RESOURCE CONCERNS ON YOUR FARM OR RANCH?
Apply Now for Conservation Assistance
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Florida encourages farmers and ranchers to submit applications now for several conservation programs. These programs may help eligible participants pay for conservation practices to prevent soil erosion, improve water quality, restore wetlands and provide habitat for wildlife. Participation in all programs is voluntary. Although applications are accepted on a continuous basis, Florida NRCS has established a cut-off date of October 31 for the acceptance of applications for the following programs:
- Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is a conservation program that provides financial and technical assistance to farmers and ranchers who face threats to soil, water, air, and related natural resources on their land. Through EQIP, NRCS develops contracts with agricultural producers to voluntarily implement conservation practices to address natural resource problems. Persons engaged in livestock or agricultural production and owners of non-industrial private forestland are eligible for the program.
- Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) helps with developing or improving high quality habitat that supports fish and wildlife populations of National, State, Tribal, and local significance. Through WHIP, the NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to private and Tribal landowners for the development of upland, wetland, aquatic, and other types of wildlife habitat.
- Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) provides technical and financial assistance to private landowners and Tribes to restore, protect, and enhance wetlands in exchange for retiring eligible land from agriculture.
- Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) is a program for landowners and operators to protect grazing uses and related conservation values by conserving grassland, including rangeland, pastureland, and certain other lands.
- Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) is available on Tribal and private agricultural lands and non-industrial private forest land. CSP encourages producers to address resource concerns in a comprehensive manner by undertaking additional conservation activities; and improving, maintaining, and managing existing conservation activities.
NOTICE TO HISPANIC, WOMEN, NATIVE AMERICAN AND/OR AFRICAN AMERICAN FARMERS AND RANCHERS
If you believe the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) improperly denied farm loan benefits to you between 1981 and 2000 because you were Hispanic or because you are female, you may be eligible to apply for compensation. If you would like to register your name to receive a claims package, access the Hispanic and Women Farmer and Rancher Call Center or website:
CALL CENTER: 1-800-508-4429
If you are a Native American who was denied a farm loan or loan servicing by the USDA between Jan. 1, 1981 and Nov. 24, 1999, you may be eligible for benefits from a Class Action Settlement. To request a claims package, access the Native American Farmer of Rancher Class Action Settlement Call Center or website:
CALL CENTER: 1-888-233-5506
If you are an African American farmer (a) who submitted a request to file a late claim on or between Oct. 13, 1999 and June 18, 2008, under the 1999 USDA settlement in the earlier class action known as Pigford v. Glickman (“Pigford”), and (b) who did not receive a merits determination of your discrimination claim, you may be eligible for benefits from a Class Action Settlement. To hear or find information access the African American Farmer or Rancher Class Action Settlement Call Center or website:
CALL CENTER: 1-866-950-5547 or 1-866-472-7826
WEBSITE: www.blackfarmercase.comFor guidance, you may contact a lawyer or other legal services provider in your community. USDA cannot provide legal advice to you. Media calls are referred to the USDA Office of Communication at 202-720-4623
Marion Soil and Water’s Best Management Practice Awareness Campaign
What is a BMP and why should it be on your farm? BMP stands for Best Management Practice and is a practice or combination of practices that improve water quality in agricultural and urban discharges. BMPs are determined by coordinating agencies and are based on research, field testing, and expert review. They are designed to be effective and practical on each location and take into account economic and technological considerations. BMPs for agricultural discharges reflect a balance between water quality improvements and agricultural productivity.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) has adopted several BMPs including citrus, container nurseries, vegetable and agronomic crops, sod, cow/calf, siviculture, and aquaculture. FDACS has two BMPs currently under development, equine and specialty fruit and nut Crops. Marion Soil and Water Conservation District has been following the Equine BMP Manual very closely through the development stages. In anticipation of the Equine BMP Manual’s release this year, the Soil and Water District is conducting an Equine BMP Awareness Campaign by hosting workshops, setting up displays, and giving presentations. The campaign is sponsored by a grant from the Withlacoochie River Basin Board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
Marion Soil and Water used the County guidelines (Resolution 04-R-382, adopted by the Marion County Board of County Commissioners on 11/02/2001) as a minimum standard and has incorporated many of the State requirements into the Farms of Environmental Distinction Program. To date, Marion Soil and Water has had the privilege of honoring 39 farms in Marion County who have voluntarily implemented BMPs on their farms. These practices are as simple as covering manure piles, locating manure piles away from surface water and wells, composting, rotating pastures, installing fencing to keep horses out of streams and wetlands, and utilizing proper soil management and conservative fertilization. Marion Soil and Water has visited and evaluated more than 400 farms and is recognizing those who have made a commitment to being good stewards of the land through the utilization of BMPs.
Marion Soil and Water works under a Memorandum of Understanding with the USDA Natural Resources and Conservation Service (NRCS). NRCS offers information on cost-share programs to assist in implementing most BMPs. Through the 2008 Farm Bill, NRCS offers the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) to farm owners to implement conservation practices on their land.
If you are interested in becoming a Farm of Environmental Distinction through a free farm evaluation or would like additional information on BMPs please call Marion Soil and Water Conservation District at (352) 414-7829.
Simple and Effective BMPs for the Small Farm
Not all horse farms in Marion County are hundreds of acres and have managers and stable hands. Many Marion County horse farms are less than 20 acres, where part of the land is used for agricultural purposes, including crops, livestock and horses. Small farm owners play a significant role in protecting Florida’s water resources. Best Management Practices (BMPs) are tested methods, measures or practices designed to prevent or reduce harm to the environment. Two of the most effective BMPs to implement are pasture management and manure management.
Effective pasture management includes installing cross-fencing to rotate your horses between pastures, allowing time for grass to rest. Resting allows the grass time to grow and strengthen its root system, which helps reduce soil and water erosion. Mowing the pastures regularly will encourage grass and discourages weeds from forming seeds. One of the easiest and most important practices is to test the soil to determine fertilizer needs to maintain healthy grass in your pastures. Soil test kits are available through Marion Soil and Water Conservation District or Marion County Extension office. In the long run soil testing could save hundreds of dollars in fertilization costs. The rule of thumb with pasture rotation is to allow grass to reach 6 inches before grazing; remove animals when 3 inches remain.
A single horse produces approximately 9 tons of manure a year – not including bedding. Therefore a good manure management program is imperative. One of the least expensive options is to drag your pastures. Dragging pastures will break-up and spread manure, exposing it to sunlight which helps to kill bacteria. The option most suggested by Marion Soil and Water is to compost the manure. Manure may be safely stored in covered dumpsters, three-walled structures with a roof or tarp cover, enclosed truck beds or trash cans with lids. When determining a site for your composting consider the ease of access to the location, the size of the facility, and how rain or storm water runoff affects the site. Proper composting kills bacteria, organisms, and weed seeds that may be in the manure. It also produces a valuable potting material. For detailed information on composting or other BMPs, contact Marion Soil and Water Conservation District at (352) 414-7829.