By Zach Armstrong
PETERSBURG, Va. — USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is now accepting 2021 applications for three updated offerings with recently made changes that can benefit Virginia farmers with financial assistance for helping conservation efforts.
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program will now include increased payment rates for adopting cover crop rotations and incentives to support locally led conservation. Fund pools that satisfy initiatives such as conservation practices that restore habitat in breeding areas, developing site-specific plans to address an identified natural resource need, and building structures to extend the growing season in an environmentally friendly way are available.
The Conservation Stewardship Program allows agricultural producers and forest landowners to earn payments for actively managing and expanding conservation activities. Conservation activities include soil health planning, building soil organic matter through crop rotations and practices that help producers adapt to or mitigate impacts of changing weather conditions.
The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program will not require a minimum cash match from its Agricultural Land Easement component allowing landowner donations, acquisition expenses and stewardship costs to satisfy the requirement. The new program agreement structure will also increase administrative efficiency as opposed to the previously implemented.
“NRCS Virginia has a great track record of service to the state’s farm and forest landowners,” said Virginia State Conservationist Edwin Martinez Martinez. “We’re currently managing 2,316 active EQIP and CSP contracts on 492,023 acres and have protected 16,555acres of farmland and wetlands through existing recorded easements. Contact your local office to learn more about how we can help you reach your land management goals.”
EQIP applications will be accepted until Dec. 18. All applicants must have farm records established with USDA's Farm Service Agency. Advance payment options are available for historically underserved producers including beginning, socially disadvantaged, veteran and limited resource farmers or ranchers.