An additional $200 million will be made available through the 2008 farm bill to help farmers and ranchers nationwide to solve natural resource problems through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, according to Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer.

An additional $2.5 million will be available for Agricultural Management Assistance in 16 states.

“These additional funds will assist farmers and ranchers in solving critical natural resource problems,” Schafer said. “Voluntary incentive-based programs like EQIP and AMA are the key to helping producers meet their conservation goals and provide the public with important benefits such as cleaner water, improved air quality, healthy soils, and abundant wildlife.”

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service administers EQIP and AMA, which provide financial and technical assistance to producers. Congress provided the extra funds for both programs for fiscal 2008. Both programs were reauthorized in the 2008 farm bill.

EQIP helps farmers and ranchers improve agricultural production while protecting environmental quality. EQIP offers up to 75 percent in cost share to help producers install or implement structural and management practices on private agricultural land.

Limited resource producers and beginning farmers and ranchers may be eligible for higher rates in EQIP — up to 90 percent in cost-share assistance — to address their natural resource issues. USDA can provide incentive payments to encourage producers to adopt conservation practices that would result in extra environmental benefits.

With this extra funding, USDA has made a total of $1.2 billion available to producers in fiscal 2008 for EQIP. Approximately 38,000 producers have signed contracts covering nearly 14 million acres valued at almost $745 million for EQIP.

AMA offers farmers and ranchers cost-share of up to 75 percent and incentive payments to address risk management concerns to their agricultural enterprises linked to water management, water quality and erosion control. The program is available in the following 16 states where participation in the Federal Crop Insurance Program is historically low: Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming. Hawaii was added this year when Congress authorized the 2008 farm bill.

USDA has provided $7.5 million to producers in 15 states for AMA thus far this fiscal year. Producers have signed 181 contracts covering 13,100 acres valued at about $3.4 million.

For additional information about EQIP, go to http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/eqip. For additional information about AMA, go to visit http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/ama.