California dairy producers and other confined animal operators are encouraged to apply now for assistance through a $10 million special initiative that will share the cost of structures and management practices producers may need to protect water quality on their farms. USDA's popular Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) will provide the resources for this effort.

"Our dairymen and other animal feeding operators are facing a number of challenges in keeping their businesses profitable and sustainable, and I believe it is time to accelerate our assistance to them," said Lincoln "Ed" Burton, State Conservationist for USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in California. "We know that there are a number of producers who are trying to find the best way to voluntarily protect water quality in their communities and, within the resources we have available, we want to provide the technical and financial resources to help them do it."

"We're very pleased to partner with the USDA in addressing environmental issues in California," said California Department of Food and Agriculture Undersecretary A.J. Yates. "Consistent with the Governor's commitment to the environment, we are working aggressively to leverage federal dollars and improve California's environment."

"California Resource Conservation Districts are proud to work in partnership with NRCS to help producers meet the challenges of new environmental regulation," said Brian Leahy, Executive Director, California Association of Resource Conservation Districts.

To protect water quality there are a number of conservation practices producers can use to safely store and treat manure and apply it to land at rates that provide crop nutrients without harming groundwater. NRCS will cost share many of these practices through the initiative, with the producer and the agency each paying half. Some of these practices include manure storage; manure treatment such as composting and other forms of digestion; manure transfer; storm water control features such as berms and diversions; nutrient management; irrigation practices; and land treatments such as manure runoff control.

"We certainly encourage producers to develop a comprehensive nutrient management plan to help them assess their needs and select the best practices to manage their business while protecting natural resources," said Burton. "And that is something we can also help them with."

To apply for the cost share assistance, dairymen and other confined animal operators are encouraged to visit their local NRCS office between now and December 2, 2005. This schedule accelerates the usual EQIP timeframe by about four months and will allow conservation activities to be funded and begin earlier in 2006. "By taking and ranking applications now we will expedite the contracting process and get money to producers and conservation on the ground earlier in the season," Burton said.

For additional information on EQIP and other NRCS programs and activities, see

Natural Resources Conservation Service