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MAINE BULLETIN NO. ME 300-10-2

                                                                                                     

                                                                                             December 10, 2009
 

Subject: LTP – Conservation program delivery for FY 2010

Purpose. To provide policy for the delivery of conservation programs for FY 2010.

Expiration Date. September 30, 2010
 

EQIP Sign-up and Ranking Requirements

The following is an outline for delivering the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) beginning in FY 2010:

Application Acceptance:

  • Applications will be accepted on a continuous basis.
  • For each funding cycle a cutoff date for accepting applications will be established to provide the maximum amount of time for screening and ranking. Applications received after that date will be considered for the next funding cycle.

Application Ranking:

  • All eligible applications received prior to the application cutoff will be screened using an approved screening tool.
  • Applications which make it through the screening as “High” priority will be ranked based on an on-site resource inventory and assessment.
  • Planners will develop alternatives based on their assessment and work with the applicant to get decisions for practice application.
  • Environmental compliance elements of the planning process (NEPA, ESA, EFH, Cultural Resources, etc) will not be required for ranking purposes but must be completed prior to contract obligation.

Contract Development:

  • Funds will be allocated to the various funding pools according to priorities established by the District Conservationists with input from the USDA Local Working Group.
  • Applications will be selected for funding based on the availability of funds and their rank at the close of business of the established ranking deadline.
  • Conservation plans, including all environmental compliance requirements, will be developed for applications that are selected for funding.
  • Contract obligations will be approved only after a conservation plan and environmental compliance activities are completed for the selected applications.
     

Timeline: FY 2010 (General EQIP)

  • Sign-up cutoff - December 1, 2009
  • Screening of all applications will be ongoing
  • Applications that are currently in ProTracts that were planned and ranked in FY 2009 may be promoted to FY 2010 without further screening.
  • Ranking and Evaluation deadline for “High” priority applications - February 1, 2010
  • Contract Obligation Deadline - April 1, 2010

Timeline: FY 2011

  • Sign-up cutoff – July 1, 2010
  • Screening of all applications will be ongoing
  • Ranking and Evaluation deadline for “High” priority applications - October 20, 2010
  • Contract Obligation Deadline - April 1, 2011

EQIP Screening Tool

A screening tool specific to each funding category in EQIP will be employed to determine which applications are to be ranked. A “Yes” answer to any one question in the appropriate funding category indicates that the application will be marked as “High” priority and ranked.

Application Pool/ Resource Category Screening Question(s)
General 1. Is the application in one of the resource categories that will receive funding? If “Yes”, proceed to the appropriate screening question.
Animal Waste 1. Is there a current CNMP available for this operation?
Forestland 1. Is there a current Forest Management Plan1 available for this operation?
Water Conservation/ Irrigation 1. Is there a current Irrigation Management Plan available for this operation?
2. Is the current irrigation water source subject to Maine low flow rules?
Grazing lands 1. Is there a current Grazing Management Plan available for this operation?
2. Are stocking rates for the grazing season greater than twice the AUM listed for the area’s soils? (FOTG-Section II-A - Soil Information-Pasture and Hayland Yield)
3. Are grazed areas within 200 ft. of a water course or water body? (Group: Hydro24_State, Layer1: hyd24str (Single-line streams), Layer2: hyd24pol (rivers and ponds))
Cropland 1. Are cropland soils mapped as “B” slopes or steeper?
2. Are cropland soils mapped as “Somewhat Excessively” or “Excessively” drained?
3. Do crop fields lie within a MDEP “Impaired” watershed? (Program Ranking Layers, “Impaired_H20_2008_final_a_me”)
4. Is there a current Integrated Pest Management Plan available for this operation?
Wildlife 1. Is there a current Wildlife Management Plan available for this operation?
2. Does the proposed action address “At Risk Species” management? (GIS Groups: “State-Protected_Habitats and Federally-Protected Habitats”, all layers)
3. Does the proposed action address “Invasive species” (http://www.maine.gov/doc/nrimc/mnap/features/invsheets.htm)
4. Does the proposed action address non-listed species or other habitat identified as a priority by Maine NRCS' “Fish and Wildlife Action Plan”? (ftp://ftp-fc.sc.egov.usda.gov/ME/Programs/ME_NRCS_Fish_Wildl_ActionPlan.pdf)
5. Does the proposed action address habitat for native pollinators, a legislatively mandated priority of the 2008 Farm Bill? (http://www.xerces.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/2008_farm_bill_-fact_sheet_xerces_society.pdf)

1 - A forest management plan must be less than 10 yrs. old and meet the plan criteria for at least one of the following; a.) NRCS Forest Management Plan –Conservation Activity Plan, b.) State of Maine Forest Stewardship Plan plus Addendum, or c.) a practice plan approved by the State Forester.

