To assist Arizona farmers and ranchers in gaining funds to help pay for installing or implementing conservation management practices on lands, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service is accepting applications until Nov. 1, 2006, for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

The program provides money and technical assistance to help agricultural producers reduce soil erosion, improve water use, protect grazing land and protect natural resources.

“EQIP is a voluntary conservation program that supports production agriculture and environmental quality as compatible goals,” said David McKay, Arizona State conservationist.

NRCS employees’ would conduct a resource assessment of each applicant’s land use to determine resource problems. Conservation practices that treat multiple resource concerns and provide the most environmental benefits would place applicants in a higher priority. The assessment results would create a score that determines if the project can be funded and how much will be awarded to the participant. The 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 2007 contracts. Eligible tribes and individual tribal members can get a 75 percent cost share.

Limited resource producers and new farmers can obtain up to a 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. A beginning farmer must have been in operation for less than 10 consecutive years.

Producers can visit a local USDA field office for more information. EQIP sign-up information is available online at: www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/eqip.