USDA will provide an additional $40 million to help farmers participating in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program complete conservation projects that have been stalled by higher energy prices.

Deputy Secretary Chuck Conner announced the funding at a speech to the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts at its annual meeting in Indianapolis. He said the money would be used for one-time payment adjustments.

“There are many conservation practices that farmers and ranchers have put on hold because of increasing energy prices,” Conner said. “This adjustment will help our producers to fully implement those practices which will increase the protection of our natural resources and, in some cases, lessen the impact of high energy prices by reducing producers' need for energy and energy-related inputs.”

This assistance is part of USDA's effort to mitigate the impact of high energy costs on agricultural producers. The USDA energy strategy was announced on Dec. 7 in response to concerns raised during the nationwide USDA farm bill forum tour.

The one-time adjustment will apply to participants who signed EQIP contracts in 2004 or earlier. The increase in payment will apply to specific practices that have been most affected by spikes in the cost of concrete, steel, plastic pipe, and other construction materials.

The increase will only be paid for practices that are completed between March 1 and June 30, 2006, and will focus on specific practices that have escalated in price by 20 percent or more because of rising energy costs.

For more information on this one-time adjustment, go to the NRCS Web site http://www.nrcs.usda.gov.