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Applying for federal conservation programs? Step 1: Get a conservation plan

Diane Baedeker Petit
413-253-4371, cell 413-835-1276

An NRCS conservationist consults with a grower in his field.

Mass. farmers, forest land owners encouraged to contact NRCS by October 18th for conservation planning help

AMHERST, Mass. (August 22, 2013) — Massachusetts farmland or forest land owners and managers who would like federal help addressing soil, water, forest management, energy efficiency and wildlife habitat concerns are encouraged to contact their local USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office by October 18th to get a conservation plan.

“A conservation plan is the required first step to participating in federal conservation programs. Land owners and managers who have a conservation plan and submit a program application by October 18th will be ready for the next round of federal funding through the Farm Bill, if and when it’s available,” said Christine Clarke, Massachusetts State Conservationist for NRCS.

Applications may be submitted at any time for NRCS programs that provide technical and financial help with soil erosion, water quality and conservation, integrated pest management, forest stand improvement, greenhouse efficiency, pasture and hayland improvement, invasive plant control or wildlife habitat improvement.

NRCS has offices in USDA Service Centers in Greenfield, Hadley, Holden, Hyannis, Pittsfield, Westford, and West Wareham, which work with local conservation districts and other partners to serve farmers and landowners throughout the commonwealth. USDA Service Center locations are listed on-line at http://offices.usda.govor in the phone book under Federal Government, U.S. Department of Agriculture. General program information is available on the NRCS Massachusetts website at

“In the conservation planning process, NRCS conservationists discuss with landowners their conservation objectives, help them identify natural resource concerns and suggest alternatives for treatment. They will also identify programs that may provide financial help to implement the suggested practices,” said Clarke. 

Among the voluntary conservation programs authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill are:

  • Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)– EQIP helps farmers and forest landowners address water quality, water conservation, invasive species control, soil quality, erosion control, nutrient and pest management, residue management, irrigation efficiency, energy conservation, air quality and other natural resource concerns. In Massachusetts, EQIP is also available to help greenhouse operations with water quality and conservation practices, aquaculture operations with best management practices, andcertified organic growers and those transitioning to organic production with specific conservation practices.Massachusetts farmers can also receive help establishing seasonal high tunnels to extend the growing season in an environmentally friendly manner.

  • Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP)– WHIP provides assistance to landowners who want to improve fish and wildlife habitat or restore natural ecosystems on their land. 

  • Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA)– AMA helps farmers adopt conservation practices that will reduce or mitigate risks to their agricultural enterprises. In Massachusetts, financial and technical assistance is available to producers for drought mitigation.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is a federal agency that works hand-in-hand with the people of Massachusetts to improve and protect their soil, water and other natural resources. For decades, private landowners have voluntarily worked with NRCS specialists to prevent erosion, improve water quality and promote sustainable agriculture.