The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced additional funding in the Panhandle and South Plains regions to enhance natural resources on Texas agricultural working lands.  Additional funds are now available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to address water conservation concerns through the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP) and the Ogallala Aquifer Initiative.

“AWEP and the Ogallala Aquifer Initiative are both voluntary programs and provide financial and technical assistance to farmers and ranchers to improve water conditions on their agricultural land,” said Salvador Salinas, NRCS state conservationist for Texas. “With water supplies at an all time low, this is just one more way agriculture can help conserve its use.”

AWEP and the Ogallala Aquifer Initiative promote ground and surface water conservation by helping farmers and ranchers implement agricultural water enhancement activities.  Projects address water quantity resource concerns in the 49 Panhandle and South Plains counties within the Aquifer area. 

Types of water enhancement activities include water quantity or water conservation plan development; irrigation system improvements and irrigation efficiency enhancements; water conservation restoration and activities designed to mitigate the effects of drought.   All these activities are utilized to enhance water quantity or water conservation benefits on agricultural lands.

Producers are encouraged to work with NRCS on conservation planning assistance to develop a conservation plan as a primary tool for long-term management of their natural resources.

“Benefits of a conservation plan go a long way in helping producers protect and improve their land,” said Jon Weddle, NRCS program manager in Lubbock. “The plan will help producers qualify for NRCS financial assistance to implement the conservation practices to make the changes on their farms or ranches. It will also serve as a planning tool, and can be modified as they change their objectives and goals throughout the years.”

EQIP is a continuous sign-up program.  NRCS will be accepting applications through July 29, 2011 for current funding. NRCS implements the programs by entering into EQIP contracts directly with agricultural producers.

Visit your local USDA Service Center and talk to the NRCS office staff about the details for AWEP and the Ogallala Aquifer Initiative, conservation planning, and other programs to help protect your farm. For more information about EQIP, go to www.tx.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/eqip and click on Texas 2011 EQIP information.