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? Reminder: NRCS Taking Public Comments on Revision of EQIP National Priorities

NRCS is public comments on the EQIP National Priorities which must be submitted by June 5, 2005 to David Webster, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Room 5231, Washington, DC 20250 or via email at david.webster@usda.gov, (Attention: Environmental Quality Incentives Program Comments). Comments also can be submitted on the web at: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/eqip.

The current EQIP national priorities (natural resource concerns), which NRCS staff have indicated will most likely be retained, are:
>Reduce non-point source pollutants; reduce groundwater contamination and
conservation of ground and surface water resources;
>Reduce emissions that contribute to air quality impairment
>Reduce soil erosion and sediment from unacceptable high rates on highly erodible
land; and
> Promote the recovery of at-risk wildlife habitat species.

Martha Noble is preparing comments for SAC which will be available the week of May 9. SAC is recommending four new EQIP National Priorities:

> Increase the acreage of the nation’s grazing land managed for sustainable grazing and pasture-based livestock and poultry systems – over 30 states have already adopted grazing as a state EQIP priority and and managed grazing and pasture-based systems are one of the specific focuses of the EQIP statute and the Conference Report language of the 2002 Farm Bill. SAC took the lead in ensuring that these system had a statutory priority.
> Increase agricultural water conservation in order to achieve increased in-stream flows and lake and reservoir levels and water quality for aquatic wildlife habitat and drinking water supplies. Currently, NRCS gives priority and funding to increased irrigation efficiency but has not taken steps to ensure that the water conserved is used to improve the nation’s streams, rivers, and lakes.
> Increase agricultural land managed to meet organic production certification standards by using EQIP funding and technical assistance to assist farmers in the transition of their land for organic production and to implement additional conservation improvements.
> Increase habitat for native pollinators, a recommendation that has the advantage of also increasing production of agricultural crops that require animal pollinators and that can also be linked to preservation and restoration of native plant habitat which native pollinators and other wildlife can use.

SAC will also recommend that in implementing the EQIP National Priorities, NRCS develop EQIP application ranking systems that give priority to applicants using production systems that can simultaneously achieve improvements in numerous resource concerns. Contact Martha Noble by phone at 202-547-5754 or by e-mail at mnoble@msawg.org if you would like a copy of the SAC comments.

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