Joseph Heller, the Hudson Valley’s US Department of Agriculture (USDA) District Conservationist, gave a presentation at Wednesday’s meeting for the Rockland County Legislature’s Environmental Committee.
Heller talked to the legislature about the 2012 Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) funding programs for landowners, farmers and forestland owners.
Heller said the NRCS collaborates with farmers, communities and individuals to protect natural resources on private lands. He added that their motto is “helping people help the land.”
The first thing they do is try to identify recent resource concerns, which can come from one of the following categories: soil, water, air, plants, animals, humans and energy.
There are two factors needed to be eligible for one of the programs: applicant/producer eligibility and land eligibility.
“It must be privately-owned land, it must be used for agroforestry and have identified resource concerns that the program will address,” Heller said. “So, we don’t just do random acts of conservation, we want to make sure that we’re actually identifying significant resources and we’re able to address them with the programs that we have.”
During the presentation he talked about four different programs: Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), Wetlands Reserve Program and Emergency Watershed Protection Program.
Heller said EQIP is the most popular of the programs, and that’s divided up into the local focus areas of livestock waste, cropland and grazing. He added that a majority of agriculture in Rockland falls under cropland.
That’s what New City’s falls under. Naomi Camilleri, of the farm, said they are enrolled in the programs and seeking assistance in areas like “cover crop, nutrient management, and mulch tilling.” She also said the grants are very competitive and so there’s no guarantee they will get what they request.
Heller said he couldn’t go into details about the farm’s status for funding. He said that grants for farms roughly around the size of most in Rockland can see grants of around $150,000.
After speaking with landowners, Heller said one step in the process includes making a visit to the farm to walk through and have a look at the resources up close. This will help determine what exactly is an area of need, and can determine which programs the farm applies for.
He said the Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWP) has $31.5 million available to local government in New York for public safety and restoration efforts to come after events like hurricanes and flooding. He said Rockland has requested funds, which have to be done by Feb. 3.
This program works to restore the natural features of the flood plain and provide relief to landowners with frequently flooded land.
“Typically projects funded under EWP include protection of threatened infrastructure from continued stream back erosion and stream downcutting,” Heller said.
Grants will range from a minimum $300,000 to a maximum of $500,000 per county for eligible projects.