California’s tree nut growers and other farmers have until May 8 to apply for a new USDA program that pays a higher-than-normal cost-share for certain management practices to help cope with the current extreme drought conditions.

Funded by the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the California Drought Response Initiative pays for up to 75 percent of the estimated average cost of applying the practice. Limited resource, socially disadvantaged, Indian tribes, and beginning farmers and ranchers may be eligible for a 90 percent payment rate.

Among the approved practices of interest to tree nut growers are those that pay for professional services to evaluate surface, sprinkler or micro irrigation systems on fields that will be irrigated this year. Each program applicant is eligible for cost share on one evaluation of each type of irrigation method used on the farm. Furrow, border, sprinkler and micro (trickle or spray) are considered different types of irrigation methods. These evaluation services may be available from local irrigation districts, private consultants, resource conservation districts, or other agency-sponsored mobile labs.

In addition, the program pays for pruning back orchard trees to prevent fruit set, excessive water use and transpiration during drought periods.

Other practices have also been approved for irrigated cropland and grazed rangeland.

The cost-sharing funding is available in the following counties: Alameda, Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Fresno, Glenn, Humboldt, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Lake, Lassen, Los Angeles, Madera, Marin, Mariposa, Mendocino, Merced, Modoc, Monterey, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, San Benito, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, Santa Clara, Shasta, Sierra, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity, Tulare, Tuolumne, Yolo, and Yuba.

Participants must obtain NRCS contract approval prior to the purchase and installation or application of a practice. All payments are made after work is complete, project costs have been incurred and documented, and all certifications are complete as required by the contract. Applicants can apply to the NRCS state conservationist for a waiver of the prior approval requirement. Waivers will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

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 your local NRCS office.