Friday, September 18, 2020

NRCS-PA Encourages PA Farmers, Landowners To Apply For Conservation Financial, Technical Assistance

 On September 18, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service-PA encouraged agricultural producers and landowners to apply for technical and financial assistance to improve and enhance natural resources on their farm and forest land.

Funding is available through the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP),Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) Program, Agricultural Land Easements (ALE), Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE), and Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) administered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

The first application cutoff date for fiscal year 2021 is October 16, 2020 for AMA, EQIP, and two ongoing RCPP-EQIP projects. 

In addition, producers who have participated in the Farm Service Agency’s ARC/PLC program and are eligible to participate in the Grasslands Conservation Initiative option under CSP, should file an application by October 16 if they wish to be considered in this application cycle. 

A signup date for the regular CSP program has not been set, but producers interested in that program should consider filing an application now

Producers can apply for RCPP-EQIP funding in Chester County, in cooperation with the Chester County Conservation District’s Partnership for Chesapeake Bay Water Quality project.

Producers can apply for RCPP-EQIP and for RCPP-ALE in Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Perry and York counties with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s Implementing Conservation Practices and Certified Nutrient Management Plans (CNMPs) on Pennsylvania Preserved Farms RCPP project. 

RCPP-EQIP projects fund on-farm water quality improvement practices and RCPP-ALE funds agricultural land easements.

AMA applications are being accepted from producers in NRCS’s Northeast Pennsylvania area, which includes the counties of Bradford, Carbon, Centre, Clinton, Columbia, Juniata, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Lycoming, Mifflin, Monroe, Montour, Northumberland, Snyder, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, Union, Wayne Wyoming counties. 

AMA will fund activities such as high tunnels and irrigation systems.

EQIP assistance is available to help farmers and landowners plan and implement conservation practices to improve water quality, build healthier soil, improve grazing and forest lands, conserve energy, enhance organic operations, establish or improve wildlife habitat and achieve other environmental benefits on cropland and pasture, forestland, and associated agricultural land including farmsteads. 

Popular practices include those that support manure handling and storage systems, such as waste storage structures; soil health improvement, such as cover crops and no till; pasture improvement, such as prescribed grazing and watering systems; forest improvement, such as forest stand improvement; and habitat improvement, such as early successional habitat management.

Additionally, NRCS offers special initiatives through EQIP, including:

-- On-Farm Energy Initiative: helps producers conserve energy on their operations.

-- Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative: helps producers install high tunnels designed to extend the growing season into the cold months, increase productivity, keep plants at a steady temperature, and conserve water and energy.

-- Organic Initiative: helps producers install conservation practices on certified organic operations or those working toward organic certification.

-- Golden-Winged Warbler Initiative: helps landowners establish or improve young forest habitat to benefit the golden-winged warbler, in targeted priority areas.

-- National Water Quality Initiative: helps producers in special targeted watersheds in Bedford (Beaver and Upper Yellow Creeks), Berks (Maiden Creek), Dauphin and Lebanon County (Swatara Creek), Mifflin County (Upper Kishacoquillas Creek, and Northumberland County (Warrior Run) implement water quality improvement practices.

ALE provides funding to cooperating entities to preserve agricultural land with a focus on preserving prime and statewide important soils. 

WRE provides funding to private landowners to preserve land for wetland wildlife habitat. WRE includes a restoration component where the hydric soils are taken out of production and returned to their natural state as a functioning wetland.

NRCS conservationists will work with producers to develop a conservation plan on their land to identify concerns and opportunities, help determine objectives, and recommend solutions. 

“Our high-quality, comprehensive conservation plans can provide farmers with step-by-step recommendations they can use to improve their water quality, soil health and more -- all while reducing input costs,” said Denise Coleman, Pennsylvania NRCS State Conservationist.

NRCS accepts applications year-round but makes funding selections at application cut-off deadlines. 

Pennsylvania producers with applications in by October 16th will have a higher chance of application approval in 2021, as funding is limited. 

Applications received after that date will be accepted and considered for funding in additional ranking review cycles, if funds remain. December 18, 2020 and February 19, 2021 are the dates for second and third application review cycles.

Interested producers should visit their local NRCS service center for more information.

To participate in USDA conservation programs, applicants should be farmers or farm or forest landowners and must meet eligibility criteria. 

To take advantage of NRCS technical assistance and expertise or federally funded conservation on your farm or land, please contact your local USDA NRCS Field Office.

Visit the NRCS-PA webpage for program information.

(Map: In 2019, NRCS-PA helped landowners apply more than 22,000 conservation practices on Pennsylvania’s private lands to help improve soil, air, and water quality; enhance wildlife habitat; and preserve land for future generations.)

Related Articles:

-- USDA Opens Application Period For Rural Renewable Energy Systems & Energy Efficiency Grants/Loans 

-- NRCS-PA Invests $2 Million In Delaware Watershed Forest Health, Carbon Markets Project With The Nature Conservancy-PA/DE

-- DEP Offers $400,000 For Environmental Education Grants; Oct. 14 Webinar On How To Apply

-- DCNR Announces Regional Virtual Grant Workshops For Recreation And Conservation Projects In November

[Posted: Sept. 18, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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