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Signups open for EQIP and WHIP aid for improvements

December 20, 2005

It's time to apply for funds in two conservation programs available in Washington County, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Services said.

They are the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP).

For EQIP, the first signup has begun and continues through Jan. 20, 2006. The second signup period is from Feb. 5 to 24.

This USDA program is designed to help agricultural landowners with agricultural waste management systems, integrated crop management, pastureland management, cropland erosion control practices and water quality protection practices.

Cost-sharing may pay up to 75 percent.

The Conservation Districts and the USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service provide technical assistance for designing and installing the needed practices and management plans. EQIP offers contract periods from 13 months to 10 years.

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All major conservation concerns should be addressed. "Monies will be awarded to applicants whose contracts offer the best environmental benefits for the least cost," according to a press release.

The cost-share percentage varies by conservation practice and ranges from 25 percent to 75 percent. Many practices can be co-cost shared with Maryland's state cost-share program.

"An additional 15 percent cost-share can be added to the federal percentage if you are a beginning farmer - not more than 10 consecutive years in business - or a limited resource farmer, having direct or indirect gross farm sales of not more than $100,000 in each of the previous two years," the agencies said.

For WHIP, the signup period has begun. It will end Jan. 6, 2006.

WHIP is a voluntary program for people who want to develop and improve wildlife habitat primarily on private lands. It provides cost-share payments for fish and wildlife habitat.

The USDA and the participant enter into a cost-sharing agreement for wildlife habitat development. This agreement generally lasts 5 to 10 years.

These provisions apply:

The participant agrees to install and maintain the WHIP practices.

Practices are cost-shared up to 75 percent of the cost of installing the wildlife habitat practices. The project must be a minimum of one acre.

Wildlife habitat practices include the establishment of warm and cool season grasses, field borders, filter strips, riparian forest buffer, fencing, and stream bank protection.

For more information, contact the Washington County Soil Conservation District or the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Services at 301-797-6821, ext. 3.

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