Have you applied for conservation funding?

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Have you applied for conservation funding?

For more than a decade, federal farm programs have evolved from rewarding production to encouraging conservation. USDA conservation spending grew over the past 10 years, but based on the 2014 Farm Bill, USDA projects the spending will level off. Since 2010, USDA conservation spending has averaged about $6 billion a year, and the agency forecasts it will remain stable through 2018—although spending levels could change.

In Missouri, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Services programs made $68 million in financial assistance available for the fiscal year ending Oct. 1, 2014, according to Curt McDaniel, NRCS assistant state conservationist. The funding covered 3,400 contracts on 1.4 million acres.

Also, Missouri has a state sales tax that dedicates $40 million a year to conservation, including cost-sharing programs available to farmers. NRCS delivers technical assistance for this program as well as for its own.

Mitch Thierry, public affairs officer for NRCS in Kansas, says that for fiscal year 2015, Kansas general EQIP had a total of 1,416 applications, of which 594 were funded for $17 million, comprising 125,089 acres. For CSP in fiscal year 2015, Kansas had 510 funded contracts for $11 million on 1 million acres.

“There’s a big demand for these programs,” McDaniel said. “Only one in four applications are accepted.” NRCS accepts applications based on merit rather than on a first-come, first-served basis. You’ll be asked to provide farm records, and explain your problems, goals and a plan for improvement. NRCS staff will evaluate your application and guide you through implementation.

NRCS accepts applications year-round, but each program carries its own annual deadlines, which vary by state. Contact your local NRCS office for more information. To find your local office, search the Web by entering “NRCS local service centers” and click on your state and county.

For information on the Missouri Department of Natural Resources Soil and Water Conservation Program, visit www.dnr.mo.gov/env/swcp.

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