Alabama farmers who want to become better stewards and improve environmental quality have until June 19, 2009, to sign up for an incentive provided through the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP).

Known as the Precision Farming Incentive, the program promotes the use of GPS-enabled precision agricultural technology and equipment and, through it, greater use of variable-rate applications of nutrients and pesticides.

The incentive program works to improve water quality on targeted areas in the following ways: Reducing nutrient and pesticide applications; reducing leaching and runoff; enhancing soil quality by reducing soil erosion and compacting; and enhancing energy conservation through accurate and efficient applications of crop inputs.

"It's an important program because it affords many producers who otherwise couldn't afford precision farming technology an opportunity to adopt it," says Amy Winstead, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System regional agent.

"It will allow many more farmers a chance to increase environmental stewardship while reaping pesticide savings and reducing leaching and runoff of farm chemicals."

Cropland with annually planted crops in the following counties is eligible under the incentive program: Autauga, Baldwin, Barbour, Blount, Cherokee, Coffee, Colbert, Covington, Dale, Dallas, DeKalb, Elmore, Escambia, Franklin, Geneva, Henry, Houston, Jackson, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Limestone, Madison, Marengo, Marion, Marshall, Mobile, Monroe and Montgomery.

The incentive program is being carried out in Alabama by the Natural Resources Conservation Service with assistance from the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

"We're really encouraging farmers to pursue these opportunities because we don't know when this opportunity will come around again," says Extension Regional Agent Shannon Norwood.

For more information and to learn about EQIP eligibility requirements, visit the program section of the NRCS Web site: www.al.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/eqip09/index09.html. You may also call Amy Winstead, regional Extension agent, at (256) 353-8702 ext. 31, or e-mail her at winstat@auburn.edu. You may also contact Shannon Norwood, regional Extension agent, at (256) 353-8702, ext. 28, or e-mail her at hubersr@aces.edu.

Also, visit the Alabama Precision Ag Web site at www.alabamaprecisionagonline.com.