Pennsylvania agricultural producers and landowners can apply for technical and financial assistance to improve and enhance natural resources on their agricultural and forest land.
Funding is available through two new Regional Conservation Partnership Program projects administered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.
The first application cutoff date for these new projects is May 14, and the second cutoff will be July 16.
One of the new projects is “Ag BMP Implementation in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed” and is offered in Berks County. This partnership project between NRCS and Berks County Conservation District is focused on implementing land management practices in the Upper Little Swatara and Conestoga Watersheds. Although these two watersheds will be prioritized, applications will be accepted from any eligible participant in Berks County.
The other new project is “Buffalo Creek Watershed Conservation Alliance” and is focused on implementing land management practices and conservation easements in the Buffalo Creek Watershed in Armstrong, Allegheny and Butler counties. This partnership project between NRCS and the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania will work toward a long-term goal of removing the watershed from the impaired list. Additional project partners include the Armstrong Conservation District, Butler County Conservation District, Duquesne University, The American Chestnut Foundation, and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.
Help is Available
Land management assistance is available to help farmers and landowners plan and implement conservation practices to improve water quality, build healthier soil, improve grazing and forest lands, conserve energy, enhance organic operations, establish or improve wildlife habitat and achieve other environmental benefits on cropland and pasture, forestland and associated agricultural land.
Popular practices include those that support manure handling and storage systems, such as waste storage structures; soil health improvement, such as cover crops and no-till; pasture improvement, such as prescribed grazing and watering systems; forest improvement, such as forest stand improvement; and habitat improvement, such as early successional habitat management.
Conservation easements provide funding to cooperating entities to preserve agricultural land with a focus on preserving prime and statewide important soils.
NRCS conservationists will work with producers to develop a conservation plan on their land to identify concerns and opportunities, help determine objectives and recommend solutions.
NRCS accepts applications year-round but makes funding selections at application cut-off deadlines. Pennsylvania producers with applications in by May 14 will have a higher chance of application approval in 2021. Applications received after that date will be accepted and considered for funding in additional ranking review cycles, if funds remain.
Interested producers should visit their local NRCS service center — found at offices.usda.gov — for sign-up information.