Soil and water conservation, wildlife program sign-up extended
The U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service is extending the cut-off date for conservation applications until Feb. 13 for two of its main programs, according to Steve Chick, NRCS State Conservationist.
Most NRCS programs are already in a continual sign-up process, but on Feb. 13, we will rank the applications we have and begin to prepare contracts with producers, said Chick. Contracts will be completed after the ranking; however this process may not be done in time before spring 2009 planting. Last October we had a cutoff thinking we would have the program rules from Washington shortly thereafter. We are still waiting for the rules so we wanted to give producers an added opportunity to apply. We will continue to take applications after that date and will fund those applications as money is available, he said.
The two programs with the extended deadline are the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program.
Last year in EQIP more than $29 million federal dollars in nearly 1,500 contracts were written in Nebraska. Terraces, fences, livestock watering tanks and pipelines to improve grazing, and low pressure irrigation systems to use less water are just some of the conservation practices applied. Assistance for animal manure systems is another growing request. "Landowners also contributed funds which show a high level of interest in protecting our natural resources," said Chick.
In the WHIP area for 2008, over $1.2 million was committed to wildlife habitat development practices.
There are several special initiatives in the EQIP funding. Some of those are: invasive species control in 11 natural resources districts, water quantity actions along Elm and Lodgepole Creeks, animal feeding operations statewide, NE Natural Legacy Project sites, and water quality efforts in state identified locations. Producers should ask their local NRCS office for details if they are interested in these initiatives.
"There are other incentives like added cost share funds or 'up front money' for beginning farmers or ranchers (those generally in their first 10 years) and socially disadvantaged (ethnic) farmers or ranchers. People in these categories need to self-identify themselves during the application process," said Chick. In 2008, 76 beginning farmers received nearly $2.8 million in cost-share funds.
All these applications can become a long term contract up to 10 years; however people need to know they will have to begin some of the conservation work in the first year. The contract is written and cost-share dollars are set at the time of contract signing. Inflation can work against you if you wait to long to install the practices, added Chick.
Producers wishing to update an existing application or make a new application are encouraged to contact the Natural Resources Conservation Service office in the USDA Service Center soon.