One-time EQIP funding will help offset energy costs

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SALEM, Ohio – EQIP participants who signed contracts in 2004 or before could get more money from the USDA.
The department recently earmarked $40 million for one-time payments to help program participants complete conservation practices delayed due to the jump in energy prices.
The payments are part of the USDA’s attempt to alleviate the impact of high energy costs on farmers. The department’s energy strategy was introduced in December in response to concerns raised during the USDA farm bill forum tour.
Look for mail. Over the next two to three weeks, letters will be sent to all program participants who have a practice that qualifies for the funds. The letter will tell participants specifically how to get the extra funds. No one with a qualifying practice will be denied funding, officials say.
“People need to get in and take advantage of this as soon as possible,” said Chris Coulon, Ohio Natural Resources Conservation Service public affairs specialist,
The one-time payment adjustments apply only to Environmental Quality Incentives Program participants who signed contracts in 2004 or earlier.
The payment will apply to practices most affected by increases in the cost of concrete, steel, plastic pipe and other construction materials. Only projects completed from March 1 to June 30, 2006, are eligible and the payments will focus on supplementing practices that have increased 20 percent or more in price due to energy costs.
“It’s really nice to have this available,” Coulon said. “You surely don’t see this very often.”
Qualifying practices. The following practices qualify for the extra funding: composting facilities, fencing, grade stabilization structures, manure transfer, pipelines, structures for water control, underground outlets, waste storage systems, waste storage facilities, wastewater and feedlot runoff control systems, waste treatment lagoons and heavy use area protection.
Other projects may be added to the list.
“There are many conservation practices that farmers and ranchers have put on hold because of increasing energy prices,” said Agriculture Deputy Secretary Chuck Conner at the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation District’s annual meeting. “This adjustment will help our producers to fully implement those practices, which will increase the protection of our natural resources and in some cases, lessen the impact of high energy prices by reducing producers’ need for energy and energy-related inputs.”
Cost share. The program normally shares up to 75 percent of the cost of qualifying conservation practices.
“This (one-time) payment increase will be 15 percent of the cost share earned,” Coulon said.
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program is a voluntary conservation program for farmers. Anyone involved in agricultural or livestock production on land in need of conservation practices may participate in the program, which offers financial and technical assistance in implementing structural and management practices.
For information on the one-time payment adjustments go to www.nrcs.usda.gov or visit a local Natural Resources Conservation Service office or USDA service center.
(Reporter Janelle Skrinjar welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at jskrinjar@farmanddairy.com.)

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