MARQUETTE - Area farmers looking to sign up for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Environmental Quality Incentives Program still have a little more than a week to fill out the application.
The program provides financial assistance to agricultural producers and non-industrial forestland owners for adopting a wide variety of conservation activities.
"Only farmers who submit applications by Jan. 17 will be eligible for the first selection of applications for fiscal year 2013 funding," NRCS sate conservationist Garry Lee said in a written statement. "I encourage farmers seeking 2013 funds for making conservation improvements, such as adopting conservation tillage, planting cover crops or installing windbreaks, to contact their local USDA service center as soon as possible to start the application process."
The Natural Resources Conservation Service is encouraging producers who want to apply for the EQIP to work with their local NRCS or conservation district staff to develop a conservation plan before applying. Accepted applicants will enter into a contract with the NRCS to implement conservation activities and are reimbursed for a portion of the cost.
Conservation activities receiving financial assistance must be part of an agricultural or forest operation's conservation plan. Conservation improvements include nutrient and pest management, prescribed grazing and forest stand management, to name a few.
A portion of the funds will also be designated solely for farmers who use seasonal high tunnels, which allow producers to extend the growing season and the availability of locally grown fruits and vegetables. High tunnels are unheated structures covered in plastic that offer farmers a more controlled environment to grow their crops in.
Another portion of the program's funding will be allocated for organic producers and producers transitioning to organic production.
In fiscal year 2012, Michigan farmers received more than $14 million in conservation financial assistance through the program.
The NRCS provides higher levels of financial assistance for beginning farmers and historically under-served producers.
For more information on the financial assistance offered by the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, visit www.mi.nrcs.usda.gov or www.macd.org. The Marquette County Conservation District can also be contacted at 226-2461, extension 102.
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.