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In the middle of California’s drought, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is meeting with landowners, Tribal representatives, and agencies to assess resource concerns and offer assistance to farmers and ranchers, as well as, forest and Tribal land managers. Programs through NRCS include the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the newest pilot program, EQIP-Conservation Incentive Contracts (EQIP-CIC).

“Although we still have CDC coronavirus related health precautions in place for the safety of our customers and employees, we strongly encourage you to call the nearest office and schedule an appointment,” said Carlos Suarez, NRCS California state conservationist. “Our field conservationists are available to assess your resource concerns and we have a variety of conservation practices and programs to help agricultural producers.”

The new pilot program, EQIP-CIC, can provide long-term support to address drought on agricultural and other lands. NRCS is taking applications through July 12 and encourages interested land managers to contact their local offices for more information.

Specifically through this new pilot program (EQIP-CIC), six high priority areas were identified:

1.  San Joaquin Valley (cropland);

2.  Statewide (cropland);

3.  Klamath Basin (cropland);

4.  Statewide (range, pasture);

5.  Statewide (forest); and

6.  Statewide Tribal Land (cropland, range, pasture, forest).

In addition to these high priority areas, NRCS conservationists are available to discuss best conservation practices and enhancements for cropland, rangeland, forestland, pastureland, and tribal land, which can result in development of a conservation plan. A conservation plan is a roadmap to the natural resources stewardship of your land that helps you to successfully implement your conservation improvements. 

NRCS can help you develop a plan that is right for your operation. Starting with healthy soil as the foundation of a healthy environment, landowners can use mulching or cover crops to minimize erosion and improve soil health. With the new pilot EQIP-CIC, landowners would also be able to receive reimbursement for their efforts to decrease tillage intensity and increase plant-available moisture, for example, with complimentary practices.

Plants are the natural solution for many conservation challenges. For example, landowners can install hedgerow and other plantings to establish multi-purpose wildlife habitat. With the new pilot EQIP-CIC, land managers could receive reimbursement for planting cover crops for pollinators while improving soil health and for planting trees, shrubs, grasses, and forbs to create habitat for beneficial insects and Monarch butterflies, while reducing soil erosion or improving livestock well being. 

As a western drought state, California landowners may reduce risks of wildfires while protecting homes and communities by using conservation practices such as brush management, fuel break, woody residue treatment, and forest stand improvement. With the new pilot EQIP-CIC, landowners would also be able to receive reimbursement to continue the longer term management of these best conservation practices for reducing the height and density of forest understory to limit wildfire risk.

 Landowners can efficiently use water resources by implementing practices such as irrigation ditch lining, irrigation pipeline, or micro irrigation. Through the new pilot, irrigation scheduling technology can be included in a conservation plan to help farmers explore new technology with agricultural innovations to help decrease energy and water use.

For more information on the new pilot EQIP-CIC and the July 12, 2021 application deadline, contact a local field office to schedule an appointment. Our office locator is available at https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/ca/contact/.