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News Release

NRCS Announces $1.1 Million Available for Agricultural Water Enhancement Program

Auburn, Alabama, April 8, 2010

Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist Dr. William Puckett today announced that $1.1 million in financial assistance is available to producers for the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP). NRCS will begin accepting applications for AWEP on April 12, 2010. The signup period ends on April 30, 2010.

"We must take steps to protect and preserve our water resources, and AWEP provides financial and technical assistance to farmers and ranchers to improve water conditions on their land," said Puckett.

The Agricultural Water Enhancement Program promotes ground and surface water conservation and improves water quality by helping farmers and ranchers implement agricultural water enhancement activities. Alabama AWEP will focus on the installation of upland storage ponds. Stored water will be used during the summer for irrigation. Practices that will be available include:

  • Constructing upland irrigation storage ponds
  • Installing pumps and pipelines to fill storage ponds
  • Irrigation system improvements or irrigation efficiency enhancements to improve the efficiency of and reduce the energy needs of existing irrigation systems
  • Installation of soil moisture sensors and water meters to monitor and improve irrigation efficiencies

AWEP was established by the 2008 Farm Bill and funding comes from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). NRCS administers AWEP by entering into EQIP contracts directly with agricultural producers. Funding for this project was a direct result of a grant proposal by the Alabama Farmers Federation, the Alabama Soil and Water Conservation Committee, and the Alabama Universities Irrigation Initiative.

All AWEP recipients must meet EQIP requirements. It is designed for bona fide agricultural producers that have been in crop production and have the need for water. The amount of storage will be determined by an irrigation budget based on the exact amount of water justified by the crops irrigated. Applicants must be in agricultural production in order to apply. The statewide signup will be continuous with the first batching period ending on April 30, 2010. Successive batching periods may occur if additional funds become available.

Applicants will be ranked competitively statewide. Those applications with true upland ponds that do not impact wetlands and which rely on winter pumping from a stream or creek on the property to fill the pond will rank highest. Other pond and irrigation factors will be used to further rank the applicants. When applicants are ranked, they will be funded in order of rank until funds are exhausted. Applicants will be notified if funded and EQIP contracts will be developed with their input to implement the plan over a 2-3 year period.

Interested producers should visit their nearest USDA Service Center to determine eligibility. Individuals are not eligible for EQIP until they have completed the Farm Bill eligibility requirements.  Contact your local Natural Resources Conservation Service office or Farm Service Agency Office to begin this process.   NRCS field offices are listed in the telephone directory under U.S. Department of Agriculture or on-line at http://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov.

FY2010 represents the 75th Anniversary  of NRCS "Helping People Help the Land." Since its inception in 1935, the NRCS conservation delivery system has advanced a unique partnership with state and local governments and private landowners delivering conservation based on specific, local conservation needs, while accommodating state and national interests.

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