Conservation Planning – Investing in Your Future

Gary Cooper Florida, General, USDA-NRCS

Gainesville, FL., October 3, 2008 – Are you a conservation minded landowner in need of advice or financial incentives for your farm or ranch? A comprehensive conservation plan may be just what you need. A conservation plan is a written record of your management decisions and the conservation practices and systems that you plan to use and maintain on your farm. Carrying out your plan will achieve the goals of protecting the environment on and off your farm or ranch as well as meeting your individual management objectives. Having a conservation plan may also help qualify you for various USDA conservation programs that can help you implement your plan.

Conservation applications for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) are currently being accepted for funding consideration in fiscal year 2009 at U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offices throughout Florida. Though an application deadline for 2009 funding has not yet been set, interested landowners are encouraged to contact a local NRCS office for information on conservation planning and submitting a completed application.

“We are awaiting the final program rules of the new 2008 Farm Bill, which will determine the program policies and eligibility criteria,” said NRCS State Conservationist Carlos Suarez. “However, we are continuing to accept applications now so that we can write our conservation plans in a timely manner. We want to be well positioned to provide contracts to our producers when the policies are finalized.”

EQIP is a voluntary 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, the NRCS provides financial incentives to producers to promote agricultural production and environmental quality as compatible goals, optimize environmental benefits, and help farmers and ranchers meet Federal, State, Tribal, and local environmental regulations.

The 2008 Farm Bill authorizes increased payments for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers in addition to beginning and limited resource producers. Priority may be given to water conservation applications that will reduce water use or where the producer agrees not to use any associated water savings to bring new land under irrigation production.

WHIP is a voluntary program for private landowners to develop and improve high quality habitat that supports wildlife populations of National, State, Tribal, and local significance. Land eligible for WHIP includes private agricultural land, non-industrial private forest land, and Tribal land. Through WHIP, the USDA’s NRCS provides technical and financial assistance. WHIP agreements generally last from 5 to 10 years.

Whether you want or need financial incentives, now is the time to contact your local district conservationist to request conservation planning assistance…to plan for your future.

For additional information on NRCS, conservation planning or these voluntary conservation programs, visit To find a USDA – Natural Resources Conservation Service office near you go to or call 352-338-9500.