Conservation cost share applications for the popular Environmental Quality Incentives Program are being accepted now through Oct. 30, 2007 at USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service offices throughout the Northeast. The EQIP program provides financial and technical assistance to growers making voluntary improvements to natural resources on land they own or manage.
According to Barry Frantz, assistant state conservationist with NRCS in Pennsylvania, the program offers a unique opportunity for growers to obtain federal cost share funding for conservation related projects, including integrated pest management. IPM aims to manage pests -- insects, diseases, weeds and animals - by combining physical, biological and chemical tactics that are safe, profitable and environmentally compatible.
In the last three years, more than $1.2 million has been awarded in Pennsylvania in IPM contracts for specialty crops including tree fruit. In 2007, thus far, EQIP funds of $146,000 were awarded for tree fruit, Christmas trees and fresh market sweet corn, according to Frantz.
EQIP assistance can be in the form of structures and conservation "hardware" such as irrigation or manure management facilities as well as incentives payments for proper management to achieve environmental benefits.
Sign up provisions
Sign ups for the 2008 EQIP season will be similar to 2007. You submit a CC-1200 form available online at www.nrcs.usda.gov/PROGRAMS/EQIP or at a local NRCS office.
Growers that pass an initial screening will be invited to participate in more detailed discussions on the specific programs for a ranking of resource concerns early in 2008. Funding levels and relative ranking of all applicants determines who is funded for the 2008 season. These priorities vary by state.
Frantz stresses the importance of having a conservation plan when applying for EQIP. "A conservation plan helps assess the needs of the resources and schedule the best remedies on a timetable that makes sense for the landowner and for the land."
Applications are ranked based on scores reflecting their environmental benefit to national, statewide and locally identified resource priorities as well as cost efficiency. Priorities for 2008 EQIP funding include reductions of nonpoint source pollution, including pollution from pesticides, conservation of ground and surface water resource, and reduction of emissions and soil erosion.
For more information on EQIP and other NRCS programs, including a step-by-step guide on how growers can benefit from these conservation programs, visit Web site paipm.cas.psu.edu/nrcs.html