Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced recently that $22.2 million in Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funds would be provided to 17 states for their high levels of performance in implementing the program during 2004.

"These funds will help farmers and ranchers improve soil, air and water resources on private working lands," Johanns said. "These awards recognize states that have achieved the greatest efficiency in delivering technical and financial assistance to agricultural producers. This program also helps producers comply with federal, state and local environmental regulations."

The states receiving the performance award include Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

EQIP is a voluntary conservation program for farmers and ranchers that promotes agricultural production and environmental quality as compatible national goals. EQIP offers financial and technical help to assist eligible participants implement structural and management practices on eligible agricultural land.

The program provides a performance incentive to optimize the overall environmental benefits of EQIP. In awarding the incentive, USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service considered factors such as efficiency in providing technical assistance for conservation system applications, strategic planning and program implementation, degree of emphasis on funding comprehensive nutrient management plans with livestock producers, use of technical service providers and contracts with limited resource farmers and ranchers.

Funding allocated per state: Alabama, $1,315,789 Arkansas, $1,315,789 Georgia, $1,052.632 Idaho, $1,315,789 Louisiana, $1,315,789 Maine, $1,184,211 Mississippi, $1,184,211 Montana, $1,184,211 New Mexico, $1,052.632 North Dakota, $1,052.632 Ohio, $1,184,211 Oklahoma, $1,315,789 South Carolina, $1,184,211 Texas, $1,052.632 Utah, $1,184,211 Washington, $1,052.632 Wyoming, $1,052.632

Additional information on EQIP can be found at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/eqip