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KC farmers could qualify for federal funds

Posted: September 12, 2017 1:27 p.m.
Updated: September 12, 2017 1:00 a.m.

  The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is currently accepting applications from South Carolina farmers, ranchers and private landowners for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) for fiscal year 2018 funding with an application deadline of Nov. 17.

  EQIP and ACEP are voluntary conservation programs that provide financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers and landowners.  

  “NRCS in South Carolina is committed to working with farmers and private landowners to improve, protect and preserve working lands through Farm Bill conservation programs,” said Ann English, State Conservationist for NRCS in South Carolina. “This conservation investment boosts agriculture production, improves environmental health and supports a sustainable economy in South Carolina’s rural communities.”

In fiscal year 2017, NRCS in South Carolina provided $31 million in EQIP and ACEP funding to help eligible agricultural producers and private landowners put conservation on the ground, benefitting the environment and natural resources on 125,000 acres across the state.

 EQIP funding allows eligible producers to plan and implement conservation practices on private land that provide solutions to natural resource concerns, such as reduced soil erosion, improved soil health and water quality, and protection of wildlife habitat.  Examples of conservation practices include rotational grazing systems, cover crops, manure management facilities and water irrigation systems.

   In South Carolina, EQIP will pay 75 percent of the cost to implement conservation practices for eligible producers, and up to 90 percent of the cost for historically underserved farmers, beginning and limited resource, American Indian tribes and veterans.

  ACEP helps protect critical water resources and wildlife habitat by encouraging private landowners to limit future development and maintain land for farming and ranching.  There are two programs available under ACEP: Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) and Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE).

 ALEs are designed to protect productive, working lands from conversion to non-agricultural uses.  This includes cropland, pastureland, grassland and non-industrial private forestland. Landowners interested in enrolling their working lands into this program must partner with an eligible cooperating entity with a farmland, grassland or forestland protection program, such as a land trust.  Under ALE, NRCS may contribute up to 50 percent of the fair market value of the agricultural land easement.

  WREs are designed to restore and protect wetlands and their native habitats, as well as reduce flood damage, recharge groundwater and provide outdoor recreational and education opportunities.  Eligible landowners can choose to enroll in a permanent or 30-year easement. Tribal landowners also have the option of enrolling in 30-year contracts.  For permanent easements, NRCS pays 100 percent of the easement value and 100 percent of the restoration cost.  For 30-year easements, NRCS pays the landowner 50 to 75 percent of the easement value and 50 to 75 percent of the restoration costs.

  NRCS accepts EQIP and ACEP applications on a continuous basis, however, NRCS establishes application deadlines for evaluation and ranking of eligible applications. Producers and private landowners are encouraged to submit their applications as soon as possible, as funding is limited.

  To learn more about financial and technical assistance available to help South Carolina farmers and other landowners improve and protect their land, visit NRCS in South Carolina’s website at www.sc.nrcs.usda.gov, or visit your local NRCS office. USDA service center locations are listed at http://offices.usda.gov.

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