Posts Tagged ‘NRCS’

USDA NRCS Announces Sign-Up for Three Conservation Programs

Friday, September 21st, 2012

Sign-up before October 19 for FY 2013 financial assistance.

Applications for three extensive conservation programs are being accepted until October 19, 2012 for funding consideration in FY2013. Delaware producers are encouraged to sign up for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) or Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) program, which provide financial and technical assistance to address varying conservation priorities.

Although the first application cut-off date is October 19, producers and forest landowners can apply anytime for EQIP, WHIP or AMA at their local USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office. However, those with applications in before October 19 will have a higher chance of application approval as funding is limited.

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) places a priority on water quality, water conservation and promotes forest management practices and energy conservation. It also provides funding for conservation practices that address air quality concerns from agricultural operations using innovative technologies. Last year, Delaware awarded 241 EQIP contracts totaling $5 million.

The Agricultural Management Assistance Program (AMA) provides payments to agricultural producers to voluntarily address issues such as water quality, water management and erosion control by incorporating conservation practices into their farming operations. Conservation practices eligible for funding include, but are not limited to, nutrient management, cover crops, poultry windbreaks, proper manure storage, composters and conservation cover.

The Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) offers technical and financial assistance to private landowners to develop and improve high quality habitat that supports wildlife populations of significance. Only privately-owned agricultural land and forest land are eligible for WHIP. Eligible practices for funding consideration include conservation cover, windbreaks, filter strips, riparian forest buffers, wetlands restoration and more.

All interested landowners must have an active conservation plan so that their program applications can be considered when funding is made available. A conservation plan is a voluntary technical tool that helps landowners identify conservation measures that provide the greatest conservation benefits on the land.

Practices under AMA, WHIP, and EQIP are offered through a continuous signup, but NRCS periodically makes funding selections as program dollars allow.

To apply for financial assistance, contact your local USDA Service Center. In Sussex County, call 302-856-3990, ext 3; in Kent County, call 302-741-2600, ext. 3; and in New Castle County, call 302-832-3100, ext. 3. Additional information on NRCS programs and services is available on the Delaware NRCS Web site at www.de.nrcs.usda.gov.

NRCS Encourages Use of the Delaware Irrigation Management System: Local Irrigators are Needed to Use and Test the System

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

State Conservationist Russell Morgan, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), encourages Delaware irrigators to use the recently released Delaware Irrigation Management System (DIMS). DIMS is an online tool designed to provide members of the Delaware agricultural community access to irrigation scheduling software that is streamlined and tailored to Delaware.

This system, which utilizes input from the user, input from existing DEOS weather stations, and physical data from the environment, is designed for several irrigated crops in Delaware: corn, soybean, sweet corn, cucumbers, watermelons, cantaloupes, lima beans, and peas. Developed by staff at the University of Delaware’s Delaware Environmental Observing System (DEOS), the project was funded by grants from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.

“Growers using DIMS will be able to manage their irrigation water more efficiently, which has a multiplying effect on an operation,” said Morgan. “Results include increased yields which lead to higher profits; there’s improved water quality resulting from efficient utilization of nutrients; and also water conservation, which reduces water waste and can lower operating costs.”

Irrigation scheduling software is nothing new; however, this software was written specifically for Delaware. Also, many software applications often require the manual entering of weather data. DIMS is the only current software for Delaware that is automatically updated with weather data.

DIMS uses an irrigation scheduling method based on a basic water balance. The amount of water lost from the soil surface (evaporation) plus the amount of water used by the crop (transpiration) is calculated and tracked and compared to inputs from rainfall, soil moisture measurements, and irrigation to determine the amount of water available in the soil to a particular crop. Through this method, which is generally referred to as the “checkbook” method, a user hopes to optimize the amount of soil water available to the crop, thus reducing crop stress, improving crop yield, and maximizing nutrient uptake by the crop.

DIMS is streamlined and tailored to Delaware and was created to reduce the amount of effort required of the user both before and during the growing season. DIMS provides a straightforward, online interface that allows users to quickly determine if a field has adequate soil moisture to satisfy the crop’s water requirements and make immediate irrigation decisions.

“By automatically integrating weather and climate data and soil property data, DIMS takes existing irrigation tools up a notch,” according to Kevin Brinson, DEOS Systems Manager.

A more thorough explanation of the system and how to use it is available on line: http://www.deos.udel.edu/docs/DIMS_User_Guide.pdf.

The USDA NRCS has financial assistance available for Irrigation Water Management.

