Conservation assistance available

Published 3:25 pm Thursday, December 31, 2009

The USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service is accepting applications for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Wildlife Habitat Incentives program until January 15.

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) provides a voluntary conservation program for farmers and ranchers that promotes agricultural production and environmental quality as compatible goals.

EQIP offers financial and technical help to assist eligible participants install or implement structural and management practices on eligible agricultural land.

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EQIP offers contracts that provide incentive payments and cost-shares to implement conservation practices. Persons who are engaged in livestock or agricultural production on eligible land may participate in the EQIP program.

EQIP activities are carried out according to an environmental quality incentives program plan of operations developed in conjunction with the producer that identifies the appropriate conservation practice or practices to address the resource concerns. The practices are subject to NRCS technical standards adapted for local conditions.

EQIP cost-shares 75 percent of the costs of certain conservation practices. Incentive payments may be provided for up to three years to encourage producers to carry out management practices they may not otherwise use without the incentive. However, historically under served groups are eligible for cost-shares up to 90 percent.

The Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) is a voluntary program for people who want to develop and improve wildlife habitat primarily on private land. WHIP provides both technical assistance and up to 75 percent cost-share assistance to establish and improve fish and wildlife habitat. WHIP agreements between NRCS and the participant generally last from five to ten years from the date the agreement is signed.

By targeting wildlife habitat projects on all lands and aquatic areas, WHIP provides assistance to conservation minded landowners who are unable to meet the specific eligibility requirements of other USDA conservation programs.

Applications can be made for both programs at the NRCS office, 121 Laurel Drive, Rutherfordton, N.C. or the Polk SQCD office located in the courthouse annex in Columbus. Call 828-287-4220 ext. 3 for further information.