EQIP Organic Initiative

A statewide initiative for producers transitioning to organic or already certified as organic will be available again in FY 2010. Only EQIP applications which are accepted for either of these two funding pools may be tagged as “Organic” in ProTracts. A separate payment schedule and ranking tool will be available in ProTracts for these applications. All “Organic” initiative applications will be accepted and ranked without the use of the screening tool.

Timeline: FY 2010 (EQIP-Organic)

  • Sign-up cutoff – January 22, 2010
  • Ranking and Evaluation deadline for all applications – March 1, 2010
  • Contract Obligation Deadline - April 1, 2010

EQIP Irrigation Initiative

A statewide initiative for assisting producers with irrigation practices will be available again in FY 2010. Producers with an irrigation history of at least two of the previous five years are eligible for this initiative. Applications will be screened using the questions in the general EQIP screening tool under “Water Conservation/Irrigation”. Only applications that pass the screening questions will be ranked and considered for funding.

Timeline: FY 2010 (EQIP-Irrigation

  • Sign-up cutoff – January 22, 2010
  • Ranking and Evaluation deadline for all applications – March 1, 2010
  • Contract Obligation Deadline - April 1, 2010

Delivery of other NRCS Financial Assistance Conservation Programs: (AMA, WHIP)

Application Acceptance:

  • Applications will be accepted on a continuous basis.
  • For each funding cycle a cutoff date for accepting applications will be established to provide the maximum amount of time for ranking. Applications received after that date will be considered for the next funding cycle.

Application Ranking:

  • All applications received prior to the application cutoff date will be ranked based on an on-site resource inventory and assessment. (NO SCREENING TOOL)
  • Planners will develop alternatives based on their assessment and work with the applicant to get decisions for practice application.
  • Environmental compliance elements of the planning process (NEPA, ESA, EFH, Cultural Resources, etc) will not be required for ranking purposes, but must be completed prior to contract obligation.

Contract Development:

  • Applications will be selected for funding based on the availability of funds and their rank at the close of business of the established ranking deadline.
  • Conservation plans, including all environmental compliance requirements, will be developed for applications that are selected for funding.
  • Contract obligations will be approved only after a conservation plan and environmental compliance activities are completed for the selected applications.

Agricultural Management Assistance Program (AMA) - “High Tunnel” Initiative

For FY 2010 all available AMA financial assistance funds will be used to assist eligible producers to purchase and install “High Tunnel” or Hoop House structures. There will be a limit of one structure per producer with a maximum size limit of 2100 sq.ft. More details will follow. Please keep this information for internal use only until there is a public announcement of this initiative from the Secretary of Agriculture.

Timeline: FY 2010 (AMA)

  • Sign-up cutoff – February 19, 2010
  • Ranking and Evaluation deadline for all applications – March 1, 2010
  • Contract Obligation Deadline - April 1, 2010

Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP)

Applications will be accepted in WHIP under a general sign-up to address wildlife resources that are identified in the Maine NRCS Fish and Wildlife Action Plan. Additionally, there will be two “Essential Plant and Animal Habitat” initiatives continued from FY 2009. The two initiatives are for New England cottontail and Atlantic salmon and Brook trout. The practice schedules, ranking tools and timelines for WHIP will be made available at a later date. At this time there has been no national obligation deadline established for WHIP.

Contact: If you have any questions, please contact Bill Yamartino, ASTC for Programs at 207-990-9553 or email bill.yamartino@me.usda.gov
 

/s/ Juan C. Hernandez
 

JUAN C. HERNANDEZ
State Conservationist