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USDA urges farmers to apply for assistance

Times Observer file art Beef cows grazing on rolling farmland

Farmers and forest landowners looking to make improvements may qualify for federal dollars and assistance.

According to a release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), “Pennsylvania agricultural producers and landowners are encouraged to apply for technical and financial assistance to improve and enhance natural resources on their farm and forest land.”

“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,” according to USDA. “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.”

“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,” NRCS Pennsylvania Conservationist Denise Coleman said. “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.”

Initiatives offered through EQIP include:

¯ 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; and

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

The first deadline falls at the end of the month.

“Funding is available through the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) Program, and Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP-EQIP),” according to the release. “The first application cutoff date for fiscal year 2020 is Jan. 31, 2020.”

Applications are accepted year-round. Selections are made at cut-off deadlines.

“Pennsylvania producers with applications in by Jan. 31 will have a higher chance of application approval in 2020, as funding is limited,” according to the release. “Applications received after that date will be accepted and considered for funding in a second ranking review cycle, if funds remain.”

The Meadville and Clarion NRCS service centers serve Warren County. Contact information may be found at offices.usda.gov.

Applications and further information are available by visiting the Pennsylvania NRCS website at www.pa.nrcs.usda.gov.

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