic Initiative, EQIP Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative and EQIP On-Farm Energy Initiative. Under each national EQIP initiative applicants can apply for numerous conservation practices that benefit natural resources. Applicants for these initiatives must meet all land and producer eligibility requirements. Applicants who apply for the EQIP initiatives can also apply for conservation practices under the general EQIP program.

One regional initiative, the Longleaf Pine Initiative (LLIP), will be offered to non-industrial, private forest landowners to implement forest management plans on their land that help protect, enhance and sustain Longleaf Pine habitats. Landowners interested in LLPI should have applications submitted as funding for this initiative will be available soon through WHIP. It is anticipated that eligible applications for LLIP will be considered for funding soon.

The 2008 Farm Bill provides additional incentives for farmers, who are beginning, have limited resources, or who are socially disadvantaged. Such farmers can receive up to 90 percent of the costs associated with planning and implementing certain conservation practices and up to 30 percent of expected costs may be provided in advance.

Farmers should visit their local USDA Service Center today to apply for available funding for Farm Bill programs and initiatives. The local USDA Service Center is located at (2727 Old Concord Road, Salisbury, NC). You can call the local office at (704-637-1604). General program information is available on the NRCS North Carolina website at www.nc.nrcs.usda.gov.  The USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

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