Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman said that $94 million will be released for the Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWP) in 36 states. She also announced the release of nearly $10 million in previously unallocated FY2002 funds for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).

These EQIP funds will allow USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to continue to implement the EQIP program in the 2002 fiscal year, as authorized in the 2002 farm bill. The 2002 fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

On the emergency watershed funding, the secretary said the program is targeted at areas hit by natural disasters.

“This program will provide assistance to help restore natural resources from the devastating effects of wildfires and other natural disasters,” Veneman said. “The Bush administration remains committed to providing the tools and resources for environmental stewardship to ensure that the land remains both healthy and productive.”

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides technical and financial assistance through EWP where a potential threat to life or property exists as a result of natural disasters, including floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires, she said. EWP provides funding to local project sponsors for work that includes clearing debris from clogged waterways, restoring vegetation and stabilizing stream banks.

Farmers in Texas will be eligible for $13.5 million from the program. Oklahoma growers will receive $12.32 million and New Mexico producers, $513,000.

Funding for other Sun Belt states:

Arkansas $225,000
Arizona 5,144,000
California 7,168,000
Florida 570,000
Georgia 90,000
Louisiana 70,650
Mississippi 2,247,605
Tennesseerow two) 9,060,000

The secretary said the majority of the EQIP funds are being directed to states most severely impacted by dry weather. “This will provide assistance to help agricultural producers implement conservation practices in an effort to prevent further damage to natural resources resulting from the drought.”

EQIP is a voluntary conservation program that promotes environmental quality and assists producers to meet local, state and federal regulations. Funds will help farmers and ranchers install conservation practices to reduce soil erosion, improve water use efficiencies and protect grazing land.

Congress made $414 million in EQIP funds available in the 2002 fiscal year. This includes the initial allocation of $187 million, plus $227 million from the 2002 farm bill. The $10 million announced by the secretary on Sept. 16 will be targeted to help states where natural resources have been severely damaged by drought.

The new farm bill represents an unprecedented investment in conservation on America's private lands, nearly $13 billion over the next six years, according to the secretary.

Additional information on EQIP and other conservation programs is on the Web at http://nrcs.usda.gov/programs/farmbill/2002/products.html. Information to deal with drought is available at http://drought.fsa.usda.gov/.

For more information on the emergency watershed program, contact your local NRCS office or USDA Service Center, listed in the telephone book under U.S. Department of Agriculture, or on the Web at http://offices.usda.gov. You may visit the NRCS website at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/ewp/ewp.html.

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