Apps for NRCS conservation programs being accepted
Special to the Courier
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) District Conservationist Larry Stark announces applications for funding opportunities with the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) are currently being accepted at the NRCS offices located at 2886 SH 16 N, Bandera, at Mansfield Park.
NRCS in Texas has received its initial allocation of EQIP and WHIP funding for 2014 and will begin ranking and obligating contracts after Jan. 17, 2014. All agriculture producers interested in submitting a contract application for 2014 should do so before this ranking deadline.
EQIP - one of the largest programs in the Farm Bill - is a voluntary conservation program that promotes environmental quality and assists producers to meet local, state and federal regulations.
"EQIP is a valuable tool to help Bandera County's agricultural producers implement conservation practices that provide environmental benefits to help sustain agricultural operations," said Stark.
"WHIP helps landowners restore and improve fish and wildlife habitats, and benefit at-risk species," said Stark. "This funding will give landowners across the state the opportunity to address wildlife concerns in Texas."
EQIP and WHIP are continuous sign-up programs that allow landowners or operators to apply for financial and technical assistance for the application of specific conservation practices; but the deadline for the first 2014 funding allocation is Jan. 17, 2014. Contracts are offered periodically depending on budgetary allocations. Applications made after the deadline will be considered in the next funding cycle. Higher priority will be given to those applications that address national, state and local priorities and provide higher cost efficiency.
EQIP offers technical and financial help to install or implement structural, vegetative, and management practices that can benefit the soil, water, air, plants, livestock, and wildlife. WHIP applications must address traditional natural resource issues such as water quantity, water quality, grazing lands, forest health, soil management, emerging natural resource issues, and climate change.
Each county in the state is funded yearly to assist producers financially with these land management practices.
Last year, NRCS in Texas funded over 4,500 EQIP contracts with $91 million to accomplish conservation practices such as irrigation efficiency, minimum tillage, brush management and more on 3.6 million acres across the entire state. Additionally, NRCS funded 200 WHIP contracts with $7.1 million to improve wildlife habitat on over 380,000 acres in Texas.
In addition to helping our environment, Farm Bill conservation program funds support rural communities. In Texas, it is estimated that each dollar of NRCS and private matching expenditures on NRCS conservation programs generates an additional $2.54 in sales of goods and services locally.
For more information, including eligibility requirements, call the USDA Service Center office in Bandera at 830-796-3334. Service center locations and program information can be found on the Texas NRCS Web site at www.tx.nrcs.usda.gov.