By Amelia Dortch
Auburn, Alabama, October 1, 2020 – USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist for Alabama Ben Malone announced that November 13, 2020 will be the signup batching deadline for producers for the Fiscal Year 2021 Farm Bill easement and financial assistance programs. Applicable programs include:
- Agricultural Conservation Easement Program – Wetland Reserve Easements (ACEP-WRE)
- Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)
- Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
NRCS offers voluntary programs to eligible landowners and agricultural producers to provide financial and technical assistance to help manage natural resources in a sustainable manner. Through these programs, the agency approves contracts to provide financial assistance to help plan and implement conservation practices that address natural resource concerns or opportunities to help save energy, improve soil, water, plant, air, animal and related resources on agricultural lands and non-industrial private forest land. More specifically:
- ACEP-WRE: Easements provide habitat for fish and wildlife, including threatened and endangered species, improve water quality by filtering sediments and chemicals, reduce flooding, recharge groundwater, protect biological diversity and provide opportunities for educational, scientific and limited recreational activities. Land eligible for wetland reserve easements include farmed or converted wetland that can be successfully and cost-effectively restored. NRCS will prioritize applications based on the easement’s potential for protecting and enhancing habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife.
- CSP: This program helps agricultural producers maintain and improve their existing conservation systems and adopt additional conservation activities to address priority resources concerns. Participants earn CSP payments for conservation performance—the higher the performance, the higher the payment.
- EQIP: This program provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers to address natural resource concerns and deliver environmental benefits such as improved water and air quality, conserved ground and surface water, increased soil health and reduced soil erosion and sedimentation, improved or created wildlife habitat, and mitigation against increasing weather volatility.
Applications are accepted on a continuous basis; however, selecting applications for funding is completed periodically through batching periods with specific cutoff dates. The first cut-off date is November 13th, 2020. Applications received after this date will be held and considered for subsequent funding opportunities as available funds permit.
Special emphasis participants like socially disadvantaged, limited resource, new and beginning, and eligible military veteran farmers and ranchers are eligible for a higher payment rate. In addition, these historically underserved farmers and ranchers are eligible for a 50 percent advanced payment for purchasing materials or contracting to help with practice implementation.
New in 2021 for EQIP, High Priority and Source Water Protection practices will receive higher payment rates in designated conservation areas within the State.
For more information about Alabama NRCS and programmatic priorities and assessment/ranking criteria, visit us online at www.al.nrcs.usda.gov. Additionally, visit your local USDA Service Center to determine eligibility; applicants are not eligible for USDA programs until they have ensured all Farm Bill eligibility requirements have been met. You can locate your local Service Center at http://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov.
COVID-19 Guidance: NRCS is under Covid 19 limitations. We are limited in the amount of direct contact we can have with customers both for your safety and ours. This does not mean we don’t want to assist you. It means you may need to be more persistent and always contact office by phone or by email before making office visit to be sure you can speak to someone about your need. We’ve provided this link to our online field office locator: http://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov. By using this locator tool, you’ll be able to find the best contact information for your county’s field office. Covid -19 is new for all of us but we have found a way to operate and plan to continue to make an impact by assisting producers like you treat environmental concerns.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).