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NRCS accepting applications

PRINCETON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is accepting applications for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).

Owners and operators of farmland within the Big Bureau Creek watershed may qualify for a special pot of funding that has been set aside to improve the health of Big Bureau Creek and its tributaries.

According to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Big Bureau Creek watershed is considered polluted by too much nitrogen and phosphorus. Subsequently, NRCS has set aside funding for eligible farmers who adopt certain practices that reduce nutrient loss from their fields. Farmers in the Upper Big Bureau, Pike Creek and East Bureau Creek subwatersheds may compete for this funding at the local level, instead of statewide.

“I want to encourage landowners and producers in Bureau, LaSalle, and Lee counties to apply for these funds,” said Aaron Seim, NRCS District Conservationist for Lee County. “We will have funds available for 2013. If you are not sure if you are in one of the three designated watersheds, please stop by your local NRCS office to find out.”

The EQIP program provides financial assistance for a number of conservation practices, such as grassed waterways, cover crops, stream buffers, reduced tillage and livestock waste storage structures. Many conservation practices don’t require land to be taken out of production and can improve soil health and productivity.

To participate, farmers must develop a conservation plan with NRCS. County NRCS offices are accepting applications through next spring, and applications will be reviewed on Jan. 18, March 15, and May 17, 2013. Farmers who submit their applications early will be at less risk of the funding running out.

The Friends of the Big Bureau Creek Watershed are trying to get the word out about the Fiscal Year 2013 EQIP signup period. The Friends is a group of conservation organizations, government agencies, and agricultural consultants working together to promote the adoption of conservation practices that benefit Big Bureau Creek.

Five percent of EQIP financial assistance is set aside for socially disadvantaged farmers, and another 5 percent for beginning farmers.

For more information about EQIP or other technical and financial assistance provided by NRCS, contact your local county NRCS office or visit www.il.nrcs.usda.gov.

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