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Conservation applications accepted

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is accepting applications to help producers improve water and air quality, build healthier soil, improve grazing and forest lands and achieve other environmental benefits.

The deadlines for the next sign-up period in Minnesota are February 15, March 15 and April 19.

NRCS has directed almost $23.7 million in financial assistance for fiscal 2013 to help Minnesota producers implement conservation practices through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the agency's largest farm bill conservation program.

Interested producers should visit their local NRCS service center for information on EQIP sign-up periods.

EQIP provides financial assistance for a variety of conservation activities such as irrigation water management, reduced tillage, field buffers, rotational grazing systems and more.

NRCS offers special initiatives through EQIP, including:

• On-Farm Energy Initiative - helps producers conserve energy on their operations.

• Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative - helps producers install high tunnels

• Organic Initiative - helps producers install conservation practices on certified organic operations or those working toward organic certification.

To participate in EQIP, an applicant must be an individual, entity or joint operation that meets EQIP eligibility criteria. Applicants can sign up at their local NRCS service center.

For more information about EQIP or other technical or financial assistance programs offered by NRCS, contact a local service center.