For more information regarding DIMS contact Kevin Brinson, DEOS Systems Manager, at kbrinson@udel.edu or by phone at 302-831-6906. For more information on NRCS programs and services in Delaware, visit www.de.nrcs.usda.gov or contact your local USDA Service Center. In Sussex County, call 302-856-3990 x 3; in Kent County, call 302-741-2600 x 3; in New Castle County, call 302-832-3100 x 3.

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Application Deadline for USDA Organic Initiative Approaching

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist Russell Morgan reminds local organic farmers and those transitioning to organic production practices to contact their local NRCS office soon to find out if they are eligible for the agency’s Organic Initiative.

June 1, 2012 is the cut-off date for applications to be considered in the third ranking period of fiscal year (FY) 2012, although applications are always accepted on a continuous basis.

The Organic Initiative is funded through NRCS’ Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Interested farmers must submit their applications through the local USDA NRCS Service Center.

“Although Delaware has a small population of organic growers, NRCS is committed to helping these farmers implement conservation practices that have been proven beneficial to organic production,” said Morgan. “This Organic Initiative has made financial and technical resources readily available to local growers to improve the management and productivity of their operation.”

Since FY 2009, NRCS has provided $172,000 in financial assistance to Delaware certified organic producers, those who want to make the transition to organic production, and producers who sell less than $5,000 in organic products annually. Approximately $50 million is available nationwide in FY 2012.

The EQIP Organic Initiative offers a wide array of conservation practices specifically designed for organic production. The top six Organic Initiative conservation practices are cover crops, nutrient management, integrated pest management, seasonal high tunnels, crop rotation, and fencing.

Changes for 2012 include three ranking periods for current and transitioning producers; a threshold ranking score that can speed up approval for qualified applicants; required conservation practices that promote the consistent use of those practices; and an expanded list of conservation activity plans.

Learn more about the Organic Initiative and other programs and services at www.de.nrcs.usda.gov. To apply, contact your local USDA Service Center. In Sussex County, call 302-856-3990 x 3; in Kent County, call 302-741-2600 x 3; in New Castle County, call 302-832-3100 x 3.

NRCS Announces Sign-Up for Environmental Quality Incentives Program

Friday, August 12th, 2011

Apply before October 7 for assistance in fiscal year 2012.

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is offering financial and technical assistance to Delaware producers to implement conservation practices on their farming operations. Producers are encouraged to apply for the Environment Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) by October 7 for assistance in the upcoming year.

EQIP is a voluntary, financial assistance program that helps fund on-farm conservation practices. Practices include those aimed at managing nutrient run-off and/or animal waste; improving irrigation efficiency; improving the health of native plant communities; and reducing soil loss. In fiscal year 2011, NRCS awarded Delaware producers $4.9 million through 137 EQIP contracts.

Delaware farmers transitioning to organic production or already certified as an organic producer may also qualify for the organic initiative under EQIP. Organic producers can receive up to $20,000 per year or $80,000 over six years through this program.

“EQIP is adaptable to meet the various needs of our landowners and address their natural resource challenges, which may change over time,” said Russell Morgan, Delaware NRCS State Conservationist. “By implementing these extra conservation measures, farmers are helping to sustain the productive agricultural lands and natural resources that we all depend on.”

Applications for EQIP are accepted year-round as it is a continuous sign-up. Applications received before October 7 will be considered first for funding; applications received after this date will be considered for future funding periods.

EQIP provides payments for certain conservation practices and activities. Certain historically underserved producers (limited resource farmers, beginning farmers, and socially disadvantaged producers) may be eligible for larger payments.

To find out more about EQIP or other conservation related topics in Delaware, please contact Tim Garrahan, 302-678-4260 or Dastina Johnson, 302-678-4179 or visit the Delaware NRCS website at http://www.de.nrcs.usda.gov

NRCS to Deploy Technical Team to Increase Conservation in Delmarva Area

Friday, April 1st, 2011

DOVER, Del., March 21, 2011- USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) recently announced that Delaware will receive $180,000 to help fund a Strategic Watershed Action Team (SWAT) to help growers develop nutrient management plans throughout targeted areas of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

NRCS is deploying four SWATs, or technical experts, to provide additional planning, education and technical assistance to farmers to further improve water quality. The four teams will focus on working with producers in the Delmarva area (Delaware and Maryland), Piedmont area (Pennsylvania), Shenandoah Valley (Virginia), and West Virginia.

According to Delaware State Conservationist Russell Morgan, the Delaware portion of the Delmarva SWAT will provide up to two specialists working with farmers to develop and write more than 300 Animal Waste Management Plans or Nutrient Management Plans. “Together with our conservation partners, we can target our resources to significantly reduce nutrient and sediment losses to the Chesapeake Bay.”

