The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service in Delaware has set the first application cutoff date for Friday, Dec. 20, for conservation program financial assistance in fiscal year 2014. Delaware’s producers are encouraged to sign up now for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program or Agricultural Management Assistance Program, which provide financial and technical assistance to address varying natural resource priorities.
Producers may apply anytime as program sign-up is continuous; however, those with applications in before Dec. 20 will have a higher chance of application approval, as funding is limited. Additional application cutoff dates are scheduled for the third Friday of each month until May 16.
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program places a priority on water quality and conservation, and promotes soil health 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 253 EQIP contracts totaling $5.4 million.
The Agricultural Management Assistance Program 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 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.
Eligible producers with a conservation plan for their operation receive priority for financial assistance. NRCS staff is available to help producers create conservation plans.
To apply for financial assistance, contact local a USDA Service Center. In Sussex County, call 302-856-3990, Ext 3. More information on NRCS programs and services is available at www.de.nrcs.usda.gov.