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News Release

USDA announces 2021 application ranking dates for conservation programs

Contact:
Diane Petit
413-253-4371, mobile 413-835-1276


A planner and farmer discuss a conservation plan in a high tunnel.

January 15, 2021 is next ranking cut-off date

AMHERST, Mass. December 16, 2020 – Do you own or manage farmland or forest land in Massachusetts? Could you use some technical and financial help in managing it more effectively? The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) encourages you to sign up for conservation assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Agricultural Management Assistance program. Applications may be submitted at any time during the year; however, the next ranking batching date will be January 15, 2021.

The January 15 batching period will fund Conservation Activity Plans (CAPs) through EQIP, with future batching periods offering assistance in other funding pools for both programs. A funding pool is an amount of money that NRCS has set aside for special categories of applications. Each funding pool has its own ranking criteria and applicants will compete only with other applicants in that specific pool.

Farmers and forest landowners can use CAPs to address specific natural resource objectives such as nutrient and pest management, forestry, energy conservation, or transitioning to organic agriculture. EQIP participants who receive financial assistance for a CAP will work with a technical service provider (TSP) to develop the plan. The participant chooses a TSP from an NRCS-approved list at https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/programs/technical/tsp/.

You may apply for NRCS conservation programs at any time; complete applications are ranked for funding in batches periodically throughout the year. All applications determined eligible and high priority by close of business on the ranking date will be considered in the current funding cycle.

The following application ranking dates, pending available funds, are scheduled:

  • February 19, 2021
  • March 19, 2021
  • April 16, 2021
  • May 21, 2021
  • June 18, 2021
  • July 16, 2021
  • August 20, 2021

Ranking dates and the application process are subject to change. Contact your local field office for the latest information. For more information on available programs, the application process, and natural resource priorities, visit the Massachusetts NRCS website at www.ma.nrcs.usda.gov.

“If you operate a farm or manage forest land and want to improve your land, we can help,” said Dan Wright, State Conservationist for NRCS in Massachusetts. “You can discuss your vision for your land with one of our conservation planners, who will explain the conservation planning process and how to apply for financial assistance.”

EQIP is a voluntary program that provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers and forest land owners to address natural resource concerns through an array of conservation practices. Assistance is available to support private landowners and managers in addressing farm, field, forest, wildlife, water, and/or plant management issues including:

  • Erosion control
  • Farm and forestry conservation plans
  • Fencing for grazing systems
  • Forest stand improvement
  • Grazing plans
  • Irrigation systems
  • Pasture and hayland planting
  • Pollinator habitat
  • Protection of heavy use areas for livestock
  • Restoration and management of declining habitat
  • Riparian buffers
  • Seasonal high tunnels
  • Soil health management plans
  • Waste storage facilities
  • Wildlife habitat management and development

The AMA program provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers to voluntarily address issues such as water management, water quality, and erosion control by incorporating conservation into their farming operations.  Massachusetts producers may construct or improve water management structures or irrigation structures and implement high tunnels to benefit plant productivity.

AMA is available in 16 states where Federal Crop Insurance Program participation is historically low: Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

For more information, contact your local USDA-NRCS office:

  • Greenfield field office – 413-772-0384, ext 3, serving Franklin County
  • Hadley field office – 413-585-1000, ext 3, serving Hampden and Hampshire counties
  • Holden field office – 508-829-4477, ext 3, serving Worcester County
  • Pittsfield field office – 413-443-1776, ext 3, serving Berkshire County
  • Westford field office – 978-692-1904, ext 3, serving Essex, Middlesex and Suffolk counties
  • Wareham field office – 508-295-5151, ext 2, serving Bristol, Norfolk and Plymouth counties
  • West Yarmouth field office – 508-771-6476, serving Cape Cod and the Islands

Some of the EQIP funding will be provided to farmers and forest landowners via the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), which encourages partner organizations to join in efforts with producers to increase the restoration and sustainable use of soil, water, wildlife and related natural resources on regional or watershed scales. Through the RCPP program, NRCS and its partners help producers install and maintain conservation activities in selected project areas.

Partners leverage RCPP funding in project areas and report on the benefits achieved.

NRCS is a federal agency that works hand-in-hand with conservation districts and the people of Massachusetts to improve and protect soil, water and other natural resources.