Funding applications are being accepted for Dover/Plant City area farmers and ranchers to help conserve water and improve water quality on their agricultural working lands.

The Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP) is administered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), which enters into agreements with conservation partners to help landowners plan and implement conservation practices in project areas established through the agreements.

$298, 215 is available this year through a multi-year project in which Florida NRCS partnered with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Producers in the northern Tampa Bay area of Hillsborough County and a small part of Polk County have until May 6, 2011, to apply for this program at their local NRCS office.

“Florida NRCS is working hard to support efforts to protect and preserve our water resources,” said Carlos Suarez, NRCS state conservationist in Florida. “This AWEP funding will help producers in Hillsborough County begin or expand plans and projects to improve water quality.”

AWEP partner proposals are selected using a competitive process that considered several factors including statutorily defined priority areas, emphasis for water conservation activities such as conversion of irrigated land to dry land farming and assistance to farmers and ranchers to meet regulatory requirements.

Approved partners enter into multi-year agreements with NRCS to promote ground and surface water conservation or improve water quality on eligible agricultural lands in the project area.

Producers interested in applying for funding must submit applications through their local NRCS Service Center, which can be located on the internet at http://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/app. Additional information about AWEP is available at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/awep. Information about other NRCS conservation programs can be found at www.fl.nrcs.usda.gov/programs.