President Bush is setting aside $850 million for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, a $255 million increase above fiscal year 2003. And of that total, 60 percent has been earmarked for livestock producers.

In addition to the budget announcement, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman announced the release of the proposed rules for the EQIP program. You have 30 days to comment on the rules after they are published in the Federal Register today.

Highlights of the revised EQIP proposal include:

  • Reduces the amount of planning requirements needed to develop a contract.
  • Provides up to 90 percent cost share for limited resource and beginning producers.
  • Provides livestock producers with cost share assistance for manure storage facilities regardless of size, but must develop and implement a comprehensive nutrient management plan.
  • Allows producers to have more than one contract per tract at any given time.
  • Allocates 60 percent of EQIP funds toward livestock related practices.
  • Eliminates the program's dual administration by delegating EQIP to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

"Conservation incentive programs for working lands, in combination with technical assistance, help reduce the regulatory burden on farmers and ranchers faced with air and water quality restrictions," says Veneman. "The team at USDA has worked to ensure these proposed rules are producer-friendly and will achieve the intended results of these programs."

You can find information on EQIP and other conservation programs at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/

USDA