Signup continues for Cherokee County agricultural producers to receive financial and technical assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), a voluntary program for farmers to protect soil, water and other natural resources on their land.
Producers should submit EQIP applications at their local Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office at the USDA Service Center, 314 Lake Street in Cherokee. Through the 2008 Farm Bill, NRCS provides financial incentives to producers to promote agricultural production and environmental quality as compatible goals, optimize environmental benefits, and help farmers meet environmental regulations.
Conservation plans must be developed for the entire area included in an EQIP contract. NRCS provides technical assistance and financial payments to producers who apply practices based on conservation plans. EQIP practices include, but are not limited to: terraces, grassed waterways, waste storage facilities, grade stabilization structures, nutrient management, no-till, organic crop production, pasture management and wildlife habitat management. A new practice has been added to the Cherokee EQIP 2010 list of practices; Seasonal High Tunnel Systems. Seasonal High Tunnel Systems offer an option to extend the growing season to successfully produce vegetable and other specialty crops for personal or commercial use. A Seasonal High Tunnel is a greenhouse-like structure, at least 6 feet in height, which modifies the climate to create more favorable growing conditions for vegetables and other specialty crops grown in the natural soil beneath it. "There is great potential for high tunnels to expand the availability of healthy, locally-grown crops," says Ms. Braun.
EQIP applications are accepted on a continuous basis. Cutoff dates to rank applications are set and advertised periodically as funds become available. Renee Braun, District Conservationist, says early applications allow for more thorough conservation planning. "If you apply for EQIP early, a conservation plan can be developed to identify all natural resource concerns and treatment options," she says. "This also ensures that all eligibility issues are in order before applications are ranked for funding."
Historically underserved clients, such as socially disadvantaged and beginning farmers, will receive special consideration for EQIP funding.
For more information or to apply for an EQIP contract, visit the Cherokee USDA Service Center, Monday through Friday between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., or call 712-225-3769.