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Partnerships to Improve Soil Health and Water Quality in Aroostook County

Project Summary

Aroostook County, the northernmost county in the eastern United States is potato country.  Despite cold winters and an extremely short growing season, Aroostook County produces over 1.5 billion pounds of potatoes annually, making Maine the nation's ninth largest source of potatoes. Over the past century, commercial potato production has placed a heavy burden on Maine's thin soil resources.  Despite 75 years of conservation effort, potato fields are damaged by gullies from summer storms, public roadway ditches are filled with soil lost from fields, and many streams do not attain water quality standards due in part to sedimentation. Many fields have declined in terms of soil structure, natural fertility, and water holding capacity.  Some agricultural practices may leach nutrients to local groundwater, threatening drinking water quality.

The Protecting Potato Fields: Public-Private Partnerships to Improve Soil Health and Water Quality, Aroostook County project was proposed by the group of partners listed below was accepted by NRCS as a 2015 Regional Conservation Partnership Program project.

Partners include:

  • Maine Potato Board (Lead Partner)
  • Central Aroostook Soil & Water Conservation District
  • St. John Valley Soil & Water Conservation District
  • Southern Aroostook Soil & Water Conservation District
  • McCain Foods USA
  • Maine Department of Transportation
  • Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry
  • Maine Association of Conservation Districts
  • Maine Rural Water Association

This project will create a public-private partnership between federal, state, and local governments and the potato industry to address soil erosion, soil health, and water quality within the three Soil & Water Conservation Districts of Aroostook County. Beginning with the Central Aroostook area, and extending to Southern Aroostook and the St. John Valley, this project will:

  • reduce soil loss from potato fields
  • prevent sedimentation of public roads, ditches, and rights-of-way
  • improve ambient water quality in rivers and tributary streams
  • protect sources of public drinking water supplies

The Aroostook County Regional Conservation Partnership proposes to work with NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funds to promote and implement a variety of conservation practices over the next four years. The Partnership will attempt to overcome perceived barriers to the use of certain conservation practices.  

Geographic Focus FY 2018
This phase of the project will focus on applying soil health practices on farms in the Amsden, Hacker and Merritt Brook watersheds in central Aroostook County. 

EQIP Funding Opportunities

Because the funding for the Aroostook County Regional Conservation Partnership project is utilizing funds from the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the applicant must meet the eligibility requirements for the program.  In order to be eligible to sign up for EQIP, the applicant must be determined to be an eligible producer by NRCS. If you are a new USDA program applicant, please contact your local USDA Service Center for information on eligibility requirements. If you have been a USDA program participant in the past, please contact your local USDA Service Center to review and update your information.

The land offered for EQIP must also be determined eligible by NRCS. Eligible land under the EQIP program is land that has a resource concern identified by a certified conservation planner that can be addressed through application of the conservation practices eligible for this signup period.

The participant must complete and sign all necessary forms including the NRCS-CPA-1200 (which is the official application). Financial assistance is contingent on the producer not starting a practice prior to having an approved EQIP contract signed by the appropriate NRCS representative.

Applications for the EQIP program are accepted on a continuous basis, however, NRCS establishes application “cut-off” dates for evaluation and ranking of eligible applications. 

2018 Environmental Quality Incentives Program Eligibility Information 

The application deadline for Fiscal Year 2018 funding consideration for this RCPP project is Dec. 8, 2017.

A second application batching period for Fiscal Year 2018 funding consideration will end on May 25, 2018.