Up to $58.4 million in financial assistance is available to agricultural producers and entities through the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program, established in the current farm bill to promote ground and surface water conservation and water quality improvement. USDA is seeking project proposals from potential partners through this program. Proposals must be submitted by March 2.

The Agricultural Water Enhancement Program request for proposals can be viewed at the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service's Web site; at the official government regulation Web Site; and at the Federal Register.

The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 established AWEP as a component of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, USDA's largest conservation program on working agricultural lands. All EQIP requirements and policies will apply to AWEP.

USDA-NRCS administers EQIP, 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 forests lands.

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 habitat.

The new farm bill expanded EQIP to include AWEP. 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 rangeland.

For additional information about the AWEP under EQIP, go to www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/EQIP or call (202) 720-1845