USDA seeks public input on conservation standards

WASHINGTON – USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced today it is seeking public input on its existing national conservation practice standards as part of implementing the 2018 Farm Bill. NRCS offers 150-plus conservation practices to America’s farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to help them meet their business and natural resource needs on their working lands.

 “With the help of NRCS, agricultural producers across the country are taking voluntary steps to improve their operations while benefiting natural resources,” NRCS Chief Matthew Lohr said. “As part of our process of implementing the 2018 Farm Bill, we are asking agricultural producers, conservation partners and others to provide feedback on our practice standards in an effort to refine and enhance them.”

 NRCS is requesting public comments on how to improve conservation practice standards that support programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and Conservation Stewardship Program, which help producers cover part of the costs for implementing these practices. The comment period ends April 25, 2019. More information can be found in the Federal Register.

 These standards provide guidelines for planning, designing, installing, operating and maintaining conservation practices.

2018 Farm Bill

As part of implementing the 2018 Farm Bill, NRCS is reviewing conservation practices by:

  • Evaluating opportunities to increase flexibility while ensuring natural resource benefits.

  • Seeking avenues for the optimal balance between meeting site-specific conservation needs and minimizing risks of design failure and associated construction and installation costs.

  • Ensuring, to the maximum extent practicable, the completeness and relevance of the standards to local agricultural, forestry and natural resource needs, including specialty crops, native and managed pollinators, bioenergy crop production, forestry and others.

 Providing Comments

 Comments may be submitted using any of the following methods:

  •  Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov . Follow the instructions for submitting comments.

  • Mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attention: National Environmental Engineer, Natural Resources Conservation Service, United States Department of Agriculture, 1400 Independence Avenue SW, Room 6130-S, Washington, DC 20250.

 NRCS will use comments as part of updating standards. For more information on how NRCS is implementing the Farm Bill, visit farmers.gov/farmbill.

USDA-NRCS now accepting drought assistance applications

From the USDA-NRCS

The USDA - Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is now accepting drought assistance applications from farmers and ranchers impacted by ongoing drought conditions in 128 of Texas’ 254 counties.

NRCS in Texas is making funding available through the agency’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) for qualified agricultural producers to assist in conservation practices that help to sustain the lands natural resources during drought or assist during recovery.

“Farmers and ranchers in Texas are no stranger to drought which is once again slowly creeping across the state,” said Salvador Salinas, NRCS state conservationist. “Across the entire state drought conditions range from abnormally dry to pockets of extreme drought. In an effort to assist landowners during these difficult conditions, we are offering additional funding opportunities through EQIP. I encourage producers in impacted counties to reach out to their local NRCS field office.”

The sign up deadline for agricultural producers in the 129 counties is August 30, 2018. Funding decisions will be made by September 6, 2018.

Eligible counties are: Archer, Armstrong, Bailey, Bandera, Baylor, Bell, Blanco, Borden, Bosque, Bowie, Briscoe, Brown, Carson, Cass, Castro, Childress, Cochran, Coleman, Collin, Collingsworth, Comanche, Concho, Cooke, Coryell, Cottle, Crosby, Dallas, Dawson, Deaf Smith, Delta, Denton, Dickens, Dimmit, Donley, Eastland, Edwards, Ellis, Erath, Falls, Floyd, Foard, Franklin, Gaines, Garza, Gillespie, Glasscock, Gray, Gregg, Hale, Hall, Hamilton, Hardeman, Harrison, Hemphill, Hill, Hockley, Hood, Hopkins, Howard, Jack, Johnson, Kendall, Kent, Kerr, Kimble, King, Kinney, Knox, Lamar, Lamb, Lampasas, LaSalle, Leon, Limestone, Lipscomb, Llano, Lubbock, Lynn, McCulloch, McLennan, Marion, Martin, Mason, Maverick, Menard, Midland, Mills, Mitchell, Montague, Morris, Motley, Oldham, Palo Pinto, Panola, Parker, Parmer, Potter, Randall, Real, Red River, Robertson, Runnels, Rusk, San Saba, Schleicher, Scurry, Somervell, Stephens, Sterling, Sutton, Swisher, Tarrant, Terrell, Terry, Titus, Tom Green, Upshur, Uvalde, Val Verde, Webb, Wheeler, Wichita, Wilbarger, Wise, Yoakum, Zapata and Zavala.

To learn more about NRCS and available financial and technical assistance visit www.tx.nrcs.usda.gov or visit your local USDA Service Center.

RCPP Cost-Share Funding Still Available To Producers

 Producers in the Panhandle-South Plains region are reminded that cost-share funding is still available for installation of irrigation system monitoring equipment, soil moisture probes, and other irrigation management equipment through the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service's Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).
 
Approximately $600,000 is available for the remainder of the program, which ends in 2018.
 
Participation in RCPP is entirely voluntary. Interested producers can sign up for the program at their local USDA-NRCS service center. Additional information about RCPP is available at https://tinyurl.com/nv7vkms. USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender.
 
In addition, be sure to visit www.hpwd.org/rcpp for information about eligible equipment, estimated payment rates, a contact list of USDA-NRCS Service Centers, and a map illustrating the 29 counties participating in RCPP.
 
High Plains Underground Water Conservation District (HPWD) in Lubbock serves as the lead RCPP partner. Supporting partners include Hemphill County UWCD in Canadian, Llano Estacado UWCD at Seminole, Mesa UWCD at Lamesa, North Plains GCD at Dumas, Sandy Land UWCD at Plains, and South Plains UWCD at Brownfield.
 
These groundwater conservation districts do not receive any funding for the program, but provide in-kind services to assist with water conservation efforts.