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Farm program deadline nears

Virginia farmers and forest landowners can now apply for assistance to protect the health and productivity of their land under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, administered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

This popular 2014 Farm Bill program offers technical and financial assistance to plan and install conservation practices on cropland, pastureland and non-industrial private forestland.

NRCS accepts applications year-round but processes them in two batches, one on Nov. 17 and one on Feb. 16. The deadline for applications to be included in the Nov. 17 batch is Oct. 20, while the deadline for the February batch is Jan. 19.

To be considered for a given application batching period, an applicant must submit a signed and dated Conservation Program Application to the local NRCS service center by close of business on the application deadline.

NRCS will not accept applications from entities without farm records established through USDA’s Farm Service Agency. The name, tax identification number and address provided must also match IRS income tax records.

At least 5 percent of EQIP funding will be allocated to socially disadvantaged and new and beginning farmers, who will be eligible for a higher payment rate, along with limited-resource producers. Veteran farmers who are also new or beginning farmers also receive the higher payment rate and will be funded first.

At least 60 percent of available funds in Fiscal Year 2018 will be allocated to livestock-related resource concerns and a minimum of 5 percent will be committed for wildlife concerns, officials stated in a press release.

Special EQIP fund pools will also be available to offer technical and financial assistance for the following focal areas, as well as a number of landscape-based initiatives:

  • Cropland — Practices to enhance water and soil quality while improving plant health and productivity;
  • High Tunnel (Hoop House) — Steel-framed, polyethylene-covered structures to extend the growing season in an environmentally safe manner;
  • Longleaf Pine — Stand establishment and management within the historical range in southeastern Virginia;
  • On-Farm Energy — Agricultural Energy Management Plans or farm energy audits to assess energy use and recommend ways to reduce it;
  • Organic — Practices to help certified organic growers, those working to achieve organic certification and specialty crop producers address resource concerns on their operations.

Applicants must meet USDA program eligibility requirements to be considered for funding. Those approved for financial assistance will receive a payment based on an NRCS determination of incurred costs and income sacrificed for practice implementation.

If you previously applied for EQIP and were not funded, contact your local NRCS Service Center for more information.

For more information, visit www.va.nrcs.usda.gov.