While some federal offices in Cullman have closed because of the federal government shutdown, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service remains open to assist farmers.
Johnny Grantham, of the Soil & Conservation division under USDA, said assistance remains available for farmers to prevent soil erosion and other programs aimed at maintaining healthy farm practices.
“We want people to know we are still here at the local office,” Grantham said. “If the federal shutdown continues for another week or longer, I don’t know at that point. We’re hoping something will be done. This is an important time for these offices to be open with planting season ahead and other issues that local farmers face.”
Among the problems facing some Alabama farmers is the impact of tariffs that have damaged the soybean market exports, in particular.
“The government had said up a program to help farmers who were impacted by the tariffs, but that has stopped for now because of the shutdown,” Grantham said. “The Farm Services Agency (FSA) handles that and that office is not open because it was affected by the government shutdown.”
He also said Rural Development is closed for the same reason.
The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service is assisting producers with 2019 funding for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) which includes energy retrofits, wildlife, forestry, cropland erosion, grazing land, and water quality concerns. Applications are accepted on a continuous basis; however, selecting applications for funding is completed periodically through batching periods with specific cutoff dates.
In the EQIP programs, eligible producers may receive a payment based on the statewide average cost of the installation of the conservation practice.
The first step for producers should be to contact their Cullman County NRCS office at 734-6471 ext. 3 or come to the NRCS office at 501-B 4th Street SW, Cullman for specific information on how to apply. Individuals are not eligible until they have completed the Farm Bill eligibility requirements.
David Palmer may be contacted at 256-734-2131, ext. 116.