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2014 Farm Bill streamlines, consolidates conservation programs

By ThisIsReno

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The 2014 Farm Bill is streamlining key conservation programs while investing about $18.7 billion in conservation programs offered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) over the next five years. The bill provides about $3.4 billion for fiscal 2014 for NRCS-administered programs.

“The new Farm Bill continues to equip farmers, ranchers and forest landowners with the tools they need to address resource concerns while helping the environment,” Nevada State Conservationist Bruce Petersen said. “NRCS is moving swiftly to get the consolidated and expanded programs implemented.”

A comparison of programs included in the 2008 and 2014 bills is available here. Current contracts enrolled in Farm Bill programs are not affected.
Key program changes include:

Financial assistance programs: The Environmental Quality Incentives Program, or EQIP, will absorb the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program and make similar practices available. The Conservation Stewardship Program and Agricultural Management Assistance will be continued.
Easement programs: The agency’s key easement programs will be merged into a new program called the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, or ACEP. ACEP includes the former Wetlands Reserve Program, Grasslands Reserve Program and Farm and Ranchlands Protection Program. Funding for wetland and grassland protection expired Sept. 30, 2013, and the 2014 Farm Bill reinstates funding for these critical efforts under ACEP.

Partnership programs: The agency’s regional conservation efforts have a home in a new program – the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, or RCPP. Critical conservation areas for this new program will be designated by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. NRCS will also select project areas at the state and national level.

Representatives from NRCS and Farm Service Agency (FSA) will be holding public informational sessions around the state to discuss what the new Farm Bill offers, and what changes it entails. The public is invited to attend the following sessions:

Monday, March 10
Fallon – 9-11 a.m.: County Commission Chambers, 155 N. Taylor Street, Fallon, NV 89406
Lovelock – 2-4 p.m.: Pershing County Community Center, 820 6th St., Lovelock, NV 89419

Tuesday, March 11
Winnemucca – 9-11 a.m.: Humboldt General Hospital, Sonoma Conf. Room, 118 E. Haskell St., Winnemucca, NV 89445
Elko – 2-4 p.m.: BLM’s California Trail Interpretive Center meeting room, Hunter Exit (Exit 292) off I-80

Wednesday, March 12
Ely – 9-11 a.m.: White Pine County Library, 950 Campton Street, Ely, NV 89301
Caliente – 3-5 p.m.: Bureau of Land Management Office, 1400 S. Front Street, Caliente, NV 89008

Friday, March 14
Gardnerville – 9-11 a.m.: University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, 1325 Waterloo Lane, Gardnerville, NV 89410
Yerington – 3-5 p.m.: Yerington Intermediate School Auditorium, 215 Pearl Street, Yerington, NV 89447 (auditorium is across the street)

“We encourage farmers and ranchers interested in conservation programs to stop by their local NRCS office to learn about available financial and technical assistance,” Petersen said. “We’ll help you with a conservation plan and see what conservation systems are the best fit for your land.”

To learn about technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted or local USDA service center. For more on the 2014 Farm Bill, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/FarmBill.