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Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

EQIP funds up this year

By Nancy Allen
Eighteen applicants from Mercer County were approved for a total of $329,000 from the USDA's Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) for fiscal year 2008, about $100,000 more than last year.
The nationwide voluntary program, reauthorized in the 2002 Farm Bill, has been around since 1997. It offers financial and technical assistance to install or implement structural and management practices on farmland that protect the environment from pollution.
As usual, the county received more applications than were able to be funded, said district conservationist Jim Will, who handles Mercer County requests for EQIP funds.
"We could have used about $500,000 more for all the project requests we had," Will said. "We had a total of 34 applications that totaled $823,000."
Will said the county received more funding this year because it got EQIP money other counties did not use. Any unused EQIP funds are spread around to counties who need them, he said. Last year Mercer County was allocated $193,000 in EQIP funds that funded 12 applications. A total of 34 applications were received.
Applicant funding this year ranges from a low of $250 to pay for a dairy grazing management plan to a high of $170,000 to one farmer for three projects - roofing on a dairy feedlot, an above ground manure storage structure with a roof and an in-ground storage structure to capture milkhouse wastewater and feedlot runoff.
As usual, manure storage structures accounted for the largest amount of EQIP dollars approved, only because they are so expensive, Will said, ranging between $40,000 to $180,000 each.
The largest number of applications were for Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans (CNMPs) for confined animal feeding operations, because they all were automatically funded this year, Will said.
Producers will not receive the EQIP funds until the practice is completed. They must have the project started within 12 months of being approved for funds, he said.
Will said he is confident there will be funding for EQIP in the next Farm Bill, a final version of which is being hammered out in conference committee between the House and the Senate, Will said. However, there is no way to tell how much, he said.
The EQIP program offers contracts with a minimum term of one year after implementation to a maximum term of 10 years. Contracts provide incentive payments to eligible applicants to install conservation practices.
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