On Jan. 19 Agriculture Deputy Secretary Chuck Conner announced $40 million for one-time payment adjustments that will allow eligible Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) participants to complete conservation practices that have been delayed because of recent increases in energy prices.

"There are many conservation practices that farmers and ranchers have put on hold because of increasing energy prices," Conner told the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts at their annual meeting. "This adjustment will help our producers to fully implement those practices which will increase the protection of our natural resources and in some cases, lessen the impact of high energy prices by reducing producers' need for energy and energy-related inputs."

This assistance is part of USDA's effort to mitigate the impact of high energy costs on agricultural producers. The USDA energy strategy was announced Dec. 7 in response to concerns raised during the nationwide USDA Farm Bill Forum tour.

The one-time adjustment will apply to participants who signed EQIP contracts in 2004 or earlier. The increase in payment will apply to specific practices that have been most affected by spikes in the cost of concrete, steel, plastic pipe, and other construction materials. The increase will only be paid for practices that are completed between March 1 and June 30, 2006 and will focus on specific practices that have escalated in price by 20 percent or more because of rising energy costs.

The Energy Initiative applies to regular EQIP projects, Ground and Surface Water Conservation EQIP projects, and Klamath Basin EQIP projects.

Administered by USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, EQIP is a voluntary conservation program for farmers and ranchers that promotes agricultural production and environmental quality. EQIP offers financial and technical assistance to participants who implement structural or management practices on agricultural land.

For more information on this one-time adjustment, go to the NRCS Web site http://www.nrcs.usda.gov or visit your nearest USDA Service Center.