DROUGHT ASSISTANCE AVAILABLE TO ALABAMA PRODUCERS
Farmers and landowners affected by the drought have until Aug. 10 to submit applications for special funding programs administered by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
“The 2012 drought has caused serious degradation to many natural resource concerns in Alabama including wildlife cover, livestock forage, wildlife and livestock water and soil quality,” said NRCS State Conservationist Dr. William Puckett. “NRCS is committed to helping sustain the success of Alabama’s farmers through these difficult times.”
NRCS is currently accepting Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) applications to fund specific practices addressing wildlife habitat and drought resource concerns. Concerns include wildlife cover, wildlife forage and fire prevention. Several supporting practices are also allowed and include practices such as site preparation, fuel breaks and fire breaks.
WHIP funding will be targeted towards hardest hit drought areas. The program seeks to protect wildlife habitats by providing wildlife access to cover during the fall and winter, as well as reducing the fuel load to help prevent wildfires. These efforts save farmers and the general public money while protecting wildlife habitat and rural residential areas.
NRCS is also accepting applications for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to fund specific practices addressing water quantity, irrigation efficiency and soil quality. Examples of practices include watering facilities, wells, ponds and pond renovations, cover crops, conservation tillage, mulch tillage and rainwater harvesting on poultry houses.
The EQIP program seeks to promote efficient use of irrigation systems, as well as provide funding for cover crops to protect soil nutrients, making them available for the next crop. This saves farmers money and protects water quality. Producers can also modify current EQIP contracts to reschedule planned conservation practices such as prescribed grazing, livestock watering facilities, water conservation and other conservation activities until drought conditions improve. EQIP is a voluntary program that provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers to address natural resource concerns on agricultural and forest land.
To assist farmers and ranchers affected by the drought, NRCS is also expediting compatible use authorization requests for haying or grazing of Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) easements in drought-affected areas where such haying or grazing is consistent with conservation of wildlife habitat and wetlands. WRP is a program administered by NRCS that purchases easements from landowners in exchange for their commitment to maintain areas as wetlands.
Producers interested in cutting hay on WRP easements must first contact their local NRCS offices to obtain a compatible use authorization.
“Cutting hay on WRP easements will be allowed until August 31, but all bales must be removed from those areas by September 15,” added Puckett.
NRCS accepts applications for financial assistance on a continuous basis throughout the year. To begin the process, check with your local NRCS office at http://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov
For more information about NRCS programs, initiatives, and services in Alabama, visit www.al.nrcs.usda.gov.