According to a news release from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, now is the time for Arkansas producers to apply for cost-share assistance funded through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) for the 2022 program year, Kandi Williams, Extension program aide for the Small Farm Program at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, said. The deadline to apply is November 19.

According to an NRCS press release, the agency accepts program applications on a continuous basis but sets dates to batch and rank applications as funding allows. Farmers and landowners in Arkansas who submit applications to their local NRCS office by November 19 will be considered for the current round of funding. Applications received after that date will be considered in later funding periods depending on funding availability.

“EQIP financial assistance allows producers to install conservation practices in areas such as improving irrigation efficiency, promoting soil health or restoring pastureland on their farm or ranch,” Williams said. “Other practices include establishing or improving wildlife habitat, enhancing organic operations, and conserving energy.”

Williams said EQIP often shares up to 90 percent of the average cost for conservation practices implemented by socially disadvantaged, limited resource, beginning and veteran farmers and ranchers. These producers are also eligible to receive up to 50 percent advance payment for purchasing materials or contracting services to begin the installation of approved conservation practices.

“Payments are made after conservation practices and activities identified in an EQIP-approved contract and plan are implemented to NRCS standards,” she said. “Contracts can last up to 10 years.”

Williams said some farmers may be reluctant when they understand that EQIP is a reimbursement program. But they don’t need to worry.

“If a farmer is growing vegetables and pays $10,000 to have a well or pumping plant installed, NRCS will send an agent out to inspect the practice,” she said. “If it meets standards and specifications, NRCS will pay up to 90 percent of the average cost.”

NRCS also offers special initiatives, one of which is the StrikeForce Healthy Forest/UAPB Keeping it in the Family Program for which Williams is the coordinator. The program offers additional funding to help underserved producers improve their forestland through forest conservation practices. This initiative is available to producers in the following counties: Bradley, Calhoun, Clark, Cleveland, Columbia, Dallas, Drew, Hempstead, Howard, Jefferson, Lafayette, Little River, Miller, Nevada, Ouachita, Pike, Sevier, and Union.

Producers can pick up and submit an EQIP application at their local NRCS office. The application form is also available online at UAPB Small Farm Program Extension personnel can assist participants in filling out applications and selecting practices to apply for if needed. Producers can contact Karen Lee at [email protected] or (870) 575-7225 for assistance.