Farmers and landowners in Arkansas have until Jan. 13, 2012, to submit applications to receive cost-share assistance to implement conservation activities through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) for the 2012 program year. Applicants can sign up at their local USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service field service center.

Individuals and other entities engaged in livestock and/or crop production are eligible to participate in EQIP. Eligible land includes cropland, pasture, private non-industrial forest land, and other farm and ranch lands.

The EQIP deadline is for general sign ups.

EQIP in Arkansas is specifically designed to address the resource concerns of water quality issues related to animal manure management and sediment, improved management of irrigation water and reduction in ground water use, reduction of erosion, and improvement of wildlife habitat. All applications will be evaluated for funding based on a state developed procedure to optimize environmental benefits. Applications ranking highest in a funding category will be funded subject to availability.

A list of eligible conservation practices and how they apply to regular participants or historically underserved participants (beginning, limited resource or socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers) will be posted here. Most conservation practices in the Arkansas EQIP Payment Schedule are set at 60 percent cost-share with some receiving 75 percent. Some practices have payment caps that cannot be exceeded in a single contract.

The 2008 farm bill also allows applicants qualifying as historically underserved to receive an additional 25 percent cost-share. However, no applicant can receive more than 90 percent. The farm bill also provides advance payments to historically underserved producers, of up to 30 percent of the anticipated costs to be incurred to purchase materials or services to implement a conservation practice.

If a contract is cancelled by the participant or terminated because of non-compliance, the NRCS state conservationist may require repayment of cost-shares already paid or a proportion of the payments.

For more information, see here.