The Texas Soil and Water Conservation Districts invite the public and any agencies with interest to participate in the Program Development Group meetings. These meetings are led by the local Soil and Water Conservation District in partnership with USDA- Natural Resources Conservation Service in each county and provide an opportunity for participation and comments from a broad range of local agencies, organizations, businesses and especially farmers and ranchers that have an interest in natural resource conditions and needs. Each county in Texas holds public meetings annually. County meetings will soon be posted on the Texas NRCS Web site www.tx.nrcs.usda.gov.

The purpose of the PDG is to allow members of the community a forum for providing recommendations on local issues and county based funding that can be addressed through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). These local stakeholders include landowners, commodity groups, agri-business leaders, environmental groups, and others who may have an interest in local natural resource needs.

Following the PDG meetings there will be Local Work Group (LWG) meetings chaired by the NRCS District Conservationist scheduled prior to Sept.15, 2006. The role of the LWG is to consider the recommendations of the PDG and to provide their own input. They will advise NRCS on how the local people would like the EQIP program carried out. All recommendations will be taken into account before finalizing the program. Members of the LWG include: NRCS District Conservationist, Soil and Water Conservation Board members, Farm Service Agency (FSA) County Committee Members, FSA County Executive Director, Cooperative Extension, State or Local elected or appointed officials, and other Federal or State government representatives, and representatives of American Indian governments.

One of the guiding principles of the 2002 USDA Farm Bill is that conservation programs are locally led. Through stakeholder meetings the public is given an opportunity to help local conservation leaders set program priorities.

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) was established in the 1996 Farm Bill to provide a single, voluntary conservation program for farmers and ranchers to address significant natural resource concerns. Nationally, it provides technical and financial assistance to address natural resource concerns. Administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), EQIP was reauthorized in the 2002 Farm Bill and awards cost share assistance to agricultural producers who will apply cost chare and incentive practices which provide significant environmental benefit. In Texas, NRCS provides funding to each county to address local high priority resource concerns.

For more information, call the USDA-NRCS office in your county, listed under USDA in the Yellow Pages, or access the information on the Texas NRCS website at www.tx.nrcs.usda.gov.