AMHERST — Massachusetts farmers and forest land owners who would like to address soil and water conservation concerns on their land should apply by Jan. 15 for financial and technical help through the federal Environmental Quality Incentives Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.
While EQIP sign-up is continuous throughout the year, land owners are encouraged to apply now in order for their applications to be reviewed and ranked for possible funding from the total $3.5 million currently available for Massachusetts projects.
Call or visit a local USDA service center to schedule a time to complete paperwork and begin the conservation planning process. USDA service center locations are listed online at http://offices.usda.gov or in the phone book under Federal Government, U.S. Department of Agriculture. General program information is available on the NRCS Massachusetts Web site at www.ma.nrcs.usda.gov.
EQIP is a voluntary program that provides technical and financial assistance to agricultural producers and forest land owners who want to enhance and protect soil, water, air, plants and animal resource concerns. Common conservation practices address soil erosion, excess runoff or leaching, irrigation water efficiency, animal waste, nutrient and pest management, grassland and forest conservation, and threatened, rare and endangered species habitat.
Through the 2008 Farm Bill, EQIP now offers new and innovative conservation practices for air quality and energy, forest land, greenhouses, organic farming, invasive species control and pollinator habitat. The new Farm Bill also provides higher payment rates to beginning, socially disadvantaged and limited-resource farmers.