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USDA-NRCS 2012 Farm Bill Program participation now underway

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Application and ranking schedules for 2012 first ranking cut-off period for Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) applications will be Nov. 15, 2011.
The USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Kentucky is encouraging landowners, farmers and producers to visit their local NRCS office now to receive more information and apply for conservation technical assistance and possible financial funding opportunities. The application process for 2008 Farm Bill conservation programs is continuous, but funding selections are made at specific times throughout the year. The Kentucky NRCS application ranking cutoff date for consideration for 2012 funds in this sign up period is Nov. 15, 2011.
Financial assistance is available to eligible applicants for the following Farm Bill programs:
• The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is a conservation program that provides financial and technical assistance to farmers and ranchers who face threats to soil, water, air, and related natural resources on their land. Through EQIP, NRCS develops contracts with agricultural producers to voluntarily implement conservation practices. Persons engaged in livestock or agricultural production and owners of non-industrial private forestland are eligible for this program. Eligible land includes cropland, rangeland, pastureland, private non-industrial forestland, and other farm or ranch lands.
• The Mississippi River Basin Watershed Initiative (MRBI) was developed in 2009 with a goal of reducing, mitigating and controlling nutrient levels in surface waters and reducing the severity of the gulf hypoxia crisis. In conjunction with multiple partners, including state agencies, conservation districts, environmental groups, and farming interests, NRCS Kentucky proposed three focus watersheds with boundaries entirely in Kentucky: Licking River, Lower Green River and the Bayou de Chien-Mayfield Creek. Eligible land within specific subwatersheds of the focus areas can take advantage of financial and technical assistance to develop contracts, which address resource concerns within the focus areas. Contact your local field office to determine land eligibility.  
• The Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) is a voluntary program for developing or improving high quality habitat that supports fish and wildlife populations of National, State, Tribal, and local significance. Through WHIP, the NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to eligible private and Tribal landowners for the development of upland, wetland, aquatic, and other types of wildlife habitat.
“We’re urging producers to get their applications in as soon as possible to be considered for this year’s funding” said Karen Woodrich Kentucky NRCS State Conservationist.
All recipients of assistance are required to develop a Conservation Plan. Conservation planning is an integral part of the conservation process. Landowners should work with a conservation planner to develop the plan based on the landowner’s operational goals to improve the productivity, sustainability and profitability of their operation. The Conservation Plan will serve as a roadmap to a variety of technical assistance and financial assistance through EQIP and WHIP, as well as other options available to the landowner.
“We’re getting back to our roots with conservation planning,” says Woodrich.  “Conservation planning is the vital first step in understanding natural resources on your land, and also understanding how technical and financial conservation assistance can be incorporated into your operation to help you help the land.” She said “Now is the time to contact your local NRCS Field Office to develop a conservation plan.”
If you are interested in participating in Farm Bill conservation programs, you should sign-up as soon as possible and request a conservation plan.
For more information contact Georganne Wiltse, NRCS district conservationist at 859-234-5876.