Program sends assistance directly to ag producers USDA
offers financial, technical help under new conservation plan
assistance to promote ground and surface water conservation
and water-quality improvement is available to ag producers and
ag entities, thanks to $58.4 million in funding in the new
The USDA is seeking project proposals from potential partners
through this new nationwide program, the Agricultural Water
Enhancement Program, or AWEP.
All requirements and policies of the Environmental Quality
Incentives Program, or EQIP, will apply to AWEP.
EQIP is a voluntary conservation program that provides
technical assistance and payments to help crop and livestock
producers address environmental concerns through conservation
improvements on agricultural and non-industrial private
Farmers and ranchers can use EQIP to farm in an
environmentally friendly manner and still meet their
agricultural production goals. In addition, it is designed to
produce significant environmental benefits to the public, such
as improved soil, water and air quality, and enhanced wildlife
AWEP offers financial and technical assistance to help farmers
and ranchers carry out water-enhancement activities that
conserve ground and surface water and improve water quality on
agricultural lands such as cropland, pasture, grassland and
Agricultural water enhancement activities include:
• Water quality or water conservation plan development;
• Water conservation restoration or enhancement projects,
including conversion to the production of less water-intensive
agricultural commodities or dryland farming;
• Water quality or quantity restoration or enhancement
• Irrigation system improvement or irrigation efficiency
• Activities designed to reduce drought's impacts; and
• Other related activities that will help achieve water
quality or water conservation benefits on agricultural land.
Under this new program, USDA-NRCS can contract directly with
agricultural producers who are included in approved partner
Eligible partners include federally recognized tribes, states,
units of local government, and agricultural or silvicultural
All AWEP funding must go to producers. Like EQIP, contract
terms for producers under AWEP run from one year to 10 years.
Agricultural producers in selected project areas can apply for
available AWEP funds at their local USDA service center.
Proposals must be submitted by March 2.
Staff writer Cookson Beecher is based in Sedro-Woolley, Wash.