NRCS releases final rule for national EQIP program

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service has released the final rule for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

The 2002 Farm Bill reauthorized and amended the program.

The final rule, published May 30 in the Federal Register, describes how the program will be implemented.

A total of $15.5 million in fiscal year 2003 funds has been made available for EQIP in Kansas.

“With the final rule in place, we have now set a date of July 3, 2003, as a cutoff date to begin evaluation of applications received by NRCS in Kansas,” said Harold L. Klaege, state conservationist. “These applications will be considered for the funding allocation we received for Kansas for Fiscal Year 2003.

“If producers want to apply, they need to get to their NRCS field office or local county conservation district soon, so their application is ready to be considered for 2003 funding,” Klaege said.

“EQIP is a valuable tool to help our state’s agricultural producers meet the significant environmental regulations they face, while continuing to be good stewards of the land,” he said. “EQIP helps them implement conservation practices that improve and protect our natural resources.”

The final rule revises the purpose of EQIP to optimize environmental benefits and clarifies definitions and terms-especially definitions for individuals, persons and eligibility issues.

The objective of EQIP is to address natural resource concerns through the application of improved conservation systems, EQIP is an environmental enhancement program, Klaege said.

EQIP, one of the largest programs in the Farm Bill, is a voluntary conservation program that promotes environmental quality and assists producers to meet local, state and federal regulations.

In Kansas, EQIP funds will help farmers and ranchers install conservation practices that improve and protect Kansas’s four natural resources:

air quality, by addressing airborne odors due to livestock concerns;

grazing lands, by addressing pest management, plant productivity and health;

soil quality, by addressing excessive wind erosion;

water quality, by addressing confined-animal waste, concentrated non-confined-animal waste, nutrients, pesticides and sedimentation;

water quantity, by addressing ground and surface water conservation.

Agricultural producers interested in participating in EQIP can apply at any time at their local NRCS office or USDA Service Center.

NRCS will evaluate each application and give higher priority to those applications that use cost-effective conservation practices, treat multiple resource concerns, address national, state or local priorities, and provide the most environmental benefits.

EQIP signup information is on the Internet at www.ks.nrcs.usda. gov/programs/eqip, or www.ks. nrcs.usda.gov/programs/eqip.

Information is also available from the local NRCS office, 301 Eisenhower Drive, Marion. The phone number is 620-382-3737.

In addition to the application form, there is application information for each state, a list of eligible practices and average costs, and specifics on Kansas’s ranking process, including criteria used to evaluate applications.

The final rule and more information on EQIP and other conservation programs can be viewed at www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/farmbill/2002/FBRules.html.

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