California almond growers have until May 8 to take advantage of a new USDA program that pays a higher-than-normal 75 percent cost-share for certain management practices to keep trees alive under extreme drought conditions.

Of interest to almond growers are practices to improve irrigation water management and pruning to keep trees alive. The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in California will take applications for $2 million available for these and other practices, which are designed to protect soil and air quality in areas of fallowed fields and to protect natural resources on ranch and pasture land.

“With many almond growers feeling the impact created by a lack of water availability, it appears that this special cost-share program may be of assistance in funding certain drought mitigation management practices,” said Gabriele Ludwig, senior manager, global technical and regulatory Affairs, Almond Board of California.

The cost-sharing funding is being made available in Butte, Colusa, Fresno, Glenn, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, Monterey, Sacramento, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tehama, Tulare, Yolo, and Yuba counties. Funding for other crops is also available in additional counties.

Grower eligibility requirements are the same as required under the current Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). More information on the drought, conservation practices that may mitigate drought-related problems and payment rates for the current drought initiative are available at www.ca.nrcs.usda.gov/features/cadrought.html or by contacting the local NRCS office.