HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania agricultural producers and landowners now have additional time to apply for technical and financial assistance to improve and enhance natural resources on their farm and forest land, and for conservation easements to protect agricultural land from development and restore and protect wetlands.
The last day to submit applications for consideration in the first application review cycle for the following USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) conservation programs in fiscal year 2020 has been extended from January 31,2020 to March 20, 2020:
Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP): Includes EQIP special initiatives, such as the On-Farm energy Initiative, Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative, and Organic Initiative.
Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) Program: Assistance for irrigation is available in Bucks, Cumberland, Bucks, Lehigh, Montgomery, and Northampton counties.
Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP-EQIP): Applications are being accepted for two projects: Chester County Conservation District’s Partnership for Chesapeake Bay Water Quality in Chester County and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s Implementing Conservation Practices and Certified Nutrient Management Plans (CNMPs) on Pennsylvania Preserved Farms, in Franklin, Adams, York, Cumberland, Perry, and Dauphin Counties.
Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) Renewals: Participants with existing 2014, 2015 and 2016 CSP contracts who are eligible for a renewal contract must apply by March 20, 2020 and will receive individual notification of that opportunity. (NOTE: The last day to submit applications for consideration in the first application review cycle for CSP in fiscal year 2020 has been extended from January 31, 2020 to May 29, 2020.)
Additionally, applications for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) for both the Agricultural Land Easement Program (ALE) and the Wetland Reserve Easement Program (WRE) are being accepted on a continuous basis throughout 2020 Fiscal Year.
Through NRCS conservation programs, 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. Assistance for irrigation is available through the AMA program in Cumberland, Bucks, Montgomery, Lehigh, and Northampton counties.
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 for all programs on a continuous basis, but makes funding selections at application cut-off deadlines. Applications received by listed cut-off dates have a higher chance of being approved for funding, as funding is limited. Applications received after that date will be accepted and considered for funding in a second ranking review cycle, if funds remain.
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 (found at www.farmers.gov/service-center-locator), or visit our website at www.pa.nrcs.usda.gov for applications and program information.
–Molly Rose, Pennsylvania NRCS