Delaware’s conservation partners, the local conservation districts and the State of Delaware, are committing $50,000 in additional funding. Each SWAT will help individual agricultural producers plan and implement conservation practices needed to address priority natural resource concerns.

SWATs will not only help achieve USDA goals, but also support State Watershed Implementation Plan goals for Best Management Practice implementation set through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) process. It is anticipated that SWAT would further environmental improvement while keeping production agriculture competitive and profitable.

SWAT is just one component of the Presidential Executive Order (EO) Strategy for Protecting and Restoring the Chesapeake Bay Watershed to help USDA implement new conservation practices on four million acres of agricultural working lands in priority watersheds by 2025. Acres treated by SWAT will be tracked to count toward the EO Strategy goal.

SWAT teams are expected to be in place this spring. For more information about SWAT, contact your local USDA Service Center or visit www.nrcs.usda.gov.

Delaware NRCS Encourages Producers to Sign Up Early for Three Conservation Programs

Friday, July 16th, 2010

Delaware producers interested in improving natural resources have until October 1 to sign up for three popular conservation programs from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). NRCS is offering financial and technical assistance to eligible producers through the voluntary Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Agricultural Management Assistance Program (AMA), and Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP). After the first batch date of October 1, monthly batch dates will be added as necessary as funding becomes available.

“As more Delaware producers adopt effective conservation practices, we are able to make great progress to improve our water quality, maintain high quality soils, and improve wildlife habitat,” said Russell Morgan, NRCS State Conservationist. Producers are encouraged to apply early to ensure they meet current NRCS eligibility requirements.

Delaware farmers may apply for EQIP to receive financial and technical assistance to plan, design, and install structural conservation practices and to plan and implement management practices on eligible agricultural land. Producers may sign up for available practices including agricultural waste management, nutrient management, irrigation water management, soil erosion control, forest management, poultry house windbreaks, and more.

AMA provides payments to agricultural producers to voluntarily address issues such as water quality, water management, and erosion control by incorporating conservation practices into their farming operations. Some conservation practices eligible for funding include nutrient management, cover crops, high tunnel houses, and conservation cover. Eligible land includes cropland, grassland, pastureland, non-industrial forestland, and other private land that produces crops or livestock.

WHIP offers technical and financial assistance to private landowners to develop, improve, and protect high quality habitat that supports wildlife populations. Land eligible for WHIP includes private agricultural land or non-industrial private forestland. Practices eligible for WHIP funding include filter strips, riparian forest buffers, wetlands restoration (including phragmites spraying), and more. WHIP provides both technical assistance and financial assistance up to 75 percent.

Applications for the above conservation programs are accepted year round. For additional information on EQIP, AMA, or WHIP, visit www.de.nrcs.usda.gov or contact the local USDA Service Center nearest you. In Sussex, call 302-856-3990 ext. 3; in Kent, call 302-741-2600 ext. 3; in New Castle, call 302-832-3100 ext. 3.

USDA Encourages Landowners to Sign Up Now for Conservation Stewardship Program

Friday, May 14th, 2010

DOVER, Del., May 11, 2010 – USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Acting State Conservationist Jay Mar recently announced that Delaware landowners are encouraged to apply for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). Authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill, CSP offers payments to producers who maintain a high level of conservation on their land and who agree to adopt higher levels of stewardship. Eligible lands include cropland, pastureland, and non-industrial forestland. The deadline to be considered for the next ranking and funding period is June 11, 2010.

“As a result of NRCS assistance, many private landowners in Delaware have voluntarily applied conservation practices with benefits to water quality, soil health, wildlife habitat and more,” said Mar. “CSP recognizes these producers and provides them with additional resources to move to the next level of natural resource conservation.”

Eligible producers may submit an application to enroll eligible land in CSP on a continuous basis. Producers are encouraged to apply for CSP now to ensure their applications will be considered during the next funding and ranking period. However, they can make their final decision to participate in the program once the CSP final rule is issued. The final rule will establish the policies and procedures for the program.

CSP offers payments for adding conservation practices and maintaining and managing existing conservation practices. CSP is offered in all 50 states, District of Columbia, and the Pacific and Caribbean areas through continuous sign-ups with announced cut-off application dates for ranking periods. Enrollment is capped nationally at 12.7 million acres per year.

Potential applicants are encouraged to use the CSP self-screening checklist to determine if the new program is suitable for their operation. The checklist highlights basic information about CSP eligibility requirements, contract obligations and potential payments. The checklist and additional information on CSP are available from local USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service offices or on the NRCS Web site at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/new_csp/csp.html.

For more information about other NRCS programs and services in Delaware, visit www.de.nrcs.usda.gov or call Jayme Arthurs, (302) 678-4191 or Dastina Johnson, (302) 678-4179.