ANNAPOLIS — Natural Resources Conservation Service offices across the country, including those in Maryland, are open and available to help farmers with conservation planning and technical assistance. With the end of the shutdown and a Continuing Resolution from Congress, agency staff is back to providing farmers with hands-on help as well Farm Bill program assistance.
“NRCS is here to help farmers in Maryland with conservation practices that promote clean air and water, healthy soil, and wildlife habitat,” said Pedro Ramos, acting state conservationist for NRCS in Maryland, in a statement. “Technical and financial assistance from NRCS helps agricultural operations become more sustainable while reducing nutrient and sediment runoff and improving water quality.”
Although the 2008 Farm Bill has expired, funding is available for several conservation programs, including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program and the Agricultural Management Assistance Program. Authority to enroll new land in the Wetlands Reserve Program, Grassland Reserve Program and Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative expired Sept. 30 due to the expiration of the Farm Bill.
“EQIP is our most robust program and provides technical and financial assistance for many popular conservation practices,” said Ramos. “From cash and specialty crop production to dairy and livestock operations, we have options available for all types of farmers and forest landowners who want to improve the productivity of their land.”
Farmers can sign up for conservation programs throughout the year, but funding selections are made at specific times and the first cutoff date is Dec. 20. Producers should submit their applications for EQIP, WHIP and AMA as soon as possible to be considered for limited funding.
“Without a Farm Bill, financial assistance for farmers is limited to certain programs,” said Tom Morgart, assistant state conservationist for programs in Maryland. “However, conservation planning is available and is the foundation for program participation, and I hope farmers continue to use our technical expertise.”
Anyone interested in Farm Bill programs should contact the local NRCS office. The conservationist can help develop a plan, identify recommended practices and pursue funding through the Farm Bill program options available.