USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Arkansas recently announced the availability of $2.5 million for producers to apply for assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Farmers and landowners in Arkansas have until June 10, 2016, to submit applications to receive financial assistance to implement select conservation activities. Applicants can sign up at their local USDA NRCS field service center.
During this signup period, NRCS will prioritize funding applications that address three objectives: improved soil health, nitrogen stewardship, and irrigation water management. The ranking process will consist of a screening tool and ranking questions. The screening tool will be used to make sure the best applications are selected. If all three objectives listed above are addressed, the application will be given high priority; if only two of the objectives are addressed, they will be given medium priority and low priority if one of the objectives is addressed. Higher priority applications will be considered first. After determining the priority of the applications, the normal ranking procedures will be used to determine funding order.
The objectives in this funding period are:
- Soil health.
Applicants should address soil health by promoting reduced tillage, reduced compaction, cover crops, and perennial vegetation where appropriate. Significant progress has already been attained through the successful NRCS Soil Health campaign and NRCS partnerships.
- Nitrogen stewardship.
Nitrous oxide emission reductions should be done through the use of the “Four Rs” of nitrogen fertilizer management: Right Source, Right Rate, Right Timing, and Right Placement.
- Irrigation water management.
Irrigation water management for rice production is included in this initiative. Rice is typically irrigated to produce between two and six inches of continuously flooded paddies. This flood is to suppress weeds and to irrigate the rice. However, this flood produces anaerobic conditions which cause methane gas to form. An alternative to continuously flooded rice is to stop irrigating for a time to allow a portion of the field to dry to a muddy condition. This allows the top few inches of the soil to become aerobic which prevents methane from forming. This method of irrigation water management is called alternative wetting and drying or intermittent flooding. Irrigation water management along with supporting conservation practices are available through this initiative.
Individuals and other entities actively engaged in agricultural production are eligible to participate in EQIP. NRCS accepts applications for financial assistance on a continuous basis throughout the year. To learn about technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted or your local USDA Service Center.