Government adds $202.5 million to funding of voluntary conservation programs

July 14, 2008 07:00 PM
Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer announced Tuesday that an additional $200 million will be made available to help farmers and ranchers through the 2008 Farm Bill to solve natural resource problems through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). An additional $2.5 million will also be available for Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) in 16 states. 

"These additional funds will assist farmers and ranchers in solving critical natural resource problems," Schafer said in a media release.

"Voluntary incentive-based programs like EQIP and AMA are the key to helping producers meet their conservation goals and provide the public with important benefits such as cleaner water, improved air quality, healthy soils, and abundant wildlife," he said.  

Congress provided the extra funds for both programs for fiscal year 2008. Both programs were reauthorized in the 2008 Farm Bill.

USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) administers EQIP and AMA, which provide financial and technical assistance to producers. EQIP helps farmers and ranchers improve agricultural production while protecting environmental quality.

The program offers up to 75 percent in cost share to help producers install or implement structural and management practices on private agricultural land.

Limited resource producers and beginning farmers and ranchers may be eligible for higher rates in EQIP-up to 90 percent in cost-share assistance-to address their natural resource issues. USDA can provide incentive payments to encourage producers to adopt conservation practices that would result in extra environmental benefits.

With this extra funding, USDA has provided a total of $1.2 billion available to producers in fiscal year 2008 for EQIP. USDA says that to date, approximately 38,000 producers signed contracts covering nearly 14 million acres valued at almost $745 million for EQIP.

AMA offers farmers and ranchers cost-share of up to 75 percent and incentive payments to address risk management concerns to their agricultural enterprises linked to water management, water quality and erosion control.

The program is available in the following 16 states where participation in the Federal Crop Insurance Program is historically low: Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming. Hawaii was added this fiscal year when Congress authorized the 2008 Farm Bill.

USDA has provided $7.5 million to producers in 15 states for AMA thus far this fiscal year. Producers have signed 181 contracts covering 13,100 acres valued at about $3.4 million.


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