The program includes financial assistance for measures that promote wildlife habitat.
Virginia farmers and forest landowners can apply for assistance to protect the health and productivity of their land under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service administers.
This 2014 Farm Bill program offers technical and financial assistance to plan and install conservation practices on crop-, pasture- and non-industrial private forestland. In 2016, Virginia producers received $21.9 million in EQIP contracts to help improve water quality, soil health and wildlife habitat.
NRCS accepts applications year-round but makes funding selections at specific times. Interested landowners should sign up by Feb. 17 to be eligible for fiscal 2017 funding.
“We will work with you to develop a conservation plan with recommended practices for the area included in an EQIP contract,” said NRCS Soil Conservationist Casey Iames, who works in the agency’s Warrenton office. “A complete plan helps speed up the application process and allows you to apply practices more strategically.”
Eligible producers 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.
At least 5 percent of available EQIP funds will be used to address wildlife concerns. Special EQIP fund pools are also available to offer technical and financial assistance for the following focal areas as well as a number of landscape based initiatives:
• On-Farm Energy — Agricultural Energy Management Plans or farm energy audits that assess energy use and recommend ways to reduce it.
• Longleaf Pine — Assistance to help establish and manage longleaf pines within the historical range in Southeastern Virginia.
• Organic — Conservation practices to help certified organic growers, those working to achieve organic certification, and specialty crop producers address resource concerns on their operations.
• High Tunnel (hoop house) — Funding to plan and install these steel-framed, polyethylene-covered structures that extend growing seasons in an environmentally safe manner.
• National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI) — Assistance for installing conservation practices to clean up impaired streams and improve aquatic habitats.
• StrikeForce Initiative — Targeted resources and assistance in rural Virginia communities with the greatest need. Eligible producers can receive funding to install conservation practices based on state-identified natural resource concerns such as grazing, soil erosion, water conservation and water quality.
For more information, contact the NRCS office at 98 Alexandria Pike, Suite 31, in Warrenton:
• Roger Flint, district conservationist
• Casey Dietzen Iames, soil conservationist