Farmers and ranchers have another chance to sign-up for a program that can help pay for installing or implementing conservation management practices on their land.

USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) is conducting a second round of sign-ups, Nov. 2 until Jan. 16, for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). The first sign-up period ended Nov. 1. EQIP provides funds and technical assistance to help farmers and ranchers reduce soil erosion, improve water use and protect grazing land by installing conservation practices that protect natural resources.

“We have the funds and we want to give our producers another opportunity to participate,” said Eric Banks, NRCS programs manager.

NRCS field employees’ conduct a resource assessment of each applicant’s land uses to determine resource problems. A higher priority goes to applicants who use cost-effective conservation practices, treat multiple resource concerns, address national, state or local priorities and provide the most environmental benefits. The assessment results in a score that determines if the project can be funded and how much will be awarded to the participant. EQIP offers contracts with a minimum term that ends one year after the implementation of the last scheduled practices and a maximum term of 10 years.

Up to 50 percent cost share is available, with a payment limitation of $450,000 per individual or entity for fiscal year 2006 contracts. Eligible tribes and individual tribal members can get 75 percent cost share and Limited Resource Producers and Beginning Farmers can obtain up to 90 percent cost share. Farmers or ranchers with direct or indirect gross farm sales of not more than $106,400 are considered limited resource producers and a beginning farmer must have been in operation for less than 10 consecutive years.

Producers can visit their local USDA field offices for more information.

EQIP Sign-up information is now available online: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/eqip. Click on the state where your farm or ranching interest is located. This will take you to the application information for that state, the official ranking criteria used to evaluate your application, and a link to the form CCC-1200, Application for Participation and/or Contract.