Friday, December 9, 2011

NRCS Announces Ranking Dates for Major Conservation Programs and Initiatives

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) today announced ranking dates for its major conservation programs and initiatives that offer technical and financial assistance to Missouri farmers and ranchers.

NRCS accepts applications for financial assistance on a continuous basis throughout the year. However, NRCS establishes ranking periods for its programs that allow it to rank submitted proposals for funding consideration. NRCS then notifies all applicants of the results of the rankings and begins developing contracts with selected applicants. 

The ranking period cutoff dates for the major conservation programs and initiatives that apply in Missouri are:

February 3, 2012
€     Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
€     Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP)
€     On-Farm Energy Initiative
€     Organic Initiative
€     Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative

March 30, 2012
€     On-Farm Energy Initiative
€     Organic Initiative
€     Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative

June 1, 2012
€     On-Farm Energy Initiative
€     Organic Initiative
€     Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative

Moving to multiple ranking dates instead of just one annually will make it easier for more producers to apply for the three initiatives and help them get started with implementing the practices they need to benefit the natural resources on their operations, State Conservationist J.R. Flores says.

"This change will also give Missouri's agriculture producers more time to make sure they choose the initiatives that are right for their operations," Flores says.

Flores adds that additional ranking periods for EQIP and WHIP could be established at a later date depending upon Missouri's funding allocation.

Program and Initiative Overviews
Environmental Quality Incentives Program: EQIP provides financial and technical assistance to install and implement structural and management conservation practices on agricultural land.

Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program: WHIP provides financial and technical assistance on private agricultural land, nonindustrial private forest land and Indian land to assist eligible producers establish and manage fish and wildlife habitat.

On-Farm Energy Initiative:  NRCS and producers develop Agricultural Energy Management Plans (AgEMP) or farm energy audits that assess energy consumption on an operation. NRCS then uses audit data to develop energy conservation recommendations. Each AgEMP has a landscape component that assesses equipment and farming processes and a farm headquarters component that assesses power usage and efficiencies in livestock buildings, grain handling operations, and similar facilities to support the farm operation.

Organic Initiative:  NRCS helps certified organic growers and producers working to achieve organic certification install conservation practices for organic production. New for fiscal year 2012, applicants will be evaluated continuously during the ranking periods. Applications meeting or exceeding a threshold score may be approved for an EQIP contract before the end of the ranking period. Applications rating below the threshold score will be deferred to the next period. A new threshold score will be established at the beginning of each ranking period. This new scoring process allows organic producers to implement conservation practices in a timelier manner.

Seasonal High Tunnel Pilot Initiative:  NRCS helps producers plan and implement the 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.

Visit the NRCS National Web site for more information on how to apply for these initiatives and connect with an NRCS office near you.

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