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The Request for Proposals can be viewed at:




For information about the AWEP under EQIP, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/EQIP or call 202 720-1845 during business hours.

Program sends assistance directly to ag producers
USDA offers financial, technical help under new conservation plan

Cookson Beecher, Capital Press 1/22/2009
Financial assistance to promote ground and surface water conservation and water-quality improvement is available to ag producers and ag entities, thanks to $58.4 million in funding in the new farm bill.

The USDA is seeking project proposals from potential partners through this new nationwide program, the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program, or AWEP.

All requirements and policies of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, or EQIP, will apply to AWEP.

EQIP is a voluntary conservation program that provides technical assistance and payments to help crop and livestock producers address environmental concerns through conservation improvements on agricultural and non-industrial private forestlands.

Farmers and ranchers can use EQIP to farm in an environmentally friendly manner and still meet their agricultural production goals. In addition, it is designed to produce significant environmental benefits to the public, such as improved soil, water and air quality, and enhanced wildlife habitat.

AWEP offers financial and technical assistance to help farmers and ranchers carry out water-enhancement activities that conserve ground and surface water and improve water quality on agricultural lands such as cropland, pasture, grassland and rangeland.

Agricultural water enhancement activities include:

Water quality or water conservation plan development;

Water conservation restoration or enhancement projects, including conversion to the production of less water-intensive agricultural commodities or dryland farming;

Water quality or quantity restoration or enhancement projects;

Irrigation system improvement or irrigation efficiency enhancement;

Activities designed to reduce drought's impacts; and

Other related activities that will help achieve water quality or water conservation benefits on agricultural land.

Under this new program, USDA-NRCS can contract directly with agricultural producers who are included in approved partner proposals.

Eligible partners include federally recognized tribes, states, units of local government, and agricultural or silvicultural associations.

All AWEP funding must go to producers. Like EQIP, contract terms for producers under AWEP run from one year to 10 years.

Agricultural producers in selected project areas can apply for available AWEP funds at their local USDA service center. Proposals must be submitted by March 2.

Staff writer Cookson Beecher is based in Sedro-Woolley, Wash. E-mail: cbeecher@capitalpress.com.
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