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Federal NRCS deadlines approaching

4/15/2014

Special to The Hays Daily News

U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service state conservationist Eric B. Banks announced recently the availability of $200,000 in program funding through Conservation Innovation Grants in Kansas. Applications must be received by NRCS before the close of business May 16.

"Conservation Innovation Grants is an excellent investment in new conservation technologies and approaches that farmers, ranchers and forest landowners can use to achieve their production and conservation goals," Banks said.

State and local governments, federally recognized Indian tribes, non-governmental and educational organizations, private businesses and individuals are eligible to apply. Priority will be given to applications that relate to nutrient management, energy conservation, soil health, air quality, climate change, wildlife, economics, sociology, environmental markets, food safety, historically under-served groups or assessments of past CIG projects.

In the 10 years NRCS has administered the program, grants have helped develop water quality trading markets; assisted in innovative ways to increase fertilizer, water and energy efficiencies; as well as addressing other resource concerns.

The grant program enables the NRCS to work with public and private partners to accelerate technology development and adopt promising approaches to address natural resource concerns. Funded through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, the grants are awarded through a competitive process. At least 50 percent of the total cost of grant projects must come from non-federal matching funds, including cash and in-kind contributions provided by the grant recipient.

For more information, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/technical/cig. To apply electronically, visit www.grants.gov, or contact your local NRCS office.

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SALINA -- State conservationist Eric B. Banks announced the extension of the cutoff date to Friday for the Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative. Even though CCPI no longer is a program under the 2014 Farm Bill, NRCS will honor existing CCPI agreements through fiscal year 2014. The CCPI provides financial and technical assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program to owners and operators of agricultural land and nonindustrial private forestlands.

This year, the program is funded for shelter-belt renovation and forested riparian buffers.

"For farmers and ranchers that need to restore a shelter-belt or want to plant riparian forest buffers, CCPI can provide financial assistance to help with the project," Banks said.

In Kansas, socially disadvantaged, limited resource, and beginning farmers and ranchers will receive a higher payment rate for conservation practices related to CCPI.

For more information on CCPI projects and other natural resources conservation programs, contact your local NRCS office or conservation district office.

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Banks announced the extended deadline for enrollments in the lesser prairie chicken initiative. Producers interested in participating in the program can submit applications to NRCS through Friday.

Kansas NRCS will fund the initiative through its Environmental Quality Incentives Program and provide producers an opportunity to improve the lesser prairie chicken habitat while promoting the overall health of grazing lands and the long-term sustainability of Kansas ranching. Expired or expiring Conservation Reserve Program fields in permanent cover that might benefit LPC habitat also might be eligible for funding.

All applicants must meet EQIP eligibility requirements.

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Farmers and forest landowners in three Kansas watersheds can apply for help to improve water quality in their watershed from the USDA's NRCS. Funding to install conservation practices that manage nutrients, pathogens and sediments comes from the agency's National Water Quality Initiative. NRCS accepts applications for financial assistance on a continuous basis throughout the year, but applications for funding consideration during the fiscal year must be received by Friday.

NRCS collaborated with Kansas state agencies, partners and the NRCS Kansas Technical Committee to select which watersheds would benefit most from additional conservation treatments and decided to offer the program to the same three watersheds as previous years.