The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in Montana has set a Nov. 17, application cutoff for farmers and ranchers to be considered for the next conservation program funding cycle. The cutoff date applies to the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Conservation Stewardship Program-Classic (CSP), and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP-EQIP).

“NRCS provides funding and technical assistance to help farmers, ranchers and forestland owners implement conservation practices that provide environmental benefits to help sustain their operations,” said Tom Watson, NRCS state conservationist for Montana. “Conservation work focused on local outcomes with the support of local partners and land managers achieves meaningful conservation across a landscape.”

The Conservation Stewardship Program is for working lands. For farmers, ranchers, and forestland owners already taking steps to improve the condition of the land, CSP can help find new ways to meet resource and operation goals.

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program offers financial and technical assistance to eligible participants to install or implement structural and management practices on eligible agricultural land. In Montana, socially disadvantaged, limited resource, and beginning farmers and ranchers will receive a higher payment rate for eligible conservation practices applied.

In addition to CSP, conservation funding is available for the following initiatives through EQIP.

•High Tunnel Systems: These systems extend the growing seasons for high value crops in an environmentally safe manner. High tunnel benefits include better plant and soil quality and fewer nutrients and pesticides in the environment.

•Honey Bee Pollinators: Combats future honey bee declines by implementing conservation practices that provide forage for honey bees while enhancing habitat for other pollinators and wildlife.

•National On-Farm Energy Initiative: Farmers work with NRCS-approved technical service providers to develop agricultural energy management plans or farm energy audits that assess energy consumption on an operation. NRCS may also provide assistance to implement recommended measures identified in the energy audit through the use of conservation practice standards.

•National Organic Initiative: Farmers certified as organic, transitioning to organic or National Organic Program exempt will have access to a broad set of conservation practices to assist in treating their resource concerns while fulfilling many of the requirements in an Organic System Plan.

•Targeted Implementation Plans: Montana NRCS targets its investments in very specific areas to achieve clearly defined natural resource goals as identified by local partners. This approach harnesses the power of multiple landowners in one area undertaking similar conservation projects to achieve a regional or landscape-scale result.

•Regional Conservation Partnership Program: The RCPP-EQIP under Farm Bill 2014 promotes coordination of NRCS conservation activities with partners that offer value-added contributions to expand our collective ability to address on-farm, watershed and regional natural resource concerns.

NRCS accepts conservation program applications year-round; however, applications for the next funding consideration must be submitted by Nov. 17. Applications made after the cutoff will be considered in the next funding cycle. Additional information is available on the Montana NRCS website at www.mt.nrcs.usda.gov under the “Programs” tab or by contacting the Teton County USDA service center at 466-5351, extension 3.