Ag News

NRCS taking applications for four conservation programs

by Compiled by Georgia Farm Bureau

Posted on Oct 14, 2021 at 0:00 AM

The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is accepting applications for the Red Hills to the Coast, Connecting Land and Water project, the Georgia Sentinel Landscape Project, Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funding. Nov. 5 is the deadline to apply for all four programs.

The Red Hills to the Coast, Connecting Land and Water Project covering Georgia is one of 48 projects across the country that was selected for funding through fiscal year 2020’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). This project was developed in conjunction with Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy. The project area includes the entirety of the St. Marks River and Aucilla River watersheds in both Georgia and Florida.

The focus areas for this funding announcement are portions of Brooks County and Thomas County within the St. Marks River and Aucilla River watersheds.

Tall Timbers' vision for the St. Marks River and Aucilla River watersheds is a pair of adjoining watersheds that contain conserved, well-managed working lands and natural habitats that allow for an increase in listed species populations, improved water quality for residents, and economic benefits to surrounding communities. Tall Timbers seeks to conserve as many of the unique elements of these two watersheds as possible, while also recognizing the needs and desires of people in the region. Tall Timbers hopes to see higher wildlife populations, clearer springs, cleaner rivers, more productive fisheries, and a better economic outlook for residents of the area because of this project.

For more information or to apply, click here.

The Georgia Sentinel Landscape Project is one of 48 projects across the country that was selected for funding through the fiscal year 2019 Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). This project was developed in conjunction with the Georgia Sentinel Landscape (GSL)) which is a partnership consisting of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Department of Defense, the Georgia Forestry Commission, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, The Nature Conservancy, The Georgia Conservancy, The Georgia-Alabama Land Trust and over a dozen other partners. GSL is one of seven designated Sentinel Landscapes in the nation. Sentinel Landscapes are working, or natural lands important to the National Defense mission, places where preserving the working and rural character of key landscapes strengthens the economies of farms, ranches, and forests as well as protecting the military mission.

The 11-county focus areas for prescribed fire and firebreak related practices for this land management funding announcement include Camden, Chattahoochee, Evans, Long, Macon, Marion, McIntosh, Schley, Talbot, Tattnall, and Taylor counties.

For more information or to apply, click here.

The ACEP, created through the 2014 farm bill and reauthorized in the 2018 farm bill, is a program that has two components, known as Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) and Wetlands Reserve Easements (WRE).

ACEP-WRE applications are accepted directly from producers on eligible lands. These easements will restore and enhance wetlands and improve habitat. Eligible lands include farmed, prior converted or forested wetlands that can be successfully and cost-effectively restored. Applications will be ranked according to the easement’s potential for protecting and enhancing habitat for migratory birds, fish and other wildlife.

Applications for the ACEP-ALE are accepted from eligible partners. These eligible entities may submit proposals to NRCS to acquire a conservation easement on eligible agricultural land. NRCS does not accept applications for ACEP-ALE directly from producers. Producers will need to work with an eligible entity to pursue funding for an ACEP-ALE conservation easement. Some examples of eligible entities include county board of commissioners, land trusts and land conservancies.

In the 2018 farm bill rules, there is an option available under ACEP-ALE for the use of ACEP-ALE program agreements, versus the traditional cooperative agreement. ACEP-ALE program agreements are designed to streamline ACEP-ALE enrollments and allow for fiscal year-round evaluation, selection, and funding of individual parcels.

The latest version of the ACEP-ALE application allows the eligible entity to identify which ALE-agreement type they are interested in. Approved ACEP-ALE easements would prevent productive working lands from being converted to non-agricultural uses and maximize protection of land devoted to food production. Cropland, rangeland, grassland, pastureland and nonindustrial private forestland are eligible.

For more information about ACEP, click here.

While customers can apply year round for EQIP, this application cutoff announcement is for all general EQIP, as well as some special initiatives such as the Longleaf Pine, On-Farm Energy, Organic, Seasonal High Tunnel and the Working Lands for Wildlife. Customers should discuss these sign-up options with their local conservationist to see if any of the initiatives or other projects are right for them.

NRCS conservationists work with producers to assess the conservation needs on their land, identify concerns and opportunities, help determine objectives, and recommend solutions.

EQIP was originally established under the 1996 farm bill and reauthorized in the 2018 farm bill. Assistance is available to help producers and landowners plan and implement conservation practices to provide environmental benefits on cropland, pasture, forestland, and associated agricultural land, including animal feeding operations. As a result, EQIP helps to improve water quantity and quality, build healthier soil, improve grazing and forest lands, conserve energy, enhance organic operations, as well as establish or improve wildlife habitat.

Interested producers can apply at their local USDA Service Center by submitting a Conservation Program Application (NRCS-CPA-1200).

For more information about EQIP, click here.

Contact information for Georgia USDA Service Centers can be accessed by clicking here.

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