April 29 has been set as the cutoff date for a partnership initiative with the Alabama Forestry Commission targeting underserved forest landowners under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), State Conservationist William Puckett of the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced.

Applying for EQIP is continuous; however, selecting applications for funding is completed periodically through batching periods with specific cutoff dates.

EQIP is a voluntary program that provides financial and technical assistance to farmers and ranchers who face threats to soil, water, air and related natural resources on their land. The 2008 farm bill authorized Special Emphasis funding for: Beginning, Socially Disadvantaged and Limited Resource Farmers and Ranchers.

Puckett said special funds have been allocated to target forest health in 13 counties in the Black Belt. Those counties are: Bullock, Dallas, Greene, Hale, Lowndes, Macon, Marengo, Montgomery, Perry, Pickens, Russell, Sumter and Wilcox.

Conservation practices that will be targeted under the Partnership Initiative for Underserved Forest Landowners are: Prescribed burning, firebreaks, fuel breaks, thinning and other forest stand improvement practices, hardwood tree planting, loblolly tree planting, longleaf tree planting and site preparation practices for tree planting.

Interested producers should visit their nearest USDA Service Center to determine eligibility. Individuals are not eligible for EQIP until they have completed the farm bill eligibility requirements. Contact your local NRCS or Farm Service Agency Office to begin this process. NRCS field offices are listed in the telephone directory under U.S. Department of Agriculture or on-line at this site.