Farmers and ranchers are encouraged to contact their local Natural Resources Conservation Service office to discuss how soil and water conservation and wetland restoration programs can help protect their natural resources, says Steve Chick, NRCS state conservationist in Nebraska.
"Several of these programs will have a fall application deadline for funding," he says.
Producers are encouraged to apply for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program before Dec. 14.
"NRCS will take the applications received through that date, evaluate the applications, and begin offering contracts to the producers," according to Chick. "The Dec. 14 deadline is earlier than previous years, but this will allow producers to begin applying conservation practices in the spring, if they choose to."
Last year, NRCS committed over $26 million dollars through EQIP to Nebraska farmers and ranchers. EQIP is the most widely applied conservation program statewide with more than 5.9 million acres currently under contract.
The Wetlands Reserve Program is also available to help landowners enhance or restore wetlands on their property. An application deadline has not yet been set for this program, but it will likely be this fall, according to Chick.
"In the last 10 years of this program, last year was the first where NRCS didn't have enough applications and turned wetland restoration money back to our national office. So, if landowners have ever been thinking about restoring a wetland, now would be a good time to begin the planning process."
WRP offers producers a choice of a 10-year, 30-year, or permanent easement and various levels of financial assistance for restoration depending on the option chosen. Since 1997, more than 63,000 acres of wetlands have been restored in the state.
"The application process for either program is easy for producer to complete in any NRCS office," Chick adds. "We will visit with them about their property, find out what they would like to do, and prepare a cost estimate. The producer does not make a commitment until an application is approved."
More details on these conservation programs are available at any local Natural Resources Conservation Service office, or on-line at www.ne.nrcs.usda.gov/programs.