The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service State Conservationist Juan Hernandez has set the cutoff date of Friday, Dec. 20, for submitting applications for conservation program financial assistance in fiscal year 2014. Maine’s producers are encouraged to sign up now for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program initiatives and Conservation Activity Plans, which provide financial and technical assistance to address varying natural resource priorities.
Producers may apply any time as program sign-up is continuous; however, those who submit applications by close of business on December 20, 2013 for the following initiatives will be considered for funding in Fiscal Year 2014.
• Financial assistance for the development of Conservation Activity Plans. A Conservation Activity Plan is a specialized plan prepared specifically for a conservation management unit. Financial assistance is available for the development of the following conservation plans: Agricultural Energy Management, Comprehensive Nutrient Management, Conservation Plan Supporting Organic Transition, Fish and Wildlife Habitat, Forest Management, Grazing Management, Integrated Pest Management, Nutrient Management, and Pollinator Habitat Enhancement.
• On-Farm Energy financial assistance is available for the development of an Agricultural Energy Management Plan, or farm energy audit, that assesses energy consumption on an operation. NRCS then uses audit data to develop energy conservation recommendations. From these recommendations, NRCS provides financial and technical assistance to implement some of the conservation practices that were recommended.
• NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to help certified organic growers and producers working to achieve or maintain organic certification install conservation practices for organic production. Producers plan and implement conservation practices that address natural resource concerns in ways that are consistent with organic production.
• NRCS helps producers plan and implement high tunnels — steel-framed, polyethylene-covered structures that extend growing seasons in an environmentally safe manner. High tunnel benefits include better plant and soil quality, fewer nutrients and pesticides in the environment, and better air quality due to fewer vehicles being needed to transport crops.
• NRCS offers funding for irrigation practices on lands with an irrigation history of at least 2 out of the last 5 years. Technical and financial assistance is available to growers for irrigation-related practices such as irrigation water management plans, irrigation sprinkler or micro-irrigation systems, and alternative irrigation water sources.
• Funding is available to assist Maine forest landowners with forest land planning and management of their private forests to improve wildlife habitat, forest health and productivity, and water quality. Eligible conservation practices include, but are not limited to, forest stand improvement, early successional habitat development and management, tree/shrub site preparation and establishment, upland wildlife habitat management, stream crossings, riparian forest buffers, fish passage, forest trails and landings, conservation cover, and access roads.
For more information or to apply for financial assistance, contact your local USDA Service Center listed online at http://offices.usda.gov or in the telephone book under United States Government, Agriculture Department.
NRCS, in existence since 1935, is the lead conservation agency that helps farmers conserve, maintain and improve natural resources through science-based conservation efforts, technical assistance and incentive-based programs. For information on NRCS and its programs, visit www.me.nrcs.usda.gov.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.